Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter and all related characters, although I do wish I could speak Parseltongue and own a pet cobra.
A/N: This little canon, non-slash drabble is brought to you by a zany conversation between me and frustratedstudent.
Doing a canon drabble that's as honestly close to the books without even a small margin of error is definitely tough, but I hope I've pulled this off as a birthday gift to myself.
In the midst of a coming storm, one would be expected to panic, succumb to the inevitable or take time to be introspective.
Horace Slughorn is undertaking the latter of the three. His mind is currently recalling all his accomplishments and deeds for the past few decades. He is currently one of the few leading Potions Masters in Europe, two time Head of Slytherin House and British Kingmaker with linking young talent with those who will benefit them in the future. Some would call it corrupt cronyism, but he prefers to call it a network of friends and favors. "A Slytherin's true wealth is not measured in Galleons. It is measured in favors and information ready to be used for your advantage." he told himself during the first year as a Professor.
This of course led him to think of one thing he could be called, but it was his biggest guilt and regret which the castle and its inhabitants now paying the price in blood. 'The one who nailed the coffin of turning Tom Marvolo Riddle from blossoming genius into a monster'
Giving himself a moment to reminisce, he saw these halls he passed by and could actually hear a younger Tom Riddle, in amazement beside his head of house during the first month in the castle. "I have an eye for raw talent or political ability, people have told me before and that particular student could have gone anywhere, perhaps becoming the youngest Minister of Magic or Chief Warlock after Albus Dumbledore. I never thought he was already swallowed by the darkness until that very night we had a discussion on Horcruxes." He told himself.
Shuddering in his thoughts, he led the students of Slytherin house into the passageway back to the Hogs Head pub. The trip was silent all the way through. The prefects are in front of the class and he is on the back, in case of any stranglers wanting to help the death eaters. 'Some of them have family members there. If I had loved ones there, I would fight with them regardless the side.' he thought.
In the pub, the tables were moved to the side and chairs occupied by the students. All of them, looking at a pensive Horace Slughorn, who was lost in his thoughts. "Seems that Mr. Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle are missing…" the Potions master said to no one in particular.
Tracy Davis, one of the Slytherin seventh years broke the silence by asking "So what happens now, Professor Slughorn?"
"To be frank, Ms. Davis, I don't know whether we should wait here while the castle burns." Horace replied, glancing over the window with a view of Hogwarts. The battlements were lit up by fire or spells that flew towards or from the attackers.
"I can't bring anyone back from Slytherin house and order them to fight the Death Eaters, especially with the outburst of Ms. Parkinson. If you go back and fight, some of you will be fighting your own flesh and blood. It might be kin slaying at its finest. This burden is not yours. I have a lion's share of blame and responsibility for Voldemort's actions being his head of house when he was known as Tom Marvolo Riddle. I am his head of house."
Everyone but Horace shuddered at the name. If he ever looked back, it was the only time he didn't shake or shudder saying the dark lord's nom de plume. Running his pudgy fingers to his head and ending up holding his nape in stress, he took a deep breath and closed his eyes. A moment later, his eyes became focused and sharp for all the students to see.
He took a pause, moving for a half empty bottle of firewhiskey left in the bar and took a swig for his nerves. "I'm afraid, very much afraid but I'm done running away and hiding in the shadows."
He took out his wand and in a few seconds restrained Milicent Bulstrode, Theodore Nott, Pansy Parkinson, Hestia and Flora Carrow with tight ropes. "Consider this an insurance policy, sadly. Nothing personal, it's for your own safety by not getting in my way and caught in the crossfire." Turning his attention to Tabitha Bainbridge and Luke Harper, he said, "I have my complete trust in you and Mr. Harper. Guard the students and make sure they do not try to join the fighting. Succeed and benefits will be had in the future."
Holding his walrus mustache for a moment, he then cast his fox patronus to Rosmerta to inform the villagers of Hogsmeade that Hogswarts is under siege. They are to meet up in the Hogs Head Pub ten minutes from now.
