Chapter 78 – Victorious Again

It was mere seconds after the fall of Voldemort when Harry suddenly found himself in the arms of his two beloveds, both laughing, crying, and clinging to him like they would never let go. A fatigue settled over Harry, which had nothing to do with the fact that he had not slept since the previous night. He had thought that finally being free of Voldemort would bring a sense of relief, but at the moment, all he could think about was his very great weariness at the pace of the previous months and his disbelief over the fact that it was finally over.

"You did it, Harry!" Fleur said, though she had to shout over the celebrating masses.

"I never doubted you for an instant!" Hermione echoed her friend.

For a few moments, Harry was just able to revel in the closeness of his two ladies and bask in the fact that contrary to his fears, he would be allowed to be with them in a post-Voldemort world. Their nearness was intoxicating, and Harry felt himself drifting in the sensation; he vowed right then and there that he would cherish them and never take them for granted, and he fancied that a promise of that nature was easier to make after having stared death in the face.

And so while Harry and his ladies savored this time together, relishing in the fact they had all made it out alive, the activity continued around them. Voldemort had been defeated, and seeing their master trussed up and helpless, most of his followers were convinced that their long-term interests would be better served if they laid down their wands—they surrendered in droves. There were a fanatical few who refused to submit to the inevitable—mostly those who were longtime English supporters, and knew from the example of Lucius Malfoy and his crew that they would likely meet the same fate—but they were quickly subdued and taken into custody. In addition, teams were dispatched to all corners of the school to ensure that any of Voldemort's forces who had not been in the entrance hall at the time of his defeat were also stopped before they could do any further damage.

"Harry!" a voice broke through Harry's reverie, and he turned to note Ron sprinting toward him from the side of the room with Lavender, and several of the older club members trailing behind.

Harry was astonished when Ron did a very un-Ron-like thing—he rushed to Harry and gathered him up in a great bear hug, swinging him about, yelling "We did it! We did it!"

His other friends came up—those accompanying Ron, as well as the Weasley twins, Daphne, Tracey and many other club members— and they formed a big circle around Harry, all laughing and congratulating each other. It was becoming the beginning of a big celebration when Dumbledore approached them, a large smile on his craggy face. Compared with how the elderly wizard had looked at times during the last months of the ordeal, he now appeared as though he had shed ten years from his countenance.

"Far be it for me to interrupt the celebration," he said with an amused smile, "but I believe that it should be moved to another location."

Sobering immediately, Harry looked at the Headmaster with some seriousness and said, "Are there still Death Eaters at large? We still have some work to do."

"I believe that you and your friends have done enough," said Dumbledore. "It is time to allow the Aurors to do their jobs. For now, you should all head to the Great Hall where you will be spending the remainder of the night. The professors are clearing the tables to the sides and setting up pallets for you to get some rest, and the rest of the students will be joining you as soon as they have been retrieved from their dormitories."

Knowing that it was not a request, Harry nodded, as his own tired state began to make itself known. Though he was not certain of the exact time, he figured it must be past five in the morning, and he was tired, even discounting all that happened during the course of the night.

Of course, regardless of their fatigue, little sleep was obtained that night by anyone. Soon after Dumbledore had sent them into the Great Hall, those who had been present for the battle were bunked down on their pallets, but even if everyone else around him had fallen immediately asleep, Harry knew that he would not have been able to sleep. Not with the enormity of what had just happened still running through his mind.

But there was a lot of chatter and Harry found himself having to recount the confrontation with Voldemort, and he quickly learned that the only ones who had witnessed any of it had been Hermione and Fleur, as well as Ron and his team, who had had a bird's eye view from above.

"You've got some kind of courage, Harry," Ron said, after Harry had finished recounting the confrontation from his perspective. "I don't know that I could have put myself directly in his line of sight."

Harry shrugged. "The coward was trying to escape," Harry replied. "I knew he had to be stopped at all cost and I was in the best position to do it."

It went without saying that Harry did not miss the amused glances exchanged by his friends.

"Like I said, Harry," said Ron, "you've got more courage than any ten people I know."

"A real Gryffindor," Daphne interjected, though from the blank expression on her face Harry could not tell if she was praising or criticizing.

"I'm not sure if it was reckless or incredibly brave," Tracey chimed in.

"That 'recklessness' or 'bravery' has saved us all," Fleur said somewhat pointedly.

