Sooo, it's been a while. Sorry. Longer author's note at the end, please read it if you enjoy my writing.
The castle defenders didn't have much trouble following the path of the retreating trolls. Harry and the professors along with Hagrid headed into the forest, following along the trail of snapped and overturned trees. The spaces in the canopy allowed the waning sunlight to reach areas of the forest long untouched. However, instead of seeing normal, vibrant growth like they expected, the whole area looked dead, like something had poisoned the groundwater.
"This ain't right, professors. There's sommat wrong. This looks more li' a peat bog than what this part of the forest should look." Hagrid gestured to a clump of sickly looking trees, drooping low with obviously rotting bark. It was next to a group of diseased bushes, discolored and overcome with vines. Even those looked like they were struggling. Masses of dead weeds covered the exposed roots of the trees, giving off a slight smell of decay and rot. However, Harry, who had been exploring the stagnant morass that was close to the lake, noticed the smell was much less strong here than it was in the swamp. "This place looked fine jus' a week ago when I did me rounds. No way things got this bad without help."
Harry went over to the copse of trees. He had been exploring the forest since his fight with Voldemort over the unicorn all those months back. The forest was a vast reserve of mana, and seemed to always be full of life. Calling on his connection to the woods, he placed a hand on one of the trees and tried to see what had happened to the energy that was usually present in the plant life.
A pulse went through him, and Harry gasped and was brought to his knees. Where there used to be a wellspring of power, there was nothing but a hole sucking out every scrap of mana in the woods. This wasn't death and decay or an application of dark mana. This was leaching the very lifeblood from the forest. This was the absence of life. Harry pulled back before his mind was pulled into the metaphysical vortex, but he was able to grab one important piece of information.
Panting for breath, the boy was still able to speak. "Professors, there's something pulling all the mana out of the woods and directing it somewhere. I've felt this before when I was fighting. Using mana spells was more difficult than it should have been and it nearly drained Hermione and Ron like it did Neville. I felt it too, but I was able to keep going. I don't know why. This time it nearly killed me. But I found something out. The drain is coming from somewhere over there." He pointed in the direction the trolls had disappeared.
The group moved further into the woods, which grew darker and more decrepit as they ventured in. There were no signs of any living animals, though there were many carcasses of squirrels and foxes lying on the ground. They were withered and rotting, but no scavengers seemed to have touched them.
Dumbledore seemed to move without flagging for hours in the woods, but with the exception of Hagrid, the other party members were not so tireless. As the hours passed and the full moon began to shine down through the gaps in the tree cover, they began to trip and stumble, unused to the effort. Professor Flitwick, in particular, had to be helped up and along several times as he fell over the many downed trees. Harry, already exhausted from battle, gamely tried, but could not move fast enough to even stay in the middle of the pack. The others began to shed their stifling robes, as they were meant to keep away the chill in the castle and kept getting caught on splintered trees and grasping branches. Despite this and several cooling charms, they were covered in sweat and were greatly out of breath.
The first sign since Harry's near collapse that they were on the trail of whatever commanded the attack came when the professors, Hagrid and Harry climbed a pile of boulders and came upon a bloodbath. The remains of the troll war party were strewn about a clearing in the trees. Troll bodies, at least a dozen, lay disemboweled and mutilated. No troll seemed to have gone quietly, or without great agony. Each of the bodies was missing eyes, and some showed signs of tongues being ripped from mouths. One of the trolls seemed to have been liquefied. Another lay a in a pile, literally boneless. A third seemed to have been sucked dry, looking as emaciated as some of the animals the group had found in the woods. The stench of death and blood was overpowering, and Harry was not alone in retching. Once the party had adapted to the grisly sight, their attention was drawn to the abomination in the center of the mess.
The party could see an enormous altar, twice as long as a man was tall and tiered like a ziggurat built from stone and bone. Around it, various runes drawn on rocks glowed with power. A troll skull, still covered in brackish blood, rested on top of a pile of seemingly random other bones. The sides of the tiered slab of stone, splattered with the results of the slaughter, were framed with ribs large and small, sticking up towards the sky like macabre trees. Harry, fighting back horror and nausea, absently figured this was where the bones of the troll were used. But something else had his attention.
At the apex of the tower, under the watchful sightless eyes of the troll skull, was a black cauldron big enough for a man sit in comfortably. By the base of the cauldron, a pile of purple cloth was slowly soaking up blood. Liquid slopped and roiled over the sides, boiling away without flames to heat it. Being this close, Harry could again feel the massive draw of mana centered on this monstrosity. The foul nature of the energy was enough to send Harry stumbling. This was alien to everything he had learned about mana and the energy it represented. Mana, in all its forms, was about the natural progression of entropy in the world. This ritual, whatever it was, was a perversion of the natural order, an evil of incredible magnitude.
