Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter

Harry's steps echoed throughout the hallway, sounding his approach to anyone listening. The tap tap tap of his shoes had become rythmic to him, becoming as familiar to him as a friend. After hours of walking through the halls of his favorite place in the world, the only sound he could remember, the sound that reverberated around him and pierced his ears, was the sound of his steps.

On any other day, there would've been at least some students walking throughout the school. Gryffindors laughing as they traveled to the pitch outside, Ravenclaws discussing one of their previous assignments or how well they'd done on a test that day. Even with the few number of professors in Hogwarts, there would've been no doubt that, on a normal day, you would've run into at least one of them after exploring the halls for so long. Snape sneering at one of the Gryffindors as he took points for not walking fast enough, Professor Flitwick smiling jubilantly and waving to whomever passed.

But there wasn't any of that today. There were no students giggling together, no teachers walking to their classroom or monitoring the children, no owls flying through the air. As far as Harry could tell, the only living thing in the entire school was him.

He rolled his wand around in his palm, attempting to get the blood flowing to the rest of his hand. He'd been gripping his only source of safety for so long, he was slightly afraid that it would've snapped from the pressure by now.

The morning had been slightly strange to start with. For starters, at the time Harry had woken up, there hadn't been a single soul in the dormitory. At first he'd thought he'd slept in late, and cursed Ron for not waking him up for the first meal. He'd gotten dressed as fast as he could, barely managing not to fall down the Common Room stairs in his hurry. He'd quickly rushed through the school, managing to make it to the Great Hall before the first meal should've ended. But by the time he'd gotten there, there wasn't a single soul in the room.

Harry had been understandably confused, of course. Not only had every single student and teacher been missing from the Hall, but all of the tables still held their breakfast meal. Bags still sat on the benches, inches of essays laid on the tables, seemingly in the middle of correction. A few letters and packages were scattered throughout the hall, as if dropped randomly by their carriers.

After looking under every table, feeling at the benches for some kind of prank, he'd realized that something was terribly wrong. He had immediately begun searching the nearby classrooms and broom closets, searching for any sign of life.

And yet, nothing was there. No students playing a trick on old Harry, no Hermione to jump out and confront him about his coursework, nothing. And so, he'd continued searching for hours, until the sun had gone down.

As he paced back and forth in front of the entrance to Hogwarts, Harry realized he was sweating profusely. His legs were shaking, he was blinking rapidly, breathing heavily. He fell to the wall, quickly sliding down it, and curled his arms around his knees. After living with the Dursleys for sixteen years of his life, he'd come to be able to recognize the signs of a panic attack. Deep breaths, he thought to himself, take deep breaths, and think about the situation you're in. Take stock of where you are, and what you're going to do. After years of vocal tirades and near abuse, he'd thought he had a good enough handle on his emotions to deal with yet another panic attack.

He didn't.

Break

He sat there for what seemed like days. It wasn't, of course, but to Harry's irrational mind it might as well have been. Thinking about his current situation over and over again was just making him nervous, but he couldn't not think about it.

As far as Harry could tell, every single person, every single living thing on the grounds of Hogwarts, it was all gone. Hermione, who he'd just seen last night. She'd given him a hug, and shown him that smile that make his stomach do flips. In the dorms, Ron had grinned and clapped him on the shoulder, reminding him of their Quidditch practice for the next day. They'd gone to bed, and everyone had been there.

Then they weren't.

His friends weren't there. His teachers weren't there, his enemies weren't even there. There was no one.

He shook. The wall had become home to him, his back aching against it, his legs cramping from bending for so long.

But he couldn't keep wallowing. No matter what had happened to his friends, no matter what had caused their disappearance, or who, he was the only one left. And he was the only person who could solve this. His friends were counting on him, and like always, he would deliver.

He pushed himself off the wall, and wobbled, almost falling back to the ground. He looked out the gates and realized that he'd been sitting there for much longer than he'd thought. The night had already arrived, and it looked as if a storm was coming from the way the clouds had managed to block the starlight.

As he turned, he took the Map out from his back pocket. He already knew what it was going to say, he'd checked it at least five times already, but for his own sanity he had to be sure.

Nothing. He recited the passphrase several times, just like he'd done before, and no magical ink appeared. No map of Hogwarts to help him, no Misters Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and especially no Mister Prongs to guide him. The map was completely blank, as if it were a completely normal piece of parchment.

He sighed, and returned the map to his pocket, quickly making his way towards the Headmaster's office. If there was anywhere in the castle where he might find a hint to his friend's whereabouts, it was there.

