Chapter 11 : The Right To Defeat Riddle & The Final Battle
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Chapter Eleven — The Right To Defeat Riddle & The Final Battle
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"Harry," Claire said. "You said you had the legal right to kill Voldomort and the power, but then you said the third reason you were able to defeat him is because you had the 'Right' to do so. That is sort of confusing. You had the legal right and the right? I don't see the distinctions."
"Well, just because you have the right in your realm to do something does not mean your have the right in someone else's realm. That will not take too long to explain and after that I will tell you briefly about the actual battle with Riddle."
"And with that mystery to ponder, I think we ought to go to the cafeteria for dinner. It is a little early and maybe we will miss most of the crowd. Besides, that Mr. J. Poindexter Wilberton is coming by to see me at 6:00 this evening for some reason."
"Oh don't you know him, Harry," Claire said. "He is from the Order of Merlin, whatever that is."
Supper was uneventful. They saw no one in particular that Harry knew well although a number of well wishers came by the to "wish him well."
Though they made it back to the ward by 5:53, Mr. J. Poindexter Wilberton was there waiting for them. After the appropriate introductions Harry started to apologize for being late but the guest would hear nothing of it.
"My dear boy. I was early because I try to be early everywhere I go. It is not as rude as being late. But see here, I must say just how spiffing it is to meet you. Of course I have heard of you ever since that fate-filled night when you first defeated You-Know-Who as an infant. My desire to meet you has steadily increased as other events of your life came to pass. Winning the TriWizards Tournanment was the first time I actually said out loud that I wanted to meet you. Dash it all! You've had an exciting life!"
"Spiffing?" "Dash it all?" Claire wondered if this man had just time travelled from a Gilbert & Sullivan play such as Pirates of Penzance or The Mikado. That's where his fashion sense comes from also. He wore his hair parted down the middle and that must be pomade he's applied to it. He wore a high stiff paper collar and a suit similar to a formal day coat. He even had spats on his shoes and a red flower boutonniere. He carried an umbrella and a bowler hat. Over all of this worn as a cape were his wizards robes which were made of the finest materials. Everything was of high quality but severely dated.
He was the height of fashion if it were 1898 instead of 1998. But Claire had noticed that muggle fashions on Wizarding folks seldom made sense. At least this was a complete and together look. She had seen a man in dress tuxedo trousers and a motorcyclist's leather jacket. She had heard even worse stories.
With a not too friendly, not too harsh voice Harry said, "Mr. Wilberton, when was it that you read about my victory at the Tournament?"
With either very good acting or sincere honesty, Wilberton said, "I saw the brief blurb about it in the Daily Prophet two days after it was over. At the time I could not understand why it got so little play, but a day later I heard through the Order of the Phoenix of Voldomort's return so I was able to 'read between the lines" as the muggle expression goes."
Claire saw Harry visibly relax. She knew of the eight months that Harry was viewed by most as crazy. He placed little interest in those who fawned over him after the Quibbler article or after Voldomort was seen at the battle of the Ministry. But those who stood by him before that time were held in his high regard. Wilberton had done neither. But his statement showed that he had not believed the smear campaign against him and that was sufficient for now. Wilberton being in the Order of the Phoenix helped too.
"How may I help you Mr, Wilberton?"
Wilberton smiled. "Actually it is Sister Mary Claire who can help me first. Sister, when will Harry be well enough to attend the an Awards Banquet to confer on him the Order of Merlin First Class?" You could see on his face that he took great delight in making this little announcement.
"Please call me Claire." Wilberton gave a little bow in agreement. She went on. "Harry continues to delight us with the speed of his recovery. He could easily attend in a month or two perhaps but I would not be sure. When were you thinking of having the banquet?"
Claire knew that Harry could use magic right now to attend such an affair even though his body was unable to accomplish it. Harry could levitate himself to the cafeteria but did not want to because it would unnerve people. But she was following Harry's wishes that they discussed at dinner.
Harry had explained to her about the Order of Merlin. It was the wizarding world's highest award for valor or accomplishment. There were three levels of the Order: Third Class, Second Class, and the rather rare Order of Merlin First Class. In regards of awarding the honor for valor, the Order of Merlin was given for individual acts of heroism, a series of actions of bravery over a period of time, and as a symbol of valor for the leader of a particularly valorous effort.
