Divide And Fall
"Do you believe the few that have fallen to your – Alliance – tonight will have any effect upon my plans?" asked Voldemort mockingly. "Do you believe that rescuing the Mudblood's parents will change anything? Has Albus Dumbledore convinced you that you can actually defeat me? As you have witnessed, my followers are everywhere and can reach anyone."
Mrs Weasley wailed in sorrow from the lift, causing Bill and the twins to visibly flinch.
"You cannot win, Voldemort." retorted Harry. "I have heard the prophecy and the graveyard was no fluke. You and all that follow you will fall!"
"We shall see." muttered Voldemort; something resembling a smile curling his face. "Tell me, Harry Potter; were the lives of a Mudblood's parents worth the lives of your friends?"
"All lives are valuable, Voldemort!" replied Harry fiercely. "Even yours was once worth something, I'm sure!"
Harry reached inside his robes and gripped his fake galleon between his thumb and index finger as he thought, 'NOW!'
"HOW DARE –" roared Voldemort.
"I DARE, RIDDLE!" shouted Harry, so loud that he nearly screamed it. "I'VE MET THE TEENAGE RIDDLE AND I SEE WHAT HE BECAME! WHAT A WASTE!"
Harry saw Voldemort's eyes narrow to slits as he withdrew his wand and Harry felt Hermione brace for the fight; the snake was about to strike. Suddenly, the grates of the fireplaces glowed green once again behind the row of Death Eaters, as more than a dozen hooded figures entered the Atrium. This time, the newcomers were wearing red and blue cloaks.
"BEHIND!" cried one of the Death Eaters just before a jet of red light struck him in the chest.
The Alliance and the Order immediately struck out at the confused Death Eaters; Mad-Eye and Mr Weasley rejoining the fight while leaving a sobbing Mrs Weasley tied up inside the lift. Voldemort yelled loudly in frustration as chaos reigned once more. The Death Eaters were quickly realizing that they were in the crossfire as the newcomers struck from one side while the Alliance and the Order struck from the other.
"CONFRINGO!" shouted Harry; however Voldemort was ready for him.
Voldemort deflected the hex with ease before shooting a jet of white light directly at the ceiling. The moment the spell struck the rafters, every window pane in the Atrium shattered. The broken pieces of glass rained down and everyone, including the Death Eaters, had to shield themselves from the falling shards. It was clear to Harry, now more than ever, that Voldemort did not care whom he struck down – his followers included.
Harry and Hermione engaged Voldemort as the Alliance and the Order pursued the scattering Death Eaters. Dumbledore, though weak, reclaimed his wand from the floor and defended himself from oncoming spells.
"Remus!" shouted Sirius. "Get Dumbledore out of here!"
"I will manage!" shouted Dumbledore; his voice cutting through the air with authority, though lacking the power it normally contained.
Voldemort continued to fend off Harry and Hermione's assault with ease; however even the great Voldemort was having to concentrate to keep from being caught off guard by the number of spells flying at him from seemingly all directions, including a fireball that was cast in his direction by someone in a blue cloak.
"No one is here to die for you tonight, Harry Potter!" shouted Voldemort, casting curse after curse.
Harry held out his free hand, producing a strong shield charm; deflecting the curses. Voldemort smiled in appreciation, before unloading a series of attacks that dropped Harry to one knee as he fought to maintain his shield. Hermione continued to cast hex after hex and curse after curse; however Voldemort was too good for her. Just as Harry felt that his shield charm was about to fall, Voldemort leapt back in pure shock as one of his own Death Eaters shot a curse in his direction; though he deflected it in time.
"WOTCHER HARRY!" shouted the Death Eater above the commotion and Harry felt he could have laughed out loud, but he didn't.
Another Death Eater joined the attack on Voldemort and Harry knew it must be Charlie coming to assist Tonks. He wondered, though not for too long, as to how Charlie and Tonks had infiltrated the ranks of the Death Eaters. A curse cracking the floor at his feet stopped his musings.
"Hold vast the durk wizards!" shouted the familiar voice of Viktor Krum, cloaked in red and battling fiercely.
Voldemort battled Charlie, Tonks, Hermione and Harry at once with ease, showing no signs of weakness. Harry had to admit to himself that the Darkest Wizard in History was living up to his name. Charlie remained in disguise; however Tonks had morphed back into her normal self – pink bubblegum colored hair and all. Harry's thoughts of defeating Voldemort tonight were vanishing as quickly as the morning dew in the summer sun. Without Dumbledore, their best hope was to merely expose the dark wizard to the world before anymore died tonight.
Neville sprinted across the Atrium, casting curses and hexes at anyone wearing a silver mask. His intended target though, wasn't wearing one for she had no desire to hide her identity. Her identity had been forever scarred when she attacked his parents and placed them in St. Mungo's; permanently robbing him of having a mother and father. Now, she had returned to complete what she started and he would make sure she paid for her poor choices in life.
Suddenly, Neville spotted his prey. She was battling two wizards in blue cloaks and had looked to have fully regained her composure from his earlier Cruciatus curse. He was almost upon her when a jet of green light nearly struck him from his right. He dove to the ground, attempting one of Seamus' rolling manoeuvres and failing miserably, hitting his face hard upon the stone floor. Neville pounded the floor with the palm of his hand in anger as he pushed himself up as quickly as possible before his prey caught sight of him. A hollow female cackle told him, 'Too late'.
"Back to scold me again, little Longbottom?" chided Bellatrix, all the while duelling the wizards in blue.
"I'll do more than that, bitch!" growled Neville. "CONFRINGO!"
Bellatrix dodged the hex, cackling as she did. Another Death Eater attacked the wizards in blue from behind; forcing their attentions to be divided. Bellatrix capitalized, striking down one of the wizards and laughing in delight.