The rest of the group didn't need Harry to tell them that dark magic was being performed. Once the shock and horror of seeing the clearing in its entirety wore off, they moved forward. Their transfigured boots squelching in the bloody mud, the party did whatever they could think of to disrupt the ritual. Professor McGonagall attempted to scourgify the runes off the stones. The air around the runes vibrated and the scent of ozone briefly overcame the stench of the clearing, but she was unsuccessful. Flitwick attempted to knock over the cauldron, only to be blasted back by an invisible force. He tumbled backwards into a pile of gore.
Harry could feel the energy reaching a fever pitch, and the pain was too much for him to stand. He fell to a knee, unaware of what he was kneeling in. Harry began to scream in agony and clutch his head, desperate to get rid of the pain. The draw of mana reached a peak, and suddenly stopped. Harry looked up, woozy from the pain and its sudden absence.
Then a sound came that sent a shiver up their spines. The cauldron had stopped bubbling, and the sound of a high, cold laugh could be heard. Snape, in particular, had nightmares about that laugh, nightmares that were memories.
An elegant, long fingered hand slowly fanned out and gripped the rim. The nails, long and sharp, scratched against the dark metal, leaving lines. Slowly a human figure rose, pale and naked with long skinny limbs. The man from the cauldron snapped his fingers, and Quirrel stepped out from behind the altar, carrying a long black robe. Quirrel was missing his signature turban, which the professors noticed was at the base of the cauldron. Quirrel didn't seem to notice the assembled professors in the clearing. In fact, he seemed to be in a trance, his eyes staring forward and empty of expression.
Draped in robes, the figure turned to the faculty of Hogwarts. It was pale, inhumanly so, with slits for nostrils and a complete lack of hair. However, there was some resemblance to a handsome man, as it had high brows and cheekbones like an aristocrat. The eyes however were the most unsettling aspect. The pupils were slit like a viper's, and were an electric green that almost glowed in their intensity. Whatever it was, it smiled at the teachers and at the headmaster. Its teeth were yellowed and sharp.
It held out a hand behind him, and Quirrel pressed a wand into the palm. It closed its eyes, maintaining the smile as it wrapped the fingers around the wand in a caress.
It finally looked at the crowd in front of its dais, and its smile turned mocking. The figure saved an impressive sneer for Dumbledore. "Thank you all for coming on such short notice. I know most of you, but for those that I don't, allow me to introduce myself." The man drew himself up and threw his arms out wide. The voice carried to each of the professors in the clearing, and it seemed he was talking in the ear of each one. "I am Lord Voldemort!"
The snake-like eyes fell upon Harry after that, and if it had eyebrows, they would have shot up in surprise. "I must say Dumbledore, I never expected you to start bringing children into battle, no matter how skilled. You have gotten ruthless in your old age." He quirked his head to the side, and a sly grin could be seen. "Or is it that you brought him as a gift? As fealty?" Voldemort took a deep breath through the slits for his nose. "An apology for defying me all these years? It would have been the smartest thing you have ever done…"
Dumbledore did not move except to pull out his wand from his robes. He kept it pointed at the ground, but the grip on it was tight. "You know I cannot do that Tom. So long as you remain on the path on which you are set, I must oppose you."
Voldemort spoke quickly, incensed. "Do not call me that name!" he spat. As quick as it came, the fit passed, and the dark lord was as genial as before. "Fine then. The question remains, however. Why is he here, if not a gift or an ally? I have crossed wands with him before. He is…formidable."
The teachers all looked at Harry briefly, more surprised about the compliment than anything else. Harry never looked away from his parent's murderer. This thing was the reason he didn't have parents and had to suffer the Dursleys. This thing was the cause of most of the suffering in the Wizarding world. He wanted nothing more than to hurt him and never stop.
There was a problem. Harry was bone tired. It had been an hours-long trek through the woods, on top of the battle and doubly on top of the constant mana drain he had been feeling since he made contact with the forest. Mana wasn't returning to him, and he was unable to tell what good he'd be in a fight. He had never been this tired before, but he was determined to do whatever it took to make sure Voldemort never left this clearing.
Dumbledore was concerned by Voldemort's focus on Harry. The more he was able to direct Voldemort's attention away from Harry and give him time to get his strength back, the better. Dumbledore knew his former student would not be able to resist a good monologue, so he distracted him. "What have you done today, Tom? This has gone far beyond your usual insanity."
