Disclaimer: "Harry Potter" belongs to J. K. Rowling, Bloomsbury and Scholastic. "Valdemar" belongs to Mercedes Lackey and DAW Books. All music and poetry marked with a copyright © belongs to Mercedes Lackey, other credited authors, and Firebird Arts & Music. No copyright infringement is intended and no money has changed hands.

Author's note: I have found exactly three other stories which have attempted this. The first, "Dreams of Old", by Fireflights1977, is found in Book Crossovers. The other two, "No Longer Alone" and "Once More Into The Breach", both by RiverSong DreamShadow, are in Harry Potter. I just don't think that three is enough, and I'm going to throw my two bits in.

Catch the Snitch! ~o~

Finding Home


The large leather-bound book had been found by Hermione's mother at a rubbish sale, and in between hunting down all of the remaining Horcruxes and destroying them, six students, Harry Potter, Ron and Ginny Weasley, Hermione Granger, Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood had occupied Hogwarts and learned its secrets in the Room of Requirement. It was titled "Forces Arcane" and it had no credited author, though it had been translated by Merlin himself into Olde English, which was hard to read because it was really just one step away from ancient Gaelic. Hermione hadn't even tried, making a copy for each of them with a spell she'd learned from Madame Pince that copied any work into the native language of the caster while leaving the original intact.

The book described a method of working magic that was totally different than anything taught at Hogwarts. It was a student's notes as she had been taught by her mentor from the age of ten to the point at which she had reached Adept-class, which was the most powerful anyone could become, thirty years later.

There was never any mention of using a wand; instead the wizard, or mage as the book called them, was required to center themselves around the core of their magic and ground themselves in the earth. These two steps could be accomplished by anyone if they knew how, and once they did, they could use what energy was on the surface of the earth even if they didn't have the Gift! This radical thought, that even Muggles could work some magic if they were ever taught how, was a secret they all vowed to keep. It wasn't as if they were afraid of the Muggles, but if that got out, Muggles wouldn't be safe.

An Apprentice-class mage could be un-Gifted and could use only that energy which was on the surface, energy emitted by living things. It was everywhere, but it was fairly weak because it was diffuse. The strongest of Apprentice-mages were called hedge-wizards or Earth-witches and could even influence the weather with their abilities. Apprentices and Journeymen were of great use in maintaining the balance of the land against what more powerful mages could do, and the book emphasized that there was no such thing as a useless mage. As long as a person learned their limits and explored them thoroughly, they could do a lot within them.

The next level described was Journeyman-class, and as far as they could tell, every wizard in the modern world belonged to this class of mage. A Journeyman had to possess the Mage Gift, and so could access their own internal magic, which was what wizardry used to fuel spells, focusing them through a wand in the absence of the mental training required to ground and center. But a Journeyman could also control the Stable Elements, Fire and Earth, or rather the creatures which lived on those two Elemental Planes, either by coercion or persuasion. A quick conversation after reading that lead the six to agree to use only persuasion. Coercion seemed too much like the Imperius for any of them to be comfortable with it.

There were also other kinds of Gifts, Gifts that used only the mind, but though Harry, Neville and Luna all three showed signs of having some of these other Gifts, they decided not to explore them until after the war was over. At least with true magic, they had some basis for comparison, a way to figure out what the book was telling them by comparing it to what they already knew, and there was no time to learn something totally new.

And then came the real shockers. There were two much more powerful classes of magery, stages that perhaps only Merlin had ever reached in western history.

The Master-class mage gained control over the Mutable Elements, Air and Water, and gained access to the rivers of energy which dwelt deep within the earth, the ley-lines. And what power it was! The first time Harry had ever touched that power, he'd sworn up and down that it was like drinking light, and could give no other explanation. Later, they knew that part of the reason was that the school had been built right next to a node! All the lines feeding into it were very powerful because they were constantly being fed by the residue of student wizards learning their craft and the similar residue of nearly a thousand hormonal teenagers in the same ten acres for more than a thousand years.

The Hogwarts node was actually centered in the Forbidden Forest, and that made a lot of sense. Strange things grew and thrived there that, according to Hermione, were extremely rare in other places, and that could be due to contamination from the node.

