Chapter 22 : Chapter 21 - Confronting Voldemort
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Charlie grabbed Ron's arm and pulled him out of the way of a stray spell. "Pay attention! We need to make it up to the castle."
The brothers picked their way across the grounds, avoiding spellfire, accompanied by several citizens of Hogsmeade. The devastation was astonishing. Ron could see several large groups of people exchanging spellfire as well as several giants lobbing huge boulders at the school. To his horror, he thought he saw some of Aragog's descendants roaming the grounds. It took the group a good fifteen minutes to reach the castle steps.
If Ron thought he would find a sanctuary in the castle, he was mistaken. The castle doors swung drunkenly on their hinges. Making their way into the Great Hall, Ron and Charlie immediately joined the fray.
The splash of spellfire lit up the darkened sections of the grounds as Remus led his group forward. He was grateful the full moon was still over a week away. He could only imagine the damage that could be inflicted if Voldemort had a pack of werewolves available to him tonight. He had plenty of other dark creatures at his disposal, who didn't need a full moon to become a monster.
As he engaged the forces attacking the castle, Remus lost track of the other members of his team. After dodging a violet spell, he incapacitated another Death Eater. The cry of the Killing Curse caught his attention. Turning, he saw young Colin Creevey fall. Horrified, he turned to Colin's attacker and felt a flame of anger well up. Wormtail.
Wormtail turned and confronted his old friend. "Remus! Are you sorry that you chose the wrong side?"
Sending a series of cutting curses at his old friend, Remus didn't respond to the bait. He smiled slightly when he saw Wormtail trip and fall. Scenes from James and Lily's funeral flashed through his head as Remus hurried over to his ex-friend.
"Expulso!" Remus blew up the log behind which Wormtail was trying to hide. He stood over his former friend, wondering what had happened to his shy and quiet friend. He hesitated a shade too long.
Remus screamed in agony as he was hit with the torture curse. Wormtail, emboldened by his success, scrambled to his feet. The traitor laughed as he watched the werewolf recover from the curse. However, he hadn't counted on Remus's quick recovery. Years of monthly transformations had left Remus with a higher pain threshold and an ability to recover from pain faster than most people.
A powerful Severing Curse slashed across Wormtail's chest. Remus lowered his wand slightly as he watched his former friend fall, blood pouring from the wound. He looked on sadly as Wormtail took a deep breath and then stopped breathing. Kneeling by his childhood friend, Remus silently said goodbye before heading back into the grounds.
Pain seared through Harry's head. He paused and shook his head, trying to clear it. He looked over at Ginny. "I don't see any of the higher level Death Eaters. He must be holding them back as reinforcements."
Dodging a spell, Ginny replied, "What do you want to do?"
"Let's head outside."
The couple made their way out of the castle, stopping occasionally to help out those who seemed to need help. Once outside the castle, Harry pulled his wife into one of the shadowy areas created by the towers. He leaned up against the wall of the castle and motioned for Ginny to do the same.
"I want to see if I can get an idea of where he might be. Can you cover me?"
Ginny nodded as Harry moved past her using the dark as cover. Standing with her back to him, she scanned the grounds for any sign of danger. The amount of destruction wrought in such a short period of time was astonishing. The well - manicured grounds were torn up with craters gouged out of the earth. She could see several areas where portions of the castle wall were missing. There were many figures lying still on the grounds. Ginny shivered as she realized that she didn't know if they were friend or foe. The fact that it could be any one of her brothers or friends chilled her to the bone. More than anything, she just wanted this night over. In her heart she was certain that Harry could defeat Tom and then they could start living their life.
A stifled moan from behind her caught her attention. Backing up so she was standing next to Harry, she could see him crouched on the ground, his back up against the castle wall. He was curled up with his head in his hands. Wishing there was something she could do, but knowing there was not, Ginny settled next to him to watch.
Harry lifted his head and met her eyes with his pain–filled green eyes. "He is in the Forbidden Forest. From what I can tell most of his inner circle is there – Bellatrix and her husband, Malfoy, McNair, Crabbe and Goyle. Snape and Nott have joined them, but I didn't see any little junior Death Eaters. They must be fighting in the castle or on the grounds."
