Chapter 33: Finite
Regulas was long gone by the time Charlotte was able to move enough to get to her feet. Rigel walked to her and offered her a hand up. She looked questioningly into his eyes, but he simply nodded. She took the hand.
"Rennervate," Charlotte said, pointing her want at her grandfather. Harry rolled over, slowly stretching out on the ground. Charlotte walked over and helped him to his feet, but he had to lean on her to stay upright as he got his feet under him.
The centaur who had taken Regulas away returned to the clearing. "Where did you take my brother?" Charlotte asked. She started to grab her wand to threaten him, but stopped when she felt Harry stumble in the movement.
The centaur stopped and turned to face her, his face tired and old. "I'm sorry but the deception was necessary. I am Bane. Your grandfather once worked with me a long time ago. Now your brother has offered to help liberate us. In return, we are to help you."
"Bane? Is that really you?" Harry asked. His voice was weak, but he managed to stand on his own.
"Yes," Bane replied. "Is that a problem?"
"I don't remember you being one who would partner with humans," Harry said.
Bane smiled. "We have all grown old," he said. "Perhaps wisdom has accompanied the moons." He extended his hand to the older Potter. Harry looked at it for a good long time. Neither moved. Finally, Harry stood at full height, wincing as he did, and bowed to the centaur. Bane stood to his full height in response. Then he bent his front legs and knelt before Harry. He extended his hand again. Harry took it and Bane pulled Harry up onto his back. Immediately Celestia was infront of Charlotte, hand outstretched. Charlotte took it and soon found herself flying onto the young centaur's back.
"So, care to ever inform us what the plan was?" Harry asked.
"I am sorry, but it cannot be spoken," Bane said. "Spies are everywhere."
"You said liberate you? Liberate from who?" Harry replied.
"From the one that has persecuted us for generations," Bane said.
"Who?" Harry asked.
Charlotte flashed back to a dark dungeon, with a crazy man trapped in a deep cell. Hawthorne had given a name. Charlotte didn't believe it then, but now she wasn't so sure. "I think I know," she said. "If I'm right, then I suggest we follow his plan."
Harry stared her down, but eventually nodded in silent agreement. "So what do we do now?" he finally asked.
Bane readied a bow in front of him as Harry clung to his back. "We charge into the fight."
"Who are we fighting?" Harry asked.
Bane smirked. "Everyone."
Fortunately, the centaurs didn't give Harry and Charlotte enough time to react before charging into the battle. The scene of Hogwarts in flames brought a gasp from Harry as Bane galloped out of the forest and into the battle. Charlotte was amazed at the damage to the grounds. It was clear that the muggles had progressed quickly to a certain point, but had been stopped and were now bunkered in a line behind destroyed vehicles and even walls made of bodies. Charlotte nearly threw up at the sight but managed to hold it down. Now was the time for that Gryffindor courage.
Regulas was nowhere to be found.
The centaur herd charged from the forest, dodging spells from the school more or less effectively. The muggle weapons were a little more effective against them, but the bullets seemed much fewer in number. Either they were running out of ammo or they were running out of people to fire the guns. Or both. Both Harry and Charlotte cast protective spells over as many centaurs as they could.
A group of around a dozen wizards and witches emerged from the school and ran toward the centaurs. The herd moved as one as they came around and met the students, who each hopped on a back and pulled out their wands.
"Guess they're part of the plan," Charlotte said. Harry grinned, making Charlotte feel warmth inside for the first time in a while. "For Hogwarts!" she screamed. The centaurs and students all responded with a cry and charged at the muggle lines. The spells from the school stopped; the muggle weapons seemed to converge on the herd.
"Protection spells!" Charlotte cried. The students and the Potters all cast a spell in front of the charge. Muggle bullets from their entire battle line slammed into the spells, but they held. Charlotte spotted the orange of jet engines on the horizon as two planes came in. Four new orange lights appeared in the sky as missiles shot toward the herd.
She ended her spell and lifted her wand into the sky. I've trusted you my whole life, don't fail me now she thought to the wand. "Flipendo Maxima!" she shouted. A blue spell shot from her wand and stopped roughly a hundred feet in the air. It gathered in a ball before shooting out in four jets, hitting each missile in the air and lighting up the sky orange.
