lundi 11 février 2008

chapter 19

think you’re going?”

“Attackin’ the school! I ne’er thought I’d see the day,” Hagrid said,
shaking his head sadly.

“Just stay there,” Hermione said, waving her arm to indicate they
should stay down. “I’ll be right back.”

“What is she going to do?” Ron asked.

“Who cares?” Draco said, tugging on Ron’s arm. “What about Pansy? I
thought you were in a hurry to stop Potter.”

“I’m not about to let my entire family be slaughtered, Malfoy,” Ron
said hotly. “Your mother is in there, too, you know.”
Malfoy paled. “I’m well aware of that, Weasel…thank you very much.
That’s why I think we should hurry.”

“We don’t even know if Pansy is with Harry, Draco,” Ginny snapped. “For
all we know, she could have been the one to lead those Death Eaters

“She never would have done that knowing I was still here – or her
family, either,” Malfoy snarled.

Scowling, Ginny turned away and folded her arms across her chest,
knowing he had a point. No matter how much of a cow Pansy was, she did
care for the prat. Still, Ginny couldn’t help the nagging feeling that
there was something odd about both Harry and Pansy being missing.

“Perhaps they’re attacking because they’ve already caught Potter,”
Draco said coldly. “Maybe they were waiting outside the gates and
grabbed both him and Pansy when they tried to leave.”

Ginny whipped her head around, her throat closing as her heart
attempted to leap out of her chest. “They don’t have Harry,” she said,
her voice strained.

Still, Malfoy’s words rang in her head. Could it be true? No. Harry
wouldn’t have brought Pansy with him if he was going to the Ministry.
Perhaps he and Voldemort were already engaged in battle, and that’s why
the Death Eaters were here. She still didn’t know where Pansy fit into

“Ron,” she said, clutching his arm so her nails dug into his skin.

“That’s enough, Malfoy,” Ron snapped, stepping in between Draco and
her. Ginny could see the worry in his face, however. She wasn’t the
only one alarmed by Malfoy’s words.

She saw the bright, gleaming shape of Hermione’s Patronus as it burst
from the trees further down the road toward Hogsmeade. It soared over
the heads of the surprised Death Eaters, zoomed through the gates, and
continued traveling towards Hogwarts. Just as the otter appeared,
Hermione emerged from the trees behind them.

“Good girl, Hermione,” Hagrid said.

“You sent them a warning,” Ron said, smiling.

Hermione nodded. “I’ve seen Harry do it. It was amazing. I told it to
wait until I got away before sending the message, and it did,” she
said, speaking very fast.

The gathered Death Eaters began firing into the woods where the
Patronus had appeared. Angry voices shouted into the night air, and the
group split into two, one running down the road to search the trees for
whoever had cast the spell, while the other continued the assault on
the gates.
“I sent it to Professor McGonagall. She’ll get everyone moving here.
We’ve got to Apparate to the Ministry,” Hermione said.

“Yeh go on ahead,” Hagrid said. “I’m going ter keep a watch here and
help ter defend the school.”

“Hagrid, you can’t go up against all of them alone,” Hermione said,
grabbing Hagrid’s hand as if to pull him away.

Acrid smoke filled the air, and the visibility was dimming due to the
vast number of spells being fired. The haze in front of the gates
appeared to shimmer slightly, flickering bright flashes of light every
few seconds.

“Don’t you go worrying ‘bout me, Hermione. My skin’s too strong fer
them to hurt. The wards around Hogwarts have weakened since
Dumbledore…well, since…” Hagrid said, nodding and clearing his throat.

Hermione swallowed and nodded to show she understood what Hagrid meant.

“I don’t think they’ll hold fer long,” Hagrid said. “If they fall
before the Aurors arrive from the castle, I’m going ter try and stall

“Hagrid,” Hermione pleaded, still tugging on his arm. “Even your skin
isn’t tough enough to last against all of them.”

Excited shouts could be heard in the distance. Ginny couldn’t decipher
the words, but she could feel their excitement. They were getting
close. She clenched her eyes tightly, saying a silent prayer that her
family would be all right.

Hagrid put his massive hands on Hermione’s shoulders and pulled her
into a fierce embrace. “I appreciate yer worry, Hermione, but I’m going
ter do what I have ter do. We all have a part ter play. Yeh go help
Harry. He needs yeh more than me.”

Ron swallowed heavily, pulling Hermione away. “Take care, Hagrid,” he
said, nodding.

Hagrid returned the nod, firmly shaking Ron’s hand while holding his
solemn gaze.

Ginny couldn’t contain the sob that broke from her chest. Flinging her
arms around Hagrid, she hugged him tightly. “Stay safe, Hagrid.”

“Yeh, too, Ginny,” he said, patting her on the back and nearly knocking
her to her knees. “He’ll need yeh most of all when this is all said and

Ginny nodded, tears streaming from her eyes.

“Let’s get on with this,” Draco said, and Ginny thought even he sounded
a little choked.

A low rumbling sound suddenly filled the air, quickly gaining volume
until the roar was so loud that Ginny had to block her ears. A great gust of smoke billowed into the air, and the gathered Death Eaters
began to cheer. A volley of spells hit the iron gates in tandem,
causing the massive structure to shudder before finally tilting and
falling backwards with a massive clang.

When the dust settled, the gate was on the ground, and Hogwarts was
wide open to attack.

Hermione grabbed Ginny by the elbow, and Ron did the same to Draco.
Nodding at one another, they all Disapparated with a loud crack as
Hagrid bellowed a roar of combined grief and rage before charging into
the fray.


The only sounds in the dimly-lit chamber where Harry was being held
were the steady, almost-annoying drip of water against the stone, and
the insidious pant of Voldemort’s breathing. He was excited and
obviously enjoying Harry’s predicament. The sweet taste of victory
shone in his unnaturally red eyes, and his tongue flicked out to lick
his lips in anticipation.

He stood in the doorway, arms folded, his wand held casually in his
fingertips, as if unconcerned that anything could possibly go wrong. He
watched eagerly as Snape moved closer to Harry’s immobilized form.

Harry struggled in vain as the thick black liquid filled his mouth.
Snape’s spell had his head pulled back and his mouth pried open,
paralyzing him. Try as he may, he was unable to clamp his jaw shut. His
only method of delaying the inevitable was refusing to swallow, but
even that grew more difficult as Snape continued to pour the syrup-like

It tasted bitter, and the foul stench made him gag. Tears leaked from
the corners of his stinging eyes as he fought to keep his throat
closed, feeling his panic rising inside him like a crescendo. Dark
hopelessness clawed at his consciousness, whispering that it would be
so much easier to simply give in and swallow. He wouldn’t have to
struggle anymore…

Harry shook himself mentally, refusing to travel down that dark path.
Instead, he thought of his mission, and the people he sought to
protect. They were a fierce group of fighters, and none of them would
ever give up and simply allow Voldemort to win.

With a hollow pang, he remembered the look of determination on Remus’s
face before he had stood against Voldemort. Remus had sacrificed
himself so the rest of them might live – Harry had to live for the same
reason. He couldn’t allow Remus’s loss to have been in vain. He
couldn’t allow the rest of them to suffer the same fate, because
Voldemort was certain to go after those who had been most loyal to

With renewed determination, Harry once again tried to overcome the
spell. His entire body began to shake with the effort, but slowly,
imperceptibly at first, he began to feel sensation returning to his
limbs. It started as a tingling that gradually grew into a burning sensation covering his entire body. Without understanding exactly how
it had happened, he suddenly realized that he could move. Snape’s brow
furrowed in confusion as he became aware of the fact that Harry had
broken the Binding Spell.

“What is it, Severus?” Voldemort asked, sounding uncertain for the
first time since his arrival. He took several steps closer to try and
see over Snape’s shoulder. “What is happening?”

Before Snape had time to answer, the entire chamber began to shake with
the raw power of Harry’s unleashed magic. The phial in Snape’s hand
shattered, sending small splinters of glass flying and cutting into
Snape’s hand. The remainder of the potion spilled onto Harry’s shirt.

Using Snape’s moment of confusion to his full advantage, Harry pulled
himself into a seated position and spat the entire contents of his
mouth into his former professor’s face.

“I may be ready to go – ready to die to end this – but not yet,” he
snarled, slamming his head forward to bash against Snape’s. The impact
was so quick and so hard that Harry saw stars. The roaring in his ears
increased, and he had to blink hard against the darkness threatening to
consume him.

Not expecting the blow, Snape flailed backwards and stumbled into
Voldemort with the force of his momentum. Harry’s surge of power again
shook the room, causing bits of stone to crumble and fall around the
chamber. Voldemort was knocked backwards through the cavernous door,
just before the archway collapsed with a thunderous roar. Snape fell to
the ground inside the chamber, his head striking the cold stone floor
and leaving him momentarily stunned.

As quickly as he could, Harry tossed his legs over the side of his
makeshift coffin and rose unsteadily to his feet. The room spun
alarmingly, and he had to grab the edge of the box for balance. It was
all he could do to keep his stomach’s contents from spilling. His
leaden limbs felt weak and unresponsive, and his vision was blurred.
The stone inside his rope bracelet was burning hot against the tender
skin on the underside of his wrist, but he welcomed the pain, using it
to help him clear his mind.

He had to get his wand and get out of here. He reached out with his
senses, and his heart plummeted when he detected that familiar hum of
anti-Apparation wards. He should have known that Voldemort’s fortress
wouldn’t be without them.

How else was he to escape? He wouldn’t last long in his present
physical condition. He hadn’t swallowed any of the Draught of Living
Death, but some of it must have been absorbed into his digestive track
because he felt thoroughly awful. He was worried about how long he
could manage to keep his tenuous grip on consciousness. Even now the
black spots in his vision appeared to be growing and filling in the

Still, he had to do something. He couldn’t simply stand here and wait
to fall over. Taking a shaky step forward, he reached for Snape, who
was still sprawled on the floor. The Potions master must have sensed Harry’s plan because he kicked out, knocking an already-shaky Harry

Snape crawled backwards, reaching for his wand, barely leaving Harry
any time to grab for his own in order to escape. As Harry’s adrenaline
began to pump, it seemed to clear his head and brought some strength
back to his weakened muscles.