Albus Dumbledore received his Order of Merlin First Class for the defeating the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945. This award was for personal achievement in a single act. Cornelius Fudge was rightly given his First Class for leading the successful efforts of the Magical Law Enforcement Division of the Ministry of Magic during the first war with Voldomort. Fudge's award was given at the end of the first war and after the round up of Death Eaters was most part finished. This occurred at the same time that a number of those in his department were given awards for their particular actions during that war. The largest number of recipients at that time were aurors. Mad-Eye Moody received his First Class then and Kingsley Shacklebolt received his Second Class. Also, Peter Pettigrew received his posthumous First Class at the same time.
Orders of Merlin were also conferred for accomplishments. Percival Marvelt was a healer who created the potion that made werewolves relatively harmless during a full moon. He also created the Draught of Peace during the first war to calm the nerves of those so fearful. He received a Second Class.
Over 500 years ago Nicholas Flamel was given one of the first Orders of Merlin First Class for solving the centuries old dilemma of Alchemy when he developed the Sorcerer's Stone.
Fudge had gotten Lucius Malfoy nominated for a Third Class for his contributions to worthy causes but Malfoy was captured at the battle of the Ministry of Magic before it was approved or conferred. This was one more nail in Fudge's coffin ending his tenure as Minister of Magic.
Harry told Claire that Wilberton would have to have the Order of Merlin in some form to be representing that organization. He was not going to be blunt about it but he might want to know about Wilberton's award before he agreed to everything Wilberton wanted.
Harry knew that his own award was inevitable, but his concern was for the others he thought should receive it also.
Wilberton said that the banquet was tentatively scheduled for two weeks after the end of school. That way all of his classmates would be able to attend and most efforts to round up the few escaped Death Eaters would either be successful or not going to be successful anytime soon.
Harry asked, "I know there was a large awards banquet after the first war and there were a number of Orders of Merlin awarded then, is this a similar event?" Wilberton nodded. "May I know who else is going to be receiving the Order at this time?"
Wilberton looked the slightest uneasy for a moment but realized he could tell Harry—after all, Harry's award would be the centerpiece of the evening. "There will be a number of aurors and magical law enforcement members receiving awards of various degrees for activities over the last two years. You of course will be the one we honor the most, but Arthur Weasley and Remus Lupin will receive Second Classes, Bill Weasley will receive a First Class, and a few of your classmates will receive Third Classes."
"Mr. Wilberton, may I ask who some of my classmates are that will receive the Third Class?"
The uneasiness showed on his face again but he replied, "It has not been completely decided yet, but it will be a representative group. I am sure that Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger will be recipients...." He paused and stared at Harry to see what his response to this might be. Harry's expression change not one wit from the slight smile he used when he asked the question.
Wilberton continued, "Young Longbottom should receive one also. His parents received the Order Second Class after their ordeal. Neville's award will certainly make his grandmother happy. And I am sure that when all the accounts are compiled there should be one or two more." Wilberton sputtered to a stop so to speak. It was obvious he was not going on from there.
Harry did not change his smile but the intensity in his stare became more penetrating. Claire was used to this and did not have a problem returning the gaze in conversation. When the two of them were talking, even knowing what she knew about the boy's use of this technique, she still could hardly return his gaze for more that 30 seconds.
Wilberton did not last that long. Claire wondered not for the first time if Harry knew about this and used his concentrated look on purpose or unknowingly.
"Mr. Wilberton, could you please tell me a little about the banquet?" Wilberton seemed pleased at the question. He thought Harry had accepted the information about the recipients. Claire doubted Harry was finished with the matter. Everyone knew of Harry's power and yet they were still surprised by the extent of it beyond magical displays of force.
Few were aware of Harry's intellectual capacity. Over the last two years he became a better student but not the best in his class. That would always be Hermione's role. And with her great mind in action few would comment on Harry's mental abilities. But Harry was formidable when he applied his mind to accomplishing something—particularly in seeing justice for his friends.
Wilberton spent several minutes describing the facilities and decorations. He ended with how most awards were given by the Minister of Magic, but that Harry's award will be presented by the Minister and Prince Geoffrey.
