Early one morning toward the end of September, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Moth swallowed deeply against their pounding hearts and left Grimmauld place. They were traveling to the cemetery were Merope Gaunt was buried. The last horcrux could have been buried with her, if Harry had interpreted his dreams and Dumbledore’s pensieve correctly.
Moth insisted that she went along. It was the first time that she had voiced and opinion since arriving at Grimmauld Place. Though Hermione and Ron didn’t approve, Harry had the final say, and the four of them snuck away on that silver morning. The wind blew wildly, shifting the gray fog angrily. The four of them Apparated to a forest, invisibility cloak and wands at hand. It was lighter there. Harry felt his heart pounding in his temples. They were near the last horcrux.
Though the Order insisted that they stayed behind—even Hermione and Ron didn’t think this was the best idea—Harry knew that they couldn’t wait any longer. Voldemort could have beaten them there.
Sirius would have gone right away.
They silently trekked to the edge of the woods where the trees swallowed them. It was thick and silent, as if those trees were waiting for something to happen. A clearing was coming into view of the dense forest, where tombstones and cracking sarcophagi awaited.
Suddenly, Harry froze, his scar blazing with the pain of fire. He hissed inwardly and stumbled, pressing his hands to his forehead.
“What’s wrong?” fired Hermione worriedly, rounding on him.
“He’s there,” Harry barely managed. “Voldemort. I know it.”
“What?” she whimpered.
“I don’t know, dammit!” It felt as if a nail was being driven into his skull. “Somehow he knows about the horcrux and he’s there.”
Ron seemed to do three things at once: he cursed, seized his wand, and threw Harry further back into the woods. The invisibility cloak was hurled at him, while Hermione and Moth’s uneasy hands reached for their own wands. Harry held the cloak limply; he could barely think over the pain.
“Put it on!” hissed Ron, eyes never leaving the Death Eaters. “Moth. Apparate back and get the others.”
After a long look at Harry, she disappeared and he felt colder.
“We can’t go out there now,” said Harry through gritted teeth. He could hear Voldemort now. It was as though he were speaking right next to him; his voice rang inside his skull, incomprehensible. Harry shook his head. “Not yet.”
“How long do you honestly think we have?” said Hermione with a hint of annoyance. “Voldemort can sense you, and Nagini—”
Ron put his hand over her mouth. There were voices in the graveyard. Slowly they turned and saw Death Eater after Death Eater appearing in the silver mist. Then there was a great crack and Voldemort appeared, standing on a great slab of stone. Harry sucked in a breath and stumbled backward onto the ground.
“The boy is here,” Voldemort called with a cold, malicious joy. “I know you are, Potter, and we’ll find you!”
The Death Eaters began swarming into the woods. Hermione grabbed Ron’s arm and they ran to Harry, throwing the invisibility cloak over all of them. There was no way it would cover all of them.
The Death Eaters were growing closer, Harry’s scar was screaming. Voldemort was laughing madly, blowing tombstones, sarcophagi and stony angels into powder and marble with his wand. Harry, Ron and Hermione sat deathly silent. The Death Eaters were growing nearer.
Ron whispered at last, “We can’t just sit here.”
Hermione nodded and Harry realized there were teardrops budding in her eyes like small flowers. “I know,” she whispered back. “We can’t. They’ll find him.”
They were silent again and Ron said decisively, “We’ll fight back.”
Harry managed, “Right.”
Ron and Hermione looked at him for a long time, miserably. Realization dawned on him coldly and he shook his head, ignoring the pain. “No. No, I’m fighting with you,” he said firmly.
There was an unmistakable chill in the air that had nothing to do with the cold wind.
Neither Ron nor Hermione replied and then Hermione’s wand was suddenly at his chest. Before Harry could stop her, her nonverbal spell had bound his body. Harry felt his heart stop and the blood pound in his ears.
This couldn’t be happening. Not again.
He couldn’t watch his friends die, the way he had Dumbledore.
“’Mione,” Ron whispered sharply, trying to watch both she and the Death Eaters. “He wants to fight, let him—”
“They’ll kill him,” she whispered sharply. Tears were falling freely. “They don’t care about us. Voldemort wants him.”
Ron looked like he certainly did not agree. He was the only person to have ever understood Harry completely. Ron knew how desperately that the boy wanted to fight. But it was becoming more apparent that Hermione was not going to change her mind.
She pressed her forehead to Harry’s in the way that only a friend could.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I really am.”
She and Ron waited until most of the Death Eaters had passed their hiding place. Then they quickly stood, Ron pressing his back against a tree. Hermione draped the invisibility cloak over Harry’s frozen body and watched the empty space where he once stood. She hastily blinked away her tears and lifted her chin.
