"Where are we going?"
"To find Dumbledore. I want to finish this."
Fear gripped Harry. He wasn't afraid of Dumbledore, but he certainly didn't trust the man. He hated the thought of even being near him. He just so desperately wanted to leave this place. Nothing was right about being here; this wasn't the Hogwarts he knew.
"Do you have your wand?" Harry's attention returned to Voldemort and he quickly held his wand up. "Good. Harry, I need you to stay with me. Do you understand? Do not leave my side," the man emphasized each word of the last sentence.
Harry tried to make his voice sound strong but Voldemort knew better, "Do not worry, little snake, you will be fine. We will find Dumbledore and make certain the Wizarding World never has to bend to his wishes again."
Harry nodded and Voldemort repeated, "Stay with me."
The door was opened and they emerged, Harry trailing closely behind The Dark Lord. Immediately spells began ricocheting off the walls behind them and Harry watched as Voldemort easily blocked any that were lucky enough to be on target. The man didn't seem fazed at all.
Chaos surrounded them as solid black attacked a mix of colors and patterns. People of all ages were in the midst of battle as others lay scattered across the stone floor. Harry didn't look too closely at the faces, he was afraid of whom he may see.
Voldemort battled their way through the halls and at some point had signaled for Bellatrix and three others to follow them. Harry recognized Rodolphus and Yaxley from the meetings, but the third was a horrid looking man Harry had never seen. He was covered in thick hair and the sharpness of his yellowing teeth gave him a beast-like appearance. His eyes were focused intensely on Harry and the boy was certain he saw the man lick his lips. Harry immediately faced forward and moved closer to Voldemort.
They moved swiftly and were halfway across a grand room when Voldemort froze. He spun around and grabbed Harry, pulling the boy behind him. Rodolphus and Bellatrix finished off the few opposing forces remaining in the large room as Voldemort and the others stood silently.
Harry was about to use their connection to ask Voldemort what was happening when a door opened at the other end of the room. Harry swallowed thickly when he recognized some of the faces.
The first one he saw was Lupin, and suddenly it was as if they were back in Voldemort's chambers once again. When The Order broke through the wards, Lupin had been the one to follow Dumbledore as the man went to find Harry.
Then he saw the others, Mr. Weasley and Kingsley Shacklebolt first, then Bill Weasley, a young man who Harry only recognized through pictures, and finally Dumbledore. The men moved forward with their wands raised before finally stopping and leaving distance between themselves and Voldemort's condensed army.
Harry watched from behind The Dark Lord and waited to see who would speak first, or if anyone would speak at all before the curses began flying.
"I am growing weary of this, Tom," Dumbledore spoke quietly.
Outwardly Voldemort didn't respond, but Harry's breath rushed from his lungs as he felt his horcrux alight with the man's fury at the common name.
Dumbledore continued, "I do wish for this to end. This war cannot continue."
Finally, Voldemort spoke, "I must confess that I agree, Dumbledore."
"May I assume that suggesting things end peacefully would be too much to ask?"
"You've assumed correctly," Voldemort was measured with his words and kept his remarks short and direct. He wouldn't give Dumbledore an inch in this battle, even if only in word.
"I wouldn't want the boy harmed. I suggest he step aside."
The boy? Dumbledore spoke of Harry as if he weren't standing right before him.
"A bit contradictory for you of all people to say that, Dumbledore. He's perfectly fine where he is," Voldemort said, and Harry picked up on the double meaning.
"So he's a Death Eater now is he?"
"I'm not a Death Eater," Harry butted in, offended. If Dumbledore wanted to talk about him he could do it to his face.
"Ah, Harry…" Dumbledore said with fondness, finally looking to the boy, "You cannot believe everything Tom has told you, you must understand this."
But Dumbledore continued, "I know he has painted us to be evil, to be wrongdoers, but you know better than that. You remember what it was like when you were protected by The Order, how could we ever have wanted to harm you?"
