Chapter 43: Battle Royale Part I

For a moment there was nothing but shock followed swiftly by anger, because Harry had finally, finally thought that he was prepared. For years he had been blindsided and caught completely unawares when Voldemort had attacked. True he had been the one to track down the secret of the Philosopher's Stone and been the one to go down the trapdoor to confront him- but he had only known half the story and as a small First Year been outmatched in every conceivable way. Second Year he had been forced to act when Ginny had been taken, Fourth Year he had been kidnapped before he could even process what had happened and Fifth Year he had been tricked into not only confronting Voldemort but dragging his godfather along to his death.

But this year was supposed to have been different. He had broken all of his old patterns. He had built alliances with people he had never before even talked to, never mind trusted. He had made sure that he knew as much as possible both when it came to training with magic and getting as much information as possible and this time he had even worked with adults instead of around them to get that information. He was supposed to be able to bring the fight to his enemy for once...and now it was all ruined.

Hogwarts- his first home, the one place that in spite of everything that had happened had always felt safe to Harry- was under attack and none of his plans were set. Once again he was forced into reacting to a situation when he was unprepared for the results and it took him a moment to shake off the sheer...injustice of that revelation.

When he looked up he saw that Neville and Malfoy both looked pale, with wide eyes to show their fear and Harry realized that he probably should have felt some of that fear as well but despite his own anxiety, the predominate emotion was still anger and that helped steady him for what needed to be done.

"How many did you see?" Harry asked as calmly as possible.

"We caught sight of about a dozen or so. They're in full masks but I know I recognized Bellatrix Lestrange and it looked like Crabbe and Goyle Seniors were there based on the fact that no one else I know are that massive," Daphne explained quickly.

"Granger and Weasley saw them and they went to get McGonagall and the other teachers."

"Death Eaters are in the castle?" Neville squeaked, his voice higher than usual but his stance was confident and bold.

"Do you know anything about this?" Harry asked as he turned to Draco. Judging from the color- or rather lack thereof- of his pallor, Malfoy was not faking his shock at the situation but Harry did find it rather suspicious that the Slytherin would make a point of revealing this plan only a day before it was actually carried out. Any doubts that he had had about Malfoy truly wanting to switch sides had abated with his revelations of Voldemort's plans but all of the sudden it seemed all too convenient for his liking.

He shook his head rapidly, his pupils still dilated, "I swear Potter, I thought I was the only one that knew about it. And my father never mentioned anything either. We have...we have these mirrors that we use to communicate while he's on the run but he never said anything."

Harry nodded. He had chosen to trust Malfoy, his instincts were still screaming at him to take the boy at his word, and for better or worse he was going to follow that instinct, for they had rarely steered him wrong in the past. Part of him wasn't sure why he was prepared to trust his Slytherin rival who had tormented him for years, who only several months ago Harry would have bet every galleon in his vault that his dearest ambition was to serve his beloved 'Dark Lord' but he could not forget the look of sincerity and honest humility on the blond's face as he had approached Harry with a truce. He could not ignore the honesty the other boy radiated at this moment.

"You knew about this?" Neville demanded, turning on Draco with a look of righteous indigination.

"Draco warned me about a plan to attack Dumbledore yesterday but I didn't think that it was going to happen this soon," Harry answered quickly. On a personal level he still wasn't sure if he had truly forgiven Neville for what he had done but he knew that without question that the Gryffindor would sooner die than allow the Death Eaters take over the school. They were all on the same side as of this moment and they needed to act quickly.

"Malfoy is on our side Neville. All of us are the same side and we need to move quickly. Daphne is you want to avoid a fight this is your last chance, there's no going back after this."

Harry's now long term partner looked at him with a blaze of determination that he had never seen from her before and he couldn't deny that in that moment she looked positively gorgeous. "I'm with you Potter."

Alright then," Harry said taking a breath and forcing himself to focus on what needed to be done. "Ron and Hermione already went to McGonagall?"

Theo and Daphne nodded while Malfoy made a disgruntled noise, "should have gone straight to the old man. He's the only one that any of them would actually stop for!"

Harry let out a slow but steady breath through his nostrils. The plan that he had come up with before had seemed reckless at best and downright cold at worst but increasingly it felt like their only option. If they could draw Voldemort himself to the school than Hogwarts would have the advantage over the shield. There were so many loose ends- too many. They hadn't found all of the Horcruxes, no one had control over Hufflepuff's potion. The school would have to be evacuated. Dumbledore...