Harry fought to move, to somehow break the spell, but he couldn’t. It was impossible. An angry fire welled up inside of him; was it too much to expect to break loose? As a baby he survived the killing curse but he couldn’t save his parents; now he couldn’t break from a simple binding spell to save his friends.
Ron gave a long look to the spot where Harry was. The Death Eaters were coming closer. As one passed Hermione, she silently used a nonverbal spell and he fell to the ground without a cry. Quickly, she pressed back against the tree and Harry saw her squeeze her eyes shut. Ron, nonverbal spells not his forte, was whispering under his breath. Two other Death Eaters fell before anyone noticed.
Harry wanted to look away when Ron and Hermione tore through the forest in opposite directions. But the binding spell wouldn’t let him. He was forced to watch.
“EXPELLIARMUS! STUPEFY! PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!”
Spells lit up the gray morning. Several more Death Eaters were hit. Ron and Hermione changed directions constantly, barely dodging returning hexes. Harry watched helplessly, feeling like he just swallowed a huge chunk of ice. He could barely open his eyes to see the Dark Lord for the pain.
Was Voldemort laughing?
His heart dropped to his stomach; more Death Eaters were emerging from deeper parts of the forest. A trap.
Harry was forced to watch as Hermione was hit with a green hex that for one wild moment, Harry thought was the killing curse, but she fell to the ground and began trembling. Ron shouted her name and ran to her, just as Harry heard several pops from behind him.
There was the sound of running feet and Mr. Weasley jetted past, calling things like, “Hold on, Ron, I’m coming!” Harry didn’t doubt that he was determined not to see another of his children die.
George, Bill and Tonks followed closely after Mr. Weasley. At least five Aurors Harry had never seen followed after, and then Kingsley Shacklebolt. Harry felt a tiny bit of relief. The Order was outnumbered, but Harry knew that they were more skilled.
There was a great crash as somebody collided into his back, and he hit the ground like a falling tree. The invisibility cloak flew off and landed in the crunching grass. To his side, Allastor Moody righted himself, muttering.
When his (real) eye landed on Harry he gave a surprised grunt. “Eh! What are you doing down there, boy? Come on, then!”
With the wave of Moody’s wand Harry at last felt the hex lift. With a great effort he moved his fingers, and then after a second, could crawl around to search for his wand. Moody said something about constant vigilance before running off, but Harry wasn’t paying attention. Hermione and Ron were still out there.
At last he found the wand beneath a pile of dead leaves, and felt a hand on his shoulder. Remus was behind him, his scarred face etched with concern.
He began right away. “Harry, you shouldn’t —”
“I WANT TO FIGHT!” shouted Harry. He sounded feeble amidst the battle and immediately felt guilty for yelling at his godfather.
Remus looked at him for a long time, searching his face and at last sighed. “That is exactly what James would have said.”
Harry felt a flicker of a glow somewhere inside of him. He got up and ran after Remus through the line of trees. Remus’s limp was growing worse but he moved well, Harry realized, as he sent a curse flying at a Death Eater. They flew backwards into a tree and Harry broke through to the destroyed graveyard.
He felt his heart throb with a flash of anger: Voldemort had already disappeared.
He hadn’t noticed until then that the pain in his forehead had ceased. His hand tightened around his wand painfully. The coward had run when the Order arrived. Harry was so distracted he nearly didn’t duck in time of a spiraling blue hex.
He saw Peter Pettigrew, cowering behind a tombstone with his wand pointed blindly at Harry. The throb of his heart turned into an angry swelling of fire deep in his chest. Harry clenched his teeth when Peter saw him and let out a mouse-like cry.
Harry began to cry out, “Petrificus Totalus!”
Before he finished there was a pop and Peter Pettigrew disappeared on the spot. It took a moment for it to sink in, and then Harry felt the concrete block of reality crush him. Peter was gone.
He cursed loudly, punching the air in frustration. “Fuck! NO!”
He had been so close to catching the one man who had betrayed his parents. So close to finding inside information on the whereabouts of Voldemort. Harry cursed again and turned his livid green eyes. A Death Eater was advancing his way.
The Death Eater was knocked off his feet, colliding with a tree. There was a crack and Harry realized that he had broken the man’s skull.
He was dead, and Harry felt no remorse.
Eyes wild with fury and breath coming in rough gasps, Harry fought. He fought until his throat was sore from screaming curses. All the while he was yelling at himself, you let him get away. You let Wormtail get away.
It wasn’t until after the bodies had been counted, after the Order had to retreat to Grimmauld place, that Harry noticed Moth was missing.
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