Snarling, he lunged for Snape, determined to get his wand.


Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco arrived at the Visitor’s Entrance to the
Ministry a moment after they’d left Hogwarts.

“The wards went down. They’ve got Hogwarts,” Hermione said, sounding

“I know,” Ron replied, putting his hands on her shoulders. “We have to
trust that the Order and the Aurors can handle things there, Hermione.
We have to help Harry.”

Ginny’s eyes widened in surprise at watching Ron take charge, and
Hermione easily listen to him. When had her brother become such a
strong man?

“You’re right,” Hermione said, pulling herself together. “Come on, it’s
this way.”

Hermione led them toward the battered telephone box and hurried inside.
Ron and Ginny quickly followed, but Malfoy stopped outside.

“You must be joking,” he said, staring incredulously at the other three
crammed inside the box.

“Either come with us or don’t, Malfoy,” Ron said irritably. “It makes
no difference to me, and I don’t mind the big old target on your back
out here in the open.”

Malfoy blanched, and he quickly crammed inside with the others. Ron
didn’t appear to mind the close quarters as he had Hermione pushed
against one side of the box, but Ginny was crushed between Ron and
Draco and couldn’t move lest she’d have to touch either of them

“Hurry up and dial, will you?” she snapped.

“Hang on, I can’t quite reach it,” Ron said, elongating his words as he
reached for the receiver.

“Ow!” Hermione yelped, rubbing the top of her head.

“Sorry!” Ron said, gasping. “Got it.”

He dialed the number, and a cool female voice filled the telephone box.
“Welcome to the Ministry of Magic. Please state your name and

“Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Ginny Weasley and Draco Malfoy,” Ron
said, his lip curling slightly on Draco’s name. “We’re here to stop
Harry from doing anything stupid.”

“And to rescue Pansy from Potter’s mad ideas,” Draco said, glaring at

Four badges slid out. Hermione grabbed them and distributed them as the
telephone box began to descended.

“Visitors to the Ministry, you are required to submit to a search and
present your wand for registration at the security desk, which is
located at the far end of the Atrium,” the female voice said.

Ignoring the voice, Ginny glanced at her badge. It read: Ginny Weasley,
Rescue Mission. She shuddered as an eerie foreboding washed over her.
At the same moment, the stone she wore around her neck flared
painfully, causing her to wince and pull it away from her skin. Harry
had to be okay. They couldn’t be too late.

Ginny struggled to hold her emotions in check. Harry wouldn’t like to
see her falling apart when they found him. Tears always panicked him.
She’d never had much patience for girls who cried, either. Perhaps it
was because she had six brothers and had always been determined to
prove she was an equal. She gritted her teeth, struggling not to shout
in fury over the slowness of the lift.

“Why are we at the Ministry, of all places?” Draco hissed, sounding
very nervous. “The Dark Lord is in control here, now. It’s undoubtedly
crawling with Death Eaters.”

“Bit late to think of that now,” Ron replied.

Ginny knew he was trying to act unconcerned for Draco’s benefit, but
she could see the tenseness in his shoulders and the way he was using
his body to keep both Hermione and her behind him.

When they reached the Atrium and the door opened, they were stunned to
find it empty even the security desk was unmanned. Once again, Ginny
was eerily reminded of her previous nighttime visit to the Ministry.

“There’s no one here,” Ron said blankly.

“Of course,” Hermione said.

“Of course what?” Draco snapped.

“He sent his forces to Hogwarts,” Hermione said, sprinting towards the
golden gates of the lifts that would take them into the bowels of the

“Where are we going?” Draco demanded.

“Department of Mysteries,” Ron said, and the lift began to lower.
“How do you know Potter is here?” he asked.

“I’m hoping he’s not,” Ron said grimly.

“And if he isn’t? What do we do then?” Draco asked, his voice rising.
“We can’t go back to Hogwarts, and they’ll all come back here when the
battle is finished.”

“You seem ruddy certain that they’ll win,” Ron said, scowling.

“We’re here,” Hermione said, putting a halt to the brewing row. “I need
to go to the room with the Veil.”

Ginny watched as the doors in the circular room spun. When it stopped,
the door in front of them sprang open. She remembered being shown how
to work the doors as they left the Ministry that night with Professor

Holding her breath, she tried to sprint into the room but Ron held her
arm firmly, not letting her rush ahead. When they tiptoed inside the
room with the Veil, they found it silent and empty.

“Where is he?” Ginny asked, perplexed.

“I dunno,” Ron replied, wildly turning his head from side to side. He
held his wand at the ready, but it was for naught. They were the only
ones in the room.

“So now what?” Draco asked, staring at the Veil curiously. “Do you have
any other ideas where Potter might have taken her?”

“He didn’t take her anywhere,” Ginny said hotly, rounding on him. Her
temper was ready to snap, and she had the perfect target.

“Draco, exactly what did Pansy say when she locked you and Dudley in
that classroom?” Hermione asked, puzzled.

“She said that she had something important to do and that she’d be
back,” he replied, shifting his eyes.

“What else?” Ginny demanded, drawing her wand.

“Put that away,” Draco said, taking a step backward.

“She’s very worried about Harry, Draco,” Hermione said, sounding bored.
“I wouldn’t push her. You’d better tell us everything.”

Draco stared warily at Ginny, keeping a close eye on her wand. “I did
tell you,” he insisted. “She didn’t say anything else about locking us
in there.”

“But she did say something else?” Hermione asked. “What are you hiding,
Draco? We all have to work together if we want to get out of here and
help Harry and Pansy.”
Ginny was surprised to see color suffuse Draco’s cheeks. “It really
wasn’t anything. Just something about a private celebration when she

“A celebration?” Ron asked sharply. “What does she want to celebrate?”

“She just meant some time alone,” Draco said, raising his eyebrows.
“Don’t you and Granger ever spend any time without Potter in the room?”

“She had something she wanted to celebrate?” Hermione asked, ignoring
Draco’s comment completely while Ron’s ears grew dangerously red.

“Mind your mouth, ferret,” Ron said, glaring.

Hermione brushed him aside with a wave of her hand, her eyes wide.
“Draco…have you noticed any other strange behavior from Pansy
recently?” she asked urgently.

“I heard you two arguing over the fact that she’s been disappearing a
lot,” Ginny said.

“Oh, no,” Hermione said, moaning.

“What is it, Hermione?” Ginny asked, fear clawing at her throat.

“What if we’re on the wrong track altogether?” Hermione wailed. “What
if Harry wasn’t the one who decided to go after Voldemort at all? What
if Pansy was the one to take Harry?”

“What are you on about, Granger?” Malfoy demanded, his voice wavering
slightly. “Pansy wouldn’t have taken Potter anywhere. She had nowhere
else to go.”

“I think Pansy might have been in contact with Voldemort,” Hermione
said, clutching Ron’s arm tightly. To Ron’s credit, he never even
winced as her nails dug into his skin.

“You’re mad,” Draco said, shaking his head.

“Harry mentioned something about finding her in the Owlery,” Ron said,

“And Voldemort has wanted to take Harry prisoner for months, now,”
Ginny said, gasping. Her tenuous grasp on her emotions slipped, and she
had to blink the tears from her eyes.

Ron’s comforting hand grasped her shoulder, and she clung to it as if
it were the only thing keeping her afloat.

“That would explain what Pansy wanted to celebrate,” Hermione said,
breathing heavily. Ginny could see that she was trying to work it out
logically, but her fear was beginning to overwhelm her, as well.

“She wouldn’t have done,” Draco said, but his face had paled
“She’s trying to save you,” Ginny whispered, as two fat teardrops
leaked from her eyes and dripped slowly down her cheeks.

“He’ll kill her,” Draco said, shaking his head. “He’ll never let me go
– that’s not how his operation works.”

“If Voldemort has him-” Ginny said before her aquamarine stone flared
with burning heat once again. Hissing, Ginny grasped it tightly in her
hand, feeling a wave of intense pain, fear and desperation wash over
her. The overwhelming sensations dropped her to her knees.

Ginny! Help, me!

She could hear his voice as clearly as if he was standing next to her.

“Ginny! What’s wrong?” Hermione gasped, kneeling next to her.

“Harry!” Ginny whimpered.

“What’s happening?” Ron asked, bewildered.

“My necklace,” Ginny gasped, trying to control the nausea sweeping over
her. “It burns.”

“The one Harry gave you for Christmas?” Ron asked. “Why does it burn?”

Harry’s words about the Merpeople legend that the Aquamarine stones
helping lost lovers to find one another suddenly played in her mind.
Her eyes met Hermione’s, and she knew the older girl was thinking the
same thing.

Trying to manage the panic growing inside her that she was now certain
wasn’t entirely her own, Ginny clasped the warm stone in her hand, shut
her eyes and called to Harry in her mind.


The gaping wound on Harry’s arm left a trail of blood across the floor
as he lunged for Snape. He could hear a low growling behind the fallen
stones and knew he only had a moment to spare before an enraged
Voldemort would burst into the chamber. He had to get his wand before
that happened if he hoped to have any chance at all.

As if knowing what Harry wanted, Snape rolled to the side, reaching for
the pocket where Harry’s wand was hidden. Harry grabbed Snape’s arm and
slammed it into the ground before he could grab it. Scrambling, he
crawled over Snape’s legs, pinning him to the stone floor.

Snape grunted in pain, raising his own wand with his other hand.
“Diffindo,” he snarled.

A deep slash appeared across Harry’s outstretched palm. He ignored it,
and finally grasped his wand with his bloody hand. The stone inside his
rope bracelet once again seared painfully and before he knew what was
happening, brilliant color exploded before his eyes.
Voldemort’s howl of rage echoed in his ears as his world began to spin.
He had to shut his eyes against the fury of color, and he barely had
time to register what had happened before it all faded, and he once
again was locked in battle with Snape.