"Right well this is what we're going to do. Daphne," Harry paused and pulled over a sheet of parchment from Neville's supplies and hurriedly scrawled a message of distress, attaching his name at the end.

"Germino!" Harry cast roughly a dozen times. "We need back up and we need it fast. Take these up the owlry and send them to anyone and everyone you can think of. Make sure you include the Ministry, Dimitri Anghelescu from the vampires and Pendergast from the werewolves. Hurry," Harry urged and for once Daphne did not hesitate to do as he asked but ran for the exit to do as he commanded.

" the Death Eaters in the castle think that you're with them?" He was putting out a huge gamble. It was not lost of him that he about to stake most of the war on his former school rival and a boy that he had only become friends with this year...and that had been before Harry had killed his father.

Nott and Malfoy exchanged wary glances, clearly uncomfortable with the question and Harry saw Neville's hand move to his wand. With a kind of Gryffindor courage that must have supremely uncomfortable for the two Slytherins, they settled on the truth.

"Yes," Malfoy said nearly defiantly.

"I never saw any reason to dissuade them from the idea that I would follow in my father's footsteps. Not all of us were born with a target on our backs, I preferred to keep it that way," Nott explained, his own voice had a hard edge of justification in it. Both seemed to be under the impression that Harry was asking to prove their loyalty but honestly things were past that. Harry was no Voldemort or even Dumbledore. He was not one for contingencies- he had never been afforded the luxury. When Harry committed himself to a path it was with full heart.

"That's what I was banking on... I need you to get to them, convince them that you're there to help and then get as many as you can to Dumbledore's office."

The defensive postures relaxed marginally for a moment. "right," Malfoy spoke first. "And once we're there, what's the plan."

"Then," Harry said grimly. "You're going to complete the mission that Voldemort gave you. You're going to kill Dumbledore."


Oddly enough the first thought to really enter Ron's head when he first spotted a dozen Death Eaters rounding the corner of the Seventh Floor corridor was that it was really a bit early in the year for this shit, they hadn't even hit June yet. So caught up in his own sense of betrayal at the calendar of Hogwarts' doom he was nearly seen by the approaching intruders and would surely have been attacked had Hermione not grabbed his arm and pulled him behind a wall.

She was breathing quickly and had that sharp look of controlled panic that he had grown used to seeing over the years whenever they had been caught up in dangerous and unusual events. "We need to get to Dumbledore."

Ron shook his head rapidly, "No Harry said this morning that something happened last night. He didn't tell me what, just that Dumbledore was hurt last night."

Hermione blinked, shock clear on her face, "and you didn't even ask?" she hissed angrily. "Harry disappears minutes before curfew and comes back to tell you that Albus Dumbledore was hurt and you didn't even ask him what happened?"

Ron glared at her, both embarrassed and angry by her response, "I did ask! Harry was in rush, you know how he is when he gets obsessed with an idea he has and he was muttering to himself all morning 'I have to find out what Malfoy knows, I need to talk to Snape'. Bloke was all over the place when he woke up and wasn't really in the mood to tell me anything, so I told him to tell me tonight. I didn't exactly realize that Death Eaters were going to be attacking the school Hermione!"

Hermione looked slightly abashed at her outburst but as usual she quickly got back to the issue at hand. "McGonagall then."

They were just headed out when they heard a low whistle and turned to see Nott and Greengrass inching towards them from an alcove, clearly hiding themselves from view.

"Nott? What the bloody hell..."

"Not keen to be spotted by that lot any more than you," the Slytherin answered grimly. "Where's Potter? Isn't this the kind of thing he lives for?"

Hermione scowled, clearly unhappy that they seemed to assume that Harry should be involved in something so dangerous even if Ron tended to agree that this was Harry's bread and butter. "We're not sure, he said something about..."

"He was looking for Malfoy."

"He's with Longbottom working on their project," Greengrass answered promptly, "he told me this morning."

"Right, well we heard what you said about Dumbledore, I reckon the Dark Lord must know that he's hurt if he's attacking the school now," Nott said.

"How could he know?"

Nott gave him an impatient look, "you just said that you don't even know what happened but it takes a hell of a lot to damage a wizard like Dumbledore. Seems to me like the Dark Lord would be responsible, don't you?"