Harry found his nerve, "You let me fight. I was just a kid and you put me on the front line of the war! I don't believe for a second that you were protecting me."
Shaking his head, Dumbledore murmured something quietly to Kingsley, who was standing beside him.
Harry could feel the anger radiating from Voldemort when he said, "I've had enough of this. We're going to finish this now. I've no need to wait any longer."
"We simply want the boy," this time it was a more gentle voice. Lupin. Harry had always felt more attached to the ragged man than anyone else in The Order. He knew Lupin had been his father's friend, and maybe that was part of it, but he also knew Remus had always had Harry's best interest in mind… in all honesty, he didn't blame anyone in The Order aside from Dumbledore for forcing him into battles before he was properly trained. He knew it was completely the man's choice to not only allow Harry to fight on the front lines, but also to keep him at the Dursley's as well as raise him as the Wizarding World's Savior. Every bit of it was Dumbledore and Harry hated the man for it. He hated that the man had controlled him so for long.
Bellatrix, unable to stay silent any longer, shouted in Lupin's direction, "Silence, dog!"
The tattered man didn't seem fazed by the comment as he looked to Harry, "Please, Harry."
From the corner of his eye Harry saw Voldemort's wand move.
Harry grabbed the arm of the man's dark robes. Please don't hurt him! He begged through their connection.
Everyone in the room tensed, wands raised higher and feet stepping closer as they waited for the first spell… waited for the battle to begin.
Voldemort didn't respond, just left his bone wand trained on Lupin.
"Please, My Lord," Bellatrix's voice scratched, "Let us have them!"
The room was silent aside from harsh adrenaline-laced breathing. Neither side moved.
That is until Harry stepped forward.
Voldemort gripped the back of the boy's shirt but Harry said, "No. I just want to say something."
"Harry," Voldemort warned.
The boy turned his back to The Light, "They won't hurt me, and Dumbledore can't hurt me in front of the others." Voldemort eyed the boy. "Besides, you'll protect me if something happens."
Harry waited a moment longer before turning back around and taking a small step forward.
He felt as if he and Dumbledore were the only ones in the room. "I just want you to know something," he said and then was silent, awaiting a response.
"What is it, my boy?"
Harry tried not to cringe at the familiar sentiment, "I just want you to know that there is no way in Merlin's saggy beard that I will ever go with you. I will never follow you again. I refuse to let you use me to get what you want, to manipulate people, and I will certainly never trust you again. You know what I am," Harry refrained from using the word 'horcrux' at the possibility of the others now knowing of their existence, "and you never told me. Instead you tried to murder me, except you put me out to fight in a war without proper training and turned your back, hoping I would die, hoping you could be rid of me. You were too much of a coward to do anything yourself- you never told me the truth about what I was, and you never had the courage to kill me yourself. You let other people do the dirty work for you, just as you always will. You are a coward."
The room was silent and Harry continued, "I hate the fact that my friends, the only true family I've ever had, don't even understand what they're doing because you've told so many lies. You get people to do what you want through lies and manipulation, and you're no better than the man you're trying to stop."
He heard Voldemort shift behind him.
"You left me with a man who abused me and a woman who neglected me. I couldn't walk some days because of the things my uncle did! And you knew it! You knew the whole bloody time! Yet you did nothing about it because you hoped they'd kill me! Or better yet you hoped I'd kill myself!"
Harry was shouting now as the thought of his family sent rage through his blood.
"I hate the fact that I let you do this to me! I hate the fact that my parents so blindly followed you! I hate that you used me as The Boy Who Lived to get people to support you. I hate it, and I hate you!"
Harry raised his wand towards the Headmaster of Hogwarts. He stared down the thin piece of wood at the man who stood silently and unmoving, not even lifting his wand. He didn't think Harry would do it. Dumbledore didn't think for a second that Harry would harm him... he had no idea how much Harry Potter had changed.
