Well, here we are the last chapter in the Dance of Death. It's been a fun ride and I sincerely hope you have all enjoyed the story. I'd like to take a moment to thank all of you who have stuck with me as the story evolved and I learned a bit about writing. Those of you who have written reviews and had correspondence with me – thank you! It has been a pleasure.
I especially want to thank my Beta Reader, 'Just William'. You guys have all been great.
JKRowling owns Harry Potter
FASA owns Earthdawn
Chapter 52: 'La Danse de la Mort'
The Forbidden Forest
15 Minutes after the First Battle
3 Snatchers Talking
A grizzled man sipped his drink with shaking hands, staring at Hogwarts in the distance. "I swear to you, mate… They've got an assassin roaming about. I scouted ahead, and when I turned around… everyone was dead… All of their faces looked surprised… I didn't stick around, no, sir…. I ran as fast as I could."
A one-eyed wizard chimed in, "Aye… others have been saying the same. There's an invisible killer in Hogwarts. Merciless and—"
"Forget the silent killer!" A younger man covered in blood interrupted, "Did you see Potter fight? He's like nothing I've ever seen. His curses shatter shields like they were nothing… If the Dementors hadn't shown up, he'd have killed us all!"
The grizzled man nodded in agreement, "Without the Giants and the Dementors… We'll have to face Potter…" He began shaking his head emphatically, "I won't do it. I won't just throw my life away. McFinch and his crew have already snuck off. More'll follow, mark my words!"
The younger man then said. "He's unbeatable. Like some kind of rising Dark Lord." After a brief moment, he added, "Maybe we should reach out… offer our services—" He stopped when a shadow fell over them.
As a group, the three men turned and looked up in terror to see Lord Voldemort staring at them. His eyes were glowing red with his fury. His inhuman face showed needle like teeth behind a vicious sneer.
It was the last thing they ever saw.
25 Minutes after the First Battle
Harry had aided in the recovery of the bodies and it had been excruciatingly painful. Fred, Tonks, Remus, Ted... There were others too, but these hit him the hardest. In all the ways that mattered, this was his family. He took a moment to slip away and come to terms with his loss.
Ted was like a happy uncle. Always laughing and joking around. The man was no fighter. What was he doing on the front lines? He was a solicitor! He only knew how to fight in the court room. He was the one that made Andromeda laugh. Watching the man cut up with his daughter was one of the best parts of living with the Tonks family.
Tonks… Nymphadora Tonks. Her jokes were like her fathers, only more risqué. She always knew how to push Harry's buttons. And how to calm him down. Why was she even here? She was supposed to stay home with Teddy! She'd just given birth and was still recovering. Harry thought about his bacon stealing older sister… and that's how he saw her. His sister. She was gone forever now. He loved her so much… Who was going to watch Teddy now? Now that both Tonks and Remus…
Remus. The patient and gentle Marauder. Life had beaten the poor man down so far, but he somehow managed to keep his moral compass pointing north. Remus was the only decent Defence teacher Hogwarts had employed during the years Harry had been there… He'd taught Harry so much. Now he was gone. At least he was with Tonks. Poor Teddy.
Fred had also been killed. The Weasleys were crushed. George had fallen apart… Ginny and Molly were despondent. At least Percy came around. Percy the GIT shows up right as Fred died. Doesn't seem like a decent trade off.
Ginny was so distraught. Andromeda too. Poor Andromeda lost her whole family. Except for Teddy. Harry was suddenly struck with a realization that he and Teddy had a lot in common.
Harry became aware of tiny Penelope McKinnon standing near him. She held her wand firmly in her gnarled hand and seemed quite focused.
"Your mother would have been so proud, Harry. I know you have lost a great many friends today, but you must stay strong." Her words were not accusatory. They were comforting. "Don't give in to grief, they'll be time for that later. You are the one we look up to. Leadership is a burden, but you must wear it with a straight back and a strong countenance."
Harry gave a small nod. "Yes ma'am."
She continued, "Show them your compassion and your strength, but not your grief. Not yet. These people believe in you. They're following you for your strength! They look to you for inspiration!""
Harry felt a flash of shame. He was hiding away while others were hurting. It was time to step it up. They were all here to fight beside him… and he was hiding. When this was over, he could be seventeen. When this was over, he would deal with his loss… For now, he needed to help others deal with their pain. He needed to be a leader.
"Thank you, Madam McKinnon. I needed to hear that."
Resolving himself, he turned and went to the Room of Requirement. The infirmary. The Morgue. The Anti-Apparition wards had been restored, so he had to double time it.
Hospital - Room of Requirement
30 Minutes after the First Battle
Harry entered the Room of Requirement and took in the scene. There were people pacing about, either waiting for treatment or waiting on a patient. Andromeda and Madame Pomfrey had treated most of the injuries. They ranged from minor to severe. There would still be defenders with their arms in slings or a limp, but all were still willing to fight.
The dead had been collected and assembled in a back corner. He saw the Weasley family grieving and knew he needed to go to Ginny. But first, he needed to be there for someone who had lost all of her immediate family. Looking around, Harry found Andromeda and Narcissa sitting quietly on the side of the room. Draco was with them as well.
Harry approached and quietly sat beside Andromeda. "Aunt Andromeda?" She was staring off and lost in her thoughts. Harry waited but no recognition came.
He tried again. "Aunt Andromeda… I'm so sorry." His voice was breaking, and his eyes were tearing up.
She turned to him, her eyes lacking their usual sparkle. "Harry, you are Lord Black. Never forget that." She took his hand and inter-laced her fingers with his. "You bring me comfort, but I need you to also bring vengeance. Justice." She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. She was so much like Sirius.
Harry glanced over and saw Narcissa was holding her other hand. He felt a flash of irritation that the same sister that had cut her off for marrying a Muggle Born and having a half Blood child was now comforting her. Harry forced a soft smile and kissed Andromeda on the forehead. Forget Narcissa and focus on Andromeda.
