Rise of the Fallen
A flash of lightning shot straight through the centre of the Quidditch pitch. The following sound wasn't so much a crack of thunder, as it was an all encompassing vacuum of sound. Both Slytherin and Gryffindor scattered on the pitch; each team pulling in tight to their respective Keepers.
The crowd gave a collective start and a gasp. Then group by group, embarrassed laughter pealed through the crowd. Harry Potter and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team breathed a sigh of relief. Unfortunately, Slytherin used the momentary shock to their advantage.
Blaise Zabini snuck through the Gryffindor line, easily tossing the Quaffle through Ron Weasley's stunned defences. Ron thinned his lips, swerving around the hoops. He snatched the Quaffle as it gracefully floated toward the ground and hurled it in Dean Thomas's direction. Determined and steely, he jerked his boom downward, and, though the move was reminiscent of
The match had been going on for nearly an hour, and neither team had come ahead. The moment Gryffindor scored ten points, Slytherin erased any lead. The loss of Ginny Weasley, one of the best Chasers Gryffindor had seen in a while, had taken its toll, despite the added advantage of Ron Weasley and Harry Potter. Millicent Bulstrode's loss ensured that smaller Chasers like Demelza and Geoffrey wouldn't hesitate near the hoops. All in all, the match was at a stand-still unless one team's Seeker could find the Snitch, and, in this torrential downfall, neither had seen a glint or fluttering.
Usually Seamus didn't mind the rain, but this was a bit much. He and Megan were sitting under an umbrella that he'd hit with an Impervius charm so it wouldn't soak through, but it was still nearly impossible to keep track of what was going on in the game. He didn't know how they were ever going to find the snitch in the grey downpour.
"C'mon…c'mon, c'mon, c'mon…FUCK!" Seamus cursed loudly as a collective groan came from the Gryffindor side of the stands. It was lucky for him that the professors had their own place to sit—otherwise, watching Quidditch matches would have put him in detention for his entire natural life.
Another sound broke through the constant static of rain, but no one paid it any mind. Not until several trees at the edge of the
The rain was so utterly miserable, though. Parvati was perched under Hermione's Brolly Charm, but the damp was still seeping in around the sides. Parvati just knew her hair was going to be all frizzy. It wouldn't be able to compete with Hermione's frizziness, obviously, but it still wouldn't be at its best.
Just as Harry whizzed by on his broom, Parvati caught a glimpse of something wandering onto the pitch. A troll! A very confused troll, it seemed—the little thing was stumbling about stupidly as though it had no idea where it was or what it was doing. Parvati giggled.
"Hermione, look!" she exclaimed, pointing down at the puzzled beast.
Hermione wasn't giggling. No, in fact her eyes were squinting as she stared at the seemingly confused beast. Memories of first year, yes, but also confusion: the troll might've been attracted to all the noise that the audience was making, but this had never happened before... why now?
"What on earth is it doing here?" Parvati asked, still giggling but about as puzzled as the troll.
A gold and red face-painted Hannah Abbott was cheering madly for Gryffindor, even amidst all the heavy rain. She held a plastic covering around her, Ernie, and Susan which had a water-repelling charm on it. All three were hooting whenever Gryffindor managed to score, and Hannah looked happier than she'd been in a while -- especially since N.E.W.T.s were over and all her studying, it seemed, paid off. There was nothing to worry about anymore, only things to look forward to -- like summer.
Hannah could see Megan sitting with Seamus in the Gryffindor stands right beside her. Grinning, as she caught her best friend's eye, she waved at her as the bell rang.
"Look at it!" a Gryffindor student jeered behind her. "It's so stupid, it got lost!"
"Trolls are so unappreciated in the Wizarding World that they run the risk of becoming extinct," came Luna Lovegood's serene voice as she stared at the bumbling troll. McGonagall blanched at Luna's commentary, but she didn't scold the girl, not with a troll on the loose. "They might be unintelligent, but they are vital to the environment. Their secretions provide very fertile soil, and that in and of itself is worthy of our utmost respect."
From his vantage point high above the pitch, Harry decided it resembled one of Ron's chess pieces, moving at someone else's direction. But who's? Harry was silently thankful for the invention of the Impervius charm; it made playing in the rain so much easier.
Like all things these days, Harry remained ever paranoid. With the shattering of the only Horcrux not currently occupied in Voldemort's body or by his side, Harry wondered if Voldemort could feel the destruction of his master plan, his immortality. Surely after five of the seven Horcruxes were gone, Voldemort would have felt something. Harry could only think of it in terms of cutting off limbs as he dove down to get a better look.
Madam Hooch blew her whistle, signaling a time-out. Professor Bran shuffled through the professors' box, made his way down the stairs toward the ground to handle the situation. The troll, however, still fumbled around, slipping and sliding on the muddy grounds, heading straight for the pitch.
"The hell?" Megan Jones asked rhetorically as she watched the troll stumble onto the pitch. "C'mon, I want to fuckin' get back to the game-oh- there we go, Buttface Bran to the rescue," she narrated to Seamus with a smirk as he moved toward the creature.
"I have no idea," Hermione answered slowly, her fingers moving automatically to where her wand was concealed. "But it looks like Professor Bran's going to take care of it."
"Where on earth do you suppose it came from?" Harry hovered beside Ron.
At another time in another year, Ron Weasley would have been laughing at the way the troll was slipping and sliding along the drenched pitch. However, after having been out in the world with Harry Potter helping to destroy Horcruxes and fighting Voldemort's minions, he didn't find this to be funny in the least. Ron hated trolls. He didn't even like going near the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. He relaxed a bit as Harry flew over to him, thankful for the time-out. Slytherin was doing everything to score, and he was lucky to have blocked most of what he'd been catching.