Ron blinked at his, shocked that his friend might have faced off against Voldemort the previous night and not said anything.

Hermione though shook her head, "doesn't necessarily mean that he was facing Voldemort in person. We need to get help before they start attacking people- it's the middle of the bloody day!"

"You guys go and get McGonagall, we'll get Potter."

"Why are you getting Harry?" Ron asked.

Greengrass, "because unlike the Head of Gryffindor, Potter won't spend a bloody hour trying to figure out what side we're really on when we have to move."

Hermione nodded and Ron admitted he could see the logic in the statement.

They split quickly and the two of them found McGonagall's office quickly. Hermione hurriedly explained the situation and Ron worried that they would have a repeat of First Year but if the last five years had proven anything to their Head of House it was that when they spoke about danger, it was no exaggeration.

She quickly strode to her fireplace, throwing in powder before yelling for Snape.


"Professor?" the man answered in his usual silky tone.

"you are alone?" she asked briskly.

"Yes, what is it?" the man replied sharply, clearly sensing the urgency.

"Red alert, the castle's defenses have been breached by nearly a dozen Death Eaters."

Ron did not have a clear view of the potions master's face as McGonagall was blocking most of it but he saw the man's expression darken.

"Where is Potter at the moment?"

"We think he's in the library sir," Hermione spoke up knowing they had not informed their own Head of House yet. "He wanted to talk to Malfoy about something but Nott and Greengrass went to tell what was happening when they saw the Death Eaters?"

"Mr. Potter...went to track down Mr. Malfoy...and now Mr. Nott and Miss Greengrass have gone to warn him about Death Eaters?" McGonagall asked in bemusement.

"Harry's really branched out this year," Ron quipped wryly.

"No doubt embracing his inner 'Marauder' his popularity knows no bounds," Snape muttered sounding disgruntled but Ron was surprised to note that there was also a strain of respect in there as well. Ron had disliked Snape from his First Potions lesson and despite whatever Hermione or Dumbledore claimed, he had never found any reason to trust the man. In Ron's mind Snape had never done anything to prove that he was truly on their side and even if he was, it didn't negate the fact that the man was a greasy, awful git that had made their lives as miserable as possible for years. His mother had once called him childish when she had overheard his comments but Ron always remembered the truly murderous look on Snape's face the night he had thought that he was going to turn Sirius over to the dementors. It had been a truly horrifying sight, no the least because Snape had seemed to be so truly happy to causing someone such pain.

Harry had always agreed with Ron about the man but in recent months, Harry had been strangely tight lipped about the man. He had complained about having to stay with Snape over the summer and Ron remembered that Harry had been quietly livid over the fact that when he had swallowed the proverbial potion and agreed to work for the Ministry on the war effort despite hating most of what they stood for somehow Dumbledore had managed to make things worse by making Snape a part of the deal as well.

But he knew that something had shifted since that time. When Hermione had been in trouble and they had needed someone with access to the Feriulous Potion, he had found out that it had been Harry to suggest going to Snape. Harry had never come out and said that he had gotten over his grudge against Snape nor had he claimed to have had changed his mind about the man. Harry had not even gone so far as to correct anyone else when they had called him a greasy git or a cold-hearted bastard- as was quite common among the students of Gryffindor Tower.However, Ron knew that Harry's hatred of the man had abated and stranger still, he knew that Harry had in fact grown to trust the vile man. Oddly, despite the fact that in nearly everything else Ron expected Hermione to have all the right answers, it was Harry's trust in the man that Ron was interested in. Harry had always had a fairly good on people and if Snape had somehow managed to change Harry's opinion, that was good enough for Ron.

However, following Harry's abduction and tortuous stay at Malfoy Manor something had seemed to shift yet again. Harry had been alternately angry or silent for days after his rescue and though Ron knew that it had certainly not been easy for Harry to go through everything that he had, he could not shake the feeling that Harry had been brooding over a lot more than just remembered pain and fear. Unfortunate though it was, Ron was more than familiar of the sight of Harry piecing himself back together after tragedy and while the symptoms were much the same, there had been a thoughtfulness that came with the silence that had shown that Harry was trying to work something out for himself. Harry had shared a lot of his thoughts and most of the information about the war with Ron and Hermione throughout the year but there had been something about that missing week that he had not been able to share with them yet. Ron had not pushed, had known that Harry would tell them when he felt like he was ready to talk about it but standing there now, he could not escape the feeling that it had something to do with Snape and whether or not he could truly be trusted or not.