He saw movement from the other side, someone to the right of Dumbledore, and he opened his mouth to speak.
Harry's mouth was still open as the green light flew past him and hit its target. He stared wide-eyed as Kingsley Shacklebolt's body fell to the ground. Voldemort was standing beside Harry with his wand raised, and a moment of stunned silence passed before the room was alight with spells.
Chaos erupted and Harry was thrown backwards. His back slammed into the wall and he crumpled to the floor. The pain was numbed as adrenaline shot through his body and his head shot up towards the action.
There were only about 10 people in the room but it felt like hundreds. Harry saw a black clad body fall to the ground and he jumped to his feet. He refused to hide, he refused to be scared. He wanted this finished and he wanted to be a part of it.
He gripped his wand tightly and ran into the confusion. His eyes searched for Dumbledore, his wand deflecting the occasional rebounded curse that flew his way. He didn't attack, just defended; there was no one here he wanted to harm aside from the headmaster. He wouldn't hurt his friends.
Suddenly the noise escalated all at once and Harry turned toward the entrance of the grand room. Dozens of people in black were rushing in, firing spells haphazardly in all directions. He smiled and ducked out of the way, not wanting to be crushed in the onslaught of bodies. There had to have been 50 or 60 people running through the door.
He almost began laughing in ecstasy as the feeling of relief flooded his veins, but the moment he glanced at the other side of the room he saw an unpleasant sight. More people were rushing into the room, but this time from a different entrance. They were people of all ages, adults and teenagers alike. The battle immediately outside of the room must have settled, and both sides must have been waiting outside the room, waiting to hear what would happen, waiting to see if they would be needed. They must have heard the start of the battle.
Harry stood and watched for a moment as light clashed with dark. Deflected spells were ricocheting into walls as paintings crashed to the floor and furniture mutilated. From the corner of his eye he saw a spell come rocketing towards him and he ducked just in time for it to glance off the wall behind him. He stood to his feet and raised his wand towards a boy who was staring at him wide-eyed, certain he had been about to immobilize The Boy Who Lived.
"Incarcerous!" Harry shouted as ropes flew from the end of his wand. They wrapped around the older boy and immediately bound his limbs to his sides, causing his body to topple to the ground.
Harry forced his wand down as two sides of his mind fought for dominance. Oh how he wanted to hurt this stupid boy who had the nerve to think he could succeed that easily, but the other side of his mind reminded him he didn't want to harm anyone more than necessary.
He took a deep breath and turned, ignoring the writhing body, and searched amongst the confusion for anyone he recognized from the Dark.
Harry, come here.
Voldemort's voice echoed through his thoughts. He took off running, not with a destination in mind, but knowing he was headed the right way.
He ducked as a blue curse whizzed past him. He turned his head and watched as it collided with a Death Eater, the man's body toppling to the ground in a heap as blood began oozing from his stomach. Harry turned and fired a stunning spell in the general direction the curse had come, not entirely sure if he had hit anyone or not. He kept running, hopping over fallen bodies and splashing into puddles of red as the battle raged around him.
His eyes were everywhere, ready to block any spell that came his way, and almost ran straight into Voldemort. The man was taking people out left and right, his curses rarely, if ever, missing.
Follow me, Voldemort said as he turned, sparing Harry a quick glance.
Harry obeyed and they wound their way through the lessening mass of people. Harry soon found that being near Voldemort was akin to being the target during dueling practice. It felt as though spells and curses surrounded them, but many came from afar and missed pitifully.
As they made their way Harry threw harmless attacks at anyone he saw from The Light who even got a glimpse of either of them, just trying to keep the oncoming attacks to a minimum. As Harry looked around he saw more bodies on the ground and less people standing, and more screams began to die off into silence.
Soon enough Voldemort stopped.