He was dimly aware of the difference in the floor and the absence of
the dank, musty smell, but he remained focused on only Snape. They each
had a tight grip on Harry’s wand and rolled on the floor in a vicious

“Reducto,” Ginny’s voice snarled, shocking Harry.

“Expelliarmus,” Hermione said.

Harry’s wand flew from Snape’s startled grip as the force of Ginny’s
spell hurled the startled Potions master away from Harry, depositing
him in a heap near the Veil.

The Veil.

Harry’s jaw dropped as his senses reeled. He was back in the Department
of Mysteries. He was here – in the same spot where he last saw Sirius.
His breath caught painfully in his throat as he became aware of the
distant whispering behind the gently fluttering curtain.

“Harry!” Ginny cried, throwing herself at him and nearly knocking him
over. His body was weakened, and he had to clutch her for support. He
felt as if she was somehow suffusing her strength into him through her

By the horrified expression on her face, he knew he must look a right
mess. Hating the tear tracks he could see on her cheeks, he grabbed her
head and tangled his fingers in her hair. Leaning over, he kissed her
fiercely. If this was to be the end, he preferred his last memory to be
of her sweet kiss rather than Snape’s ugly face.

Harry held up his bloody hand, and Hermione silently tossed him his
wand. By this time, Snape had rolled to his feet, brandishing his own

“Very clever, Potter,” Snape said, sneering. “Although I’m certain it
wasn’t any of your doing, else you would have escaped much sooner. The
Dark Lord will not be pleased, but you won’t get away for long. He’s
determined, and your little friends won’t be able to resist him

“Stupefy,” Ron bellowed, but Snape easily moved to the side and the
spell harmlessly flashed against the wall.

“You’ll have to improve your technique if you ever expect to battle me,
Weasley,” Snape said.

“Incarcerous,” Harry bellowed, and thin, snakelike ropes flew from his
wand, attempting to bind Snape’s hands.

“Serpensortia,” Snape hissed, Transfiguring the ropes into snakes,
which harmlessly slithered around his feet.
Harry watched as several of them slunk through the Veil, its ratty
curtain billowing in the still air. He had to shake himself of the
memories threatening to overwhelm him. He could hear that faint
murmuring of voices behind it and knew he couldn’t be distracted by it.

“You hear the voices?” Snape asked, cocking his head to the side.

Harry’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Yes, I know about the voices,” Snape said, rolling his eyes
contemptuously. “I’m surprised you can hear them, however. It’s usually
only those with superior magical talent – of which you obviously have
none. Then again, it’s been suggested that those with questionable
mental stability are also able to hear them.”

Harry blasted several more Curses at Snape, all of which were easily

“Sectumsempra,” Snape said vindictively.

Harry managed to dodge the curse but felt the rush of air as it zoomed
past his ear. Snape jumped off the dais and moved to the steps that
rose in a ring around the room. Harry climbed after him, trying to keep
his own body between Snape and the others. Ron, Hermione and Ginny kept
their wands pointed at the pair, waiting to see what would happen.
Draco had taken cover, but Harry could see his blonde hair peering at
them from behind the dais.

“Supposedly, the voices are the trapped souls who’ve gone through to
their death. Your dearly departed godfather should be one of them,
rotting just out of reach,” Snape said, his eyes glittering

“Diffindo. Silencio. Impedimenta,” Harry shouted, rapidly firing at
Snape, who kept backing away.

Harry was growing winded, and the climb up the stairs made his muscles
groan in agony. Snape’s cruel words incited the fury of Harry’s
friends, and they quickly joined the fray. Ron and Ginny both fired a
barrage of Hexes and Jinxes towards their former teacher, but he was
able to shield himself.

“Incendio,” Hermione hissed, setting the bottom of Snape’s robes on
fire. She was the first one to actually hit him with something, and
Snape was obviously surprised. He quickly doused the flames but began
to struggle against the combined attack.

“Four against one, Potter?” he asked, sneering as he panted. “How like
your father you truly are.”

“You didn’t seem to care much about a fair fight when we were back in
Voldemort’s lair, and it was about sixteen against one,” Harry said,
gritting his teeth.

“Sectumsempra,” Snape snarled again, and Ginny gasped, slapping a hand
to her shoulder to stop the sudden rush of blood.
Harry’s vision went black with rage, and he fired a powerful Blasting
Curse that hit Snape full on, sending him flying through the air. He
landed in a heap on the stairs, gasping.

“Stupefy,” Harry said.

Snape’s head lolled to the side, his wand rolling uselessly out of his
slackened hand, clattering on the floor beside him.

Harry’s knees gave out, and he slumped on the stairs, panting heavily.
His vision blurred, and his tongue felt too big for his mouth. He kept
shaking his head, trying to dislodge the cobwebs that were surrounding
his brain.

Ron rushed toward him, pulling him to his feet and helping him to
descend the stairs while Hermione moved to check on Ginny. Ron sat
Harry down on the bottom step beside the girls, and Harry leaned on him

“You got him, mate,” Ron said shakily, never removing his arm from
around Harry’s shoulders. “Kind of ironic that the impulsiveness that
he always gave you a hard time about was what did him in at the end.”
Ron tried to laugh, but it was forced, and his eyes traveled worriedly
over Harry’s wounds.

“I’m all right,” Ginny snapped as Hermione quickly healed the bleeding
gash on her shoulder.

“You’ll need dittany on that, or it will scar, despite Snape’s skill
with that Curse,” Draco said, finally joining the group.

“Thanks for all your help,” Ron spat, still supporting Harry’s weight.

“Snape would have killed me on the Dark Lord’s orders. I wasn’t about
to take that risk for you,” Draco said, sneering. “Where’s Pansy?”

“Ginny,” Harry said, gasping and ignoring Draco completely.

“I’m all right,” Ginny said, reaching out to grab Harry’s hand. “I’m
better than you, that’s for certain. What happened?”

“Where have you been, Potter? Do you know what happened to Pansy?”
Draco demanded again.

Harry nodded wearily. His legs were growing heavy, and he was finding
it difficult to breathe properly. Even though he wanted nothing more
than to lie down and rest for a bit, he suspected his inactivity was
causing his system to further absorb the small amount of the Draught of
Living Death that he’d ingested.

Pushing off Ron and leaving a bloody handprint on his shirt, Harry
forced himself to his feet and began to shakily pace.

“What are you doing, Harry?” Hermione asked. “Sit down and let me heal
that cut on your arm.”
Harry looked down and noticed that his left sleeve was drenched in
blood. Despite the fact that his fingers still tingled numbly, he’d
forgotten about the wound.

“You can heal it,” he said, wheezing, “but I can’t stay still. It gets
worse when I’m still.”

“What gets worse?” Hermione asked, following him as she tended his arm.

“Ran into Pansy just outside the forest,” Harry said, blinking rapidly.
“She said she was looking for Draco.”

“She knew where I was,” Draco replied tightly. “She locked me and
Dudley in a Charms classroom.”

Harry nodded. “She pulled a wand on me. When I disarmed her, I
discovered that her wand was a Portkey.”

“A Portkey?” Draco asked, sounding both alarmed and impressed. “So,
she’s still in the forest then?”

“Where did it take you?” Ginny asked, grabbing the hand of his
uninjured arm and pacing with him. When she felt the blood on his hand
from Snape’s Hex, she mutely held it towards Hermione to be healed.

“To Voldemort,” he replied. “Pansy followed us there. She’d made a
bargain with Snape and Voldemort to spare you in return for handing me
over to them.”

Draco blanched. “The Dark Lord would never agree to that.”

“No,” Harry said simply, stopping and staring at Draco intently.

“He killed her then?” the Slytherin asked in a strained whisper.

“He reneged on his deal, then offered her a place in his ranks. She
said not without you, so he killed her,” Harry said, squaring his jaw.
He knew he was hurting the other boy, but he felt he had to show him
the callous truth. It was Voldemort’s way or no way. There was no in

Draco dropped his head, clenching his eyes tightly.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” Hermione said, her eyes bright. She gently reached
out and placed her hand on his arm.

Draco nodded, firmly setting his jaw. His voice shook as he spoke, “She
wanted us to have a chance for a future.”

“By sacrificing Harry,” Ron snapped, apparently unable to accept any
grief over Pansy.

“She did the wrong thing, and I’ll never forgive her for putting Harry
through this, but I can understand her desperation,” Ginny admitted
grudgingly, her eyes sweeping over Harry.
“Voldemort wanted to keep me safe but out of the way,” Harry said.
“Snape brewed the Draught of Living Death, and they forced it down my

“What?” Hermione shrieked.

“I spat it out without swallowing, but I think some of it was absorbed
anyway. I don’t feel so good,” Harry said, listing to the side.

Ginny caught him and propped him back up.

Draco’s head snapped up. He seemed stunned by the fact Harry was given
the Draught and remained consciousness. “That’s not good,” he said.
“You’ll probably not recover from that. The antidote is supposed to be
given instantaneously and all in one dose.”

“Thanks, Draco,” Harry replied dryly.

“How did you and Snape get here, then?” Hermione asked. “Did your stone
somehow tell you where we were? Ginny’s has been burning all evening.”
Her curiosity about the stones was visibly battling with her concern
over Harry’s condition.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Harry said truthfully. “My stone was
burning, too. I panicked after Snape had given me the Draught, and I
somehow broke the bonds that were holding me and got away. Snape and I
were fighting over my wand on the floor of the cavern one minute, and
the next minute we were here still fighting. The stone must have
transported us like a Portkey.”

“That’s not possible,” Hermione said, shaking her head. “It’s just a
legend, and it’s only supposed to help you find one another. You must
have Disapparated.”

“No. It definitely had something to do with the stones,” Harry said,
shaking his head. “Voldemort was furious. I heard him bellowing when we
disappeared. There were Anti-Apparation wards all over the place.”