"I swear to you, Voldemort will die by my hand." He meant it, too. "Bellatrix, too."
Images of Tonks and Remus and Ted danced in his mind. Harry knew he'd never rest until both Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange were dead. Eyewitnesses had seen her murdering both Tonks and Ted… Dolohov had already paid for killing Remus.
Andromeda smiled at him. "I believe you Harry. I believe you." Her eyes filled with sorrow and pain.
Harry became aware of Bill standing beside them. The grief of losing Fred was etched deeply on his face. But his eyes were hard and focused. He was there for a reason.
Bill spoke before condolences could be offered. "Harry, we need to meet now." He hastily added, "For a War council."
Andromeda squeezed his hand, then released it. "There are still patients to treat… Go now Harry." She stood up and joined Madam Pomfrey. Harry noted the older Medi-Witch was treating Colin for what appeared to be a head injury. Thank goodness the little guy survived the first battle.
Harry wanted to find Ginny, but there was no time. He said a silent prayer for her and followed Bill.
45 Minutes after the First Battle
Harry, Bill, Minerva, Kingsley, and Neville were sitting in the same side room they had been in before the battle. Harry saw his Familiar was there waiting for him and he gently rubbed her heads. For once, she was silent.
Kingsley took charge as soon as everyone was settled. "We haven't much time, so we need to be focused and brief. The Apparition wards are raised but given time they can be brought down once more. Fortunately, that will take time and focus, two things not available in a battle."
Minerva McGonagall said, "Correct. And without an obvious target, like the mystic dome we raised, the ward can only be broken at the heart of Hogwarts."
Harry liked the sound of that. "So, they'll have to attack us directly and with no quick escapes. Good."
Neville pursed his lips and added, "Of course, that means we don't have a quick escape either."
Harry shrugged, "I'm not leaving until this is done. Do we have any idea how many were lost? On both sides?"
Kingsley took a deep breath. "We lost half our people. They lost… perhaps as many and half again. But they had more combatants."
Harry scoffed, "Cannon fodder, you mean. Without the Giants and the Dementors to distract us, we can leverage our superior fighters." He ran his hand through his hair and added, "I expect half the snatchers to desert at the first opportunity. None of them seemed to want to be here."
Bill said, "They were hoping for an easy victory. When we put up a fight, you could see it in their eyes. The fear. But they still have highly trained Death Eaters. And Bellatrix is a killing machine."
McGonagall asked, "Are we sure the Dementors won't return? That could make the difference."
Harry smirked and said, "One hundred percent. Even if they did by some miracle, I killed most of them… No, they won't return." Seeing everyone shift uncomfortably, he changed the topic. "How many true Death Eaters perished? Not Snatchers."
Kingsley rubbed his chin. "Perhaps a quarter of the original number. It's rather hard to tell. As Bill said, they're the biggest threats."
Bill added, "According to our scouts, Snape was killed in the boat house thirty minutes ago."
McGonagall surprised them all. "Good Riddance!"
Harry asked, "Does anyone have the Marauder's Map? Was it useful? Maybe we should set up a control centre or something…"
Neville shook his head, "No. It kind of shorted out when the wards collapsed. Even if it hadn't, with all the people on the map, overlapping… dying. I don't think it could handle that much information flowing in." He pulled out the map and showed it was a blank map of Hogwarts.
Harry winced. Seeing the Marauders crowning achievement in a 'blank state' was deflating, but with all the deaths he'd witnessed today it didn't affect him as much as he would have thought. Neville was right, even if it had been working it would have been of extremely limited use during the siege. He remembered how hard it was to read when names overlapped. It worked best after curfew or when tracking people moving individually or in ridiculously small groups. Like teachers. Heck, Pettigrew was never even noticed by the twins when he was sleeping beside Ron… it had to be due to overlap. Something like that would have been hard to miss. The enchantments were likely still intact, it just needed to be re-connected to the wards.
Bill looked over at Harry. "We'll fix it later. No point now." Turning to the others, he asked, "We need to get into position soon. Anything else of note?"
Harry talked as fast as possible. "The Snake is dead, so that just leaves the tiara... Diadem… whatever it's called. When Voldemort gets here, I'll keep him busy. Bill, I need you to destroy the Diadem while he's here and can't escape. Dobby or Kreacher can notify you after I've engaged him. Once he knows it's been destroyed, he'll panic. After that, he'll draw power from his Death Eaters… Making them easier to defeat."
The Transfiguration Professor gave him a shocked look, "Making 'You-Know-Who' more powerful as well! Can you really stand against him?"
Harry couldn't tell if the look she gave him was patronising or actual concern. Either way, it didn't belong in the war council.
Harry said, "I have to. You just worry about the other Death Eaters. Especially Bellatrix. She's most likely defeated with transfiguration and illusions… head-to-head she's a brutal fighter. In straight on combat, to most fighters, she's just as dangerous as You-Know-Who." Only the best duellists could stand up to her. Or the smartest.
Bill grimaced for a moment, "Why not just destroy the Diadem now? That way I can help with the fighting…" His face held a fragile look. A look of worry.
Harry shook his head, "You're the best able to resist the Horcrux. As a curse breaker, you're far less likely to succumb to… its influence. If you destroy it now, Voldemort may not even attack. Then we'll have to go find him. Who knows, he may even try to create another one if he gets away."
Harry doubted Voldemort had enough soul left to split, but you never know.
Professor McGonagall then stood up. "I believe I can reanimate a third of the suits of armour from the earlier battle. I may have to scavenge about for parts, but not all were obliterated. A few may only have one arm or a missing head, but they'll be able to fight." She then shrugged. "Every little bit helps."
55 minutes after the First Battle
Everyone at Hogwarts was moving into position. Harry briefly saw Ginny and gave her a hug. She wasn't sitting this one out. She was one of the best fighters here, he'd seen to that. He still worried and Hermione had agreed to stay near her. Of course, that probably also applied to most of the Weasleys. Harry also asked his Familiar to stay with Andromeda and protect her. He couldn't carry her about due to his need for mobility.