"Maybe so," said Hermione with a certain amount of humor, "but you can't say that Harry's brand of bravery has not given you a few grey hairs."

"Certainly not!" exclaimed Fleur, but though her manner was affronted, the upturn of the corners of her mouth completely ruined the effect. "My Veela magic would never allow anything so unsightly as grey hair!"

The friends laughed as Harry hugged Fleur to him, grateful that she was comfortable enough in his friends' company to joke about such sensitive topics as her Veela magic. It was not only himself who was much changed over the previous year. Harry was glad that her life had changed and improved as much as his own had.

The greater disruption to their "sleep" was the arrival of first the Gryffindors, and then the Ravenclaws. Neville was proudly at the head of the Gryffindor contingent, and they were immediately greeted by those already present and asked to account for what had happened in the common room.

"We met the bastards at the entrance to the common room and 'persuaded' them that we didn't want them to join the party," Neville replied bluntly.

He received more than a few questioning looks at that statement—it seemed that Neville had also grown throughout the experience. In fact, Neville had changed as much or more than anyone, unless Harry missed his guess.

"But what happened?" Harry pressed.

Reluctantly Neville started into the narrative, explaining how he and Ginny had returned to the common room immediately upon receiving Hermione's patronus, and then how they had been attacked by Death Eaters and managed to enter before they could be captured.

"We waited, listening to them batter at the portrait hole, until they finally broke through." Neville grinned, though it was not an amused expression in the slightest. "They seemed to be expecting to just walk in and take hostages. The first one caught a reductor to the face which persuaded the rest of them that we meant business."

"Then what happened?" Fleur pressed.

Neville shrugged. "They tried to force their way in for a few minutes, but pretty soon most of them seemed to disappear. We didn't have any trouble holding the rest of them off until the Aurors came and hit them from behind. They took all the Death Eaters out in a few minutes."

"We had the same thing happen," Daphne said into the silence. "We were fighting them, and then the clutched their arms and retreated to the entrance hall."

"Voldemort called them back," said Harry. "He likely did it when he realized that we were coming back to the school. He needed all his forces available to keep us out until he was able to break into the Great Hall."

"But what was he doing here in the first place?" Tracey asked. "And how did he get past the wards?"

"He came in through the Chamber of Secrets," Ron said. "Lavender and I saw him coming out of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom."

"But how could he have gotten into the chamber?" George demanded.

When Ron shrugged, Harry felt it incumbent upon him to share his conjecture about how Voldemort had entered the school. But before he could say a word, the Ravenclaws arrived to much fanfare. Luna, who was walking at their head proudly with several other club members by her side, made a beeline for Neville and without even a greeting, threw herself into his arms and began to kiss him with abandon. Grins and waggled eyebrows were the order of the day when the couple finally separated, and rather than embarrassment, Neville showed a certain level of smugness at being kissed by a very pretty girl.

"I am so happy that you're okay, Neville," said the spacey blonde. "I asked the fluglefomps ever so kindly to do their best to keep you from being harmed. They must have done well, for I can see that you do not even have a scratch."

Neville smiled fondly at her and pulled her down to sit on his lap. "They were a great help, Luna," he replied with nary a hint of a smile.

"Oh good!" the girl enthused, before she snuggled down against him.

It was necessary, of course, to repeat everything which had already been discussed with the newly arrived Ravenclaws. Once that had been completed, Harry shared his conjecture about the entrance through to the Chamber. And once everything had been discussed, they fell into silence for a few moments.

"We were really lucky, weren't we?" asked Ron into the silence.

"A combination of luck and some rather amazing bravery," said Fleur, looking at Harry.

"The response of the Aurors was amazing," Harry said, trying to deflect attention from himself.

It was then that Dumbledore entered the Great Hall with Jean-Sebastian, Sirius, Remus, and several others trailing behind. Fleur rose from her seat immediately and threw herself into her father's arms. Dumbledore looked at them indulgently before he turned back to Harry with a raised eyebrow.

"Why am I not surprised to see that none of you have slept?"

"I'd be surprised if they had," said Sirius with a jovial laugh. "I think everyone is just a little too keyed-up for sleep."

"Indeed," Dumbledore replied. "However, I think that it will become a necessity sooner rather than later."

He gestured at the windows where Harry noticed, with some shock, that the morning light was already streaming through to bathe the hall in the early morning light. It seemed that they had whiled the night away speaking of what had happened. But strangely enough, though Harry had been up all night, fighting for his life for much of it, he felt not the least bit tired, nor was he ready for sleep.

