Mayhem - Part IV
Chapter 41 - Emancipated Minor - Mayhem - Part IV
"Ah hahahahahahah!" Bellatrix Lestrange's maniacal laughter reverberated through the hollow caverns surrounding the platform upon which she currently stood, one finger up in the air, poking through the handle of the cup, which she was currently twirling around and around. The pitch in her voice gradually deepened until it was Voldemort's and her deep brown eyes became his evil red ones, while she slowly stepped over to the edge to look down at what had become of Harry Potter.
But she could not catch sight of him.
In the flash of an instant, as the wind created by his body rushing downward rustled in his ears, Harry for some reason had nearly enough time to form the complete thought: I can't see where I'm bloody falling! I'm falling as if I'm lying on my bloody back, staring at the bloody top of this- before a strong hand gripped his upper arm and put an end to his free fall with a jolt that wrenched his shoulder before a strong arm wrapped around his torso from behind and he was swept horizontally away.
"I've got you," Severus' voice growled into his ear.
"Yeah," Harry wheezed, all at once aware that he was in pain.
Severus landed with Harry, carefully lowering him to stand on his own feet, asking quietly how badly Harry was hurting.
"My scar's the worst, but I feel like I got punched hard all along here," Harry told him in a gasping whisper, indicating the left side of his torso.
"From the spell she cast?" Severus asked. When Harry nodded, Severus knew he could offer an effective healing charm. He motioned for Harry to pull up his jumper and thermal shirt, exposing a reddened area on his belly and side, just shy of his ribs. The boy's movements were strained, and he clearly had other injuries. Severus chanted a brief spell that Madame Lestrange herself had shown him, to counter her loathsome blasting hex's impact. "Better?" At Harry's nod, he asked, "Where else?"
"I'm okay," Harry said hastily, leaning into him for a long moment.
Severus pulled the boy closer and hugged him carefully. "Your instincts are astounding, Harry, keep following them, son. We are going to finish this bloody drama, once and for all."
Harry hugged Severus weakly, saying, "Agreed," before stepping back to grin at him briefly. The smile dissolved into a grimace when they heard the voice they both loathed at a visceral level.
"Ah, Severus, you've flown into the air and saved the boy you've come to adore from a bad fall, haven't you?" Voldemort's voice projected from the unseen Bellatrix.
The two of them turned their shocked eyes upward, looking to see that they were indeed out of the view of the possessed and already mad Bellatrix Lestrange, and yet she clearly knew they were there. From where they stood, three levels directly below Albus, Remus and Lucius, they were also aware that the other wizards had not yet revealed their presence. There would be little point, as she currently had the tactical advantage to protect herself from attack.
Harry jerked at the sensation of heavy weight landing upon his shoulders and buckling his knees. Severus caught him under his armpits and lowered him slowly, dropping down to one knee himself as he held Harry's stare, watching it glaze over while Voldemort attempted to possess his brave teenaged ward. Harry's jaw worked as he struggled to keep Voldemort away, but before long, a smile that was all Harry's crept onto his face, and it was quite clear he'd expelled the evil wizard.
"I will have him, Severus, and I will take him from you and murder him before your traitorous eyes!" the enraged Dark Lord proclaimed.
There was an indiscernible noise that was more like a scramble of spinning flesh on stone from above. And then Harry's eyes widened in surprise as he felt that damnable pull. "You don't get to punish me, I'm not the one doing this," Harry rasped in frustration as he felt himself losing the battle. He saw the fear in Severus' eyes as his not-yet-adoptive-father grasped his wrists tightly, as if hoping to anchor him, but Harry slipped right through his grip, and completely out of sight.
"Harry!" Severus barked. He scrambled to his feet, panting. "Albus!"
His coin warmed and vibrated. Severus hastily withdrew it from his breast pocket.
…Back in the bloody lobby…
He shouldn't have been able to muster it, but he managed to grin with pride at Harry's strength. An instant later, Fawkes appeared on his shoulder and popped him away.
The Gringott's lobby was a bureaucratic circus, as both Ministry and Gringott's security teams battled for authority over the previously contained situation, and were now forced to scurry to the parameter, to take cover behind planters and stone sculptures from the powerful burst of dark energy that surged upon them from the center of the giant room. The Order of the Phoenix members remained out in the open, albeit at a far enough distance to be able to shield themselves from the ominously tangible evil that oozed from the cackling and very much possessed Madame Lestrange and her companions. They could all see Harry Potter, seemingly completely at her mercy, on the ground at her feet, weakened by invisible forces, blinking dumbly up at her, while Nagini slithered around them both, sometimes slowly sliding bodily over Harry, as if to let her suffocating weight remind him he would be digesting inside her in a very short time.
