This chapter will perhaps be a bit confusing because of the massive use of Polyjuice. If I write something like "Harry/Travers", I mean "Harry under the guise of Travers".
Overall there are: Harry/Travers, Albus/Goyle and Cullen/Gibbon in the main chamber and Travers/Ted Tonks, Goyle/Remus Lupin and Gibbon/Auror Brinks among the secondary team (under Imperio for the bad guys).
Here comes the Cavalry (Part Two)
Voldemort's Lair – Main Chamber
Something was happening out there, something big.
Severus could feel it as did some of the others. Until now his eyes had been on Nagini, watching her, waiting for her to attack. So far she hadn't done it but her snake-eyes never left Harry/Travers. Merlin be praised, the Dark Lord was too caught up in his own speech to notice anything amiss. Fenrir Greyback however had stopped listening to the words of madness and raised his head, sniffing, listening, and ready to attack whoever presented himself as a target. They had known that his animalistic side, his unusual senses could prove a danger.
A scream of pain erupted from the corridor leading to the main entrance. Another one followed as did the sounds of battle, spells being cast and holes being blasted into walls – or the door. It shuddered once, twice, then with a mighty roar it exploded into the chamber, the wooden and metallic splinters imbedding themselves into the duo of guards standing there, pounds of flesh following; remains of the poor junior Death Eater that had stood in the way on the other side.
"ANDY!" Snape knew this face quite well, the voice of Ted Tonks. Should there be any doubt about his identity, Andromeda Tonks' scream instantly erased them: "TED! Go away, flee…"
Instead he tried to hurry into the chamber, ignoring that he and his four compatriots were vastly outnumbered. Sirius Black was there and Remus Lupin as well as two others, one of them apparently some relative of Black, sharing the hair and looks of him. Remus tried to stop Ted, his face showing defeat in the presence of the gathered masses, while Sirius and the others exchanged spells with more and more Death Eaters coming to their senses. The door of one of the two guard rooms opened and at least eight more Death Eaters, mostly unblooded juniors, stormed into the chamber to defend their lord.
Struggling against Lupin's grip, Ted sent two Cutting Curses against the Dark Lord who deflected them like child's play. His eyes were blinded with tears as he realized the futility of the attack. Contrary to his lord, Antonin Dolohov retaliated in force. The green light of a death curse, used disregarding the chance of killing one of his own men, raced towards the invaders and nearly hit Sirius' Black. For a moment Antonin's eyes widened. He was certain something had deflected his spell, if only for a few inches. It shouldn't be possible. A second Death Curse however hit its intended target. Snape's curse killed Ted Tonks instantly. His lifeless form crumbled to the ground under the wide eyes of his friends and the high-pitched scream of his now-widow Andromeda Tonks.
Sirius and Remus sent a couple of spells towards Ted's killer. Some of them he dodged, two others he deflected with a shield. Then he stepped behind one of the other Death Eaters and 'allowed' him to take the curse. With blood spraying in every direction, he went down. With Andy sobbing but unreachable, Ted dead on the floor, and a dozen Death Eaters storming towards them under the leadership of Fenrir Greyback and the manically screaming Carrow twins, Remus ordered the retreat, pulling his friend Sirius with him.
The fight in the chamber ended thirty seconds later. Fenrir and his team could be heard exchanging spells with Sirius' far smaller group. A few Death Eaters started to examine and treat the injured, mostly ignoring Ted Tonks after one of them confirmed his death and identity.
Severus looked around. It was hard to ignore the hate in Andy's eyes, even more than the very real revulsion in the look of Albus/Goyle. Contrary to Andy, Albus knew that it wasn't Ted Tonks who had just died but Travers under Polyjuice. Still he hadn't liked the idea of simply killing the man only to prove Snape's loyalty and to prepare the next step of Andy's rescue.
Even Travers deserves… yadda yadda yadda… no, he doesn't, Severus mused. The only thing he deserves is a clean and swift death.
Another look around. So much was happening at the same time. The Dark Lord was furiously whispering with Dolohov, presumably about how Tonks had been able to breach the defences. Rookwood was discussing something with Yaxley and Nott, the latter looking more ill by the minute. Thick beads of sweat were visible on his forehead now and he was very pale. Seven more members of the inner circle remained in the chamber, mostly keeping away from the Dark Lord not to arouse his anger further. Only a handful of guards were visible, two of them just walking towards the door of the second guard room. The door was still closed, something that disturbed Severus. The guards in that room should have reacted long ago, why didn't they?
Severus listened towards the exit. The sounds of battle had died down or at least the fight had apparently moved too far away. It was time for the next phase. He braced himself. Now or never. He closed his eyes for a moment, allowed his mind to walk back to happier times. Pictures were called into his conscious mind, pictures of his one and only friend. A smile, brilliant green eyes and a wild mane of red hairs…
I'm sorry, Lily. I betrayed you. I disappointed you. I'll try to make it up.
For a second he thought to see her smile increase, to watch her nod. Then, with a mighty exertion of his will, he pushed the pictures away and opened his eyes. He noticed Cullen/Gibbon watching him. Severus nodded.
The signal – time to act.
Voldemort's Lair – Corridors
"Don't run away, Cub," Fenrir Greyback snarled at the fleeing backs of Sirius' group. "We still have a score to settle, you traitor." He sent a tripping hex towards Goyle/Lupin and the man stumbled, ungracefully crashed to the ground. The other three stopped and tried to gain him a few moments to recover and stand up.