Wiping his forehead with the back of his gloves and achieving very little in the process, Ron glared balefully at the troll and kept glancing at the trees. "I don't know, Harry, but I don't like it."
"Me either." Bran looked even tinier than the troll, and Harry felt a wave of worry wash over him. Every year, another Defence professor died, left, went to Azkaban, or just went mad. Dumbledore had even mentioned that there was a curse on the position. Hopefully, Bran would be one of the few who left, rather than the other options.
Squinting in the rain, Harry's eyes narrowed toward the forest. The trees shook and wove around each other. It could just be the wind and rain. Except the tree's dance was sporadic and ungraceful; no wind could have caused one tree to twist one way and the next in the opposite direction.
Bran stopped short on the pitch (to Harry's relief) and slipped backwards when he flailed his arms about towards the professors' box. Harry tossed a fearful look at Ron before it disappeared into determination, and, for the first time in quite a while, Harry felt his scar prickle. His eyes widened to dish plates as he grimaced; Harry grabbed a hold of his broom and flew past Ron, yelling louder than the rain. "He's coming, Ron. Go. We've got to get our wands from Hermione!"
Megan was almost uncharacteristically quiet as Bran suddenly turned on his heels and went bolting back toward the professors' boxes, flailing his arms. "What the bloody fuck?" she finally blurted, brows furrowed, nudging Seamus' gaze in that direction.
Ron didn't need to be told twice—nor even once this time because he could tell something was about to happen. Nodding grimly, Ron turned his broom and raced to where Hermione would be waiting with their wands. This was the moment they'd been dreading and the weather was perfect for it. Today would decide the future for the Wizarding world and Ron meant to see them all through it no matter what. Harry and Hermione were here, so there was no way they could fail.
Any further heroic thoughts were interrupted, however, when more trolls burst from the tree line, roaring or wielding huge tree stumps. Screams erupted from the stands and people tried to get away or escape in any way they could. Ron wished he could do more for them at the moment and no doubt Harry did as well, but they needed their wands first. After that, they could get people to safety.
"Oh my god!" Parvati shrieked in shock.
Hermione was already up from her seat, her wand out. "Stay calm. Leave the stands in order," she instructed loudly, but it didn't seem as if anyone was paying her any mind. Hermione was shoved forward and very nearly fell, her arms spinning before she caught herself. Swearing something very un-Hermione-like under her breath, she grabbed her Felix Felicis potion that she had put for safekeeping in her pocket and took the whole thing. Now was the time to use it.
"Parvati!" she called. Her friend had only been beside her moments before. "Parvati! I have to get to Harry!"
"Be careful!" Parvati shouted back from several feet away, from behind Seamus Finnigan. She was a small girl, and was easily pushed and pinned backward from Hermione in the panic. It wasn't until she'd wound up with Seamus and Megan, both first-rate pushers, that she'd managed to get anywhere at all.
"I second that 'be careful'!" Seamus called after her. It was obvious from his face that he didn't like the looks of how things were going. Where there was this much trouble, there was bound to be more.
Hermione was waving her arms wildly, trying to attract the attention of Ron and Harry, but she was just a speck in the crowd as chaos began erupting around her. Remembering what her father had taught her to do when she was in trouble, she stuck two fingers inside her mouth and whistled loudly. She pulled their wands out from her pocket quickly, holding it high above her head so that they could scoop it from her hands as they flew over.
"What's going on, you think?" Hannah turned to ask Ernie before the ground started shaking beneath her feet. It felt like...an earthquake, but she hadn't the time to ponder. The wall of trolls stampeded onto the field and in the time it took for her to shriek, a frightening-looking troll took it's heavy club and slammed it into the side of the Hufflepuff stands -- spraying bits of wood everywhere.
"RUN!" Hannah heard a student scream from behind and she was shoved violently into the person beside her. She heard another smash and assumed the troll had hit again. "THE WHOLE THING IS GONNA COLLAPSE!"
Sure enough, the stands began swaying and creaking very slowly as people began fleeing in anything but an orderly fashion.
The wooden stands were creaking with the force of the trolls as they stampeded from the forest, and Theodore gawked accordingly as he saw the number of them. Many swung large clubs in their fists, their blank faces snarling stupidly as they waddled quickly towards the Quidditch stadium, and the cries of surprise and panic began to peel from the stands as people began to realise what was happening.
"Merlin," Theodore breathed, and instantly his hand groped for Padma's. The vast majority of students seemed ready to run for it, leaping to their feet and making beelines to the way out. Who wanted to mess around when trolls were on the loose? Everyone had heard about the terrible troll that had found its way into Hogwarts several years ago, and how it had nearly killed those three headstrong Gryffindors.
Padma fairly froze, her fingers locked around Theodore's. People began to shove her forward into Theodore as they tried to push their way around them.
"Move, you idiots! Get out of the sodding way!"
"Stop pushi--" Another hard shove from behind, and Padma lost her footing, sending her flying to the ground at Theodore's feet.
Theodore swore and shot a nasty expression to the fifth year Ravenclaw who had pushed them, repressing a quip that this was in fact the Head Girl. "Are you alright, darling?" he asked, helping her up and brushing the dirt from her hands. When someone screamed he quickly glanced in the direction of the trolls, stepping protectively in front of Padma.
"You've your wand?" he asked lowly.
Padma nodded, dumbstruck. After a pause, she reached into her robe's sleeve and pulled it out. At the first least, it might slow them down, but trolls were notorious resistant to magic.
Somehow, Padma didn't think that waving her Head Girl status over the crowd would really make any sort of dent, and so she resigned herself to pushing the crowd. On the way down the stairs, Padma looked for Parvati, but her twin had been sitting in Gryffindor next to Hermione. She would have to look for her once they were on the ground. It took quite a while and a few panicked seconds of thinking she'd lost Theodore, but they finally managed it.
