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Chapter 17: Assault On The Imperium
“The children of England would never be slaves…”
-Sting, “Children’s Crusade,” Dream of the Blue Turtles, 1984 (A&M Records).
AN: *quote taken/paraphrased from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," by J.K. Rowling, p. 810 Scholastic Press, 2003. I don't own Harry Potter. The toys belong to JKR; she just lets us play with them.
“Are you ready?” Harry asked with ice in his voice.
Ron nodded, slowly. Then he turned the Resurrection Stone over in his hand three times. Perspiration gathered on his forehead as he focused, and in a far-away voice, “It’s done.”
Voldemort was alone in his chambers, drifting through a trance-like state that was as close to sleep as his twisted form and tattered soul would allow.
Rest was a luxury he had not seen fit to bestow upon his minions tonight. Those still left in the Imperium were ordered to patrol until they heard back from the ambush that had been set at Dover.
But it wasn't the mutterings of tired Death Eaters, tediously making their rounds through the Imperium that disturbed the Dark Lord's slumber. Nor was it thoughts of the war raging in France.
It was the sound of someone walking through the throne room that brought him fully conscious with a start.
He was met with silence. Slowly, he grabbed his wand from the nightstand as he rose.
"Lucius? Have we gotten word from Dover?"
There was no answer.
He walked out of his bedroom into the Audience Chamber. No one was there.
Still no answer.
His anger rising, he turned abruptly...And came face to face with Harry Potter.
Riddle had visited horror on countless millions. His name was synonymous with death and despair, fear and loathing. This was the first time those same terrors were visited upon him.
The Dark Lord blanched. "You're dead!"
"I was. Why did you bring me back?"
Not wanting to break her brother’s concentration, Ginny whispered to Hermione before she struggled to down another potion, “I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation.”
The six of them were gathered on the rooftop of a shop across from what used to be the Ministry. Dementors in numbers floated about the entrances, casting a pall over the entire block.
Seeing that Ron’s fugue-state had passed, Harry placed a hand on Ron’s shoulder. “Has he made the ghost-me disappear?”
“No. Not yet anyway.” As Ron spoke, the color began to return to his face and he started to smile.
Harry had coached Ron on the other aspects of the Resurrection Stone; but until they tried, they couldn’t be sure if the spirit summoned would appear for the summoner or could be directed to Riddle, assuming he was wearing his Resurrection Stone. Apparently, Harry’s hunch paid off.
Letting out a deep breath, Ron nodded to Harry, “I think Riddle’s so shaken, he hasn’t thought of banishing him. I think it worked. We’ve bought some time.”
Harry didn’t hesitate. He thrust the Elder Wand into the air. Again, he cast his spell non-verbally. The air was filled with electricity as a quick white flash reflected off the sky.
Almost instantly, everyone felt a weight lift; the Dark Lord’s Teeth had collapsed and, with it, the Imperium’s wards. Harry gave a nod to Zack and Marietta. Sparks flew from their wands, signaling the resistance members on the surrounding rooftops to loose their Patronuses on the patrolling Dementors. The second the sparks flashed across the sky, the Imperium was hit with ghost-like creatures of all sizes, driving the Dementors away. Within seconds, a wave of curses and hexes hit the building, covering the small teams that were assaulting all of the entrances. The few Death Eaters posted at the doors, half asleep, were completely overwhelmed.
Harry smiled, satisfied; but there was no joy in it.
Ron watched the assault, impressed. The resistance might be few in numbers, they may be ragged, but they were scrappy. He was still amazed at how quickly they were able to rally for this assault. It had taken less time than he would have thought necessary for Hermione to explain all that had transpired to Smith and Edgecombe. The resistance duo’s Patronuses had sped off shortly after with a call to arms: “Potter is alive. Muster at the Imperium two hours before dawn.”
Most of them didn’t believe it until others had confirmed it. Then the muster reached critical mass in minutes. Luckily, most of the resistance had been hiding in and around London that night. With the Dark Lord’s Teeth out of action and normal Apparation possible again, they could see resistance members who must have been farther away, instantly appearing on the surrounding rooftops. Looking to their mates, they joined in the fight without question or need for direction. Again, Ron had to wonder at their discipline, likely born of desperation.
Marietta turned to Harry. “We’ll keep them occupied. Good Luck.”
With a crack, the Quartet Disapparated.
Ginny Apparated into the Department of Mysteries. The resistance could only give her a vague idea of where Nagini was. But from what they described, it sounded like the snake was in the Death Chamber, where the Veil was kept.