Only now it became clear to their pursuers that something was unusual about those three or at least about one of them. Sirius and one of his partners showered the Death Eaters with spells, killing two of them and injuring several more. The third fighter however was wearing a sword instead of a wand, a sword he used to deflect a Cutting Curse from Amycus Carrow and a Reducto – targeted at Sirius – from his sister Alecto. Fenrir Greyback however had no eyes for this. Something was wrong. This Remus smelled wrong. Fenrir Greyback wasn't simply another crazy Werewolf, not a simple brute but a real leader. He was an Alpha with special abilities, some gained through his own talent and experience, some bestowed onto him by his dark master. Among them was the ability to sense the Werewolf in others and this one wasn't a Werewolf. Someone was pretending to be Remus but why?
He had to be certain. In a swift move he rushed towards "Remus". Before he had a chance to react – his slowness another sign of him not being a Werewolf – Fenrir reached him, grabbed him with his left and shredded his chest with the right, claws extended – one of his dark lord's gifts: the ability to partially transform irrespective of the lunar phase.
"Remus," Sirius yelled, trying to continue the lousy spectacle. Fenrir kept "Remus" between him and the Blacks, while his claws painful slowly carved into the man's chest and ribbed his heart out. He knew the smell, but where?
Suddenly an alarm run through the facility. They were under attack. Fenrir whirled around, snarling. This was a distraction to allow others to intrude. The real Remus Lupin would be there. These were only pawn sacrifices, perhaps even comrades under Imperios. "Kill them all," he commanded the Carrows. He tossed the cadaver towards Sirius Black and used the moment of distraction to vanish into one of the corridors, gesturing some of the men to follow him. Only the Carrows and four of their men stayed to put the actors down.
"I'll get you, Remus Lupin," Fenrir snarled. "You'll pay for this."
Voldemort's Lair – Main Chamber
Everybody looked up as Andromeda Tonks somehow managed to escape her shackles and instantly stormed towards Severus Snape, trying to rip his throat in her pure rage. Nobody had noticed Snape's little sign or Cullen's use of his powers to disable the magical locks. It simply looked like the Death Eater shackling her to the stone had been incompetent. He would pay for this later – if there was a later.
Andy Tonks clawed at the man who had been a friend for years – or so she had thought until tonight. Her eyes were blind with tears of grief and rage. Severus Snape slowly stepped back, trying to defend himself without using magic. The assembly watched the silly event, laughed at Snape's mishap, even if their laughter was more one to ease their own tension. Only their Dark Lord looked unhappy. This should have been a night of triumph. Instead it faster and faster turned into one of embarrassment and utter failure.
"Severus," he yelled with a cutting voice. It was unwise not to attend to his master's wishes, it was dangerous to ignore his voice, and not to look him in the eye if he was speaking with you. However, Snape couldn't help it: the scenery behind his dark master was too thrilling. Nagini, mostly ignoring what was happening around, was now right in front of Harry/Travers, hissing, 'feeling' this weird human who smelled different, who felt familiar but strange too. Harry/Travers extended his right hand with the wand, pointing it towards the Death Eaters between him and Nagini's master. At the same time, his left hand slowly moved towards his back. Snape knew that his Gladius was hidden there. Nagini watched him carefully, curled up and ready to strike.
"Severus, stop this nonsense."
One moment all eyes were on him. The next moment everybody whirled around. Harry flicked his wand and a spell decapitated one of the guards. Nagini took this as her sign to retaliate and advanced. The motion was incredible fast but Harry was even faster. His left hand reappeared together with the Gladius. In one rapid move, trained a hundredfold, he attacked. The blade cut through scales, flesh and bones alike, separating head from body and killing snake and Horcrux in one deathly strike.
The Dark Lord whirled around, a tad unsteady on his feet, confusion, hate and fear on his face. He reached out with his senses, only to recoil as he realized the identity of his attacker at last.
Before he had a chance to react, several things happened. Harry jumped behind the stone slab, the same that had been used for Andy Tonks, and started to fling spells at the assembly. Albus/Goyle used the confusion to send a blasting hex towards the middle, hurling the bulk of enemies around like bowling pins. Pure chaos ensued.
Nobody gave a shit about what Snape was doing right now. Andy Tonks, as confused about the events as the others, had no chance to dodge the punch. It caught her on the solar plexus, nearly knocking her out and making it impossible to react, defend herself or simply scream as Snape dragged her away. Her helpless rage turned into confusion as the door opened into an adjacent corridor. Ignoring the utter confusion he left behind, Snape dragged her through the door and into the arms of Hermione Granger and Luna Lovegood. Without waiting, only acknowledging the girls with a small nod, he returned to the main chamber. His work wasn't done, his fate still undecided.
"Ted isn't dead." Andy who had tried to follow Severus, weak as she felt, stopped dead cold.
"Ted isn't dead," Hermione repeated, while Luna nearly closed the door, leaving it only a bit ajar.
"But I saw…" Tears shot into Andy's eyes.
"You saw what we wanted everybody to see." Hermione saw rage and utter relief fighting in the woman's heart and did the only thing possible: she embraced her. "He's alive, Andy. Ted is alive."
Slowly the Death Eaters overcame their confusion. One by one they started to fight back, dispersing as they realized the danger of standing together as an easy hit mass. More than a handful of them was already on the ground, stunned by Albus or cut down by Harry. The crossfire was deadly, but they had sheer numbers on their side – sheer numbers and a terrifyingly enraged Dark Lord who wanted to avenge the death of his pet. Nagini had been one of the few creatures – human or inhuman – he had actually liked and cared for. Add to this the fact of it being one of his Horcruxes and it was understandable that he did everything in his might to put this boy down.
Harry, who needed the abilities of his own body and not the unfamiliar reactions of 'Travers', used the antidote to cancel the Polyjuice. "Hello Tom," he greeted him with a wicked grin. "Long time no see."