Bellatrix twirled the cup again, laughing the raucous guffaws of the clinically insane.
Harry lay there, on his back, yet again, staring upward, feeling powerless… but not entirely so.
These are the last of them, he thought with conviction, all in one place. The cup, the ring Nagini swallowed, and Nagini herself… And me. He was aware of dramatic wand battle erupting around him, and it was clear to him that the cup and Bellatrix were the intended targets of those nearest. If there's an order to this, and Nagini is supposed to die after the cup and the ring, there's no way it can happen. We can't destroy the ring while it's inside her…
And Bellatrix is going to try to kill me. I have to save my magical stores to protect myself.
Remus' heart was in his throat at the sight of Harry gathered in the cluster of horcruxes, the visual impact of which was intensified a thousandfold by the thought that Bellatrix Lestrange was manning the magical helm of their combined power. He could not be certain to what degree Harry was under her control, but he would die before he'd see Harry's demise. He could not let James and Lily down in such a monumental way. The boy had made him want to survive, and live, in a way he'd not desired since his twenty-first year. The threat to that outcome brought out the primal rage he'd battled since Siruis' murder. He had no issues with unleashing it now.
Remus looked up toward the lattice-like beams far overhead that supported the extraordinary glass domed ceiling and his face broke into an impressed, albeit feral, grin.
Lucius stood in battle stance, a lethal snarl on his face as he cast hex, after hex, after hex, as forcefully as he could, alternating between Bella and the cup, and getting nowhere. She was shielded with that same bloody field that Harry could create, and seemed to have endless magical energy to maintain it. She continued to twirl the small chalice around her finger, the act so incredibly infuriating and taunting, Lucius could hardly control his temper enough to calculate his efforts. He was aware of Albus in his periphery, and was unable to discern what the older wizard was attempting until he felt a sudden and significant burst of power erupt through his wand as he cast a blasting hex at the bloody horcrux. Lucius' enhanced spell hit its target and the cup flew out of Bella's hand, landing after a series of bounces and tumbles in a wide open stretch of floorspace.
Harry felt a release of the heavy pressure that had held him in place when the cup flew off of Bellatrix's fingertip. Her shriek of rage was the perfect cover for him to roll away and scramble onto his hands and knees. Nagini reacted instantaneously, rearing up and striking at him without a break in her slithering stride. A burst of magic slammed into her and shoved her several yards away just before she reached him. Harry heard a collective gasp from all those witnessing the struggles, realizing this current version of the mayhem that was his life was taking place before a live and captive audience.
A flash of dark, swirling fabric that resembled wings darted through his peripheral vision, accompanied by the loud sound of snapping fabric, reverberating through the massive interior, reminding Harry of the sound of a flag blowing in the wind.
It was Severus.
Severus flew in a manner that enabled his body to sail along and over the wafting gusts of air created by magical blasts of energy, much like a bird taking advantage of the tailwind of a vehicle. He'd begun his dive a split second after Bellatrix had been separated from the horcrux. He slammed bodily into her, knocking her to the ground, and attempting to use physical strength to overpower her. And yes, he was willing to beat the psychotic witch senseless at this point. She was winded for a few moments, and that stunned her briefly. But Bellatrix Lestrange had incredibly strong, maniacally strong, magical abilities, and she ultimately took the fall without injury. Severus was only concerned with keeping her unlinked from the horcruxes for now. He had her facedown on the floor, straddling her back with his knees pinning her arms down, but the bloody witch utilized her significant wandless skills and blasted him off of her after a few seconds. He was airborne again, having resumed flying to spare himself impact from her blast, and she was back on her feet, robes having been long ago charmed not to impede her physical movements as she darted directly toward Nagini, who had just pointed herself toward the cup.
Remus cast a vicious slicing hex at Bellatrix, which hit its mark, gashing deeply into her left thigh. Her scream of enraged agony was incredibly satisfying.
That was for you, Sirius, Remus thought as he watched his best friend's murderer lose her footing and fall as if she'd been slammed downward, but not before she'd reached toward Nagini, throwing her arms out, as if to circle around the upper end of the snake.
A bolt of powerful magic slammed into Remus from behind and he went down as well, and darkness attempted to close in around his vision.
"Remus!" a familiar female voice cried out fearfully. Dora.