As expected, Voldemort turned his attention back to Dumbledore. Like a good showman, Voldemort showed his sharp teeth in a smile and gestured grandly at the disgusting altar behind him. "Do you like it? The ritual is something that I would never have thought of, and it requires a power that I do not believe any of you have ever used before. Imagine, being able to tap into the powers that control the forces of nature, in this world and all others in the multiverse." He ran a hand up his sides and across his bald scalp, visibly reveling in the sensation. "Oh, the things you miss when you no longer have a body, and the things you learn… I learned that death was not something that be avoided, but it was something that could be mastered, controlled. Death could a source of strength, not a weakness. As less than the meanest spirit, I was able to feel the undercurrents of power and energy coursing through the world and beyond. I was finally able to see that which I had sought to escape and triumph over as something to embrace. But to do anything to further my understanding of this power, I needed a body."
Voldemort waved a negligent hand towards the servant behind him. "Dear Quirrel here was most helpful. He came to me in Albania, full of promise and ambition. It was easy to show him what I knew, and he gave himself to me whole-heartedly and brought me what I needed in order for us to safely share life essences. It was not an endeavor for the faint of heart like you, Dumbledore. In all these years, you have failed to learn the lesson that I discovered before I came to Hogwarts. There is no good and evil, only power and those too weak to seek it! But I was strong enough for this, and Quirrel and I began looking for some way to finish the process."
He began to pace, slowly. Quirrel remained where he was behind Voldemort, unmoving. He stared straight ahead, not even acknowledging his master. "I know you've never made a study of the art of death magic, but you may be surprised to know Dumbledore that there were many options I could have used to regain my body. Unfortunately, many of them required service to something considered greater than myself, and we all know there is no such thing. This limited my options." He took a breath, and Voldemort continued, "I admit, you had the right of it when you broadcast the knowledge the Sorcerer's Stone would be at Hogwarts. I couldn't resist the draw. It would be the perfect, easiest way to regain a body. I had Quirrel here drink unicorn blood in an effort to strengthen me, but I was discovered by the Boy-Who-Lived. Such a ridiculous title, don't you agree Harry?" He looked over at the boy, his smile never wavering. "To give you your due, boy, I would never have expected a first year like you to be as capable a duelist as you were. You nearly had me…" the smile was replaced by a snarl, "But you never learned one thing, boy. No one is better than Lord Voldemort!"
He raised his arms, and Harry could feel the draw of black mana flowing into then out of him to saturate the clearing. Harry heard a moan off to the side, and could see one of the dead trolls, its guts hanging from its stomach like a disgusting belt, lumbering up from the mud. The sound repeated, and Harry could see another troll carcass do the same, then another, then another. The trolls were missing eyes, ears and one of them was missing an arm, but aside from moving slowly they seemed no worse the wear for their apparent death. They also appeared to not feel pain, as Professor Snape began casting Sectumsempra at them, causing small gouges into their thick hides but doing little else.
Voldemort jabbed his wand forward, and a bright red jet of light flashed into being before the assembled professors and Harry. It streaked its way across the clearing, clearing the dozen or so yards and slamming into the shield of Professor Flitwick. The diminutive man's shield spell visibly shattered from the force of the magic hitting him, but he stayed on his feet and began to move to be on the offensive. Jets of light began streaming from his wand, but they were all stopped at the runic circle around the altar. That didn't stop Flitwick, as he continued to send magic at the dark lord and his unmoving servant. In addition, he also targeted the rocks directly, obviously hoping to create a weak point. He sent powerful blasting spells and cutting curses at his targets, all the while constantly moving and dodging the dark lord's attacks.
McGonagall shook off her shock and waved her wand at the rocks around the outside of the clearing. Some of them began to quickly orbit her in a kind of solid cloud, but the majority of them were directed to come together and form the shape of a large wolf or dog. The stones didn't come together seamlessly, and there was some ambiguity to its features, but what was not ambiguous were the several jagged and sharp pointed rocks filling its maw. With a gesture from the Transfiguration teacher, the construct leapt into action, tearing at the rising dead trolls and doing a fair bit more damage than the Potions Master was doing. One troll, after being bit, attempted to smash the stone-wolf that was trying to remove its leg with its fist. When it came down on top of the wolf's head, there was a loud crack and the troll's hand dangled limply from its arm, wrist obviously broken. The troll didn't stop at the one hit and tried to keep going, but with a might wrench of its neck the wolf was able to tear away most of the flesh from the thigh of the troll, and the troll fell to the ground. Undeterred, it began to crawl toward the wolf, which had run away and began to attack another troll.