"You…" They started to exchange spells, while most of the Death Eaters were occupied with Albus Dumbledore. He mostly used spells to incapacitate but he was a mighty opponent nonetheless. Albus wanted to engage Tom Riddle in a duel but knew that this wasn't his role in the battle. He had to buy Harry time – Harry and mostly Cullen.
While Harry duelled the Dark Lord, while Albus engaged a dozen Death Eaters in a furious all-way battle, and Severus was able to rescue Andy Tonks, a single Death Eater neared a corner of the room, ignored by the rest. There was his target, the warding stone of the whole facility, prepared by the Dark Lord himself, strengthened through the blood of a dozen sacrifices. He sensed the wickedness of the stone. Cullen/Gibbon felt dirty simply by being near it. It was pure blood magic, unhealthy, unclean and unholy. Slowly he drew his sword. He had to trust his compatriots to defend him should anybody try to attack him now. He had to concentrate on the task at hand.
"Andraste," he uttered, raising his sword. One or two Death Eaters started to notice him.
"Andraste," he whirled his sword around, the blade erupting in blue flames. One of the Death Eaters tried to cut him down, only to hastily dodge one of Albus' spells.
"Andraste," Cullen yelled, striking down with his burning sword, the blade smashing into magic and stone alike, breaking them in two halves, cutting them asunder. With a mighty roar the remains poured their magic into the area, causing a mighty wave of power to roll through the chamber. For a moment everybody stumbled and Cullen felt himself pushed to the ground. Groggy but happy he looked around, nodding towards Albus and Harry.
It was done: the wards were down.
Voldemort's Lair – Corridors
Sirius looked up from the seriously wounded Gibbon and exchanged a fleeting smile with his cousin Marius. "Did you feel it?"
Marius nodded slowly. "Something happened. I felt a wave of magic running through the corridor. Have they…?"
Sirius nodded eagerly, his grin broadening. "They did it, the wards are down."
"Hooray," Marius' cry of joy marred by was sheer exhaustion, for good reason. Around him Sirius counted seven corpses in all. Goyle, still looking like his friend Remus for another forty minutes, was among them as were four junior Death Eaters. Both Carrows had died as well. Alecto still had her mad grin on her lips, even in death. Amycus' face was burned too much to detect any emotion.
They had fought bravely, Sirius admitted. His left arm was broken as were several of his ribs. He only had enough power left to heal the most serious cuts in his side and thigh. Without Marius' ability to suppress magic and his swift reactions, Sirius would be dead right now. After hitting Amycus in the face with an elemental flame thrower spell, he hadn't been fast enough to dodge the ambush attack from one of the sidekicks. The poor sod's right arm was lying somewhere about now, cleanly amputated at the elbow thanks to Marius' blade – the same blade that had broadened Alecto's mad grin when Marius thrusted it through her screaming face.
Sirius looked up. Marius didn't look any better. There was blood all over his clothes and Sirius had no idea how much of it belonged to him. "We should go help Harry." It was more desire than actual ability to go through with the idea. His legs were simply unable to support him anymore.
Marius nodded, struggling to keep his eyes open. "We'll go in a minute, only one moment of gathering our strength."
"Yeah, one minute only," Sirius smiled back.
Voldemort's Lair – Entrance Chamber
Utter chaos and mayhem – there was no other way to describe the situation in the area that could generously be called an entrance chamber. Actually it was a horseshoe-shaped, upwardly open area with three doors leading into a set of rooms. The middle door was really a trap, as Snape had told them. Using it would cause a massive explosion in front of it. The right one was usable but you had to be careful: a couple of flagstones leading to it were trapped too. Because of the sheer number of new Death Eaters, some soft-hearted older comrade had marked them, but the marks were small enough that you had to go slow and careful. Only the left entrance was free of any traps and usually used by the Inner Circle. Snape however, had used the right one for the last few times and sprinkled a potion on the trapped flagstones, a potion invented by the twins.
The bulk of Aurors – minus the group of Towers who took to the air immediately after their arrival and a handful staying with the medics – stormed towards the gate, showering it with widespread Reductos, mostly to force the guards into cover. At the same time, they knew this would set off the alarm and hopefully reduce the pressure on the assault team. Amelia and Kingsley, like the rest of the team, had been immensely grateful as the wards went down and the whole facility became visible. Perhaps the attack wouldn't turn into a complete disaster now.
Three quarters of the Aurors advancing towards the entrances stopped and closed their eyes. The remaining Aurors – mostly belonging to the ground team of Senior Auror Brinks – continued their attack and hurled a dozen flasks into the entrance area. Most of them contained either Solar Powder, an ugly mix of chemicals that caused a short massive flash, or a choking gas. Both wouldn't knock the guards out but occupy them for a few precious seconds.
Three hurlers however used a different kind of missile: vials containing the second component of the twins' potion. While the flashes went wild and blinded the guards – as well as Brinks' Aurors – and the gas was distributed all over the entrance rooms, the last three vials hit their target and seconds later small smoke columns appeared over the trapped flagstones, allowing the more than thirty remaining attackers to rush into the facility.
The bulk of the attacking force hit the doors. Reductos smashed them into pieces, filling the air with wooden splinters. Arranged three man squads, protecting each other with Protego spells, stormed through the doors.
And then the real fight began.
Voldemort's Lair – Main Chamber
"THERE IS NO DARKNESS IN THE LIGHT OF ANDRASTE!"
The shock of realization, that Cullen had broken the wardstone beyond repair, that the facility was visible and unprotected, had barely been handled by the present Death Eaters, as Cullen invoked the sheer power of his belief and soul to call down a chamber filling column of dazzling light. While Voldemort and Dumbledore barely felt it and stronger wizards like Harry, Severus and a few inner circle members were only stunned for a few seconds, it dazed the junior members long enough to equalize the numbers somewhat in favour of the assault team.