Before he walked to the front of the school, Harry turned over the Resurrection stone Albus had given him. It was in a ring on his finger and easy to spin. The ethereal spirits of Remus, Tonks, Ted, Sirius, Lily and James now stood before him. It was odd seeing his parent's as they looked older than the incarnations in his head. All the spirits were smiling at him.
Sirius's spirit spoke first, "Harry, we're so proud of you. I'm sorry we didn't have more time together."
His mother's spirit then said, "As are we. You have a small piece of us, but the greater part of your father and I are watching over you."
His father's spirit smiled and said, "Always with you, son. Always so immensely proud."
Tonks' spirit said, "Don't mourn us too long Harry. Don't forget to live. Take care of mum and Teddy. Tell him all about us… We love you…" Remus smiled and placed his ethereal hand on Tonks' shoulder.
Harry felt a warmth run through his chest. Words weren't necessary, but he managed to say:
"I love you all. So much."
James' spirit smiled and tapped his left wrist. "It's show time. Give 'em hell, Harry."
Harry released the spirits and took his place at the front of the school.
The Entrance Hall
One Hour after the First Battle
Harry stood in the centre of the courtyard and looked around at those who stood beside, behind, and around him. People he knew and cared for. There were also people he could barely tolerate. Finally, there was the majority of which he'd never met. He knew he had to say something. He briefly locked eyes with Penelope and remembered her words. He needed to inspire. He cleared his throat and boldly proclaimed:
"Today we fight for what we believe in. No one can ever take that away from us. We will win. Believe that! Hold nothing back… Today we make those who fell proud. Today we step forward and are counted. One day, we will look back on today and say it was our defining moment! As of now, we aren't just Wizards and Witches… we are Heroes! Never forget that."
He then placed his Holly wand to his throat. His voice thundered out at a level that could be heard for miles.
"Followers of Voldemort, the hour is now upon us. But it's also upon you! Know this, there will be no mercy to any that attack this school. Voldemort – I'm speaking directly to you now. If you flee, I will track you down like the coward you are and end your miserable existence! You are no Lord; you are the son of a squib and a muggle… pretending to be a Pureblood. Your blood is just as red as mine… Now get your ass over here and I'll prove it! I'll be the end of you and all who stand beside you!"
He took his wand away from his throat and turned to his allies. Some looked shocked, others looked resolved. None looked like they planned to flee.
Harry said, "Report to your defensive positions. It's show time."
Bill nudged him, "Harry… that was impressive… but pretty grim too…"
Harry gave his mentor a half grin, "We need to thin out the opposition. If even a fifth desert… it helps. Besides, I wanted to be honest."
Bill took a deep breath. "Alright. You know where I'll be."
Bill then took his wife in his arms and kissed her. "I'll be back soon. Please be careful…" He swiftly walked off. Harry could see Bill was still shaken by the deaths he'd witnessed. Especially Fred's. But that could be said for every person here.
His long-time friend and mentor sped off to spend 'quality time' with the Diadem of Ravenclaw.
Outside the Entrance Hall.
Waiting for the Attack
Lavender approached Parvati and Padma. "We have an important job to do, we have to watch Harry's back."
Parvati did a double take. "I think Harry can take care of himself." Her sister nodded in agreement.
"No, Par. He can't watch his own back. Nobody can." Pausing only a moment, she added, "I know Harry can win his fight, but not if he's cursed in the back."
Padma and Parvati looked solemnly at each other.
Lavender said, "Who better to watch his back than the three of us? It's not like we have any other jobs. Just stay near him and if anyone is aiming at his back, they get cursed."
Padma said, "We were supposed to give aid to the Garden Gate if it fell. They may need—"
Lavender interrupted, "If Harry falls, this final stand we're making is all over. Garden Gate or no Garden Gate."
The other two girls hesitantly agreed.
The Entrance Hall.
Harry stood and waited. An hour had come and gone, but still no attack. He expected the primary assault to be right here in front. He also expected an aerial assault and a smaller attack on the Garden Gate. With the Anti-Apparition Wards in full force, the assault options were limited. Then he felt it…
There was a slight twisting in the main courtyard in front of them. Shifting his perceptions, he saw a concentrated assault on the wards… It was as if a dozens of powerful Witches and Wizards were all focusing on Apparating to the same location. Focusing, but not executing. It was some sort of slow building ritual. He's never seen anything like this. Was this one of the ways Voldemort had gotten into so many warded locations?
McGonagall called out, "They're attempting to break through." After a moment, she added, "The wards can hold them out."
There was a good reason not to Apparate in battle. It left you disoriented for a second or two as you regained your bearings. Harry decided to take advantage of it.
Harry said, "I'd rather let them through and blast them to pieces while they're recovering from the Apparition." Getting Kingsley and McGonagall's terse consent, "Professor, once they're through, raise the wards again. Then go and tend your animated suits of armour."
Harry turned to the crowd around him. "Wands up. Start firing at the count of three. I'll mark the spot."
"One…" Everyone fell into their combat stances. He placed a large 'X' in the middle of the courtyard.
"Two…" Wands were prepared, and curses were on everyone's mind. Harry had both wands ready.
"Three!" No sooner had McGonagall dropped the wards, than an immense shockwave ran through the courtyard and knocked everyone off their feet. That had been unexpected.
Harry rolled over and quickly came back up into his fighting stance. He was greeted to a large gathering of Death Eaters and Snatchers quickly recovering from Apparitions.
The Dozens of defenders recovered from the shockwave and were now pointing their wands at the dozens of attackers who were pointing their own wands back at them. What is this called in Western Movies? A Mexican Standoff?
Assessing the situation, Harry realised his forces were roughly half that of the Death Eaters and Snatchers. That was actually an improvement. No doubt there were others preparing to assault the Garden Gate or attack the castle on brooms. They were outnumbered, but they had very skilled combatants and no distractions from Giants or Dementors. In fact, they still had a Giant of their own. The battle was far from decided.