Reaching down a hand, Ginny helped him into a standing position. Slipping her arm around his waist, she let him lean against her while he regained his strength. He tightened his arms around her for a moment, before straightening up. Harry kissed her on the cheek before grabbing her hand. "Come on let's see what we can find out."
A rustling noise caused them to turn. Harry snapped a shield up just as a stunner headed toward them. There were five Death Eaters in front of them. Harry gestured to Ginny and she started firing curses. Harry quickly drew his sword and cut down the Death Eaters closest to him before they realized what happened.
"Reducto!" Ginny ducked as her curse hit the man in front of her, shattering his torso. She watched morbidly for a moment as he fell. The sting of a Cutting Curse across her arm snapped her attention back to the two men in front of her.
"Confringo!" Her opponent fell.
Turning, she saw Harry's final opponent fall to his sword. Before she could say anything, Harry yelled, "Ginny, watch out!"
He pushed her toward the steps of the school. Ginny quickly spotted the danger as a boulder thrown by one of the giants headed in her direction. She scrambled up the steps, trying to reach the safety of the castle. Just as she reached the entrance hall, the boulder smashed into the steps, sending chipped rock and stone flying everywhere. Ginny bit back a scream as she felt sharp fragments being driven into her legs.
Bill watched in horror as a pretty blonde girl was thrown to the ground, her throat ripped out. He did not recognize her, but from her youth he thought she might be one of the students. Looking up, Bill saw Fenrir Greyback wiping the blood off his face as he laughed, clearly enjoying himself. White hot hatred flared up in Bill and he started throwing curses at the werewolf. Fenrir yelled as he was taken off guard by Bill's first curse.
Fenrir quickly recovered and attacked the curse breaker. Bill was more prepared for Fenrir's more physical style of fighting than he had been the previous year. As Fenrir lunged at him, Bill yelled, "Argenteum Sica!"
He watched in satisfaction as the silver dagger buried itself in the werewolf's chest. Watching for a moment, he waited until he was certain the werewolf was dead before moving on.
Harry hurried toward the Forbidden Forest, hoping that he had actually seen Ginny make it to safety. Walling off his mounting fears about his wife, Harry focused grimly on the task at hand. As he reached the tree line, he paused. The sounds of the battle were fading and he reviewed what he had seen in Voldemort's mind in an attempt to determine where in the forest Voldemort was hiding.
"Petrificus Totalus! Silencio!"
Harry silently cursed his lapse in concentration as he fell to the Body Bind Curse. His body hit the rough bark of a large tree. He felt his body being turned around and his rage exploded when he saw his hated former Potions professor standing over him.
Snape sneered at the younger man, savouring his victory. "You don't seem so powerful after all, do you, Potter? Don't you have the sense to pay attention to your surroundings?"
Laughing at the anger in Harry's face, Snape leaned in closer to the young wizard. "Trust me, I do not do this for you."
Confusion showed on Harry's face. He had assumed that Snape would either kill him or take him to Voldemort. Instead he pointed his wand at Harry and whispered, "Communicato Memoria."
Harry felt a familiar pressure in his mind, but instead of feeling Snape forcing his way into Harry's memories, Harry felt Snape's memories pushing into his mind. He tried to fight the sensation. He couldn't imagine what horrific memories Snape would share with him, but he couldn't fight it.
Memories flooded over him. Harry watched in confusion as his mother was befriended by Snape and learned the truth about who she was before entering the magical world. He watched his parents' relationship from Snape's point of view. He could feel Snape's longing for his beautiful and vivacious mother. Even in his confusion, Harry was soaking up these memories of his mum. She was so beautiful and kind. He watched in shock as Snape betrayed Voldemort because he targeted Lily and put all of his faith in Dumbledore. Through the link, he could feel Snape's anguish at Lily's death still strong after all of these years. He smirked slightly as he watched his Hogwarts' years through Snape's eyes. The smirk was wiped off his face as he listened to his mentor Professor Dumbledore explain how he, Harry, had to die.
Snape broke the contact between them and leaned panting up against the tree closest to them. Harry stared at him, trying to absorb what had just happened. "So now you know what you must do, Potter."