"BOMBARDA!" shouted Neville; however Bellatrix again dodged his hex, dancing as she did.
"Sorry, little Longbottom." said Bellatrix playfully. "Not on the first date, or will this be a onetime thing between us?"
'Sick bloody bitch!', thought Neville savagely. "SANGUINEM FERVENTIS!"
Bellatrix deflected the powerful curse with some difficulty; clearly not expecting it from the likes of Neville.
"Does your Grand-ma-ma know that you use such language?" taunted Bellatrix, casting a jet of purple light in his direction. "A blood boiling curse shows the intent, but I doubt you have the conviction!"
"YOU'LL DIE TONIGHT!" shouted Neville, dodging another curse. "AVEDA –"
A jet of purple light struck Neville in his left shoulder, spinning him around as he hit the floor in pain; his left rotator cuff completely dislocated. He quickly pointed his wand in the direction of the figure now standing over him; their wand aimed directly at his chest. His next curse was on the tip of his tongue when he lost his nerve; his eyes locking with a pair of bright brown ones, shining through the eye holes of a silver mask.
Snape eyed Umbridge apprehensively as she stared out the window of the hospital wing and into the darkened grounds. She was mumbling to herself and he wasn't sure whether she was still recovering or had been permanently warped by whatever Potter and his gang had done.
"Professor Umbridge, I must go." said Snape softly. "However, before I do so, I must insist that you tell no one that it was I that released you."
"Tell me, Professor Snape, why did you come to my aide?" asked Umbridge, ceasing her mumbling and turning to face the Potions Master.
"It isn't right to allow Potter and his gang to strip everything from you." replied Snape. "If left here, I have no doubt that you would be sent to St Mungo's Hospital and placed in permanent occupancy."
"He doesn't understand." said Umbridge.
"Who doesn't understand?" repeated Snape. "Potter knows clearly what he has done."
"So sorry Professor," retorted Umbridge "wasn't talking to you."
Snape took a deep breath, but did not dare take his eyes off of her. He knew now that she was clearly not well.
"What of the matron?" continued Umbridge, motioning to the unconscious Madam Pomfrey.
"She won't remember anything other than someone attacked her." replied Snape. "Now, I will distract the school while you escape through one of the open floos. I've given you a wand and a place to go. Go there and wait until you are summoned by the Ministry. Those you can trust will know where to find you."
"Why shouldn't I just go to Minister Fudge?" asked Umbridge. "He will believe that I am well."
Snape thought that no sane individual would buy that. The maddening look in her eyes was enough to ward off any thoughts of trust.
"Professor Umbridge, by now I'm sure the Minister has been convinced by Professor McGonagall and Potter that you are incapable of rational thought." retorted Snape wearily.
"Very well, Professor." simpered Umbridge. "I will do as you say, for now."
"Thank you." sighed Snape.
Not wanting to argue the matter further, Snape bowed his head before sweeping from the hospital wing; back towards the Grand staircase and the floors below. Whatever use the Dark Lord saw of her current status was beyond him. Snape only knew that it must be done, for the Greater Good.
The first to catch sight of Snape descending the staircase was Ron Weasley and Professor McGonagall.
"Severus." called McGonagall. "Where have you been?"
"Away on business." replied Snape, stressing the last word for good measure. "What has happened here?"
"Some of your mates decided to have a bit of fun while they rescued Professor Sinistra." spat the youngest male Weasley, pointing to Professor Sinistra who lay tied up in front of the Great Hall.
"My mates, Weasley?" repeated Snape silkily. "Oh please enlighten me as to how they are my mates."
Snape was scanning the scene before him; his eyes resting upon the massive form of Hagrid for a moment before moving on. It was quickly apparent that the Dark Lord's attack upon Hogwarts had not gone entirely to plan. 'Sinistra must have gotten fancy', mused Snape silently.
"Enough." said Professor McGonagall sharply. "Severus, in your absence the school was seized in an attempt to rescue Professor Sinistra. More importantly, it seems that Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy and several other students are missing. Have you any clue as to where they might be?"
Snape's eyes widened for only a second before returning to their normal indifference. At that moment, he realized she was merely playing her role in the game tonight and had to fight back a smirk from overcoming his face.
"DEAR DEAR, MINERVA!" came Umbridge's magically magnified voice from the top of the staircase. "HEADMISTRESS FOR BUT ONLY A DAY AND YOU HAVE ALREADY LOST TRACK OF STUDENTS?"
Snape had to fight hard to prevent himself from grasping his hair and ripping it from his scalp. 'How stupid could the toad be? Why would she still be here?', agonized Snape silently.
"She's escaped!" shouted Weasley.
"I WILL BE BACK FOR ALL MY CHILDREN, MINERVA!" shouted Umbridge. "YOU WILL NOT KEEP THEM FROM ME!"
Ron Weasley and Dean Thomas started up the staircase, but quickly reconsidered as a fury of spells came flying down the stairs. Snape cast a shield charm, expecting the attack from above for she had the high ground. The moment the fury ended, Professors Sprout and McGonagall along with Potter's Alliance and Hagrid sprinted up the staircase; giving chase after the retreating form of Umbridge.
"Maxwell – Hughes!" shouted Professor McGonagall without even looking back. "Guard the prisoners!"
Snape followed, shield charm at the ready, knowing full well that another fury was likely when they reached the top of the stairs.
Ron swore loudly as he reached the top of the stairs; meeting another fury of spells from Umbridge. He cast a shield charm, easily deflecting the assault, but had to stop near the top of the staircase to assure those behind him were protected as well. He felt the fake galleon in his pocket burn as a battered Dean, Professor McGonagall and Cassie McGonagall cast counter-curses in the direction of Umbridge. Ron looked behind him to Padma for confirmation and was immediately given his answer.
