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It Ends Tonight by Regina Noctis
Chapter 1 : Story Text
 
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Disclaimer: I own nothing. What more needs to be said?
 

 






Twilight was falling over the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. The many turrets of the castle jutted into the heavens, their dark shadows cast on the ground with increasing length as the fading day hurried into the ominous night. The sun, a blood-red disk in a darkening sky, balanced precariously on the edge of the western horizon.

The lone figure of a man facing the sun could be seen at the top of the highest tower, the Astronomy Tower. A cooling summer’s breeze ruffled through his already-messy raven hair. Emerald eyes, eyes that had seen more pain and suffering than fitting for such a young man as he, reflected the sun’s dying rays from behind a pair of round glasses. And on his forehead, centered just above the bridge of his nose, a jagged scar in the shape of a lightning bolt glowed eerily in the dimming light.

Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, was waiting for night to fall. And with the night would come the Apocalypse, the moment of judgment. . . the choosing between the saved and the damned.

He sincerely hoped he was one of the saved.

Voldemort, after months of a strange absence of activity, had sent a challenge to Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived must meet the Dark Lord in a final duel, or else watch the rest of the wizarding world annihilated by Voldemort’s minions. A duel, but escalated to the grandest of scales—and with the highest price to be paid should the loser be Harry.

The place? The grounds of Hogwarts.

The time? The first night of the full moon in May.

Voldemort’s seconds? The regular army of Death Eaters, of course. . . as well as Fenrir Greyback and his clan of werewolves.

Harry had little choice but to accept; it was either to fight on Voldemort’s conditions, or to have the rest of magical society pay dearly for his rejection of the terms. And thus he was watching the sunset so apprehensively.

Every passing second led closer and closer to death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

And there was nothing he could do to stop it.

As Harry stood there, watching the sun begin to dip slowly behind the horizon, he forced himself to think of his mentor, the man who had died at this very same spot almost a year ago. How he wished he had Dumbledore’s advice right now. There were so many things that Harry wanted to ask the old man, so many things that the Headmaster had yet to teach his young disciple.

For one thing, Harry wasn’t even sure how he should defeat Voldemort. Certainly, he had already destroyed all the Horcruxes—save one, that had to wait until tonight—but as to killing the Dark Lord himself. . . now that was an entirely different matter.

Harry ran a hand through his mussed hair nervously. He had always loved the Astronomy Tower. It had an expansive view of the Hogwarts grounds, there was always a lovely breeze, and it afforded his tired mind a quiet place to think. Even with the ghost of Dumbledore’s demise flitting about his head, Harry had come back to the Tower more than once in the last year. Here he dreamed of the future, remembered the past—anything but stay in the present. Those sessions always refreshed him, left him feeling more awake and more alive than before.

But tonight, as he watched the shadowy figures of the enemy scurry from place to place on the ground below, all he could feel was a gnawing sense of dread in the pit of his stomach.

Harry shuddered. Such thoughts were getting him nowhere. The start of the duel, the moment when the full moon rose over the horizon, was rapidly approaching, he knew. He would have to leave the sanctuary of the tower soon. There would be time later for reverie and empty musings. . .

If there ever was a later.

Harry sighed and turned to go, pulling his cloak tighter about him. It was high time to talk to the Order about battle plans.
 

 






The sun sank lower behind the horizon, its steady progress seeming to accelerate in the eyes of all present, until only a red glow against the purple sky remained.

It was time.

On the battlefield, an acre’s worth of ground bordered by the lake and the Forbidden Forest, the players assembled. Members of the Order of the Phoenix, with Harry at their head, streamed out from the castle and took up a fighting stance, a protective row in front of their beloved school.

Already waiting for them was a silent throng of hooded figures just on the fringe of the Forbidden Forest, their white masks gleaming in the twilight. Voldemort’s Death Eaters outnumbered the Order by at least two to one, if not by more.

And then there was the extra advantage the Dark Lord wielded: timing.

Even as the Order prepared themselves to fight, the full moon was rising, rising quickly over the still waters of the lake. As it blossomed into view, a horrifying transformation began in the enemy lines.