"It will be good to see Dea... I mean Prince Geoffrey again." Claire knew Harry had slipped up and used the name 'Dean' on purpose. He was probably ready to act on what was really on his mind. "Mr. Wilberton, I know you have the Order of Merlin or you would not be here representing the Order. Would you please tell me about your award?" Wilberton smiled thinly, began his account, and walked right into Harry's trap.
"I lead a team of two other aurors when we surrounded the notorious Death Eater Wallace Wilkes." (A/N- In G. of F. Wilkes is mentioned as being killed by aurors in 1980. I gave him this first name.) Wilberton's face became drawn even more as he continued, "I was the only one to survive really. Abernathy was killed in the first two minutes. Parrington was so badly wounded with internal damage he never woke from the coma. He died within the year." Wilberton sighed and went on. "I had to kill Wilkes, there was no other way. For that, and my services throughout the first war, I was given the Order of Merlin First Class." He lowered his head.
Harry's look turned into one of mercy. "It is a terrible thing to have to kill, even to stop such evil. I know that I wish I could have found another way even with Voldomort. Mr. Wilberton, were you given your award by yourself or did Abernathy and Parrington receive posthumous awards also?"
"They had been very active and brave on numerous occasions, but they both received the First Class in the same ceremony where I did. Abernathy's mother was there and Parrington's widow and seven year old son. The son, Walter Parrington, was a seventh year when you were in your first year. He was Ravenclaw."
"I never knew him," Harry said. "It is in memory of them and to validate their awards that I have to say this, sir. The Order of Merlin Third Class for a few of my fellow students is not enough. If Abernathy and Parrington, and even you truly earned your awards—if they weren't just consolation prizes for dying and killing—then you must reconsider the awards list this time."
"The battle of Hogwarts had been going on almost 30 minutes before I or any member of the Order of the Phoenix arrived. When the first aurors arrived the battle had been going on for over an hour and it was coming to an end. The Hogwarts professors were lured out by a small contingency of Death Eaters. The professors that died were killed in the first two minutes. Professors Flitwick and McGonagall were unconscious and only resumed the fight after some time."
"The battle fell to the students that were members of the DA. Have you heard of our training club we had to start underground in my fifth year?" Wilberton nodded. "Ron Weasley fought off fifteen dementers and captured three Death Eaters while refusing to retreat away from the unconscious teachers. Madame Pomphrey, who is an excellent healer but has not had a day of defense practice since she was a student, ignored the fight which was extremely desperate at that moment to tend the wounded. She saved several lives by her quick and brave action. She was slightly wounded but refused to leave."
"Parvati Patil had never produced a corporeal patronus in her life. She did so that day. You are an auror, can you imagine what that took? Hermione Granger had her wand expelled and tackled a Death Eater as she ran through them to retrieve it. She had never been very physical but you cannot say that any more. Ginny Weasley fought through to her and knocked out five Death Eaters in the process. Somehow they bound the unconscious Death Eaters in the midst of the battle."
"By that time the 53 DA members were out and engaged in their desperate fight, there were over 100 dementers and over 50 Death Eaters arrayed against them. Most of the DA were fighting in three man teams. The Three Man Formation concept was developed by Ron Weasley after the battle of Hogsmeade. This formation probably saved many DA member's lives and prevented them from having to use killing curses which I never taught them."
"The two best duelist in the DA were fighting what should be legendary battles. To prevent a full fledge attack on the school and those wounded, Neville Longbottom and Colin Creevey waded out into the battle alone and called out the names of opponents they knew must be there. They called on those who had strong enough egos to insist on single combat. This caused other Death Eaters to stop and watch the duel instead of pressing on their advantage of numbers. Even the dementers held back. Colin had defeated five Death Eaters in single combat by the time I got there and Neville had taken out four. Neville was later responsible for the capture of Bellatrix Lestrange and others."
"Ernie Macmillan and Terry Boot captured eight Death Eaters between them. Little Roxie Lazaar was at the school getting homework notes before going back to be with her father at St. Mungo's. She was never a DA member. Her father was the Defense instructor and he had shown her some advanced spells. She waded into the fight, got knocked out, was revived by Madame Pomphrey and refuse evacuation. She stayed and fought off two Death Eaters when they strayed her way. Roxie is barely thirteen and only in her second year."