Taking a deep breath, he pondered on what he was specifically good for. "A Gryffindor with a Hufflepuff charges ahead into war and a Ravenclaw strategizes in the fight. They called us cowards, but what they don't realize that cunning means pragmatism and preparation. We call on reinforcements from favors owed from either good will or leverage to win the day. I never thought I will be calling on favors to fight a war instead of gaining crystallized pineapple."
Seeing the fireplace and floo, he decided to call in those in the Ministry whom he helped back when they were students but also not touched by Voldemort's Ministry. He even decided to give the Harpies a ring and Gwenog Jones surprising answered the call of arms along with the team.
As the number grew to 30 people, Gwenog came to Horace and teasingly whispered, "A favor repaid for a friend's aid, Professor? Don't worry, I'm grateful for all the help you've given me and I think I can pay it back better than just free tickets. This is fucking Hogwarts we're talking about."
Horace nodded and both smiled at each other before Tracy Davis, Daphne Greengrass, Blaise Zambini and surprisingly, Theodore Nott came in with the group.
"We're coming, Professor Slughorn. Nott here wanted to come but we also put him under the unbreakable vow." Daphne remarked to Horace, with her eyes icily cold and focused at Theodore Nott. Her wand held by her left hand while her arms were akimbo, which a traditionally trained dueler's stance waiting for fights or watching captured enemies.
"Good thinking Ms. Greengrass." Horace replied, his attention turned abruptly at the door, his wand pointed faster than anyone else from the sound.
"Professor Slughorn, we're ready." Rosmerta remarked, unfazed by the wand pointed at her. Behind her were the townsfolk and shop owners from Hogsmeade. It was a motley collection of people from the newly graduated to the very old.
Horace nodded and shouted, "Let's get this show on the road." He led everyone to the Hogwarts grounds through the trail in a brisk pace, all eyes alert for any ambush. He took a moment to look at the mob behind him and thought that not even Bellatrix Lestrange would be able to take them all on at the same time. "Maybe Tom, but nobody else from his inner circle," He told himself, as they saw the open gates of Hogwarts.
When they arrived, time seemed to slow down the moment. There is rubble everywhere and spell fire damage on the walls. Fighting could be heard all around, bodies of his students for the past few decades from both sides and a giant or two on the ground.
For this desecration of his beloved school, something primal was triggered within him, behind all careful calm and calculated reserve, the Kingmaker becomes a warrior if only for a moment. "CHARGE!" Horace screamed and they all ran towards the fighting and separated into different groups to join the defenders.
Making his way to the courtyard, he ran as fast as his legs could carry him, eventually finding Kingsley Shacklebolt and Minerva McGonnagal both making their way to Voldemort.
"Kingsley! Minerva! Wait for me!" Slughorn shouted, reaching them and taking a moment for a breather.
"Thank you for coming back, Horace." Professor McGonnagal said, a thin smile on her lips painting her stern and serious façade for a moment.
Reaching in his pockets, he took out a full bottle of Felix Felicis and three marbles that Kingsley transfigured into spoons.
"We need every advantage we can get. Good thinking, Horace." Kingsley remarked, pouring three equal portions of the lucky potion which should at least last them eight hour at least. The three drank the potion and ran towards Voldemort. At the time, he is attempting to kill a hufflepuff student named Laura Madley. Horace saw a soft golden glow in one of the intact stones that fell from the initial fighting and instantly banished it into the path of Voldemort's killing curse.
"Tom Marvolo Riddle!" Minerva shouted, turning the shrapnel from the demolished stone into a swarm of bees which made a beeline into the Dark Lord.
"Get out of here!" Kingsley boomed into Laura who ran as fast as she could away from the four adult wizards.
Voldemort merely flicked the elder wand and a burst of fire destroyed the bees effortlessly. He smiled arrogantly at his opponents, sizing them up for a moment. "I'd love to stay and chat about old times, Minerva and Horace, but you three know that you are simply outmatched." At the end of the sentence, he casted three lightning bolts at his opponents.