The entire front row of Death Eaters, once so terrifyingly silent and motionless, now began to wail and writhe in agony, most of them falling to their knees as if in supplication of a higher power. Robes ripped apart at the seams, masks fell off to reveal tortured faces, and the rest of the Death Eaters inched back towards the Forest nervously. Limbs elongated to grotesque proportions, newly-formed claws glittered by the light of the yellow moon, sharp teeth glistened wetly in canine mouths.

Within seconds, what had once been men were now monsters.

The pack of werewolves snarled threateningly, their hunting call rumbling throughout the field. The Order’s line visibly wavered as the wolves advanced slowly upon them, the hungry predators stalking their smaller prey.

A resounding howl from the castle stopped their advance.

Moments later, a lone wolf burst forth from the castle doors and ran towards the field, placing itself bodily between the Order and the werewolves. It was a tawny wolf, one with slightly graying fur, a lean and muscular body, and intelligent amber eyes that glowed brightly in the darkness. He growled deep in his throat, the fur on his arched back bristling, sending a fierce warning to the cowering enemy before him.

Leave my people alone.

To the Death Eaters, however, Remus Lupin’s surprising arrival was nothing more than a distraction. With a roaring battle-cry, they charged wand-first at the Order; the werewolves overcame their surprise soon enough and joined in with jaws snapping.

And so the battle began.
 

 






Many minutes passed. Blood had been spilled on the field more than once already, and the ground was becoming spongy in places where people had fallen in groups.

At the lakeshore, a certain woman with mouse-brown hair was kneeling next to a freshly-dead body in shock. As an Auror, Nymphadora Tonks had seen her fair share of corpses and killing. But none had stunned her as much as this.

At one time, she would have rejoiced to watch Severus Snape die. Not anymore.

She had been dueling with Snape moments before his death. They stood far apart, with at least three meters between them, in normal dueling fashion. He was busy taunting her and throwing hexes at the same time, sneering at her impure lineage that was stained by a Muggle’s blood. She was about to retort when she heard it.

From behind her, a Death Eater’s voice, one that was all too familiar, cast the Killing Curse.

Tonks was sure she was the target. But no—time seemed to slow down as a green flash zipped past her and continued to streak past towards its intended victim. Her eyes widened when she saw who was in the direct line of fire, his back toward the incoming spell.

A boy with messy black hair dueling a Death Eater farther in the field.

Harry.

Without realizing it, Tonks had made eye contact with Snape in the moment she saw Harry. An accomplished Legilimens, he must have seen her thoughts almost instantaneously. And he reacted with speed to rival any professional Quidditch player.

He leaped into the spell’s path, just in time to let it strike him in the chest.

Tonks found herself temporarily unable to move as she watched Snape crumple to the ground. When she finally ran over and fell to her knees at his side, she saw the strangest sight she could have possibly imagined.

For the first time, Severus Snape was smiling.

“Aw, look, wittle Tonksie is upset,” came a jeering voice from behind and above. Tonks twisted around to face the speaker, a tall woman in Death Eater’s robes. Her heavy-lidded eyes gleamed madly. “One blood traitor mourning another, is it?”

“You disgusting—monster,” Tonks choked out. “You were trying to kill Harry while he had his back turned, weren’t you? If it weren’t for Snape, Harry would be the one on the ground.”

Bellatrix Lestrange smiled cruelly. “Of course, Nymphadora,” she purred. “Of course I was trying to murder the Potter brat—to earn the praise and respect of the Dark Lord for getting rid of that persistent boy.” Her face twisted. “But thanks to that traitor—” she gestured angrily at Snape’s body, “—I lost the chance for glory in the eyes of my master. I always knew the spy would show his true colors in the end.”

Before Tonks could move, Bellatrix had her wand out and at the ready. “And now, it’s time to teach my niece some manners,” she sneered. “Crucio!

Tonks screamed as the Cruciatus hit her. Wave after wave of excruciating pain convulsed through her entire body for what seemed like hours. When Bellatrix finally released the curse, Tonks was left on her back, fighting to catch her breath. It was all she could do not to crawl over and retch on her aunt’s shoes.

Bellatrix laughed, a truly demoniac cackle. “So, niece, you do remember that Longbottom couple, do you not? The pair who went mad at my hands? How would you like to have a sample of their—ah, shall we say, treatment?

