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The Darkest Hours by sel_123
Chapter 27 : The Ultimate Sacrifice
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 8


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Phew! This chapter took an AGE to write…probably the hardest one yet. Part of this stems from the fact that I wasn’t sure how similar to canon I should make it…my story is of course based on HBP, but I’ve always tried to change things so it’s not like a HBP 2! But you will notice that parts of this chapter are very similar to HBP…it seemed almost sacrilegious to change it too much! I hope this doesn’t mean it’s boring to read…

27  

The Ultimate Sacrifice 

 

 The rain lashed down cruelly onto the windows, making the iron grey sky behind it blur mysteriously. Harry watched a droplet of water meander erratically down the glass, and tapped his quill against his hand. He was bored. He was in a Transfiguration class, but it was a theory lesson rather than a practical, and Harry just couldn’t find it in him to concentrate. He looked out of the window to the deserted grounds, watching the occasional lightening bolt illuminate the sky. He subconsciously raised a hand to his scar, and rubbed it gently. It was tingling slightly, and felt warm under his fingers. He bit his lip, frowning. Something wasn’t right. He didn’t know what it was, but something just wasn’t right. He looked out of the window again, his eyes darting around restlessly, but there was nothing out there. He sighed and put his head into his hands, random images dancing about in his mind. The golden snitch, flitting about…Malfoy’s look of pain as he clutched his arm…Ginny’s lips as she leaned in to kiss him…Death Eaters raising their hoods as they approached the castle, on the orders of a tall, pale, snake-like man…

Harry sat up with a jolt, his heart pounding. Images hurtled through his mind, and he screwed up his face with the intensity of it. Voldemort…Voldemort had sent his followers to Hogwarts…Harry was certain. He could see the horrible, twisted smile on the man’s face, as he commanded his henchmen. Harry let out a loud gasp, and several heads flicked towards him. 

“Harry?” Hermione murmured uneasily. “What’s wrong?”

Harry said nothing, staring unseeingly into the distance. 

“Harry, what’s up?” Ron muttered, leaning forward. 

“Weasley, why are you talking?” Professor McGonagall snapped, her lips pursed.  

"Er…it was Harry…” Ron said, nodding towards his friend, who was still staring blankly past him. 

“Potter?” Professor McGonagall said sternly, although her annoyance faded as she took in Harry’s pale, shaken face. “Potter, what is it?” Harry stared at her vacantly for a while, his mouth slightly open. “Potter?” 

“He’s sent them,” he said softly, shaking his head as if trying to rid of unwelcome thoughts. “They’re here.” 

“What do you mean?” Professor McGonagall asked sharply, although her face had paled. “Who’s here?”

Harry stared at her, a frown on his face. McGonagall noticed that his scar was more prominent than usual; it was redder, and seemed to be slightly raised. “Death Eaters,” Harry said, his voice still strangely quiet. The class gasped loudly; several people gave small screams. 

“Nonsense, Potter,” McGonagall replied in clipped tones, although her face was still pale. “That is impossible.”

That statement seemed to shake Harry from his stupor, and he half stood up from his seat. “I tell you, they’re here!” he said, much more loudly. “I just saw it…Voldemort’s ordered his Death Eaters here!”

The class muttered loudly amongst themselves, and Harry heard a few people remark that he must be crazy. He ignored them, standing up fully. 

“Potter, are you…are you sure?” Professor McGonagall said quietly, her hands gripping the edge of her desk. “You’re certain?”

“Yes! I saw it!” Harry said impatiently. “They’re in the grounds, I don’t know where, but they are! I saw!”

Professor McGonagall stared at him for a second, and then nodded briskly. “I am going to fetch the Headmaster. No, Potter, stay here!” she said, as Harry took a step forward. “All of you! You are to stay here! No-one is to move until I return.” She turned to go. 

“Professor!” Harry said angrily, his hands balled into fists. “You can’t make me stay here! You can’t -” 

“I can and I will, Potter!” McGonagall said furiously. “You are to stay here! You cannot put yourself in danger!” 