"I suppose that no one will be ready for sleep until we satisfy your curiosity." At the chorus of agreement which met his statement, Dumbledore sat on a nearby chair. By this time, Fleur had finished inspecting her father for injuries and had returned to sit beside Harry.

"In answer to the most obvious question, yes, Voldemort is in custody, and is currently occupying a cell in the Ministry under constant heavy guard. He is also restrained with magic suppressing manacles, which will not be removed. I would think that his days of causing trouble are over."

Harry looked at the Headmaster with a question in his gaze. Dumbledore apparently understood his unvoiced question and nodded.

"Yes, Harry. Remus was able to test the Dark Lord and confirmed that he does not have any more surprises for us. I should imagine that after he is tried he will meet the same fate as his followers—we will not be seeing him again."

Relieved, Harry sat back in his chair, thankful that they had gotten all of the horcruxes. While there might still be dangerous items out there, his existing and living soul was now contained in his constructed body. He would not have a chance to make any more.

When he looked up, he saw several looks of confusion from those who were not in the know about horcruxes, while those who understood Dumbledore's words were as relieved as Harry was himself. The vows regarding the protection of the horcruxes would prevent them from saying anything further. Hopefully, horcruxes would be lost from all knowledge, except for where that knowledge was protected from the rest of the world.

"Now that we have that out of the way," Dumbledore continued, "I shall tell you what we know of tonight's events.

"Most of you will most likely understand that Professor Snape has been working for me as a spy since the end of the first war with Voldemort." This did not seem to surprise those in attendance to any great extent—apparently the course of the events the previous night had made that clear at the very least. Harry did not know where the man himself was, as he had departed the Great Hall soon after Harry had entered, but he supposed that he owed the man thanks at the very least. It could not have been easy playing that role, even for the brief time since Voldemort had returned.

"However, apparently Voldemort started to suspect the professor of duplicity some time ago," Dumbledore continued. "Exactly when is a mystery, but it seems like he had begun to suspect him some time before Nagini was killed.

"So he hatched a plan to take advantage of that fact. His attack on Gringotts was, as I am sure you already know, a smoke screen to disguise the real target—Hogwarts. The killing of Nagini told him that the location of his operations was now compromised, and he determined that should he give an indication that he would be making an audacious move, that we would move to counter him before he could make it. Thus, he conceived a plan which called for a proposed assault on Gringotts to induce us to take the bait. And once he had baited the trap, he then he moved his forces to take advantage when the signal was given. His entrance was, of course, through a secret tunnel which led from the Forbidden Forest into the Chamber of Secrets which he had discovered the first time he entered the chamber as a teenager."

"But how did he know when to move?" Ron asked.

"He left a small force behind to occupy us, complete with a portkey to take a messenger to the entrance to the tunnel. Once our attack was detected, the messenger portkeyed to Hogwarts and made his way quickly up the tunnel to the chamber, where Voldemort and the majority of his followers were waiting. Then, once he had confirmation that Hogwarts was relatively undefended, he commenced his attack."

"But surely he knew it would not be long before his ruse was discovered!" exclaimed Hermione.

"He counted on gaining control over Hogwarts with little delay," Dumbledore replied. "What he did not count on was to be discovered so quickly; though he did know that the club members would be patrolling the corridors, he had apparently disregarded that fact as irrelevant. He also tasked Mr. Malfoy with making certain that the doors to the Great Hall were open and ready to accept him."

"Like Malfoy can be trusted to do anything right," Ron said, in not quite a stage whisper.

Dumbledore chose to ignore the comment. "Unfortunately for Voldemort, he was not aware of the composition of the exterior walls to the Great Hall. He had planned to simply force his way into the hall should Mr. Malfoy fail, which would have taken longer than he wanted, but still would likely have allowed him to take control of the wards long before we would have been able to get the bulk of our forces into Hogwarts.

"We were saved by the quick response of our Aurors, the ability of those in the hall to see through Mr. Malfoy's ruse, and his ignorance of just how difficult it would be to enter once the doors to the Great Hall were closed."

After a moment of silence, Harry once again spoke. "What happens now?"

"Much the same as when the Death Eaters were captured in the Ministry. However, as Voldemort is the leader of the insurgency, he shall undoubtedly be tried first. And as there is little doubt as to the verdict, I suspect that his fate will be the same as Lucius Malfoy and the rest of his companions."

