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Chapter 20 : The Master of Death
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“Lily, please,” he said. “You don’t have to get yourself killed. We can all go out together and—”
“You don’t understand,” she said simply. “I have to do this.”
He sighed but didn’t argue—only looked to Dumbledore hopefully. “Will you talk her out of it?”
The headmaster smiled passively. “I doubt that I’d be able to and there’s no reason to.”
Sirius stared back at him blankly.
Dumbledore ignored him and turned to Lily. “Have you heard of the Deathly Hallows?”
She nodded skeptically. “It’s a children’s story, what does it have—?”
“Just hear me out,” he interrupted. “I assure you they’re very much real. And you’ve got two of them right now.”
“You mean…” She looked at the Cloak in her hands with wide-eyes. “But it can’t be—it’s just a normal Invisibility Cloak… isn’t it?”
Dumbledore chuckled. “A normal Invisibility Cloak? Even if there were such a thing, this is not it. I promise you—in your hands, you hold one of the Deathly Hallows. Around your neck, another.”
Lily clutched the ring, which hung from a chain around her neck. “But it was one of the Horcruxes…”
“Yes, it was. But it is more than that.”
“It’s the… Resurrection Stone?” Her voice was high-pitched and tremulous.
Dumbledore nodded. “And the third… is in this room.”
Her head jerked up to gape at him. “The Elder Wand? It’s here?”
He nodded. “But there’s a slight problem…” A collective gasp could be heard as Dumbledore took out his own wand and scrutinized it. “It’s an incredibly temperamental wand, and its allegiance doesn’t lie with the one who is about to face—”
Lily acted so quickly that it caught everyone off guard—including the wand’s holder. It flew from his hands and she caught it deftly and smiled in a self-satisfied manner.
“Do you think that did the trick?” she asked.
Dumbledore’s eyes twinkled. “You always were clever… I was trying not to expect you to do anything, and it hopefully worked, but there’s only one way to find out.” He stood straighter with his hands by his sides and nodded once at her.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “You want me to…?”
“Only jinx me. Something mild, please, I’m not as young as I once was…”
The Order of the Phoenix members laughed in anticipation and gathered around the two of them. Lily sighed. “Sorry,” she said, before sending a purposefully weak Jelly-Legs Jinx.
The aging headmaster stumbled to the floor, chuckling, as the onlookers applauded. “I think you’re ready,” he said once the jinx had lifted.
She nodded solemnly and turned to leave the Room of Requirements. Severus looked on helplessly, his stomach giving a nervous flip. Then, not able to stand it anymore, he started after her.
“Severus,” Dumbledore called, “where do you think you’re going?”
“I’ll be back in a minute,” he answered over his shoulder, leaving the room. He spotted Lily, walking slowly down the hall away from him and looking at something in her hands.
“Lily!” he called, jogging to catch up to her.
She turned and smiled faintly at him, slipping the Resurrection Stone back inside her shirt.
When he reached her, he said, “Wait a second, Lily.”
She rolled her eyes. “Sev, I’ll be invisible and I have an unbeatable wand. Plus, Voldemort’s a mortal man now. I think I’ll be okay.”
“I know you will be,” he said. “I know you have to do this by yourself. I understand that.”
She frowned slightly. “Then why are you here?”
“Because I wanted to tell you something.” He took a deep breath. “I think you already know this, but… I’m in love with you.”
Her eyes fell from his, and focused on the floor. “Sev—”
“I have been for years. Really ever since I met you, but I was too young then to… know.”
Still not looking up at him, she timidly took his hand. Hers was small and cold. “Severus, I—”
“You don’t have to say anything,” he said. “I know you don’t feel the same way; I never expected you to. I just had to tell you.”
A smile appeared on her downturned face. “I’m not going to die, you know…”
“I know,” he said, squeezing her hand and brought it to his lips. “I just thought… now’s as good a time as any to tell you.”
She shook her head a little, her hair falling into her face. “I beg to differ.” There was hint of teasing humor in her voice. She finally met his gaze, her eyes bright. “I already had a lot on my mind.”
He smiled back at her, and edged a little closer, ducking his head. “Then I have to apologize in advance for this…” With his free hand, he tipped her chin up and kissed her gently. She didn’t react—neither pulling away nor pressing into it—for several seconds. They merely stood there in the corridor, heads bent together, completely still. They didn’t breathe or move beyond a fluttering of eyelids. Severus felt a warm, salty tear slip into their kiss and that was when the guilt hit him hard in the gut, a familiar sensation, and he pulled away.
Lily drew in a ragged breath and blinked out another tear. Severus reached to catch it, but she backed away, shaking her head.
“I’m really sorry,” he said desperately. “I shouldn’t have…”
“It’s fine,” she said with a broken smile. “I’ve got to go now.”
