THE FINAL BATTLE
Even though he went to bed early, Harry tossed and turned for hours. He fell in and out of a dream-filled sleep and laid staring at the ceiling for Merlin-only-knew how long, desperately willing his eyes to close. At some point in the night he gave up, crawled over Nagini, and went to peek out the window. It was still dark outside.
He was alone in the dark room so he decided to take a quick shower. He figured that if he took a shower now he would have more time with Voldemort before the man left for Hogwarts, that is if the man came to say goodbye. Of course he'll come back. He wouldn't just leave without saying something, Harry thought to himself.
He took his time in the shower and afterward found his wand and decided to practice a few of the spells Voldemort had been teaching him before everything went to hell. It seemed like so long ago that Harry's only concern was to impress Voldemort and prove that he could improve his magic. He thought back to the day in the training room when he and Nagini's bodies had first erupted in pain, the day when everything changed. Nagini lay lifeless now, her usual vibrant scales long faded to a light pale green, and the few times she did open her eyes they were clouded and dull. She was no longer the sarcastic albeit loving companion. She was dying, and Harry so desperately missed his friend.
The door opened quietly and Harry started when a voice said, "Why in Salazar's name are you awake?"
Voldemort stepped through the doorway and Harry felt the man's crimson eyes examining him, probably checking to make sure he was physically in one piece.
"I couldn't sleep."
"You couldn't sleep? The boy who countless times I have had to drag from the bed? I don't believe it for a moment," Voldemort countered. He knew why Harry was awake; he doubted any of his Death Eaters were sleeping soundly tonight.
"Well it's not my problem if you don't believe it."
"Grumpy are we?"
The Dark Lord was making his way to one of the armchairs when Harry asked, "So when do you leave?"
"In about an hour I will meet with my Inner Circle, and then we will go."
"Only an hour?! Why are you here then? Don't you have things to do before then?"
"I came to see you."
"Oh… What if I hadn't been awake?"
"I would have woken you. I assumed you wouldn't have minded this once."
"Well, good. I would've been mad if you had left without saying goodbye."
Voldemort didn't respond.
"What time is it?"
"About one in the morning. I want to go now while most of Hogwarts is still asleep."
The boy didn't quite know how to respond and it was silent for a few moments. They continued to chat idly for a while, discussing possible outcomes and strategies, but neither seemed too interested in the conversation. Voldemort had grown weary of discussing scenario after scenario, and Harry's mind was elsewhere.
After what seemed like no time at all, Voldemort said, "I must go now. Stay here, Harry, and I will come for you when the battle is over."
"You are not to leave this room under any circumstances until I return."
"Okay. Well, show Dumbledore who's boss."
Voldemort chuckled, "I will, do not fear." He made his way towards the door, threading his hand through the boy's hair as he walked past.
Harry so desperately tried to stay seated, but something inside of him was certain to explode if he didn't do one more thing before the man left.
"Wait!" Harry shouted, causing Voldemort to turn. Harry quickly made his way over to the man and shyly hugged him quickly but firmly, "Good luck."
When he was released, Voldemort said, "I'll be back, little snake. Do not forget that I cannot die as long as you are safe."
He turned and exited the room and Harry sighed. Whether for good or for bad, everything was about to change.
The manor was silent for a long while as Harry returned to his now-unenthusiastic practice. He was thoroughly unfocused and after a while he decided to see if he could fall asleep, figuring sleep would be a decent way to pass the time.
It was much too quiet in the manor, and when he flopped onto the bed and closed his eyes his mind once again wandered to the battle. Surely Voldemort and the Death Eaters would have made their way into Hogwarts by now. He wondered what was happening in the school, imaging students being awoken by their Head of House, running to grab their wands…
Harry heard something and picked his head up. He waited and at first thought he had imagined it, but there it was again. He sat up in bed, maybe some Death Eaters stayed behind to watch over the manor? He could make out the faint sound of footsteps- someone running. The sound quickly became louder and Harry was sure that whoever it was would run right past the room, not caring at all if The Boy Who Lived was behind the door.
There was a moment of silence before the door was blown open, swinging back and banging harshly against the wall. Severus Snape walked into the room, greasy hair disheveled and his breath coming in quick pants.
"Potter, come with me," he spit out before Harry's mind had even caught up. "Potter! Let's go!"
The boy didn't move.
"Why are you here? Where are we going?"
"The Dark Lord wants to see you."
"Harry, we don't have time for this!"