“But they’re looking for ME!” Harry yelled, his face turning red.

 “Exactly!” McGonagall snapped. “Which is why you will not be going out there!”  

“You can’t protect me forever, Professor!” Harry said angrily.

Professor McGonagall paused. “No,” she said finally. “We cannot. But we can protect you until you are ready. And you are NOT - READY - YET! I will make sure your Aurors do not allow you to leave the room.” She shot Harry one final warning look and swept from the classroom. Harry threw himself back down in his chair furiously, ignoring the looks the rest of the class were giving him. 

“You alright, Harry?” Ron asked awkwardly. Harry said nothing. A long silence followed. 

“You saw it, Harry?” Seamus asked sceptically. “You saw it in your mind?” 

“Yes,” Harry replied shortly. 

“What, like you can read his mind or something?” Dean asked, his tone of voice mixed with awe and horror. 

“Something like that,” Harry said. 

“Wow,” Hannah Abbot breathed quietly. “That’s unbelievable.” 

“It’s been happening for years,” Ron said, sounding strangely proud of his friend’s abilities. “You-Know-Who can break into his mind and stuff…he talks to him. Dumbledore reckons it’s because there’s connection between them, from when You-Know-Who tried to kill Harry as a baby.” 

“Cheers, Ron,” Harry said curtly. “If I wanted the whole school to know, I would have told them myself.”

Ron looked slightly abashed. “Sorry, mate.”  

“So is that why you can speak Parseltongue?” Lavender asked hesitantly. “Because of the connection between you two? Because You-Know-Who could speak Parseltongue, couldn’t he?” 

“Yep,” Harry nodded. He sighed, and then clapped a hand to his scar as it gave a violent twinge. 

“Harry?” Hermione asked worriedly. “What just…Harry, sit down!” she said quickly as Harry stood up from his chair. “Remember what McGonagall said!” 

“I’m not just sitting here waiting for something to happen!” Harry snarled, drawing his wand. “If you two try to stop me, I will stun you. Don’t think I won’t,” he added, as Ron pulled a face. 

“Er, Harry” Seamus said nervously. “Your Aurors are outside…McGonagall ordered them not to let you out.” Harry said nothing, but began to walk quickly past the lines of desks towards the door. Just as he was about to open it, however, Professor McGonagall and Dumbledore hurried in. McGonagall gave him a disapproving look. 

“Harry,” Dumbledore said quickly, his face looking very grave. “Come with me, please.” Without waiting for Harry to speak, he left the room again, causing Harry to hurry from the room without a backwards glance at Ron or Hermione. I hope thats not the last time I see them, he thought as he followed the Headmaster along the corridor.  

After Harry had told Dumbledore what he had seen, Dumbledore summoned the Order immediately. The students were instructed to return to their Common Rooms, and the teachers hurried to Dumbledore’s office, where Harry was sat nervously on a chair. 

“Albus, what are we to do?” squeaked Professor Flitwick in panic. “They have been sighted, the Aurors said they have entered the grounds. There’s about twenty of them!” 

“Filius, you will guard the Ravenclaw Common Room; make sure nobody leaves. Pomona, you will guard the Hufflepuffs.” Professors Flitwick and Sprout nodded, and Dumbledore turned to Professor McGonagall. “Minerva, you will guard the Gryffindor Common Room.” McGonagall nodded too, and then frowned. 

“Albus, where is Severus? Surely he should be guarding the Slytherins?” 

Dumbledore paused, and Harry stared at him. “It seems Severus is otherwise engaged,” he said slowly, avoiding Harry’s gaze. After a few moments the teachers left, and Harry got up too. “No, Harry,” Dumbledore said quickly, turning to face him. “I think it would be safest if you stayed here. You can look after Fawkes for me,” he said with a smile. 

“Sir, I -” Harry began, but Dumbledore held up at hand. “Please listen to me, Harry. We need to keep you safe, you know that.” 

“But I can fight! You know I can, sir!” 

“I do know, Harry,” Dumbledore said with a nod, taking a few steps closer to him. “But it is no use until the Horcruxes are gone. You know that as well as I do.” 