Ten seconds – fifteen steps – four strikes – three heads flying – the last target went down as well, but only wounded and unconscious. He had been able to recover in time and moved his head at the last moment just enough not to share the fate of his brethren.
"Put him down!" Cullen yelled. It didn't need any explanation. With a curt nod, Harry started to throw spells at Voldemort's flank, supporting Albus in his attack. In the meantime a yelling and screaming dervish of steel and light started to run amok among the Death Eaters. The younger ones struggled to keep away, not to be near this deathly blade, while the older ones started to concentrate their curses on him. Dodging one spell, deflecting the next with his sword and answering to the hit of a third with an angry grunt – Cullen seemed unstoppable.
Snape however noticed a different danger. Two of the older members of the circle, two of the stronger and more intelligent ones, apparently decided to ignore their master's command and kill Harry on their own. Antonin Dolohov and Yaxley organized a two-pronged attack on the boy, moving around to get to his flanks without endangering themselves to the other's attacks. Only Yaxley was in his line of sight, clear enough to dare casting a spell. Without a second thought, Severus Snape rushed towards the boy. With every second step he hurled a spell towards Yaxley. They didn't accomplish much damage but at least prevented him from hitting Harry in the back.
Three steps – Dolohov used a Protego to shield himself from any interruption.
Two steps – Dolohov had only eyes for Harry and waved his wand. Severus recognized the wave he had taught the man, the spell he had been so proud of.
One step – Snape yelled a Reducto that shattered Yaxley's shield and pushed him into the wall. Dolohov stopped the motion and five pale blades of magical energy raced towards the boy.
Zero – Harry only saw the dark shadow at the last moment. Before he had a chance to react, he was pushed away and he had a good look at five blades smashing into the shadow, spraying him and the ground around them with hot blood.
Feeling dazed he stared at the well-known face of the man he had hated for so long, the man he hadn't completely forgiven for the deeds of his youth. The face was even paler than usual but he looked… proud, even relieved.
"Traitor!" The yell alarmed Harry. Over Snape's fallen body he saw Dolohov sneer in their direction before he raised his wand another time. Without a second thought, Harry reacted.
"Lancea!" The spell was too fast and accurate to dodge, too strong to be deflected by the already fading shield. It smashed through the defence and Dolohov's face, created a hole in his head that didn't belong there and didn't look healthy. He collapsed, without another sound.
Dolohov was dead, Hermione avenged, and Harry rescued – but at what price?
Voldemort's Lair – Entrance Chamber
The confusion and mayhem was incredible. The teams of Kingsley and Tonks had departed as soon as possible, taking Hestia Jones and Remus Lupin with them. Amelia's team however met far more resistance than expected. Being led by a coward but cunning Scabior, they used every advantage, every knowledge of the terrain and every ward and trap, to slow them down.
Amelia heard the sounds of fighting from other areas of the facility and could only hope that the other teams were able to do their part of the battle plan. She knew that Ben Granger and his small group, consisting of Bill Weasley and two experienced Aurors, was eager to get away.
To her right, Filius Flitwick was fighting like a little Yoda. For a moment Amelia smiled as she remembered the film she had been forced to watch by little Susan. Now she understood the comparison. Filius was jumping back and forth, doing flips and summersaults, while showering the Death Eater guards with spells of all kind.
To her left, Minerva tried to reach Scabior. His death would certainly help disorganize the defence. She just battled two guards with the help of Molly Weasley, while Scabior used the momentary relief to sidestep them and retreat into the next room. However, in doing this, he opened a side-path for Ben. Hermione's father, despite feeling his restlessness grow with every minute, ordered his men to advance. Bill glanced in Amelia's direction and shrugged helplessly, before he followed him, the duo of Aurors taking side positions.
Amelia had no time to ponder about them. A couple of spells were hurled towards her and the group around her. She deflected one and saw another one being stopped by a gleaming blade. Argus Filch grunted, pearls of sweat running down his face. He was clearly exhausted, but he looked prouder… taller. Hopefully he'll survive, Amelia mused, before concentrating on her foes again. Hopefully I'll survive this, too.
Ben Granger would never know how close he came to death in that moment. Running down the corridor, Bill and the two Aurors struggling to keep up, he had no idea that Fenrir Greyback and six Death Eaters were on collision course. Within the next twenty seconds they would meet each other. Three seconds later he would be dead, with no chance to survive the first attack of the vicious claws.
However, it never happened like this. One of the Death Eaters stumbled into Fenrir, who had suddenly stopped with a hiss. Angrily he punched the poor man into the face, knocking him out cold.
"What the…?" One of the others asked. Without any explanation, Fenrir Greyback whirled around and started to run back, even faster than before. The five still standing Death Eaters shared scowls and frowns about the weird behaviour, but silently obeyed. He would know what he did.
And Fenrir actually did know something the others had no chance of noticing. He had felt the death of Antonin Dolohov; it was one of the many precautions prepared by the experienced man. If Dolohov was dead, then his master was in actual danger. His survival was more important than anything else. Death Eaters could be recruited. Facilities could be prepared. However, there was only one master.
Hang in there!
Voldemort's Lair – Edge of the Main Chamber
Hermione Granger strangled a scream, but only barely, biting in her hand while tears shot into her eyes. Her eyes resting on Harry who just killed Dolohov and jumped away from Snape's unmoving body to dodge an ill-targeted Cutting Curse from Yaxley, who luckily was still recovering from Snape's onslaught. The girl felt Luna's iron grip on her arm.