Harry was in front of the defenders as Voldemort was in front of his followers. Harry knew no killing curses would be in any initial volley. It was impossible to cast silently and with six syllables, the killing curse was a long incantation. He then felt the Apparition wards reintegrate.
This was it!
"Voldemort." He decided not to call him Tom. Why poke the bear when he wanted to slow things down? He needed to draw this out. "How about sending your minions home and let us end this one on one? It'll be just the two of us."
Voldemort grinned, showing his needle-like teeth. "Oh, Harry… that's not an option now. Rebellions must be dealt with." He paused only a moment, then said, "But I am merciful and generous. Those who lay down their wands and surrender will be forgiven. In truth, you have all proven to me just how resourceful and ambitious you are. Resourcefulness and ambition are traits to be admired."
Harry scoffed. "Or we could settle this now. In a duel to the death. Just you and me. Unless you're afraid?" Seeing Voldemort's eyes flash in anger, he added, "Are you feeling a bit too mortal now?"
"I am far beyond mortality, Harry. As you well know." Voldemort's eyes glowed red.
"The locket, the diary, the cup, the ring," Harry held up his hand showing the very ring he had named off, "And even your familiar has been dealt with." The last two seemed to anger the Dark Lord, but he held himself in check.
When Harry stopped counting, Voldemort looked smug and satisfied. Harry had deliberately left out the Diadem. Let him think we don't have it. Let him think he had something here to fight for.
"We outnumber you two to one, Harry Potter. I'll give you one last chance to be noble and honourable. Sacrifice yourself. Do it for your friends? Lay done your life and accept defeat. I'll even make your death painless. Then I will show mercy to your followers." He then sneered, "Or you can watch them die while you are beaten and killed." Harry noted Voldemort's followers were beginning to fan out. They were preparing.
It was time to pull out all stops. Harry concentrated and strained a bit… Adopting his 'Astral Face'. His skin became glossy black while his hair became flat white. His perceptions expanded far into the astral plane and he saw Voldemort as he really was. A twisted mockery of life… a minion of an elder race that only sought to feed on humanity. A Horror to be stopped.
Voldemort laughed then said, "Harry Potter, you show your true colours at last."
Harry saw Bellatrix Lestrange in his periphery. She was laughing and clapping her hands. She even began jumping up and down, almost dropping her wand in her excitement. He noted there were more than a few wands directed at him, but he needed his focus. With a silent incantation, 'Vide Bellator!' Harry appeared to split into four different versions of himself.
He noted that Voldemort was in no way distracted and was staring directly at him. That was fine, it would confuse the Death Eaters and Snatchers that may take a pot shot while he was focused on their boss. Any moment now…
Voldemort held up his wand. "Given your chicanery, am I to assume you are rejecting my generous offer?"
Harry shouted, "Quassum Terrae!" and quickly dropped to a crouch and touched his wand to the ground. A number of curses flew over his head and two of his mirror images winked out of existence under curse fire. As Harry's wand touched the ground, an undulating wave of earth rolled toward the Death Eaters like a five-foot wave of stone and soil. Unfortunately, Voldemort managed to dispel the effect and the wave split and surged off in two different directions to either side of him. Only the attackers on the outer periphery were affected. And only slightly at that.
Curses from both sides immediately began firing as Harry's attack signalled an end to the 'peace talks'. Blasting curses landed in thunderous explosions on all sides of the battle. In the massive confusion, Harry remained primarily focused on only one combatant. The one that mattered the most. They began trading curses. Moments became seconds and seconds became minutes as chaos reigned. The air between Harry and Voldemort seethed with arcane curses and reality warping energy. Each of the two powerful Mages were feeling the other out for weaknesses. They were now very well matched.
Harry was impressed with Voldemort's spell casting. It was both powerful and sophisticated. For all of Voldemort's insanity and brutality, his casting was elegant and precise. Harry, on the other hand, had the advantage in speed and power. In a way, this was the opposite of how Voldemort and Dumbledore had duelled. Voldemort was now the wizened and experienced fighter while Harry was the powerful upstart.
One would fall and die, the other would rise victorious.
Bill waited in a corner of the Room of Requirement. Far away from the injured patients. He felt the wards drop, then come back up seconds later. Then he felt the castle rumble. The diadem was in front of him, and he held basilisk fang just over it. Waiting for the signal.
Dobby suddenly appeared and gave him the thumbs up… "Harry Potter is fighting the evil Snake Man."
Bill gave the elf a nod as Dobby Apparated away. He felt the Diadem begin to react as he resolved himself to destroying it. It offered him knowledge and wealth. Love and Desire. All he had to do was put the Diadem on his head. He'd seen this too many times to be surprised. He'd helped destroy other Horcruxes and felt their temptations. But they didn't affect him as they once did. He thought of Fred as he plunged the fang down and into the centre stone of the Diadem. He then repeated the act on each surrounding stone until they were all cracked and blackened.
A visceral scream rang out from the Horcrux as it shattered into pieces. A blackened mist seemed to rise out of it, only to fade away with the horrific sound it made. The last Horcrux was now destroyed. He exited the small side room to see the most injured patients staring in shock at him. These were the Wizards and Witches too injured to fight. They likely heard and felt the destruction of the Diadem. Well, no time to ruminate… He gathered his wand and sprinted out of the room to join his wife and family in battle.
Harry and Voldemort continued taking the other's measure.
At one brutal exchange, they briefly locked eyes. It was at that moment Harry saw his enemy recoil in shock and pain. Bill had completed his task. This was what he had been waiting for! Harry immediately began casting curses as fast as his wands could move and Voldemort was forced to stay on the defensive just to survive. They were no longer gauging each other's abilities. Harry held nothing back.
Harry was clearly more powerful, and Voldemort knew it. In an extended battle, both Wizards knew Harry had the advantage. But skill and experience went a long way and evened out their exchange… until Voldemort lost his focus. The destruction of his last Horcrux had shaken the Dark Lord enough that he began losing ground to Harry. But there was no time to celebrate as the young mage was now pressing his advantage.