She appeared in the hallway leading to the Chamber and rushed down the corridor, but slowed when she heard voices coming from around the corner. She recognized them immediately and pressed herself against the wall.
Slowly, the footfalls came closer. She steeled herself, every muscle tensing, but her breathing remained even.
She struck just as the Death Eaters reached the corner.
The Sword of Gryffindor separated Alecto’s head from her shoulders before she could even register that the redhead was there.
Amycus staggered backwards in shock, just missing the recovering stroke that would’ve made him share his sister’s fate.
Ginny crouched as she sheathed Gryffindor’s Blade next her broom in its clutch and filled her hand with her wand. Her face was set and determined. “Remember me?”
Amycus could only stammer as he continued to retreat in shock and horror. He fumbled for his wand.
She casually cast a non-verbal Reducto just to toy with him; Amycus barely managed to shield it, but it made him stumble backwards even further.
She continued to advance as he gave ground. “All the nightmares. All the terrors.” She easily shielded an Expulso spell emitted from his shaking wand with a casual flick of her own. “Dying’s too good for you.”
“Can’t! YOU CAN’T BE HERE!”
She laughed. It was cold and deadly. “Oh, I’m here. And I’ll be the last thing you ever see.”
“Avada…” the curse never left his lips as Ginny’s non-verbal Confringo engulfed him in flames.
She spared a moment to say goodbye.
She spat on his corpse.
Then, her breath caught.
All the horrible nights, all the cold sweats, the nightmares where the beatings never seemed to end, worse yet, the terrible dreams when Snape would always come too late, all of those horrid memories, all of the trauma was drawn from her, like an infection that cried out for the high fever to purge it from a diseased body.
Harry had fed off her emotions, siphoning off her fury.
Harry? What did you...?
You did what you had to?
Yeah… I’m alright. She took a breath.
She could feel Harry’s barely subdued rage nearly overload the bond. She tried to force a wave of love back to him; but he was blocking her. Something was wrong. She tried to ignore it and sent to Harry, Just hold tight, love. I’m going for Nagini now.
I’m shutting the link.
As Harry slammed the link closed, Ginny tried to suppress her worry. She had never felt him so cold, so hard. It was a side of him she hadn’t felt before. The fact that he fed off her vengeance like that deeply troubled her. Shaking her head, she tried to cast off her doubts. It’ll keep him alive, tonight. But in the back of her mind, she heard Dumbledore’s old lesson: love is the most powerful magic. She shook her head again. No time for this debate.
As she closed on the door to the Death Chamber, she downed the last of the potions that Hermione had given her, tossing the empty flask aside with a grimace. Then, she drew Gryffindor’s Blade and her Firebolt simultaneously.
The last time she’d had to face a monstrous snake and a Horcrux had not gone well. This was her chance to even the score in one fell swoop.
As she blasted the door off its hinges and kicked off on her broom, what she saw filled her with terror.
“That’s my line,” Ron said to Hermione as they hurled hex and curse at the hornet’s nest of Death Eaters that had met them as soon as they’d Apparated into Level 6 of the Imperium. A well-timed Patronus, Hermione’s female terrier, had brought a small team of the resistance to aid them. They were the internal distraction, buying time for Harry and Ginny, but they also needed to shut down the Portkeys and the Floo-Network. The main body of the resistance was to draw the Death Eaters to the entrances, away from the interior.
It may have been a good plan, but Ron didn’t like it. He wasn’t fond of leaving his sister and surrogate brother on their own. The problem was, they all knew a force inside the Imperium, wreaking havoc and knocking out transportation and communication was the key to success. But they also knew that the resistance’s dueling skills would never equal that of two of their own.
During the briefing in Calais, Ginny was adamant that Nagini was hers and Harry had just waved her brother off when he tried to protest. Besides, Ron didn’t have the courage to try and wrest Gryffindor’s Sword from her. Even so, during the briefing Ron had found the grit to argue with Harry over his facing Riddle alone; but after the ambush at Dover, he thought it wise to let it rest.
This was especially true after Ron uneasily watched Harry cast a brutal Legillimens on Smith and Edgecombe to ensure they weren’t traitors. Ron preferred to think that it was Harry’s display of raw power at Dover that had prevented the two resistance members from starting another duel after Harry’s intrusion on their minds. But he knew better. They were impressed by that, but it was his voice that pulled them up short. Harry hadn’t said much since the ambush. But when he did speak, the frigid tone he used made one thing perfectly clear: he wasn’t going to be trifled with tonight.
However, as far as Ron was concerned, one thing about the plan was not debatable. He wasn’t about to let Hermione out of his sight.