No Master-mage could hope to control that kind of power. Nodes were far too strong and unpredictable for anyone less than an Adept-class mage to tamper with them. Adepts could control all four Elemental Planes, just as a Master, but they could also control the Fifth Element, the Plane of Power. There were no other-Planar creatures in that one to bargain with and gain power from. It was the seat of all magic, the place where it actually came from, and if you could touch that, you could touch a node. You could also travel through it, using a spell called a Gate. The energy for a Gate had to come from the mage. Hermione insisted that it should be possible to use external Power, but there was no time to figure out how.

In fact, there was no time for Harry or Neville, who both had the potential, to strive for anything but the bare essentials of Adept-class in the first place. They had wasted all the time they could in learning and now it was time to fight. Throughout the time spent learning the book, they had been forming a plan. It was a brazen and foolhardy plan if taken on the surface, but with the surprises they had been building, it had a very good chance of succeeding.

Nevile had planted a circle of hedges on the Quidditch pitch and then forced them to grow to twelve feet in height and six feet thick. They were meant to remind Voldemort of Cedric Diggory, for it had been these sort of hedges which had made up the maze of the Triwizard Tournament Third Task. The hedges were also there to provide a structure for the other spells that were being cast on the site. They were shielded in layers, with traditional anti-Apperation and anti-summoning wards being the innermost and then alternating shields against physical and magical attacks spreading onion-like away from the hedgerow for nearly ten yards in all directions, including up and down. Luna, who had built the shield system, had also placed an inert anti-Portkey ward which would be activated by a rock thrown at the first physical shield. When Voldemort came, he would not be leaving the circle, nor would anyone else be getting in besides his seconds. Ginny had made the Portkeys, one for their side and one for Voldemort's. She had also woven the illusion that would hide Gryffindor's sword until it was time for Harry to use it.

Just a week ago, Harry had sent a letter to Voldemort which had one of the Portkeys in it. The letter was a formal request for a duel with the time that the Portkey was to activate. Voldemort had immediately sent his acceptance, which had made it a magical contract. He had to come. But he didn't have to play fair, and neither did Harry. There were rules to a formal duel, rules which no one believed the dark wizard would adhere to. Harry planned to follow them up until the moment his enemy tried to cheat, and then he would drop all pretense and fight with everything he had, including the sword of Gryffindor.

Both combatants were allowed no more than two seconds, and Harry knew that Voldemort would have those two. Snape would most likely be one of them, but there was no telling who the other might be. Harry had chosen Ron and Hermione. Both had been with him from the beginning, and both were now strong Master-class mages. They would be able to defend themselves in the circle, and they would make sure that, no matter what happened, the recording spheres would make it to every wizarding publication in the world, every department in the Ministry of Magic, Minister Scrimgeour and Prime Minister Blair. There would be no disguising the truth of the events, no politicians burying it in order to manipulate the public. All of them were tired of the press's and government's lax attitudes toward the truth.

The challenge had been issued and accepted one week ago, it was registered with the Ministry the next day, and the day after that it hit the papers. Harry and the others had come back to Grimauld Place as soon as the acceptance had been received so they'd had one day of rest before the "adults" of the Order found out and had a fit. They'd rousted Harry and the other five mages out of their beds and started yelling at all of them in a pandemonious fashion, everyone shouting at once so that no one could be understood. Finally, Harry had tired of it and had shouted above the crowd, "ENOUGH!" Then he tapped into the nearest ley-line and cast Silencio and Petrificus Totalus at once, both silently and wandlessly, over the entire Order by his small group. He'd given them all a moment to figure out what he'd done, then he'd said, "Now that I have your attention, I hope you'll listen to me. We've found a new way of doing things, a method that far out-strips any of our other training. The six of us have trained all year in this, and it's increased our strength and abilities more than any of you could possibly guess. I'm not going to tell you how we've done it, and I'm not going to let you stop us. We are the power he does not know and cannot use. We will defeat him, and only after that will you know how we've done it."

He'd released them from his spells, but no one said anything for a moment. Eventually, it was Moody who had broken the silence. "Is it a trap?"

Harry'd grinned. "Yes."

The old Auror grinned back. "Good enough for me."

Moody was the only one who left them alone after that, but no one got any answers. Harry and the others were not willing to trust that there were no more spies in their midst. Snape had taught them all one final lesson, and it was one they had all taken to heart. Nor had Harry forgotten the lesson his parents had learned too late. Everyone, including Harry, had been put under a Truth Spell and their loyalties confirmed. There was no point in taking chances, and now the could all relax in each other's presence.

