Seamus's patience had reached its limit, his anger exploding as he fired off his spell towards the empty end of the piste.

This particular spell was an ugly one, a curse that flew slowly but with purpose down the piste, seemingly melting the air as it sizzled past, leaving a putrid smoke to mark its passing.


Malfoy watched the curse as it made progress down the piste. It was not a fast spell as the speed did not matter. The curse had specific properties that made it ideal in this situation.

It had just reached the far end of the piste marking where Potter should have been for the start of the duel.

Malfoy felt a surge of relief. He had worked long and hard to bring about this moment. He raised his wand to his throat to vocalise his triumph.


Malfoy's horror and disbelief was amplified throughout the castle.


Malfoy's scream of anguish was drowned out by the cheer from the rest of the school as before their very eyes, Harry appeared on the duelling piste, dressed as if he was headed for a day out in jeans, runners, and a black t-shirt, not at all like he was in a duel.

Daphne appeared just outside the great hall with a silent pop. She let go of Dobby's hand.

"Thank you, Dobby" she said.

Dobby hurried her towards the door "Go your Ladyships. You will miss all the funs"

"Just a second" she said reaching into her book bag that was slung over her shoulder. She found what she was looking for without having to look.

She made it inside just as Malfoy's voice rang out.


Harry stumbled slightly as he appeared on the piste, almost exactly where he had been thinking of. "Destination" he thought pleasantly surprised.

Thanks to Malfoy's announcements, he knew the countdown had ended so already had his wand out with a Protego ready on the tip of his wand which he caste just in time to catch the ball of ugly grey smoke the size of a bludger that was almost upon him.

"What the hell?" Harry thought. The curse had hit the shield but was not deflected as he expected. Instead, it just held its course, its momentum halted by the shield but Harry could feel it pressing, still sizzling and popping as it seemingly tried to bore through his shield.

Harry moved his left foot back a bit to enable him to angle his shield. The curse slipped along the surface slightly before boring into the shield again, trying to get to Harry. It wasn't overly powerful, it wasn't draining his magic too much to hold it off, but the shear persistence of the curse puzzled him, he had never heard of anything like this before.

A quick glance at Seamus explained a lot about the persistence of the curse. Seamus was still casting the curse and directing its actions, there was tendrils of magic from his wand to the curse. However unlike Harry, Seamus appeared to be struggling to hold the curse, it was obvious that it was taking a physical toll on him, Harry could see the sweat running down his face as he poured his magic into it. He frowned taking a longer look at Seamus – he looked the worst Harry had ever seen him.

Seamus gritted his teeth as he felt the familiar pull on his magic. But it was more than that, the nagging little voice in his head reminded him. The spell seemed to draw on something else, deep inside him, always leaving him feeling somehow less than he was before.

What hadn't diminished was his hatred for Harry Potter. His anger turned to fury as he saw Potter looking at him, how dare he! Seamus wasn't sure where it came from or why he was so angry, but the sight of Potter always sent him into a rage.

Seamus knew that there was no way that Harry could hold off the curse, by its very nature it would persist until it got its pound of flesh or more. But Potter was giving every indication that he would hold it off forever, his shield never faltering as he looked like he could hold it all night.

He almost shouted out in relief as he saw Potter's brief glance at him had given the curse a chance to slip under the bottom of his shield and hit him in his left thigh.

His connection to the spell broke as soon as it found its mark. The curse would now feed off Potter, literally. Using Potter's magic it would work its way through his flesh and sinew until it reached the bone and would then start on the bone until there was nothing left or until it was satisfied.

That was it, the duel is over he thought with a mixture of satisfaction and triumph. He slumped down onto his knees exhausted. He knew from harsh experience of casting that damn spell that he would spend most of tomorrow in his bed trying to recover.

In that brief moment that Harry had taken his eyes off the curse to look at Seamus, it had snuck to the edge of his shield. As Harry tried to adjust, it forced its way around the shield and in a flash, it had struck him on the thigh.

The pain was excruciating, so much so that he had to clench his jaw, biting down on exclamation that that rose up.