Harry sighed. “I know, sir. I just feel so…helpless.” Dumbledore smiled, and placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder. “I understand. You will prove yourself soon, Harry. But not now. Not yet. We need to keep you safe until the time is right. You must stay.” He gave Harry’s shoulder a brief pat and smiled, before stepping smartly across his room and out the door, shutting it quietly behind him. Harry sighed again, shaking his head in frustration, and lowered himself back into the chair.  

Fawkes gave a loud squawk, jolting Harry from his reverie. He jumped up and wandered over to the phoenix. 

“Hey, Fawkes,” he said softly, stroking the bird gently on the head. “It’s okay. Dumbledore will be back soon.” Fawkes squawked again, and flew over towards the window, tapping on it with his beak. “You want me to open it?” Harry asked doubtfully. “I dunno…I think Dumbledore wanted both of us to stay here.” The phoenix turned his black eyes to Harry, and gazed at him so intently that Harry felt strangely uncomfortable. “Okay, okay,” he said, shaking his head as he opened he window.

He was immediately greeted by distant shouts and screams coming from the grounds, although he could not see anything. Harry looked back at Fawkes quickly. “Someone’s in danger. Dumbledore’s in danger, isn’t he?” Fawkes gave a gentle caw and perched on the window-ledge, before turning and looking at Harry again.“Right,” Harry said, in sudden understanding. He gripped Fawkes’s tail tightly and took a deep breath. “Let’s go.” 

Fawkes unfurled his wings and flew out of the window, and Harry tried not to look at the ground below; it seemed a mile away. Harry felt the rain lash his face and winced. He had forgotten what flying with a phoenix was like, and was momentarily startled by the feel of his weightlessness. Fawkes circled smoothly down, landing gently onto the sodden grass. Harry staggered briefly and then pulled out his wand, his eyes darting around the grounds. 

“Which way, Fawkes?” he muttered, glancing at the phoenix. Fawkes cawed and set off straight ahead, flying slowly so Harry could keep up. He ran along quickly, careful to stick to the sides of the building so he was less noticeable. He heard the shouts increasing, and upped his speed, his heart hammering madly in his chest. He rounded the corner and ducked underneath a wall, straining his ears. 

“ - thought I couldn’t do it. But you were all wrong, weren’t you?”

A familiar drawl floated over to Harry, and he realised with a flash of anger that it was Malfoy. 

“Indeed we were, Draco,” another voice said calmly. Harry’s heart stopped. It was Dumbledore. He jumped up from his hiding place, squinting through the rain to see him. Dumbledore was backed against the wall, with Draco Malfoy pointing his wand directing at Dumbledore’s heart. Malfoy was flanked by two Death Eaters, whose faces were obscured by their masks. Dumbledore’s eyes moved slightly to the right and fell open Harry. His mouth opened slightly in surprise, but he closed it again quickly. His hand made a slight jerking movement, and Harry felt the strange sensation of an egg being cracked over his head, and realised that Dumbledore had just performed the disillusionment charm on him. 

“I’m going to kill you, Dumbledore,” Malfoy drawled, taking a step closer to the Headmaster. 

“Really, Draco?” Dumbledore replied calmly, as if Malfoy had just said that he was going to go into Hogsmeade. “I don’t think you are. I don’t think you can.” 

“Don’t say that!” Malfoy said quickly, the drawl fading from his voice. “You don’t know that! I can do it, I’ve been preparing for this for ages!” 

“You can never prepare for murder, Draco,” Dumbledore said pleasantly. “And I do not think you are a killer.” 

“Come on, Draco, get a move on!” snarled one of the Death Eaters. Harry thought it was Nott. He crept slowly forward, trying not to slip on the wet grass. 

Go back, Harry. 

Harry gasped. Dumbledore had not spoken, nor had he even looked at Harry, yet his voice resounded inside Harry’s head as if he had just spoken into his ear. 

Go back, Harry. If you trust me, you must go back.  