Kingsley remembered how that particular spell violently killed Amelia Bones when he investigated the cause of death. It became rather personal for him, not just helping the Order of the Phoenix and Harry win this war, but reminded him of his tough but fair boss, colleague and friend. He took a deep breath and his eyes narrowed. Sidestepping the spell, he cast the same lightning spell at Voldemort while Minerva transfigured stone into lions and Horace angrily returned fire with his own bit of nastiness through ice lances.
Voldemort effortlessly slaughtered the lions with three flicks of cutting curses, dodged the lightning and ice lances. He caught the last one with his bare hand and crushed it while looking at Horace. "Child's play to someone of my caliber." he mocked as the slugfest continued.
The duel against Voldemort is shaping to be stalemate in Kingsley's eyes, as he dodged a nasty cousin of the cutting curse which would have dismembered him cleanly while slowing down the recipient's concept of time to make sure the pain is felt longer. 'It's a stalemate, until the felix felicis wears off.' His thoughts went, sending another lightning spell at Voldemort.
Minerva was sending metal spikes at Voldemort when Horace saw a dark red curse rushing towards McGonagall.
"Protego Refractum!" Horace shouted, his shield spell arriving in the nick of time to return the spell from the caster.
The hairs on the back of his neck stood up when he saw that Bellatrix Lestrange deflected the spell effortlessly with a reflector shield of her own.
Kingsley sent a rock towards the spell and exploded on impact. He thanked his lucky stars and the potions that no students are hit by shrapnel from the rock.
Just as he was about to assault Bellatrix, three students sent a barrage of spells at the attacker. Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley giving it all they've got against the dark lord's finest dueler in the inner circle. To Kingsley's horror, just as he dodged a killing curse from Tom, Bellatrix is toying effortlessly with her three opponents.
Meanwhile, Theodore Nott Jr. ran around the grounds, trying to find his father to convince him to surrender in the midst of the fighting.
Seeing his father looking for another enemy, Theo stepped towards him and pointed his wand at his father. "Father, please stop fighting and come with me instead." He pleaded, his eyes fixed on his father's wand.
"Theo, I serve the dark lord and if you stand in my way, you will become the enemy." Theodore Sr. replied, his eyes reflecting a barely concealed fury for the audacity of his son. "So what's it going to be, Theo? Get out of my way or die by my hand?"
"Please!" Theo shouted, his hand shaking with the idea of fighting his own father.
"Then I have no son!" Theodore Sr. replied in anger and fired a cutting curse at his own son.
Theo cast a shield spell and dodged a vicious looking acid curse that he read about in their family grimoire. 'If it wasn't for this damned unbreakable vow, I would help be helping my father right now. I just have to stop him, not kill him even if he is trying his damndest to do so.' He thought, sending a colorless thunderclap spell at his father.
A resounding sonic boom impacted on the elder Nott's shield and disoriented him, while the younger Nott managed to brace himself from the shockwave. Taking advantage of the situation, he did a quick succession of stunning, conjured ropes and disarming spells to take his father out of the fight. "Mobillicorpus" Theo muttered, getting his father to come to him.
In the duel between Bellatrix and her three opponents, a killing curse narrowly missed Ginny Weasley. The death curse zoomed through the battlefield and just as younger Theodore Nott is in the process of carrying his father to safety, the dark witch's spell hit the elder Nott and killed him instantaneously.
Theo ran to his father, cutting the ropes that covered the man and wrapped his arms around him. He looked to the origin of the spell and saw it was Bellatrix Lestrange who indirectly killed his father. Looking up to the sky, he let out a primal wail of agony, screaming, "NO!"
Molly Weasley saw the event unfold, from his daughter nearly getting hit by the killing curse to Theodore's wail of agony. "NOT MY DAUGHTER YOU BITCH!" She screamed and she fought Bellatrix Lestrange in an angry slugfest. Bellatrix attacked with a chain of darker versions of cutting curses along with two of the unforgivable. Molly, dodged, weaved and shielded herself during the fight before going into the offensive with her own spell chain combination of cutters, stunners and piercing hexes. No quarter was given, the fury of the spell casting made those nearby shudder from the amount of magic being thrown.