“Yeah, but it’s not like you haven’t done things that were supposedly
impossible in the past,” Ron said, shrugging.

“I don’t know,” Harry replied. “We don’t have time to figure it out.
Voldemort sent his troops to Hogwarts. He probably went there looking
for me after I disappeared. What are we doing here, anyway?”

“We thought you might have slipped away from us to take on Voldemort
alone,” Ron said sheepishly.

Harry looked away from them all, unable to deny he’d thought about
doing just that.

“I thought so,” Ginny said, scowling.

“The Death Eaters were already at Hogwarts when we left,” Ron said.
“Hermione sent a message to warn them.”
Harry sighed heavily, his eyes roaming around the silent room and
stopping to rest on the Veil. He could still hear those odd, distorted
whispers behind it. He was here. This was it. The time to act and end
it all was now.

“Harry, you’re not in any condition to do this,” Hermione said as if
reading his thoughts.

“I have to, Hermione. We won’t get a better chance,” he replied.

Hermione looked around the room helplessly before returning her gaze to
him. Her lower lip trembling, she nodded. “I’ve stopped the bleeding on
your arm, but the wound is really deep. Madam Pomfrey will have to set
it properly.”

“Right,” Harry replied, his throat raw.

He knew he should take a moment to tell them how much they’d always
meant to him, but he couldn’t manage to get his mouth to form the
words. Instead, he just stood there – feeling stupid – and swallowing

Before he had long to contemplate it, however, his scar felt as if it
had been ripped open with blinding pain. Bright shards of light pierced
his field of vision, and he had to wrap his hands around his head to
hold it together. He dropped to his knees, convulsing yet still trying
to maintain control.

“Harry!” Ginny yelped, and he felt her cool hands on his forehead.

“Voldemort,” he gasped. “He knows I’m not at Hogwarts. He’s looking for
me. We have to do this now. I need to show him where I am.”

“I can help you do that,” Draco said suddenly, surprising them all.

“What do you mean?” Ron asked, moving to stand protectively in front of

“You obviously still can’t shield your mind against Legilimency,” Draco
said, rolling his eyes. “Snape proved that.”

“But he got Snape, didn’t he?” Ron asked belligerently.

“Eventually, I suppose. If you think you can manage to stall the Dark
Lord until you get angry enough to do something, go right ahead.
Perhaps if he just kills one of the Potterettes,” Malfoy said, jerking
his head towards Harry’s friends, “that would do it.”

“No!” Harry said, suddenly sitting up straighter and blinking through
the pain in his head. “Okay, Draco. We’ll try this together. What do we
have to do?”

“Let me into your mind. I’ll direct your thoughts in order to project
where we are to Voldemort, and I’ll try to help you shield them once he
arrives,” Draco said, swallowing heavily.

“Why are you so willing to help now?” Ginny demanded.
“He killed Pansy, and I’m ready to be free. If this works, I can get on
with my life while I still have it,” Draco snapped.

Harry groaned again as he felt Voldemort’s cold tendrils attempting to
coil around his brain. “Now. We have to do it now,” he said, gasping.
“Ron, Ginny, Hermione, conjure some heavy stones to use as shields.
They can absorb the Killing Curse when he starts using it. Conjure
several in the room and practice doing it quickly. Each will only
shield you from one Curse, so you’ll either have to find or conjure
another after yours is destroyed.”

“Create a large one for me, too,” Draco said. “If the Dark Lord
realizes what we’re doing, he’ll go after me. He’ll be puzzled over the
fact that Harry is suddenly able to shield his thoughts, but it won’t
occur to him right away that Harry would willingly let someone else in
his mind since he would never do so.”

“Do it,” Harry said, grabbing his head again.

Draco nodded. “You’ll have to look in my eyes and just relax. Think
about this room, and I’ll help project the image to the forefront of
your mind.”

“When he gets here, Harry, everything will happen fast,” Hermione said.
“I’ve spoken with Professor Dumbledore about something, and you’ll just
have to trust us.”

“Trust you with what?” Harry asked, alarmed.

“That we love you, and we know that you love us, too. Keep
concentrating on that when you’re dueling,” Ginny said, kissing him
softly on the lips.

“I love you, too, Ginny,” he whispered.

Ron silently squeezed Harry’s shoulder, his solemn expression saying
more than words ever could.

“Focus on the love you feel for us,” Hermione said urgently. “Trust

“This is all sickeningly sweet, but we’re running out of time,” Draco

Ginny gave Harry’s hand a final squeeze before joining Ron and Hermione
to help create obstacles.

Harry stared into the gray eyes of his school rival. In the end, it
came down to trust. Harry didn’t trust Draco, but he didn’t think the
Slytherin fully trusted him, either. They did understand each other
enough to know that they both wanted the same thing. Maybe being able
to set aside their differences and work together was part of the final

“Let’s do it,” Harry said, taking a deep breath and looking directly at
Draco. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
“I’ve been in your mind before, Harry. Nothing has changed about that,”
Draco said, surprisingly gentle.

Harry groaned as his head seared painfully. “There’s more in there this
time,” he said vaguely.

Draco frowned, puzzled. “Just push the thought you want to the
forefront of your mind. Legilimens.”

Harry felt the familiar invasion, and he tried to will his body to
relax, despite his tension. His forced prone position allowed the
poison in his system to further absorb, causing his legs to feel stiff
and heavy. Memories flashed fast and furious, and he struggled to keep
the image of the Department of Mysteries in the forefront. He felt
Draco’s presence pushing it and knew instantly when Voldemort had
successfully invaded.

Voldemort grasped onto the image, and Harry began to laugh maniacally
as he felt Voldemort’s triumphant glee. A wave of nausea rolled over
him as the foreign presence pulled out of his mind. When Voldemort
finally released him, Harry leaned over and promptly retched, spilling
the meager contents of his stomach all over Draco.

“Bugger!” Draco shouted, leaping back. “Damn it, Potter. Scourgify.”

“All right, Harry?” Ron asked from where he was still conjuring large

“He’s coming,” Harry said, shaking his head and forcing his protesting
legs to stand. “You’d better all get behind cover. You too, Draco.”

Draco remained standing, staring at Harry with the most peculiar
expression on his pale face.

“What?” Harry asked, exasperated and in no mood for games. He swiped
his sleeve across his mouth.

“You’re going to have to die to pull this off,” the Slytherin
whispered, his eyes wide.

“You’re just figuring that out now, Draco?” Harry asked sarcastically.

“I… He’s… It… Horcruxes,” Draco finally managed, bewildered.

Harry nodded curtly. He knew there had been a risk of Draco learning
about the Horcruxes when he allowed him access to his mind, but
supposed it didn’t matter now, anyway.

“You’d better take cover,” Harry said softly.

Draco swallowed audibly. For the first time in Harry’s memory, the
blonde boy appeared at a loss for words.

“Good luck,” he finally whispered, before turning and quickly ducking
behind one of the stones.
It was odd, but Harry thought he actually sincerely meant it. There was
no time to contemplate Draco’s motives, however, as a piercing stab of
pain erupted along Harry’s scar.

“He’s here,” Harry said, limping away from the dais. His previous fear,
exhaustion, and trepidation over what was about to come melted away. He
was ready. He felt as if he’d been battling his whole life for this
moment, and he was ready for it – come what may. Voldemort was no
longer a man, but a monster, and he needed to be terminated before he
killed anyone else.

Harry’s heart pumped fiercely in his chest, causing the effects of the
Draught to recede. He quickly scanned the room, noting with
satisfaction that Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco were all covered –
even Snape’s prone form was well hidden by the stairs surrounding the

His scar seared, and the temperature plummeted as Lord Voldemort strode
confidently into the room, his grotesque face twisted with rage.

“I must admit, Harry, it has been a long time since anyone was able to
impress me,” he hissed, slithering into the center of the room, his
crimson eyes flashing.

“You’ll find that you’re no longer dealing with a child that you
snatched from a school yard,” Harry replied, calmly moving to face his

“Point taken. I should have killed you straightaway in that graveyard,”
Voldemort said, perusing Harry appraisingly. His red eyes were glowing
with an intense hunger, and his tongue darted out, snakelike, wetting
his lips.

“You tried,” Harry said.

“I wanted your death to become my showpiece. My grand welcome back into
the Wizarding world. I should have simply eliminated the obstacle. I
won’t make that mistake again,” Voldemort replied, baring his teeth.

Harry was ready, and he quickly dove out of the way. “So, you’re ready
to kill me now? I thought you wanted to stow me away somewhere safe,”
he said. “Reducto.”

The corner of the stairs exploded, hurling debris towards Voldemort,
who quickly raised a shield.

“That was my original plan before you incapacitated my Potions master.
No, Harry. I’m going to make you bleed like the worthless human you
are, and then I’m going to dispose of you. I am Lord Voldemort, and I
will find another way to survive. You thwarted my attempt to get the
Philosopher’s Stone, and now you’ve destroyed my precious Horcruxes.
You will pay for that, and I will devise another way.”

Voldemort blasted a quick string of curses at Harry, each of which he
managed to avoid. Harry returned fire, but nothing appeared capable of breaching Voldemort’s shield. Some of the boulders placed around the
room were beginning to crumble under the fury.

“Your feeble attempts at Occlumency appear to have finally yielded some
results,” Voldemort said, narrowing his eyes.

“So…you know I’ve got all the Horcruxes, then?” Harry asked, desperate
for a distraction. He was sweating profusely from the exertion but knew
Draco was still managing to keep the shield in his mind.

“Lord Voldemort knows everything,” Voldemort said smugly. “Right down
to the fact you are trying to distract me from knowing there are others
in the room with us. There,” he said, blasting the rock hiding Ron.

“And there,” he said, destroying the one shielding Hermione.

Hermione quickly created another to duck behind, but Ron delayed in
order to be certain Hermione was covered.