Charlotte kissed her wand.
The herd slammed into the muggle vehicles that formed the main battleline. "Find the King!" one of the students shouted as the battle commenced. Muggles from all around the army were converging on them with whatever weapons they had left, from riffles to swords to sticks. The centaur's gallops took out the first few of them, but even they were eventually stopped. Several centaurs collapsed as they fell victim to the weapons.
The students responded by casting stunning and paralyzing spells into the mass of people, but there was always another muggle behind. A student to Charlotte's side flew backwards off his mount as if struck by something. Charlotte didn't want to think about what.
"There!" Harry yelled beside her.
"Let us go," Bane said, the only calm voice around. Bane and Harry pushed into the horde, but made little progress. And then Harry disappeared from view.
"Grandpa!" Charlotte and Celestia shouted simultaneously. A red light erupted from where Harry and Bane had fallen, and several muggles collapsed around them. Charlotte jumped down from Celestia's back and cast a protective spell around the small group. Celestia ran over to Bane and knelt down beside him, Charlotte slowly making her way over while keeping the shield up.
Harry was standing upright with his wand up, stunning anyone who broke through Charlotte's protection. Bane was writhing in a heap at his feet, Celestia getting as close as she could. There was blood on the ground around the centaurs and a large gash wound in each of Bane's front legs.
A student witch brushed past Charlotte and leaned over the centaur. Her wand appeared in her hand and she began to sing over Bane. His wounds began to glow and slowly stitched themselves back together.
A muggle appeared with a gun to the witch's head, but a quick stunning spell from Harry removed the threat.
Bane's groaning subsided. The witch stood up. "He still lost much blood. He'll need to go to the Hospital."
"I will escort him," Celestia said.
"No," Bane said, the words still a struggle. "The mission. Get them to the King."
"You helped us find him," Harry said. "I think we can get there from here."
Bane didn't seem convinced, but after nearly falling under his own weight he didn't argue further. The two centaurs slowly walked back behind the makeshift battleline that had formed after the charge. Charlotte was happy to see that several more students had left the building and joined them in the attack.
She and Harry locked eyes and shifted to be back-to-back. She dropped her shield spell and pointed her wand toward where the King had last been seen, Harry's wand right next to her's. "Ventus!" they shouted. A violent wind shot forth from their wands, forming a small funnel cloud above them and pushing all the muggles around them back several feet. The wind rushed forth from their wands, pushing the muggles out of the way and forming a path about four feet wide.
The King appeared, startled, in their vision at the end of the path.
"Revelio!" Charlotte shouted. The King's body rose into the air and began to boil and shake violently as the potion was forced out of his system. The sounds of battle stopped, the silence deafening, as an older man that Charlotte didn't recognize emerged from the body which had been the King.
The crown hit the ground.
The two armies stood motionless as Charlotte charged down the path and held the imposter at wand point. Harry joined her a minute later.
"Who is that?" a muggle asked.
"What happened to the King?" another asked.
The imposter didn't wait for an answer to form. A wand appeared in his hand and he shot an emerald spell at the Potters. Charlotte raised her protective shield, but the spell deflected off of her shield and hit Harry in the side. His wand flew out of his hand and landed behind them on the path. The imposter sent a red spell at them and it slammed into Harry's chest before Charlotte could respond.
Charlotte sent her own disarming spell at the imposter king, who managed to block the spell, sending it ricocheting into one of the nearby muggles, who promptly dropped his sword.
"Imposter!" a muggle shouted.
"We've been fooled!" shouted another.
The muggles began closing in around the two duelists. Charlotte breathed deeply and focused. She locked eyes with her opponent. His eyes had dilated and were darting all around. Charlotte took the opportunity. She sent a standard pushing spell at the imposter's head, which he blocked into the air as expected. But she sent a disarming spell behind it after only a second. The imposter didn't respond in time. The spell hit him in the chest. His wand went flying into the air and landed somewhere in the mass of muggles.
"He's unarmed! Get him!" The mob of muggles descended upon the imposter. Charlotte quietly pocketed her wand and backed slowly back until there was room for her to turn around. No one paid her any attention. She got back to the line of centaurs, which had now circled themselves up. She found Bane, who was sitting comfortably on the ground.