He watched her walk briskly away from him, and couldn’t ignore the way her hand flew to her face every few steps to wipe away the tears that he had caused.
* * *
Lily began to run as soon as she was out of Severus’s sight. He’d probably hear her footsteps, though, but she tried to forget about it. She burst into an empty classroom, the tears beginning to fall in earnest, and slid down the wall. Her head dropped onto her knees.
She’d felt so strong. She’d been so prepared. Then he had to ruin that for her.
On top of it all, she knew it shouldn’t have her this torn up. He was right; she had been aware of his feelings for her for a very long time. It hadn’t exactly been a well-kept secret. Nevertheless, she felt weaker than she had in months. But the end was so near. Maybe if she just stuck to her original plan, she could push the entire encounter from her mind.
Lily pulled the chain around her neck, until the Resurrection Stone lay in the palm of her hand. She wasn’t completely sure how to work it, so she fiddled with the ring until she was able to turn the stone. Her stomach gave a nervous spasm when she realized she was no longer alone in the room.
Standing before her, were two figures. One, a man, was painfully familiar. Her breath hitched as she picked herself up off the ground. It took her only a moment to recognize the young boy standing next to the man.
James and Harry, returned from the grave.
James looked exactly the same, with his rumpled hair, crooked glasses and easy smile. A hand was placed on the shoulder of his son. Harry was much older than Lily had ever seen him in life—she would’ve guessed about eleven—but she still felt that she was looking at someone she knew very well. He was the spitting image of James—same face and hair and even glasses—but with Lily’s eyes. They were exactly her eyes. It was even more apparent than when he had been a toddler.
They smiled nearly identical smiles at her and she began to cry, harder than she had in months. Her vision blurred and her breath came in racking sobs. A small part of her thought that maybe this wasn’t the best idea, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave.
“Lily, please don’t cry,” James said softly, moving closer to her.
“Everything will be alright, Mum,” Harry added.
“I’m—I’m—sorry,” she choked out, desperately trying to calm herself—with no success.
James smiled. “What could you possibly be apologizing for?”
“If it’s about the thing with Snape, well…” He shrugged. “Don’t worry about it too much. You’ve got to finish what you’ve started now, and you’re so close.”
She nodded. “I love you,” she promised. “I always will.”
James grinned just the way he used to, way back in seventh year. It must have been a thousand years ago. “I know,” he said simply.
Lily let out a sound somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “And I miss you… so much.”
“I miss you, too, Lily.” James’s eyes shimmered beneath his glasses. “I’m just so… lucky—so damn lucky—I got to spend as much time with you as I did.”
She reached a hand toward his and he met her in the middle, though James was not solid and they were not able to touch. So, they contented to hold their hands near each other’s. “I only wish…” Lily began, and let out a shuddering breath. She tried again. “I wish I’d given into you sooner.”
James chuckled. “Don’t say that. Chasing after you was half the fun. It wouldn’t have been nearly as rewarding when I finally got you, otherwise.”
She could not keep the smile from her face. “Good to know I was only a prize to be won,” she teased, wishing so much that she could playfully shove his arm and ruffle his hair like she used to.
“At first you were,” he admitted. After a moment, the coy smile faded from his face. “But then, before I knew what was happening, you meant everything to me.”
Lily had never wanted anything more than to bury her face in his neck and feel his arms around her. A few droplets leaked from the corners of her eyes because she knew she could never do that again. “I’m going to avenge your death,” she whispered.
“You already have. You’ve made me so proud, Lily. You’re truly amazing.”
Lily blushed under his praise and then turned her attention now to her son, who had been watching his parents’ exchange with eager green eyes. “Harry,” she said softly, willing herself to stay strong. “If only I could’ve gotten to know you better. I knew you were going to be an extraordinary person one day.”
Harry smiled shyly. “Thanks, Mum.”
She couldn’t stop the tears from falling. “Call me ‘Mum’ again, please.”
“I love you, Mum,” he said.
Lily looked between the two members of her family, feeling the strongest ache of nostalgia. “I wish I could be with you again.”
“One day, you will be,” James said. “But it’s no rush. Take your time.”
She nodded. “You’ll wait for me?”
“Forever,” he promised.
Lily smiled and reluctantly turned from them. No matter how long she wanted to stay here, she knew what she had to do. She swung the Cloak around her shoulders and picked up the Elder Wand. She was about to slip the Stone back inside her shirt, where she’d be able to feel it against her chest so that it would give her strength, when the soft voice of her son stopped her.
“I know you feel guilty, Mum,” Harry said. “And I want you to know that it’s not your fault.”
She glanced over her shoulder, and the two of them waved goodbye to her, before fading away, ever so slowly.
