Holding Out As Long As Possible
...when suddenly, something caught his attention around Hermione's neck...the Time Turner. His heart leaped. There might still be a chance for him to stop this all from happening...if he hurried, for a loud crash of boulders hinted Voldemort had broken all the way through. In a flash, Harry grabbed the Time Turner, hit the floor as Voldemort attempted to strike again-hitting the wall hard above him instead-and scrambled along the wall as quickly as he could. "How did she say this worked...!?" he tried frantically to remember, crashing hard into a dead end, "Yes, over your head like this, one turn for an hour...hope fifteen minutes does the trick...!"
There was a carnal roar behind him and the rush of foul air as Voldemort struck towards him once more. Harry squinted his eyes shut and quickly turned the hourglass what he guessed was a quarter of the way...
...and suddenly, all was silent around him. He dared to open his eyes and was relieved that the cave was completely empty, both of the Basilisk Voldemort and his friend's bodies. He'd done it...but how far back had he gone?
"It's not important now, just so I am back," he thought to himself, "Thank the Lord for that. OK, so now what do I do?"
He thought hard for a minute. "Stall somehow," he realized, "Try and distract them long enough so that he misses the deadline...and if you can help yourself and the others without them seeing it's you, too. All right, first things first, try and see how far back you went..."
He cautiously bustled back down the tunnel towards where he now once more heard chanting. Realizing he still had his invisibility cloak with him, he slipped it over his head before entering the central chamber; better safe than sorry, he reasoned. The Death Eaters and Dementors were once more gathered into their circles that he'd first seen them in when he'd first come in (and as before, one Death Eater by the front seemed to be glancing impatiently through the tunnel he and his friends had come in, as if he was waiting for them, or anybody, to show up, Harry noticed. He also noticed the lost Scone Crown, sealed inside a magic sphere against the wall high over Voldemort's head. He'd worry about retrieving it later, once more important things were taken care of, he decided). "What's going to happen, Emma!?" came Derek's fearful voice from the middle of the cave.
"This is the cave where Slytherin and Andric Vydzaal searched for the secrets of pure immortality," Emma related the tale, sounding like she was struggling to keep her own fear at bay, "He's going to open Marvolo MacClivert's chamber when the moon's right overhead; if he does, he'll become a creature of pure magic and can't be stopped..."
"A very smart girl. It's a shame you had to turn your back on true wizardry for Dumbledore's lies," Voldemort glared her down softly, "But at least you shall have..."
"My Lord, please," it was Gaspard from the corner, sounding even more remorseful than ever, "Must it be them...they're children, there must be another way if you must...!"
"CRUCIO!" it was Swims firing the curse at Gaspard from the circle of Death Eaters, making him writhe in screaming agony. "Spineless little Mudblood nobody, mind your own business," the Azkaban warden barked at him, "The Dark Lord's always right, and since you're no longer one of us, you have no right to voice your opinion. Let's kill him first once it's done, my Lord."
"Indeed, my Lord, Gavertson should be your first victim once you have achieved full power," Lucius added quickly from close to Voldemort's right side.
"Swims you lying, manipulating dog, you're the nobody! You murdered Devlin to save yourself, I know it!" Gaspard shouted furiously at him, "And Lucius, you're no better, shoving me aside to take all the credit for killing Tiberius Castlebert yourself so you can get closer to...!"
"Silence!" Voldemort zapped him with the Cruciatus Curse as well, "Nagini, he's yours when we're done," he told his snake, "Make sure he does nothing to interfere now that I can see he's completely in Dumbledore's embrace."
Nagini buzzed and slithered over to where Gaspard lay quivering. Harry took note that the beam of moonlight was just about to reach the edge of the carving on the cave floor. He had some time to work with, but still better to hurry. But what to do first...?
"Well, I suppose I could help me and the others get here quicker," he thought to himself, "If I could somehow speed up the boat ride, and do it by making sure we don't trigger the Inferi...better take out the guards, though."
He tiptoed down the entrance tunnel, unseen and unheard by the Death Eaters and Dementors. He could make out the two lookouts at the entrance to the lake, shuffling about, almost bored. "...why he needs us here?" Avery was complaining softly as Harry crept closer, "With everything he's got out there, nobody, not even Dumbledore or Potter, could get in here in time to stop the Dark Lord. I wish we could be in there watching with everyone else."