Another centaur dragged Harry into the circle. Charlotte revived him. He groaned, sat up, and looked around. "No more of those please," he said. He looked directly at Charlotte and asked, "What's the situation?"
She smiled back as she handed him his wand. "I think it's over. The muggles have turned on the imposter King and…"
A massive boom shook the grounds. Charlotte turned toward the school. A ball of blue fire the size of a house was rising from a new hole in the side of the school just above the lakeshore. Everyone turned to look at the ball as it expanded into the air, the bright blue reflecting off the lake like fireworks.
Suddenly four animals appeared out of the fire: a lion with a snake in its mouth, an eagle soaring higher into the air, a badger descending onto the surface of the lake, and a dragon that began to circle the fireball. Each of them trailed a line of fire connecting them to the original, and falling to expand the blaze.
"Fiendfyre!" one of the students in their group shouted. Every witch and wizard responded. Students and other defenders came flooding out of the castle on foot, broom, and any other means of transportation they could find. Some fled in the opposite direction of the fire and the muggle army, but most ran toward where Charlotte and about nine total students had congregated.
"Circle the lake," Charlotte said, watching as the fireball grew dangerously close to being too large to control. She knew of few wizards capable of launching that large of a fiendfyre, and only a couple of them were inside the castle right now. She tried to put it out of her mind.
Those with brooms went to the far side of the lake, those on foot the closer side. Charlotte ran as quick as she could to the closest stretch of lake, grabbed her wand and shouted "Finite!" as loud as she could and slammed her wand tip to the ground. She watched as those near her lined up around the lake and launched their spells as well. Soon the broom riders landed on the other side and did the same. A line connected between the wands all around the lake, creating a barrier surrounding the spell. A thin veil rose a hundred feet above the line and slowly came together in the air above the fireball.
The animals of fire slammed into the spell and recoiled back. They screamed and hit again but it was weaker this time. The badger disappeared, followed by the eagle, and then the dragon. The lion finally gave way a minute later. And then finally, like a flame deprived of oxygen, the fiendfyre sputtered and retreated into the building. A minute after that the light stopped coming from the hole in the castle and the wizards lifted their wands, many of them collapsing on the ground.
All eyes were on Charlotte as she stood between the two armies amid a tentative ceasefire. She looked to Harry, who had managed to make it to the lake a few yards away. Harry stepped back and motioned her forward.
She turned to face the muggle army. She dropped her wand. "You have been deceived," she said. "They lied to you about what happened that night. They lied to you about Prince George. You just saw that. They lied to you about Prince Edward. They lied to you about my friends and my family. What else have they lied to you about?"
The army stood in place, but Charlotte could hear low murmurs in the crowd. She pressed on. "Most of us over here are just trying to live our lives in peace. This place they had you attack is a school for God's sake. Look around: these are children. We will defend this place, but we don't want war. We don't want to see you destroyed. Albus Potter saved you in the nuclear incident. And look, we just helped defend you now, even as you trained your weapons on us. We don't want war. Please. Let us have peace."
She offered out her hand. For a while nothing happened. Then the army began to bulge. Something was moving in the back, making its way to the front. Charlotte held her breath as it came to the front line, but she stayed where she was. Finally the movement broke through. An older gentleman in a decorated uniform emerged from the mass holding the crown that had fallen from the imposter king's head. Nobody moved as he strode toward Charlotte.
"My Lady, I don't know who you are, but I do believe we are indebted to you," he said, stopping about two meters from her. "It appears we both have been mere pawns in someone else's game. The other generals and I wish to end the fight. Please accept this token of surrender. We are at your mercy."
He placed the crown in Charlotte's hand.
Charlotte stood stunned as she looked down at the crown of England in her hand. For a brief moment she considered putting it on. She knew that this general at least would likely allow her to claim the title.
But the feeling drained away. Her father would never accept the crown, and doing what her father would do hadn't let her down yet. She took a step forward and set the crown down gently between herself and the general. Then she took a step back and offered her hand again. "A truce then," she said.
The general stepped forward and accepted her hand. "A truce then."
The sun broke over the horizon as the armies cheered all around them. A smile formed on Charlotte's face. The battle was over.