"Justin Finch-Fletchley was knocked unconscious three times and revived each time. He refused to leave the field. He played the muggle sport rugby which is very rough and tumble. Justin insisted on tackling groups of Death Eaters just to unnerve them. I thought it was crazy but it worked. I saw grown men run from him when he shouted at the top of his lungs and rushed them. It was de-moralizing to them and bought time for our reinforcements to arrive."
"When I got there I arrived on my Firebolt and brought all the school brooms with me. They flew into the enemy and knocked a few unconscious, but that only gave us a slight breather. A hundred more dementers and forty more Death Eaters arrived over the next five minutes later. We were vastly out numbered."
"I needed two minutes of inactivity to perform my Killing Patronus Spell to destroy the dementers. Colin and Neville resumed their challenges and six fourth year students formed a ring around me and promised that nothing would get through. Professor McGonagall crawled out and entered the battle using her cane as a crutch. She was bleeding from her temple and her left eye was swollen shut."
"The Order of the Phoenix members arrived when my Killing Patronus had half the dementers killed and the rest mostly occupied. But there were still over 70 Death Eaters there against our ranks of roughly 35 effectives. Many of the Order of the Phoenix members were hurt because they had never adopted Ron's three man team tactics. Our teams had to give them support and protect their flanks."
"The aurors arrived when the battle had turned. Their most important contribution was in capturing a good number that would have escaped. I do not belittle their contribution. But please sir, do not think that because they are children and teens, that my friends do not deserve more than token awards given to those closest to me or those with family connections."
Harry lowered his eyes and almost cried as he gave the next account. "During all of this Luna Lovegood was enduring Voldomort's torture and keeping him from the fight. What medal does she warrant for that contribution to the battle?"
"Harry," Wimberton's voice trembled. "We just did not want to call attention away from you on this special day."
Harry wiped his eyes and raised his head slowly to engage his eyes to their fullest effect. "I will get chapters in the history books and few of my classmates will be footnotes. In the books about me most of them will get a paragraph or two. I despise such attention but I am resigned to the fact that it is unavoidable. If you give them all the Order of Merlin First Class, it will not distract from me one bit. I want them to have their night as well."
"And one more person. Lucius Malfoy would have killed me before I could get to Riddle." Wimberton had not winced at the name Voldomort but he did at the use of Riddle. "Buy Professor Severus Snape stepped in front of Malfoy's Killing Curse and sacrificed himself for me. These people made my victory possible. With out them I would have never made it into the Forbidden Forest to kill Riddle."
"Please tell the nominating committee that I will abide by their decisions, but please assure them that I will want to know they have fully considered all actions of those there that day."
With that Harry looked over at Luna and never looked back until several minutes after Mr. Wimberton had left the ward.
Claire was even more proud of him.
Claire took the time that Harry was staring at Luna to cheek on all the medical factors in her case that needed to be checked. She knew that Harry was pondering his words and his actions. At moments like these he seemed a cautious and deliberate young man. Not a typical 17 year old. She almost laughed at herself for the absurdity of that thought.
She sat back down and Harry looked up and started back with the conversation they were having before supper. She had gotten used to Harry jumping right back into a conversation that ended minutes or even hours ago. It was disconcerting when he did it at first but somehow it was his coping mechanism for all that he still faced based on what he had faced. Claire believed he had developed the approach when he ignore people who did not want to accept Luna.
He said, "Before supper I told you that I had the right in my realm to act but that it did not mean I had the right in Riddle's realm. You see good and evil is somehow more vague today than it used to be. You know that the protection from my mother's sacrifice goes back to the ancient magic of love for another. Love is a major tenet of the Magic of Good from back then. What we think of as good witches and wizards today are the descendants morally from that Magic."
"Riddle's magic and those who have thought along his lines descend from the Magic of Evil from back then."
"You have heard a number of different charms and spells since you have been in our world. Have you notice their linguistic heritage?"
She said, "They are mostly derivatives of Latin with a few ancient Greek words thrown in aren't they?"