"We can't rush in. It would distract them, kill them."
Hermione heard the pain in Luna's otherwise dreamy voice. She nodded, knowing that Luna had to feel the same as she, seeing the one she loved in there fighting for his life. Andromeda was still very weak. They couldn't simply leave her behind all alone.
"Help me with Severus." Luna commanded, trying to sound confident. Grabbing each other's hands, the girls concentrated on combining their spell power, forcing their magic to do something akin to an Accio spell but more controlled and most of all slower. Snape looked bad enough, hurling him through the chamber wouldn't do him any good. Similar to being under the effect of a Mobilicorpus, he slowly started to move, gaining a bit of tempo until he hovered towards them at walking speed. Luckily everybody was too occupied with the fight – mostly with Cullen still running rampage – to notice anything amiss.
The question only was: were they too late?
Voldemort's Lair – Entrance Chamber
The first sign of a bad fight turning worse was the sudden coldness. Their breath became visible as clouds of steam hanging in the air and the Aurors started to shudder.
The good part: most of the still mobile Death Eaters tried to get away from the Aurors and the fighting area.
The bad part: two doors opened and a new force entered the battle. The presence of the handful of Dementors was something Amelia Bones had expected – and prepared for. She had expected to see even more of them tonight and wondered if the rest of the cloaked folk had embraced the fear of Steward Cullen's light even more than she had hoped. The presence of the last two fighters entering the fray however was unexpected and unwelcome.
While her Aurors struggled to dodge the Dementors and to use the Patronus spell against them, the pale man on the left jumped Amelia's team far faster than should be possible. He dodged every single spell like the Aurors were moving in slow motion. In the hustle of the fight her men had to be careful not to hit each other, something this unnatural attacker made good use of.
"Vampire!" The loud warning resounded through the corridor. The attacker tossed two of her men into a group of Aurors, grabbed a third and snapped his neck like a twig.
One the other side an equally pale woman followed his lead, only she didn't dodge most spells but simply ignored them. Neither Reductos nor Cutting Curses seemed to have much effect on her and she made deadly use of her claws, ripping into chests and necks while wading through the corridor.
"Carnifex!" A whip of flaming energy erupted from the wand of Auror Andrews. He targeted one of the Dementors which got kept at bay by two Patronus creatures and unable to dodge the attack. The flame ripped through the dark cloak that encompassed his 'body' and burned parts of it away. An unholy scream filled the corridor and smoke erupted from the gashes. The scream was enough to stop the fight for a second and even stun the pair of Vampires. Not stopping for a victory dance, Andrews used the whip another two times to permanently get rid of the Dementor before he turned around, looking for his next target.
Amelia felt proud for a moment. It had been the right decision. With the Dementors still officially on the Ministry service rooster and the Carnifex spell prohibited to teach within the borders of Great Britain, she had used some connection with the Spanish DMLE to send a couple of her Aurors over to them. They had learned the spell over there, under the guise of taking a vacation. She knew there would be repercussions and heated discussions about the legality of her decision, but obviously it was worth it.
The pale Vampire had just killed another Auror – his third victim all in all – as he suddenly started to move slower than before. Filius had started to distract him with spells that were more brightness than real harm, and Minerva used the moment to transfigure the ground below him into quicksand. Losing the benefit of his superior speed, it was now possible to hit him with multiple spells at the same time. Every single one of them did only a tiny amount of damage but all together they were tearing him down. Filius, knowing of the Vampire's resistance to direct spells, started to target his clothes and shoes. Charming them to weigh tenfold, leather and cloth slowed him down even more.
For a second Amelia dared to hope, dared to smile. It was nearly a second to long. Someone yelled her name and Amelia allowed her battle reflexes to take over. Belying her age she went to the ground in a move making every drill-sergeant proud. Something jumped through the air where she had been a split-second before. With an angry snarl the female Vampire whirled around and attacked the person that had warned Amelia: Molly Weasley. Ignoring the deep cuts of Molly's curses, she advanced and slashed at her. The Weasley Matriarch tried to dodge but was too slow. The claws left deep cuts in her wand arm and the wood cluttered to the ground below the now powerless hand. The Vampire didn't stop at that and a shudder went through Molly's body under the onslaught. A vicious snapping sound announced the breaking of her left arm she had used to protect her face and neck. The strike was powerful enough to push her against the wall and onto her knees.
Amelia hit the Vampire in the shoulder with her strongest Reducto. The creature barely grunted. Andrews had just destroyed his third Dementor, the last two trying to flee the scene, and now advanced towards Molly. He would be too late. Amelia just started another spell, a Lancea to buy Molly some precious seconds, as she noticed someone moving towards the fighting pair. Out of nowhere a blade appeared and got thrusted through the Vampire's chest. Wicked claws clawed helplessly at the metal, while Argus Filch heaved her off the ground, whirled around and tossed her against the next wall. It must have been pure adrenaline that allowed him the feat. His blade, now free again, swung around in a wild circle. The Vampire lady, still dazed from the former attack, tried to dodge but was too slow. Making impressive imitations of gawking fishes, Amelia and her Aurors stared at the scenery as the Vampire's head flew through the corridor and hit first the wall and then the ground with sickening noises.
Suddenly feeling very old and exhausted, Amelia looked around. The fight was over for now at last. She had lost three men to Scabior's team and another five to the Vampire. Several more were seriously injured. She hastily sent signals to the other teams. She needed backup and fast. Most of all however, she needed a couple of medics in here. Ordering three Aurors to stay with Molly and the other injured, she gathered the rest of her men.
Way to go.