Tonks just stared at Bellatrix in horror as the older woman raised her wand for the second time. And then. . .

There came a familiar growl above Tonks’ head.

Bellatrix looked up at the sound—and screamed as a dark mass of fur hurtled towards her throat, knocking her flat onto the ground. Her wand flew out of her reach to skitter uselessly onto the ground, coming to a rest by Snape’s foot.

Tonks sat up quickly and turned her head away from the scene, not wanting to witness her aunt’s death. Even after Bellatrix finally stopped shrieking and fell silent forever, Tonks continued to look down, her eyes closed as a precautionary measure.

Only when she heard a snuffling noise in front of her did she bring her head up—to come face-to-snout with her rescuer. Their eyes met, gray locking with amber, the witch and the werewolf coming to a tacit understanding.

The one who had protected the Order earlier had come back to save her.

“Remus?” Tonks breathed.

The wolf took a moment to nudge Tonks’ cheek gently with his bloodied muzzle. Then, before she could say another word, he was gone.
 

 






The Forbidden Forest was no sanctuary from the battle, Harry discovered. Far from it; in this clearing, he thought the screams reverberated even better in the nearly-silent woods.

But who said he was looking for a sanctuary? Harry had another goal in mind: He had to find and destroy the last horcrux before its owner came around to destroy him.

It wasn’t going to be easy, finding this horcrux. Unlike the last six Harry had destroyed, this horcrux moved, spoke, and had control over its location. No, the job was going to take the time that Harry could not afford at this point. He had to get rid of Voldemort before the Order was obliterated by the werewolf onslaught.

Thank Merlin I speak the horcrux’s language, Harry thought grimly, or else I’d never be able to finish this.

The problem was getting close enough to the horcrux to be able to talk to it properly. Harry had spent the last fifteen minutes tracking down Voldemort’s pet snake, only to have it elude him at the last possible moment. Nagini had decided to have a little fun with her stalker and had led him to the Forbidden Forest in a convoluted fashion, forcing him to cross wands with several Death Eaters on the way.

And now he had lost the trail of the blasted creature smack-dab in the middle of the woods.

Harry groaned and tugged at his hair in frustration. He was about ready to run to the nearest tree and smash something. If he didn’t get rid of Nagini, Voldemort would be able to come back from the dead like he had done in Harry’s fourth year—which was definitely not something to be desired.

Suddenly, Harry heard a rustling noise in the branches just above him. Before the animal had a chance to move away, he called out in Parseltongue.

{Stop,} he hissed. {Are you Nagini?}

The noise stopped. {Which Parseltongue wishes to speak with the all-powerful Nagini?} was the snake’s haughty answer. Great, even Voldemort’s pet has an ego problem, Harry thought ruefully.

{My name does not matter,} Harry replied, letting some of his impatience creep into his voice. {I am a descendant of Salazar Slytherin, and therefore a distant relative of your master. There is an urgent matter which we need to discuss. My time has already been wasted by trying to find you.}

{What urgent matter?} Nagini asked suspiciously. {Tell me now!}

{It is about certain plots on your master’s life,} Harry lied quickly. Well, it wasn’t quite a lie—it did have to do with Voldemort’s life, after all. {And I am afraid I cannot disclose more unless you come down to me. . .} Slowly, ever so slowly, he reached into his robes and fingered the small dagger he kept in his pocket.

Nagini seemed to consider for a moment. {I will come down,} she said finally, and the rustling noise started again.

When a gigantic green snake slithered down the tree opposite him, Harry was prepared to meet her.

Nagini screamed out curses in Parseltongue as Harry drove the dagger through her body and into the tree trunk, effectively pinning her there. The snake writhed around in a desperate attempt to free herself, but she only hastened her own demise. Several minutes later, Nagini was dead. As her spirit passed on, Harry could have sworn he saw a green cloud swirl out from the wound his dagger had made.

Harry allowed himself the luxury of a small cheer. Seven down, zero to go! He was more than ready to face Voldemort now—he hoped.

A voice from behind made him freeze. The tone was chilling, but more chilling was the language spoken.