Hagrid, still huge from the earlier fight, went to the edge of the clearing and grabbed a fallen tree. He immediately put it to use, slamming the tree trunk like a cricket bat into the chest of another undead troll. It stumbled backwards, its chest caved in, but slowly rose again and began moving towards its opponent.
Dumbledore was magnificent to behold. As soon as Voldemort began yelling, he was on the move, sending spells at his former student that the others, had they been watching, would not have recognized. A golden shield surrounded him, and he was shooting spells from his dark colored wand at the bubble without a word spoken. Wind surrounded him and threw his impressive beard around his shoulders majestically. He waved his wand at the ground around him, and the water was sucked from it. It gathered at his waist and solidified into a large block of ice about the size of his head. He waved it again at the ground, and a hand burst from the now dusty soil. An arm, shoulder a head followed, and a golem the size of Hagrid climbed out of the hole. It reached back into the hole, and pulled out a claymore made of rock and dirt. It stood still for a moment, and the golden shield that surrounded Dumbledore because a golden gas, moving over to the golem and seeping into it. A bright light surrounded it for a brief second. When it stopped, the golem was the color of the cloud, and seemed much hardier and tougher than before. It lumbered forward and began to engage the zombies that were beginning to overwhelm Professor Snape.
All around them now, the ten or so troll corpses were stirring up from where they lay. The miasma of blood and other fluids at the feet of the teachers made it difficult to move, but the visceral terror at seeing these undead monstrosities kept them moving. Harry, standing behind Hagrid, closed his eyes and began to pull mana into himself. He thought of the mountains and the burning, cleansing feeling the energy in it gave him. As he did, he could feel the mana of the ritual pressing down on him like a lead weight, making him lose some of his focus and making the drawing of mana more difficult. After what seemed like an eternity, he was able to focus the mana into a mental image of an axe made of fire and lava. HE reached out with his hand, both in his mind's eye and in real life. He felt, in both places, the warm smoothness of the handle. He opened his eyes and the lava axe was there, almost as big as he was. He turned to the nearest troll corpse, which was shambling toward Hagrid. Harry leaned back and stretched the axe behind him, and threw with all his might. It rocketed toward the troll and slammed into it. The corpse burst into flames, finally reacting as it writhed and moaned in agony. It collapsed onto the ground, where it finally became still. Hagrid wasted no time as he moved on to attack another one before it could attack the suddenly weakened Harry.
Harry looked around at the others. Dumbledore's golem had chopped two of the zombies to pieces, but the other teachers were not faring as well. As he watched, McGonagall's wolf was destroyed by three troll working in tandem, one holding the jaws open and the other two pulling it apart like a wishbone. The Deputy Headmistress could not defend her creation, as she was dodging spells from the Voldemort. She could not always put up a shield in time or dodge, so the spell would hit the rocks surrounding her and explode, coating her in dust. Professor Snape looked terrified as he apparated away from a club that would have taken his head off had he not moved. When he reappeared, it was behind another troll. He blasted the head off its shoulders, but it barely noticed. Flitwick looked to be running on pure adrenaline, ragged as he was as he continued to dodge attacks from both the trolls surrounding him and the occasional spell from Voldemort. The dark lord, for his part, merely looked amused at all that was happening. He was smiling like a child on Christmas morning. He even occasionally applauded when Flitwick pulled off a particularly difficult dodge. While this was happening, Dumbledore kept firing at the shield, finally causing a few of the stones to crumble to dust.
Throughout the whole affair, Quirrel never moved. In fact, he was unnaturally still. Like a zombie, Harry finally realized. Quirrel was dead the whole time.
Harry didn't have that much gas in the tank after that spell, but he could still help the rest of them. "Use fire! They're weak against fire. Burn them!" he yelled, hoping they could hear him or pay attention. Hagrid, behind him, repeated what he heard Harry say as he watched Harry fall to his knees in exhaustion. The others, hearing the bellows of the half-giant, wasted no time.
Trolls, with their thick hides, are naturally resistant to fire. Being dead negated this advantage, and they lit up like kindling once the teachers started casting fire charms at their opponents. Despite fire from the dark lord, the few zombies remaining were reduced to ash in short order.
A slow clap was heard once the last of the trolls fell. Voldemort walked towards the edge of the protective ring, clapping as he did so. A crazed smile was on his face. "An impressive trick, Potter. I knew you would be the first to take out those toys of mine. And in such spectacular fashion too! There is power in you, boy. Join me, and we can push the limits of what is possible in this universe!"