Snape whirled around to find himself facing Edward Nott. He stepped in front of the still incapacitated Harry in an attempt to shield him from Nott.
"What are you talking about?" Snape sneered. "I have captured Potter."
"No!" Nott yelled. "I saw what you did. You are helping him."
Snape watched Nott closely, waiting for an opportunity to strike.
Nott looked down at the huge wound that cut across his chest and abdomen. He looked up at Snape with hatred in his eyes. "Avada Kedavra!"
The fighting in the Great Hall had died down and it was currently being used as a command centre. Ginny limped into the Great Hall and was immediately pulled into a strong embrace.
"Ginny! Are you okay?"
Ginny pulled back and looked into the face of her second oldest brother. "Charlie!"
She tightened her arms around him, revelling in his familiar strength. She smiled when she felt him drop a kiss on the top of her head. The fears and anxiety she had felt all spring had been swept away by the love and acceptance she had felt from her older brothers in the past few hours. She still had not seen either of her parents, but she was now hopeful that they would be accepting of her and her marriage.
The thought of her parents caused her to look around the Great Hall. She could see the damage that had been wrought. The tables had been shoved back against the wall, but she could see they were damaged and in pieces. Gouges had been made in the stone floor and she could see stains of what she thought was blood on the floor. Off to one side, she could see partitions had been set up.
She looked up at her brother quizzically.
"Infirmary," he answered her unasked question. "We've cleared the Great Hall and Bill put up wards so no one with a Dark Mark can enter. The twins headed off to seal up any secret tunnels they know about that lead into the castle. Dad and Bill headed out into the grounds to help with the fighting. I was just heading out myself."
"Voldemort is hiding out in the Forbidden Forest," Ginny blurted out. "Harry was headed out to confront him. I need to be with him."
Pulling out of her brother's arms, Ginny almost fell. He looked over her and swung her up into his arms. "You're hurt. Let's get you patched up and we'll go out together."
Carrying his sister over to the portioned off area, he set her down on one of the empty camp beds that had been set up. Alicia hurried up to her and hugged her. "Ginny, are you okay?"
"I got hit in the leg by some flying rocks," Ginny explained, showing Alicia her injury.
Alicia carefully cut away the leg of Ginny's jeans, exposing a big wound with a large fragment of the boulder still embedded in it. Her leg was still bleeding.
Looking up at her young friend from where she was kneeling by Ginny's leg, Alicia said, "I'm going to take this fragment out and clean and bandage your leg."
"This will probably hurt."
Pain flared in her leg as Alicia pointed her wand at the wound. Ginny grabbed her brother's arm and hid her face in his shoulder just as she had so many times as a child when she had skinned her knees or was being tormented by the twins. Charlie closed his arms around her, glad after so many months without contact to be able to hold and comfort his sister.
"I'm done," Alicia announced. "I cast a numbing charm on your leg, so it should help you get through this."
Charlie helped his sister to stand. "Are you okay, Ginny?"
After putting her weight on her leg, Ginny smiled. "Yeah. It doesn't hurt anymore."
Turning to Alicia, she said, "Thank you."
As brother and sister turned to leave, Alicia said, "Good luck, Ginny."
Hermione, Justin, and Mandy landed in Hogsmeade with some volunteers from Beauxbatons. After meeting up with some volunteers from London and Hogsmeade, the group hurried up toward the castle with their wands drawn.
Professor LeBlanc hurried them through the grounds. "We need to get to the castle. They have set up a command centre in the Great Hall."
A flash of green lit up the night and Hermione screamed as the witch walking next to her fell over, dead.
"Hermione!" Justin grabbed her hand and pulled her behind the makeshift cover of debris from the castle.
Mandy and several others had joined them, but to Hermione's horror, she saw Professor LeBlanc on the ground his head at an unnatural angle.
"We need to get up to the castle," Justin said.
Pulling herself together, Hermione looked up toward the castle. It had never seemed so far away. She could see fires burning around the grounds. She could see the Whomping Willow in the distance swinging its branches. The holes in the castle wall shook her confidence. She wasn't sure what she had expected when she heard Voldemort was on his way to Hogwarts, but this level of destruction was not what she had envisioned.