Meanwhile, McGonagall had entered her no nonsense, take charge mode. "Severus we need to plan for an evacuation, I'm going to make an announcement for all students to report to their Common Rooms-"

"Don't do that," Snape answered. "At the moment the Death Eaters are under the impression that they have taken us completely by surprise, we do not want to disabuse them of that idea until the last possible moment. We need to coordinate with Potter, if he's talking to Draco then chances are that at least one of them knows something about this and the last thing we need at the moment is a bunch of half-cocked plans running over each other and getting in the way."

"Are you suggesting that Potter take the lead on this Severus?" McGonagall asked in what sounded equal parts surprise and amusement.

"Don't be ridiculous Minerva, neither one of is taking orders from an adolescent boy...but we can certainly get his input..."

Ron felt his eyebrow rise seemingly of their own accord at that statement and decided that this was far and away the strangest year at Hogwarts yet. Snape cleared his throat, "after all, the boy is going to do things his way regardless of what we plan and I suppose it's high time that we finally learned from past mistakes and included him from the start rather than waiting until he inevitably barrels his way into the situation." Ron did not think that he was imagining the look of amusement on McGonagall's face.

"I'll get a message to Potter, hopefully we can get to him before Bellatrix and the others get the Headmaster's office...Potter isn't going to like the plan that I have but it's the only viable action that we have." Snape sounded oddly hesitant, as though unsure if he wanted to go with whatever plan that he had which was something that Ron had never before seen the Potions Master exhibit before. In the past the man had always appeared nothing less than certain that his methods were correct and everyone else's inferior.

"I would imagine Mr. Potter will either be headed here or directly to the Headmaster," McGonagall before her words were cut off by a commotion outside the door.

There was a bang and a scuffle that sounded as though someone was casting offensive spells. Ron raised his wand just as McGonagall raised her wand to open the door from afar. The opened doorway revealed a slightly ruffled but by no means beaten down Aurora Tackley taking out two Death Eaters only to be overrun by two others. The older woman was thrown forward, a splatter of blood coming from her mouth the only sign that she had been injured.

She was bound quickly with ropes and strung up by her ankles just as two curses came into the room and a swarm of Death Eaters attacked in mass. Snape was gone from the fire in a heartbeat but McGonagall was a sight to behold. From the time that he was eleven, Ron Weasley had always had what he had considered to be a healthy amount of fear for his Head of House but seeing her in action at the moment confirmed that he had never given the woman the credit that she deserved. She instantly transformed the small tins she had on her desk into a steely knives that drove into her attackers. The chairs, the desk, the lamp all came to life and defended her with determined spirit and the curses that were known to the Head of House...Fred and George might have thought a bit more carefully about their years of mischief making if they had ever known what could have been in store for them had the stern woman ever lost control.

Still, she was outnumbered and ambushed in tight quarters. As she struggled to deflect curses not from herself but from hitting Ron and Hermione, she fell to a severe cutting curse to the back. Dark red blood pooled around and there was only time for a strangled grunt before she crumpled, senseless to the ground.

Ron had raised a Shield Charm just as Harry had taught him but it was not strong enough when three separate spells collided with it at once. His shield shattered in front of him and he let out a roar of pain as Bellatrix caught him with a crucio right in the chest. Pain as he had never before felt shuttered through him- he had imagined it and had feared it especially after hearing of the times that Harry had experienced it but nothing could have prepared him for the agony that surged through his nerves. It seemed to last forever and when it was lifted he was too weak to move, and had he tried he would have realized that the pain to left leg was not from the Cruciatus but from a shattered femur.

Hermione was battling furiously, her wand moving quickly as flashed of light moved without her needing to even speak the incantations but for all of her speed and accuracy in casting, Hermione had never been one for much brute strength when it came to magic. Ron felt a surge of panic and in the midst of his chaotic thoughts there was a moment when he had the chance to wonder to himself how strange it was to going to be to die without Harry at his side, the way he had always imagined it.


Draco blinked but the image of Harry Potter standing in front of him did not vanish. He wondered if it would be foolish if he pinched his arm to make sure that he wasn't dreaming or hallucinating. He was so stunned that for a moment that felt like a small eternity he said nothing.

Their silence was broken by a shrill, "have you lost your bloody fucking mind Potter?"