Harry was still on his knees trying to catch his breath. He looked up at the man who made him an orphan. He growled out at the man, "I'll never join you! You killed my parents! You killed countless other families! You're a monster, and you have to be put down like one!"
If anything, Voldemort's smile grew wider. "I never really expected to hear a yes, but I do admit I hoped you would make the right choice. No matter. I have much to do and very little time to do it. As much as it galls me, I have promises I must keep, for I purchased the ritual at a steep cost. Quirrel here will show you the power I now possess. Good bye, Harry Potter. Severus, I would normally torture you for days on end for not joining with me today, but rest assured, should you survive the next few minutes, I will make sure you wish you hadn't."
He slapped the immobile Quirrel on the back, and a pulse of black energy was felt by all. Quirrel fell to the ground hunched over in a fetal position, spasming. Voldemort then traced a circle in the air while muttering something inaudible, flames trailing behind his fingers. On the inside of the completed circle, Harry could see only a disk made entirely of inky blackness. Voldemort, without looking back, stepped through the hole in the air. Without a sound, it closed up behind him, and there was no sign it was ever there.
On the ground, Quirrel was still twitching, the muscles under his shirt jumping. Harry looked away and could see the stones in the circle begin to crumble to dust, but the symbols etched on top of them remain. These glowing runes hung in the air at ankle level. As if caught by a wind, they began to swirl around Quirrel in a cloud of visible magic. In the glow of the runes, Harry could see the DADA Professor growing larger underneath his clothes. He began to stand, and the first thing Harry noticed had changed was that he was taller, about the size of Hagrid at normal size. There was another pulse of dark magic, and the shirt Quirrel was wearing exploded under the force of expanding flesh. The muscles revealed under the shirt were beyond what a person could get, naturally or chemically. Quirrel became grotesque in his musculature, unnatural and unholy. After the explosion of his form the arms lengthened and the hands expanded, with long, wickedly curved talons. Quirrel looked down at his new hands, squeezing them closed and opening them as if to get a feel for the sensation. He straightened up, and for the first time an expression crossed his face as he looked past everyone in the clearing to focus on Harry. He smiled, and the bottom jaw started to hang low and expand, growing tusks.
Quirrel then moved to brace himself as he sucked in a deep breath. Through his new maw came on of the most terrible sounds the assembled castle defenders had ever heard. The sound was like metal screeching against rock, and something else. It went on for longer than a minute, and after a moment of hearing it the people there could hear more in the sound, like the faint screams of millions of tortured souls grating on their hearts. They covered their ears, hoping to block out the sound, but it was useless.
The demonic howl wound down, and the professors were able to remove their hands from their ears, wary for the next attack. The runes surrounding Quirrel finally began to fade, but the ones that remained began to settle on his bare back. The area began to glow. The whole time, his gaze never moved from Harry.
Without warning, huge pillars of flesh erupted from the Quirrel-monster's back, shoot out twenty feet behind him and shattering the altar. They then returned to frame his new form. Harry could see they were tentacles of a sort, with a slimy, earthworm look to them, pulsing and wiggling.
A pair of Quirrel's new appendages pushed against the ground, lifting him into the air. Another pair reached out and grasped treetops on either side. He towered over the small clearing, over even Hagrid. The smile on his face was almost unrecognizable as such behind his distorted jaws and tusks, but the eyes showed his dark amusement. Finally, his mouth moved. In a voice that sounded nothing like the stuttering professor they were used to, the creature before them bellowed, "For the glory of my master!"
The thing snapped into action. It attacked Snape first, as he was closest. It used the tentacles holding the trees to pull itself closer to Snape, launching itself off of the ruins of the altar and towards him. It landed heavily on the lowest tentacles and wasted no time sending one of the others to crush the Potions Master. Snape frantically turned on his heel and apparated away, appearing behind the creature and seemingly out of danger. He went to fire at the unprotected back, but another tentacle came screaming around, and only quick reflexes kept the Head of House from getting killed. He apparated away again, further this time, to see how his compatriots were faring.
McGonagall was throw cutters and borderline dark curses at the thing that used to be the Defence Professor. She waved her wand in a tricky movement and shouted "Inflecto Telum Maximus!" A swarm of silver arrows came into being and fired themselves at the beast. Most bounced off its thick hide. One managed to sink into the collarbone of the creature, and another one broke off part of the tusk jutting from its mouth, but beyond that it didn't seem to notice.
Dumbledore stood in the path of a swipe seemingly without noticing, but when the tentacle reached him it bounced off a shield that snapped into place from nothing. This caught the thing's attention, and it turned from where it was focusing on tormenting Flitwick to see how to break this new toy. It snagged the Charms Professor and threw him up into the air, almost negligently. Only a well-timed arresto momentum kept Flitwick from getting hurt.