Harry? Snape practically refused to call him by his first name and it sounded foreign on the man's lips. The boy jumped from the bed and grabbed his wand, "Is it over already?"
"Yes, it's over."
"Voldemort said he would come back for me."
"Yes, well, he ordered me to bring you to him. Quickly, now."
Not giving the boy much of a choice, Snape ushered him out into the hall. Harry had to jog to keep up with the man as they quickly made their way through the corridors.
"I thought it would take a lot longer than that…" Harry said.
"Things went much better than expected," Snape answered shortly. He seemed rushed as his eyes scanned the halls as they went.
Harry's mind was running. Should he have stayed in the room? Voldemort did say not to leave until he came for him, and Harry didn't trust Snape farther than he could throw him… but the man could certainly be busy with the battle and commanding what was likely to be hundreds of forces, it wasn't out of the question for him to send a trusted follower to get Harry instead.
They made their way into the familiar room where the Vanishing Cabinet lay and Harry was practically shoved through the door and into Hogwarts. Once inside the Room of Requirement they moved swiftly around the tall piles and stepped over the junk that lay scattered across the floor.
When they exited into the hallway it was quiet except for the distant sound of a skirmish.
"I thought you said the battle was over?" Harry immediately demanded, still wary on the sudden change of plans.
"It is. The Death Eaters are just finishing up."
"Oh," Harry didn't want to know what 'finishing up' entailed as he could hear the occasional scream echo down the massive halls.
"This way," Snape said and led them away from the distant noise. They traveled in silence and Harry tried to take in his surroundings. He had been in Hogwarts for those few moments when he quite literally fell into the Room of Requirement, but he hadn't truly been inside the school for what felt like years. It looked familiar as he remembered the paintings, staircases, statues, everything, but yet it didn't feel the same. Something felt… off, and Snape's actions weren't helping to alleviate this feeling.
"Are we close?"
"Where are we going?"
Dumbledore's office? Why would Voldemort be there? If the battle was over shouldn't he be celebrating with The Death Eaters? Or helping them 'finish up'?
Suddenly the slight feeling of dread Harry had been ignoring increased. Something was most definitely wrong and enough was enough.
"I'm done. I'm not going," Harry said as he stopped in his tracks.
Snape's black robes whirled outward as he halted and spun around, "You most certainly are, Potter."
"No, I'm not. If Voldemort really wants me he can come find me himself."
Snape raised his wand, "Harry, I will stun and carry you there if I must. The Dark Lord won't wait forever."
"Harry? What is with you calling me Harry? Something is not right and I know you're lying to me," he said as he slowly eased backwards away from the hook-nosed man.
Snape stared at the boy through the messy strands of his dark hair, "I'm taking you to safety."
"What? What do you mean by 'safety'?"
Harry's mind raced back to when he told Voldemort he didn't trust Snape and that something wasn't right with the man. Voldemort seemed thoroughly unconcerned and attempted to assuage the boy's fears, but Harry had always thought it strange that Snape worked as a spy for both sides of the war. Unlike Voldemort, Harry no longer believed for a second that Severus Snape was loyal to The Dark Lord.
"You're taking me to The Order aren't you?"
Harry easily dodged the spell, mentally thanking Voldemort for the hours of practice. He spun back around and shouted, "Expelliarmus!"
It only took a moment for him to see that he missed. He turned and ran, betting that he could easily outrun Snape by a long shot. He ran hard, not turning to duel as he didn't want to risk making a mistake and being taken someplace he didn't want to go.
He knew that whatever was happening wasn't right; The Dark Lord wasn't a man to change his mind. Voldemort had specifically instructed Harry to stay in their chambers until he returned. Harry mentally berated himself for trusting Snape, even if only for those few short moments.
He heard Snape shouting behind him and the occasional flash of light flew past his head as he ran. He quickly outran the older man and as Harry turned a corner he dodged through a door, quickly shutting it silently behind him. He stood leaning against the door panting as quietly as possible. He listened and heard Snape run past. What a bloody idiot, he thought.
He caught his breath and waited a few moments before peeking out into the hallway. He slipped out of the room and took off in a jog the direction they had originally come. He had to get back to the Room of Requirement. Harry shortly considered going to find Voldemort, but knew that he'd be an idiot to walk straight into the battle. He needed to get out of the castle. Between the students, The Order, which he was certain had to be here by now, and Dumbledore roaming around, he knew he wasn't safe.