Voldemort's Lair – Edge of the Main Chamber
Severus Snape only stopped to scream as Luna made a break with her attempts at healing him. He was awake again, if only from the pain, but the blood loss was life-threatening. Nothing helped; no healing spell, no pressure to the wounds, and no bandage. At least three of the gashes were deep enough to kill him. The blood-replenish potions had eased his condition but only shortly. After the third they wouldn't help anymore and he would simply be running dry. In addition the wounds went deep enough to damage several organs as well. Cursed as they were, Luna had no way of healing them.
She had tried, really tried; she even invoked that energy she felt running in her veins since the ritual. It felt weird and foreign but very good at the same time. It was like liquid love running through her body, sappy as that sounded. But while she actually saw a positive effect, saw the wounds closing slowly, the treatment obviously caused immense pain to Severus.
"I'm sorry, Sev." Hermione's eyes widened at Luna's use of that nickname. Snape however seemed to like it. His expression was weird and Hermione wasn't certain he actually recognized the Ravenclaw. He smiled weakly and even tried to lift a hand to Luna's cheek. He didn't have enough power to do that, and Hermione sprang into action and supported the arm. Snape draw slow circles on Luna's cheek with his thumb.
"Don't be," he calmed her with a low, hoarse voice. "I expected it to be like this. Cullen warned me. I've spend too much time with Dark Magic. It's a part of me now. That spell – did you know I invented it?" Luna slowly shook her head, her eyes teary and with none of her usual joy. "I was so proud: my own spell. The Dark Lord praised me, told me how talented I was. It was everything I wanted: a place, respect, and friendship – I needed years to realize that nothing of it was for real."
"I can't help you, Sev. The magic of the curse is interwoven with your own magic. It dug its claws into your core. When I try to lift the curse, it's like I'm attacking your innermost part," Luna cried defeated.
"There was never salvation possible for me, not anymore," Snape accepted his fate.
"But why?" Hermione asked. "We were able to help Harry get rid of the scar."
"Yes," Snape smiled, looking like he would faint soon enough; succumb to the curse. "But I absorbed the darkness willingly; I choose it, unlike Harry. And he had something to anchor his soul to, something to live for. He has his destiny in this world, he has work to do. Harry has friends and he has you."
"You have friends too, Sev," Luna scolded him leniently.
"I know," Snape nodded barely noticeable. "And I'm thankful for that." He coughed, spitting spittle and blood. "At least I could do something good in the end. It's not enough to compensate for what I did, but it's a start. Doesn't the attempt count for something?" He asked, looking pleadingly.
"It does," Hermione answered softly. "Sometimes trying is all we can do."
"It counts," Luna agreed, her voice sounding unusual. "And it is enough, Severus Tobias Snape, son of Eileen Prince. You're forgiven."
Hermione was unable to decide where to look: into Snape's eyes, who were breaking now, as his spirit left his body, a content smile around his lips. Or into Luna's face who was far more than a simple teenager right now. Tears were streaming down Luna's face and onto Severus, but there was no fairy tale, no waking up from the slumber of death for the prince. There was only grief. At least until a new voice sounded through the corridor and shook them from their sorrow.
"How heart-rending this is. I feel like… vomiting."
Voldemort's Lair – Corridors
Ophelia Nott had waited long enough. When the alarm went off, she waited for the Death Eater guards around her to jump up and follow their leader Arriacus Carrow towards the door connecting their room to the main chamber. With a lazy wave of her wand and a whispered command word, her expression however betraying her tense nerves, she activated the potion in their bellies. Arriacus fought the effect long enough to look reproachful, before he followed his comrades to their resting positions on the ground. To be on the safe side, she used a Somnus spell on every one of them and gathered their wands. She wouldn't risk one of them somehow getting up again and cursing her back, oh no.
Realizing that there was still the possibility of someone taking a look into the room, she warded it, even going so far as to fuse the hinges. There was still the other door towards one of the neighbouring corridors to get away.
Should she run? Should she stay? What would be safer?
Undecided – and perhaps because of a little remaining concern about her brother Theo – Ophelia activated a one-way window, allowing her to look into the chamber. The fight was in full swing. Cullen cutting down one Death Eater after the next was certainly as impressive as Dumbledore and Potter battling the Dark Lord. Ophelia felt like cheering for them. Only if they won did she have a chance of survival.
With no small amount of guilt her eyes rested on the body of her brother Theo. There was no obvious wound, but equally no raising of his chest from breathing. Had she actually killed him? Was it a fratricide? Had it been the right thing to do? She pushed those questions aside. Pondering about them now would only get her killed.
For a while she continued to stare, to watch the scenes taking place in front of her. Only when Snape returned after rescuing Andy Tonks – something that Ophelia was surprisingly happy about – and was cut down by Dolohov's spell, did her mood change. Perhaps it was better to get away. The fight was still undecided and this was far too dangerous to stay around. Better leave and listen about the victory from far away.
Ophelia hesitated. I should call Flipsy, she mused. It would be the safest escape route. Still, she couldn't decide to do it. Something held her back and Andy Tonks was a big part in that. Ophelia had risked so much to rescue her. She couldn't simply leave her behind now. I have to take a look, she decided. Perhaps I can take her with me.
Happy with her decision, she turned around and walked towards the second door, the door leading towards the corridors. Stopping there, she took several deep breaths to calm her flattering nerves. Then, with a decisive motion, she opened the door.
Voldemort's Lair – Main Chamber
It was obvious: the end of the battle was drawing near, the grand finale.