Meanwhile the battle raged across Hogwarts.
Filius Flitwick was engaged with Corbin Yaxley. The man was an expert duellist and seemed to be fighting along duellist rules, but with a lethal twist. The miniature professor knew Yaxley was a champion duellist, it looked like he wanted to pit himself against an ex-champion.
Filius noted their styles were similar, but Yaxley had a traditional French stance. Front foot pointed forward; rear foot perpendicular. Weight evenly distributed. Filius favoured a German stance with the feet slightly closer together and a slightly more opened position. Most of his weight on the rear foot. Yaxley's position was more aggressive and relied slightly more on power while Filius' was more defensive and relied on technique. Still, the Death Eater was impressive. Filius was nimbler while Yaxley appeared to be better at parrying. But the differences in skill were miniscule.
There were no taunts or verbal exchanges, just the language of combat. Their wands were doing all the talking. Curses flared back and forth as the two danced about. Both were aware of the battle around them, but neither broke their focus. Curse, curse, parry, dodge… On and on it went. Their exchange slowly became more of a dance than combat. The rhythm was so precise, so controlled. So… elegant.
Five minutes into their 'dance', Filius was thrown to the ground by an explosion near him. One that had not been caused by his opponent. He scrambled for his wand and rose to find Yaxley patiently waiting. His wand was in the universal ready position. Waiting… This may be a duel to the death, but it was a duel of honour. In another life, they may have been friends. But today, they were rivals. Filius rose up slowly. He held his wand at the ready. The 'Salut des armes'* was given by each man, and their 'dance' began again.
Kingsley Shacklebolt and Horace Slughorn were fighting Death Eaters and covering each other's flanks. Kingsley was pleasantly surprised at the combat acumen Slughorn showed. Back when Kingsley was a student, he always assumed Horace was a simple potioneer. A man more relaxed over a cauldron than wading into combat. How wrong he was.
Horace Slughorn was moving far more nimbly than would seem possible, given his rotund frame. Kingsley just managed to take down two Death Eaters with a Blasting curse when he turned and saw Horace trip and fall just as two Snatchers fired lethal curses at the man. The curses flew over his head and each curse ended up striking the other attacker. Had Kingsley not seen it, he wouldn't have believed it.
Horace Slughorn was, by all standards, the luckiest man alive.
Turning back to the battle, Kingsley was forced into a defensive position as he was under attack from Rookwood and Rodolphus Lestrange. He fell into a rhythm and managed to hold his own against the pair. He was by far the more skilled duellist, but there were two of them. Once the two Death Eaters failed to gain the advantage, they changed tactics.
Kingsley was immediately hard pressed as one Death Eater would attack with fast casting curses, like the Cutting Curse, the Piercing Curse, or a Blasting Curse. Simultaneously, the other would cast the slow, but hard to defend against, Killing Curse. They alternated fast caster with Unforgivable caster… Occasionally, both would cast with the faster curses. Kingsley was slowly being worn down.
At that point, a gigantic suit of armour charged forth and skewered Rookwood with the point of its Halberd. It withdrew the point and brought the axe head down at a forty-five-degree angle, separating Rookwood's upper torso from his lower extremities. Kingsley was surprised, but Rodolphus was stunned. The Death Eater turned to destroy the armour and was instead struck by a stunning curse from Kingsley's wand. That was quickly followed by an Incarcerous charm which bound the unconscious Death Eater head to toe.
Kingsley quickly looked up to see Minerva McGonagall commanding over a dozen animated suits of armour she had repaired from the initial battle. Horace had just defeated his last opponent and the three of them were suddenly under attack once more from other attackers.
Kreacher and Dobby were leading the Hogwarts House Elves against the invaders. At first, they were ignored, but not for long. Death Eaters and Snatchers alike were thrown off balance by magical Banishments. Shoelaces were tied together, clothing made too tight… All sorts of actions only House Elves could manage. Then the kitchen knives were animated with lethal results.
The Elves were able to Apparate in and out in ways Wizards and Witches were incapable. They were inflicting all sorts of confusion and injury on the attackers. Every time a Death Eater was distracted, one of Hogwarts defenders managed to strike them down.
Kreacher yelled, "Fight! Fight! Fight for my Master, defender of house-elves! Fight the Dark Lord in the name of Regulus! Fight!"**
And fight the House–Elves did. They were making a difference in the battle. It was at that point arrows flew from the side-lines and began piercing Death Eaters and Snatchers. The Centaurs had now engaged the forces of Voldemort. The odds were shifting as each Death Eater and Snatcher fell.
Dobby looked up and saw broom riders approaching. For a moment, he was nervous. The riders could swoop over and drop explosives and cast curses down on them all. Then, he saw Dark shapes intercept the riders. The Thestrals had joined in the fight. Even those able to see a Thestral would struggle on a dark evening. The sun would rise soon, but for now, the Thestrals owned the sky, and the attackers were meeting a gruesome fate at their teeth and hooves.
Dobby began to cheer, but never managed it. A green light struck him in the back, snuffing out his life in an instance. His last vision was of hope.
Dobby was now freer than he'd ever been.
Bellatrix was loving every second of the battle! The chaos and mayhem swirled around her like a whirlwind of pleasure. Today she would free her Dark Prince and reunite her family. She'd already saved poor Andromeda from her horrible mistake, now she only had to rid her Prince of the fools that had shackled themselves to him.
She sent a Blasting curse at a gathering of House-Elves, enjoying the way they flew through the air in pieces. She'd always loved House Elves! So entertaining. She blasted another into tiny pieces as she danced about.
She glanced over and saw her Prince duelling her Master. It was a sight that brought her an unusual amount of conflict. She knew it would all work out for the best, but it was hard to be devoted to two Wizards. Dismissing her confusion, she went back to killing. Everyone who crossed her fell in five or less curses. Wizards, Witches, House-Elves, Centaurs, all were merely toys for her to play with. But she'd played this game so long. Boring!