He sucked in his breath in disgust as he took a glance at where the it had hit him, it was a mess. The curse had melted the leg of his jeans and was currently working on melting his thigh. He could see the flesh bubbling the same ugly grey of the spell.

Harry quickly cast the most powerful healing spell he knew, which while momentarily successful at stopping further damage and begin the healing process, quickly lost its effectiveness. Every time the wound started to heal, the curse would just start up again, seeming to adapt and change to bypass the healing spell.

He tried another healing spell. He had quite a few in his repertoire now, having been taught over half a dozen during the summer break by all and sundry. Every one of the tutors at the bootcamp had their favourite that they swore by, and were of the opinion that with all the trouble he got into he was bound to need one sooner rather than later.

He cycled through them all with limited success, swapping from one to another trying to find the most effective one. However, whilst they slowed down the damage the curse was doing to his leg, it was still active and it continued to adapt until the healing spell was no longer effective.

He was at a loss as to what to do and was starting to get worried. The only way he could get medical attention was to end the duel, which meant he would have to stop casting the healing spells, finish the duel fast, and hope that Madame Pomfrey knew how to fix his leg. But if he stopped the healing spells to attack Seamus, who knew what condition his leg would in by the time she fixed it. If she could fix it.

All he could think of was to continue cycling through his healing spells in an attempt to slow the curse down. He risked another glance at Seamus, wondering why he hadn't followed up with another spell.

"No!" Seamus stared in disbelief as the effects of the spell slowly diminished under Potter's wand. Sure, Potter hadn't been able to completely stop it, but it should have completely incapacitated him by now.

He struggled to his feet, his legs felt numb as he stumbled to find his balance. He tried to hold up his wand and summon his magic to cast the spell again. He had never cast it twice in a row, the toll it took on his magic and his body just to cast it once was at the limit that he could bear. It was unthinkable that he could do it again.

His arm was too weak to raise his wand and it dangled impotently in his hand by his side.

Malfoy watched the drama play out, smiling with glee as he watched Potter trying to fend off the spell. He knew from experience that it was impossible, the very nature of the curse was such that it did not give up until it got what it needed.

His glee turned to triumph as the curse struck Potter in the leg knowing it would work its way through flesh and bone. That would be Potter out of the tournament as it would take months to fix the damage done. He may even lose his leg.

Whatever the outcome, Potter's power and influence would be greatly diminished for quite a period of time. More than enough time for him to consolidate his position as the next leader of Slytherin.

And of course, word would leak out that it was he who was behind the demise of the great Harry Potter. He would make sure it did. The ruthlessness of the plan was worthy of his father and its success should silence all the naysayers who said that he was spoilt and soft. Well, no more, life had taught him some hard lessons over the past couple of years and the bitterness and disappointment at having everything taken away from him had hardened his soul.

He watched Seamus dispassionately, gauging the effects the casting of the spell had on him. Seamus was really looking quite bad. It was just as well that the headmaster had brought the duel forward as Seamus would not have lasted much longer training as hard as he had been. He would have to give him a rest for a few weeks until the second round of the duels began. He would also have to adjust his training as Seamus's body was failing faster than expected.

He glanced at the headmaster whose expression was calm but whose eyes displayed his concern at what he was witnessing. Malfoy was confident that the headmaster would not intervene until he thought he could get the most advantage out of the situation. After all, the headmaster did have form doing just that. But he wasn't worried, he already had a plan in play for that eventuality.

Yes, everything was going to plan.

His gloating was cut short as he saw Seamus struggle to his feet. His head swung around to look at Potter.


Potter had somehow slowed down the effects of the curse.

His head swung back to Seamus "AGAIN!" he shouted, but his voice was drowned out by the yelling of the crowd who didn't really understand what they were seeing but were strangely captured by the drama unfolding in front of them and were extremely vocal.

Malfoy raised his wand to his throat and enhanced his voice


Seamus heard the words and his heart sunk. Oh, how he hated those words. The words that must be obeyed.

Without conscious thought he raised his wand and pointed it at Potter who continued to pour his magic into his thigh trying to heal the curse that was still spluttering away. He felt a sliver of hope, if he could just get the spell away again, Potter would not be able to hold off a second one while still fighting the first.