"Right you are. But the Killing Curse 'Avada Kedavra,' that is not Latin or Greek. It is believed that it might be ancient Aramaic in its original root, who knows, but the actual words really come from the Druids. If there ever was a evil sect of wizards it was them. Muggle history is trying to put a good name on some of their stories. Almost all of them were wiped out by the Romans in 61 A. D. A few since then have had the name Druid attached to them in some way. But that is after the fact romanticizing. Cliodna the Druidess is one example of a witch who studied the Druids and descended from them in her genealogy so she took on the name centuries later."
"I am not saying they were all bad but their major proponents were. They invented the Killing Curse. It is in their language. Riddle's advanced studies into trying to cheat mortality all revolved around Druid Magic. Druid Magic was the evil in the time of the Good Magic of giving your life for another. They are counter to each other. Druids were all about amassing power and wealth for themselves and living forever...sort of."
"They made sure everyone knew that no one could kill a Druid. That is right...almost. The only person that could kill a particular Druid was some one that that particular Druid tried to kill and failed to kill."
The light went on. "And the only person that Riddle ever tried to kill and failed to kill was you." Claire spilled out in a rush of excitement. It was the first time she had called him Riddle and not Voldomort. "Harry is it really that simple?"
"It is," he said. "Or at least that part of it was. My Good Magic was dependent of love, something Riddle couldn't fathom. He considered it a substance to be neutralized by adding a small amount of my blood to his. All he gained was an immunity to the burning of his skin from my mother's sacrifice. He thought he had negated the power of the Good Magic from Love. He had only countered one small part of it."
"However, by trying to kill me and not succeeding Riddle had given me the crucial opening I needed. I had to have the authority to kill him and I had to have the power to kill him. But ever since I was one year old I had the right in his realm to kill him."
"I do not know whether if he could have killed me with any other method of death. For all I know he could have taken a pocket knife and stuck in my jugular vein, and I could have bleed to death. But all he tried to use was the Killing Curse until I had already killed him twice."
Claire sat up straighter. She had been leaning in as the discussion had progressed. "So you had the legal authority as Prince Geoffrey's Champion. You had the actual power needed, and you had the right in Riddle's own magical realm to kill him. So, Harry, I never thought I would want to know this, but how did you kill him? Why did you have to kill him three times? What happened in the Forbidden Forest?"
"Why Claire, I thought you would never ask!" He smiled.
"Well I was in the forest for about thirty minutes. But the battle didn't take that long. It took almost ten minutes to get to where he was. I went in cautiously. I didn't know what traps he might have set or what creatures or Death Eaters might be lying in wait. Well, there was nothing like that, but I didn't know it. Riddle was just waiting there as if he had been watching me walk through the trees."
"He told me that Luna had lasted longer than he thought she would and there was gloating in his voice as there had been in earlier encounters. He delighted in telling me that she was ruined for life and so one more person I loved was gone for ever. He thought this would hurt me but I was actually encouraged."
"I did not know where Luna was this whole time. Lucius Malfoy told me she had been in the forest with Riddle as he was being taken away. He wanted me to suffer and to then go in for Riddle to kill me. It was then that I knew this was the final battle. I was prepared for it but did not know when it would come. When I got to the battle of Hogwarts I thought this was it, so I was psyched for it. But as that battle began to wrap up I thought the confrontation with Riddle must be at a later date."
"Malfoy told me differently. I thought Luna must have left for he father's old offices. That was where she was suppose to go that day. The investigators wanted to go over a few more facts and look for evidence on his disappearance. I thought since she was not there at the battle she must be at the office. I was relieved as you might imagine."
"It turned out that the investigator's message was false and it had been a trap. Luna was brought in to the forest for the express purpose of getting to me. Malfoy told me she had been taken much earlier that day and had been in the forest for hours. For the last six months I could always sense her if she was closer than a half mile away. I could not sense her at that moment so I entered the forest resigned to one more death being on my head."
"Claire, I had to assume that I was the only one who could stop Riddle. If I didn't, thousands, tens of thousands, perhaps millions would die. Albus Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald in 1945 and World War II was able to come to an end. What price would I be willing to pay to prevent something like that?"
Harry got quiet and looked at Luna for almost a minute. Claire was breathing as quietly as possible. "I realized I would pay whatever cost to prevent Riddle from going that far. I would kill him. I would kill a dozen or a hundred Death Eaters to get to him to kill him. I realized that I would let friends die.....or even.... kill a friend to be able to kill Riddle."