{Killing my snake is not the same as killing me, Potter.}

Harry slowly turned around, his heart galloping. The speaker, hooded and twirling a wand around slender fingers, was leaning against a far tree trunk. When the newcomer stepped into the clearing and pushed back his hood, Harry didn’t need to see the red eyes glowing with hatred to know who it was.

Voldemort had found him.

Silence reigned in the forest while the two enemies exchanged glares. Neither man moved from his position; they each watched the other cautiously, waiting for the other to make the first move. Finally, Voldemort spoke in English.

“Do you know why I led you here, Potter?” he asked. At Harry’s shocked expression, he added, “Oh, yes, I led you here. When Nagini informed me that she was being followed, I suspected her stalker was you. And so I instructed her to bring you here, away from that gaggle of misfits Dumbledore forgot to take away with him. Our duel can be finished—” he sneered, “—alone.”

Voldemort came closer to the petrified Harry, circling him as a vulture does a carcass. “It ends tonight, my young friend,” he hissed. “No more of that pathetic guard of yours watching your every move. No more of that old fool’s so-called protective spells to guard you. You’re a man now, Potter—it’s time for you to face your death like one.”

“You’re wrong, Tom,” Harry snarled as best he could. Merlin, this was going way too fast. . . “You’re the one who’s going to die tonight, not me.”

“We’ll see after tonight, now won’t we?” Voldemort raised his wand and let a cruel smile play on his lips. “Avada Kedavra!

Harry dived out of the way and into the brush surrounding the clearing as a blast of green light raced towards him. The spell struck the ground and left behind a circle of charred grass to mark its landing.

“Now, now, Potter,” Harry heard Voldemort drawl. “It’ll do you no good to play hide-and-seek. I’ll give you five seconds to get back here and die bravely—before I come and kill you from behind like the coward you are. How would your bloated Gryffindor ego take that, hmm?”

Harry’s mind raced. He wasn’t ready, he knew he wasn’t ready to cast the Killing Curse yet. He needed time, more time. . .

“One. . .”

Harry took several deep breaths, but they did nothing to calm down his excited nerves.

“Two. . .”

He struggled to come up with a plan, but his mind drew a complete blank.

“Three. . .”

A glimmer of an idea came to him—surely it was too far-fetched, it would never work. Or, would it?

“Four. . .”

If nothing else, it would at least distract Voldemort for the time being, Harry decided. And since he knew of nothing else that could possibly work. . . he prepared to come out from his hiding place.

“Five. . .”

Harry leaped to his feet, his wand at the ready. “EXPECTO PATRONUM!

A silver stag of enormous proportions rushed from the end of his wand, galloping straight towards a stunned Voldemort. The man ducked as the stag lowered its antlers and charged, grazing his robes as it passed. As Prongs wheeled around for another go, Voldemort stood up, his eyes flashing red fire and with his wand poised.

Expecto Patronum!” he cried, and a huge silver snake came out to join the fray.

The clearing was now brightly lit by the two silver creatures fighting in its midst. Flashes of silver light erupted whenever the two Patronuses struck at each other. Their owners stood on the fringe of the clearing, watching the battle and controlling their soul-animals as best they could.

For a while, neither Prongs nor the snake had an advantage. The snake would attempt to strike at the stag, but Prongs was always too quick for his enemy and would outmaneuver it. Likewise, when Prongs tried to break the snake’s back with one of his hooves or spear the snake with his antlers, the snake would twist out of the way and come back as viciously as ever on the offensive.

Both Voldemort and the serpent seemed to be losing patience with this rigmarole, however. The snake quickly changed tactics, from viper to anaconda. Harry watched in horror as the serpent reared up and wrapped itself tightly around the stag’s neck before its victim could escape.

The snake’s awful grip brought both Harry and Prongs to their knees. Harry couldn’t breathe; the snake, by choking his soul, was simultaneously choking him. Over the buzzing noise that was rising in his ears, Harry could barely hear Voldemort’s mirthless laughter. Images of his closest friends rushed through his head as he fought to stay conscious. Ron, Hermione, Ginny, the rest of the Weasley family, McGonagall, Lupin, and—

Dumbledore.

Harry was far from ready to give up, and seeing his mentor so clearly in his mind gave him the strength he needed to make that desperate effort at winning. Using every drop of happiness and love that was left in him, Harry willed Prongs to stand up and fight to the bitter end.