“Avada Kedavra,” Voldemort shouted, aiming the deadly green light at

Ron froze, his eyes widening. Without thinking, Harry leaped at his
friend. His body sailed through the air, impacting with Ron, and
bringing them both to the ground with a crash. The sickening snap of a
bone was clearly heard in Ron’s wrist as they landed. They ducked and
quickly rolled to their feet, a groaning Ron noticeably helping Harry.

Voldemort blasted the two of them with a barrage of curses as each boy
tried to shield the other. Finally, Ron grunted in pain when a curse
hit its mark. Harry shoved him toward another boulder.

“You already knew about the diary,” Harry said, panting as Ron slumped,
unconscious behind the rock. “That was the first one.” He fired a
powerful Stunner that Voldemort blocked, but for the first time, his
shield flickered.

Voldemort’s eyes widened, and he paused before taking a step back.

What had Hermione said? Concentrate on the love he felt for them?
Professor Dumbledore said it was his unknown power, and it did appear
to strengthen his Curses.

“The diary, yes. My sources tell me that you destroyed it in order to
save your little girlfriend. I believe she’s over there,” Voldemort
said, blasting away the rock hiding Ginny.

Ginny shrieked and scrambled out of the way. Voldemort followed her
with his wand, repeatedly firing spell after spell. Ginny kept dodging
and firing back uselessly, and Harry could see she was growing weary.
His own spells did nothing to deflect Voldemort’s wrath. He appeared to
grow stronger, as if feeding off Ginny’s fear and Harry’s desperation.

“Not her,” Harry growled, a great rage blooming within his heart. He
fired a Cutting Curse that tore into Voldemort’s side, drawing first
blood. The voices behind the Veil grew louder, and the room brightened
Voldemort stopped, his eyes widening in shock as he stared at the blood
seeping through his robes. Drawing his lips back and baring his teeth,
he quickly fired a rapid series of spells toward Harry – like a wire
short-circuiting on the ground.

Harry hissed in pain as a Curse sliced into his arm, reopening the
wound Hermione had treated for him. Blood gushed from the deep cut and
flowed down his arm, slackening his hand. Glancing down briefly, he was
certain he could see a white hint of bone showing.

“I also know exactly how you’re managing to shield your pathetic mind
from me,” Voldemort snarled, aiming his wand and destroying the boulder
shielding Draco. The boy froze, his eyes round before he leaped to his
feet and tried to run. “Extispex.”

Draco collapsed, shrieking in horror as blood rapidly spread across his
abdomen and his insides began being expelled through a gaping wound.
Draco’s horrible screams filled the cavernous room until Hermione,
apparently unable to take it any more, cast a spell of her own.

“Petrificus Totalis,” she shouted.

Draco’s body stopped writhing and remained motionless on the floor, his
entrails piled in front of him. Harry felt the last link between his
mind and Draco’s snap.

Voldemort turned his attention to Hermione. “Crucio,” he shouted, and
Hermione dropped to the ground, screaming in agony.

Gritting his teeth, Harry fired a Reductor Curse that blasted Voldemort
off his feet, ending his attack on Hermione. Harry continued his rapid
volley with Voldemort and the room was alight with spells hitting the
walls. From the corner of his eye, he saw Ginny pull Hermione behind a
large boulder.

“That’s for my parents,” Harry snarled, hitting Voldemort with a
Cutting Curse, “and that one’s for Sirius.”

Each time he aimed a spell, Harry put the name of a victim to it. The
room in which they were standing brightened each time, and with a shock
Harry realized the light was coming from the Veil. The voices were loud
and overlapping, and he didn’t understand how the others couldn’t hear

Voldemort appeared slightly alarmed by the light and sound, and
distressed by Harry’s success in hitting his mark. Harry thought it
must have been a long time since Tom Riddle had endured the pain of
being Cursed. Harry lost his train of thought as a painful Stinging Hex
struck his thigh.

“So…your plan is to tug me through the Veil with you, is it?” Voldemort
asked, regaining some of his bluster. “That’s not going to happen
today. I can accommodate you, however,” he said, lifting Harry’s body
in the air and flinging it toward the Veil.
Harry managed to land and right himself before he reached it, his
fierce desire to protect his friends ringing in his head. He fired a
Bone Breaking Curse at Voldemort and was shocked to see his enemy
stumble and fall.

In fury, Voldemort fired the same curse back at Harry, who felt the
bones in his injured arm and the attached hand shatter. He was weakened
and bloody, but it heartened him to see Voldemort in the same
condition. This was it; it had to be done.

Focusing with all this might on the love he felt for his friends and
his desire that they should have a peaceful life, he fired a Reductor
Curse that catapulted Voldemort onto the dais where the Veil stood.
“That was for Remus; and that one’s for Bertha Jorkins. D’you remember
Bertha? You left her body to rot in the woods. She’s been avenged,”
Harry spat, moving down the steps and closer to the dais. The unearthly
light filled the room and began to glow even brighter.

He felt Voldemort’s insidious presence inside his mind – searching –
seeking to know which Curse Harry was about to use. As Harry filled his
mind with the love and great emotion that he had for his friends, he
felt Voldemort recoil, his grip on Harry’s mind weakening until it
finally snapped altogether.

The light and voices from the Veil were obviously frightening Voldemort
and throwing him off his mark. This was Harry’s chance.

Limping, Harry stepped onto the dais, preparing to charge and ram both
Voldemort and himself through the Veil. Before he could do it, however,
shouting from the girls stopped him.

“Harry!” Hermione cried. “Use the Curse. The one Moody says you can do,
but you didn’t think you could.”

Harry’s brow furrowed with confusion, irritated by the interruption. He
barely managed to raise his shield as Voldemort hurled another Cutting
Curse at him.

“Do you trust me, Harry?” Hermione asked softly, although he could hear
her clearly despite the noise in the room.

There was no question – of course he did. He’d promised to listen to
her during the battle, understanding that there were things she
couldn’t forewarn him about lest Voldemort see it in his mind.

Ginny moved out from behind the rock beside Hermione, and with Chaser
precision tossed something directly to him.

“Use the Curse,” Hermione repeated as the object flew through the air.

Although his broken arm hung uselessly at his side, Harry instinctually
raised his wand hand in the air and caught the tiny golden object
before turning his wand on a still-shaken Voldemort and hissing, “Avada

Immediately as he uttered the hateful curse, his head was ripped open
with agonizing pain. A crushing sensation overwhelmed him, dizzying and disorienting him. He felt as if a part of him was being torn asunder.
Memories, feelings and emotions swirled, making him feel sick and
dropping him to his knees. An unbearable cold consumed him as a
sickening, squelching sound filled his ears. His eyes rolled in his
head. He was being torn apart. He wasn’t even certain who he was. The
wind howled, and his vision began to dim.

As Harry slumped to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been
cut, his hand uncurled around the object Ginny had tossed to him. The
golden Snitch that had rested in McGonagall’s office – the one Ginny
had caught to win the Quidditch cup in the last match before Hogwarts
had closed – flew from Harry’s hand. It rose in the air gracefully,
fluttering momentarily, before turning and hurling itself through the
Veil, as if it had been Charmed to do so. The Veil fluttered briefly
and the voices rose in crescendo before finally falling silent. The
light around the Veil slowly began to dim.

At the same moment that Harry realized he’d created his own Horcrux, he
saw Voldemort’s snakelike eyes widen as he was struck in the abdomen by
the spell hurled from Harry’s wand. The madman’s red eyes dimmed as he
crumpled to the ground, lifeless. The many transformations that he’d
undergone melted away, leaving the ravaged but unmistakably once-
handsome face of Tom Riddle – a dead man, and no longer a monster.

The room was utterly silent and still.

Suddenly, Harry saw Snape’s bruised and battered face rise from the
steps. His eyes weren’t quite focused but still held a vindictive
gleam. His gaze wandered dispassionately over Voldemort’s still form
before he warily raised his hands when Harry pointed his wand. Harry
could barely make sense of anything, but he was certain that Snape
expected to die by his former pupil’s hand.

But Harry lowered his wand, gasping in pain.

“There’s going to be celebrating and victory speeches, and they’ll
probably even name a holiday after me,” he gasped, slurring his words.
“I’m certain I’ll hate all of it, but there’s one thing that it’ll make
it all worthwhile – and that’s knowing that you’re going to hate it

Snape scowled, shakily pulling himself to his feet and raising his
wand. Harry simply stared, unable to muster the strength to be alarmed.

“While you are most likely right that the deluded fools will heap more
unearned glory upon you, it’s a pity that you won’t be around to hear
any of it. How pathetic to survive the great battle, only to be struck
down afterwards because you were too weak to raise your wand,” he

Harry expected to see a burning green light hurtle towards him, but
instead a rushing mane of bright red hair blocked his vision. He heard
the swoosh of a curse before a mass of mucus-covered bats exploded from
Snape’s nose.

“Expelliarmus,” Ginny snarled, and Snape’s wand flew into her
outstretched hand before she cast a Binding Spell on him. “Silencio,” she hissed, cutting off his sneer before it could start. Using her
wand, she tightened Snape’s bonds until he was gasping with pain.

She then dropped to her knees beside Harry, cradling his bloody head in
her lap.

“Oh, Harry, look what he did to you,” she said, sniffling and wrapping
herself around him like a bandage.

Harry wearily shut his eyes, sinking into the warmth of her embrace. It
was over. He’d done it. He could rest at long last.

“Stay with me, Harry,” Ginny pleaded.

Harry’s eyes fluttered, but his limbs and eyelids felt like lead. He
tried to smile but failed. His vision slowly began to dim and finally
faded to black, blocking out the voices as the curtain finally stilled.

Chapter Thirty

The Locked Room

Harry’s world spun momentarily before a sense of cool serenity washed
over him. He felt as if he was floating – drifting slowly into the air
inside a bubble, swaying haphazardly, yet rising upward. He felt calm
and almost disassociated from everyone else in the room. He could see
Ginny cradling his broken body, crying and begging him to awake, but he
felt no desire to do so. He wasn’t entirely certain that he could.