Harry looked and saw that they stood about 20 feet from Dumbledore, a now tired looking man who suddenly appeared very much his age. His robes were ripped and dirty, as Harry very much expected his own to look as well, and Harry could see red patches in the man's usually white beard.
Voldemort didn't hesitate.
Despite his appearance, Dumbledore moved as if he were thirty years younger as his wand slashed sharply through the air, causing the Unforgivable to rebound into another direction.
A fiery mass shot from the end of Dumbledore's wand. Both Harry and Voldemort threw up shield charms and Harry watched as the transparent barriers converged into one and grew. If they fought together they'd have a better chance, even if Harry's magic was pathetic compared to the other two wizards.
The moment the fire dissolved against the shield Voldemort had already cast two more curses. The two elder wizards were so equally matched that the duel became focused less on who had more magical power and ability, and more on who would react incorrectly first. Spells and curses flew back and forth, constantly being blocked and thrown into other directions. A few times Harry tried to strategize, waiting for Voldemort to cast before immediately sending his own curse towards Dumbledore. For the most part though Harry was on the defensive, ready and waiting with his Protego shield should he need it.
Voldemort had begun silently casting now, but Harry could still hear the incantations run through the man's mind as he dueled. It was an advantage that one day may come in handy if they survived this battle.
Far from having the ability to silently cast, Harry yelled, "Expulso!" with a short flick of his wrist.
Somewhere in the back of his mind Harry noticed that they were no longer being attacked at random. They were dueling with Dumbledore and Dumbledore only, and although the battle around them had calmed slightly, no one attacked from their sides. It was as if each person in the room understood that they were not to interfere, that this was not their fight.
Dumbledore did not aim any spells directly at Harry, but seeing as he was only a few feet from Voldemort he was often forced to defend himself as well. He's staying in character, Harry thought, Dumbledore would never intentionally hurt his precious Savior, not while other people were watching…
Everte statum, Harry heard from Voldemort's mind the moment before the yellow light left the end of the bone wand, and Harry watched as it flew towards the other man. Dumbledore quickly waved his hand and suddenly a wall of thick dark smoke materialized and Dumbledore disappeared. Instead of traveling through the smoke, the bright yellow spell rebounded as if it had contacted a solid wall.
Harry strained his eyes to peer through the haze. He heard a loud pop behind him and suddenly Voldemort was shouting,
There was an explosion and Harry hadn't even had a chance to turn by the time the debris hit him.
He was thrown forward onto his stomach by the force and could feel small pieces of rubble falling lightly on top his body. It took a few moments before his mind adjusted, and when he felt able Harry pulled his head up and looked at the wreckage surrounding him. He managed to sit up and saw he was covered in a layer of dust and grime, as well as many small cuts and scrapes, but nothing seemed too serious.
The sounds of the dwindling battle reached his ears and his eyes instinctively searched for Voldemort. When Harry spotted the man he seemed a bit grungy himself, but appeared to be perfectly fine as he continued to duel. Dumbledore was still intact as well, but now a small section of the wall behind him was completely gone aside from the shards that lay scattered across the floor. It didn't take much for Harry to deduce that either a powerful spell had gone awry or Dumbledore himself had blown part of the wall to pieces in an attempt to use it as an attack.
He quickly made sure each of his limbs still worked and then stood, for today was no day for lying on the ground in defeat. Although the disorientation from the blast was wearing off, he felt an odd sensation pressing into his mind.
The man's presence was swimming around Harry's mind, making certain the boy was alright without having to distract himself from the duel.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Harry ran back towards the duel. He hadn't yet reached Voldemort before he heard Dumbledore cast an unfamiliar spell, "Carpe retractum!"
Harry hadn't had time to cast Protego before thick black ropes were gripping his upper body. He fell forward and felt himself being dragged across the rough floor towards Dumbledore. He struggled to free himself of the ropes but they were bound tightly around his forearms and torso, locking his arms to his chest. He could feel his skin grating across the stone floor as he was pulled and sharp pain radiated where his skin touched the debris-covered ground.