With its attention on Dumbledore, the former human started pounding the shield over and over. The gonging sound it made each time was deafening, but the glowing white shield held firm. Dumbledore directed his golem to strike at the teacher, and it lumbered forward. Quirrel let off on the assault on the Headmaster to engage his pet. The golem brought its claymore around and made to chop off one of the half-dozen tentacles flying around the clearing. Instead, two tentacles doubled back and ripped the sword from its hands. It started t fall to dust as it was separated from the golem. Still game, the golem grabbed the nearest appendage and held on. The tentacle wrapped itself around the construct and strained, but could not lift it. One of the tentacles was frozen, for now.
Snape began to cast everything short of the Killing Curse at his former colleague. Stunners, cutting curses, blasting curses, dark spells, and spells he must have made up. Some were absorbed without the creature noticing or caring. The stunners simply bounced off the flesh of the tentacles and off into the forest. It was only the flame curses that seemed to do anything, but as soon as one tentacle was hit, another simple wrapped itself around the afflicted one and put out the flames. Another tentacle whipped out to strike at him, but he teleported away again. This time, Harry could see the professor was tiring. That flurry of spells must have taken a lot of energy, and the teleportation was the third in as many minutes. The teachers and Hagrid weren't able to so much as hurt the thing Quirrel had become. Harry was going to have to do something quick.
But what, Harry asked himself. Fire didn't seem to work and he was feeling very weak. Quirrel was much stronger than he felt right now. If he hadn't had to fight off all those spiders before going on a hike in the woods, he might have been capable of something. What could he do?
He looked down in frustration. As he stared at his hands, he felt a gentle touch on his shoulder. He looked up, and it was that female figure from the mountaintop when he faced those fire elementals and the Crimson Hellkite. Hagrid, standing at Harry's other side, looked back at his sharp breath. Quietly, so as not to draw attention to the pair, he asked, "Harry? What is it? Did ya think of something?"
Harry looked back at Hagrid, confused. Couldn't he see the woman with the three hands standing right next to him? But when he looked back, the figure was gone. Maybe she had never been there in the first place. Harry had heard somewhere that being exhausted could make you see things, and he certainly was at that.
But that gave him an idea. He had needed the figure's help defeating the fire elementals, but the strange woman had told him how to access the deathtouch when he needed to kill the enormous firebird. Maybe that's what he needed to do here!
Harry closed his eyes and concentrated on the mana that had flooded the clearing only minutes ago. The dark energy had given him pain before, but now that the energy was no longer being drained and put to perverse use, it felt like the mana from any other swamp again. It filled him with an unclean, greasy feeling, but he put aside his distaste for it, and focused on the natural process of rot and decay. He imagined that anything he touched with his hands would experience this process at an accelerated rate, and would return its nutrients to the soil from which it came. When he opened his eyes again, he could see a slight dark cloud over his hands, and knew that the spell had worked. Now he had to get closer.
He could see his time was running out. The teachers were tired and were running out of ideas. Nothing they were doing seemed to be working and they were getting put on the defensive. It came to a head when one of the tentacles left the tree above Quirrel and grabbed Professor Flitwick by the foot. Too tired to yelp, he could barely scream as he was dragged along the ground back to his enemy. He was dangled in front of Quirrel, who ran a gentle clawed finger over the charms professor's upside down face. Then, while blocking attacks from the other professors with either his tentacles or his other hand, he slashed up with his talons, ripping open the man's stomach. Too shocked to scream, Flitwick merely coughed blood over his face. Quirrel then dropped him like a piece of garbage, and turned to his other opponents.
Harry was upset, but couldn't let that alter his focus. If he hurried and killed Quirrel, there might be time for him or one of the other professors to save Flitwick. He wasn't sure how he would manage that, but he had to focus on one problem at a time. Running as fast as his tired legs would carry him, he dodged the grasp of Hagrid and ran out onto the battlefield. While he figured touching anywhere on Quirrel would be enough to kill him, he should probably get to the main body as he had no idea how long it would take for the rot to kill him. Those tentacles seemed to be spell resistant, and Quirrel could still do a lot of damage to everyone before succumbing.
Leaping and vaulting over fallen branches and twice dead trolls, Harry left a trail of decay in his wake. When he was with twenty feel of Quirrel, the man in question turned around and focused on him with a bloodthirsty grin. Harry pulled a small amount of blue mana from the lake, and forced it to make him leap over the attacking appendages and send him flying straight at his target. Everything seemed to be in slow motion.