Reluctantly, the stag gradually heaved itself to its standing position, the snake dangling from its neck like a manacle. Prongs tried to shake the serpent off, but it tenaciously remained. And so, Prongs staggered straight for the nearest tree to try to swipe it off.

It worked. A burst of light illuminated the clearing as the snake collided with the tree. When the flash faded, a stunned serpent-Patronus was lying at the base of the tree while the silver stag stood victoriously over it.

“NOW!” Harry shouted; and in one swift motion, Prongs raised a hoof and brought it down on the snake with a satisfying crunch.

Voldemort’s scream of agony rent the air as the serpent writhed and went limp on the forest floor. It faded out of existence; and after Prongs had come by to nuzzle his master, both Patronuses had disappeared, leaving behind the two humans in the clearing. Both were breathing heavily from the exertion of their Patronuses’ duel.

Harry got to his feet and stumbled over to the man lying face-down across the clearing. Hatred bubbled in his veins as he stood over the man who had caused him so much suffering for the past sixteen years.

It was time to finish the job he had started—and was destined to complete.

With a swift kick in the side, Harry rolled the Dark Lord onto his back. “That was for my friends,” Harry snarled.

Another hard kick to the face left Voldemort gasping for breath, fear shining in his red eyes. “That was for my family. . .”

Harry drew his wand now and took careful aim. “And this—this is for me! Avada Kedavra!

A fierce explosion rocked the clearing, sending Harry flying back into a nearby tree trunk and knocking him out momentarily. When he opened his eyes—minutes later? hours later? he didn’t know—he found himself to have a pounding headache while sitting nearly upright against the tree. He was greeted by an awe-inspiring sight.

The clearing, once a grassy and lush place, was nothing more than a blackened patch of ground. In the middle of it lay the body of a man, his red eyes staring unseeingly into the night sky above him.

The Dark Lord was dead. Forever.

“HARRY!” Suddenly, a young woman burst into the clearing, her red hair straggling behind her in a wild mane. She nearly froze at the sight of Voldemort’s body, but the sight of Harry kept her moving until she knelt down beside him.

“Ginny?” Harry stuttered groggily. “Is that you? I—I thought I told you—to stay in the castle. . .”

“I saw the explosion from my window and came to see what happened.” She ran her fingers over him delicately to check for any injuries from the blast. “What happened to you? What happened to him?” She nodded towards the still figure behind her.

Harry was too exhausted to murmur more than, “We did it. . .”

Ginny stared at Harry for a long moment, then at the corpse in the charred circle, before she understood. A smile broke across her face. “No, love,” she whispered, throwing her arms around him in a warm embrace. “You did it.”
 

 






After the battle, the rest of the wizarding world rejoiced. Celebrations were thrown around Britain in honor of the Dark Lord’s demise, and the day of the battle was set as a British wizarding holiday. Apart from the raids made on straggling Death Eater hide-outs, life resumed its peaceful course.

But for those who took part in the battle, nothing was the same. So many of the Order perished in the werewolf attack that night. Hogwarts students went to great efforts to avoid the field where the battle had taken place, claiming that it was haunted by the ghosts of the dead; soon, the Ministry established a memorial cemetery there to honor the memories of those who had fought and died in the Final Battle.

Everyone who had partaken in the fighting, whether they were on the field or watching nervously from behind the castle walls, were wounded by the events of that night. For some, their injuries healed as quickly as their bodies cooled on the battlefield. But for the rest, the survivors, the wounds took longer to close. And once it had, it never fully disappeared.

For the rest of their lives, there would always remain a scar.

FINIS
 

 






Author's Note: Wow! I had a lot of fun writing this. . . and even if I didn't win, I'm glad that such a talented writer and good friend as lupa_mannera did! She definitely deserved it! Thank you for reading, and please leave a review. . . they really make my day! ^.^

Cheers and love, Regina

 





Info 28: Writer’s duels have long been an important part of HPFF as either separate competitions or parts of events. There is one going on right now as a part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.


Clue 29:
Sleeping beauty needs her kiss
To get her out of bed
After spring, there comes bliss
As he gives her roses red

 
 




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