She let her mind wander to happier thoughts. Her Prince would join the movement and her current master would… what? Would he just go away? Leave her family alone?
She was considering this when a balding man began firing curses at her. She parried instinctively, then traded curses for a few moments. After a brief volley, she decided to end the distraction. She needed to get back to her thoughts!
She fired and connected with a blood boiling curse. To her delight, the middle-aged Wizard fell, and she danced whilst he writhed in agony. So few understood the nihilistic beauty of her art, but her Prince would. His emerald eyes would sparkle and cheer as she performed for him. But first, she had to free him! Starting with that red headed harlot he'd been seen with. That Weasley brat! The little trollop couldn't have him! Harry Potter was her Wizard, not the Weasley girl's. But where was she?
In the distance, Bellatrix saw Ginny fighting. She had some degree of skill and power, but that just made Bella even angrier. Weasley thinks she can replace a true artist? Just because she is young… and pretty… and powerful? No! Bella's imagination ran wild as she thought of all the fun ways, she could teach the Weasley harlot her place.
She was forced to break out of her day-dreaming fantasies when two curses came her way in rapid succession. With a flourish of her wand, Bella slaughtered one Hogwarts student in an explosion of crimson entrails, then sent a cutting curse at the other, removing her wand arm. With a cackle, she began skipping and singing as she hurried to intercept the Weasley girl.
"Bell-ah killed a lit-tle lamb,
Lit-tle lamb, lit-tle lamb!
Bell-ah killed a lit-tle lamb,
Lit-tle lamb, lit-tle lamb!
Bell-ah killed a lit-tle lamb,
Now she's coming for yoooooouuuuuu!"
She'd closed the distance and began firing curses at the harlot. To her shock, the girl had friends. A frizzy haired Witch and a tiny blond Witch. She knew them both… She'd entertained them at some point. Or was it just the frizzy haired one? They all look alike… her playmates… So much for gratitude! She fired curses as fast as only she could… The three of them were forced to concentrate solely on their defence, but that left truly little room for offensive tactics. Shielding and dodging was all they could manage against her.
Bella stopped singing and cackled, deciding to play with them a bit. She wanted to see what they would do with a brief respite. Would they run away or go on the offensive. No sooner had she stopped cursing them when return fire came her way. She dodged two curses and parried a third. These girls were incredibly good. They even knew how to work together! They were trying to box her in. One had managed to catch her with a grazing shot while she parried… a cutting curse? Must be.
Seeing a trickle of blood on her arm, Bella giggled. Time to end this with a curse that won't be affected by a shield.
The Frizzy Witch fell to the ground screaming and writhing. Yes! She was right! She had played with this one before! Frizzy Witch screamed so beautifully. The other two Witches paused for barely a moment. Bella then forgot the Frizzy Witch. She had another target. She aimed at the pretty one again. The red head.
The Weasley girl barely managed to get out of the way… so close… Bella laughed again. She could do this all day! This called for a song—
Before she could begin singing, Bella heard a frantic and vicious cry.
"Not my daughter you Bitch!"
Bella looked over to see a red-faced Molly Weasley charging with her wand out. To Bella, this was what some would refer to as an invitation to play. Two curses shot toward her and were easily avoided. So few could even keep up with Bella when she moved. She was so fast it sometimes even hurt.
Bellatrix giggled a moment then began parrying the curses fired by 'Mummy Weasley'. The Weasley Cow was surprisingly powerful, but it was obvious the Bovine Witch had spent too many years in the kitchen. The sow had grown complacent peeling potatoes instead of her enemies. Ignoring the younger Weaslette, Bellatrix decided to draw out her playtime with Domestic Mumsie. And there was no better way to do that than with a song.
"Roses are red,
Violets are too,
Cause I killed you!"
With every verse, Bellatrix moved a little closer to her newest playmate. She even fired a few curses at the audience. Just a few reminders not to interfere. One Wizard got too close and dropped dead, screaming in agony. Others were flung far and wide by Blasting Curses. Mummy Weasley was backing up now. Fear etched on her face. A lazy attack sent the Witch stumbling backward onto her well-padded posterior.
Bellatrix was trying to decide if she should end the fight now or continue playing when she realized her feet were stuck to the floor. How on earth? This wasn't good. Her speed was what allowed her to dance about and create mayhem. Now she'd have to parry more and play less!
A searing pain suddenly struck her in the back. She felt her torso begin to contract… Her organs were condensing and collapsing! There was a counter… but she'd have to move fast. Realisation suddenly dawned on her; this was a Black Family curse. None outside of the family even knew of it, let alone how to cast it. But who…? Hadn't she already killed Sirius?
She turned and saw her sister Andromeda. Then she noticed the Runespoor by her side… Making eye contact with her sister, there was a look in her sister's eyes that Bellatrix had never before seen in Andromeda. It was pure hatred. Did her sister actually care about her Mud Blood family? Bellatrix's wand dropped from her hand and she knew she was beaten. Only one brief song came to Bella's mind.
As Bella's vision dimmed, the constriction became more powerful. All the air was forced out of her lungs. Her heart was contracted completely and no longer beating. The agony was exquisite. Then she heard 'Expulso' and dimly noticed Mummy Weasley's Blasting Curse flash toward her.
The curse struck her with all the impressive power Molly Weasley could summon. It struck Bellatrix directly in the centre of her chest and blew her to smithereens. Bellatrix Lestrange would never kill or maim or torture again. Today was her judgement day. Today she was found to be wanting. Today, she had been exterminated.
At that moment, the momentum of the battle shifted.
Voldemort had been hard pressed against Harry Potter. The boy had grown so much in the two years since they'd faced each other in the Ministry. In every other encounter, there had been extenuating circumstances that prevented them from meeting on equal footing. But now, here they were. Once, he would have dismissed his opponent as an irritant. Now he was seeing just how much Harry Potter had changed. Where had Potter learned all these tactics and curses? How had he learned to use two wands? He was so incredibly fast… so aggressive! There were so many questions.