While walking, Harry began to realize that he was feeling a… strange sensation. Strange wasn't the word he would've typically used for this kind of feeling, yet it was a word that fit. A feeling of being stared at, with immense emotion, yet when he turned around, there wasn't a soul. He knew it was like to be stared at, to be ogled, to be looked at with any semblance of emotion, good or bad. And he knew he wasn't imagining it. No matter which turn he took, which corner he ducked behind, that feeling followed him. Relentless.

Eventually, he managed to make it to Professor Dumbledore's office, although he was still shaking. His knees quivered. Harry usually tried not to brag, but he thought himself to be a brave person. Facing down a Dark Lord year after year, looking them in the eyes, fighting monsters and enemies. Yet the feeling that followed him now? That scared him more than anything he'd ever felt.

Professor Dumbledore's office was guarded by a large, stone Gargoyle. It guarded the staircase to the office, but Harry had always suspected that, if tested, it would do something much worse to people who tried to get into his office without permission. He quickly recited the password, "Sherbert Lemon", and jumped on the first step.

The one thing that Harry had always noticed about Dumbledore's office was it's organized yet cluttered nature. It had always seemed organized on the surface, with everything in its place and its place well defined. Yet the more times he'd visited his office, the more he'd realized the chaotic nature of everything in it. Books may have been on the shelves, but nothing was arranged. Papers cluttered every desk, and while they appeared to have a place and a purpose, most of them had nothing to do with one another. And dozens of magical artefacts were scattered throughout the room, as if Professor Dumbledore had felt a need to show off.

But what Harry saw in his office was nothing like that today. Books scattered throughout the room, as if being thrown from their sleeves. Devices and objects littered the floor, and there were large scratches indented into the wood, like someone had been dragged through the room.

Harry gaped. This kind of destruction… a huge fight must have happened here, he thought. He quickly stepped over the cluttered floor and damaged objects, rushing towards Dumbledore's desk. He jumped up the stairs and began looking around, attempting to find any sort of clue or warning to what had occured here, or maybe even a solution to getting his friends back. But there was nothing, no warnings, no messages, no hints at what he should do or look for. He fell back into Dumbledore's desk chair, barely noting its softness. He took a breath, then looked around again. He thought about what Dumbledore would do, how he'd think if he was attacked. What he'd want to say if he was, what he'd want to do if he had to fight. He let out his breath. Then, it was there. In between two of the books on Dumbledore's desk, pressed together as tightly as possible, were several pieces of parchment ripped straight from a book, most likely a very valuable one. He quickly unfolded them, and found Dumbledore's message, scrawled quickly and messily, most likely in fear. The message was written directly over the previous text, making it slightly difficult for Harry to read.

Dear Mister Potter, if that is who is reading my note. I have it on good authority that you'll be the last person standing at the end of all this, but if you are dead, and someone is reading this note who isn't you, hello! My name is Albus Wulfric Percival Brian Dumbledore, and I am almost certainly dead. It isn't anything to fret yourself over my dear, however. We all have our time, and we all must be ready when that time comes. I hadn't, however, expected my time to come so soon. I am one hundred and fifty years old, and if I truly am dead, I feel a bit cheated. Surely I could've made it another fifty years or so, yes?

But I digress. To whomever is reading this note, you are our last chance. You have no doubt noticed the absence of all the living witches and wizards at Hogwarts. At least, I do assume that's what's going to happen. Professor Snape has already disappeared, and I fear Minerva may be next. Most of our younger students disappeared during the night, hopefully in their sleep. But the rest of them disappeared whilst everyone was conveying for Breakfast. One moment they were there, and the next, just gone.

I know that at least one person will have survived. I've seen this happen once before in my life, a little magical community known as Hanglebirch. One day, all the citizens were living out their lives peacefully, and the next? Everyone had disappeared. All except one young boy, scarred for life. After that day, he never spoke of what had happened there, never talked about what he believed had happened to his friends and family, until one day, he was gone too.

I fear that time is of the essence, so I must make this painfully clear. Despite what you may currently believe, you are not alone, and you are in grave danger. There is something there that wants to kill you, I'm afraid, something that wants very much to kill everything in its way. Something worse than a dark lord, something worse than anything I've ever seen. And it will find you. You must escape the castle, you must find help. But most importantly-

The message seemed to continue on the next page, but something about it gave him pause. Harry's arms were full of goosebumps, sweat was pouring from his brow, his knees were knocking together. He had no idea what was on the next page, but Harry knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the moment he turned that page, the moment he saw what was written there, he would die. He hesitated, then flipped it over. On the back were five words. Five words that froze Harry, that shocked him to his core, and that made him truly fear for his life.

YOU MUST BEWARE THE PORTRAITS.

Harry kept his eyes on the ground, and slowly folded the parchment up, placing it in his back pocket. He then pulled out his wand, and looked up.

Every single portrait in Dumbledore's office was full, and every single man and woman in them was staring at Harry in silence.