"Good riddance to bad rubbish," said Ron to the fervent agreement of everyone else in the room.

"Indeed," said Dumbledore sagely. "But it is up to us now, to ensure that we change the way we and the rest of society think, so that the rise of the next dark lord is met with derision rather than willing followers. It is a difficult task, but one that I think is eminently possible, given the way your generation has stepped forward to influence events. I am looking forward to seeing how you all progress as you mature and move out into society. It should be a fascinating."

"But sir, I'm curious about one thing," Fleur spoke up. "I don't understand what the prophecy meant when it said that Harry would have a power that the Dark Lord did not. Do you have any idea what it was?"

Dumbledore turned to Harry and motioned for him to speak. "I suspect that Harry himself can tell you."

Though embarrassed, Harry gamely attempted to respond. "I'd say that it was my willingness to give my life for my cause. It gave me the strength and will to defeat him. Voldemort always has been about himself and nothing else—he simply cannot understand believing in something enough to sacrifice his life."

"Even more than that, Harry," Dumbledore added, "Voldemort is terrified of death, and would struggle until his last breath to preserve his life. He has never understood that to the well organized mind, death is nothing more than the next great adventure.

"And I would like to make another comment. You were not only led by your willingness to sacrifice, but also by your great love for others, and perhaps more particularly, your two ladies." Fleur and Hermione blushed slightly at this, but Dumbledore only smiled and carried on. "Those two things are incomprehensible to Voldemort. That in a large part, is why you were able to prevail."

Though many in the room were not familiar with the text of the prophecy, they all seemed to accept the explanation. The conversation continued on for several moments before Dumbledore rose and admonished them to get some rest. He then left with the adults in tow, leaving the students to their own devices. By this time Harry was ready to admit that he was ready to sleep and after a little more time speaking amongst themselves, they bunked down. Harry was given the pleasure of falling asleep with both of his ladies snuggled down next to him, one on either side.

"I'm not sure this is a good idea," Sirius repeated himself, and not for the first time. That this was the first in the presence of the person—Dumbledore—who would ultimately make the decision, did not make it any less annoying.

Harry glared at his godfather with exasperation. "Why, what's he going to do to me? I heard he was forced to wear those manacles all the time."

Though he did not respond this time, Sirius turned a beseeching eye on Dumbledore, who sat behind his desk looking at Harry thoughtfully. "Why do you want to see Voldemort, Harry?"

"I want to look him in the eye once more," Harry replied. "He's the reason why my life has turned out the way it has. I'm happy now, but my parents are gone, and so many people have been affected because of him. I want him to know that he has not broken us."

"It is not right to mock a fallen opponent, Harry," Dumbledore noted. But though his words could perhaps be taken in a chastising manner, his tone had a searching quality which Harry interpreted as wishing to be reassured.

"Voldemort is more deserving of being mocked than anyone else I can think of," Harry noted with a wry smile, despite not feeling any amusement whatsoever. "But I don't want to mock him. I need this closure. I need him to know that he hasn't broken me, regardless of how his actions have affected my life."

"That's a pretty mature statement, pup," Sirius said with a grin.

"I sure didn't get my maturity from you!" Harry shot back, matching the Marauder's tone.

"Ah, the teenage rebellious period has already started, I fear," Sirius replied with a dramatic sigh. "What would your parents say?"

"I bet they'd tell me that you deserved it!" said Harry.

"I believe he has you there, Sirius," said Dumbledore.

Sirius only threw up his hands with mock exasperation, though the wink he gave Harry belied his apparent annoyance. Harry just grinned at him, reflecting that it was good to have his godfather in his life.

Dumbledore too appeared to be enjoying the banter between them, but it was only a moment before he turned to Harry and turned the conversation back to its original topic. "I understand what you are saying, Harry. And I'm inclined to allow it, under the conditions we just agreed to."

Sirius appeared to be more resigned than eager, and though he likely still disagreed, he said nothing further, seeming to accept what Harry said. Jean-Sebastian, who had said nothing during the conversation, stood and clapped Harry on the back.

"I presume you will want to tell Fleur and Hermione where you are going?"

"I think I should."

"Why?" Sirius said in a mocking tone. "Do you think they'll worry that you've run off without telling them?"

"You're not as funny as you think," Harry growled.

Sirius just smirked at him. "Yes I am."