He could see the dead body of Tom Riddle lying nearby, his lifeless
eyes still open and staring vacantly ahead. The eyes were no longer
red, but brownish in coloring. Harry dispassionately noted that
Riddle’s hair had gone gray since the last time he’d seen him. He half-
expected the prone figure to jump or blink or for his eyes to turn back
to red. His stomach churning unpleasantly, Harry turned away.

He watched as Hermione tended an unconscious Ron, but she glanced up at
Ginny’s shrill cry. He could see Hermione’s lips moving and knew she
was speaking to him, but he couldn’t hear her words. None of this
concerned him as he continued to drift aimlessly through the air. Not
even the sight of the ancient Veil high on its dais, the same Veil that
had filled so many of his nightmares, elicited any emotion from him.

He floated past Draco, lying on the floor – still petrified – with the
ghastly mess of innards piled obscenely beside him. Detached, Harry
noticed that Draco’s eyes were closed, almost as if he couldn’t bear to
look at what had happened to him and settled instead for
unconsciousness. Harry thought it vaguely odd that the one who had
actually died was the one with his eyes open, yet both Draco’s and the
eyes on Harry’s own body were closed.

At least, he assumed he was still alive, although he really couldn’t be
certain. He couldn’t bring himself to care very much either way. Even
the idea that it was over didn’t quite register in his muddled brain.
The only thing on Harry’s mind at the moment was this pleasant floating sensation. It left him drowsy, and he thought he might like to go to

Nearly as soon as the thought occurred to him, his eyes opened wide,
and his heart began to race. Falling asleep was definitely a bad idea.
He somehow knew he was supposed to stay awake. As he became more alert
and began to look around in earnest, the pounding of his heart
lessened, and the panicky adrenaline-rush subsided. Calmer, he noticed
that his bubble had begun traveling further away from the chaos
surrounding the Veil.

He drifted over Ron and Hermione’s heads, watching as Hermione’s wand
traveled shakily over Ron’s chest. His bubble floated out the door and
into the circular room with all the doors. It moved anti-clockwise
until it stopped in front of one of the doors. The door was no
different than any of the others, it had no distinctive marking or
shape, but Harry instinctively knew that it was the locked door. The
one where he’d ruined the knife Sirius had given him while trying to
open it.

What had Professor Dumbledore told him? That the room was kept locked
at all times and contained the force that Harry possessed in such great
quantity – love. Riddles…more riddles. Dumbledore had always liked to
speak in riddles. How could a room contain love? It wasn’t a tangible

Harry watched, feeling disconnected as his bubble approached the door
and floated right through it. He blinked and took a good look around.
At first, he saw nothing but murky emptiness and darkly wondered if
he’d used up all the love he’d felt in his heart destroying Voldemort.
Now, there wasn’t anything left but this dark, gray nothingness. It was
a sobering thought, but he still couldn’t bring himself to feel any
emotion over it. It was as if he was an outsider, merely observing
rather than living any of it anymore.

As he continued to float, he gradually became aware of a flickering
light in the distance. Without his usual curiosity or burning drive to
know, he merely took note of it rather than moving towards it.
Gradually, however, the flickering of shadow became interesting as it
was the only thing to see, and he began to drift nearer and nearer the

When he was finally close enough to see properly, he realized it was a
simple fireplace holding a blazing fire that hissed and crackled.
Although it was in the midst of great nothingness, Harry imagined it
was the kind of fire he’d seen in the Gryffindor common room on many a
cold night.

As soon as the thought occurred to him, the Gryffindor common room with
its large, squishy armchairs and red and gold coloring appeared before
him. His bubble landed on one of the chairs in front of the fire, and
he stretched his long legs, feeling the heat on his suddenly uncovered
toes. He rubbed them into the rich, red carpeting, resting his head on
the back of the chair.
He wondered if the locked room somehow worked by thought, and he tested
it by imagining a steaming cup of chocolate. It appeared on the end
table next to him in a Hogwarts golden mug. Harry settled back into the
cushions, gazing at the fire and wondering what it was he was supposed
to do here. It seemed a funny place to be after…well, after everything
that had happened tonight. Dispassionately, he realized that he was
uninjured. He had full use of his arms, and there wasn’t even a trace
of blood on his clothing.

“I am glad to see that you have made yourself at home, Harry,”
Professor Dumbledore said, strolling into the room. His long white
beard was knotted at the end, and he held it as he took the chair next
to Harry, conjuring his own cup of hot chocolate and stretching his
bare toes to the fire.

“Sir!” Harry gasped, shocked. Some of his hot chocolate dribbled down
his chin, scalding him.

He wiped it quickly, blinking with astonishment and unable to voice a
coherent thought. Dumbledore merely sipped his own beverage, his blue
eyes twinkling, until Harry blurted, “Am I dead?”

“No, my boy, you most certainly are not dead, thank the Heavens. Your
body has a long recovery ahead, but I am more concerned with your
mind,” Dumbledore said, the sparkle in his eyes dimming as he looked at
Harry over his half-moon spectacles.

“My mind?” Harry asked blankly, feeling that he was several steps
behind. He sat back and tried to relax. Dumbledore was obviously in
charge of the conversation. Some things never changed.

Dumbledore raised his arms and gestured at the vast expanse of
nothingness. “This room…this place…is a representation of your mind,
Harry. Am I right in surmising that you are presently feeling rather

Harry shrugged helplessly, uncertain what to say or even what to make
of all the emptiness. Feeling slight embarrassed, he instead focused on
their immediate surroundings. “It looks like the Gryffindor common room
to me,” he mumbled.

“Yes. I conjured the fire to try and light your way to me. You created
the image in your mind of a place you felt warmth, some security,
perhaps,” Dumbledore said, nodding. “I am, of course, pleased that
Hogwarts has always felt like a home to you.”

“So…this place is inside my mind?” Harry asked, still feeling as if he
were grasping at straws. If that were the case, it looked as if his
mind was rather empty – a fact he was certain Ron would find highly

“Precisely,” Dumbledore said, smiling approvingly. “The only way to
enter that locked door at the Ministry is within your mind. I imagine
that you are feeling lost and rather hopeless right now, and you felt
the need for explanations hence, you called for me. I suppose I have
traditionally been the one to offer you my advice after you have been
through a trauma.”
“So…you’re not real, then? I’m only imagining you?” Harry asked, aware
that the first real emotion beginning to swell in his chest was that of
great disappointment.

“Oh, I am very real, Harry. More importantly, not everyone could simply
have called me back such as you have done. Your need must be very
great,” Dumbledore said solemnly.

“I’m confused, sir,” Harry said, shaking his head. He didn’t even know
how he’d got here, never mind how he’d called Dumbledore. There had to
be some kind of mistake.

“I am aware of that,” Dumbledore said, smiling gently. “Let me offer as
much in the way of an explanation as I can. Miss Granger may have more
of the answers you seek. I have been watching over you for nearly a
year now, and I cannot tell you how proud I am of your

“I killed him,” Harry said flatly. Should he be proud of that fact?
Harry really wasn’t certain. It had only taken two words – Avada
Kedavra – the very same two words that had once vastly altered the
course of Harry’s life. He’d never thought the day would come that he
would be the one to say those words. It seemed fate loved to toy with
him that way.

He swallowed, willing the numb feeling to return. Truth be told, he
didn’t feel like celebrating, or crying over his losses, or anything
except indifference. He was hollow inside.

“Yes. You did what you had to do, and the Wizarding world and all of
your friends will be the better for it,” Dumbledore said gently,
watching Harry with those all-knowing eyes.

“You’ve been watching me?” Harry asked, his voice barely a whisper.

“I have. I have waited and delayed fully passing over, while I tried to
guide you this past year. Now, it is finally my time to cross into the
afterworld,” Dumbledore replied, his eyes shining eagerly.

“You’re leaving again?” Harry asked in a dull, flat tone. That cold
dispassion had resettled, and Harry was glad for it if it meant that he
didn’t have to feel another loss.

Dumbledore gently rested his hand on Harry’s forearm, squeezing it
gently. “I departed your world a year ago, Harry. That hasn’t changed.
Most likely, I could have survived that potion. I may have even been
able to thwart Professor Snape despite my surprise, but I would have
been a frail, useless liability to you. It was better this way, and I
have been able to be of greater service.”

“Greater service?” Harry asked, his curiosity getting the better of

“Am I right in surmising that you knew after Miss Weasley tossed you
the Snitch in the Death Room, and you had uttered the Killing Curse that you had created your own Horcrux?” Dumbledore asked, his eyes
piercing into Harry’s.

“Yeah,” Harry replied, shrugging. “I worked that part out myself.”

“Miss Granger came to me several weeks ago with her idea, and I thought
it quite splendid that she had worked out so much of the detail. I
merely did a bit of tweaking, as I understood some of the Romanian text
better than she. The Snitch, however, was my idea for the item to be
used as your Horcrux. I told Miss Granger how to charm it to make it
fly directly into the Veil. Rather brilliant, if I do say so myself,”
Dumbledore said, smiling.

“So, I’ve lost part of my soul? Is that why I feel so empty?” Harry
asked, his throat feeling very tight.

“No,” Dumbledore said quickly. “You’ve lost none of your own soul,
Harry. When Miss Granger told you to focus on the love that you felt
for others, it is because that great abundance of love that you hold
within your heart shielded your soul from splitting. The piece of
Voldemort’s soul that was attached to your own like a malignant growth
could not understand that great love. It was that piece that was split
off while your own soul remained whole.”

“So…the soul is split by murder, but love can shield the soul?” Harry
asked, feeling very off-kilter.

“Precisely,” Dumbledore replied. “I think you will find that the
Dementors are less likely to be as drawn to you now that there is only
one soul within you. The other – the evil presence forced upon you – is

Harry shook his head, feeling very confused. His brain was still having
trouble keeping up with the evening’s events, and one great piece of
the puzzle still baffled him. “How did I manage to get the Killing
Curse to work against Voldemort?” he asked. “He was definitely off his
game tonight. I shouldn’t have been able to do that. He was much more
powerful than me.”