The Dark Lord had drawn small and steady amounts of power from all of his followers just to match the boy's power, but it wasn't enough. Even with equal power, the boy was so fast! Without the Diadem, he was vulnerable. For the last ten minutes, he had thought his superior skill and technique would win the day, but that just wasn't holding true. Potter was simply too fast. With two wands, he was casting even faster than even Bellatrix.
Bellatrix! Yes, that was the key to ending their stalemate! He'd summon Bellatrix, and the pair would overwhelm Potter. Without Potter, the rest of the battle would end swiftly and decisively. No sooner had he realised the best tactic, than he heard Bellatrix scream. He felt her passing as the power she was supplying abruptly ended. His most loyal follower… The most dangerous of his Death Eaters… was dead! And Harry Potter was now pressing his advantage.
Voldemort became enraged and shouted, "Nooooooo!" Without Bellatrix, the battle was no longer in their favour. He needed her to overcome Potter. He needed to win Now, or all was lost!
He was suddenly blown off his feet and barely managed to recover and shield himself.
This couldn't be happening. He was supposed to be immortal! As his shields began shattering under the strain of his battle, Voldemort knew it was almost over. He had one last trick up his sleeve. His 'Ace-in the-hole'. He took advantage of a split-second pause between attacks and pulled deeply from his Death Eaters. Their sacrifice would enable his Victory. Or his escape. Either way, he needed power! He continued and pulled from his followers yet again. And just as deeply.
Harry Potter smirked at him, mocking the Dark Lord between curses, "What's the matter Tom, feeling a little bit vulnerable?" He fired two curses, which Voldemort shielded against. "A little bit killable?"
Voldemort shielded himself and drew in once more from his follower, this time even deeper. He was now practically glowing with power. He could feel it humming through him. He didn't need Horcruxes or followers, he was a god among Wizards. He was the power to be feared.
Smiling maliciously, he began retaliating against Potter. "Feel my wrath Harry Potter! Feel what real power is!" He was now the one in control. He was the one driving Potter backward. He laughed at how quickly their positions had changed.
In his euphoria, he didn't notice Harry Potter smiling.
Corbin Yaxley had always respected Filius Flitwick. The man was a legend on the duelling circuit. To battle him now was both sad and exhilarating. Sad, because he knew he would have to kill the duelling champion. Exhilarating, because he was duelling his one-time idol. At different times in their duel, each of them had been given an unfair advantage due to the chaos of full battle… And every time they had each behaved honourably.
This was perhaps the greatest battle He would ever fight. Certainly, the one he would most cherish. So many of the Death Eaters lacked simple etiquette. Dolohov had killed Remus Lupin when the man had tripped over rubble. But the same dishonourable behaviour could be found in Potter's followers as well. Lupin's wife had retaliated by striking Dolohov in the back. The others all treated every exchange like a street fight, completely lacking in honour. But Flitwick stood out. He was both honourable and skilled.
Parry, parry, riposte - curse… Parry, riposte - curse, parry, parry.
His respected opponent had so much talent. His technique was perfect… Flitwick had started his career using a French technique but had famously switched to a Germanic style midway through his career. It worked better with his size. Corbin longed to meet his opponent in less hostile conditions. If only they could meet for tea and discuss duelling theory.
Parry, riposte - curse, parry, riposte – curse.
Corbin heard his Dark Lord suddenly shout out in a rage. Good, that meant Potter would die and the end was near. He suddenly hesitated as he felt a vicious pull on his magical core. It was almost a tearing sensation. Then it repeated.
No! Not now… His master was drawing on his power… More than he could afford to give up! Corbin Yaxley grimly realised he had committed the one unforgivable mistake one could make in a duel: he had faltered. Seeing Filius Flitwick's blasting curse approach, he knew it was too close to dodge and he wouldn't be fast enough to deflect it… He had been the first to stumble in their dance. And now the dance was over.
Corbin Yaxley was struck with a 'Confringo' blasting curse and fell to the ground in a burst of heat and flame. He was missing a third of his torso. His last thoughts were not bitter. He had lost to someone he respected greatly. If only he could salute the victor as was deserved.
To the victor…
All around the castle, Death Eaters began to falter. Their power was being drained too quickly for them to compensate. As they faltered, the defenders struck back hard. A few fled in terror, a few were stunned or petrified, but most were struck with lethal curses. Medical aid was not something any of them expected, not on this battlefield. At best, they would be the very last treated. It was more likely they would be left to die.
They were not facing Dumbledore's followers. They were not pitting themselves against ministry constrained Aurors. No, these were the Wizards and Witches that had lost friends and families. These were enemies that had seen loved ones die painful deaths. These were the vengeful Wizards and Witches that had seen the result of mercy and kindness.
As Death Eaters and Snatchers alike began to perish, they knew what it felt like to be afraid.
These were the unforgiving followers of Harry Potter.
Harry was firmly on the defensive now. His speed and perception – aided by his ability to sense attacks, were keeping him a step away from death. His impressive shields were shattering with the impact of curses so powerful they could collapse a building. Voldemort was more powerful than he had ever been. The villain actually glowed with power.
Harry shouted, "Keep it up Tom! Drain all the power you can from your followers." Harry leapt aside and avoided a brutal curse. "The faster you drain them, the faster they fall."
"Soon, you will fall as well, Harry Potter!"
"Maybe… But I doubt it." He ducked under a Blood-boiling curse. "I can keep this up all night."
"As can I!"
"No, you can't!" Harry managed to deflect a blasting curse that ended up decimating an outer wall. "Your followers aren't just falling, they're dying.
Voldemort attempted to reverse Gravity, only to have Harry undo the charm and fire back a vicious Confringo. The Dark Lord blocked the curse with ease.
Harry grinned. "And with each death, your power is reduced." He leapt off the ground he was standing on as it was suddenly covered in ice that somehow burned with a baleful flame. "Soon, you'll be weaker than you've ever been before!"
Voldemort's eyes flashed bright red. "Shut up! Shut up!" He fired more curses.