Ron hurled hexes and curses as he and Hermione leap-frogged down the hallway. He was pleased to see that Smith was keeping up and that the other resistance members were copying their tactics.
“On the right!” Hermione shouted. Smith and his team blasted the Death Eaters out of the way. “There!” Hermione pointed toward the door to the Floo Network Authority.
Six Reducto curses tore the room to shreds.
Overkill, Ron thought with a smile. But it faded as spells began to fly in their direction.
Ron blocked a jinx aimed at Hermione with the gauntlet on his left forearm. “Keep moving! Portkey Office. Now!”
They sped down the halls.
Hermione shouted to Ron, “The boards in the Floo Office were clear. No one’s en route. They haven’t called for help yet.”
The words had hardly escaped her lips when the Malfoys, a German in grey robes and a squad of Death Eaters brought them up short.
“Lucius,” Ron spat.
“I see the rumors of your death were exaggerated, Weasley,” the older Malfoy sneered.
“The Mudblood’s mine,” Draco hissed.
Hermione smirked, “I’ll turn that hair even whiter by the time I’m done with you ferret-boy.”
Narcissa’s wand lunged, hurling a killing curse at Hermione; she dodged it deftly.
Ron didn’t waste any more time on small talk. “Reducto!”
The curse was barely loosed from his wand when Hermione’s locked with Narcissa’s. “Keep going! We’ll deal with this lot!” she shouted to the resistance team as her second wand conjured a whirlwind that smacked Draco into the wall.
As Lucius blocked Ron’s attack, Smith shouted over the din, “I’m staying.” His wand hand was a blur; Werner Dorninger squared off against him. “Let’s see what you’ve got, Gerry.”
“Shweinhund!” Dorninger shouted, as he loosed his wand on Smith.
Ron couldn't help but smirk. Maybe Smith's not such a git after all. The tall redhead brought out his second wand to fight two-handed.
The Death Eaters divided, some chasing the four resistance members still fighting their way to the Portkey Office. The rest double-teamed the three members of Dumbledore's Army, the corridor trembling with the force of the curses that shook the air.
Ginny dodged as Nagini’s massive head struck at her broom. Massive? The damn thing’s as big as the Basilisk.
Ever fearful of the destruction of his last Horcrux, Voldemort had plied Nagini with fell meats and potions that made her grow ten-fold. The giant snake was now a true monster.
Ginny swooped, lashing out with the Sword. The blade sliced into the monstrous reptile, but the wound wasn’t fatal. Dammit! Nagini slammed into her as she dove, nearly knocking her out of the air. Ginny spun sideways as she desperately tried to recover.
Then, heaving on the neck of her broom, she shot up toward the arched ceiling, nearly at full speed. Nagini coiled, and struck again. Ginny just barely dodged the attack as she pulled into a loop and came about.
Nagini reared. Ginny feinted to the left. The snake struck to the right. Ginny climbed, Nagini wrapped herself around a pillar, climbing at a speed Ginny had thought impossible.
At the arc of her ascent, she broke right.
But Nagini anticipated her feint this time. With a snap of Nagini’s massive head Ginny hurtled from her broom. Relying on the reflexes only an Auror or professional Quidditch player could boast, Ginny just managed to snatch her wand from its clutch at her wrist and cast a cushioning charm. Just the same, she simply wasn’t at her best; she was too slow. She could feel several of her ribs snap with the impact.
She had to use the sword for support as she painfully regained her feet. Ginny raised the blade, shakily. As she prepared to dodge Nagini’s next strike, she had a brief moment to realize what she’d smacked into. It was the Arch surrounding the Veil. She’d come within a hairs-breadth of passing to the other side, where Sirius had gone.
Nagini coiled, sensing her prey was wounded, the snake prepared to deal the deathblow. Ginny moved to her left, placing herself squarely in front of the Veil. “C’mon, you bitch!” The redhead could hear the whispered voices coming from beyond as she clutched her aching ribs.
Nagini struck. Ginny sidestepped and with all her might brought Gryffindor’s Sword down into the snake’s neck, just as its head went through the Veil. YES!!
Ginny collapsed to her knees, grimacing with the pain. Her shattered ribs were too much for the armor to heal on its own. Dammit! Ginny gritted her teeth as she pointed her wand at her midsection. “Brackium Emendo!”
The redhead couldn’t stifle her scream as the bones fused. Then, she slowly rose back to her feet and, panting, opened the link. No more Horcruxes, love.
The door to the Audience Chamber exploded in a rain of splinters.
The Dark Lord was standing in the center of the room, in front of his throne, the Elder Wand at his side.