A chill gripped the air around them and Hermione wondered why she had bothered to come to Hogwarts. Obviously she would be unable to help. She couldn't find anything positive about the situation.
Hermione looked up and saw three black hooded figures gliding their way. Dimly she realized her dark thoughts must have been caused by the Dementors. She tried to think of a happy memory, but was having difficulty bringing one to mind.
A silvery weasel and sphinx came soaring over their heads. With great effort, Hermione brought to mind the feeling of dancing with Ron at Bill and Fleur's wedding.
Her silvery otter joined the other Patronuses in chasing off the Dementors.
"Mr. Weasley." Hermione stood up cautiously.
"Hermione, can you lead the others up to the castle?" Mr. Weasley asked. "We will cover you, but you need to move quickly."
The group ran up to the castle, dodging hexes and curses. As they ran into the castle, Hermione realized that at least one other member of their group had not made it. Pushing that thought aside, Hermione led the way into the Great Hall past several suits of armour standing guard by the doors.
Turning, Hermione and Justin saw Ernie MacMillan hurrying toward them. Ernie pulled Justin into a warm hug. Over the next few minutes, the returning Hogwarts students were greeted by friends they had not seen in almost a year.
Hermione felt herself swept up into a hug. "Ron! I've been so worried! What is going on? Have you seen Harry? Did he manage to find them all?"
Ron chuckled softly as he pulled her off to the side. "Slow down, Hermione. I haven't seen him yet, but I know he's here. I talked to Neville a while ago and he talked to both Harry and Ginny before the fighting started."
He pulled her up to one side of the hall. On the wall was a huge map reminiscent of the Marauders' Map. There were clusters of gold and grey dots all over the map. Unlike the Marauders' Map, these dots were not labeled.
"What is this?" Hermione asked curiously.
"It is part of the castle's magical defences, Miss Granger."
Hermione greeted Professor McGonagall with a smile. She longed to ask more about this unknown bit of magic, but managed to restrain herself.
"What, wasn't that mentioned in Hogwarts: A History?" Ron teased.
Hermione glared at him before turning her attention back to Professor McGonagall. "What do you need us to do, Professor?"
"The Death Eaters left in the castle look to be contained," Professor McGonagall stated looking at the map. "This appears to be their staging area." She gestured to an area inside the Forbidden Forest. "Mr. Lupin and Mr. Shacklebolt will be leading two teams into the Forest. Mr. Arthur Weasley and Mr. Bill Weasley will be leading teams cleaning up the school grounds. Both Fred and George Weasley will be sweeping the castle."
Harry stumbled blindly to Hagrid's abandoned hut and once inside slumped to the floor. I am a Horcrux? Dumbledore knew that I needed to die?
His shoulders started to shake. I don't want to leave Ginny. The unfairness of it all slammed into him. He had done everything Dumbledore had asked of him and more. Why did he have to give everything? He couldn't even take Voldemort with him. He had to let Voldemort kill him, but he couldn't fight back. Someone else would still need to face Voldemort and kill him.
Harry had no idea how long he had sat slumped on the dirty floor. He felt used and abandoned, but he knew that if he was going to do this, he needed to do it now. If he went back to the castle and saw Ginny, his resolve might falter. Thoughts of his parents and Sirius flashed through his head. He was going to join them now. Standing, he wiped away his tears and straightened up. The determined wizard was going to face Voldemort and make it possible for Ginny to survive.
As he left the dubious safety of Hagrid's hut, Harry pulled his Invisibility Cloak around him. Almost numbly, he headed back toward the Forbidden Forest. A thought crossed his mind and he struggled with one hand to open his mokeskin bag around his neck. Reaching into the bag, he pulled out the old Snitch. Holding it to his lips, he whispered, "I am going to die."
He stood still, waiting and listening. A soft swirling sound reached his ears, like wind whipping through piles of leaves on the ground. Straining his eyes, he saw glowing figures moving toward him. Eyes wide, he watched as his parents and godfather approached him. Sirius looked younger and much happier than Harry had ever seen him. He looked relaxed and healthy.
Harry smiled as he watched his father drew nearer. He really did look just like his father. James was maybe an inch taller than Harry and his hair was shorter than Harry's hair, but it was like looking at an altered photo of himself. James had a big smile on his face as he approached his only son.