He passed no one in the quiet halls and soon was back to the entrance of the room where the Vanishing Cabinet lay. He looked at the wall… where was the door? Harry turned around and searched the hallway, making sure he was in the right place. Surely this was where they had exited? He recognized the pictures hanging on the walls, the people inside were long gone, probably off watching the battle.
He got an idea and ran his hand over the rough stone wall, thinking it might be a hidden entrance. The door has to be here...
He felt along with his fingertips, hoping to come along some kind of trigger that may open the door, but he found nothing. He had to move. Snape wasn't that dumb, the man would know Harry would eventually try to get back to Voldemort's manor, he'd show up any moment.
Harry walked quickly down the hall, looking behind him and listening for any sign of movement, but all he heard was the sound of the distant fight. Maybe it was best if he went to find Voldemort? Or any of the Death Eaters? He'd be safer that way surely, as long as the Death Eaters didn't kill him first as they all seemed a bit quick on the draw. Oh Voldemort would be so angry when he saw Harry… but it was his best choice. It was either be found, likely by someone he didn't want to find him, or go find someone to help him.
He turned the corner and ran towards the noise.
As he neared he slowed his pace, not wanting to burst around a corner and have his head cursed clean off. He heard people talking nearby and froze. He listened closely…
"Get Bellatrix to assist us, she's crazy enough for it. Where is she?"
"Where do you think? With The Dark Lord of course."
Harry rolled his eyes, he saw the way Bellatrix looked at The Dark Lord and often Harry had to keep himself from gagging.
Those gathered were obviously Death Eaters and now was his chance. He slowly came around the corner with his hands raised in innocence, but he still clung to his wand just in case.
No one saw him right away so he cleared his throat and spoke, "Um, excuse me?"
Oh wow Harry, that sounded really tough.
Each of them spun around immediately and Harry's body tensed and his eyes shut tight as a spell whirled past him.
"Are you crazy?! That's the Potter boy!"
Harry peeked through his eyelids at the watching group. There were five of them standing there staring. Harry only recognized one, a man from Voldemort's inner circle. He put his hands down slowly and walked towards them.
He approached them and still felt odd when they each bowed, but he had to use this new reverence to his advantage. He couldn't act like a small 13 year old boy.
Harry cleared his throat, "Is the battle over?"
No one answered right away, until the one woman in the group spoke up, "No, not yet. Although it is going as planned…" her voice trailed off and she looked unsure, so accustomed to adding 'My Lord' onto sentences when speaking to Voldemort. Should the same apply to Harry?
Harry hardly cared; he ignored it and continued, "Where is Voldemort?"
Another man spoke quickly this time, as if he wanted to share in the attention from Voldemort's protégé, "He is supposed to be near the entrance of the castle, near the Great Hall."
Harry looked to the man he recognized, "You're Avery, right?"
"Yes, sir," the man answered proudly.
"I need you to take me to him. I need you to take me to The Dark Lord now."
"Good. You'll all come," Harry almost added 'I need all the protection I can get' but stopped himself short. They didn't need to know that. "Let's go."
A small chorus of 'Yes, sir' echoed and the group quickly began their trek. Harry wasn't sure if he should speak with them as they walked. Was that considered undignified? He thought to what Voldemort did when around his followers and Harry straightened his back and stood tall, well, as tall as he could at 13 years old. It all felt odd, this feeling of respect from The Dark Lord's followers, but a tiny part of Harry enjoyed it. He always found it amusing to watch the Death Eaters fumble about before their leader, and if they hadn't currently been in the middle of a battle Harry would almost consider this fun.
They walked briskly and passed a few other Death Eaters. Some were resting while others ran past with wide eyes trying to find the next duel. As the small group neared the castle entrance Harry glanced down corridors and saw bodies, some clad in black, others not, and even some in pajamas… suddenly his sense of 'fun' was long gone. People were dying, children were dying. He stared forward and concentrated on his mission, to find Voldemort and get the bloody hell out of this place.
Harry knew they were getting closer to the action when the Death Eaters accompanying him tensed, wands raised and ready. He gripped his own wand tighter and prayed that he wouldn't have to use it. He could hold his own certainly, for he had been training with one of the greatest wizards in history, but he still wished they could make their way quickly and without confrontation to Voldemort. Harry trusted his own skills, but only so much, he would only be a third year if he were still attending Hogwarts.