He hissed, “Clever trick. But I sent the other you away. I should’ve realized that the Mudblood was looking for the Talisman Deschain.”
Harry didn’t speak as he walked through the shattered doorway.
Riddle cocked his head to the side. “It was foolish to come here tonight, Potter.”
Harry couldn’t resist. “Why? Are the Aurors on their way, Tom?” he laughed icily. “Actually, they’re already here.”
Riddle returned the laugh. “Auror in your home reality, eh? And so young. But I’d guess no brats yet. Except, I do believe the Mudblood that belongs here did have a bastard by that blood traitor before I had him killed.” Riddle’s voice was full of loathing as he leveled the Elder Wand at Harry.
Something’s not right. He has a play I don’t see.
Riddle stepped to the side, allowing Harry an unobstructed view of who was sitting on the throne.
Ron parried Lucius’ Expulso, just as he cast Reducto at Narcissa and the Death Eater alternating his fire at him and Hermione.
Hermione flung a statue in front of the killing curse that Draco had aimed at her, leveling Bellatrix’s other wand at Narcissa. Down the hallway she heard the telltale explosions of Expulso curses slamming into stone. Portkeys are down. No reinforcements for this lot. She blocked a curse meant for Smith.
Ron shouted, “That’s the signal!” Once the Portkey Office was down, they needed to fight their way back to the Atrium.
Smith had become a good dueler, but his strength was failing. Years on the run had sapped his endurance. Hermione tried to pick up the slack as Werner Dorninger hurled a Confringo curse at them both. Protego!
Counter and attack, counter and attack. Slowly, the small band of fighters made their way to the Atrium, bloodied and tiring.
Hermione cringed as she blocked Expulsos from two Death Eaters that were aimed at a cluster of exhausted resistance fighters on her right. C’mon Harry, we can’t keep this up forever!
“I’ve got something we’ve been saving for just such an occasion, Bloodtraitor,” Lucius spat.
“You talk too much,” Ron sneered. “Bombarda!”
Narcissa blocked Ron’s curse just as the elder Malfoy flicked his wand at the door on Ron’s left. It flew open.
The two Inferi hiding inside sprung on Ron before he could bring either of his wands about. Collapsing in a heap, the Resurrection Stone flew from his robes, bouncing across the stone floor.
Hermione leapt in front of her fiancé, shielding him from the curses the Malfoys hurled at her defenseless love. But Ron’s bloodcurdling scream nearly broke her concentration.
“FRED? DENNIS? NOOO!!”
Harry’s blood ran even colder as he saw Ronnie perched on the throne, the Talisman hanging around his neck. The boy was bound by an Incarcerous curse. Though his body trembled, Harry was proud to see his eyes betrayed no fear. Ginny! Riddle has Ronnie. Get up here. NOW!
“Tom, you’ll be dead before you raise your wand to him.”
“Wand?” Riddle loosed a deathly grim smile. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
In a smooth motion, the Sword of Gryffindor emerged from behind Voldemort’s back. He pointed it menacingly at the boy. “Drop your wand.”
Riddle wasn’t expecting the answer. “Drop your wand!” he commanded again.
“Lower the Sword and let the boy go or I’ll kill you where you stand.”
Riddle’s head twitched as Harry leveled the Elder Wand at the source of his nightmares.
Focused on Harry, Riddle didn’t realize that Ronnie’s eyes remained locked on him as the Talisman began to glow.
“I’m not going to tell you again, Potter. Disarm. Now!”
Harry shook his head. “I came here to kill you, Tom. I won’t be a lamb to the slaughter this time and neither will he.” Harry could see the Talisman begin to throb; whatever it was doing, he couldn’t afford to take his eyes off Riddle.
“Lamb to the slaughter. Yes.” The Dark Lord cackled. “Killing you was easy. I expected so much more from the vaunted ‘Chosen One.’”
"You've a short memory. You couldn't do it. Had to have Bellatrix do your dirty work for you. Pieced it together from Snape's memories when you read the other-me's mind, didn't you? You were too afraid of the blood protection you'd unleash. You feared the other-me more that night than he ever feared you." Then Harry loosed an arctic smile. "But I've already had the pleasure of killing you once. I'm looking forward to doing it again."
Riddle wasn’t prepared for such a cold retort, but he rallied. “There’s much you don’t know, boy. Too much.” Slowly, he raised the Sword, preparing to thrust it into Ronnie.
Then in a blinding red flash, a burst of energy leapt from the Talisman, focusing on the ruby on the hilt of Gryffindor’s Blade.
Riddle realized the danger too late. “NO!!” He screamed as the ruby disintegrated right before his eyes.