Twenty feet. A tentacle came straight at him parallel to the ground. Harry ducked to the side and rolled, then pushed off into the air, a nimbus of blue magic surrounding him.
Fifteen feet. Two tentacles came at him from above and to the left. Harry twisted himself so that he fit in the gap between the two and threaded the needle.
Ten feet. He pushed off the tentacles behind him and accelerated. Quirrel finally began to show a little consternation and frustration. Harry could hear McGonagall screaming something.
Five feet. Harry was inside the reach of Quirrel's arms. He threw his hands forward and reach for the abomination's neck.
Contact. Harry slammed into Quirrel's chest and he felt his hands close around Quirrel's neck. He closed his eyes. He didn't want to see this.
Nothing happened for a good five seconds. He didn't feel the sensation of his hands sinking into suddenly putrid flesh. He didn't hear Quirrel screaming in pain and fear. He did hear Flitwick choke for air, so he knew his ears were working.
Then Quirrel began to laugh. Quietly at first, but then louder as he reached up and roughly grabbed the boy around his neck. Claws bit into Harry's flesh as Quirrel pulled him up to look Harry in the eyes. Harry could see from this distance that the eyes were red and the pupils were gone. There was no humanity in that face. Harry did the one thing he could think of.
"I was sure that would work…"
Quirrel was still chuckling when he finally got a hold of himself. "That was very impressive Mr. Potter. Were I still a teacher, I would have to give you full marks for style. You missed your calling in the circus." He smirked, and his gaze went to the remaining teachers, all of whom were struck with horror at this turn of events. They were helpless to look away.
Quirrel turned back to his captive. "I'm sure you're wondering why that didn't work? Well, I can't let you die without knowing. It would only be fair." He leaned closer. "You tried to harness the dark mana. You only just discovered it. I am a being forged in darkness. It's my very being. You would have no more luck killing me that way then you would trying to drown a fish. You should have tried the opposite of my essence. Now, Harry Potter," He leaned even closer, and Harry could smell the iron stench of blood on his breath, "What would you like to say as you die?"
With the calmness and clarity of mind that comes before certain death, Harry remembered the cleansing of his scar, and the vast reservoir of white mana he discovered in his head. He could think of only one thing to say.
And he released the flood of white fire out his mouth right into the creature's face. The fire spread all throughout its body, coating it and making it scream in agony, a sound somehow worse than the howl before. The sound made all who could cover their eyes in a futile effort to block out the sound, but they could not tear their eyes away from the sight. The flames washed down onto the ground and engulfed tiny Professor Flitwick. The scream continued, even as the creature slowly burned away to ash. By the time it stopped making noises, it was reduced to a couple charred tentacle ends and a pair of hands wrapped around the arms of the Boy-Who-Lived.
The first to move was Hagrid, who let out a scream of, "Harry!" and bounded his way over to where the boy lay. As he moved, he began to shrink to his normal size. Spurred on by Hagrid's distress, the other teachers moved to investigate what had happened. They were prepared to see a dead student and two dead teachers. What they saw was an unconscious boy, a very alive and startled Charms professor, and a pile of ash where a monster had been. Hagrid reached Harry first, paying no mind to Professor Flitwick. He cradled the boy's head under one giant-sized hand, and reached with his other hand to feel for a pulse on his neck. However, his hands were shaking so fiercely that he could not keep them still on his neck.
McGonagall ran up to the two of them, followed closely by Snape and Dumbledore. She gently moved Hagrid's hand away from Harry's neck, and looked for a pulse on her own. Finding it, she said in an exhausted and incredulous sigh, "He's alive!" She gave a little relieved laugh. "He's alive…"
There was a groan from the boy in question. "Ungh… Who's alive? Is Professor Flitwick going to be okay?" He finally opened his eyes and squinted in the moonlight. He feebly held up a hand to block the light, but Hagrid was able to see what he wanted and gave him some shade with his much larger hands.
Dumbledore spoke next. "You gave us quite a scare, young Harry. First with your attack, then with…whatever you did just now-"
McGonagall interjected, "Nearly gave me a heart attack! Never have I seen anyone do something so reckless-"
"Or so brave," interrupted Snape, a rare look of approval on his face. He nodded at the boy, though Harry could not see. Snape moved to help Flitwick stand, who seemed no worse for the wear and in fact seemed energized and excited. "We must return to the castle. I'm sure the students would appreciate knowing we are all right."