There was really nothing to be said to that, so Harry simply left Dumbledore's office and headed out toward the Gryffindor common room, all the while thinking about the changes which had occurred in the past week.

In the aftermath of the battle, the Ministry forces had been able to largely round up Voldemort's forces, as the presence of the Hogwarts wards had rendered them unable to flee. A few remained unaccounted for, but they were almost exclusively foreigners, and it was determined that most, if not all, would immediately flee for their home countries. This was not to suggest that they were not pursued, but they were determined to be of lesser importance than cleansing the immediate area of Voldemort's forces.

Voldemort, as the instigator and leader of the insurgence, had been the first to appear in front of the Wizengamot, as Dumbledore had predicted. If anything, his confession under the influence of Veritaserum had been even more repulsive than that of Lucius Malfoy. The depth of his depravity was difficult to comprehend, but what was clearly understood once he had been forced to recount his crimes was that he was in no way fit for anything other than a swift trip through the veil. Of course, all mention of horcruxes had been carefully avoided and repressed, though his attempted creation of those vile items alone would have had him sentenced to death several times over.

Although the majority of the Death Eaters had still not had their day in court, the ringleaders—or what was left of them—were tried in the immediate aftermath of the Dark Lord's trial, and had, to a man, been sentenced to the veil. And though the trials still went on, it was deemed prudent to begin the executions rather than to wait until they had all had their days in court. The hearings would ultimately continue on for some time, such was the number of prisoners which had been taken. Some would almost certainly be assigned to Azkaban, their crimes not warranting the death sentence Voldemort and his closest lieutenants were facing, though there was talk that foreigners would be deported to their home countries to serve their sentences there.

The victory had been won, but it had certainly not come without a cost. The Ministry Aurors, along with the French, had borne the brunt of the assault and many had perished at the hands of the ruthless enemy, who threw around killing curses like one would toss a ball. Of the club members, Harry was please to note that there had only been two fatalities—Nigel Johnson, unfortunately, had been vindictively beaten and had died during the course of the battle before help could reach him. Blaise Zabini had survived, but was still in St. Mungo's, healing from the trauma of his wounds. Other than Nigel, however, the only other death had been Michael Corner—Michael and his companion had unfortunately been ambushed by a group of Death Eaters in the opening minutes of the invasion, and while Alice Tolipan had been able to make her escape, Michael had been cut down trying to cover for her. Harry had not known either Michael or Nigel well at all, but he still felt responsible for them and mourned their deaths.

In all, Hogwarts had been closed for a week while the dead were buried and mourned, and the repairs had been completed on the castle. With the wonders of magic, the school was again made serviceable, and the decision was made to bring the students back as quickly as possible. This was due in part because it was determined that the students would recover more quickly if they were returned to their routines immediately, and also in part to show that though the forces of evil had done their worst, they had been defeated and their ideals consigned to the dust to which they belonged. Harry had been eager to return to school—it was difficult in some respects due to what had happened, but it was necessary, he knew. The post-Voldemort world needed to commence as quickly as possible.

Of the castle itself, repairs had been hurried to make the school serviceable. The entrance hall had, of course, sustained the greatest damage, and had received the most attention. Though there were still scorch marks still visible and the doors to the Great Hall were battered, the hole which Dumbledore had blown in the wall had been repaired, and only a close inspection gave any indication that it was a repair rather than the original wall. There was also damage to the entrances of the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw common rooms, but those would not be completely repaired until the summer. As for Slytherin and Hufflepuff, Voldemort's forces had never even made it to those parts of the school, due to the actions of the Weasley twins and their teams. In fact, the Hufflepuffs had woken the next morning knowing that something had happened—the noise of the hole being blown in the outer wall had carried even that far—but not knowing exactly what. Fortunately, the Hufflepuffs had made the decision to stay and guard their dorms, and they had been left there for the entire night. The Slytherins had also kept to their common room, though as most of them were Purebloods, regardless of their philosophies, they likely had not been a major target of Voldemort's forces anyway.

In Harry's mind, all that was required to put Voldemort behind him was to confront the man, let him know that his actions were for naught, and see him pushed through the veil, never to return. Beyond that, he would be put under Veritaserum once more to determine the location of his intended horcruxes so they could be retrieved and neutralized. Of course, Samuel, who was still resident at Hogwarts and who had acquitted himself in battle admirably, could not say for certain just how dangerous the failed horcruxes were once Voldemort was gone, but it was prudent not to leave them and any traps Voldemort left behind for just anyone to stumble upon.