Potter frowned at Greengrass, "can you keep your voice down Greengrass? We really don't need everyone in the school to hear us right about now," he hissed at her.

"That's the least of your problems, Potter," Nott answered grimly, "stepping aside from the fact that I have no earthly idea why you would want to give the Dark Lord his dearest wish, killing Albus Dumbledore is a bit...impossible."

"You really shouldn't call him the Dark Lord," Harry muttered off handedly making Draco want to throttle the Gryffindor with his bare hands, however, lucky for him, Potter turned his attention quickly back to the subject at hand, "and it's not impossible...Dumbledore is dying."

"What?" Draco and Longbottom gasped at the same time, though Draco rather thought that his was more from pure shock while Longbottom seemed prematurely grief stricken.

Potter's face was grim and there was a strange combination of compassion and determination. "It's a long story and we don't have time. Point is, Voldemort thinks he's immortal...but there's a way to stop him, and last night Dumbledore and I found something that we thought was going to help, except that Dumbledore was poisoned. He has a few weeks left at most. I would have..." Potter seemed unsure how to phrase what he would have done but there was genuine pain in his expression as he struggled to explain himself. "I would have wanted to ask let it be his decision but...Dumbledore has always cared about people. He would want his death to mean something and if we can convince Voldemort that you're firmly on his side, it will have meant something."

"Who are you are trying to convince here, Potter, us or yourself?" Nott asked and Draco had to admit that he wondered the same.

To his credit Potter didn't react to the question, he was neither angry or defensive, if fact if anything he seemed to be deeply considering it. "Probably both of us. I know it's a lot to ask..."

"A lot to ask!" Draco finally shouted because they had not even addressed the real issue. Draco had once thought that he would serve at the right hand of the Dark Lord. He would be the man's most trusted Death Eater and everyone in their world would grow to both fear and respect him, because until it had never occurred to him that one could have respect without fear. He almost wished that he could have honestly said that he had never realized what being the Second in Command to He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named actually entailed but that was not really the truth. No, the truth was more complicated and infinitely more pathetic in his opinion.

The fact of the matter was that killing muggles and mudbloods had always seemed rather the abstract. He remembered how in Second Year when he had seen the message painted in blood red paint in the corridor proclaiming that the enemies of Slytherin's Heir needed to 'beware'- he had been delighted by the idea of Purebloods establishing their dominance. He had once even wished for it to attack Hermione Granger for the simple reason that he would have a shot at the top class spot if not for the upstart mudblood...not that Draco had ever held the second spot but that had seemed irrelevant at the time. But when it came to actually killing someone...

"If I had wanted to kill Dumbledore I could have become a Death Eater, Potter! It was supposed wasn' were supposed to be better!"

And then Potter did flinch, his bright green eyes dim and filled with guilt, but his resolve still held firm. "You're right. We're supposed to be better...Dumbledore deserves better...but this is the best option that we have right now and the only thing that I can possibly say is that I would never ask you to do something that I wouldn't do myself."

"Voldemort wouldn't mind killing him either," Neville muttered uncharitably.

Potter's eyes flashed dangerously, "Voldemort would want to hurt him, humiliate him. Dumbledore is going to die and it's going to be slow and it will have meant nothing. But dying isn't the worst thing that you can do, its living a life that you aren't proud of. It's leaving a life without meaning. Dumbledore would agree to this...I'm sure of it."

"Then why don't you go and put him out of his misery then? Or better yet...why didn't you already?" Draco asked stubbornly.

"I didn't do it yet because there was no need and I can't do it because that gives us no advantage. Do you really think Voldemort is going to think that I murdered Dumbledore in cold blood and now I want to be his newest recruit? This cements your position deliver Dumbledore and you can write your own ticket!"

"And how do you know that once I get rid of Dumbledore that I don't become a Death Eater for real? You said it yourself Potter, I do this and I don't just become a worthless follower, I become his right hand man. How do you know that I don't turn on you?"

"Because you don't want to. You don't want to kill people. You don't want to bow and kiss Voldemort's robes and hope that he remembers that he likes you instead of just getting bored of you one day and killing you. We might never be friends Malfoy...but you want to help me more than you want to follow Voldemort and you and I both know it."