Seamus knew that casting the spell again might very well be the finish of him, he had very little magic left and the spell demanded so much.

"sacrificio totus"

Barely a whisper but enough to feel the jerk on his magic as the spell formed and made its seemingly leisurely path down the piste.

Harry frowned as the latest healing spell he was trying lost its battle and his flesh started to bubble and smoke again and the pain ramping up with it.

Out of desperation he tried the spell that Mad Eye Moody had taught him.

"No use faffing about with healing spells in a fight" the ex Auror had told him "You want a spell that does two things very quickly. Overpower the magic in the curse to stop it causing more damage, and stop the loss of bodily fluids. You have magic to spare, Harry. This will allow you to neutralise the magic in most curses from your average witch or wizard. Aye, it won't be pretty, and may leave you with a few scars, but it will save your life. After the fight is won, the healers can put you back together and make you look respectable again. Ha!"

"And if the fight isn't won" he turned serious "Well it won't matter, will it."

Harry had eyed Moody's collection of scars, burns, chunks of missing flesh, to say nothing of his missing leg, and decided that it would be his healing spell of last resort.

Last resort or not, Harry poured everything he had into Moody's "healing" spell, the tip of his wand only inches away from the wound in his thigh, aiming the best he could as he watched Seamus struggle to his feet.

Unsurprisingly, Moody was correct. Harry was able to direct all of his magic into actually neutralising the magic of the curse instead of trying to heal the damage, the result was immediate with the bubbling of his flesh subsiding to a gentle simmer and the pain miraculously diminishing at the same time. Sure, his thigh was still a mess, but he would let Madame Pomfrey worry about that latter.


Malfoy's command rang out.

Whilst Harry agreed with the sentiment expressed, it infuriated him to see the rallying effect it had on Seamus who managed to raise his wand and fire off another spell.

What the hell had Malfoy done to Seamus, what hold had he over him?

He watched the spell come and smiled, it wasn't the fastest of spells and he had the spell's measure now.

Malfoy's butchered attempt at Latin had given a him a clue which was confirmed by Seamus's incantation.

"sacrificio totus"

Some form of sacrifice curse, although the spell appeared to be quite advanced and unbelievably persistent while powered and directed by the caster.

Once it attached itself it leeched magic from the victim whilst sating itself on the flesh and bone until it got the required sacrifice.

But unlike other sacrifice hexes he had read about, this one appeared to also demand a sacrifice from the caster, which went a long way to explaining why Seamus was looking so bad.

The curse was almost on him, the smile dropped from his face as he concentrated on splitting his magic.

He held up his left hand, palm facing the curse with his fingers spread. His hand burst into blue flames, a harmless spell Hermione had taught them, but one which enabled him to focus his magic in his hand while allowing him to maintain Moody's spell with his wand on his leg. Ever since his success doing it in Professor Trelawney's class, he had been working on splitting his magic more with varying degrees of success.

Half a second later he felt Seamus's curse touch the flames.

He forced a burst of magic through his hand, a solid shield forming in place of the blue flames that had served their purpose. The response from the curse was as he predicted, it pushed on the shield trying to get to Harry's hand. This worked in his favour allowing him to keep the curse centred in his shield as he expanded it and slowly wrapped the edges forwards, closing his hand slowly as if he was trying to grab the curse. It was a lot harder than the text book he had read had made it out to be, but the spherical shape of the curse provided the mental image he needed to successfully wrap it in his shield.

The shield was almost closed around the curse, when he felt the last of the magic in the original curse in his thigh give up under the onslaught of the spell he had learnt from the Master Auror.

Yes! He thought raising his wand away from his leg and pointed it down the piste to where Seamus stood, trembling from the effort it was taking to hold the spell to which he was still connected, the tendrils of magic preventing the shield from completely sealing it off.

"Give it up Seamus" Harry spoke quietly but forcefully.

"I can't" Seamus said, his voice full of despair.

"He, he said..." the words trailed off before he added quietly "Have to protect me mam... " there were tears in his eyes now.

"Let the spell go" Harry demanded "Can't you see what it is doing to you?"

Seamus nodded, he knew exactly what the spell was doing to him and was about to comply when his eyes went really wide and lost focus as he blinked away the tears.