When Harry arrived in the Gryffindor common room, the girls were waiting for him and beckoned for him to sit between them on the sofa they occupied.

"So how did it go?" Hermione asked him.

"I'm going," Harry replied simply.

Both girls nodded their heads, and Fleur said, "It's probably for the best. This way you can put it all behind you."

"Dumbledore actually agreed with me," Harry replied. "It was Sirius who put up the biggest fuss."

"He's very protective of you," Hermione noted. "Especially since Nagini."

"True," Harry said dismissively. "But now that the reason for my adventures is about to meet his maker, there's no more reason to worry. I just want a normal, adventure-free, boring life."

"I hate to burst your bubble," Ron said, as he walked up and sat on a nearby chair, "but I doubt your life will be anything but normal. The vanquisher of the greatest dark lord of the century can hardly be normal."

In the past he might have caught a hint of jealousy in Ron's tone, but Ron also had grown and matured over the past year. Now his tone was nothing more than amused, though he hid it behind a credible poker face.

Harry glared at his friend. "I don't need you to be stirring the pot."

Ron merely waggled his eyebrows, a grin suffusing his countenance.

"But he's got a point," Hermione added. "I'd bet that when all is said and done, you'll be more famous than Dumbledore."

Grunting, Harry turned a sour eye on them both. "I'll settle for people just leaving me alone, thank you very much."

"Well, hopefully we'll manage that to a certain extent," Fleur replied with a laugh. "But either way, I think that you have an appointment with a Dark Lord that you need to keep."

Agreeing, Harry kissed Fleur and Hermione goodbye, gave Ron a playful slap on the back, and then exited the common room once again.

The trip to the Ministry was accomplished and Harry soon found himself in an observation room which looked into one of the interrogation rooms. Though he had often seen such rooms in Muggle crime dramas, this room was not separated by one-way glass, but rather by some enchantment on the wall in between which allowed the observers to see into the other room and hear what was being said, while the reverse was not true. This was not to say that Voldemort did not know of the room's existence, if the dark looks he directed at the wall behind which Harry stood were any indication.

Studying the man as he sat bound in his chair waiting for the questioners, Harry noted that his impressions of the night at the cemetery and the previous week's battle were entirely correct. Not having met Voldemort before his transformation, Harry could not say how much his constructed body looked like the original, though Dumbledore had commented that a superficial resemblance was there. But though the almost alien features of the man might strike fear into his enemies should they meet over crossed wands, they were rendered nothing more than pathetic with him struggling ineffectually against his bonds. As Dumbledore had promised, he was bound in a heavy-looking set of manacles which almost glowed with the enchantments placed upon them. Though Harry had been afraid during the battle—and justifiably so!—now the man engendered no feelings other than disgust at his actions and pity over a wasted life of one who was, after all, extremely gifted.

A few moments after Harry had taken his place, Kingsley Shacklebolt entered the adjacent room with a pair of Aurors in tow, one of whom was the ever-irrepressible Tonks. Without preamble, they approached the Dark Lord and, forcing his mouth open, deposited the requisite three drops of the truth agent into his mouth. Within moments Voldemort's eyes had glazed over and the questioning begun.

"What is your name?" Kingsley asked, as he was the main interrogator.

"Tom Riddle," Voldemort responded, though Harry noticed a slight twitching as he said it. Obviously, he was just as reluctant now to admit to his Muggle heritage as he had ever been before.

"Very well, Tom," replied Kingsley, "today, we're going to talk about horcruxes."

And so the questioning began. Kingsley deftly drew information out about the location and defenses of the remaining items Voldemort had intended to make into horcruxes, along with defenses, and anything else which was relevant. It was discovered through this questioning that Voldemort had indeed intended to make six horcruxes, believing that having seven distinct parts of his soul would create a magically powerful number, and boost his chances of remaining alive forever. Besides the diary and Nagini, he told them about the cup owned by Hufflepuff, which Bellatrix had secreted in her Gringotts vault, the locket of Slytherin in the cave, the ring of Slytherin hidden in the shack his mother had lived in, and the diadem of Ravenclaw in the Hogwarts Room of Requirement. The last had certainly surprised Harry; it was mildly disturbing to know that the intended horcrux had been so close at hand, considering how much they had used that room over the past year.