"Harry has signalled the final push." She swallowed hard. "That must mean... Voldemort."
Padma uttered the dark wizard's name barely loud enough for Ron to hear. It pained him to not be with Harry at the Ministry; however he knew that it had to be this way.
"Should I send a message that Umbridge has escaped?" asked Padma.
"Umbitch hasn't bloody escaped yet." growled Ron, turning his attention back to the task at hand.
As soon as he felt it was safe, Ron dropped his shield charm and fired off several curses at the retreating back of Umbridge as she darted up the staircase towards the second floor. The moment she reached the top, she let loose with another round of hexes before darting around the corner and down the east corridor. He knew that if they could get Umbridge into a direct fight, that there was no way she could hold herself against Professors Sprout, McGonagall and Snape; let alone the five other wands chasing her and Hagrid with that staff of his. His only concern was that Snape was bringing up the rear rather than pushing himself ahead like before. 'Could he be waiting for everyone else to do the dirty work or was this some sort of trap? Who's side was Snape on?'
"She's headed for her office!" shouted Professor McGonagall, as the group continued their pursuit.
When they reached the door to Umbridge's office, they found it repaired and sealed shut.
"TA-TA, FOR NOW!" boomed Umbridge's sickeningly sweet voice, magically magnified a hundred times its normal volume; shaking the walls and causing dust to fall from the ceiling.
"Blast it open!" growled Cassie.
"All together on three!" shouted Professor McGonagall. "ONE… TWO..."
"WAIT!" shouted Professor Snape.
"THREE!" finished Professor McGonagall.
The moment the blasting hexes struck the door, they triggered a massive explosion. Ron was flung backwards into the opposing wall with tremendous force. He felt Hagrid slam into the wall, causing it to creek ominously.
Ron could not see or hear anything. The world was upside down for all he could tell. He had done his best to shield his face from all the pieces of stone and mortar that pelted his body. A searing pain in his left side gave him a pretty good guess that at least one rib was broken, maybe more. He tried to stand but found that impossible due the stabbing pain in his right foot.
As the dust settled, Ron could start to make out the carnage that surrounded him; a gaping hole where Umbridge's office once was, told the story. He could just recognize Professor Flitwick as he ran to the aid of the fallen group. Thick stone dust covered the victims of the blast, giving the appearance that stone statues were coming to life.
"Merlin!" exclaimed Professor Flitwick. "Is everyone alright?"
"Been better, Professor." grumbled Hagrid, massaging the back of his head.
"Aunt Minerva?" called Cassie timidly.
There was a great scuffling as what looked like Professor Sprout and the Head Boy, Perks, made their way to Professor McGonagall's side.
"She's out cold." said Perks, checking her vitals with his wand.
Ron sighed as he looked to his left, then he forgot to breath. There lying beside him was Dean; the dust on the floor between them slowly turning a dark crimson.
A powerful spell flew at Voldemort, who dodged it without skipping a beat before the firm voice of Dumbledore cut the air once more.
"You will not retrieve the prophecy tonight, Tom!"
Voldemort produced a powerful shield charm; laughing coldly as Harry, Hermione, Tonks and Charlie's best efforts could not challenge it.
"Same old Dumbledore." laughed Voldemort. "Always telling me what I cannot do. Haven't you learned by now that you cannot stop Lord Voldemort?"
"The Aurors are on their way, Tom." retorted Dumbledore. "You will not achieve your goals before they arrive. We will not allow you to access the lifts and you cannot Apparate to where it is."
Hermione could hear the authority in Dumbledore's voice slowly returning, though he still lacked the power it usually contained.
"There's always another way, Dumbledore." hissed Voldemort, and Hermione could sense the danger.
Without warning, Voldemort pointed his wand towards the ceiling, and brought it crashing down towards the floor. The tip of his wand stopped inches from the floor as a blinding light burst from it. Hermione felt the floor beneath them shake violently, a sense of weightlessness, then a painful thud as they crashed into a room several floors below. Hermione bounced off what looked to be a desk and she heard Harry groan as he landed on a chair. She looked up to see Voldemort standing on a dark oak desk only feet from where she lay.
"GIVE ME WHAT I WANT NOW, DUMBLEDORE, BEFORE EVERYONE IN THIS BUILDING DIES TONIGHT!" shouted Voldemort mercilessly.
Hermione looked back behind her to see Dumbledore standing on another desk, pointing his wand at Voldemort while holding his side.
"Only you or Harry can retrieve the prophecy, Tom." replied Dumbledore casually. "You should know this."
Hermione and Harry had slowly edged backwards and rose to their feet defiantly while Tonks and Charlie were still recovering.
"Is this what you fight for, Harry?" asked Voldemort. "Blood traitors, filth, Muggleborns? Come… join me and we will be unstoppable! Strike down Dumbledore and swear your allegiance to me!"
Harry moved with the speed of a seeker, blasting Dumbledore off his desk before stunning Tonks and Charlie. He then turned and extended his hand to Hermione.
"Very well done, Harry!" said Voldemort, laughing coldly.
"Take my hand." said Harry, looking at her.
Hermione could not process what was happening. Harry had just struck down Dumbledore on Voldemort's orders!
"To the brink, Hermione." said Harry, urging her to take his hand.
The only thought that came to her mind was she had to trust Harry. The moment she took his hand, Hermione felt Harry's magic surge.
"NOW!" shouted Harry.
Hermione only had time to mimic Harry's wand movement as he whipped his wand towards Voldemort. She shouted the first spell that came to her mind, "BOMBARDA!", as she heard Harry scream, "CONFRINGO!"