"I do too, but orders are orders," Rookwood was the other lookout, "And seeing how far Gavertson's fallen over messing up his orders this last week, better to stick to our posts. You're probably right, though, Avery, who could possibly get through all this?"
"Wouldn't you like to know...?" Harry thought to himself as he drew his wand. "Silencio," he whispered softly, aiming at Avery, who suddenly went silent in mid-sentence. Frowning, he tapped at his throat. "What, what is it?" Rookwood approached him, "Are you choking on...?"
"Silencio," Harry hit him with the silencing spell as well, cutting Rookwood off in mid-sentence too. Now for the clincher. "Petrificus totalus," he hit first Avery and then Rookwood with the Full Body Bind. Both Death Eaters fell flat on their faces, frozen solid. Harry nodded in satisfaction. That at least had been easy. Hopefully everything else would...
He glanced warily backwards towards the central chamber, but no one else had noticed anything. He strode towards the entrance to the lake, just as he could hear his voice and his friends' voices at the other end of the lake. He glanced to the right to see Greyback and his fellow werewolves watching eagerly from behind several rocks, some distance away. Harry hoped it was still within range for the Full Body Bind to be effective...or that it even would work on werewolves. There was, of course, only one way to find out...
"Petrificus totalus," he fired at Greyback himself, but missed-nonetheless hitting and freezing another werewolf in place. Puzzled, Greyback started sniffing around his frozen colleague. Harry quickly nailed two more, but then pulled back out of sight, not wanting to give himself away. He then heard the splash of the boat casting off from the other side. It was time for him to speed up the trip for himself and his friends...
"Accio boat," he hissed, aiming across the lake at it, hoping the spell worked at that great a distance. To his immense relief, the boat started jetting across the lake at high speed. He nodded softly. "Repello," he fired at the remaining werewolves, keeping them back from the landing site. "Petrificus totalus," he froze two more and ducked out of sight. That probably was the best he could do now, other than continue to repel the werewolves from his group. There wasn't much he could do about the Gemino curse on the tunnel, but he could at least still signal which was the right one without being seen. With a low thump, the boat landed on the ledge by the cave entrance. "Wow, you really made it go fast, Hermione," he heard an impressed Fred exclaim.
"That's really strange, Fred, I didn't do much more than usual. It was almost as if something was pulling us across the lake," she declared, confused.
"Well, either way, let's hurry before..." Harry head himself say...before he was suddenly taken down from behind, his wand flying against the wall. "Gotcha!" growled Willy Widdershins's voice as a low pop behind Harry triggered the Gemino curse and the appearance to his earlier self outside of the multiple tunnels, followed by low shrieks as the quintapeds and werewolves started coming after everyone outside, "Thought I noticed a wand in here shooting downwards. Get this thing off...!"
Harry dug in tight to hold on to the Invisibility Cloak and keep it over himself. "Why'd you do it, Widdershins?" he dropped his voice to disguise his identity, "You had nothing to gain from joining Voldemort...!"
"He hates Muggles, and I hate Muggles, so I figured we might as well join forces eventually-no, he's mine!" Widdershins snarled as Greyback, perhaps having seen where the spells that were petrifying his colleagues were coming from, leaped through the tunnel entrance, "Stay back, werewolf slime!" he drew his wand on Greyback, letting Harry go, "I'M taking the honor of...!"
Snarling, Greyback lunged at Widdershins, making him leap away from Harry, who pulled the cloak all the way back over him and rushed for his wand. Widdershins drew his own wand on the werewolf, but that only prompted Greyback to leap towards him and knock him out of the tunnel-now elevated well in the air from all the false tunnels that had emerged underneath it-falling right into the midst of the quintapeds. Widdershins' terrified shriek rang out as now he was torn apart by the creatures. Harry could only feel a small amount of pity for him, remembering all too well Widdershins's betrayal of Dumbledore's Army to the Ministry. Noticing Greyback looking down at Widdershins being eaten alive, he rushed forward and pushed the werewolf off as well. Yelping, Greyback landed on top of the already dead Widdershins, snapping and slashing at the quintapeds to protect himself. The other werewolves left off lunging for the earlier Harry and his friends and rushed to save Greyback. Soon, a terrible set of roars filled the air as werewolves and quintapeds brawled with each other, leaving the young wizards unattended. Harry glanced down the tunnel and was relieved to note that Widdershins had apparently crept off on his own; still no one had noticed anything. Things were looking up now.