Of course, they had already known that he had intended to make a horcrux from Harry's death, but what they had not known was that he had intended to make his own wand into a horcrux, believing that he had no way to locate any other artifacts of the founders, and that his wand was as great a symbol as they had been. It was amazing, the level of egotism contained within one man!

Of course, no one listening missed the irony of the situation—as a result of his lack of understanding concerning the nature of horcruxes, he had never even come close to his goal of having seven. He had managed three by accident, but he had only had three active for the short time after he had created Nagini as a horcrux. Whether that would ever have been significant Harry did not know, not having any real knowledge of Arithmancy. He fancied, however, that the magically powerful numbers had nothing whatsoever to do with horcruxes. It was not as though his horcruxes would have kept his existing body from dying, after all. Fortunately, he had never understood that.

At length the interrogation concluded and Kingsley and the Aurors exited, leaving a confused Voldemort by himself. They stepped into the observation room and Kingsley looked at the Minister, who was standing by watching the proceedings.

"I believe we got everything, Minister."

"Very good, Kingsley." Madam Bones turned to Harry and regarded him affectionately. "Are you sure you want to do this, Harry?"

Harry took a quick glance at Voldemort, before he nodded and said, "I think I have to. It's time to put Voldemort in the past, not only for all of England, but for me as well."

Nodding, the Minister smiled at him. "I understand, but I think we'll need to keep this brief. Tom Riddle has a date with the veil, after all, and we wouldn't want to delay it."

"I think five minutes is more than enough," replied Harry fervently.

After receiving some encouragement from those in the room, Harry left the room, and after taking a deep breath out in the corridor, he turned the knob and opened the door to the interrogation room, entering without any hesitation.

The Dark Lord's eyes were on him in a moment, and Harry felt small and wanting under his hate-filled glare. But knowing that the man had lost the power to affect him in any way that he did not allow himself, he held his head up high and glared at Voldemort with all the disdain he could muster.

"So have you come to gloat, Potter?" the sibilant hiss of the Dark Lord's voice filled the room.

"No," Harry said bluntly. "I've come to put you into the past where you belong."

Voldemort sneered at him with contempt. "It's easy now that I'm all trussed up like this, isn't it? Is this the result of your vaunted Gryffindor courage?"

Harry chuckled, seeing Voldemort's attempts to rile him for what they were. "I would think that my courage was displayed when we met last week. No, Tommy boy, I'm here to finally leave you behind in the dust of history where you belong."

"You'll never be free of me!" the Dark Lord ground out.

"I won't deny that the effects of your actions will be felt for a long time," Harry replied. "But though my parents are gone, and you've created a lot of damage, I can go on with my life, secure in the knowledge that you'll never bother anyone again. I have people who love me, a purpose, and more than enough reasons to make sure that there is never anyone like you again. Enjoy your time in hell, Tommy. I'd say that it's all you have to look forward to."

With eyes blazing, Voldemort struggled against his bonds in an attempt to get at Harry. "You don't know as much as you think you do!" he screamed. "I will not be defeated! I will be back for my revenge!"

Harry shook his head. "You might have caused so much more damage if you had only known what you were doing. You never knew as much as you thought you did."

And with that, Harry turned and left Voldemort behind.

A short time later, it was done. After rejoining Dumbledore and the others, Harry proceeded to the veil room where most of the high level members of the Ministry and the Wizengamot were gathered. He walked with Jean-Sebastian and Sirius to a location close to the actual veil, and they stood in quiet conversation while they waited for the Dark Lord to appear.

A few moments later Voldemort was brought in, still bound, but he was being levitated and had been silenced. It appeared that his name—flight from death—had been well chosen, as he was clearly terrified. His eyes were round and wildly casting around for anything that might save him, he was struggling against his bonds and behind the silencing charm, he was clearly screaming himself hoarse. It was this more than anything which brought the point home that he was nothing more than a man—a man with a deep fear of death. This, more than anything, was why Harry had been able to defeat him, he felt.

"Tom Marvolo Riddle," the Minister said when he had been brought before the veil, "you have been tried and found guilty of numerous crimes against Wizarding Britain, and have been sentenced to death. We will not ask for mercy upon your soul, as we are quite certain that there will be none."

After giving a signal to the accompanying Aurors, Madam Bones stood to the side, and Voldemort was pushed through the veil. An audible sigh went up through the room as the deed was done and the Dark Lord was no more.

It was over. It seemed like the sun had broken through the clouds after a dark and violent storm.

Update 02/16/2016