Voldemort barely got a shield charm up; however it shattered before it could solidify under their combined force, blasting Voldemort off of his perch. Unfortunately, the floor was unable to sustain the force of the blast; sending them crashing down through several more floors. Her and Harry were ready for the fall this time, casting momentum altering spells that allowed them to land on their feet. When Hermione looked up again, she knew they had to be at least seven floors down from the Atrium.
"Ginny." whispered Neville.
The wand pointed at his chest began to shake.
"Ginny, please." whispered Neville again. "You're not one of them."
"Sorry, Neville." replied a shaky voice.
Suddenly, Neville heard Voldemort shriek followed by the floor beneath them quaking violently. Ginny glanced and Neville wasted no time rolling away and to his feet before casting a shield charm. He stared into the bright brown eyes once more.
"Stay away from Bellatrix!" shouted Ginny's voice, though Neville could not even comprehend that it was really her.
Before he could say anything, she quickly disappeared into the tidal wave of fighting, casting hexes left and right. Neville looked around furiously; Bellatrix was gone. Seeing the massive hole in the floor made his mind click back to the main focus. Neville started fighting his way towards the massive hole as he shouted, "HARRY!"
Neville was almost to the place where Harry and Hermione had disappeared when several things happened at once. The twins were being backed into the lifts as they battled three Death Eaters. Seamus was running to their aide and did not see the Death Eater emerging from the fighting; his wand pointed directly at Seamus and about to strike. He changed direction so fast he almost fell over.
"CONFRINGO!" shouted Neville; his spell catching the Death Eater in the leg.
Seamus was so focused on his destination that he missed the exchange completely. Neville decided to continue pursuit; covering Seamus as he helped the twins overtake the three Death Eaters. It was clear to him that the only way they would have any chance of overpowering Voldemort's forces was by being faster and avoiding head-to-head duels. The Order and the mysterious wizards in blue and red might be capable of one-on-one assaults, but Neville knew that the Alliance as a whole was outmatched. The only way they would survive the night was to stay together.
Sirius was really not having one of those great days. Yes the plan was going better than he had expected, to that point; however the burning pain in his left forearm and stomach told him that bones would need to be mended. Combine that with multiple cuts and bruises, and it meant that Cassie would be attending to him for several weeks if she was in any better shape.
The floor shook violently and Sirius turned in time to see Voldemort, Harry, Hermione, Dumbledore and two other fighters along with the entire fountain disappear through the floor.
"HARRY!" shouted Sirius.
Before Sirius could run after his godson, the grates in the Atrium glowed green once more. He saw Minister Fudge, along with some of the Auror Department flood into the middle of a battle. He saw a Death Eater point their wand at Fudge and he reacted without thinking. He ran as fast as he could, then dove in front of the Minister as he cast a shield charm in the direction of the Death Eater's curse. The curse bounced off of Sirius' shield as he collided with Fudge; landing extremely hard upon him. From the floor, Sirius was able to cast a blasting hex that struck the Death Eater in the shoulder; tearing through meat and bone as his masked opponent fell to the floor screaming in pain.
"Sorry for that, Minister!" barked Sirius, pushing himself back to his feet.
"No need for apologies, dear sir!" retorted Fudge. "Y-You just saved me life!"
"Guess I don't need to thank you for my pardon then!" laughed Sirius; helping Fudge to his feet.
"Lord Black!" spluttered Fudge in shock.
"Excuse me, Minister!" barked Sirius before casting a blasting hex at a nearby Death Eater. "Have to go help my godson battle Voldemort!"
"WHAT!" exclaimed Fudge. "Harry Potter and You-Know-Who are both here! FIGHTING!"
Sirius sprinted towards the large hole that had swallowed his godson as he heard Fudge shout, "AURORS! SEAL OFF ALL EXITS TO THE MINISTRY! If You-Know-Who is here, we cannot allow him to escape!"
Sirius could see glows of orange and purple emanating from the massive sunken area, followed by another rumble from below. This made Sirius fight harder, Death Eaters falling all around him as he, along with other witches and wizards began to overpower Voldemort's forces. With Fudge's arrival, the plan was almost complete. Now, it was time to get to Harry and see if they could possibly finish Voldemort, once and for all. If not, then it was time to get the hell out!
"DEAN!" shouted Ron as he found his breath once more.
Susan and Professor Snape were the first to reach Dean. Ron watched tensely as Snape waved his wand over Dean's body.
"He's alive." said Snape finally, giving Ron a chance to breathe again. "Barely though. We need to get him to the hospital wing at once."
Professor Flitwick flicked his wand and Dean's unconscious body levitated into the air, reminding Ron horridly of the day that Cho died. Professor Flitwick immediately proceeded to move Dean to the hospital wing as fast as possible. Padma helped her sister Parvati up, who was holding her left side and grimacing with every step. Professor McGonagall was sitting propped up against the wall with the help of Cassie as she was slowly coming to.
"Ron, can you stand?" asked Terry.
Ron looked up to see Terry Boot, blood covering the left side of his face from a gash on his forehead, and his hand extended to Ron.
"I think my right foot is broken." replied Ron, taking Terry's hand.
Terry pulled Ron up to his feet, throwing Ron's right arm over his shoulder.
"I'll help you to the hospital wing, mate." said Terry. "Goin' there myself."
"I think we all are." retorted Ron, though happy to still be alive.
"It was a trap!" growled a frustrated Snape. "She wanted us to follow her! Bloody witch was probably already flooed out to safety before we got here!"
"Calm down Severus!" reproved a shaky Professor Sprout.
Ron had rarely ever seen Professor Snape so angry. Normally, Harry was the only one capable of achieving such a savage response from the Potions Master. The thought suddenly hit Ron, 'It's as though he felt betrayed.'