Voldemort's shock at the destruction of the gem lead Harry to only one possible conclusion. Bastard turned the ruby into another Horcrux! REDUCTO! Harry's curse was blocked, but it threw Voldemort's sword thrust off, just as Harry had intended.
Harry stretched out his non-wand hand, summoning Ronnie to him, and with a gesture, the ropes binding him vanished. Lightning quick, Harry hurled another curse at Voldemort as the Dark Lord advanced on them both. Harry gave ground, the boy clinging to his neck as he retreated.
“It’s alright, son. Your mum’s here. You’ll see her soon.”
With all Harry’s might, he desperately tried to shield Ronnie. As the two wizards each cast and blocked hex and curse, Harry was being forced toward the door; it took all his abilities to protect his nephew from the onslaught. Each of their spells was timed slightly behind the others. Until, at last, the inevitable happened.
Their wands locked.
The explosion of blue plasma, suffused with the rage of the two men intent on each other’s destruction wreaked havoc on the Audience Chamber. The throne exploded, splinters flying everywhere. The outer rows of the viewing gallery shattered and burst into flames. The walls cracked and buckled as the two most powerful wands in the world clashed for supremacy. The earth trembled beneath their feet, large cracks opened in the floor of the Chamber; fire spewed from the depths as the very air began to scream in a rage of magic and vengeance.
But Harry knew Voldemort had the edge. Riddle smiled savagely as he forced all of his will into the spell. Harry couldn’t retreat any further. He didn’t dare loose his magic in full to counter the spell in kind. If he did, the concussion might kill the boy in his arms.
Just then, Ginny’s Firebolt screamed into the Audience Chamber. In a red streak, she snatched Ronnie from Harry’s arms and, in an attempt to cut her speed, and just for pure satisfaction, she looped out, kicking Riddle in the jaw as she sped back towards Harry and the doorway. The stream between the Elder Wands broke when her foot connected with Riddle’s deformed face.
Kick his arse!
She plucked the Sword of Gryffindor from its clutch and dropped it into Harry’s open hand as she and her nephew burst out of the Chamber.
Harry peered darkly at his nemesis. “Now we finish this.”
“Stupefy!” Smith screamed. The blast caught the Inferi that used to be Dennis and threw him into Lucius. But the other Inferi, Ron’s dead brother, had closed his hands firmly around the redhead’s neck. Smith knew he couldn't risk using a spell; he might hit Ron.
“Fred!” Ron gasped. “Don’t…It’s me. Please!” Ron raised his wand but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it. Not Fred! His clothes were rotting away, his eyes were sunken, his hair nearly all gone. But it was still his brother, George’s twin. Slowly Fred’s lifeless hands continued to close around Ron’s throat.
Hermione grabbed the Resurrection Stone as she blocked yet another round of spells meant to kill her fiancé.
Ron saw what she was doing and forced Fred’s hands from his throat. “HERMIONE! IT’S FRED! DON’T!!”
In a shaking fist, she raised the Resurrection Stone above her head, her face displaying her conflicted emotions. She hesitated.
Ron looked up at her pleading, his face contorted in grief. “PLEASE!”
Smith began shielding for Hermione, exhaustion etched on his face. “Whatever you’re gonna do with that thing, do it! We’re all dead if you two don’t get back in the fight!”
Hermione squeezed the tears from her eyes as she concentrated on the Stone.
It glowed red. Then, in a ripple of thunder, both Inferi collapsed into dust.
Ron staggered back to his feet, in shock. It was only his Auror reflexes that saved him and his fiancée. His wand shot out, blocking the barrage of curses that had finally pierced Smith’s shield.
“‘Bout bloody time!” Smith panted.
“I’m sorry, love,” Hermione said through her tears as she re-joined the fight.
Ron gasped; his whole was body shaking, his mind reeling. He had to thrust the words from his throat. "Don't be."
He struggled to get hold of himself and focus on the fight raging around him. It took all of his will to concentrate on keeping his shield between his small band and the curses exploding around them. Steadily, the horrific image of his brother, twisted into an Inferius, retreated from his troubled mind.
Riddle circled to the right; Harry followed suit as the fires raged around them. Glancing down at the Sword, Harry cast a Protego charm over it. Instantly, the blade was engulfed in blue flames.
Voldemort nodded. “Impressive.” He flicked the Elder Wand; his Sword ignited in red fire. With a savage cry, the Dark Lord Apparated just as Harry cast a non-verbal strength spell.