And now the day had finally arrived. Both Portkeys were set to go off at the same time, so there would be no advantage to be gained by either party, but they were going in with full shields, just in case. They'd tested traveling by Portkey with a shield on, and the shield hadn't suffered for the transition. Harry had chosen noon as the time of the duel because the sun wouldn't be in anyone's eyes, no matter which way they turned. The Sword of Gryffindor and two other blades currently looked like three branches among many in the hedgerow, but the moment they were summoned, they would be visible once again.

Harry and the others had used the Room of Requirement to its limits to learn their craft, limits that included a phantom swordsman to learn sword fighting from and train against. His blows stung when they hit, but they'd never left more than bruises. Through silent example and a lot of mistakes, they had slowly but surely learned the style of the phantom, and the day that Harry, Ron and Hermione had all three beaten him more than once was the day they had sent the letter to Voldemort. At the end of that session, the Room had declared their lessons over by revealing the face of the phantom. He had solidified and removed his red phoenix mask, grinned at their astonishment and disappeared. There was one drawing of this man, and it was in Hogwarts, A History. He was Godric Gryffindor himself.

Harry had bought swords for Hermione and Ron from a shop in Knockturn Alley while practicing his illusions. He'd had to go there to get decent blades because the only ones sold in "respectable" shops were purely decorative. No "respectable" wizard needed a sword to use as a weapon. The only magical properties of the blades he'd bought were a charm to keep the edge keen and one to prevent rust. They were actually Muggle-made weapons, crafted by a master who charged a fair price. They were perfect for what the two mages needed.

Harry stood in the kitchen at number twelve, Grimauld Place, with Ron and Hermione. Ginny, Luna and Neville had already left to check the perimeter and the protections, knowing that it was possible that Death Eaters would be snooping around and trying to find the site of the duel. They timed it so that they would only be there for twenty minutes before the duel began, not wanting to be totally alone there for very long. They would wait it out in a fortified broom-shed with an emergency Portkey out in case the worst happened. They'd already said their own farewells.

The kitchen was full of people. Molly and Arthur were trying to convince Ron and Hermione to back our, as were the Grangers, who had been brought in by Molly as backup. Remus looked as if he would like to be doing the same thing to Harry, but instead he said, "Doctors. Molly, Arthur. You all need to stop." Molly rounded on him and would have exploded, but he held up his hand. "No, Molly. They are all grown wizards. They made this decision with their eyes open, and they've prepared for it. I have no doubt that they have a few surprises planned for Tom Riddle, and I also know better than to ask what they are. But you've got to let them go. It's not your decision."

Molly wailed, "They're only children! How can you say that?"

Ron's eighteen, Harry, Hermione, Neville and Luna are seventeen, and Ginny is only sixteen for another week. All of them have matured beautifully from the children we knew. You see all of your children as babies, and that's only natural. But this isn't about what is natural or normal. This is about six incredible young men and women doing everything they possibly can to stop a monster, to protect the people they care about. They came up with a plan when no one else could, when all the Order and the Ministry have been doing is playing catch-up. You are selling them short."

Harry smiled at his father's friend, thankful for the older man's wisdom. "No mother wants to send her sons and daughters to war, Mrs. Weasley, Mrs. Granger. But in this one battle, the war will mostly be done. We can end this!"

Molly and Mrs. Granger both would have liked to protest further, but they knew that there was nothing else they could say.

Just then the clock hands that represented Harry and Ron started to move toward Mortal Peril, which was their and Hermione's cue to grab hold of the Portkey. Harry looked at Remus and said, "Wish us luck."

And to thin air, Remus said, "Good luck, my son. You're going to need it."

One moment they were in the kitchen, and the next they were in the dueling circle, recovering from the hook-behind-the-navel feeling of the Portkey. Harry had one second to pick up the stone that had been left there and take out his wand before the other Portkey deposited three other people into the circle. Voldemort, with his pale, flat face and red eyes. Snape, looking the same as he always had. Harry knew that his Potions robes were very easy to move in, and though he despised the man, he acknowledged that he was a very good duelist. The third player was Fenrir Greyback, the werewolf who had bitten both Remus and Bill, and though it was not the full moon, the three mages would still have to be cautious. Greyback bit even when he was human, and his bites were still cursed.