Draco swallowed nervously, he couldn't believe that he was actually considering this ridiculous plan. He should have run as far from Hogwarts as he could the minute his father had told him that it was remotely safe for him to do so. He had gone to Potter because it was supposed to have been the better option...the safer option. How he had managed to go from one madman wanting him to torture and murder people to apparently another madman that was at least giving him a pass on the torture. Morbidly, Draco had to admit that at least he had still made a step up, even if it wasn't as high as he had hoped.

But there was something about Potter's steely and yet completely compassionate gaze that shifted something in Draco. In the past couple of months Draco had started to see that it was hard to say no to Potter's unique...Gryffindoresque brand of impassioned enthusiasm. It was something wholly different than serving the Dark Lord, or at least it seemed that way to Draco. Unlike the Dark Lord it never seemed as though Potter was completely convinced that anyone would actually do as he asked of them, and yet when he gave his word there was no doubt that Potter himself would follow through- no matter what it took. For the first time in his life Draco was starting to see that a person could have respect without fear.


Draco was interrupted by the appearance of a silvery doe that Draco recognized as a corporeal patronus that looked vaguely familiar to him. Potter was blinking in surprise at its inexplicable arrival and was further shocked when the creature spoke with the voice of Severus Snape, "Potter get to Professor McGonagall's office now, bring back up, she and your friends are under attack."

Potter's eyes widened for a moment before he turned quickly on his heel. "Draco go, find Snape if you can, if what you have to do. Neville, I need your help...Theo..."

"Let's move Potter, I've wanted to see you in action for a while and I told you from the start, leading an army is pretty much your destiny."

Potter was turned away from Draco at this point and he could not see the raven haired boy's expression but he had the distinct impression that in spite of everything...the idiot was laughing.


Hermione ducked and fired- or misfired rather- a spell at her attacker before getting caught by another stray spell that forced her wand painfully from her grip. She wasn't sure what the curse had been but knew that it was no simple disarming spell. Her hand felt numb and she had trouble even moving her fingers. Ron was down panting in pain, his leg looking mangled and rather grotesque, the white bone sticking out from the skin. From his rather green pallor Hermione suspected that he had only just caught sight of it. McGonagall looked to be unconscious and Tackley was being brutally cut from her binding and dropped unceremoniously on the ground.

"Like shooting itty, bitty gridlylows in a barrel," Bellatrix cooed and her voice grated on Hermione's ears as though they were nails on a chalkboard. She could not remember ever being more scared than she was in that moment. Despite all of the terrifying things she had experienced, until now she always felt as though she had at least had a chance to fight back. Even when Cormac had attacked her, she had struggled and fought until the bitter end, endlessly denying to herself that he would be able to overpower her even though he easily outclassed her in size and weight.

Now her wand was gone, they were surrounded and the single most insane person that Hermione had ever encountered had them in her bloodshot eyes. They were going to die, there was no doubt of that and Hermione had not realized that the thought could crystallize so clearly in one's mind, seemingly without panic.

To the best of Hermione's knowledge there had been roughly a dozen Death Eaters that had mysteriously entered the castle, how they had managed it was annoyingly bothering her. Even now, moments away from death, Hermione's old instincts were strong and she hated the idea of having to die with only questions. But she forced herself to focus on what she did know. A dozen of them and between the four of them in the room only two had been injured enough that they were unable to get back up. There were currently four of them in the room, two in front of the door, Bellatrix and Dolohov bearing down on them.

"Well, well, well," Bellatrix continued, clearly happy to have a literally captive audience in front of her. Hermione wondered if there was a single person that had ever listened to Bellatrix willingly. "We came here for the old man and to set the tone for our Lord's final ascension to absolute power but I never dreamed that I would get to see Potter's two little playmates. Potter just loves you, doesn't he...just like he loved Sirius..."

There was small thump and a second larger crash and Hermione turned to see the two Death Eaters by the door fall. "I still love Sirius, Bellatrix and you might find that hurting more people that I care about is a very, very bad idea." Harry stood in the doorway, his green eyes glittering dangerously and an expression that Hermione had never seen on his face in the 6 years that she had known him. For the first time in her life she was truly afraid of Harry and hoped that the remaining Death Eaters saw what she saw. Because if they did, they would have been running.

It was a strange epiphany for her because Hermione loved facts. Logic. Books and critical thinking had always provided her with the answers that her curious mind had always craved. She hated the very idea of guessing at things when there was a definitive answer to be had, and yet in her entire friendship with Harry she had never doubted him or the fact that when it came down to a fight between him and Voldemort that Harry spite of all logic saying otherwise.