Flitwick immediately agreed. "Yes, we most certainly do! We have to see to the students, and warn the Ministry! He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has to be stopped, and we need every resource we can get our hands on!" The excitable man paused, cocked his head and turned to the boy still lying in Hagrid's arms. "You wouldn't happen to be able to teach that trick of yours to others, Mr. Potter? It could be very useful, in the coming days ahead!"
Harry was feeling much less out of it as time passed. He began to sit up. "I don't know that I could teach that trick to myself. I'm not sure what I did." He paused, and looked up at his Headmaster. "Was it like this before? In the last war? Was he able to make things like this happen to people?"
Dumbledore shook his head. "I'm afraid, Harry, that Voldemort has discovered new knowledge and power since his defeat. I have never seen anything like what I have seen today. He may be out of my league. But," he raised his voice as Harry began to look down at the ground, scared, "I do not believe he is out of yours." Harry looked up at this. Dumbledore went on. "You have shown yourself to be enormously capable, and I have the utmost confidence you will achieve victory. But that is a worry for another day. Tonight, we celebrate all that we have done, and mourn what we have failed to do." The Headmaster looked deeply grieved. "We were not able to save all the students, and not all were able to emerge unscathed. I have the unenviable task of informing parents that there children will not be coming home following the Leaving Feast. I believe there will be much fear, in the coming days. People will need hope, Harry, and for that I will direct them to you. You will triumph, never doubt that, and others will believe in you too. A hard destiny rests on your shoulders, but I have more confidence in you than I have in any other."
Harry took a hard swallow, then nodded once. "I won't let you down, Headmaster."
"My boy, after today, I believe there is no way you could." He extended a hand, and lifted Harry to his feet. "Now come, Harry. There still is much to do tonight."
Aaaaaaaaannnnd we're done.
I hope this chapter and ending was good enough considering the wait. I pounded it out in the last three days and it's a little cornier than I would like. But at least it is done.
So as some of you may have noticed, this took a lot longer to produce than the rest of the chapters. There's a reason for that.
I promised that I would eventually revise this fic. What ended up happening was that I realized this needed more than revision, it needed a reboot. One of the major problems that I have with this fic, speaking from the author's perspective, is the characterization of Harry. Simply put, he is an eleven year old who acts and speaks like someone much older. My beta has pointed out that this could be because of his treatment at the hands of the Dursleys, but it's still inexcusable. My apologies, but Harry is so out of character I feel I should have put up a warning in the summary. In addition to that, Harry is so uber-powerful so early it detracts from the story. I had my reasons for it, and they still are kind of valid given where I wanted the story to go, but the story still suffered. Others have pointed out that the story seemed to progress really quickly. All these add up to a story that is less than my best effort.
But, there is a solution. I am currently working on another version of this story, one that is hopefully better and more in keeping with the character I want to create and write. If you're reading this, the other story should be up very soon, so add me to your author follows. I promise I will have something out very soon. Like within the month, most likely the next two weeks.
This is as far as Harry Potter and the Lessons of Urza goes. I hope you have enjoyed it, but I hope you enjoy the next, more revised version more.
And now, an omake!
Harry was still on his knees trying to catch his breath. He looked up at the man who made him an orphan. He growled out at the man, "I'll never join you! You killed my parents! You killed countless other families! You're a monster, and you have to be put down like one!"
If anything, Voldemort's grin grew wider. "No Harry, I am your father!"
Harry paused, looking too stunned to say anything other than, "What?"
Indeed, the rest of the clearing stopped and pondered this development. Voldemort continued while looking slightly embarrassed, saying, "Well, I could be! It's possible. Lily threw a Halloween party the year before you were born. It was dark, there was firewhiskey, it was the seventies, your mother was pretty popular that night, you know how it goes." Voldemort paused. "Or maybe you don't. You are only eleven after all."
Snape went very green. "You mean to say I had your sloppy seconds?" He looked like he was fighting back hurling up everything he could spare and a few things he couldn't live without.
Harry, more puzzled than the time he saw his aunt wearing leather boots under a trench coat in broad daylight, cocked his head and went, "Noooo, I really don't know what you're talking about."
Dumbledore cleared his throat. He looked exceedingly uncomfortable. It seemed that he would have to have this conversation with Harry a lot sooner than he was expecting. "Well Harry, sometimes when a woman and a man, or a bunch of men, really trust each other, are bored and have a lot of lubricant, social or otherwise, they might do what's called pulling a train. When that happens the woman lies down on the bed or over a chair, and then-"
Suddenly there were police Bobbies everywhere, clubbing the dead trolls and the teachers alike. One of them came to the forefront and announced, to no one in particular, "No, no, no, this has become much too silly. The writer must now get on with the actual story. Well, go on, GET ON WITH IT!"