Harry opened his mouth dumbly. Dumbledore continued to look placidly at Draco, and Harry noticed that Malfoy’s hand had started to shake. 

“It is not too late, Draco,” the Headmaster was saying. “You have been foolish, but foolishness is redeemable. Murder is not.” Malfoy’s hand shook even more.

“I have to do it,” he said quietly. “He’ll kill me. He’ll kill me.”  

"Shut up whining, Malfoy, and get on with it!” snapped the other Death Eater, who Harry thought was Rookwood. Malfoy lowered his wand slightly, his face very pale. “If you don’t do it, I will!” snarled Rookwood. 

“No! You remember the Dark Lord’s orders…only Malfoy is to do it!” Nott barked. 

“Well, he doesn’t look as though he’s capable, does he?” sneered Rookwood. Harry inched forward, fear and anger pounding in his stomach. Something pinched his elbow and he whirled around, but it was only Fawkes, pulling his sleeve with his beak. 

“Fawkes, get off me!” Harry hissed, tugging his arm away. He had had only taken a few steps closer when the phoenix grabbed his sleeve again and dragged him backwards; he was far stronger than his size indicated.

“Fawkes!” Harry said angrily, except no sound came from his mouth. He tried again, but only silence came from his lips. He darted another look at Dumbledore, who was following Nott and Rookwood’s argument with an expression of mild interest. Harry realised that this time Dumbledore must have cast a silencing spell on him, and he screwed his face up in frustration. What was Dumbledore playing at? They were about to kill him! 

“This is your last chance, Draco!” Nott ordered, gesturing towards Dumbledore with his wand. Malfoy looked up at the Headmaster, his face ashen. Dumbledore returned his gaze unflinchingly; there was no condemnation in his light blue eyes, no anger or sadness. He simply looked back at Malfoy calmly, his head tilted slightly to one side. Malfoy swallowed, and Harry knew that he would not kill the Headmaster. For all his cruelness and conceit, Malfoy was not a murderer…or at least not yet he wasn’t, Harry thought bitterly. He struggled towards Dumbledore again, but Fawkes held fast and pulled him further back. Harry let out a torrent of expletives that no one could hear, his feet slipping against the wet grass. Where was everyone else? What had the Death Eaters done to Dumbledore that meant he could not escape? Harry knew the Headmaster was exceptionally skilled with wandless magic - he had just proved it by silencing Harry - so why was he not able to defend himself? What was happening? And where, Harry thought with a scowl, was Snape?

 No sooner had he thought these words then a figure rounded the corner of the castle, black robes billowing behind him as he took long, measured strides towards Dumbledore and the Death Eaters. It was Snape. Harry let out his breath, the tight knot in his stomach loosening slightly. Snape would be able to get Dumbledore to safety. Snape approached the scene calmly, looking from the Death Eaters to Dumbledore and back again. 

“And what is going on here?” he asked coolly. 

“The boy doesn’t seem to be able to do it, Snape,” Rookwood said quickly.

Snape turned to Malfoy. “Now why does that not surprise me?” he sneered. Malfoy said nothing. “I did advise the Dark Lord to entrust the task to someone more…worthwhile, but he seemed insistent that Draco should prove himself. Dear dear. He will be disappointed.” Malfoy turned even paler. Harry felt his mouth go dry. He had been right all along; Snape was working for Voldemort. He had been a spy, passing on information from the Order for almost two years. And Dumbledore had trusted him. Always. He had never listened to Harry’s suspicions, never taken his complaints seriously. Harry felt a fresh flame of anger lick his insides and he strained forward again, but Fawkes’s strength was unbelievable; Harry was barely able to move an inch. Snape took a step forward and looked at Dumbledore. The older man looked steadily back, no sign of hurt or shock on his face. The two stared at each other for what seemed to Harry like an age. “

We must hurry, Snape, before the Ministry gets here! Malfoy must do it NOW!” Nott snapped. Without turning away from Dumbledore, Snape spoke. 

“Draco is not able to complete his task; we all know that.” 

“But he must! He was ordered! Who else will do it?” 