"Repello boat," he fired at it, sending it back across the lake towards everyone still on the other side; the more reinforcements, the better. Now to show himself and the others the right way. "Relashio," he fired a strong jet of sparks out of the mouth of the tunnel once everyone below was looking up. "What's that!?" he heard Ron exclaim, puzzled.
"Who cares; that has to be the right one," the earlier Harry declared, "Up there!" he called back across the lake. Inside the tunnel, the current Harry fired another blast of sparks just to make sure everyone knew which tunnel to take. Moments later, he saw the silver walkway coming towards the cavern. He'd done all he could to help himself get more quickly to this point. Now he knew what else he had to do: break up the ceremony before it got started. And that meant the most dangerous thing of all...
"All you have to do is keep Derek and Emma alive long enough so his opportunity to gain his powers passes for another thousand years," he tried to reassure himself as he tucked the invisibility cloak away and grabbed Rookwood's wand from the ground, "And try not to get yourself or your friends killed either. OK, Potter, just five minutes or so and you've got it made. Here we go..."
He took a deep, nervous breath and charged headlong back into the central cavern, just as Voldemort was approaching the spot where he'd conduct the dark ceremony. "VOLDEMORT!" he shouted to get his nemesis's attention, "EXPECTO PATRONUM!"
He fired the deer out of his wands to bowl the Dementors out of the way. Conveniently, it also knocked Voldemort off his feet. Satisfied, Harry then squinted his eyes shut and roared, "LUMOS TOTALUS!" as loud as he could. Both Death Eaters and Dementors shrieked as the chamber was flooded with the blinding light. Harry knew this was the moment to get his friends out of there. He rushed forward to where Derek and Emma were chained. "Hold still, both of you," he told them, blasting their chains off in a flash.
"Harry, you came!" Derek all but leaped into his arms, "I knew you'd...!"
"We've got to move, Derek, and keep moving. Here," Harry turned and tossed Emma Rookwood's wand, "Better if we're both able to fight back."
"Thank you, Harry," she also gave him a grateful hug.
"Thank me later, right now...get off!" Harry grimaced as Wormtail leaped on his back. "The honor is mine!" his parents' betrayal squealed in delight, reaching to draw a knife.
"Not today, Wormtail!" Harry rammed his back hard into the cavern wall, making Pettigrew let go with a loud groan. The light was starting to die down; they had to leave the chamber soon. "Do you know the way around here!?" he asked Emma, grabbing hers and Derek's arms and rushing blindly for the first cave entrance he saw to their left.
"No, sorry, but...DUCK!" she pushed him down as the Killing Curse zoomed over his head and half-caved in the tunnel. "You have only come to die here tonight, Harry Potter. AVADA KEDAVRA!" Voldemort fired another fatal curse at him.
"Protego!" remembering his strategy in Azkaban, Harry deflected the Killing Curse backwards with a shielding charm. Voldemort leaped out of its way, but the curse hit the Scone Crown over his head and shattered both it and its protective bubble into pieces. Harry also thought he could hear what sounded like an agonized cry as the crown exploded; indeed Voldemort's expression was a horrified one. But there was no time to think about that now. "Move, move," he dragged his friends over the fallen rocks in the cave portal he'd wanted, "Just keep running until time's up."
"What time?" Derek was still confused.
"If he fails to open the chamber, he'll probably never have another chance, so let's not get caught," Emma turned back with a gulp at the sound of Voldemort shouting, "Bring them back now! I want them alive; nobody harms the sacrifices, and nobody kills Potter but me!"
"They won't take us without a fight, that's for sure. Come on, where the Order!?" Harry lamented out loud, "They should have been here by now...!"
"I think they're setting something on fire back there!" Derek turned backwards with a gulp. Harry could hear the burning too. "Fiendyre; they're going to try and burn us back! Keep moving, keep moving!" he paused only to blast a hole through the solid wall to his left. In a lucky break, there was another passage on the other side. "Which way?" Derek glanced in both directions, which looked about the same.