"I'm going to kill you Potter", he snarled, all the weakness gone.

Any chance he had of reasoning with Seamus was gone now, Harry thought.

He raised his wand and touched the tip of it against the shield in his left hand. He slowly pushed it forward and felt the shield give way allowing the wand tip to enter.

The spell he cast, the sunburst, was the same one as he used against the Dementor on the train. A little reminder to the dementors who would be watching his duel from the windows above.

The effect of his sunburst spell trapped within his own shield was visually spectacular, appearing to the crowd watching as if Harry was holding a glowing molten ball like a mini sun in the palm of his hand, one that just kept getting brighter and more intense.

The effect on Seamus's sacrifice curse however was devastating. Trapped within Harry's shield, burnt by the blinding white-hot light, it exploded out the end of the shield back towards Seamus who had no time to get out of the way.

The heat blast hit him first, burning off his hair, his eyebrows and most of his robes. His skin burning and blistering.

Then the remains of his own sacrifice curse hit him. Although the spell was almost consumed by the heat of the sunburst, there was enough left to attach itself in small patches to most of the exposed skin on the front of Seamus's body. It went to work immediately, feeding off Seamus's fast-diminishing magic and consuming the burnt flesh.

Seamus dropped his wand and started clawing at his face where the curse had melted his flesh, his finger nails leaving deep gouges. The pain was excruciating and he was screaming at the top of his lungs, matched by the screams of horror from the crowd.

Harry reacted quickly hitting Seamus with a restraint spell causing his arms be pulled to his sides and his whole body to go rigid. But it did not stop the screams coming out of his mouth that was now stuck wide open.

Harry stunned him and the screaming stopped. Seamus's rigid body fell slowly backwards, Harry quickly levitating him before he hit the ground and did himself any more damage.

With Seamus floating in the air in front of him at eye level, Harry cast Moody's spell at one of the patches of the sacrifice spell that he could see on Seamus's face with mixed results. The curse was weakened so was not as vigorous in consuming the flesh, but it took longer than he hoped before the magic was gone. It seemed to work better when he used it on himself than on others.

A quick examination of the rest of Seamus's body revealed what appeared to be almost a hundred patches of the curse still doing plenty of damage, instantly dissuaded Harry from attempting to heal them all. There was no way he would be able to stop them all before it took most of Seamus.

Instead, he cast a powerful stasis charm over Seamus's entire body, manifesting as a thick blue glow. He hoped the stasis charm would at least slow down the progress of the sacrifice spell in its weakened state until Seamus could get proper medical attention.

He turned around to pick up Seamus wand and stopped in his tracks, the entire student body had left their seats and had edged closer to the duelling piste staring at Seamus's unconscious, rigid body in silence as it slowly spun around in the air emitting an eerie blue glow.

Harry summoned Seamus's wand, officially ending the duel.

Professor Snape, who was referee for the nights duels as Professor Mooney was indisposed, brought the wards down in an instant as Madam Pomfrey bustled onto the pitch towards Seamus her wand raised ready to cancel Harry's spells so she could start treating her patient.

Harry stepped in front of her with his wand raised. "Don't touch him" he said, his voice louder and rougher than he meant it to be, the adrenalin still running through his veins.

"Mister Potter!" Professor Snape stepped between Harry and Madame Pomfrey, "What is the meaning of this"

Harry looked around at the students watching this confrontation, they were all eagerly listening, trying to hear what was going on. He felt a little foolish now at his overreaction.

He caste a muffliato around himself and the other two so they would not be overheard.

"Sacrificio, Professor." He said. "It is still active under that stasis charm. It has slowed it down a lot but hasn't stopped it completely."

He turned towards Madame Pomfrey who had gasped at the mention of that spell.

"I am truly sorry" he quickly apologised to her "I didn't know what else to do. The sacrificio, it is all over his body, there are just too many instances to try and stop them all at once. I was afraid if you lifted the stasis charm the remains of the spell would consume him"

"That stasis charm was fast thinking Mister Potter" She nodded her head agreeing with his reasoning and actions. "We will have to get him to St Mungo's straight away. They will be able to have multiple healers working on him at the same time" She narrowed her eyes at him "You were hit with it too?"