"Yes, Professor." said Cassie. "Everyone was aware that Umbridge was not in charge of her senses."
"And who the bloody hell are you?" hissed Snape.
"Has it been that long, Severus?" chided Cassie, helping Professor McGonagall back to her feet. "Or were you so focused on your feud with my boyfriend that you never noticed me?"
"Cassandra McGonagall." breathed Snape, deflating like an overblown balloon.
"Please, call me Cassie." she retorted silkily. "I'd love to stay and chat, but I need to help my aunt to the hospital wing and you look as though you should go there as well."
"We all need to see the matron." mumbled Hagrid loudly.
As they made their way to the hospital wing, Ron wondered how things were going at the Ministry. The second phase had begun while they were chasing Umbridge. He closed his eyes and all the worst possible outcomes started flying through his mind. An overpowering urge to floo to the Ministry raced through his body, even though he could do nothing more than limp down a corridor with the help of another wounded Alliance.
"Thanks for trusting me." whispered Harry to Hermione, as he surveyed the scene before him.
They were at least six floors below the Atrium. Dumbledore was still down, Tonks and Charlie immobilized, he and Hermione still standing and lastly – Voldemort missing. The bastard had fallen backwards just before the floor gave way again and could be lying under the debris, invisible and preparing to strike, or gone. Echoes of the battle raging above made it impossible to tell which noises were coming from above and which were possible footsteps amongst the rubble.
"That was quite clever." whispered Hermione, leaning close to his ear. "But where did he go?"
Harry was thinking very fast. In a matter of seconds his enemy had disappeared in a fury of events. The only calming thought that he could focus on was that he and Hermione were safe. The noises all about him were unsettling and making him feel dizzy. Without hesitating, he pointed his wand at the still forms of Tonks and Charlie before shouting, "FINITE!"
Harry gripped Hermione's hand tight, preparing for the attack that he somehow knew was coming. Without conscious thought he quickly raised his wand, his own magic surging. Suddenly, the debris surrounding them rose up and swirled about them like a vortex. Harry could feel every piece of table, floor and ceiling on his fingertips as though he was pushing the objects through water; forcing them to swirl about he and Hermione.
Immediately curse upon curse began to strike against the flying debris; shattering the broken pieces into dust. For every piece that shattered, another was picked up by the vortex to replace it. Harry could feel the intensity of creating the vortex drawing from his magical core.
"YOU SHOW GREAT POWER, HARRY POTTER." rang out Voldemort's magically magnified voice. "I WILL GIVE YOU ONE LAST CHANCE. PLEDGE YOUR ALLEGIANCE TO ME AND WE WILL RULE THE WIZARDING WORLD TOGETHER. CONTINUE TO DEFY ME AND I WILL BURN YOUR ENTIRE WORLD AROUND YOU UNTIL YOU CRY OUT FOR DEATH!"
"I will NEVER join you, Voldemort!" shouted Harry angrily. "You took EVERYTHING from me when you murdered my parents and I won't let you do it AGAIN! I WILL DESTROY YOU OR DIE TRYING!"
"SO BE IT, HARRY POTTER." retorted Voldemort, his voice cold and deadly.
Harry hurriedly scanned the area before him, yet he saw no sign of Voldemort. He closed his eyes, focusing on the vortex, then pushed with his magic. The swirling debris shot forward, pelting everything in front of them, including a newly formed shield charm.
"There he is!" shouted Hermione. "PLUVIA ACIDA MUTATIO!"
Orange light burst from Hermione's wand, striking the flying debris in front of them and transforming it into what Harry first thought to be a shower of water. However, the moment the shower made contact with the shield charm and the floor surrounding, it hissed and smoked like acid. Harry felt another surge of magic and reacted at once.
The hex left Harry's wand like a canon blast; physically pushing him backwards a step and forcing Voldemort to throw more magic into his shield, thus losing his focus and revealing himself once more.
"CONFRINGO!" cried Harry.
"BOMBARDA!" cried Hermione.
"AVADA KEDAVRA!" cried Voldemort.
The moment the three spells collided in mid-air, it was liken unto a bomb exploding at the centre; the sheer force of the blast throwing debris in every direction. Voldemort slammed into a pillar at the far of the circle as he watched Potter and the Mudblood fling through the air backwards into what was left of a wall.
Potter stirred while the Mudblood Granger lay still upon the floor. Triumph surged in his heart as he realized that it his moment, be damned the prophecy, to rid himself of the Potter brat. The Boy-Who-Lived was focused on the Mudblood and the Dark Lord knew it was time to finish what he had started all those years ago.
Voldemort pulled himself up to his full height, raised his wand and looked upon his adversary one more time. Potter raised his wand arm towards the sky as Voldemort cried, "AVADA KEDAVRA!"
A ball of fire engulfed Potter and the Mudblood, vanishing into nothing as his Killing curse struck the wall where they once were. Voldemort screamed in fury as he twisted into blackness. 'This was not over!'
"STAND YOUR GROUND!" shouted Mad-Eye from across the Atrium. "WE HAVE THEM NOW!"
Sirius severed the fingertips of a Death Eater in front of him with a cutting curse as he saw young Neville, Seamus and the Weasley twins fighting their way closer to massive hole. Mad-Eye was directing the combined forces of the Aurors, Alliance and Order from the other side. Sheer numbers were overtaking the Death Eaters in earnest now, forcing many to attempt to flee.
"Lord Black, 'Arry is in zat 'ole!" exclaimed Fleur Delacour, catching up to Sirius; her blue cloak trailing behind her and her wand at the ready. "Zis was not part of ze plan, no?"