Harry was silent for over a minute just looking at Luna. Then he continued.
His words began to rush out. "If I did some of those terrible things, especially kill a friend, I was going to kill myself after I knew Riddle was really gone. I faced this and made a horrible peace with it to make the world safe."
"I had discussed this with Luna and you would be surprised that she said she understood all of it. She asked me that if I decided to kill myself that I wait until after the battle a few days and that I tell her in a note about what happened to make me decide to end my life. She promised she would not grieve for more than a year if I left a note and explained it all."
"Claire. I have just described myself as a cold-blooded calculating assassin. It looks extremely melodramatic after the fact. Knowing what we know now about the horrors of Nazi Germany, what price would you pay to kill Adolf Hitler in 1939?"
Claire realized he wanted an answer. She thought about it and said quietly, "Probably the same price you were willing to pay." There were tears in her eyes.
Before she could become too sullen with this thought Harry brought the conversation back to the actual battle with Riddle.
"So, I thought the mass battle before my conflict with Riddle would be a blood bath. There were a few death but there could have been so many more. I thought Luna was going to be dead when I got into the Forbidden Forest. She was alive but tortured into a wide-eyed coma. As long as there is life there is some hope. Then just before Riddle opened his mouth to torment me about Luna I thought I felt her."
"I have lived in hope for years that there was a future for me, even though I was ready to pay a horrible price for the future of others. I was standing at the start of the final battle with Riddle. It would be over in a few minutes. Standing there know of the dead and wounded outside the forest and knowing of Luna's condition right before me, I had more hope than I had hoped for, and one way or another no one else would die from this."
I believed I would win. I had faith. I did not know if I would survive but I had hope for so many of those I loved and I thought there was a good chance for me."
Harry was staring into Claire's eyes. His confidence was mesmerizing. He was a true believer before he entered the Forest and a true believer when he faced Riddle. He had survived. Why shouldn't he believe Luna would recover? Claire found herself thinking, "Why shouldn't I believe she will recover?" And with that she realized there was no good reason not to believe, so she would believe. Luna would recover soon.
Harry began telling Claire about the final battle with Riddle. As soon as he saw Luna was alive he extended an extremely powerful Shield Charm around Luna. The bubble it created cut off the top of the tree she was tied to. Riddle had laughed at this and told Harry that it would just weaken him more than necessary for death.
They started out merely toying with each other, searching for weaknesses. They ripped up trees and flung them at each other. They knocked down sections of the forest like hands pushing over daisies. It was during this throwing and shoving match that most of Harry's cuts and bruises were acquired. There was one particularly sharp branch that Riddle picked out of the air and send into Harry's side.
Harry was distracted as for a moment as he pulled the branch out of his side. Riddle threw a Killing Curse his way which Harry dodged with microseconds to spare. Harry did not want to try his theory of being impervious to Riddle's Killing Curse unless he had to.
Harry had exercised in tumbling and acrobatics to be able to avoid curses. The curse that does not hit you does not affect you.
"I had learned from Bill Weasley a powerful Drilling Spell to send a concentrated narrow burst of power through rock and stone in the Pyramids. The Gringott's wizards used it to send a sneak probe into a chamber without releasing what ever might be in there. I used it to punch a hole clean through Riddle's heart. That was the first time I killed him. I even checked for a pulse but there was none."
"I have no way to explain how he came back to life in a minute other than to say that Riddle must not have a heart. He came to as I turned from him and ripped the small bone out of the skin in my right leg with his bare hands. The breaking of that bone allowed me to get out of his grasp."
"I knew I was going to pass out from the pain or I had to cut the feeling of pain off completely. So I just decided to disconnect from pain. I cannot explain it, but I had to do it so I did it. Most of what I did in the battle and afterwards that is suppose to be impossible I just did because I had to."
"Riddle pulled out his wand and pointed it at me and said, 'Dodge this on your broken legged, Boy-Who-Lived.' I do not know what curse he was going to send my way. Before he finished gloating and sneering I had walked three paces to him on my bad leg and cut his wand hand off with the Sword of Gryffindor. I also dropped to my knee and cut off his leg. I shot two more whole through him, one in each lung for good measure. This created a larger splatter of his green blood."