Snape paused for a moment, and then an ugly smile twisted across his mouth. “I will do it,” he said coldly. He raised his wand and pointed it directly at Dumbledore’s chest. The two Death Eaters and Malfoy were utterly silent; the only sound Harry could hear was the steady drum of raindrops on his head, and the ominous claps of thunder. A few moments passed and nothing happened, although Snape did not lower his wand. And then, for the first time since Snape had appeared, Dumbledore spoke. 

“Severus…” It was only one word - one simple word - and yet Harry felt his insides ache for his Headmaster. He started at Snape, praying that he would stop, praying that he would not return Dumbledore’s years of kindness and trust in this way. A look of hatred and disgust passed over Snape’s face, and his dark eyes flashed. His mouth twisted in an almost inhuman snarl, and he took a step forward. 

“Avada Kedavra!” he hissed from between clenched teeth. A jet of green light shot into Dumbledore’s chest, and he was slammed back against the wall. He seemed to rest there for a moment, as though he was merely leaning idly against it, but then he slumped down it; slowly, terribly. Harry stared in horror as his Headmaster tumbled onto the grass and was still, his face obscured by Snape’s shadow. There was a long silence, and then Snape turned. 

“Come on,” he said brusquely. “Let’s go.” Seizing Malfoy by the arm, he set off at a run, quickly followed by Nott and Rookwood. The scream that had torn Harry’s throat when the green light flashed had gone unheard, but the yell of rage that came from him as the four turned away was audible to all. They turned abruptly, wands at the ready. Fawkes fluttered away, circling high into the sky, and Harry realised that the disillusionment charm had lifted. A grin spread nastily over Nott’s face. 

“Harry Potter. The Dark Lord will be pleased. His two greatest enemies, felled in one night.” He raised his wand. 

“No!” Snape snarled, glaring at Harry. “The boy is not to be harmed - you remember what the Dark Lord said! Now go!”

They turned to run again, and after a short pause Harry sprinted forward. The Death Eaters had their backs to him, and without even thinking of using his wand, he leapt onto Snape, grabbing him by the neck and wrestling him to the ground. Nott, Rookwood and Malfoy presumably had heard nothing, for they continued running in the opposite direction. Harry pinned Snape to the ground, his fingers tight around his throat. 

“You killed him!” he said, his voice strangely high. “You killed him!” He tightened his grip on Snape’s throat, feeling hatred pounding through his veins. He had to kill him. He had to kill him now. If he did, then it would be okay; Dumbledore would not be dead. Snape choked, and then some sort of current seemed to run through him, causing Harry to release him as though he’d been burned. Snape staggered up, pointing his wand at Harry, a terrible expression passing over his face. 

“You are a fool, Potter!” he sneered, his eyes reflecting only hatred. “Dumbledore is not here to save you now, and once again you have put yourself in danger.”  

“I don’t need Dumbledore to save me!” Harry yelled, raising his own wand, but Snape was too quick. With a flick of his wand he disarmed Harry, and with another flick sent him toppling to the ground. 

“Fool!” Snape repeated, his face contorted with loathing. “Your self-centred conceit will be the end of you, Potter! You have been given false hope; a mediocre duelling ability will not be enough to save you from the Dark Lord, nor from his followers! In time you will learn this!” He slashed his wand through the air, and Harry felt red-hot pain stab his insides. He yelled in pain and the curse lifted. He scrambled to his feet, but again Snape was ready. He pointed his wand at Harry, and thick ropes sprang from it, winding around him until he was securely tied. He struggled against it, but it was in vain; he was tightly bound. Snape sneered down at him. “You see, Potter. You are too easy.” 

“You killed him!” Harry yelled numbly, seemingly unable to say anything else. “He trusted you!” 

“Yes, he did, Potter,” Snape said quietly, a hideous smile on his face. “Perhaps, in time, you too will see who is trustworthy…and who is not.”

With a final leer he turned, running in the direction the others had gone in. Harry sat there in silence for a while, the rain plastering his hair to his head, dripping into his eyes. He took a few deep breaths and summoned all his concentration, and a second later the thick ropes that bound him burst into flames and disappeared.