"Afraid not, Miss Delacour." wheezed Sirius. "We've got to get down –"
Suddenly, the floor beneath their feet shook as blinding white light exploded from the hole; blasting everyone within ten meters of it completely off their feet. Sirius struck the floor hard, yet somehow managed to hold onto his wand. Moments later, a ball of fire appeared to his left followed by shouts and screams. Harry and Hermione had appeared only feet away, bringing a smile to his face despite the pain.
Happiness turned to dread in the blink of an eye as Sirius realized that Hermione wasn't moving. He struggled to his feet, barely dodged a curse from a recovering Death Eater and lunged for his godson; landing beside Hermione as Lupin struck down the recovering enemy from the floor. The remaining Death Eaters were taking advantage of the moment to attempt an escape; their retreating backsides all Sirius could make out.
"DON'T LET THEM ESCAPE!" shouted Mad-Eye, focusing those that were able to give pursuit.
A piercing scream filled the air and the ground shook again as Lord Voldemort appeared fifty feet from where they laid. Three wizards in red cloaks advanced on Voldemort before being blasted backwards by a swipe of his wand as he began to walk in their direction.
"Stop right there!"
Sirius jerked his head around and nearly laughed with relief when he saw that Madam Bones along with a dozen more Aurors had appeared behind them. He turned back to Hermione and checked her neck for a pulse and found a strong rhythmic thump coming from her jugular. He then looked into the eyes of his godson and mouthed, "She's alive".
He saw relief spread across Harry's face, replaced immediately by anger as he turned and rose to his feet to face Voldemort. Sirius felt Harry's magic reach out as a shield charm expanded out; forming a barrier between them and Voldemort. He would never fear his godson's magic; however at that moment Sirius found a whole new level of respect for him.
"Lord Voldemort, drop your wand and surrender immediately!" shouted Madam Bones.
What could be deemed as a smile curled the face of Voldemort.
"IT'S OVER, RIDDLE!" growled Harry, his magic rippling. "YOU MIGHT BE THE DARKEST WIZARD IN HISTORY, BUT EVEN YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ALL OF US AT ONCE!"
Harry motioned with his hand, pointing around to the combined forces of Aurors, Alliance, and Order that surrounded the Atrium.
Voldemort swiped his wand as jets of purple and red light flew in his direction. A storm cloud of dust and broken glass formed around him; absorbing the mixture of hexes and curses. From the depths of the storm, Harry could see the eyes of the snake glowing red with fury.
"This has only just begun!" hissed Voldemort, disappearing in a cloud of black smoke as the floor shook once more; the storm cloud exploding and covering the Atrium in what looked like brown sand.
Harry's shield charm protected all those behind him from the blast while the rest of the Alliance and the Order either produced their own shield charms or covered themselves with their cloaks to protect their faces from the sand and glass.
"I WILL RETRIEVE THE PROPHECY, HARRY POTTER!" echoed the high cold voice of Voldemort throughout the Atrium. "AND WHEN I DO, I WILL UNCOVER YOUR SECRETS AND DESTROY YOU ONCE AND FOR ALL!"
"Bloody hell." growled Madam Bones. "Aurors, search what's left of the Ministry!"
Harry turned and fell to his knees beside Hermione. The Aurors would search, but he knew that Voldemort was gone. He reached down and wiped a trickle of blood from her lip before cupping her face in his hands. At his touch, Hermione's eyelids slowly began to flutter open and he could see those chocolate brown eyes that he loved so much.
"Harry." whispered Hermione, smiling up at him.
"We did it, Hermione." whispered Harry, smiling back. "We survived."
Sirius cleared his throat, forcing Harry to look up at his crouching godfather. "I hate to interrupt this touching moment, but I think it's best we make our exit before –"
"Lord Black, what in Merlin has transpired here tonight?" said Fudge with the look of a man that had clearly just regained his composure.
"Never-mind." grumbled Sirius, standing up to address the Minister of Magic.
The Alliance was gathering in around Harry and Hermione now, sober looks befitting of those that had just been fighting for their lives upon everyone's faces. Harry knew the feeling all too well. He quickly did a head count as he helped Hermione to her feet.
"We're all here, mate." said Neville, recognizing the look on Harry's face. "A little worse for wear, but we're all here. Mr Weasley and Bill are, well, guarding Mrs Weasley."
Harry looked at the twins, but they did not return his gaze. They were looking over their shoulders towards where their father, mother and brother were. Mrs Weasley's actions were not something he could focus on right then. Sirius was discussing something behind him with the Minister in hushed tones.
"Are Fleur, Krum and the rest okay?" asked Hermione.
"Several look injured, but all are still alive." replied Seamus. "Blimey, did you know they were coming?"
"Yeah, we did." said Harry, not wanting to discuss that now. "We need to –"
"Vell done, Harry Potter." interrupted Viktor, as he made his way around Lee and Angelina towards Harry; followed closely by Fleur.
The Bulgarian seeker shook Harry's hand, smirking as he did so. The cut above his right eye that was bleeding excessively and his cloak being torn in several places, would have given the appearance to anyone none the wiser that he had just won a rather brutal Quidditch match.
"Not all to plan, but vell enough." continued Viktor. "No loss of life. Vhat of Hogvarts?"
"Where zis Bill?" interrupted Fleur, looking around.
"MERLIN!" shouted Fudge, causing everyone to raise their wands; Harry spinning to face the Minister. "How are the Tri-Wizard champions mixed up in all this?"
"Ve have come to the aide of our fellow champion, Minister Fudge." answered Viktor in a commanding voice. "Ve knew that he vould need us."
"B-B-But HOW?" demanded Fudge, his face turning red.