Riddle appeared in front of him, his Sword careening toward Harry’s head. Harry caught the blade on his own, riposting with a stunning spell that Riddle just barely deflected with his wand. Their swords clanged again, sparks and jolts of electricity crackled from the enchanted blades as the fires set by their dueling threatened to burn out of control.
Riddle cast a stunner that Harry deflected with his blade, and rapidly countered with Confringo. Riddle parried it just at the last moment, the flames cascading around him as he gave ground.
“I’ll show you fire, boy!” Fiendfyre spat from his wand, descending on Harry with all of its screaming fury.
Harry crossed the Elder Wand with Gryffindor’s Blade, forcing all of his will into the shield. The flames buffeted around him. Then, holding the curse back with the Sword, razor sharp ice shot from the Elder Wand. In a hiss of steam, the Fiendfyre vanished.
Harry Apparated behind Riddle, striking downward with his blade. Voldemort parried behind his head, staggering from the blow as he gave ground. Harry kicked him savagely in the back, hurtling him across the Chamber.
Staggering as he spun around, Voldemort cast a killing curse; Harry flicked the Elder Wand dislodging a column from the ceiling that took the blow. The stone shattered in a blast of dust and fire, the thunderous explosion echoing around the Chamber.
Voldemort hissed as Harry loosed a Reducto curse that nearly blasted Riddle off his feet. But the Dark Lord caught it on his blade, spun and hurled lightning from his wand, which bounced off Harry’s Sword, as he was rocked backward by the impact.
Once again, their wands threatened to lock as Voldemort cast all his will into an Expulso curse. Harry wouldn’t allow it. His shield spell strained against the explosion, finally deflecting it into the far wall, which erupted into a cloud of stone and flame, caving in part of the ceiling with a tremendous crash.
Harry continued his advance, striking, parrying, cursing, his heart and mind filled with the lust for vengeance. And again, the words flashed through his mind: You need to mean it.... *
Riddle continued to retreat, perspiration covering his brow as the fires in the Chamber grew hotter and hotter. But it wasn’t the extreme heat that caused the Dark Lord to sweat.
Once again they closed on each other, their blades colliding with a deafening clang and a shower of sparks. With every cross of their blades, one of them would counter at point blank range with his wand, threatening to send the other flying into the stone walls as the earth shook beneath them. Each time, either their blades or wands would catch the curse. But, slowly, deftly, Harry was pulling Riddle’s wand and blade out of position for the next attack.
As Harry continued to pummel his foe, he began to realize something that Riddle had missed. For four years Harry had continuously been at war, dueling renegade Death Eaters too numerous to count. Each one had a separate fighting style, their own strengths and weaknesses. To survive, to win, Harry had to adapt.
Riddle didn’t. Others did his fighting for him. Voldemort’s wand was for punishment, not for dueling.
That’s when Harry realized he had Riddle outmatched.
Riddle knew it too.
It’s a dance of death, Tom. You don’t know the steps.
Harry saw he was about to Disapparate. No you don’t! Harry dove for the dark wizard. He just managed to grab him by the scruff of his robes before Riddle completed his spell. With a focus of will, Harry turned on the spot, at the same time Voldemort did.
They were both sucked into the vortex, both wands fighting for supremacy over their destination, the wizards locked in a brutal struggle as reality spun around them. On they fought, being pulled in all directions at once. Harry balled his fist around the Elder Wand and, again, cast a strength spell. With all his might, he crashed his fist into Riddle’s jaw.
Voldemort’s concentration broke.
Unrestrained warfare continued to swirl around the Atrium as a squad of Draco’s Death Eaters advanced on the ever dwindling band of resistance fighters.
Desperately, Ron tried to be everywhere at once to protect his team, forcing the grief and shock of seeing Fred from his mind as best he could. Hard as that was, he knew if he didn’t, he’d be seeing Fred again only too soon, with Hermione by his side. He couldn’t let that happen.
Grimly, Ron summed up their situation.
Smith was near the end of his strength, although he still had a deadly wand. The few of his mates still on their feet were all but spent. Methodically and meticulously, they were being surrounded, cut-off and pumelled. Ron knew it was only a matter of time before…
Checkmate. These Death Eaters are crack troops. Why in the name of Merlin’s bloody wand are they here instead of France!
Although none of the resistance fighters had the strength for it, someone had to Apparate to the rear of the squad of Death Eaters that was threatening to surround them. Someone had to hit them from behind to break the circle of death that was forming around his band of warriors. It was a tactical necessity. But, whoever that someone was, would be out in the open, alone. In a fight like this, that could mean only one thing.
As Ron cast a Protego, sheltering his team, he realized who that someone had to be.