Harry nodded his head and looked towards his left thigh. It was looking very raw with chunks of flesh missing.

"Don't worry about me, I have it sorted, it is no longer active. Just get Seamus to St Mungo's" Harry said before adding an afterthought. "Have him checked for potion abuse. Rage, hate, something along those lines."

"Mister Potter" Snape drawled "Surely you are not accusing a fellow student of illegally enhancing their performance in this completion through the use of potions?"

"Of course not, Professor" Harry replied with feigned offence "I don't believe that Seamus is knowingly taking potions at all. Oh, maybe check for some sort of compulsion charm as well" Harry added to reinforce the point he was trying to get across.

Professor Snape and Madame Pomfrey shared a look, understanding what Harry was hinting at. Seamus would be having a full series of tests run on him at St Mungo's.

Madame Pomfrey turned back to Seamus and lowered him onto the stretcher she had brought with her. She left him stunned and the stasis charm intact. That really was a quick bit of thinking by someone so young she thought.

She could see what was left of the sacrifice curse trying to continue its nasty work, but was being held in check by the stasis charm. She shuddered thinking about what would drive a student to use that against one of their own.

She had only ever seen the curse once before, that was during the last war where it claimed the victim's leg. She had not been expecting to ever encounter it again as it had fallen out of favour and was not a commonly known spell, and the wizard that had caste it had his head blown off by the victim so that source of knowledge would have been lost.

Having secured Seamus onto the stretcher, she levitated it and led it through the crowd and out the doors of the hall into a small ante room where she activated her emergency portkey taking herself and Seamus straight to the spell damage ward at St Mungo's.

Once Seamus was off the piste, Harry cancelled the muffliato so everyone could hear. He wanted there to be no doubt about the outcome of the duel. He turned to face Professor Snape, gave him a formal bow, and presented him with Seamus's wand.

"Win to Harry Potter" Professor Snape formally announced to the crowd that by now was almost standing on the piste they had pressed so close in their eagerness to see and hear what was going on.

"Maybe, maybe not " a voice interrupted them.

Dumbledore had made his way through the crowd and onto the piste.

"If we could have a bit of privacy, please Severus" Dumbledore said looking pointedly towards the eager students crowding around the piste.

Professor Snape gave the Headmaster a small nod and was about to raise the wards around the piste.

"You too, please Severus" Dumbledore added.

Professor Snape stopped in his tracks. He eyes slitted as he looked at Dumbledore, and he looked to Harry who just rolled his eyes. Just another one of Dumbledore's games.

Snape spun on his heel and walked off the piste flicking his wand to activate the wards again, ensuring that the silencing charm was activated as well. For as much as he would love to hear what passed between Mister Potter and the Headmaster, it would not do to have it the subject of school gossip.

The instant the loud hum of the students' speculative murmurings was silenced as Harry and Dumbledore stood facing each other in the centre of the duelling piste.

Dumbledore looked at Harry "There has been a protest over the result" he said solemnly.

"Imagine my surprise" Harry retorted still feeling on edge from everything that had happened this evening. What was Dumbledore doing playing these ridiculous games? A student tried to maim another and ended up himself in St Mungo's. This is not normal happenings, even for Hogwarts. His reply had a bite in its tone as he fought to keep an impassive expression on his face conscious of all the other students watching them from just beyond the duelling piste wards.

"And what have I supposed to have done that was against the rules?"

"Using two wands during the duel, Mister Potter"

Harry looked at Dumbledore and sighed. He held his arms out from his sides and spun around slowly, still holding his wand in his right hand. Completing his loop, he sarcastically asked "And where do you think I am hiding my second wand, Headmaster?"

Dumbledore studied Harry. The duelling wards ruled out a hidden wand holster. The tightness of his t-shirt and jeans excluded them as hiding places, and with short sleeves and runners there was none of the usual hiding places. He must have that second wand somewhere, his sources said that he always carried both of his wands, and there had been no time since the change of the duelling schedule and the start of the duel for Harry to have hidden his second wand. He causally let his own wand slip into his hand from up his sleeve, watching Harry frown as wand appeared.