"I think it is quite clear, Minister." interjected Madam Bones, walking up beside Sirius. "You-Know-Who has indeed returned and came here tonight to steal something from the Ministry. Mr Potter, knowing that no one within the Ministry would believe him, gathered all that would listen to confront the Dark Lord and his followers."
Fudge glared at Madam Bones as though he was seeing her clearly for the first time.
"Minister, there are many here that are in need of medical attention." said Sirius, gaining Fudge's attention again. "We need to begin transport of the wounded to St Mungo's."
"Lord Black," said Fudge, straightening his bowler cap "when I have my answers, then and only then will I send anyone to St… GOOD HEAVENS!"
Harry whipped around, wand at the ready once more to see what the Minister was looking at. He lowered his wand when he saw that it was Lupin and Mad-Eye levitating Dumbledore out of the pit.
"Dumbledore? Defeated?" questioned Fudge in a hollow voice.
"Mad-Eye!" shouted Sirius.
"He's alive!" was Mad-Eye's only response.
"Look around, Minister." said Harry, his anger beginning to burn. "All that you see is all on you."
"Now see here, Potter!" exclaimed Fudge. "How dare you –"
"No Minister," interrupted Harry "I'm tired of listening to speeches. I'm tired of wizards attempting to manipulate or control my life. You created all this when you ordered the Dementor's Kiss to be given to Barty Crouch Jr to cover up Voldemort's return."
Many wizards surrounding Harry cringed at the sound of Voldemort's name, including Fudge.
"Minizter, if you wish to silenz 'Arry, then prepare to deal with zus all." said Fleur defiantly. "My Papaw will not be pleased and I can assure you zat it will cause an international incident."
"International incident!" exclaimed Fudge, looking faint.
"I'm done." spat Harry, looking back at the pit one last time. "The hell with St Mungo's. We're going back to headquarters. We can visit Madam Pomfrey at Hogwarts if necessary and she's as good as any St Mungo's healer. We need to go so that we can check on Hogwarts and make sure that everyone is okay there. Viktor – Fleur, you and your people are welcome to join us."
"What has happened at Hogwarts?" asked Madam Bones seriously.
"It was attacked." said Hermione simply. "Right now, we hope that no further news is good news."
"Hogwarts… attacked." repeated Fudge, looking as though he could not conceive the idea.
"Thank you, Harry." said Viktor. "Ve vould be honored to join you at your headquarters."
"I will go to Hogwarts." said Madam Bones. "My Aurors can handle this."
"Mr Potter –" began Fudge, but Sirius cut him off.
"Harry will give you his full statement when he is ready, Minister." said Sirius authoritatively. "Until then, as his godfather, I forbid the Ministry to directly communicate with him. You will correspond only with me."
Harry was glad that his godfather was taking charge. He was tired of fighting with the Minister and was about to do something quite unwise.
"I will floo to the Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade and then Apparate to the gates of Hogwarts." said Madam Bones. "I dare say that Headmistress McGonagall will have Hogwarts on lockdown and besides, Apparation is not possible from the Atrium unless you're apparently You-Know-Who."
"Viktor – Fleur, see you and your people at headquarters." said Harry, not wishing to stay another moment there.
"Headquarters?" snapped Fudge from his stooper. "Who's headquarters?"
"The Alliance headquarters, Minister." retorted Harry. "Alliance, take hold!" he said confidently, feeling the holly and phoenix wand grow warm in his hand.
Harry felt a multitude of hands grasp hold of him as he raised his wand. Everyone knew what was coming. Fawkes appeared in a flash of flame, transporting them all to the sitting room of number twelve Grimmauld Place; leaving a shocked Fudge and Madam Bones behind.
Their arrival at Grimmauld Place was not one of triumph or joy. Everyone released Harry then slumped into the nearest chair or sofa. Harry chose to just sit on the floor. Even Fawkes gave Harry a look as to say, "No more tonight".
"I need to visit St Mungo's." said Neville, rising to his feet quickly.
"What's wrong, Neville?" asked Angelina, as everyone looked up alertly at him.
Harry then remembered the look on Neville's face when he arrived at the Ministry.
"I… I need to check on something." said Neville, looking down.
Sirius looked suddenly horror struck as Harry felt the pit of his stomach fall away. There was only one reason why Neville would need to go to the magical hospital – a truly awful reason. Harry could not grasp the thought. In all their planning, how could they have missed it; the one vulnerable piece. The group sat in silence for several minutes though it felt like hours to Harry.
"What's happened?" asked Bill, as he and Fleur entered the sitting room.
"Where's dad?" asked Fred as the twins stood up at their arrival.
"And what of mum and Charlie?" asked George.
"We saw him at the Ministry." said Fred.
"Dad is with mum." said Bill solemnly. "He wants to make sure that she is treated fairly. As for Charlie, he and Tonks disappeared into the depths of the Ministry. We were not able to find them."
Bill turned his attention to Harry.
"I heard and saw your exit." said Bill. "If you're going for the post of 'Living Legend', Harry, I'd say that you're on the right track."
Harry forced a weak smile, his mind firmly planted on Neville's plight. A commotion in the kitchen told him that the Bulgarian and French wizards had arrived. Angelina and Lee immediately got up, heading towards the kitchen.
"Master," croaked Kreacher, bowing low to Sirius "shall Kreacher fetch the healing ointments for Master's guests?"
"Yes Kreacher." replied Sirius. "Thank you."
"Always a pleasure to serve the noble House of Black." said Kreacher, bowing low again.
"Now, what has happened?" asked Bill again forcibly, determined to get an answer before the chaos got the better of the moment.
"There may be something wrong with some of Neville's relatives." said Sirius, his throat sounding dry. "They were at St Mungo's Hospital tonight."
"Well, I can accompany Neville to the hospital –" began Bill.