Cullen was bleeding from a dozen small and medium-sized wounds. He was fighting an inner circle member Harry recognized from the pictures: Augustus Rookwood, a former Unspeakable and one of the Death Eaters freed one year ago. Assisting him were most of the thugs still able to do more than moan in pain or lie around unconsciously – or dead. Harry felt slightly ill by all the deaths they had caused but suppressed the feeling for now. Cullen was slower than before, but still deadly. More and more unable to avoid the attacks, he had to rely on his stunning resistance to most spells while deflecting the more serious ones with his sword – before he imbedded it into another Death Eater chest or hacked at an arm or leg.
Dumbledore looked incredibly exhausted. He struggled to put continual pressure on Voldemort while defending him and Harry against Yaxley and the trio of Death Eaters next to him. So far he hadn't been seriously injured but the long fight had taken its toll on his core and power reserves. He didn't move around very much anymore because every step was an exercise of controlling his stumbling. For a second Harry smiled. Albus Dumbledore had erred in the past and some of his decisions had been dubious at best. Tonight however he more than made up for this. He truly was a great wizard.
The only highlight of the situation was the simple fact that Voldy didn't look much better. Harry assumed that the loss of the Horcruxes, ending with Nagini's death a few minutes ago, had seriously weakened him. His last really strong spell had completely destroyed the stone slab, vanishing Harry's best cover. Since then he apparently concentrated on only occupying Albus and Harry while strengthening his own shields.
He's waiting for the others to put Cullen down, Harry realized. Hopefully this tactic proved to be an error.
Luckily, the fights all around in the facility seemed to continue and occupy the bulk of Voldemort's forces. Another dozen fresh fighters would end this fight within minutes otherwise. It equally protected Hermione and Luna. He had felt their magic as they extracted Snape's body from the main chamber.
I wonder if he's dead.
Harry shook his head. He had no time for those questions.
I have to take a bastard down.
Voldemort's Lair – Edge of the Main Chamber
Hermione narrowed her eyes and watched the man warily. From the corner of her eye she noticed how Luna very gently put Severus Snape down, not unlike a mother would put her baby to sleep. She brushed away her tears and straightened her shoulders, her eyes flaming now with hate and disgust. There was no doubt about the identity of Fenrir Greyback, Werewolf and murderous thug. He was feared for his vicious fighting style and his lack of compassion towards even the weakest of opponents and victims. He killed – or even worse: turned into Werewolves – men and women alike, adults, old men and children, Aurors or pregnant women. Everybody was the same in his eyes: prey.
"I hadn't expected to meet someone like you – so young and tender," he smirked lecherously.
I'm a lioness. I'm a lioness. Hermione whispered to herself as she stood up from her crouching position. She knew they barely had a chance to overcome Fenrir alone – and he wasn't alone. There was a quintet of thugs standing ready to put them down. Only fear of their leader kept them away for now.
"You're a bad dog, Greyback," Luna stated, her voice shockingly calm. Her confidence, despite it not having any detectable reason, was balm for Hermione's nerves. Despite her courage and fiery temper, she didn't want this fight, not now, not with Andy in danger of getting hit and not when Harry was trying to end the war in the next chamber. She couldn't allow him to get distracted, fearing for her. She couldn't allow him to hear…
Somehow her magic reacted and to her own surprise the door slammed shut behind them, prompting the Death Eaters to jump. It even startled Fenrir for a split-second, just long enough for Luna to cast a spell.
"Down!" The dog command – inherently a Compulsion spell – didn't really get through his strong mental defences. But it startled him, the sheer impertinence stunning him. Luna used the moment to banish Andy into the back of the corridor, away from the fight. In her condition and without a wand she was of no use to them. One of the Death Eaters even got hit by her feet and stumbled to the floor. The others drew their own wands and moved to get a free line of sight, while their leader squandered the time to hiss and snarl at the girl.
"Confundus Maximus!" Hermione's widespread confusion spell was worthless against Fenrir, but three of his thugs got dazed for a moment, one of them even tripping over his own feet. Crashing he came down, pushing one of his comrades out of the way and causing him to send his Cutting Curse against the ceiling instead of hitting Luna.
The blond girl looked like a mix of blessed angel and raging fury. Hermione wondered if this had been how Jean d'Arc had appeared to her soldiers. Sidestepping a Reducto to her chest, she pointed her wand towards one of the still battle-ready thugs.
"PACEM!" Hermione had never heard of that spell before but it obviously worked. The man was hit in the head and instantly stopped to fight. He lowered his wand and stepped back, looking around like he had never seen the others before and had no idea what he was doing here. Watching him, Hermione noticed something – someone – moving in the back of the room, moving towards Andy. The person was disillusioned but not very good. The outlines were still visible.
"Andy, watch out!" Her warning cry not only alarmed Andy, but also prompted one of the Death Eaters – the one that had tripped over his own feet – to turn around. Hermione had no time to watch what happened over there, because Fenrir now jumped to attack Luna with claws raised. She had no opportunity to notice how Ophelia Nott dropped her cover and mercilessly blasted the man apart with a triplet of Reductos. Equally she had no time to listen to the sounds from the corridor, the steps nearing in a hurry, caused by a group of men who had unknowingly followed Fenrir's steps for a while. No, she had to save Luna from these claws. She had promised Cullen to protect her and Luna was her friend.
"Caedo Disciplinae!" The simple fact that she hated the spell didn't mean she hadn't learned it. Now it sprang to her mind and she hoped it would – like Luna's silly compulsion – annoy him more than do its job. It was meant for disciplining unruly children – or dogs.
Regretfully it worked only too well. With a scream of pain and rage Fenrir turned around again and jumped her, too fast for Hermione to react. He pushed her against the wall, her head connecting viciously with the stone. For a moment she feared to lose consciousness, only to be grabbed by the Werewolf. A wild but strong motion of his left claw and immense pain filled the girl as her wand arm snapped. Broken and useless, it wasn't able to keep her wand, her only weapon, from dropping to the floor.