He chanced a look at Hermione. Her face displayed pure concentration as she kept their foes at bay, her brown locks flying wildly about her.
Hermione, love. I’m sorry…It has to be this way. Please, forgive me for doing this to you. Again.
The redhead steeled himself, filling his mind only with thoughts of his fiancée. He began to turn on the spot.
The blast caught the Death Eaters from behind and opened a hole in their lines, which the resistance immediately dashed through, taking up positions behind the statue at the center of the Atrium.
Ron looked up as he ran to see where the curse, and his salvation, had come from.
She had swooped in, Ronnie tucked tightly against her. She desperately wanted to take him to safety, but knew there was no safe place. And she was needed.
Hermione looked up in shock at her son. “Ronnie!”
Seeing she was distracted, Draco unleashed a killing curse at Hermione. Ron hurtled himself at her, the curse just barely sailing by her head as Ron took her to the floor.
“BASTARD!” Ron forced all of his emotion into the counter curse he aimed at Draco.
“NO!” Narcissa lunged to block it, but the spell was too strong. It pierced Narcissa’s shield, the impact tossing both of them violently into the stone walls with a vicious thud. Narcissa lay motionless on the floor; it was anyone’s guess if she still drew breath. Draco staggered to his feet and took three steps forward before his eyes rolled back in his head. Blood trickled from his mouth as he collapsed, lifeless, next to his mother.
Speechless, Hermione stared from Narcissa and her dead son, to Ginny and her own child.
Ron shielded her from the curses that fell around them. “He’ll be safer with Ginny than down here with us, love,” Ron implored.
Hermione nodded grimly and regained her feet.
Ron's head snapped up as an enraged Lucius Malfoy descended on him, his scowl terrifying as he loosed his rage at the redhead and his fiancée. Ron nearly lost his feet as he tried to block the curse that caught him off guard. Hermione's wand was fully engaged, blocking curses and riposting with the swarm of Death Eaters that moved to blind side them.
Back and forth Ron and Lucius dueled at a blinding pace. Consumed with grief, Lucius savage curses battered Ron's shield, keeping him off balance. It looked as if Ron simply couldn't fend off the ferocious attack as he continued to retreat.
If he gets through me, Hermione's next. If I'm weak…Not bloody likely!
Gritting his teeth in a sneer of pure determination, Ron dug in. No force on earth could move him from the spot.
The concussion from their exchanged curses blasted all the Magi around them flat.
Above this raging storm of magic, in and out Ginny flew, spinning and diving, gripping tightly to her nephew as she hurled hexes at the Death Eaters below.
C'mon, love. Now would be a good time.
With an explosion that shook the Atrium, Harry and Voldemort Apparated into the center of the battle. The concussion knocked plaster from the walls and exploded the horrendous statue of Magi resting on the backs of countless Muggles.
Ginny let out the breath she'd been holding. Finally.
This had always been the plan. Riddle had to be defeated soundly and publicly.
The two Apparating wizards spun violently as they entered the Atrium. Both of their swords went flying into space. Harry’s was caught by Ginny; Ron managed to snatch Voldemort’s, leveling it at Lucius’ throat.
Riddle came to rest facing Harry; but Harry landed with his back to the dark wizard.
The first curse on Voldemort’s lips was the one he used the most, “Crucio!!”
Harry didn’t have time to recover before the pain spread through his shoulder blades, completely overwhelming the back plate of his armor. His entire body was burning; blinding pain shot through his limbs. His very soul was being scrubbed with an acid fire.
“YES! When I’m done with you, your blood traitor bitch is next!”
NO! With all of Harry’s will, he forced his body to obey his commands. He rolled to face Voldemort. His breastplate could only diminish a Crucio curse of this magnitude for a split second before it gave way. But that was all the time his tortured body needed.
Voldemort had to break his curse to sheild the spell. But the force of Harry's stunner still threw the Dark Lord to the floor.
He regained his feet as Harry stood.
All of the fighting stopped. It was as if the very building was holding its breath.
You need to mean it… *
Ginny looked on in horror; Harry’s eyes had gone black with undistilled vengeance. The only thing she could feel through the link was all consuming hate. Dumbledore’s lesson again flashed through her mind; she realized the danger too late. Harry, NO!
As the two wizards screamed “AVADA KEDAVRA!!!” everyone in the Atrium stood frozen.
For the final time the Elder Wands locked.
The plasma between the two wands was black as pitch. Every window in the Atrium shattered with the concussion as a deafening roar consumed the Imperium. The ground heaved as the foundations began to give way. With a thunderous crash the roof of the Atrium exploded upwards, the shards of stone disintegrating into dust. Lightning began to cascade down into the flow of energy between the two wands as the very air crackled and popped with the deathly magic being unleashed by the two dueling wizards who lived only to murder their foe.