Voldemort's wand slashed angrily through the air.
"Diffindo!" the man shouted and immediately Harry stopped moving. He took only the smallest of moments to compose himself before ripping the thick rope from his body, desperately trying to untangle his arms. He was barely free when he was yanked backwards.
His small body slammed into something firm but yet oddly soft, and pale white arms encircled his body and kept him from collapsing to the ground. He got his feet under him and instinctively reached for his wand. It was gone.
He frantically looked along the floor, searching for his small wand among the ugly wreckage.
"Accio Harry's wand," he heard Voldemort say and immediately a small wooden object came flying toward them. Voldemort caught it and tossed it quickly to the boy standing beside him, all while continuing to deflect flashes of light coming from Dumbledore's direction.
Stand back, Voldemort commanded and the boy quickly moved out of the way and watched as The Dark Lord formed a small circle with his hands. It looked as if he were holding an invisible circular object, but Harry quickly saw the magic form as the circle grew. Voldemort released the blue orb and forced it away from him. It flew towards Dumbledore and the old man's words were cut off as a powerful echo reverberated against the walls and through Harry's body. Harry saw the outline of a translucent barrier in front of Dumbledore, but even with the shield the man still toppled backward onto the floor. Adrenaline rocketed through Harry's veins as he realized what was about to happen.
He reacted immediately as he raised his wand toward the fallen man, "Expelliarmus!"
Harry Potter shouted the spell as if his very soul depended on it. The great room was silent in Harry's ears and he saw nothing aside from the wand flying through the air. He threw his hand up and tightly closed his fingers the moment he felt the hard wood touch his palm.
For the smallest of moments everything in the room was dead, unmoving, and still.
He lowered his arm but didn't immediately look at the wand, for his eyes never left the man whose body was now resting on the floor.
The next few moments passed quickly but to Harry they felt like years. He knew that this was the moment it could all end if only he had the strength to utter the Unforgivable, for no other curse would end the war. That's how it was always intended to end anyway, with him casting the Killing Curse.
Dumbledore sat up, eyes wide as two brother wands were raised toward him.
Harry breathed, the incantation on his lips… could he do it? Could he murder someone?
The question flashed through his mind for only a moment as he took a deep breath and spoke,
When the words left his mouth it sounded as if two people were speaking. Two bright flashes of green flew from each of the brother wands and slammed into the old man who had yet to move from the dirt-covered ground. Dumbledore's arm extended as if he were trying to block the curse, and maybe his magic was, but only one person had ever survived the Killing Curse.
The green light engulfed him and Albus Dumbledore fell silently backward onto the floor.
A moment of disbelieved silence, and then the room erupted.
Some people screamed, others whooped and hollered joyfully. What little was left of the battle resumed as the moment of shock passed. Some of the Light refused to give up even though their leader was gone while others were once again forced to defend themselves. Others ran from the room in an attempt to escape alive, but those dressed in black soon chased after, victory and determination to end anyone who dared to oppose them on their minds.
Through this, Harry stood silently as Voldemort moved forward. The Dark Lord stopped short of Dumbledore and simply stared at the body lying unmoving and lifeless before him.
Harry was unconcerned about the people still dueling around him; his fight was over. His friends, his professors, The Order, not one crossed his mind as he walked over to The Dark Lord. He stood behind Voldemort and looked down at the white-haired man he once considered family. It was possible he was in shock, but strangely enough Harry felt nothing aside from relief. He didn't mourn, he wasn't saddened in the least… he was simply relieved.
Unworried at the moment about keeping up appearances, Harry moved forward and leaned against The Dark Lord, resting his forehead against the man's back. Voldemort didn't move, didn't even acknowledge him, and that was alright with Harry. He knew Voldemort had hated Dumbledore for many years and Harry was perfectly content to allow the man to ignore him for the moment.