Remus struggled to stay conscious, the horrible scalding pain on his back keeping him down and gasping in his efforts to contain his cries of pain, but he was alert enough to realize their mayhem had now spread into the crowd, creating a very real and threatening level of chaos. ROARS and CRASHES of crackling magical energy collided together again and again, and combined with the instant rise in general volume from angry and anxious voices, all indicated to him that apparently the security teams had lost control of the prisoners. He was vaguely aware of a streak of magic issuing from Dumbledore's wand as he squeezed his eyes shut and shuddered in agony.
Many of the previously captured Death Eaters had escaped their bonds and were struggling to enter the ruckus to help Bellatrix. The Order of the Phoenix had their hands full trying to regain control, but appeared to be close to doing so. Lucius had spotted Rodophus Lestrange retreating like a coward after having attacked Remus from behind, and he did not hesitate to retaliate. Lucius had slashed his wand violently, in a downward diagonal to the left, inflicting an equally debilitating burning hex upon Bellatrix's vile husband, watching him go down in satisfaction, and letting Kinglsey Shacklebolt deal with him from there, as he returned his attention to the rapidly escalating peril in the center of the room.
Still feeling horrific pain in his scar, now Harry's heart was in his throat as he watched Remus struggle in severe pain. Flashing back to the events at the Ministry, Harry gulped down the reflexive yell of fear for his injured friend, instead realizing that Severus was at that moment flying at a dive down toward Remus.
Severus had quickly succeeded in cooling the intense burning on Lupin's back and pulled his former schoolmate back onto his feet. Although he was shocked, Severus did not resist when the werewolf slung a heavy arm around his shoulders and squeezed him hard, bringing his head close to Severus' to tell him quickly and firmly.
"I get to kill her, Severus. For Sirius. And for Neville, and Alice and Frank."
"And you think you could live with yourself?" Severus asked in disbelief.
Remus squeezed him again and then dropped his arm, turning to look Severus in the eye. "Oh, hell yes."
Severus allowed himself to direct his darkest grin at James Potter's last surviving friend. "Do your best, wolf," he said in a low tone, "but if you take too long, I'll do it for you."
"Understood," Lupin said. "And in the meantime, you can have that revolting reptile."
"The inanimate ones must be destroyed first!" Albus called out to the four other wizards, as he swirled his wand over his head. "I apologize in advance…"
He cast a spell at Nagini, and time within the room seemed to come to a standstill as a sequence of inexplicable events took place, ultimately simultaneously with the impact of his curse upon the snake.
Harry watched Dumbledore's spell hit Nagini, which caused an incomprehensible extrication of her insides, out into the open, the sight so unsightly, that it was difficult at first to process what had just occurred. A clanging of metal upon marble floor registered in Harry's awareness while his eyes took in the sight of Severus rapidly casting multiple spells on Remus, presumably to end the torture he was suffering. Harry also registered that Dumbledore's arm was in the air, raising the Sword of Gryffindor high over his head and slamming it downward. He spotted a small golden ring with a large, ugly stone in a pedestal setting, lying in wait on the floor as Dumbledore loomed over it. He watched the elderly wizard strike the dark, evil soul from the stone within the ring, releasing another infernal cloud of sandy black smoke that raced right at Harry.
Oh, for the love of Merlin! he thought, already expecting horrific nausea and a hard knock to the ground. But this time, Harry's mind was still consumed by the excitement for the new life ahead of him with his soon to be father, and for the friends and mentors he now had in Remus and Lucius. This time, when the cloud came his way, it reverberated off of his chest as if he'd shielded himself.
Lucius moved back into the center of the scene, assessing what remained to be done, now that Albus had destroyed one of the two inanimate horcruxes. His eyebrows raised in repulsed disdain, as did the curl of his lip, as he witnessed the gore of the inside-out snake who was clearly still alive and although suffering, was not appearing to be without defense as she writhed viciously, leaving trails of, well… entrails in smeared, slimy streaks upon the marble floor.
"My Lord!" The injured Bellatrix Lestrange wailed, her crazed eyes full of irrational fury at what had become of her hopes to resurrect her beloved Dark Lord. She'd scooted herself off to the side and had take shelter by creating a shield that had her encased in the prism of space formed by a stone bench that was flanked by two tall stone planters.
She is contained for now. Lucius observed.
Albus was watching over Nagini, so Severus moved over opposite of Lucius to triangulate their mutual guard of Bellatrix, all the while keeping an eye on Harry, who appeared to not have suffered further injury so far, and was continuing to play his role. He'd watched the boy react to the release of Voldemort from the ring, fiercely impressed that Harry had withstood another possession attempt.