Logically...Harry never should have been able to stand a chance and yet she had always believed in him and yet here he was- radiating power in a way she had never witnessed before and proving her right and she was taken completely by surprise.

"Potter!" Bellatrix's voice was excited, her entire body practically vibrating with a maniac energy that had passed over the edge into madness.

Harry's wand was held out in front of him, his green eyes darting quickly between the remaining two Death Eaters, both deadly fighters with a reputation for being both ruthless and skilled in dueling.

"Bellatrix..." Harry nearly whispered, before his wand lashed out in Dolohov's very unprepared direction, striking the man in the side even as he raised a shield and tried to get away. Bellatrix slashed with her own wand but from nowhere a bolt of deadly green light struck her and she fell. Dolohov had struck back at Harry who shot one of the desks in front of the desk, shooting a ring of fire back at the man once the first curse had been blocked. Flashes of light erupted and Hermione felt as though a body bind had been cast on her as she was incapable of moving in her shock.

A final shout a flash of light and Dolohov was unconscious and Harry was shooting a last incarcerous spell to bind him in place.

Ron was white with a combination of pain, surprise and literal shock. He was staring at the spot where the Killing Curse had come from, seemingly from nowhere...except now that the fighting was over Hermione could hear gasping breaths.

"Neville!" Harry snapped, striding over to where the sound was coming from and after fumbling for a moment lifting his own invisibility cloak off of the shaking Gryffindor.

"She...I-I killed her." Neville was as white as a sheet and taking quick, shallow breath as though he were hyperventilating.

" didn't mate," Ron answered his voice hollow.

Neville frantically shook his head from side to side in denial, when he spoke was high and nearly child-like, completely unlike the Neville that he had grown into in the last few months. "Yes I did...I used it... the Avada Kedevra..."

"Neville, look at me," Harry's voice was different than Hermione had ever heard it. Quieter, calmer than usual. While he had first tried to get the clearly traumatized boy's attention through strict authority he had quickly switched methods and had now adopted a voice a person might use in a hospital. Neville's face snapped up as though he had been struck at hearing Harry's soothing tones and Hermione wondered if the other boy might have associated it with the times he had visited his parents at St. Mungo's.

"Ok, listen to me, Bellatrix is breathing, you hit her with the Killing Curse but it wasn't strong enough to kill her. Do you want to tie her up? I can do it but I need you to know that she's still alive."

Neville was still shaking his head, clearly not believing that the woman was still alive after he had cast the deadly curse at her.

"Look at her Neville, she's breathing. Her face still has color in it. She's alive," Harry said quietly. Neville finally glanced down and after a moment took long shuddering breath and seemed to compose himself. He closed his eyes after a moment he slowly opened them, only too look at them with an hint of embarrassment. "Er...I know I shouldn't have been upset...not after what she did. I-I've always wanted to kill her and then I did...I thought I did..."

"Wanting someone dead is very different from killing them Neville," Harry answered quietly and Hermione was reminded that unlike Neville, Harry had been forced into actually killing someone. "When you cast an Unforgivable Curse, you have to truly mean them. You might hate Bellatrix...but you aren't a murderer and you never have to feel bad about that."

"Ron are you alright?" Harry asked.

"Been better," Ron answered. Hermione moved to check on him. "How's McGonagall?"

"She's alright, just knocked out but the bleeding stopped," Hermione answered having already moved to check on the woman

During this time, Tackley had gotten to her feet and had almost retrieved her fallen wand when Harry turned his attention-and his wand- back in her direction. "Its time to lay our cards on the table, don't you think?"

For a moment, the professor looked genuinely confused as to what he was talking about before Tackley's brow shot up to her hairline as she took in the full implication of what Harry was accusing her of doing. "You can't honestly believe-"

"Teaching people not to use emotions so they can't power their spells? Insisting that Aurors use strategies that Voldemort is sure to recognize and counter? You could have been more subtle about it."

Tackley blinked and she seemed to fight between honest confusion and true anger. "I have always done what I thought I was right. I have dedicated my entire life to training witches and wizards into proper Aurors. Following the proper protocol is the only way to ensure that things are done the right way."

"You're training sheep. You can't sit there and claim that you were trying to help us! The Aurors have been getting run over for months. They haven't lead a successful mission all year!"