Voldemort paused for a moment, impressed with the full strength of Bellatrix Lestrange after his decades of tutelage, not rusted by time or Azkaban. Minerva likewise allowed a moment of pride seeing Molly Weasley, who used to be the best duelist she ever had the pleasure of teaching before she disappeared into motherhood, going toe to toe with Bellatrix with only a fight or two to warm up after two decades of rust.
The fighting resumed in earnest, Minerva transfigured the sliced lion into two wolves, turned pebbles into a flock of ravens and even summoned suits of armor nearby still under piertotum locomotor all aiming to swarm towards Voldemort.
Kingsley increased the volume of lightning, fire and ice based spells towards Voldemort, magical exhaustion forgotten due to the increase of adrenalin on his veins. It reminded him of those times he longed for action during his the desk job at the Prime Minister's Office, reminiscing the time he survived fighting Voldemort alongside James and Lily Potter with Sirius Black while he was still a young auror, considered a prodigy by Mad Eye Moody with his spell work.
Horace on the other hand, let his companions handle the firepower while the effects of the Felix Felicis guided him to create shields, transfigure or summon objects, take potshots of acid spells and toss noxious or explosive potion vials at Voldemort. He was the spiked shield to the spear of Kingsley and the sword of Minerva, figuratively speaking. In his own mind, their tactic reminded him of a Spartan warrior tangling against an army of Persian Immortals.
A normal witch or wizard would have succumbed to the pressure in a second or two and the entire auror brigade would be hard pressed to subdue the three working together. They will be able to do it of course, but it will take heavy losses doing so.
Unfortunately for the three, Voldemort was a class of his own. He effortlessly fought the three by dodging, transfiguring makeshift shields from the rubble and attacking viciously with the spells Minerva and Kingsley were throwing, adding a touch of darker spells in his repertoire. It was like a stormy sea battering the rocks beside it, the unstoppable force against an immovable object. Something had to give.
The tipping point came when Molly Weasley killed Bellatrix using the heart stopper curse which landed directly to the dark witch's chest. When Bellatrix collapsed in death, Voldemort's fury channeled to the elder wand and with an angry swipe, banished his opponents with such force that their combined shield spell could not prevent them from being thrown back apart from each other.
Horace Slughorn landed on his back, as he saw Harry Potter come out and shield Molly Weasley from Voldemort's curse and into their final duel. He took a guess and felt he was tossed off 30 feet away from his original position. He felt the wind knocked out of his chest and took him a few deep breaths to compose himself. "Ouch. Damn, he's that powerful. I doubt even Albus could throw Minerva, Kingsley and I with a simple banishment charm this far through our combined Protego." Horace remarked, his tone a mix of amazement and fear should Tom Marvolo Riddle win against Harry Potter.
The Potions master heard footsteps heading towards him and saw Tracy Davis rush to him, helping him stand up, as a golden dome of magic shielded them from Voldemort.
"You owe me a favor for convincing most of my batch mates to come back with me, Professor." Tracy jokingly said, watching Harry Potter defeat Voldemort once and for all.
Horace closed his eyes for a moment and said, "Thank you Ms. Davis, for coming back. Tell your classmates too."
His eyes wandered towards Theo Nott, who was still on the ground, crying for his late father. "I still failed someone sadly." he whispered in sorrow, remembering the young Tom Riddle, who joyfully wept in his arms for the first time, after telling him that he was the best student of his year. It was the same Tom Riddle, now lying down on the ground, who fell in battle by his own killing curse.
'The grounds received all this bloodshed because of my ambition to shape the world to my liking and seeking power behind the throne through favors.' Horace thought. But those thoughts became different in effect. It used to be guilt and now became determination to right wrongs. "Slytherin House will rise again, by my hand and through favors. Not through darkness and what is easy, but what is just and what is right." he told himself, securing those death eaters caught or killed, just as the dawn was starting to break on Hogwarts, his home.