* * *
The fighting had recommenced when Lily returned to the grounds. Curses flew, and people on both sides fell to the ground, though none of them seemed to be worse than stunned. Dumbledore and Voldemort were dueling vigorously and a distance from the others. Lily, concealed in her Cloak, made her way toward the two wizards, putting up the occasional spell to help her side, and knocking a couple unsuspected Death Eaters off their feet.
The wand felt great in her hands. It performed better than any other. She threw up a shield in front of Alice, and it sent a vicious curse flying back at its caster. Alice briefly glanced around for her savior, before running off to take another opponent.
As Lily neared Dumbledore and Voldemort, it became apparent that the two were not as equally matched as she’d hoped. And she knew why. The answer was in her hand. She looked down to Dumbledore’s wand, the Elder Wand, and knew that it was time to act. She had everything she needed: the Wand with which to attack, and to augment her confidence, and possibly even to taunt Voldemort with if she got the opportunity; the Cloak for protection, and for the element of surprise or to make a quick escape if need be; and the Stone for strength, courage and a reason to fight—a reason to put her own life on the line.
Without another moment’s hesitation, she whipped the Cloak off. The grounds fell silent almost immediately.
The fighting ceased all around her. Everyone seemed to hold their breath. Voldemort’s clear surprise morphed into a vicious sort of a satisfaction. He stalked closer to her and they began walking in a circle, very slowly, never taking their eyes off each other.
“Hmm,” Voldemort said in a patronizing tone. “You look very familiar…”
“You know who I am,” Lily spat.
“Yes, you’re right, I do,” he said, unfazed. “You’re the Mudblood whose family I slaughtered.”
Her hands trembled in rage, her nostrils flaring as blood rushed to her face. “Why so bold, Tom? I’d watch it if I were you.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Really, now? And why is that? You’re the one who is about to be killed. But don’t worry—you’re only minutes away from being reunited with your blood-traitor husband and your little boy.”
“You can’t kill me,” she scoffed.
“Can’t I?” he challenged. “I’m the only reason you’re here right now. I should have known this would happen—it’s what you get for showing mercy, I suppose.”
“I could kill you just as easily as you could kill me. More easily, in fact.”
Voldemort appeared startled for a fraction of a second before he was able to compose himself. “That is what you think.”
“That is what I know,” she insisted. “Severus wasn’t the only one who knew about your Horcruxes. And the cup and Nagini aren’t the only ones that have been destroyed.”
Voldemort narrowed his eyes to red slits, but didn’t respond.
“We’ve got all of them. The diadem, the locket, the ring and the diary. They’re all gone. You’re a mortal man once more. There’s nothing to keep you from dying when I strike.”
A murmur broke out among the watching Death Eaters. Voldemort glanced over at them fleetingly and quickly returned his glare to Lily. “You’re bluffing.”
“I’m not,” she replied calmly. “But you don’t have to believe me. You’ll find out soon enough.”
He laughed a wild, crazed laugh. “You think that you can beat me in a duel?”
She allowed a small smile to come to her lips and nodded once.
His eyes widened for a moment. “Even Dumbledore couldn’t take me! And you think… a worthless Mudblood like you…” He laughed again, but there was a hint of desperation in his voice.
“My blood is completely irrelevant,” she said shortly.
Voldemort cackled. “Have I offended you?”
“Look at the wand in my hands,” she ordered, taking charge of the direction of the conversation.
His eyes flickered down to the Elder Wand and back up to her face. “And what of it?”
“Have you heard of the Deathly Hallows, Tom?” she asked, mimicking his patronizing tone.
He made no response, neither verbal nor physical, to indicate an answer.
Lily continued regardless. “Have you heard of the Elder Wand? Legend claims that its owner can never lose a duel.”
“I don’t care about legends!” he shrieked.
“Well, you should. This one happens to be true. And this wand… it is the Elder Wand.”
The utter silence was the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. She could almost see a shadow of doubt cross Voldemort’s pale face and crimson eyes.
“Well,” he said softly. “Let’s see your fairy tales in action.”
Lily was ready—completely prepared. It was as if time slowed down. She saw Voldemort’s mouth form two distinct words, three syllables each, but she barely heard them over the sound of her pulse and the blood rushing in her ears.
She knew somewhere in the back of her mind that Killing Curses could not be blocked with a Shield Charm. But instinct dominated knowledge and she cast a Shield with the supposedly invincible wand.
The green jet of light collided with her Shield and bounced back, returning to its originator. She saw Voldemort’s eyes widen in genuine fear for a split second before he was hit by his own curse. He crumpled to the ground.
It was over.
A/N: … I feel like saying anything might ruin the effect, but… What’d you think of the Sev/Lily kiss? Of the Resurrection Stone scene? And, of course, Voldy’s death? One more chapter :D We’re almost there! Predictions?
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