The howls of the trolls were so much louder that Padma covered one of her ears, keeping a firm grip on Theodore's hand. The trolls hadn't quite started to attack students, but it wouldn't be long. The only thing Padma worried for at the moment was Theodore's asthma; he was sure to have an attack once they made it back to the castle.
Of course, getting back to the castle would prove to be much more difficult than she thought. Nearly two dozen giants suddenly burst from the
Theodore's mouth was drawn into a tight line, and his hand was gripping Padma's with strength that the scrawny boy did not usually seem to possess. Maybe Megan's insistence that he exercise frequently had some positive effect... but it was much more likely that simple adrenaline and a protective terror was lending him force. Theodore's wand was out and by his side, and he was preparing to use it - against a troll, or even a student if it was necessary.
Or, he realised as he saw and heard the giants... a giant. Oh CRIPES. This is more than just a troll mating ritual, this is an attack...
He nearly removed Padma's arm from its socket. "Castle. Now." But already the giants were approaching, roaring and beating their chests...
But she couldn't just leave students to get pummeled. Wasn't that what the DA was all about? Most of them were civilians, but it didn't matter anyway. Padma's legs were locked, and Theodore's tugging almost made her slip in the mud.
"No, no... Theodore, they're... those students. They're barely second years. We can't leave them!" She gave Theodore's arm a vicious tug in the other direction.
"RUN!" Padma howled to them, waving her arm toward her. "HURRY!"
Theodore, however, didn't really give an arse about other students. Perhaps it made him a self-centered coward. Perhaps it meant he had an excellent survival instinct. Either way, he was tugging on Padma's arm insistently even as a giant scooped up the two second years and smashed their heads together with such force that both Padma and Theodore were sprayed with... stuff.
That was Padma's cue to blanch, open her mouth, and let out the loudest scream she ever had in life.
Theodore pulled her away, and while she followed this time, her neck kept turning to look at the fallen students. When they were a fair ways away but not out of harms' way, Padma started shuddering, crying. "Oh my god. Oh my god. It killed them. It KILLED them."
However much Ernie had anticipated something awful, the emergence of fifteen trolls had the colour draining of his face. He gaped down at the field, and looked around quickly, watching the panic bleed onto the collective faces. He could hear Hannah shrieking, but hadn't time to comfort her or begin to take control of the situation. An immense, grotesque troll smashed its club into the stands, and a second hit had the entire thing swaying dangerously.
Though Ernie had been eleven when he'd first seen and run, panicked from a troll, his first instinct was to, once again, run. Especially as the stands were on the brink of collapse. But Ernie had long ago learned how to get his immediate reactions under control – unfortunately, no one else had a similar self-management, and everyone was stampeding for the exits.
"DON'T---" he began, but saw it was hopeless immediately. He looked around quickly, watching the ground threaten to become much closer in either direction as the stands swung, and tried to make sure Hannah, Eloise, and Susan would make it out alright before grabbing Sally-Ann's arm and starting toward the stairs.
He would not push and crush in his need to leave, but time was getting short—they had to be quick!
As Ernie hurried among the masses of hysterical Hufflepuffs, his hand plunged into his pocket, closing around a phial of gold-bubbling liquid. He lifted it out, and began to uncork it.
"What's that?" Sally-Ann asked, making her way well-enough beside him. He barely heard her over the shrieking around them. Ernie blinked, and realized that Sally-Ann had never joined the DA, and consequently, had no bottle of good luck.
"IT'S YOURS," he hollered, to be absolutely clear. "I'LL GIVE IT TO YOU WHEN WE GET DOWN. DRINK ALL OF IT!"
As the Inferi lurched forward, Seamus found himself unable to keep from thinking of the summer after First Year, when he and Dean had made the very ill-advised choice of watching Night of the Living Dead. The mindless zombies had been terrifying, but at the same time he couldn't help but think people were just being stupid about things. They weren't thinking clearly or logically, and that was what got them killed. He and Dean had decided then that if everyone in the world were turning into zombies, they would not be helpless victims who got their brains eaten. No, they were going to have a plan.
Even in the crowd of Inferi, Seamus's parents were easy to spot. His father was a tall man, standing higher than most of the others, and the presence of short little Saoirse Finnigan beside him just made it more obvious. Her hair, or rather what remained of her hair, was still the exact same shade as Seamus's. Some of it had been pulled out, or fallen out. Their skin looked grey, mottled from the process of decomposition that a magical embalming held off but certainly didn't stop. They walked unsteadily, using muscles that had begun to rot in the O'Connor family crypt back in October. That wasn't the worst, though…the worst were the eyes. No, the absence of eyes: deep black holes where eyes used to be, in his parents' heads.
Seamus heard a sharp scream behind him. He turned quickly to see Parvati Patil beginning to hyperventilate. A look back to the group of Inferi told him why: Lavender Brown was among the eyeless mob. She was a paler grey than his parents were, but like the others her eyes were already gone. Her always-perfect hair was a god-awful mess, the charming curls she'd been laid to rest with replaced by mats and frizz.
Seamus stared straight at them, momentarily frozen with horror. He'd thought things couldn't get worse, but they had, and with a vengeance. "Worse" was looking him in the eyes with nothing but empty sockets.
It was the old memory that jerked him out of it. He could hear Dean's twelve year old voice piping up as they worked out The Zombie Plan.
"If they're zombies, then they're not your friends or your family anymore."
"Right!" Seamus agreed heartily. "They're brain-eatin' beasts!"