"It doesn't really matter as long as they're not..." the words were no sooner out of Harry's mouth than there were several loud pops to their right. Five Death Eaters now stood before them. "Don't move, Potter," Lucius stepped forward, "Surrender the Dark Lord's sacrifices now, or else."
"You want us, Mr. Malfoy, come and take us," Emma stepped defiantly towards him, Rookwood's wand raised, "I've waited a long time to come face to face with you..."
"Impudent little girl, thinking you have a chance against me?" Lucius all but laughed, "When you're practically a Mudblood anyway? Your father sold out too..."
"He's still more a man now than you ever will be! You want me, it won't be easy," she warned him.
"Don't make me kill you, girl; you can..." Lucius was abruptly cut off as Emma screamed, "EXPELLIARMUS!" and blew him backwards halfway across the tunnel. "All right, you want to fight, you've got it, girl; no, she's mine," he waved off his colleagues when they started towards her, "She says she relishes a chance to fight me; I relish a chance to finish off more of her rotten family. CRUCIO!"
He fired the curse at Emma, but she easily ducked and returned another spell towards him. "Get Potter and the Muggle; I can handle her!" Lucius instructed his colleagues, who lunged towards Harry. "Repello!" Harry forced them backwards, making one of them drop their wand. Derek abruptly lunged for it before it's owner could retrieve it. "Stay back!" he warned, pointed it at the remaining Death Eaters.
"Please," it was Mr. Crabbe who laughed this time, "A Muggle like you, a threat to us? All right, give us your best shot," he pulled off his mask and gestured with his chin, "Come on, let's see what the big, bad Muggle's got..."
Derek's arm wavered with the wand. Harry didn't know what was going to happen next...but was pleasantly amazed-not to mention outright shocked-when Derek shouted, "LEVICORPUS!," and a blast of magic suddenly did burst out of the wand, leaving Mr. Crabbe hanging upside down in midair. "What happened!?" he was just as shocked, "He's a Muggle; he can't...!"
"Sorry, Mr. Crabbe, but Derek's a descendant of Andric Vydzaal; I suppose once a wizard, always a wizard," Harry realized out loud.
"So stay back, or else!" Derek leveled the wand at the remaining Death Eaters, many of whom recoiled in shock. "Oh for the love of Merlin, stand aside, you cowards!" a furious Swims shoved past them all, "Wizard blood or not, I'm taking him!"
"Take this, you tyrant: Aguamenti!" Harry blasted Swims in the face with water. Noting Emma was holding her own with Lucius in a rather intense, brutal duel, he figured it was time to keep moving. "Catch us if you can!" he shouted back at Swims and the other Death Eaters, levitating a boulder up and magically hurling it back at Swims, sending him flying out of the way...but he let out a last ditch blast from his wand that rattled the roof dangerously. "Watch it, watch it!" Harry pulled Derek's head down to avoid falling rocks.
"Am I really magical, Harry?" Derek was amazed.
"Something must have triggered its return in you, Derek; maybe the exposure to pure magic caused..." Harry couldn't get to finish his theory, as suddenly there was a low rumble from above, and suddenly he was buried under a mountain of rocks; a booby trap he'd failed to notice, probably, he rued. "Harry, are you all right!?" Derek strained to get them off him.
"I'm fine, just hurry up and...!" Harry's voice caught in his throat as another Death Eater Apparated right in front of him. Derek raised his wand again, but this Death Eater silently pushed him aside and held him against the wall with his non-wand hand. This man's breathing seemed to get heavier as he looked down at Harry. He almost seemed conflicted, Harry thought. Nonetheless, the Death Eater raised his wand right into Harry's face and seemed ready to say the deadly words. Harry strained to move, but there were still too many rocks covering him; he couldn't get out of the way in time...
...but the Death Eater's hand wavered; he seemed to be staring straight into Harry's eyes and seeing something there. Finally, after about thirty seconds of this, he lowered the wand, to Harry's surprise, then, upon hearing voices coming up the tunnel, disappeared again with a low pop. "What was that all about?" Derek was confused.
"I have no idea...but I know who's coming," Harry recognized the voices getting louder now, "Hermione, Neville!"
Sure enough, the two of them came rushing around the corner a moment later. "Harry, how'd you get over here?" Hermione was confused as she bent down to get him out from under the rocks, "I could swear you'd gone the other way with Ron and his brothers to look for...?"