"Mum," Harry whispered. He had never been able to say those words out loud before. Tears shimmered in his eyes as he watched her approach. Her beautiful red hair was darker and longer than Ginny's. She was tall and slender and moved very gracefully. Her green eyes shone with pride and love as she approached him.
"Hi, baby," Lily whispered back. "I am so proud of you, my son. You have fought so long and so hard."
Harry nodded mechanically as he took in the three of them. "Sirius…I'm s-sorry. I didn't mean to get you killed."
"Harry, it was not your fault. I knew the risks when I went to the Ministry that night. I let my twisted cousin get the better of me. It was her fault I died, not yours."
"I…I've missed you," Harry said. He winced slightly when he realized how young he sounded, but he didn't really care.
Sirius smiled as he drew Harry into a surprisingly warm embrace. "I love you, Harry. I know I never told you that, but I love you and I am very, very proud of you."
Holding on to his godfather, Harry could feel the love and pride surrounding him. Pulling back, he looked over at his parents. They were standing just a step away. James had his arm around his wife and she was leaning against him. Harry smiled shakily. Seeing them like this was one of his childhood dreams come to life.
"Mum, Dad." Harry stopped, not knowing exactly what to say. "I don't want to die."
He knew he was whining, but he couldn't help himself. "I…I'm married and I…"
Lily was instantly at his side, wrapping her arms around him. As with Sirius, he couldn't feel her actual body, just a feeling of warmth and acceptance. A moment later, James joined in their embrace.
Pulling back, Harry found himself looking into his mother's eyes. She smiled reassuringly at him. "I know, sweetie. I wish I could take this burden from you."
"Does it hurt?"
"No, son. It's like falling asleep," James spoke up for the first time.
Harry looked at the three of them, drawing strength from their presence. "Will you stay with me?"
Taking a steadying breath, Harry headed into the forest, his courage bolstered by his companions.
Ginny hurried across the grounds toward the Forbidden Forrest, accompanied by her two oldest brothers. Bill had seen them racing across the grounds and had joined them. Ginny bit back a scream as she almost tripped over Professor Snape. He was lying on his side, his unseeing eyes still open and his wand fallen at his side.
Bill knelt down and checked for a pulse. "He's dead. It looks like the Killing Curse."
"From him, I would guess," Charlie's voice sounded from a few feet away.
"That's Edward Nott," Bill said as he looked over toward his brother. "He was the new Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor."
Grabbing the wands that had fallen next to both men, the trio hurried into the forest.
Harry could tell by the noise that the fighting had moved closer into the forest. Several times he had to change direction to avoid the fighting. He glanced over at his companions, drawing strength from their presence.
As he entered the clearing, he saw Voldemort sitting, watching the fighting that had managed to penetrate the forest. Remus and Kingsley were fighting Lucius and one of the Lestrange brothers. These Death Eaters were not masked. They were the inner circle – obviously proud of their devotion to their master.
Harry watched the fighting for a minute, trying to figure out the easiest way to get to Voldemort. He didn't want anyone killed trying to stop him, but he knew the longer he delayed, the more likely someone on his side would be hurt or killed.
He felt his heart almost stop when he saw another group move closer to the fire in the centre of the clearing. He would know that hair anywhere. Ginny and Charlie were fighting Bellatrix Lestrange. All thoughts of his mission or duty were forgotten. Ginny was in danger.
Quickly skirting the perimeter of the clearing, Harry made his way over to his wife. Before he could interfere, Bellatrix fell to the curses of the Weasley siblings. Voldemort rose from his chair with a roar of anger. Charlie fell to a curse from Rudolphus Lestrange, but Harry could tell he was still breathing.
This left Ginny to face Voldemort's rage. Everyone in the clearing froze as Voldemort levelled his wand at the young witch. Ginny did not back down, Harry noticed proudly.
Harry watched the green light speeding toward his wife and knew what he had to do. Whipping off his cloak, he stepped in front of Ginny. It was only seconds before the green light hit him. A smile lit his face as the image of Ginny filled his mind.
A/N: The two spells in this chapter - Argenteum Sica = Silver Dagger Communicato Memoria = communicate memories
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