"Right," he murmured to himself, echoing his own First Year thoughts. They'd refined The Zombie Plan over the years, even though they never thought it would actually come into action. But then, a lot of things they never thought they'd have to do or see had come to pass.
Seamus knew what he had to do. They'd all learned after the Massacre of London how to deal with Inferi: fire. He raised his wand, leveling it at his father's eyeless face. James Finnigan was the biggest, and the one that would cause the most trouble the fastest if he got close enough, so he had to go down first. Seamus shouted out the incantation, and a burst of flame came forth from his wand to attack the creature that had once been his father. It dropped, and the others shrank back from it, changing their path to skirt around the flames.
Next, he needed to deal with the thing with Lavender's shape. That was the way to think of it: think of it as a thing that looked like someone he knew, not like the person herself. If Seamus could get that one out of the way, Parvati would be more help. He heard Parvati scream again as he set a fireball on Lavender (looks like Lavender, Not Lavender!), but it could've been at the giant who'd just crushed a Fourth Year Gryffindor, or it could've been at the Dementors sucking the soul out of a Second Year Ravenclaw.
Seamus cursed under his breath. Clearly, he was going to have to give up ever thinking that things couldn't get any worse. If he kept letting that cross his mind, soon they were going to be set upon by Chinese dragons and probably men from Mars, too.
One last fireball for Saoirse Finnigan, no matter how hard it was to do.
It's not her. It's not her. It's not her.
Mam's soul blew this joint back in October. The thing standing in front of you Is. Not. Your. Mother.
With the spell dispatched, he turned to Parvati. "Get up, girly! C'mon!"
Parvati shuddered and stood. For a moment, she couldn't take her eyes off the burning husk of Lavender's body. She'd lost her best friend once, and now it felt almost like losing her all over again. But this time around Parvati didn't have the luxury of panic. The world was falling apart around them, and she had to do what she could to stop it.
"I'm all right," Parvati said, taking a deep breath.
Pansy lifted herself from the muddy ground, not even bothering to wipe it off. There was enough mud caked onto her to make her look like one of those statues when it dried. The area only seemed to have students in it at the moment, a few corpses of trolls were littered here and there, but far more students lay motionless than Pansy could even count.
Suddenly, something jerked at her hair, and she let out a shriek of surprise, startling the students around her. Pansy grabbed onto her hair to pull it away from the assailant, and fell to the ground again as she was suddenly let go. She scrambled back to her feet, and watched as one of the students she thought was dead rise with her. Pansy's eyes widened, and she took a step away, looking back at who attacked her. Her stomach felt like it dropped to the ground, and her throat closed. Oh no. In the middle of a bloody battlefield, stood Damian and Pascha Parkinson staring with vacant eyes at their daughter.
"Inferi," Pansy whispered, continuing to backup slowly. She felt like she was going to be sick to her stomach. How could this be? Her parents had been buried for months.
Her mother's flesh eaten hand reached forward again, grabbing Pansy's shirt. She was jerked forward slightly, and brought closer to her parents, who didn't seem to bother with trying to eat her brains. The smell was making her gag though, and she desperately tried to get away. Struggling free of her mother's hold, Pansy pushed at Pascha's shoulders, very nearly stumbling into the mud again. She turned and ran, dodging students and enemies alike, not stopping for a few moments until she was out of breath and gagging at the same time.
The moment she came to a full halt, she lost her breakfast.
Theodore Nott slammed hard against a rather unforgiving bush, and it took him a solid ten seconds to rise back up despite Padma's near-hysterical urging. Being thrown by a troll had its shortcomings, and he was breathing raggedly, though the potion he took quick breaths of was helping slightly. A splattering of blood graced his pale face as he grimly headed forward, his hand holding Padma's, when he suddenly stopped in shock.
Dead bodies that were living were now surrounding them. Inferi. Theodore hadn't seen them arrive, but he assumed that they must have followed the giants.
"That smell..." Padma muttered, her stomach churning and retching. She covered her mouth and nose, eyes watering. Her face was streaked with blood and bits, her hair and clothes were soaked to the bone from the rain. Her knees threatened to give out on her.
"Inferi," he murmured unnecessarily, and he smelled it too. That rich, fetid scent of unmistakable decay was honey-thick, and he gagged, covering his mouth. A tiny Inferi turned, her eyeball hanging past her nose.
It was his cousin Jordan, whose family he had lived with the past summer.
"J-Jordan?" Padma stammered, muffled by her fingers. When had the Inferi arrived? She hadn't heard or seen them come out of the forest. Then again, she had been preoccupied, what with Theodore's injuries.
Theodore looked away, his stomach rolling. He didn't want to be reminded of that strange summer, in which he'd tried his hardest to make life miserable for his impromptu family.
And now the little girl was staring at him sightlessly, her fingers flexing and groping the air in front of her, her mouth open and slack.
As the shell of the little girl, Padma stepped out in front of Theodore, effectively blocking her grasping fingers from him. Padma's hand reached behind her to clasp onto the front of Theodore's robes. Her wand held out in front of her.
"Theodore... what's... the fire spell? What is it!?"
But while Theodore had kept his cool perfectly when the trolls and giants had come rushing in, now he remained frozen, almost as if mesmerised. Strange how he hadn't registered hers or his uncle's death when it had happened - he had been far too raw over the murder of his father to really feel much about his other family he was apathetic over.
But now... all he wanted to do was beg her forgiveness. Theodore wondered if his uncle was somewhere in this crowd, as well.
He didn't have to wonder long, Padma noticed him among the others surrounding them. The Inferi started to close in. Padma realised this was part of the tactic, this shock and stunning the students with their dead loved ones. WHERE IS PARVATI!?
Padma frantically searched her mind for the spell. It seemed that the shock of attack had wiped her brain of all defensive spells. "THEODORE! THE FIRE SPELL!"