With Harry distracted by the appearance of his wand, he thoughtfully stroked his beard with his left hand, secretly trying a wandless expelliarmus aimed at Harry's second wand where ever it was. Harry felt a small tug on his wand, but as it wasn't the target of the expelliarmus, it didn't take much to keep hold of it.

Harry quirked an eyebrow. "Really, Headmaster?" as his own left hand twitched.

Dumbledore felt his own wand tug at his hand causing him to start and grip his wand more firmly.

Harry gave him a wink, he didn't really expect it to work as up until today he had only tried simple wandless spells, so he was pleased with the limited success.

Dumbledore stared at Harry in silence for at least a minute, the ease at which Harry did wandless magic was truly concerning. Someone so young with such control over his magic. Wandless magic was something that most wizards would never manage in their lifetime.

"Was that all Headmaster" Harry's voice brought Dumbledore out of his musings.

"Was that the only objection to my win?" Harry persisted.

Dumbledore was nothing if not resilient. Obviously, Harry didn't have a second wand on him but maybe...

"How did you get here, Harry" he asked "How did you manage to appear inside the duelling wards? You wouldn't have been hiding here already under your father's invisibility cloak by any chance?"

Harry glared at him, memories of Dumbledore trying to use the return of his father's cloak to manipulate him previously and here he was trying to use its to disqualify him. He took a deep breath to quench the anger that was rising in him, schooled his features, and he replied evenly

"Destination. Determination. Deliberation."

There was a moments silence and then Harry burst out laughing at the expression on Dumbledore's face, his anger finally disappearing at the shear absurdity of the situation.

"Impossible, you can't apparate in Hogwarts" spluttered Dumbledore.

"And yet here I am" Harry pointed out.

"Yes, here you are, but how..." Dumbledore started


The windows around the top of the walls high above them suddenly imploded, the shards of glass raining down upon the thankfully empty seats at the top of the viewing stands.

The air around them turned cold, freezing cold. Harry could see his breath steaming in clouds as he raised his wand and pointed at the remains of the shattered windows and waited, knowing what was coming.

Silent as ghosts the dementors floated through the windows into the hall. Staying high above the students they massed up one end of the great hall facing the entire student body.

Chaos reigned, students were screaming and crying as their worst memories were brought to the fore, their friends who were less effected doing their best to comfort them. Some were shouting and pointing their wands at the dementors, not quite sure what to do.

"Everyone leave. Now!" the commanding voice rang out above the chaos. "Go back to your common rooms. You will be safe there."

The Hufflepuff prefects had already gotten their first and second years out of harm's way and into the ante chamber outside the hall before the order came, with Neville arriving back from the room of requirements just in time to help Susan and Hannah with their care as the Prefects headied back into the hall to encourage the rest of their house towards the doors. It was only a minute or so before the entire house was out of the hall where a quick head count confirmed everyone was accounted for, and Professor Sprout with her wand drawn and an unusually serious demeanour led them back to their common room.

The Ravenclaws reacted just as quickly, despite their usual inquisitiveness they had no desire to stay and study the horde of dementors and were soon out the doors and heading for the safety of their common room. Hermione, who had been the first to make it back from the Room of Requirements, took Luna by the hand and engaged her in an animated discussion about the origins of the Dementors as they walked back to their common room before Luna tried to talk to the dementors or something equally dangerous.

The Gryffindors were never even given the chance to do anything stupid brave. Professor McGonagall had been expecting another incident from the dementors, all the staff had, so knowing her students she had drilled her prefects until she was satisfied that when the time came, they would ignore their natural instincts and focus on getting everyone to safety. In the main it worked well with only one dissenter who was quickly dealt with, and they too were soon on their way to the safety of their common room.

The Slytherins were long gone by the time the Gryffindors had sorted themselves out, not wanting to have anything to do with the Dementors, Marcus Flint leading them back to their common room.

Despite their differences there was one thing that all the houses had in common, once back in the safety of their common room all they could talk about was the duel between Seamus and Harry. The dementor attack was merely a sideshow compared to the sheer brutalness of the duel.