Hermione, through tear-blind eyes, saw Luna panicking, trying to help her. However, there were still three other Death Eaters around. At least someone was helping Luna, the identity unknown to Hermione as her consciousness slowly faded away, the edges of her sight already blackening.
Someone snarled and a powerful Cutting Curse sliced through the hip of the Death Eater threatening Luna. It nearly cut him in halves. Luna is safe, Hermione sighed happily while sinking to the ground. High above her was the raging face of Fenrir Greyback. His claws were on her shoulders, the tips piercing her skin.
Fuck, I had so many plans still, Hermione grumbled. Language girl, she heard her mother's voice and nearly giggled. Hermione heard a weird thudding sound.
Seconds ticked away and Fenrir still didn't move. Why doesn't he kill me? Hermione wondered. All around her it got more silent. Someone was yelling her name, the sound dampened. She knew that voice but wherefrom? And why does Greyback look so weird? He had something in his face, some kind of wart only it seemed metallic. Blood was dripping from the wart as well as from his mouth.
Someone pulled Fenrir away. Hermione hissed as his claws were ripped away from her skin.
Someone kneed down beside her, someone with a crossbow in his hands.
Funny, she thought, Dad has such a crossbow too.
Everything went black.
Voldemort's Lair – Main Chamber
The sword arm pumped back and forth. Cullen felt his strength fading, his body succumbing to sheer exertion. However, he wasn't allowed to stop now. Grunting under the impact of two further spells, he grabbed the man he had just run through with his sword and tossed him towards Rookwood before jumping the man to the right and decapitating him. He glanced to the main fight. Both Harry and Dumbledore had each taken down one of their foes. Yaxley was still standing, if barely, and the last man of his group tried to stay away, justified feeling hopelessly outclassed by the other combatants.
Voldemort seemed to realize the changes too. He got more restless, more aggressive. The team that had been hunting Cullen was dangerously decimated now, with only Rookwood left as a serious opponent. The quartet supporting the Dark Lord nearly was no more. It had been an error to send Fenrir away with nearly half of his men, Voldemort knew that now. He side-stepped Harry's next attack and blasted the door to the second guard room away. He's grasping at straws. The sight behind the doorframe was surprising but welcome: six, perhaps eight Death Eaters were lying around in there with no obvious wounds. Who could have taken them down?
Dumbledore knocked Yaxley out with his next spell and started to increase his spellfire against Voldemort. Harry instantly knew that this was Albus' last ounce of energy, pouring into this hellish staccato. Spell after spell crashed into Voldemort's shield and still it didn't buckle. The door opened to the main corridor. Whoever entered, he accomplished one thing: to distract Voldemort.
Without reasoning, without a real plan, Harry started to run. His legs pumped, his eyes only on his target. Albus' next Cutting Curse caused a screeching sound as it hit the shield and Voldemort actually staggered. He recovered just in time to notice the new foe advancing and turned around. Spells from three more wands smashed into the shield. Harry noticed Luna's blond hair and some Weasley red. Where was Hermione?
Somewhere behind a man screamed, more gurgled, as three feet of steel were put through his neck. Rookwood down, Harry subconsciously realized.
"Lancea!" The focussed spell was faster than the death curse and smashed into the weakened shield. A part of it actually broke through and punctured his left shoulder, whirling him off-target.
"Kedavra!" The green beamed missed him by more than a foot.
A couple more spells hit the shield, one of them in a quite different colour. Unlike the punch-like spells used by the others, this one was more like a blanket. Pale blue light covered Voldemort's shield and revealed the many smaller and bigger cracks in the field of energy, the same pale blue light that was now covering his own sword.
Getting despaired, feeling fear for the first time, Voldemort hastily threw a Messorius blade spell against Harry, trying to put him down before he reached him with this dangerous weapon. Bending backwards with his youthful flexibility and seeker reflexes, he avoided the spell but barely. Lashing out with the sword, the blade cut through shield and thigh alike.
Voldemort groaned in pain, especially as a part of the blue light left the blade and clung to the open wound. It seemed to actually continue to burn there. Standing up again, Harry followed up with a back-handed swipe, cutting through sleeve and the flesh of Voldemort's wand arm to the bone. The second wound started to burn too with this hellish blue fire and Voldemort staggered back, only to helplessly watch the boy following him step by step.
"Stomach!" Harry instinctively obeyed Cullen's command and the tip of the sword slashed against the stomach, leaving a deep wound that tore the last power from his opponent.
"Neck!" A deep gash was the result of the fourth attack. Voldemort's left hand went to his neck and fruitlessly tried to stop the blood loss.
"Heart!" And this was the last one, the last strike or in this case thrust. The Gladius was meant to be used as a thrusting weapon and thrusting he did. Harry buried the weapon deep in Voldemort's chest, deep in his black heart.
"This can't be." This or something equally stupid the villain always said at the end of a film. Voldemort however had no chance for such nonsense, no voice and no time. He couldn't even glare anymore but simply died.
The power he knows not. A divine blessed weapon.
Worn and used by the boy-who-lived, the boy from the prophecy.
Had it been necessary? None of the persons present really knew.
But in any case, it had been enough to do the job.
The story is mostly done now. Tomorrow I'll leave for a one-week vacation. After that I want to write a (short) epilogue before I return to my main story "Horcrux three".
I'm not certain about the epilogue's content. It partially depends on the question whether I'll actually write a sequel (content "Luna in Thedras"). If you have any ideas for the epilogue (pairings, fate of one combatant or the other, Cullen's successor at Hogwarts), please write a PM.