He's going to be stronger than I, after this. Severus recognized with a slight thrill of worry mixed into his strong pride.
The ring was finished. Now it's that bloody cup, Harry thought, recalling again how Bellatrix had twirled it on her finger.
Harry saw the Hufflepuff heirloom, sitting alone on the floor, about six yards away from where he was standing. I'm too far away to summon a fang, he instinctively knew. Instead, he held his hand out and imagined the Sword of Griffindor, the next moment feeling the cold, heavy weight of it in his grip as he took a few shaky steps, forcing every bit of strength he had into his legs. He was actually already stronger than he'd realized. The destruction of the ring and the Entrail-expelling curse on Nagini had taken a toll on what remained of Voldemort's power. But his scar still raged with pain. Though his vision was tunneling from the agony of it, Harry pushed himself to pick up his pace, again aware of a scramble of activity, peppered with vile screams of rage from Bellatrix and shouted retorts and hexes firing, presumably from among the dream team. Determined to be done with it, he darted toward the cup and raised the sword high, aiming its point downward to skewer through the upper bowl of the heirloom chalice. But the cup sensed his proximity and began to vibrate so violently it started to spin crazily, making itself a difficult target.
"Bloody, bleeding hell!" Harry railed in frustration, his patience for such a nuisance long, long gone. He glared at the horcrux, willed himself to be steady, and slammed the sword downward, forcing the tip into the cup's center, using his body weight to press it down and through, severing the heirloom in two, and releasing the most riotous, malevolent burst of dark magic yet. It swirled over Harry, knocking him down so hard he was winded by his fall, but he curled onto his side and pictured the sight he'd just witnessed of Remus hugging Severus. Priceless.
The smoke swirled off and joined with Nagini. Harry scrambled to his feet and gaped at the resulting seizure-like spasms that engulfed the snake.
"Headmaster!" he yelled, offering the sword to Dumbledore, who summoned it wandlessly.
Albus' magic was strongly engaged in keeping Nagini turned inside-out. She was a magical creature of enormous power of her own, and her share of Volemort's soul added fuel to her self preservation instincts. If Harry had not destroyed the cup in the last few seconds, he would have chanced releasing the snake to go to the boy's aid.
Albus Dumbledore had been forced to watch and wait as the events had unfolded. Now, new events were playing out in three parallel timelines, all occurrences happening simultaneously within the span of a few seconds…
He watched Remus shield himself from a wayward curse that had been cast by Rabastan Lestrange before Nymphadora Tonks intervened to hex the Death Eater into unconsciousness and bind him in chains.
He watched Severus take his eye off of Bellatrix to supervise Harry's progress.
He watched Harry again fight off the possession that had given up on Nagini and rushed back over to him.
He watched Harry smile as the sword transferred between them as fellow Gryffindors.
And he watched Bellatrix as she watched for her moment to strike.
Harry saw Dumbledore swing the sword high for a second time, this time bringing it down in a slicing arc.
"Harry!" Severus yelled from behind him.
Harry recognized the fear in Severus' voice and realized that while he'd been distracted by Dumbledore's efforts to rid them of the snake horcrux…
…he'd left himself open to attack.
A horrific bolt of energy that felt like the impact of a freight train, snapped the bone in Albus' forearm as he lopped off the snake's head. The serpent's body continued to writhe and struggle, but now Albus could only watch Harry spin on his heel to face the brutally demonic witch, whose wand was at the ready.
"Avada Kedavra!" she said with disdain, casting the killing curse with ease, sending the Unforgivable fatal green magic directly at Harry.
Harry closed his eyes as the spell hit him, and he went down.
A final, infuriated swirl of black, sandy smoke swept up and out of Harry's forehead, rushing crazily around, heading toward Bellatrix. But finding nowhere to latch itself.
Now Albus watched Severus, Lucius, and Remus each cry out in horrified disbelief before simultaneously turning to collectively cast an indefensible bone crunching hex at Madame Lestrange, plundering her bodily into a shattered heap and ending her existence. The sandy black smoke hovered above her broken form, its edges beginning to thin, as if evaporating. A ROAR of rage and a rush of hot, putrid air blew among them all and then the hushed silence returned, accented only by the sounds of Nagini's flickering body, her nerves still spasming out their final synapses.
Severus rushed to Harry, dropping to his knees at the boy's head, lifting and pulling the slack teen by his upper arms back against his legs, wrapping his own arms around Harry's chest from behind, preparing to bury his face in the boy's hair and weep with despair… until he felt a beating heart and a breathing diaphragm within his embrace.