As soon as the three dark wizards were inside the circle, Harry launched the rock in his hand over his shoulder and into the anti-Portkey ward, activating the ward and ensuring that the only way anyone was leaving the circle was the completion of the duel. The ward flashed blue as it sprung into existence.

Snape sneered at the precaution, but said nothing. Voldemort said, "Quaint, Mr. Potter. But you have cut off your only means of escape."

Harry shrugged his indifference. "No one leaves. Win or die."

"As you wish." Voldemort was stalling, for during the tiny conversation, Snape had tried to insinuate his way into Harry's mind, and probably the others' as well.

Harry smirked as Snape's probe of Legilimensy bounced off his shields. Then he turned his full attention to Voldemort while Snape fumed at his failure. "Enough wasting time, Tom. En guarde." And he saluted his nemesis with his wand.

Smiling grimly, Voldemort returned the salute, and the two combatants readied themselves as the seconds parted to the sides to give them room. Not waiting for the turn-and-pace that was sometimes observed as a formality, Slytherin's heir launched an immediate attack. "Septicemia!" The blood poisoning curse was a good initial move to weaken the opponent for the entire battle.

But the curse bounced off Harry's shields and he cast locomotor mortis, immediately following it with Snape's sectumsempra curse. Voldemort was agile enough to avoid the first, and Snape had given him the counter to the second.

After that, the curses flew thick and fast for nearly an hour, and during that time, no treachery came from Snape or Greyback. Harry and Voldemort were so closely matched during this time that they might as well have called the contest a draw since Harry was using only wandcast magic, but the Dark Lord had no intention of leaving it like that.

Snape acted first, launching a bright globe of blue light with lunorbis. This spell simulated the light of the full moon, which immediately caused Greyback to begin transforming into his wolf form.

At this, both of Harry's seconds brought their wands out and tightened their shields. Hermione took on Snape while Ron concentrated on the wolf, well aware of what would happen if he were bitten by his opponent.

After only two minutes of that, Harry decided enough was enough. He shouted, "Now!" As one, the three mages dropped their wands and called their swords into their hands, dropping the illusions away from the blades as they flew through the air. Ron cast a shield over Greyback, a physical shield that was pointed inward so that he couldn't escape it. Hermione had set up a double layer of shields that transmuted energy into other forms, and as Snape's next two curses were absorbed by those shields, the entire hedgerow burst into a proliferation of blooms.

And Voldemort found himself unable to move. "What is this?!"

Harry ignored him and sent an arrow of power into his motor center, paralyzing him as surely as if he'd broken his back. The motor center and other bodily functions were not protected by Occulmensy because it only shrouded conscious and unconscious thoughts and memories. motion was not protected, nor autonomic functions like respiration and cardiac function. But the mere thought of killing with his mind was horrifying. He instinctively knew that he'd feel it as his enemy died, and that was not something he wished to endure. That was why he raised his blade and removed the snake's head with one clean stroke. It was a quick and painless death, more than perhaps he deserved for all the anguish he had caused, but preserving Harry's conscience.

Harry turned around to see that Snape had knocked Ron out while he was distracted by Greyback and had taken the red-head's sword. He was proving to be no mean swordsman, and he was casting curses while he engaged Hermione physically with the sword. He was like a cornered animal.

Greyback was near to breaking the shield he was under because it was not very strong with Ron unconscious. Harry slapped his own on top of it, anchoring it to a ley-line so that it wouldn't be broken until someone from the outside broke it. Then he looked to Hermione to see if she needed help. She noticed, and without taking her attention from Snape, she shouted for help.

Harry decided that distraction would be the best method, so he started attacking Snape's Occulmensy shields, blasting away at them with everything he had. It was such a shock that the Potions Master was flung backward, and Hermione immediately took advantage of the situation, flinging a cord of power toward his feet and wrapping it around him from his ankles to his neck. It was not a wizard spell, so Snape would not have the knowledge to counter it.

Harry went to Ron, gathered a little power and said, "Enervate," and his second's eyes came open.

Ron looked around and blanched as he saw Voldemort's decapitated corpse. "It's done, then?"