"You can't simply do things your own way...there are...there are rules," Tackley protested but for the first time in all of her arguments with Harry, she seemed to fully accept that her position was wrong. Times changed and people needed to adapt. The protocols and procedures that she was so fond of might have once had effective but that was no longer the case.

"I don't think she's a Death Eater Harry," Neville finally said, his voice quiet, his eyes flicking uncertainly to Harry. "She offered her help to me all the time. She's fought against Death Eaters her whole life. She's just... she's just older Harry...its what she's used to," he said with an apologetic look at Defense teacher that had always favored him.

Harry blinked as he realized the truth in this and Ron let out a laugh. "I told you mate. She's a Lockhart, not a Quirill."

"What?" Tackely asked diverted.

"He means that you're an idiot but not actually evil," Harry smirked at her but his tone was thoughtful, clearly turning this idea over in his head once more.

"But..." Hermione started, uncomfortable with the picture that they were painting of the woman. "She's one of the most celebrated Aurors in the field. She deserves our respect for that."

"And there's our proof," Ron continued with a smug smile, "Hermione's fatal flaw. She's never been able to spot a Lockhart!"

Hermione flushed with anger which wasn't helped when Harry seemingly couldn't stop himself from snorting with laughter.

"Are you freaking kidding me? I told that bet and you're telling me that I owe Weasley ten galleons?" Notts voice entered the fray as he came into the room followed by three other Slytherins from Fifth Year.

"I thought you said you were bringing an army?" Harry asked with a frown.

Nott scowled, "shut it Potter, as if you expected a room full of Slytherins. Be grateful for what you have."

"Quality over quantity to be sure," Daphne Greengrass said wryly as she too walked quickly into the room. "I sent them all out, but we can't know if they will actually get there, or how fast it will take."

Harry nodded, "thanks Daph, though apparently there are others ways to spread messages, but we need to get to Snape for that."

"What's going on?" Hermione asked taken aback by the appearance of so many new people and plans that she was not privy too.

"Tell that for a change you actually have a plan," Daphne added, looking at Harry pointedly.

"More like a rough outline...but first things first and right now we need to worry about evacuating the castle for the younger students," Harry grinned. "And this time we get to use Plan A."

"Plan A?" Daphne asked sounding alarmed. "Isn't your 'Plan A' just...running through the whole blind as a bat?"

Hermione raised her eyebrows at this, never having heard this particular phrase before and yet not entirely surprised that it came from Harry. Proper prior preparation had never been Harry's strong suit when it came to emergency situations.

True to form, Harry blushed slightly before coughing, "not in this case, this time it was more a matter of...selective information."

"And I as your partner didn't need to know about this...selective information?" Daphne asked, voice dangerously low.

"One- really not the time Daph, two for the record, this was DADA class not for our projects and three- you really think I was going to give the professor that I thought was a Death Eater along with half my team who," and here Harry looked around taking note of the small number of people present, "some of which are Death Eaters, my actual plan? No." Harry shook his head as he looked at Tackley with deliberate disappointment. "I really hope you don't think I've actually been giving you my real plans all year."

Nott grinned, "I had a feeling you were holding back. You really would have made a hell of a Slytherin you know."

"Doubtful," Harry shot back. "But back to the matter at hand. Plan A... is House-elves. We use them to get apparate the students out and we do it fast."

"House-elves?" Hermione and Daphne asked in surprise.

"They can get through the wards and can move students wherever we need. We can send them home and if we call enough to get each out by House and grade level then we don't have to worry about anyone doubling back."

"And send the traitor Death Eaters that are in the school back where they belong..." Ron finished with a decisive nod.

"Actually... we might want to hold off on that just now..." Harry said and Hermione did not appreciate the gleam of excitement in his eyes at the moment, it promised nothing good for them.

A/N: So sorry this took three weeks to get out and its short too boot. Not only has my real life been busy but I was sick with a cold on top of it and was too tired to write anything worth reading. Thank you so much for your reviews and I hope the next chapter will be out sooner :)

Also: several chapters ago when I first teased the idea of evacuating Hogwarts, I was very proud of myself for coming up with the secret idea of having House-elves teleport students out because I honestly don't think I ever saw that on a large scale in a fic before...except when I floated the idea out in the story I immediately got a review saying 'why not just have the House elves do it?' so there goes all my good planning! Still I kept the idea since I liked it.