"Again he was dead. Again I checked and found no pulse. I waited and began to walk towards Luna again. Then I felt I should extend a Shield Charm behind me. I had the charm half way created when I felt fire and an explosion hurled me into the air over 300 yards into the air before I checked my ascent. That is where all the burns came from and all of the broken ribs and internal damage. Somehow in the midst of the explosion the branch impaled into my shoulder and broke it."
"As I tumbled up and up into the air I saw Riddle pick up his wand and turn on his one good leg towards Luna. That is when I decided I had to stop tumbling away from the battle scene and get back there before he killed her."
"So I stopped myself in mid air and headed back towards them. If that is when I learned how to levitate or it was when I was carrying Luna and stumbled, I don't know. Does it matter?"
The question was rhetorical but Claire shook her head anyway.
"So I landed between Luna and Riddle and he stopped in mid conjure. He looked at me like he could not understand what I was doing there. He was the one who had died twice already and he couldn't understand why I was still there."
"I knew I had to prove the power of good and love over the power of evil. I put my wand in my pocket and folded my arms in front of me. I said nothing."
"A familiar smile came over Riddle's face. It was the same smile he had when he touched me in the grave yard after he used my blood to come back to life. He thought then that he had conquered my mother's love protection. Maybe he thought I was going to give my life for Luna like my mother had for me. 'Potter. Now see the full power of my ancient magic; as old as the magic that used to protect you. My magic says that no one can ever kill a wizard like me. I am so much stronger than I was when your mother protected you. Goodbye Harry Potter.'"
"I knew he would try the Killing Curse again. We were still connected by that curse and it had failed. I believed at this point it would still fail. Sure enough, he cast that curse and it pushed me over, but I stood back up. Gone from Riddle's face was the smug confidence. Gone was his glee over death and destruction."
"Tom, Tom, Tom. You put your trust in the Druid magic and it is powerful. It could not defeat love back sixteen years ago and it cannot today. But that is not your only mistake. If that were your only mistake you would be okay. You called yourself a Druid and by Druid Magical Law you shall be defeated."
"Riddle was confused and I could see it on his face."
"Tom, a Druid magician cannot be killed except by someone you have tried to kill and failed to kill. Prepare for Druid Hell."
Harry went on to describe how he drew the sword of Godric Gryffindor, he raised up into the air about 30 feet, screamed out "Avada Kedavra," and came down on Riddle's skull with the full force of all his might, power, and righteousness.
Harry said, "There was an explosion of sorts. His entire body was shredded and hurled in tiny fragments in a blast pattern twelve feet around. All of the skin and everything else making up his head was blasted away. The sword was embedded into his cranium with the cutting edge of the blade cleaving his skull in half to the nose ridge."
"I lay face down into the crater my Killing Curse produced for close to a minute. I am not sure I was breathing. The first thought I had was that I was glad I was wearing my glasses so I wouldn't get Riddle debris in my eyes. The next thought was about how could I take the pulse of what was left. Finally I stood up and waited several more minutes."
"Nothing. He was finally really dead for good."
"I wanted to lie down forever. But I felt the tug of the Shield Charm around Luna. I let it go. I ran to her and the cords binding her released as I got where I could take her in my arms. It had taken me almost ten minutes to make my way carefully in to this point in the forest, but it took less than three minutes to run out with her in my arms."
Harry had been telling Claire the last of this story while looking into Luna's eyes. "The rest I believe you know. Do you have any questions?"
Claire shook her head as if coming out of a daze. What could you ask after a story like that?
They sat together for close to five minutes. Harry turned back to Luna when he realized Claire had no questions. Finally she spoke.
"Harry, you need your sleep. Tomorrow we start researching how Luna is going to get well."
Harry nodded. She helped him out of the wheel chair, off with his bed robe, and into bed. They did not say another word that night to each other. But as she drew the curtain dividers and walked away, she barely heard in the sleepy voice of a seventeen year old kid, "Good night Luna. I love you. Claire believes. It will only take a few more."
Disclaimer---As always, what belongs to J K Rowlings is J K Rowlings'. What belongs to anyone else is theirs. Everything left is mine, I guess, but remember the old adage — "There is nothing new under the sun." - Aaran St. Vines***
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