"I'll explain later. But am I glad to see you," he gave her a hug when she and Neville did get him free, relieved to see her alive and well again.
"Good to see someone else, too, and that he's OK," Neville helped Derek back to his feet, "Where's...?"
"Back this way; come on," Harry didn't want to take the chance Emma was being double teamed despite Mr. Malfoy's insistence on fighting her himself. Not that staying was really an option, as he could hear fiendfyre crackling up the tunnel behind them.
They still managed, nonetheless, to stay well ahead of the flames until they reached the hallway again. Emma was still holding well against Lucius when they returned to the earlier spot-now levitating the snake Lucius had conjured towards her and cracking it like a whip at him-but apparently they'd arrived just in time, for a now unmasked and frustrated-looking Swims was leveling his wand at her back, unnoticed by her. "No you don't!" Harry fired and knocked him down before he could fire. "OK, Potter, you want to go a round with old Charonius, here we go. SECTUMSEMPRA!" Swims fired the hex at him. Harry ducked it, as well as the spray of acid Swims fired at him next. He in turn fired the Full Body Bind back, but missed. To his right, Hermione rushed an unmasked Travers and started dueling with him while Neville, keeping Derek within arm's length lunged for the similarly unmasked Mr. Goyle-views that proved fleeting as the fiendfyre rushed into the cavern, already starting to contort into shapes. Swims fired at it and diverted it into two paths that encircled he and Harry. "Nowhere to run, Potter, so look me over closely," he snickered, firing a big green blast that Harry barely missed, "I'm now the face of death for you."
"I wasn't going to run," Harry blasted several magical ropes at Swims, but he burned them up in midair with a blast of fire. "AVADA KEDAVRA!" ignoring Voldemort's dictum, he firing the Killing Curse next. Harry rolled out of the way just in time-then rolled again as a huge serpent forming in the flames struck at him. "EXPELLIARMUS!" he fired back, and this time connected, sending Swims almost back into the flames himself. Harry rushed for his foe's wand, grabbing it at the same time as Swims. They struggled for control, until Swims gave Harry a hard headbutt, followed by a kick where it really hurt. "CRUCIO!" he roared, and moments later Harry was in intense pain. "You thought you could go the distance with me, Potter!?" Swims was mocking him now as he poured the curse on, "From what I heard, your parents were awful confident they could take the Dark Lord too; they ended up begging pathetically..."
"LIAR!" Harry roared at him, gritting his teeth to keep from screeching in agony, "They went out fighting hard, Swims, and you know it!"
"Well, I'm going to make you beg before the Dark Lord gets to kill you," Swims was laughing now. Harry knew he had to beat him now or he'd pass out from the pain. He strained to reached a large rock nearby, and with one final stretch grabbed hold of it. With a growl, he threw it backwards at Swims, connecting hard with his forehead. Groaning, Swims stumbled backwards, releasing the curse. Harry leaped on him, knocked his wand away, and started punching Swims hard...
"Harry, heads up!" it was Wood, zooming over him on another broomstick, diving low towards him. Harry leaped up to his feet and grabbed hold of Wood's outstretched arm-noticing Angelina and Katie zooming to pick up Hermione, Neville and Derek (while the Death Eaters they'd been fighting frantically tried to blast through the walls to escape), for which he was grateful, as the fiendfyre was starting to close in on them-but Swims grabbed hold of his leg and was carried up with him. "Get off!" Harry tried to kick him off.
"Down you go, Potter!" Swims jerked down hard, trying to make Harry lose his grip. And Harry felt like he was starting to slip down out of Wood's grasp...
...but then Wood zoomed towards the next tunnel cavity ahead. Swims realized a bit too late he stuck out too far to make it, and was slammed hard into the portal, dropping to the floor with a loud groan. "Good thinking," Harry commended the Quidditch captain, "Where'd you get these?"
"These were the Death Eaters'; we found them in one of the back rooms," Wood explained, "Where to now?"
"Down there," Harry pointed to Emma and Lucius still dueling hard ahead of them, "See if we can..."