He got to his feet shakily, stumbling around until he found his wand. Slipping it into his pocket, he walked blindly back to the castle, only half aware of the crowd that was forming against the nearest wall. He felt numb, unreal…as though he had just woken from a nightmare but was not yet fully conscious. The group of students was getting larger by the second; more and more were filing out from the entrance hall, scared looks on their faces. A few teachers were there too, trying to push in front of the students, trying to regain some sense of order. Harry walked dully towards them, and as though he had issued some kind of command, the crowd drew apart, letting him pass to the front. He could hear whispers, sobs, strangled screams…but none of it registered. All that mattered was person lying motionless on the ground, the person who was causing all the chaos and disarray.  

Dumbledore was lying where Harry had left him, just as Harry had known he would be. He had known Dumbledore was dead; he had known it since Snape had spoken those dreadful words. Dumbledore would never have left him alone with Snape, never have left him at the mercy of three Death Eaters. Yet although he had known this, nothing could have destroyed the faint glimmer of hope that assured him Dumbledore could not have died; nothing could have readied him for the colossal wave of grief that swept over him, tearing at his heart. He knelt down next to his Headmaster, looking at his wise old face that was, even in death, calm and peaceful. There was even the faintest hint of a smile on his lips. Harry felt his heart constrict. It couldn’t be true. He could not just die…not like that. Not because of Snape. It couldn’t be true.

He reached out a hand towards Dumbledore’s shoulder and shook him gently, half hoping that he would stir as he did so. But he remained motionless. Harry waited, holding his breath, but Dumbledore remained unmoving on the ground.

"Come on, sir," he whispered, hoping that any minute Dumbledore would sit up, straighten the half-moon glasses that sat crookedly on his nose, and smile up at him. But still no response came. Dumbledore's eyes remained closed, his face impassive. The first tears started to sting Harry’s eyes. It couldn't be. It just couldn't be. He wanted to touch him, but he was afraid to; he didn't know what he would do if he touched Dumbledore’s cheek and found it icy cold. 

“No, sir…please….no.”  His arms were suddenly around him, hugging him like he should have done one thousand times before. It couldn't be true. It couldn’t be. This was Dumbledore…the great Albus Dumbledore; the man who would have done anything for Harry, the man who had loved him like a son. The man who had died for him, like so many had before. Harry remembered what Dumbledore had said to him during their last Occlumency lesson, just one day previously: “I trust you. I know you will not let us down”. But Harry had. He had failed him, like he had failed Sirius, like he had failed Cedric, like he had failed his parents. There were so many things he should have said to Dumbledore; so many times he should have thanked him. He had never told him what he had meant to him, what he had come to feel for him. He was more than a Headmaster, more than a mentor, more than a friend…and Harry had never told him. He had never bothered, and now that opportunity was gone forever.

Grief pulsed through his heart - the pain of this loss was hitting him harder than ever. He had never known pain this great; it was as if the loss of his mother, his father, of Cedric, of Sirius, were all combined in the body of the old man at his knees, and he buried his face in Dumbledore’s shoulder, his eyes burning.  "Please don't be dead," he whispered. "I can’t do this alone. You know I can’t." His body shook uncontrollably. "I need you, sir...please wake up…please don't be dead." The pain in his chest was increasing, constricting his breathing, crushing his heart. He could hear whispers, cries from the crowd around him, but he saw nothing except for the midnight blue blur that was Dumbledore’s body, hazy through his tears. Someone tried to tug his arms away from Dumbledore, but he shook them away. What was the point in leaving? What was the point in doing anything anymore? Dumbledore was dead, and every hope Harry had ever clung to had just died with him. There was no use now. It was finished. It was over.





Poor Harry…Poor Dumbledore. I did consider keeping him alive, because along with Lupin, (and Harry, of course) he’s always been my favourite character. But I wanted it to be authentic, and hopefully similar to some parts of book 7, so it had to be done. I hope you enjoyed it…and if you did, please review. Thanks


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