"What?" he asked stupidly, looking back to her as if just now remembering her presence. Theodore didn't seem to notice that the Inferi were getting closer; he just stared at
"I-I shouldn't have treated her so terribly, should I?" Theodore offered Padma in a wavering voice. "She never did anything - or, well, much to me. She was only a child... the closest connection I might've made to my mother."
"It's not her, Theodore!
Flames shot out of her wand, directed at Jordan and the other Inferi. It wasn't so much a yell as a roar as the dead girl caught on fire.
Theodore whirled on her, furious. Or maybe grieving, finally. "Padma," he growled warningly, his wand raised, but when he looked back at the little girl, he couldn't see anything of
"I am sorry," he eventually stated in a quiet voice, collecting himself into his usual gentlemanly stance. He was looking to Padma, but he might have been apologising to the Fenwicks.
"No time for that," Padma told him, her fingers tugging mercilessly on the front of his robes. She quickly cast another fire spell, forcing thoughts of her parents out of her mind and pulling Theodore with her. Thank Merlin for small favours in Hindu practises; the Patils had been cremated in
Theodore took a breath, readied his wand, and forced himself to get 'with it', as it were. Sending off fire spells to the Inferi was infinitely easier when he did not know whose body he was destroying.
Say, for example, the man walking stiffly towards him. The face was somewhat familiar, though Theodore could not place it. Dark hair, a tall bearing, although the dead person was slightly hunched as it walked towards him, as if it might have been buried in a too-small casket and now had a neck crick.
"Blaise's father!" Padma hissed, wide-eyed. He was unmistakable, even though he was decayed. She met him once in a highly uncomfortable situation, and it was that situation that triggered the beginning of Blaise and Padma's real friendship.
Thank Merlin Theodore had taken care of this Inferi, because Padma doubted her own courage at the sight of him. In death, he was even more frightening.
Theodore glanced at Padma, hearing her exclamation, and returned to studying the Inferi as he fell to his knees, his expression strangely impassive as his flesh turned to ash. Perhaps that was why he thought he might've recognised the man, even though he'd never met him.
Of course, the fact that the Inferi seemed to still be circling (those that weren't burning, that is) planted a very terrible seed in Theodore's head. "Padma," he exclaimed, ducking the blow of a troll hastily and tossing a stunning spell on the creature although he knew it would near-to-no-effect, "...the trolls and giants aren't clever enough to be controlling the Inferi... so..."
Soaking wet, a hysterical Hannah Abbott had lost sight of Ernie, Megan, and Susan among the pandemonium. She had just narrowly avoided being pummeled by a giant who she just witnessed tear a limb off Todd Packer, a first year Hufflepuff she knew all too well. The screams of students around her were deafening, but the small girl didn't notice. She was trying desperately to make her way to the castle without being clobbered to her death...My God, she couldn't even cry she was so afraid...
Where were Megan? Ernie? Justin? Susan? ...Blaise? The Professors?
Hannah kept on running as fast as she could, her sights set on the castle which she could see from how far she was that the doors were, in fact, open. Already having gulped down more than half of her Felix Felicis, Hannah took her wand out of her robes shakily, trying not to drop it amidst the fray. Behind her, a giant was making a game out of stomping on students who had fallen, like a sick game of hopscotch. She had to get to the castle.
But groups of students were stopping on their way there. Some, it seemed, were making a point to run back the other way. "Oh God," Hannah thought, "what could be worse than what's already behind us?"
"INFERI!" shouted a sixth year student who's face was half-masked in blood. "INFERI! RUN!" Before Hannah had time to stop running, she saw in the distance the limping, decrepit, and corpse-like figures of the Inferi.
Hannah screamed and turned to run the other direction, but smacked directly into something extremely cold, smelling of sewage...dirt...and decomposing flesh. Once she looked up, her eyes met the most frightening face she had ever seen in her life. Most of the skin had already rotted off its face, but what was left was a dark green colour which seemed to blend into its teeth. The very minimal hair on its head was white and clung to its skull, and there was only eyeball left, which held Hannah's blanched gaze. Another scream emitted from Hannah as she yanked herself from the Inferi, but she did it with so much force she tripped over herself and fell to the cold, wet floor. Not even stopping to think about the sudden jolting pain up her hip, Hannah frantically crawled away from the Inferi she had just been so close to moments before, and held her wand between them, her fingers desperately trying to have a good hold on the slippery wood. The corpse quickly closed the distance between them, grasping vacantly at Hannah, who fired a very weak stunning spell in its direction. In her frenzy, she aimed entirely too low and shot someone next to the Inferi. Someone, once turned around, looked exactly like Abigail Abbott -- her mother.
It couldn't be...
Half her hair had gone missing, but the cooking apron Hannah and her brother had worked so hard on was ever prominent, even though dirty. "Abagail's Spatula", the show she once owned, was clearly legible on the apron, and her skin was not as decomposed as the other. In fact, she merely looked extremely somber and pale -- as though every ounce of blood had been drained from her body...
No, that wasn't her mum. Her mum was dead, and buried...near
"M-Mum?" Hannah choked, still holding her wand out in front of her. Although at this point, she wasn't even aware that she still had it.
Hannah's mother didn't answer. She merely began moving closer to her once-daughter, who looked quite pathetic on the ground, shaking and wet and frozen, seemingly paralyzed in shock. Once close enough, Abigail lifted her bony hand -- the hand Hannah always remembered as the one that so gently caressed her cheek before she went to bed. It was aimed at her daughter. Her only daughter. Her "Hannahbell."
"INCENDIO!" Hannah heard a familiar voice shout from behind her.