"WATCH OUT!" Wood roared as Lucius fired a Killing Curse up at them. He lost control and crashed into the wall, sending he and Harry toppling to the floor. Behind them, Angelina and Katie were similarly blown down out of the air by him. "Surrender or I kill them all!" he threatened Emma, aiming his wand at them.
"No," she kept hers trained on him, "You surrender, Mr. Malfoy; I've beaten you fairly."
"I'm still standing, so you haven't beaten anyone!" he barked, keeping the wand trained on Harry, "And you're a fool to think you can stop what's best for the wizarding world, girl...!"
"Does what's best for the wizarding world mean blowing your precious Draco into a coma!?" Harry spoke up, "That's right, Mr. Malfoy, Voldemort made Gaspard Gavertson attack him during the attack on Hogwarts; he's on his way to the hospital now..."
"Liar!" Lucius snarled back at him, "The Dark Lord would never attack me or my family, not for a thousand years, when I'm his most loyal and indispensable servant of all!"
"That's what Gaspard thought as well, and look at him now," Hermione shouted at him, "You're just as expendable to Voldemort as anyone, Mr. Malfoy, and so is Draco. If you can't bring Emma and Derek back in time, who knows how he'll...!"
"AVADA KED-!" he started to roar at her, but Emma deflected the curse up into the ceiling with a strong defensive shot. "EXPELLIARMUS!" she roared, disarming him with a tremendous blast. "It's over, Mr. Malfoy; throw up your hands!" she ordered him, extreme satisfaction on her face. Looking miffed, Lucius started to raise his hands...
...but then kicked her legs out from under her in a flash, kicked her wand away before she could recover, picked up his own wand, and blasted a spew of fire towards Harry and his friends that made them reel back towards the wall. He then followed that up by blasting a wall of fire between they and Emma, and then planted a foot on her chest before she could get up. "And so goes the foolish daughter just like the foolish father," he snarled coldly, pointing the wand right between her eyes, "AVADA KEDAV-!"
"PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!" came the roar behind him, and Lucius abruptly seized up, frozen, before he could deliver the incantation in full. He slowly toppled over on top of Emma, revealing Ron standing behind him, his wand extended. "Ron, great work, and great timing," Harry applauded him, working hard to extinguish the flames between them. Ron merely nodded softly, then rushed over and pushed Lucius off Emma. "Are you all right?" he asked her with genuine sympathy.
"I am now, thank you," she told him gratefully.
"Listen, I'm...I'm sorry," the guilt returned to Ron's face, "I...I guess I...I prejudiced you badly, and I'm sorry. I hope you can forgive..."
She gave him a warm hug to answer his question. "Let's get out of here while the getting's good," she declared out loud.
"Did we eat up enough time?" Hermione wondered out loud, helping Harry put out the flames, "I hope there's not..."
"Wait, listen," Ron held up his hand. Harry heard it too: a low humming sound behind Ron that didn't sound good at all. Before he had enough time to fully guess what was happening, the entire wall collapsed behind them, and he was suddenly pulled backwards with tremendous force, as if he was being sucked into a vacuum. Everyone else, including Swims, who apparently had been crawling back towards them, was yanked back with him at high speed through the air. They landed with thuds in the middle of the central cavern. "Very brave, Harry Potter, but you are still too late," came Voldemort's cold snort behind them. The Dark wizard grabbed Emma and Derek by the collar, "It was all for nothing, Potter, even though I had to bring you and they back here myself, as usual. Now I shall..."
"No, you're too late, Voldemort," Harry was grinning, "See for yourself."
He pointed triumphantly at the floor. The beam of moonlight had moved past the carving now. He'd achieved his objective. "Yes, you're too late, Voldemort," Emma bravely told him with a grin of her own, "The planets and stars won't line up right for another thousand years. It was all for nothing for you."
For a brief moment, there was only silence. Then, with an angry roar, Voldemort hurled her and Derek halfway across the chamber, drew his wand, and started blasting killing curses at several of his followers unlucky enough to be in the immediate area. A few indeed fell over dead. Harry tried to creep away in the confusion...
"Accio Potter!" his nemesis roared, and he was yanked backwards into the Dark Lord's hands. "I may not get the powers that were rightfully mine, but I will still finish what I started so long ago and kill you, Harry Potter!" Voldemort roared, jamming the yew wand directly into Harry's forehead, "AVADA...!"