"Confringo!" Harry jumped as someone beside him shouted; he turned and saw a group of people running towards them. Many were adults that Harry had never seen but there were also a few older students, only one of which he had ever seen in the school halls. The air around him lit in a multitude of colors and shouts as the Death Eaters attacked the approaching group. Harry stepped backward and out of the way as he watched, unable to bring himself to engage the opposing collective. He watched as two of the students fell, unable to defend themselves against the much more advanced wizards and suddenly Harry wished he had just stayed in the hallway outside of the Room of Requirement.
In only a few short moments the skirmish was over, the Death Eaters Harry had been traveling with were all standing and accounted for and Harry gave a quick glance down the hall toward those who had been fighting for The Light… he regretted it instantly and quickly looked away.
"Come on, let's keep going," he managed to force out, the faster they went the less people he had to see die.
They continued and this time Harry placed himself amongst the Death Eaters so that they were surrounding him on all sides. He didn't want to be hit by an oncoming spell, but he also didn't want to have to defend himself should someone attack. He was hiding like a scared little boy and he honestly didn't care. He hadn't seen any of The Order yet, but he knew he would never be able to attack them if given the chance.
The noise increased and suddenly there were people everywhere. People were shouting as they cast spells, others screaming in pain. Harry's heart was pounding and he ducked his head as spells of all colors flew past. Their group hurried through the chaos and Harry couldn't bring himself to look back as one of them suddenly collapsed to the ground.
He couldn't even begin to distinguish people from one another aside from those in black and others in regular wizarding clothes. Even so, Harry knew Voldemort was near when the horcrux inside him began to send short pleasant waves throughout his small body. His eyes scanned the faces and it took only a moment to spot The Dark Lord who was on the opposite side of the room with spells rapidly flying from his wand. Harry had never seen someone cast so quickly and fluidly, and if there weren't people trying to kill them in that moment Harry knew he'd be mesmerized. Harry heard a wild laugh above the noise and even without seeing her knew Bellatrix was near, as she always was when The Dark Lord was around.
Voldemort, he thought, hoping the man would hear him.
Harry could see The Dark Lord freeze for only a moment before sending one last green spell towards his opponent. The man glanced around wildly and Harry broke off into a run, glancing around himself, ready to cast a Protego shield at any moment.
Voldemort locked eyes with him for only a moment before Harry was unceremoniously shoved onto the ground. He landed roughly on his rear-end and looked up to see the back of a large wizard in regular clothes. The man was paying him no attention as he cast spells Harry had never heard of before, and as Harry made to stand up the man's body was suddenly engulfed in a bright red light. Harry started and fell back onto the floor. He couldn't get his body to move, couldn't even take his eyes off the unknown wizard as the man fell to the ground in a heap and began to choke on a foreign substance leaking from his mouth.
Without warning, Harry was hauled up to his feet. He could see the paleness of the arm wrapped around his torso and knew Voldemort had a hold of him. The Dark Lord quickly dragged Harry into an abandoned classroom. The room looked like it had been ransacked, but Harry immediately recognized it as Professor Flitwick's classroom. Desks were turned over, books were scattered in all places, and Harry saw a trail of red liquid on the floor that led out the door. He quickly looked away.
Harry turned to The Dark Lord and almost wished he hadn't.
"Don't get mad it's not my fault!"
"What do you think you're doing here?" Voldemort demanded heatedly, "I told you to stay in our room."
"I did! I swear I did but-"
"Then explain why you are standing before me."
"I'm trying! I was in our room but then Snape came and got me and-"
"Yes," Harry was speaking quickly, trying to get his story out before Voldemort became even angrier. "He blew the bloody door open and said he was supposed to take me to you. He said you wanted to see me and that the battle was over. I swear I didn't leave on my own!"
"I said you were to stay put until I came back for you."
"I know I thought about that but he said you wanted me so I just went! I'm sorry I wasn't thinking!"
Voldemort was silent for a moment, "Where is Severus now?"
"I don't know. I knew something was wrong so I got away from him and found some of your Death Eaters. I don't know where he went."
Voldemort was looking down at Harry but his eyes showed that his mind was far off. Harry stayed quiet for a few moments before asking, "One of the Death Eaters said you guys were winning?"
Voldemort's attention snapped back, "They knew we were coming but nevertheless yes, things are going well but we don't have time for this. You need to stay with me. The wards won't allow disapparation and I don't have time to take you back to my manor, and I'm certainly not sending you back with any Death Eaters."
"Where are we going?"
"To find Dumbledore. I want to finish this."