“You are again underestimating your greatest strength, Harry, and Tom’s
utter lack of that same quality,” Dumbledore replied quietly.

“Love again?” Harry asked, almost wearily.

“When you were dueling Tom earlier, each time you struck, you uttered
the name of one of Tom’s former victims. Why did you do such a thing?”
Dumbledore asked.

Harry shrugged, remembered the great fury he’d felt at the way
Voldemort killed so casually. “He thought there was no consequence –
that they didn’t matter. Did you know that I found Bertha Jorkins’
bones scattered in the woods as if she was nothing?”

“Which is, most likely, exactly as Voldemort saw her. But you buried
her, and then struck back for her to let him know that she wasn’t
forgotten – that she did matter. You did the same for Cedric and Frank Bryce and every other person you named. Their spirits understood this
and sang your praises for it,” Dumbledore said gravely.

“Pardon?” Harry asked, thoroughly confused.

“The voices, Harry,” Dumbledore said. “Did you not hear the voices
rising behind the Veil?”

Harry’s mouth opened and closed several times before he could form the
words. “I did…but I didn’t think anyone else could. Snape said those
voices come from trapped souls behind it,” he said, squeezing his eyes
shut lest they betray him.

“They are not trapped,” Dumbledore said firmly, a faint trace of anger
in his voice. “The Veil is merely a gateway to the Afterworld. Not
everyone can hear the voices, however. It has nothing to do with
magical talent – only those in the mortal world who are pure of heart
are able to hear them.”

“But Voldemort heard them. You just said he did,” Harry insisted.

“As in most magical equations, the opposite also holds true,”
Dumbledore said, smiling apologetically. “Those with a heart lacking of
all compassion can also hear the voices, only they are frightened and
alarmed by them, as you saw with Tom. He could hear the voices rising
and detected the light growing, and he knew death was nearby. Death
frightened Tom more than anything else, and in the end, it was your
dead loved ones who enabled you to defeat him.”

“So, what happens now?” Harry asked softly, uncertain of the answer he

“The battle is still raging at Hogwarts, although the Death Eaters have
begun to notice the Dark Marks on their arms disappearing, and that
Voldemort is gone from their minds. They are frightened and confused
which has made them rather rabid. A dangerous situation, but I suspect
the Order will have it contained shortly,” Dumbledore replied, closing
his eyes and creasing his forehead, as if he was looking somewhere

“And the losses?” Harry asked, his stomach clenching.

“That remains to be seen and is something you will have to learn when
your body awakens,” Dumbledore said sadly. “Which brings me to my next
point…you need to give your spirit time to heal, Harry.”

Harry blinked uncomprehendingly, staring at the Headmaster with a
puzzled expression. His spirit? Certainly his body was injured, but
Madam Pomfrey had never had any difficulty patching him up in the past.

Dumbledore sighed, steepling his fingers beneath his chin. “Your body
is broken, and your recovery will be slow. I suggest you use the forced
confinement to allow your emotional recovery.”

“I’m fine,” Harry mumbled, shifting away from Professor Dumbledore.
Dumbledore’s eyes rose to his hairline, and he said quietly, “Harry,
the barrenness of our surrounding says differently. I suggest you allow
Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger and particularly your Miss Weasley to assist
you. They are your greatest strength. You do them a disservice to shut
them out.”

Harry couldn’t bear to look into those sad blue eyes, so he looked at
the fire instead, holding his tongue. He tried to hide the flicker of
irritation that rose within him. He’d done what was expected of him.
What more did Dumbledore want?

“It is not meant as a criticism, merely an observation,” Dumbledore
said gently, and Harry felt his annoyance fade. “You have been forced
from one life-threatening situation to another since your arrival at
Hogwarts. You have spent the better part of a year preparing for this
battle and what you fully expected to be your own demise. I expect it
will take some time for your mind to adjust before you are able to
relax and live life to its fullest.”

“It’s over now,” Harry mumbled.

“Killing not only takes the life of the victim, but it takes a part of
the killer, as well,” Dumbledore said solemnly. “For you, I hope the
only part it takes is the part that ought never to have been there in
the first place. You’ve fulfilled your destiny in regards to Tom,
Harry, but not your destiny in regards to you. You are a young man with
a bright and glorious future ahead of you, if you allow yourself the
happiness to experience it.”

Harry sat his jaw firmly and continued to stare at the fire, willing
the lump in his throat to go away.

“You deserve that. Miss Weasley deserves it; and your friends deserve
it. This one last burden rests on your shoulders because they won’t
fully allow themselves to heal until you do,” Dumbledore said, smiling

“I’ll try, sir,” Harry whispered.

“That is all I can ask of you,” Dumbledore said, the sparkle finally
returning to his eyes. “And with Miss Weasley’s determination, Mr.
Weasley’s stubbornness, and Miss Granger’s cleverness, I am certain it
will be enough.”

Harry felt a slight grin tugging at the corner of his lips. He
certainly did have the best of friends.

“What about Draco?” he asked suddenly. “What will happen to him? He
actually came through in the end.”

“Mr. Malfoy also has a long and difficult road ahead of him, and like
yours, his future is unclear,” Dumbledore replied. “As with you, the
support of loved ones is a key factor. I suppose an olive branch of
friendship would go a long way.”

Harry shifted uncomfortably. “I’ll try, sir. He’s not the easiest
person to be friendly toward.”
“That he is not,” Dumbledore replied, chuckling. “I think it will be
beyond your capabilities to do so, at first, anyway. As I said, your
recovery will be longer than you expect. I was thinking perhaps your
cousin, Dudley, and Mr. Malfoy should be encouraged to continue their
friendship once they return to their lives. They each need a friend and

“Dudley?” Harry asked, blinking in surprise. “Oh, they make a pair, all

“Yes, they certainly do,” Dumbledore said, smiling. “Put the bug in
Miss Weasley’s ear. If she knows it’s something you desire, she’ll move
heaven and earth to make it happen. There are those in residence within
my realm that fear that girl’s temper.”

Harry chuckled fondly, imagining the heaven’s quailing under Ginny’s
Bat-Bogey Hex.

“Where is your realm, sir?” he asked curiously, his stomach clenching
painfully once again.

“The Afterlife, Harry. Since I’ve been here, I’ve had the opportunity
to speak with your parents and Sirius. They’ve all been watching over
you. They are so proud of how far you’ve come, and the life you’ve made
for yourself,” Dumbledore said, watching Harry closely. Taking a deep
breath, he added, “Although they did give me an earful regarding some
of my choices towards you.”

Harry had to blink quickly to remain in control of the emotions that
suddenly washed over him. His mum, dad, and Sirius had been watching
him. That simultaneously filled him with both pride and a great sense
of loss, and he wasn’t certain what to say.

“Your mother, in particular beams with pride when she speaks of you,
and the man you’ve become. Your father is pleased with your choice in
friends, and Sirius’s comment had something to do with the phrase
‘smokin’ redheaded birds’,” Dumbledore said, smiling fondly.

Harry chuckled, swiping absently at the corner of his eye.

“I also had the chance to speak with Remus, Tonks and Percy as they
arrived. None of them regretted their decision. You haven’t let their
sacrifices be for naught. All of them were among the voices you heard
beyond that Veil, and all of them have been avenged,” Dumbledore said

“So…what happens now?” Harry asked, swallowing the painful lump in his

“You shall return to your body, and the door will close once again. I
shall travel beyond and continue my grand adventure,” Dumbledore said,
smiling benignly.

“Do you have to go now?” Harry asked, alarmed. His heart began to thud
painfully once again. He didn’t want Professor Dumbledore to leave so soon after he’d found him again. He wasn’t certain he could bear the
loss a second time, but couldn’t bring himself to say it out loud.

It appeared he didn’t have to, because Dumbledore gazed at him with
those kind, understanding eyes. “Eventually, but I can stay until you
feel ready to return alone,” he said softly.

“What if I never feel ready?” Harry asked, looking away.

“Then I shall have to give you a slight push. After all, Miss Weasley
would come after me if I kept you from her for long,” Dumbledore said,

“That she would,” Harry replied, a reluctant grin tugging at his lips.

“She loves you, Harry. Allow yourself to love her in return. I would
like to see you return to school, not only to finish your education,
but to have one year to live as a normal adolescent before real life
commences. Although, I daresay you have enough detentions under your
belt, I would like to see you earn a few for doing things that will
give Minerva some additional gray hairs,” Dumbledore said, his eyes
twinkling merrily.

“I suppose there are a few broom cupboards that Ginny and I haven’t
discovered yet,” Harry conceded cheekily.

“Excellent,” Professor Dumbledore replied before raising his head and
tilting it to the side as if listening to something at a great distance

“Sir?” Harry asked curiously.

“Miss Granger and Miss Weasley are perplexed over where to take you,
and what to do with Tom’s remains,” Dumbledore replied.

Harry looked away. “Hogwarts is still under attack, and both the
Ministry and St. Mungo’s are under Death Eater control.”

“That is how it appears,” Dumbledore said mysteriously, waving his hand
in the air.

“What did you do?” Harry asked.

“While it is true that Tom’s legion has been withholding care at St.
Mungo’s, a large number of the Healers have banded together and have
been running a renegade hospital, of sorts. The same is true at the
Ministry. As Kingsley and Alastor have rounded up the Aurors and formed
their own resistance, there are a number of Ministry workers who have
done the same.”

Harry sat up straighter, feeling the first ray of hope for the
Wizarding population.

“Sometimes, it takes a great tragedy for the bravery within some people
to show,” Dumbledore said softly. “I have planted a thought within
Leticia Warbanks’ mind to inspect the Department of Mysteries.”
“Leticia Warbanks?” Harry asked.

“She is a Ministry worker from the Department of Magical Accidents and
Catastrophes. She has been the focal point for the small resistance at
the Ministry. She will know which Healers can be trusted at St.
Mungo’s,” Professor Dumbledore replied.