"Almost. We have to give Luna the signal so she'll let us out of here, then I'm Gating us into the Ministry building with our prisoners and the record spheres. I don't want to have to carry the body in just to convince them he's dead. Someone else can come and get it later."

"Right." So Harry shielded the body of his fallen enemy and sent up a small bolt of power. It hit one of the shields and caused the whole structure to glow red. He then sent another one, and a golden Gryffindor Lion appeared on the red background, roaring in triumph.

Ron chuckled. "That wasn't part of the signal."

He shrugged, grinning widely. "It makes my point." If they had lost totally, the shield would have turned black, and Ginny's instructions would have been to get help, and Luna's to leave the shields intact no matter what. Harry had intended to defeat that prophesy at least a little by ensuring that Voldemort never escaped the trap they had set for him. But since the field was red, and with the lion clinching it, the shields collapsed around them, and the other three mages came running at them, shouting happily. Hedwig, who had been forced to remain with them in the shed, came winging over all their heads and landed on Harry's outstretched arm, scolding him soundly for leaving her behind. He petted her and told her he was sorry.

She nipped at his fingers in annoyance. :You'd better be.: He swore she sometimes talked to him, her feelings were so clear. Shrugging, he turned back to what was going on around him. Ginny had been collecting the tiny recording spheres from around the circle.

Ginny, did you get all of the spheres?" She nodded, and he said, "All right. Let's get to the Ministry so we can get this over with. Neville?"

The Gate spell was the only Adept-level spell Harry had learned, pressed for time as he had been. To build a Gate, a mage needed a physical doorway as structural support for some very intense energies. Neville was going to provide that structure by manipulating the hedgerow, shaping some of the branches into a large arbor. For Neville, who shared a very strong affinity with plants, it was the work of only a few moments, and with the blossoms Hermione had caused to sprout over the entire circle, it was truly beautiful.

Harry shook his head. "It's really a shame that all of this will have to come down. But I doubt that Madame Hooch would appreciate this being in the middle of her pitch."

Chuckles met the idea. Harry settled down, then concentrated on his center so that nothing but the power within him, for only the personal energy of the mage could be used to build a Gate, and the flowered arbor entered his mind. I call upon the Portal—

He built the Portal from his own power, layer by layer, to anchor this location in place. Then he began the Weaving, spinning threads out like some demented spider from the framework, threads that sought a new place to anchor to. There was one place that Harry could find in his sleep due to his experiences in fifth year, and that was the door to the Department of Mysteries. He pictured the door and the corridor in detail as he sent out the threads, and they stretched toward that place, becoming finer and finer as they went, drawing their strength from him as they got further and further away so that they didn't break. It felt like he was being drained of blood by a vampire bat. Soon, the Gate actually started pulling energy out of him, and he had to fight it to keep from being totally drained.

Then the threads began to catch onto the place they were seeking. The Gate Wove itself into a temporary hole in space in a flash of brilliant white light, and then, instead of the bright day and green grass that was on the other side of the dueling circle, the arbor framed a very familiar and dark corridor. Harry sagged with exhaustion, but Ron and Neville were on either side to catch him so that he wouldn't fall. They had known that this would happen from the three times they had practiced this and were prepared for it. Hedwig cheeped worriedly, and Harry nuzzled her head, reassuring her.

Snape had been watching all of this, and he knew where they were taking him. He'd thought that he would have an opportunity to escape at some point. An inattentive guard, a well-placed distraction, and Snape would prove to be a very slippery prisoner indeed. But it would appear that they were taking no chances, transporting him directly into the Ministry building by some spell he had never seen before.

He tested the strength of his bonds. They were acting like invisible rope so perhaps—he made his decision. Quickly, using a skill no one would have guessed he possessed, Snape dislocated his own left shoulder. He'd been able to do that ever since Sirius Black had dropped him after one of his stupid pranks, and though it hurt like a knife, the situation most definitely called for it. It caused some slack in the bonds, enough for him to get his wand hand out. It was now or never.

It all happened very quickly. Hermione heard the pop of Snape's shoulder and felt the bonds go slack. She turned around. Bringing her sword to bear, and he reached out his hand and summoned his wand. He had time to re-aim and begin, "Avada—" He stopped at the shock of a blade being rammed into his stomach. He had never expected to be killed by this little Mudblood witch. But he would have the last laugh! He forced every bit of magic he had left into his last word. "Kedavera!"