Harry channeled death though his deadly wand.
Voldemort began to shake uncontrollably as he screamed his rage to the sky.
Then, non-verbally, and without pulling the Phoenix wand from its clutch, Harry’s wrath-filled mind spat forth another curse. DISGORGIO!!
A burst of pure fury shot up the link between the two wizards, snapping Riddle’s wand and consuming him in black fire. The shockwave leveled the wall behind the Dark Lord as his soul, already violently unstable from its numerous sunderings, shattered in a tremendous red explosion.
Harry fell to his knees as Maxime and DuChamp, together with a company of French Aurors, burst into the Atrium, surrounding the Death Eaters. But the fight had gone out of the dark wizards with the defeat of their Master. Only Lucius seemed willing to fight on, but the Sword at his throat stopped him.
No one moved. No one spoke.
Harry collapsed in a heap.
Ginny landed and ran to him, kneeling by his side; Ronnie followed close behind. What she’d feared had happened. What she was receiving now from the bond wasn’t Harry.
It was Riddle.
Having filled himself with hate, Harry had unwittingly made himself the perfect receptacle for the last shards of the Dark Lord’s soul.
She pulled his head to her chest, sobbing, Harry! Harry, love! Please! I know you’re in there!! HARRY!! The tears streamed down her face as Hermione and Ron ran to her.
She looked to Hermione, pleading, “I can’t reach him. It’s Riddle…Riddle’s got him.” Ginny’s voice was filled with agony.
“Merlin!” Ron cursed.
Hermione’s hand went to her mouth.
Ginny held her love tighter, desperate to reach him, Fight him, Harry! Please, fight!
All Ginny could hear was Voldemort’s laughter, He’s mine, now!
Ronnie ran to his mother who pressed him to her as she cried. Ron sobbed as he rested one hand on his sister’s shoulder and the other on his fiancée’s. He knelt between them, his eyes never leaving his raven-haired brother. But once his consoling fingers closed on Hermione’s robes, linking all five of them by touch, the Talisman began to glow.
Hermione’s tear-filled eyes were dazzled by the Talisman’s light. Her head snapped to Ron and then to her son. “We can still save him! Focus. Quickly!”
“Hermione?” Ron asked, “What..?”
“The Talisman! Harry’s your brother! Focus on that thought and don’t let go of us!”
Ron kept a firm grip on his sister and fiancée as he closed his eyes and bowed his head; Hermione did the same as she clutched Ronnie to her chest. Slowly, the Talisman drenched them all in a golden light; the gem had again changed colors.
Ginny desperately tried to brush Voldemort aside and find her Harry, her love, her life.
Harry! Harry, can you hear me?
Harry! Please, Harry. Hear me!
But then, as the glow from the Talisman consumed her, very weakly, as if from the bottom of a deep well, she heard,
Yes! Yes, Harry!
It’s dark...I’m so cold…I can’t find my way.
Harry, listen to my voice. Feel me Harry. Please. Feel how much I love you. You can’t leave. You have to fight.
So cold…So dark…
The tears streamed down Ginny’s face as, with all of her might, she forced every ounce of her love through the bond. The Talisman throbbed; its light became blinding. Ron and Hermione felt themselves being pulled into the link; hearing Ginny’s plea to Harry, they desperately tried to channel their friendship and their love to their fallen brother through her.
Please, Harry. Know how much I love you. How much we all love you. Me, Hermione, Ron, even little Ronnie. We’re all here. Feel our love, Harry.
Ginny cringed as she sensed Voldemort struggling, not wanting to let go.
Get away from him! She began to shake as she forced all of their emotion, desire, hope and love through the bond. He’ll never be yours!
Harry let out an ear-piercing scream in Riddle’s voice. Then, a black cloud spewed from Harry’s mouth as his body was lifted off the ground. Ginny held him tighter as she Hermione, Ron and Ronnie began to shake with the effort of expelling the Dark Lord.
Then the cloud vanished with a loud crack. Harry slumped back to the floor.
Ginny collapsed onto his chest.
“Harry?” she sobbed, “Oh, Harry!”
Hermione wept into Ron’s shoulder. He pulled her and his son to him, clutching them both to his chest, as the tears cascaded down his cheeks.
Harry gasped. His eyes fluttered open. “Ginny?”
“Right here love,” she said through her tears. “Right here.” She wept, rocking him gently.
“I want to go home.”