Professor Snape was the last to leave the great hall. He took one last look at Harry and Dumbledore, standing in the middle of the duelling piste facing the dementors, before shutting the doors of the great hall and sealing them. He hurried after his Slytherins to make sure they reached the common room safely.

"Sorry about that, Headmaster" Harry apologised for giving the order to evacuate the Great Hall. But in his defence, he had done it purely from instinct in the absence of any show of leadership from the headmaster.

"Headmaster?" having not received a reply Harry turned away from the dementors that he had been closely watching, wondering if the wards of the duelling piste would keep them at bay, and looked at Dumbledore.

Dumbledore was not in a good way. He was on his knees with tears running down his face quietly pleading to the people that haunted him from his past that only he could see.

"Ariana. It wasn't me. It wasn't me. It was an accident. I am so sorry"

Dumbledore shook his head to try and rid himself of the memory, managing only to see the angry face of the young Slytherin student.

"Severus, you must do this, as abhorrent as it is. It is the only way to keep her safe. You know that he will rise to power soon and we need information from their side. It is for the greater good."

Dumbledore shook his head again, the face that appeared before him brought him fresh anguish.

"Gellert, my dear boy. If only we had stayed together, things would have been different"

Dumbledore collapsed to the floor and curled into a tight ball sobbing as the dementors closed in proving the wards were no protection against them.

Harry felt the pressure building in his head. He didn't seem to be affected in the traditional way by them, but they still physically affected him, draining his energy and leaving his head feeling like it would explode.

Then, as if by magic, he felt his left hand was wrapped in a warmth and softness he instantly recognised. He turned his head just as Daphne was taking off the invisibility cloak that she had been wearing since Dobby dropped her off just outside the great hall. She had used it to watch the duel from right beside the piste and managed to sneak inside the wards just before Professor Snape raised them again around Harry and the Headmaster.

Harry gave her hand a squeeze, her closeness relieving the pressure in his head somewhat allowing him to regain his faculties. He released her hand and crouched down beside Dumbledore.

"Fawkes" he called out and was almost instantaneously answered by a flash as Fawkes appeared beside him.

"Can you take him back to his quarters? He should be alright after some rest" he indicated towards the sobbing old man.

Fawkes nodded and disappeared with Dumbledore in a flash leaving Harry with the phoenix song ringing in his ears which lifted the remaining pall hanging over him.

Harry rose to his feet again and turned to face the dementors who had stopped their advance, still quite close to Harry and Daphne but not a threatening distance. Harry took a step towards them, his wand gripped tightly by his side, a spell ready to caste. Foregoing the whole reading of thoughts process that affected him so greatly the last time, his voice rang out loud and demanding.

"Why are you here?"

"Do you doubt my resolve?"

"Do you doubt my power?"

The dementors moved uneasily. Yes, they had come to question his right to command them, but seeing him tonight and the ruthlessness he showed when dealing with one of his own kind left no doubt about his resolve.

None of them wanted to enter the mind of the young wizard, and indeed there was no need to as his anger was plain for them to see. They really didn't want to see another demonstration of his power against them.

"Go" he commanded "I do not want to see you again unless I call for you!"


They had a moment of hesitation, unsure what to do. And suddenly, as if their uncertainty had precipitated it, Harry cast the sunburst.

"sssol sssoluti"

It raced up towards them, a glowing ball of intense bright light, expanding faster than they could react. They tried to flee out of its path, a forlorn effort as it had already increased its size tenfold.

In the end it was Harry's restraint that saved them, he had cast the spell to explode just in front of the group which it did with devasting effect, scattering them shrieking high pitched squeals as they fled through the same windows they had entered through.

Harry almost collapsed before Daphne grabbed him, supporting his weight exactly like she had after his last encounter with the dementors. She hugged Harry close not sure what to do next. It was pointless going to the infirmary as Madame Pomfrey would have her hands full looking after Seamus. And there was no way that they could go back to the Slytherin common room with Harry the way he was. She was at a loss, frantically thinking of how she was going to get Harry to safety.

She stared into Harry's eyes and for once he was able to read the worry that she never let show on her face. He summoned what was left of his magic and gave her a wink.

Suddenly with a quiet crack they vanished from the great hall.