“The Wizarding world will have to go through a long, and – I hope –
thorough period of reconstruction. I hope people like Leticia, Alastor,
Kingsley and Arthur are heavily involved for the betterment of all,”
Professor Dumbledore said. “Unfortunately for you, I do not see the
public’s interest in you fading any time soon.”

“We all have our part to play, I suppose,” Harry said, shrugging.

“A very mature attitude,” Dumbledore said, beaming.

Harry really wasn’t listening very closely to what Professor Dumbledore
was saying. A new thought had occurred to him.

“Sir…if I imagined you here, could I imagine anyone else that I wanted
to see?” he asked, barely daring to breathe.

Dumbledore’s eyebrows rose, and his piercing blue eyes peered over his
half-moon spectacles. “I cannot answer that query. Nothing has ever
gone exactly according to the rules when it comes to you. Perhaps you
should take a chance.”

Harry swallowed heavily. His first thought was to try and talk with his
parents, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. He’d had plenty
of conversations with them as a child when he was locked alone in his
cupboard, but he’d never actually expected them to answer. He wasn’t
certain if he could stand the disappointment if it failed.

He moved his lips but was unable to utter a sound. He looked at
Professor Dumbledore helplessly.

“I wish it was something I could do for you, Harry, but it is not. This
is your mind, and only your thoughts will be heard,” Dumbledore said

Harry swallowed again, forcing his racing heart to calm. His nostrils
flared slightly before he shut his eyes tightly and let his mind
conjure an image of his godfather. For so long, he’d banished from his
thoughts the image of Sirius’s face and the sound of his bark-like
laugh, unwilling to feel the pain of loss. Now, however, he called
forth scattered memories of the closest thing to a parent he’d ever

Harry opened his eyes slowly, and his breath caught in his throat as he
saw a familiar swagger emerging from the gray fog. As the figure
walked, his shaggy, shoulder-length hair fluttered as the area around
him formed into a Quidditch pitch.

“What the bloody hell is going on?” Sirius demanded, sounding very
irritated. “One minute I was chatting up a delectable blonde bird with very little between her ears aside from peroxide, and the next minute
I’m in the middle of nowhere - alone.”

“Sirius,” Harry choked.

Sirius stopped, frozen to the spot, squinting. He put his hand to his
forehead, shielding his eyes. “Harry?” he whispered, astonished.

Unable to stop, Harry leaped from the chair and barreled onto the
pitch, flinging himself into Sirius’s arms and clutching him fiercely.

“Harry,” Sirius said, wrapping his arms around Harry’s shoulders and
pulling him tight, pounding him exuberantly on the back. “What the…
Where are we? Did you- oh, no,” Sirius said, pulling away and staring
at Harry, horrorstruck.

“No, Sirius. Harry is still among the living, and his body remains back
in the Ministry,” Dumbledore said, placing a steadying hand on Sirius’s

Sirius visibly relaxed, shutting his eyes tightly for a moment before
he threw back his head and released a pent-up bark of laughter.

Harry kept his face buried in Sirius’s shoulder, unable to make his
fingers release their grip. He stood there, shaking, as he clung to his
godfather and wondered how he could possibly pull out of this with his
pride somewhat intact.

“Why don’t you pull up a chair, Sirius?” Dumbledore offered, giving
Harry a moment to collect himself before he had to speak.

Never releasing his grip on Harry, Sirius maneuvered them both over to
a couch, where he pulled Harry down beside him. Another cup of hot
chocolate had appeared on the table, and Sirius took a shaky sip.

“Bugger, Harry, couldn’t you have at least laced it with some
Firewhisky? This has been quite a shock for an old man,” Sirius said,
grinning. “So, tell me – what’s happened to make this visit possible?
I’ve never heard of anything like it done before. Have you got yourself
knocked out again, Squirt?”

Harry suddenly found his voice, and he turned accusing eyes on
Professor Dumbledore. “I thought you said they’d been watching me,” he
said, his voice croaky.

“I have been keeping an eye on you, but not twenty-four seven,” Sirius
said, rolling his eyes. His gaze flickered back and forth between Harry
and Dumbledore. “Does this have anything to do with Voldemort?”

“He’s in your realm now,” Harry said softly, digging his nails into his

Sirius blanched. “You did it?” he asked, holding his breath.

“Yeah,” Harry replied, shifting uncomfortably.

Sirius leaped up, pumping his fists in the air and whooping with glee.
“Sirius, I think that Harry is not quite ready to celebrate yet,”
Dumbledore said, gently resting his hand on Harry’s shoulder.

Harry kept his eyes firmly on the ground, staring at the dragon-hide
boots Sirius wore and trying not to think about anything.

“What? Why not?” Sirius asked, dumbfounded. He used his finger to raise
Harry’s chin. “You’re finally free. You’ll no longer be hunted. No more
Dursleys, or guards, or any of it.”

Harry forced himself to meet Sirius’s earnest gaze, his stomach
churning unpleasantly. “I know. It just… It’s not real yet,” he said

An incredulous expression crossed Sirius’s face. “Harry, think of all
the parties. Every bloke in Britain will want to buy you a drink, and
every witch will want to-”

“I am certain Harry is fully aware of that, Sirius. He is merely asking
for some time to adjust,” Dumbledore said, interrupting Sirius before
he could voice the possibilities that were blatantly on his mind.

“Right,” Sirius said, clearing his throat. “Besides, you already seem
to have your hands full with the one witch you’ve got. She’s a looker,
that one.”

The corner of Harry’s mouth quirked. “I’ll be certain to pass that on,”
he said dryly.

“So, how long have we got?” Sirius asked.

“I would surmise not very long,” Dumbledore said. “Once the Healers get
hold of Harry’s physical body, they will most likely ply him with
potions that will break this connection. Besides, Harry has friends and
family waiting for him in the land of the living.”

“He’s got friends and family right here!” Sirius said hotly.

“Would you choose to keep him here, then, Sirius?” Dumbledore asked,
tilting his head to the side.

“What? No. I want him to live…I just want some time with him. I was
robbed of that time twice already,” Sirius said, clearing his throat.

“What if I want to stay?” Harry asked, leaning into Sirius. He’d only
just got him back; he didn’t want to think about having to leave. He
didn’t know if his heart could stand it again.

“Your future is in the present, not the past,” Dumbledore insisted, the
twinkle in his eyes dimming.

Sirius shook him roughly, looking as if he wanted to hit something.
“He’s right, Harry. Merlin, it’s good to see you, but everything I did
– I did it for you – because I wanted you to live. I may be childish,
but I won’t take that chance from you now that you finally have it.”
Harry swelled, ready to argue his point. He was no longer a child and
could make his own decisions. He was beginning to resent both Sirius
and Dumbledore trying to tell him what was best for him.

Sirius diffused his anger when he laid a gentle hand on the side of
Harry’s face. “Don’t worry about me. I’m good. I see your father and
Remus every day, and when your mother lets us, we relive our glory

“Perhaps there are others you’d like to see before your time here is
through,” Dumbledore said gently.

Keeping a firm hand on Sirius, unwilling to let him go lest he
disappear, Harry again shut his eyes and this time, thought of Remus.
He still didn’t feel quite ready to see his parents. He remembered how
Remus had taught him to conjure his first Patronus, and the determined,
unwavering looks he and Tonks had shared before they had died.

Harry opened his eyes in time to see a classroom taking shape not far
from the common room. It was one of the Defense rooms, and held a wide
variety of Dark creatures. Before Harry could call to the two figures
he saw seated in the classroom, Sirius did it for him.

“Remus, you old dog! Harry’s here,” Sirius said, shaking Remus’s hand
and pointing at Harry. “Hiya, Tonks.”

“Harry,” Remus said, inhaling deeply. He looked much as Harry
remembered him, perhaps a little less gray. Tonks’s hair was its
traditional bubblegum pink, and she wore a red Weird Sisters T-shirt
that clashed horribly with the color.

Harry shut his eyes, breathing through his nose as images of Remus’s
sacrifice filled his mind. “What did you have to go and do that for?”
Harry asked, his voice choked. He shook Remus’s hand before pulling him
firmly into an embrace. He then turned and also hugged Tonks.

“Hiya, kid,” Tonks said brightly. “How are you feeling?”

“A little shell-shocked,” Harry admitted, shrugging.

“I bet,” Tonks replied, grinning as she leaned over to ruffle his hair.
“You did it.”

“We saw what happened earlier with Voldemort, Harry,” Remus said
gently. “You were magnificent.”

“I couldn’t have done it without your help,” Harry said, again staring
at his feet. “Professor Dumbledore told me it was you and some of
Voldemort’s other victims that distracted him, and Dumbledore and
Hermione came up with the idea to create my own Horcrux.”

Remus didn’t reply until Harry was finally forced to raise his eyes to
meet Remus’s steady gaze. “I don’t care whose idea it was – you were
magnificent,” he said. “Not only did you get Voldemort, but Severus is
now on his way to Azkaban.”
“You got Snivellus? You didn’t tell me that part,” Sirius said, almost
accusingly. “How could I have missed that?”

“You missed everything. Where have you been?” Tonks scolded him.
“Lily’s beside herself.”

“He got him good, Padfoot,” Remus said, beaming. “You should have seen
it. Actually, young Ginny even gave him a whopper of a Bat-Bogey Hex
when he tried to attack Harry after it was all over.”

“You saw my mum?” Harry asked, stunned.

“He attacked him after?” Sirius yelped, tossing his head from side-to-
side as if deranged.

“We were with her and your dad during the battle. They’re both so proud
of you,” Remus replied, ignoring Sirius completely.

Harry nodded, feeling worried and somewhat apprehensive of this
overload of information.

“Hey! Why don’t you bring them here?” Sirius asked, still frowning.
“It’ll be like the party we always should have had.”

Harry felt as if his heart had stopped beating, and he looked away.
Something about the idea of seeing his parents terrified him, despite
the fact that it was what he’d always wanted. Everyone kept saying how
proud they were of him. What if the real thing didn’t measure up to all
the hype?

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