Megan Jones stood just behind Hannah, soaked to the bone, long ponytail stuck to her back, almost every inch of skin exposed muddy, clothes torn and bloody, but the unmistakable large mouth, teeth bared, and bright grey eyes highlighted now against her darkened skin, her identity was obvious.
She moved in front of Hannah now, taking a protective stance, knees bent and wand at the ready to fire off another fireball. Abigail's corpse-self had screeched and backed away with the first, but began to advance on them again.
"annah, stay back..." she ordered. "Tha's not your mum.... it's not... let me do it." Her voice was firm but the way it seemed to crack near the end gave away just how difficult sending flames after her second mother was. She swallowed. "Turn around, Abi..." she demanded almost inaudibly. "Turn the fuck around... dun' make me do it..."
Abigail Abbott was not one to take orders. Even during her life, she was very sweet and polite, but rarely ever listened to anyone but herself. It was no surprise to Hannah that her mother's Inferi form would take on the same qualities...even if they weren't voluntary.
"Megan, watch out!" Hannah shrieked as Abigail lunged toward her with only one outstretched arm because the flames previously shot from Megan's wand enveloped her other and even slowly started crawling down her leg. Through it all, however, Abigail remained expressionless. Empty. It was the most unsettling thing Hannah had ever seen in her life.
"FUCK!" shouted Megan as she took a few steps back to avoid the Inferi's arm. She almost winced. Abi had always been one of the very few people able to make Megan feel guilty about her habit of sweari- That is NOT ABI. She shrieked at herself. Furious at the idea of using Abi's form against them, Megan swung her wand with and jabbed it at Abi's Inferi form. "INCENDIO!" she roared, fire leaping from her wand. She shouted the spell over and over again, blinking back the tears that threatened the corners of her eyes. While Hannah was being thoroughly traumatized by her mother's vacant expression, it was really the only thing letting Megan go through with it. If that face shows one trace of pain and remorse, one trace of actual agony, or had even smiled at them with the smile Megan knew Hannah had inherited - the words would not have escaped her lips.
"MEGAN STOP! THAT'S MY MUM!" howled Hannah even though she knew it wasn't. Still, it didn't stop her from crumpling lower to the ground, holding her tear-stricken face and digging her nails into her cheeks in agony of watching her mother drown in flames right in front of her eyes. Abigail's legs had given way, and she was on the ground...screeching and still pitifully reaching for them as she crawled with all of the strength she could muster. Her still-beautiful face was peeling away with every second the fire touched it...
At last, with one last bit of strength, Hannah's mother's outstretched arm fell gracefully to the mossy ground, her fingers slowly curling and turning a dark brown in colour.
Hannah gave a long pained wail before she turned away from her mother's corpse, clutching her chest in attempt to keep from vomiting.
Megan only let herself gaze at the charred corpse for a moment before spinning, stuffing her wand in her pocket and falling to her knees beside her friend. "'annah, get up. Get up. Gotta keep movin'... tha' wasna your mum. Wasn't. I'd never do that to Abi... that was. Not. 'er." Megan reached around Hannah's shoulders, and squeezed tightly. She wanted to just hold her, let her sob, be there. But Hannah's life, above all, was what Megan was fighting for.
"Get. Up." she ordered, voice harsher than it'd ever been when speaking to her best friend.
"I can't," sobbed Hannah pathetically in return. She was on the brink of hyperventilation, and now certainly wasn't a good time for that. The sky was slowly dimming and the air around the two was getting cold. Short gusts of wind started dissipating the small flames that were still present among Abigail's scorched body (or what was left of it). Hannah started violently shivering, and it wasn't merely because of her trauma. In the sky were a group of Dementors, hovering above the bloodbath beneath. Slowly, one by one, with frighteningly unmistakable ease, they started their descent toward the ground -- thirsty for souls.
Megan shivered now as well, and glanced up, feeling suddenly sick. Dementors. She hated Dementors. A girl who thrived off of the happiness of her friends, a good sense of humour, and not taking anything seriously was putty next to one and she knew it. Shuddering, Megan felt Hannah's back rise and fall frantically. There was no time for this. She refused to lose Hannah. Not after everything. Not fucking now. Megan spun Hannah around, knowing she'd probably be leaving bruises on her friend's arms with her tight grip, but couldn't care anymore. "HANNAH." She yelled, giving her friend a hard shake. "Shut the fuck up."
Megan had never. Not once. Spoken to Hannah in such a way.
"Listen to me, fucking listen. You will die if you stay here, and you know I'll fucking die right along with you so listen to me and get the fuck up."
She swallowed, and the tears could be easily seen. Megan let her mask of anger and confidence lift for just a moment. "Hannah, I won't fucking lose you, I can't, you know that, now GET! UP!" She was shouting by the end.
Hannah looked up at Megan, teeth chattering. She wanted to give up. She wanted with all her might to crawl into a ball, hug her knees close, and not have to live another moment. What happened to her was more than she could bear, more than anyone could bear...
But there was something about Megan's face when she stared down at her. Pain shot through her arm from where Megan clutched her arm tightly. But the funny thing was, Hannah knew that if Megan were the one on the ground, wishing that death would relieve her from all she had experienced, she would be more than fierce with her. If it came to it, she would drag her best friend to safety, no matter what happened to her in the process. There would be no giving up.
That what inspired Hannah to pick herself up and keep going. Nothing more and nothing less.
In the mad dash to get as far away from the giants as possible, it took Terry longer than normal to realize something else was off. The newly dead students rising behind him didn't faze him with his sympathetic nervous system in overdrive, but the site of two very familiar figures nearly knocked him over.
Lord and Lady Boot stared blankly down at their son, and he stared back with wide eyes, too shocked to do anything for a moment. But as both of his parents swiped at him, instinct kicked in, and he jumped back, wand raised.