"NO." said Harry, a little louder than he wanted. "Um, I mean, you and the twins head to Hogwarts to check on things there. Sirius and I will accompany Neville to St Mungo's while Kreacher tends to everyone else's injuries."
"What of me?" asked Hermione indignantly.
"You should take the portkey to the cottage, Hermione." replied Harry, grasping her by her shoulders. "Your parents are there and you'll want to see them."
"Are they safe?" asked Hermione firmly.
"Yes." replied Seamus from beside Neville.
"Then I can wait a little longer to see them." said Hermione.
Harry stared at her dumbfounded. He thought for certain that she would be demanding by now to go to the cottage.
"Harry, you mean well, but I'm not letting you out of my sight." continued Hermione. "We'll go see them together… later."
"Really Hermione," said Neville "you should go."
"No Neville, I shouldn't." stated Hermione. "You've stood beside me, now I will stand beside you."
"No more arguing." said Sirius, looking as sober as Harry had ever seen him. "Harry, Hermione and I will accompany Neville to St Mungo's while Bill, Fleur and the twins head to Hogwarts. Everyone else stays here until we decide what the next step is."
"We'll have to Apparate to Hogsmeade first." said Bill to Fleur and the twins.
"Not necessary." interjected Harry.
Before Bill could say a word Harry called out, "Dobby!"
"MASTER HARRY IS BACK!" exclaimed Dobby, leaping towards Harry and hugging his leg.
"Yes Dobby, we made it back." said Harry, clearing his throat and waiting for the tiny elf to detach himself from his jean pants.
"Is Master okay?" asked Dobby, noting Harry's tense stance.
"Dobby," said Harry, a little more kindly "I need you to take Bill, Fleur, Fred and George to Hogwarts. Take them to the Room of Requirement and wait for them there. Can you do this for me?"
"Oh yes, Master Harry! Dobby would be most pleased to do so!" Dobby tugged at his ears before asking, "Would Master let Dobby check on the house-elves of Hogwarts while Dobby is there?"
"Of course, Dobby." replied Harry. "Just promise me to stay safe while you're there."
"Yes Master Harry, Dobby will stay safe!" said the tiny elf, bouncing up and down.
"We'll send word via the galleons the moment we know what is going on." said Bill, placing a hand on Harry's shoulder while staring at Neville; his question burning on his face.
"Very good." said Sirius, standing at the ready. "We'll all meet back here when we're done."
Everyone nodded and within minutes, Bill, Fleur and the twins were off to Hogwarts while Harry, Hermione, Neville and Sirius were preparing to head to the magical hospital.
"We're with you, Nev." said Harry, placing his hand on Neville's shoulder.
"If it's true," began Neville, Harry felt his stomach tighten at what he was inferring "will you do something for me?"
"Anything, Nev." replied Harry in a hushed tone. "Just name it."
"Help me hunt down Bellatrix Lestrange and finish her once and for all." said Neville quietly, not looking at Harry.
"I'll be there," said Harry "to the brink."
"So will I." said Hermione and Harry could see a tear gleaming in her right eye.
"Okay," said Sirius, clearing his throat "time to go. I don't know what we're going to run into, but remember Neville, we are here with you."
Neville nodded before stepping into the grate, taking a handful of powder and shouting, "St Mungo's". Harry watched as Hermione repeated the process before following himself; stumbling out into the white waiting room of St Mungo's Hospital. He barely noticed Sirius' arrival behind him; his eyes fixed upon the unmistakable figure of Alice Longbottom crying and holding Neville in a tight embrace.
When they arrived at the hospital wing, Ron was surprised to see Fleur Delacour holding hands with his brother Bill. He was also surprised to see the concerned looks upon the twins' faces. They looked extremely troubled and he knew it must be something to do with Ginny. Several sixth year Ravenclaws and Hufflepuffs were assisting the matron with her duties and mistook the new arrivals for those in need of assistance. After refusing help, they made their way to Ron's bed where he was resting while his bones mended.
"What happened here?" asked Bill, taking in the number of witches and wizards in the wing.
"Long story." replied Ron. "The short of it is that there was a fight and Umbridge escaped."
"Escaped!" exclaimed Bill and the twins in unison.
"Bill, zis person your brother speaks of… isn't she the Miniztry official zat was assigned to Hogwarts?" asked Fleur.
"Yes Fleur, she is." replied Bill. "She proved to be just as stable as the Ministry she served."
"What about Sinistra?" asked Fred.
"Did she escape as well?" asked George.
"Fortunately, no." said Cassie, walking over to Ron's bedside. "That bird is locked away firmly in a little cage along with many of those that tried to free her. Now," continued Cassie in a hushed tone "is everyone safe?"
"Everyone is safe at headquarters." replied Bill. "Sirius can catch you up on the details later. Has Madam Bones arrived yet?"
"Yes, she and aunt Minerva are in the Headmistress Office." replied Cassie. "I assisted my aunt up to her office right before you arrived."
"Assisted?" repeated the twins in unison. "What the bloody hell happened?"
"Umbridge escaped from the hospital wing." interjected Ron. "We chased her to her office before she blew her office up."
"Is everyone okay?" asked Bill, scanning the wing once more.
"Dean's in really bad shape." replied Ron. "He took a hell of a beating. I think everyone suffered some sort of injury, but we'll heal. So what happened? Did it work?"
"We'll fill you in later, at headquarters." replied Bill. "Everyone here will want to –"
A large thud at the other end of the wing distracted Bill.
"Hagrid?" asked Bill, furrowing his brow.
Hagrid turned to look at Bill, a weak smile faulting the moment he laid eyes on Bill's face.
"Hagrid!" bellowed Bill, brandishing his wand. "Where is my brother Charlie?"