Harry shielded himself and his shield didn't shatter. He looked up and realised Voldemort saw the same.
"Are you second guessing yourself Tom? Your followers are dying… Your regime is crumbling."
"Your sanity is as effected as your raw power." Harry managed to parry a curse without feeling any aftershocks. "Soon you'll just be a footnote in a history book. Tom Riddle."
Voldemort threw a lethal curse. "Stop Talking!"
"Tom Riddle, the son of a Squib and a Muggle…" Harry dodged a curse that looked like black fire.
"No!" The Dark Lord seethed, firing another curse.
Harry was deflected the curse. "Tom Riddle pretended to be more than he was." Voldemort's power level had dropped back to levels Harry could parry.
"You're dying first Harry Potter!"
Harry mentally reached out to the Elder Wand. 'Resist!' It had been waiting for him…
Voldemort shouted, "Avada Kedavra!"
At the same time, Harry cast a silent disarming charm 'Expelliarmus!'
There was an enormous flash of green light, and Voldemort fell over dead. His wand flew through the air into Harry's right hand, beside the thorn wand. Turning, Harry saw the fighting around him had died down and most of Voldemort's followers were either dead or had surrendered. The few Snatchers that hadn't surrendered saw Harry's victory and dropped their wands.
Voldemort was dead. Harry listened intently for the sounds of open conflict but could hear none. His battle with Voldemort had lasted longer than the rest of the battle. He looked down at his third wand and allowed himself a moment to savour the victory. His first battle against the darkness was over.
The Dance of Death had ended.
After the battle, the survivors were given medical treatment. A score or more of Voldemort's followers are estimated to have fled. A few of which were likely Death Eaters. Their time would come, but for now, the Hogwarts Defenders had managed to do what seemed impossible. Their actions were not without cost, many had perished this night. Their sacrifice would be remembered for years to come.
Harry looked over the remains of the fallen and saw them as the heroes they were. Many he did not know, but just as many he did. He'd lost close friends as well as people he considered family. He wasn't alone, everyone had lost people they cared about. The celebrations were not joyous, they were sombre and respectful of those who paid the ultimate price for freedom.
Harry was saddened when he learned that Dobby had been struck with a killing curse during the battle. Kreacher had managed to rally all the house elves of Hogwarts into action, inspiring them to come out of the kitchens and laundry rooms to fight and defend the castle. Kreacher had apparently become attached to Dobby and Harry had to console the poor elf. When the dust settled and the dead were counted, half of the house elves of Hogwarts had perished. Harry vowed to make sure they would be buried along with the other heroes of Hogwarts.
Penelope McKinnon perished at some point. She had fallen and her body was seen briefly before it was fully consumed by cursed fire. She was said to have fought hard and honoured her family name as the last McKinnon. While her body could not be recovered, a marker would be placed with the others. Her death pained Harry more than he expected. She had been over two hundred years old, but she still came to fight.
Harry knew he would be there for and support both Andromeda and to Ginny. Both were still hurting from their losses. Andromeda would need him dearly and he planned to stay with her in the coming days. Teddy was his godson, and he would be there for him as well. The Weasleys were all still crushed over their loss, fortunately they had each other. Bill had Fleur as well to help him through his grief. Harry wondered how George would cope.
One of the saddest losses was that of Lavender Brown. Witnesses described her fighting very well and she was one of the defenders that had made sure Harry was protected while he fought Voldemort. She had perished sometime after Voldemort fell, likely while others were being treated and cared for. She had been struck her in the back when she was guarding the outer fringe of the castle. She would be forever more remembered as the Witch who never stopped protecting her friend's backs. She bled out before anyone could help her. Parvati was devastated and only Padma was able to comfort her sister.
At one point, Harry and Ginny were sitting alone and holding one another. Ginny spoke about seeing Dr. Gaines and Harry agreed that it would be good for them both. He and Dr. Gaines had a strong connection and she had helped him a great deal before he went into hiding.
The next few months would be a challenge. Funerals, trials, possibly even combat as they hunted down any remaining Death Eaters. But tonight, it was just Harry and Ginny.
He held her tight and wished for the moment to last and last…
Harry's adventures will continue in 'Casting Shadows', a story already in progress.
*Salut des armes – A demonstration of arms in a duel. It consists of a salute, then the resumption of the duel.
**Direct quote from the Deathly Hallows, by JK Rowling. Chapter 36, p. 726.
Wow! After almost two years, this story is finally complete. I never intended Harry Potter and the Dance of Death to be more than twenty chapters, but it grew as I wrote, and I didn't want to cut it short. Ironically, I started Casting Shadows first and this was only supposed to be a short prequel designed to explain why Harry was so powerful. A few months ago, I stopped writing Casting Shadows because there were too many potential spoilers in Casting Shadows that would impact this story and I wasn't ready to give them away just yet.
Those of you who continue reading in Casting Shadows will note that my writing style may seem to shift a bit, but that's really a reflection of the fact that I started writing Casting Shadows before this story and I've grown as a writer. At some point I'll go back and update the first dozen or so chapters, but not until I've finished the Inca storyline. Most of the changes will be basic and have minimal impact on the actual storyline other than making it easier to read.
I plan to take the next few weeks and re-read Casting Shadows in preparation of completing the South American (Inca) storyline. Meanwhile, if you are looking for something different to read, check out my Unrepentant Christmas Story. It is a different style of writing and a very different AU.
If you are still looking for more stories, I recommend 'A Simple Act of Vengeance' by Frickles and "Wrath and Remorse', the sequel. Both are excellent. all of Frickles stories are excellent.
At some point I will likely come back to this story and add a few chapters around the period after the war. I reference this in Casting Shadows as a time where the ICW tried to assert itself, a few other magical countries, as did individuals with selfish ambitions and business interests. All of whom were expelled and rebuffed. It might make a good addendum. But for now, I'm calling the story complete and switching back to Casting Shadows.
To all of you who stuck with me as I wrote and learned to write, thank you.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed the story.