I did not sign up for this, he thought, taking another step back as his parents advanced, the steps twitchy and automatic. He noticed the lack of a plan of attack in their movements, but his mind couldn't tell him if that could be used to his advantage or not. Instead, it instructed him to move out of arm's length, and he obeyed, trying to process what was going on.
Think, Terry, think. And move! Moving is good, he told himself, trying to wrack his brain for what to do while avoiding his parents. It would figure, wouldn't it, that the only time they pay attention is when they're dead.
His mother swiped at his right, and his father at his left. Terry ducked, pushing between his corpsified parents, coughing at the smell.
As he turned around, Terry couldn't help but notice a weight of hopeless settle on his shoulders. Even without seeing them, he knew that Dementors had to be around. What else could cause such a feeling?
You can't do it. You can't do this… this whatever it is you thought you would do, a voice said inside his head. Just give up, hm?
I should, he replied. It isn't like there's really any reason, right? It's all just a bunch of shite. It even smells like shite.
The voice in his head started to agree, but he cut it off. It didn't smell like shite; it smelled like death. Terry coughed again, pulling his mind back into the present just in time to register the blow across the side of his head from his father.
"Stop it!" he shouted at them. "You're not supposed to be attacking me! You're bloody dead!" You're supposed to be my parents! he added mentally, scrambling to his feet.
With that doing basically nothing to stop his parents, he again wracked his brain for something that would help, trying to stay a safe distance from them. Think. Think. Inferi… Inferi…
A spell entered his mind, and he pointed his wand to the ground between his parents. "Incendio!" he shouted, looking away, trying not to think about his parents burning in a fire of his own creation.
Anthony Goldstein attempted to view the battle unfolding around him as one massive Arithmancy problem: if he moved his arm to avoid it being bitten by a salivating werewolf, then he had to mind the return jerk which may displace his body and be the precursor to a loss of balance. Likewise, the movements and primordial rhythms of the giants and trolls came in twos. If he were to hear simply one footstep which made the ground shake, it would merit a quick turn-around to ensure that the second footstep would not be in fact landing atop him.
This slight distancing from the reality of the situation kept him a calm observer, which was infinitely preferable to being an active participant. Indeed, wasn't this behaviour the culmination of this term at Hogwarts? He'd drifted from Padma, from Terry, from Theodore. His guilt over how he'd handled his relationship with Parvati - and how he'd handled its demise - had effectively kept him from pursuing the opposite sex, and Anthony had retreated into the state of academic bachelorhood that had all-but-guaranteed him excellent N.E.W.T. scores.
But when a particularly chilling feeling of hopelessness descended upon his logical, stoic heart, he suddenly knew with an analytical premonition that he wouldn't have to worry about his N.E.W.T.s for very much longer.
The Dementor was right overhead, its skeletal hands already reaching out for him. Anthony wondered how long it had been there - if it had been there all along. Perhaps the Dementor had been hanging over for months now, delighting in the romantic misery and devastating loss that had been plaguing Anthony since last summer.
He fought the shrouded predator, of course. Anthony was a member of the D.A. after all, and his Patronus was well-formed, his technique well-studied. He was brave, and the spells and hexes he showered upon the wispy enemy had some powerful magic behind them, almost clinical in its calculation.
Several years ago, Tracey Davis had surprised Anthony with a passionate snog at the Halloween masquerade.
This surprise kiss was unfortunately not quite as enjoyable.
The screaming was like a symphony to Daphne Greengrass, but the villain(s) behind it wasn't quite clear yet. After running out of the stands and outmaneuvering more trolls and giants than she'd ever wanted to, Daphne wanted to know who was behind this. Sure, she had an idea, but until there was confirmation, she wasn't going to do anything but keep herself out of harms' way.
There was so much blood everywhere, and she couldn't quite figure out if she was slipping in that or mud. Her fingers curled around her wand, protecting herself with defense-only spells. Just in case.
Then she spotted a familiar head of dark hair, a head of hair that was completely covered in blood. "PANSY," Daphne howled, shoving her way through the crowd. "Have you seen Tracey!?"
Pansy looked her worst. She was covered from head to foot in mud and blood, a nasty combination. She and a few of the braver students had just taken down a troll. She'd already seen too many students killed to count, and that arm.. Pansy shuddered with the thought, hoping the same wouldn't happen to her or Draco.
She was brought out of her pity-fest by a familiar voice calling her name. She turned towards the voice and heard it get louder, until Daphne burst through the crowd of ragged people. "No," Pansy shouted back, trying to be louder than the horrific sounds of death, "I saw her earlier but we got lost in the crowd. Have you seen Draco?"
"There's still some on their brooms," Daphne answered, pointing to the whizzing characters above her head. Harry Potter was valiantly attempting to stop trolls from attacking students. What an idiot!
The castle was spent. Everything one could possibly imagine attacking the school was attacking the school. A shriek to their left, and Daphne watched a Dementor snog the hell out of some third year Hufflepuff. Thank Salazar. Shut that bint up for good. Werewolves, vampires, Inferi, trolls, and giants -- what a combination.
"I think... I think the Dark Lord's behind this," she yelled above the din. Her voice sounded gleeful. All she needed was the arrival of Death Eaters, and she would be certain enough to fight alongside them! "Pansy, this is it! This is what we've been waiting for!"
Pansy also watched the Hufflepuff have her soul sucked from her body, but had a less than happy expression about it. Sure, she hated Hufflepuffs as much as the next Slytherin, but why kill them?
What we've been waiting for? Pansy's mind screamed. The death of the Dark Lord and the ability for her life to go on? No, she was sure that wasn't what Daphne meant. Pansy wrinkled up her pert nose and shuddered. "Right. The moment. With the Dark Lord and all of that fun." Oh Salazar she hoped Potter won.