Voldemort did nothing but stare down at Dumbledore's body. The elder wizard looked as he did just a few moments earlier with his torn robes and blood encrusted beard, but his face had softened in death and he appeared years younger.
As Harry stood unmoving, his tired body resting against Voldemort, he could presume from the shouts of victory surrounding them that everyone from The Light were either scattered dead around the castle or running for their lives.
"It's over," Harry whispered into Voldemort's dark and dirty robes.
Voldemort finally turned and pulled Harry away from him. He held the boy's biceps and looked him over, "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," Harry answered, and despite his haggard appearance he truly believed that he was, in more ways than one.
Suddenly, an explosion reverberated from outside the room, sending vibrations running through the stone floor under their feet. Harry jumped from the sudden noise and turned, expecting another swarm of Order members and students to come running into the room.
"Don't worry, they're just celebrating," Voldemort reassured, and Harry could hear in the man's voice that he was trying not to chuckle at the nonsense. The large windows rattled in their frames as a few other smaller explosions went off in the distance and soon Voldemort was pulling Harry along saying, "Do you have Dumbledore's wand?"
Harry had forgotten he was holding it and finally looked down at the wand in his hand. It was longer than his own, with multiple odd lumps along the wood and covered in small notches. There were also strange carvings that Harry didn't recognize above the handle.
Harry nodded and Voldemort said, "Good, hold onto it. Now come."
They made their way towards the ruckus the Death Eaters were making and even Harry had to laugh at the childish actions of the rejoicing witches and wizards. Not only had they won the battle and survived, their Master was soon to be in control of the Wizarding World. His followers would be wealthy, noble, and esteemed among those around them and would never be in want. They would be among the leaders of the Wizarding World as would their children, and they would never again lack power or respect.
The Death Eaters lingered in the now-abandoned school, foraging through classrooms and storage closets for anything of value. The kitchens were raided and soon there was a grand feast throughout the castle.
Although he wasn't very hungry, Voldemort insisted Harry eat something. When the boy asked Voldemort if he were going to eat the man stood and replied, "No, I have business to attend to."
Harry's eyes widened, "You're leaving?" The last thing Harry wanted was to be left alone with the Death Eaters.
"Eat. I will be back shortly," and with that the man was gone.
Despite the celebration, Harry felt little more than exhaustion. He had hardly slept and he wanted nothing more than to simply go back to their chambers and collapse upon the bed, but he politely picked at his food as he quietly watched and listened to the people around him.
Shortly Voldemort returned and although Harry tried to stick close to the man they soon became separated. No one usually ever touched him in front of The Dark Lord, but Harry was now being patted roughly on the back and congratulated. Death Eaters were surrounding him, their smiling faces trying to push past one another to reach him and shake his hand. It was all very overwhelming, but Harry accepted their congratulations and even offered some of his own.
When he finally found Voldemort again the man was speaking with a few of his followers. Harry yawned as he waited until they were finished before pulling on Voldemort's robes.
"Can we go back?"
"Go back? Why?" Voldemort asked like it was the most absurd thing he'd ever heard the boy say.
Harry leaned in and spoke quietly, not wanting the Death Eaters to hear, "I'm tired."
Voldemort quickly examined the weary-looking boy before straightening and saying, "Oh. Yes, of course. I wasn't thinking. I'll certainly take you back."
They made their exit, Voldemort assuring his questioning followers that he would return shortly. Every time they turned a corner they were met with more people clothed in black, and Harry felt as if every one of Voldemort's followers from around the world had gathered together to celebrate. The two reached the Vanishing Cabinet and Harry was relieved when they were soon back inside the quiet halls of Voldemort's manor.
By the time they made it back to their chambers Harry was nearly asleep on his feet. He peeked through his closed eyelids just enough to see where the bed was before flopping down onto the comforter. He felt a blanket cover him and the voice whispered soothingly to him,
Sleep. You are safe, my little snake.