There was a type of attack written in their book called Final Strike. If a mage knew that a situation was hopeless, they could still finish what they had started and avenge themselves on their enemies. When Lily Potter had shoved every bit of magic she had into her infant son, she had used a version of Final Strike which had created a lifelong shield spell against the Killing Curse. But now that curse was also being sent with the power of Final Strike.

The problem with using wand magic and Final Strike together was not in the magic, but in the strategy. The two Strikes together would have cancelled each other out, and Harry would have at least been severely injured, if not killed. But this was a spoken curse and it was aimed with a wand, giving Harry a split second to dodge, which he did reflexively.

And the Killing Curse crashed into the Gate with all the power of a Final Strike.

The Gate lurched and bucked like a wild thing, no longer showing the corridor it had been, but a mass of bright colors and flashes of light and darkness, all of it heaving to and fro like the waters of a stormy sea, ever moving, never resting, and every bit of it vibrating with the soul-deep growl of a wounded predator, and it was still connected to Harry's energies. It started growing cancerously out of the framework into a whirling vortex and it started to pull at everything in the vicinity, but most especially at Harry, and with one final lurch, it yanked him and Hedwig out of his friends' grasp and into itself, warped back inward and collapsed in a massive explosion, knocking everyone standing into the opposite wall of the circle. Ginny stood back up immediately, staring at the place in the hedges where the Gate had been. No one could have survived that explosion. Not even Harry Potter.

They all stared dumbly at the spot for a while, but eventually the crackle of flames brought their attention back to the world around them. The explosion had set fire to the hedges, and the fire was spreading quickly, feeding off the branches and the residual energies that had infused them. It was reaching toward the mages, the retransformed Greyback, and the two corpses with alarming speed. Tears in her eyes, Ginny was, never the less, thinking clearly and quickly made a Portkey from a large branch she snapped off from one of the hedges. They no longer had the luxury of not taking the bodies with them; if they were left here they would be consumed. Not that it wasn't tempting, but practicality won out. They were needed to authenticate the record spheres. Harry's final wishes would be carried out.

Making sure that the prisoner, the two bodies, the head and the five mages were all in contact with the branch, Ginny activated the Portkey and sent them all back to Grimauld Place. In their absence, the hedge was consumed completely, but the magical fires continued to burn inward and outward until the circle and half the pitch were turned black. For the first school year, as the war ended and life returned to normal, the pitch retained that burned look, as if the school were in mourning for its savior along with the rest of the world.

Harry was thrown into the place between the Gates with no place to anchor onto. Blind and in pain, he could only pray, over and over again, that the Gate would put him into a safe place. Safety to Harry was, on a bone-deep level, a much different concept from that of others. Safety meant shelter, but it also meant escapability, ease of gathering food and water, and a place without walls. It didn't mean comfort or warmth, and it certainly didn't mean people.

Gates usually needed a more tailored description of their destination, but this was no normal Gate. It had been supercharged in a way that attracted creatures from the Empyreal Plane who expected to have to deal with it. But in finding that the Gate was occupied, the decided to guide it into a place that matched what Harry most desperately wanted and where he could find help quickly for the magical drainage that was occurring. There were many places on many worlds that would have matched his desire, but only one world was close enough, and the book in his pack clinched the exact spot for them. Someone would need to help him deal with that, as well.

With their help, a much more stable Gate opened out from the mouth of a cave in a hilly, lightly wooded area. Harry fell to the ground, unconscious. The Gate closed without his help, the last creature to leave waiting long enough to dismiss it and return what it could of the young man's energy to him.

Hedwig, who was totally unsettled by having been trapped between the Gates with Harry, squawked indignantly at being deposited so abruptly. She hopped to the mouth of the cave, and seeing that there was a small stream flowing close by and ample small game, she decided to let her master rest. This was a good place. She pulled his cloak over him as best she could since he was laying on some of it. It was turning dark, which was her normal hunting time, but in the face of this emergency, she felt it could wait until morning. She perched next to Harry and watched the entrance, standing guard while he slept.

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this. I'm still working on everything else, so I can't guarantee a timeline for updates, but this will be a novel length fic eventually. As always, reviews are welcome.