"If you see Tracey --" Daphne started, but a loud CRACK nearby knocked her off her feet. The front of her robes were smeared with mud. "What's going on?"
"Don't you know?"
Daphne swung around on her hands and knees, staring up at the gaunt face of Bellatrix Lestrange. It was true! The Dark Lord was coming; Harry Potter would be defeated soon!
Oh dear lord, Pansy's psycho soon-to-be Aunt by marriage. Her mind was racing. should she kneel? It wasn't the Dark Lord, and she was going to be family, but she did not need to have the Unforgivables preformed on her. She needed to get back to the fight so they weren't completely destroyed by the Death Eaters and their little (big) friends. "Bellatrix." Her voice shook as she spoke, but hopefully the two would guess that it was because of the fighting going on.
"It's time!" Bellatrix shrieked, jerking Daphne up by her upper arm and tossing her into Pansy. "Get up, and fight for your Lord."
There was another crack followed by another and another, but Daphne only noticed Bellatrix. That was her mentor, the witch she strived to be. Swiping the back of her hand across her face, Daphne stood up, her stance as regal as she felt, and bowing her head. "We will not fail Him."
Bellatrix didn't seem to feel the same way about Pansy, and her wavering voice.
Pansy took a deep breath and put on her actress face. She would simply have to fake it, pretending to support the Dark Lord so she didn't get killed outright, and slip away when she had the chance. She held her chin a bit higher and bowed slightly. Echoing Daphne's words, Pansy raised her voice just a bit. "We will not fail The Dark Lord."
She knew her choice was simple, death or slavery. She'd take the temporary slavery for now, if it saved her hide.
Bellatrix Disapparated with another crack, emerging somewhere else on the battlefield. Daphne nodded to Pansy, twirling her wand in her hand. All thoughts of Tracey Davis were nowhere to be found at the moment. "Ready?"
Pansy paled (though with her muddy face, it wasn't visible) but clutched her wand tighter and nodded slowly. She would either have to disapparate across the field or get lost in the crowd of people before Daphne would even notice she was gone. Bellatrix was out of their sight now, for the moment.
"Why do you do this?" Pansy asked before she even thought about what she was saying. Oh well, no sense in turning away now. "Why do you want to follow him? Why do you believe in what he's doing? He's killing innocent people!"
"No one is innocent, Pansy Parkinson. Certainly not you," Daphne hissed, her lips curling up. Her face was red, and the rain poured down her face. She turned her head and spat. "I follow Him because he is right. Muggles and Muggle-borns have no place here."
Oh, Daphne was itching to test her Curses out on Parkinson right now.
Pansy backed up a few paces, her wand held out in front of her, but not high enough to alert Daphne. She heard a scream from nearby and turned her head slightly to look at a giant just a few yards from Daphne's left, terrorizing a Ravenclaw. She watched the Giant lean down and rip off the 5th year's arm, blood spewing from her body as he used the arm as a club, knocking the screaming girl into the mud.
"How is she not innocent? How does that girl deserve that?" Pansy nearly screamed, her eyes back on Daphne. Oh, she felt like she was going to loose her breakfast.
"I don't answer to you, and I certainly don't respect you anymore," Daphne taunting, raising her wand to Pansy's chest. "But I'll give you a head start. Get out of my face, or you'll be the first person I test my Killing Curse out on."
Pansy knew when to stay and fight her battles and when to turn tail and run, and this was certainly a running moment. Her eyes narrowed at Daphne and she muttered "You are sick." With a loud crack, she disapparated to the opposite side of the battlefield.
The entire field, entire area looked apocalyptic. Millicent had not been able to completely cope with this, for as much as she pledged her undying hatred of Hogwarts, it was a home away from what had never been home, and she loved the outdoors most. Having fled from the stands, Millicent gazed around at the cataclysm with abject horror. A logical, sneering voice in the back of her mind told her that all these dark creatures could mean only one thing, but as she flung herself to the muddy ground, narrowly avoiding a tree uprooted and chucked by a roaring giant, she reflected on the nauseated feeling the rose at the thought of actually killing the other students.
They were stupid sods, and she did love to beat on them, but that crossed the line. It'd be Azkaban for sure, if this was ever wrapped by the Ministry.
Millicent backed into long boards of wood sticking out of the ground at a sharp, jagged angle, the remnants of what might have been the Hufflepuff stands, and heaved, her breathing quick and heavy. Blood was everywhere, the sound of snapping bones, trolls swung their clubs into the backs of sobbing second-years that flew and never got back up. It was next to impossible to see in the downpour, and her hair was pasted to the sides of her face, rivers of water coasting down her forehead.
As her head whipped around in every which direction, taking it all in out of some sick, inevitable fascination, to her left she heard a sudden, tremendously loud series of CRACKs! First anticipating thunder, she looked blankly up at the sky, where no lightning had flashed, and then it hit her.
Apparition. It wasn't supposed to be possible, but, the castle had been doing a lot of weird things. Wondering, with a hysterical laugh bubbling out of her mouth, what had happened now, she stepped out from behind the fallen wood and gaped at the mass of dark-robed, white-masked witches and wizards, tearing into the students with the rest of the attackers.
Millicent had known, had suspected it would be them. Was this it, then? The moment? Would the Slytherins be judged, like the fire had promised, were they expected to do this, as well? Join them in the slaughter? It sounded like a fabulous idea, but that glee felt surfaced and shallow, like years of instinct and reacting as she knew she was expected, and faced with this… it was terrible, it was wonderful. Millicent hesitated, her hand gripping her wand, ineffective though it would be against everything, in her hands.
A hulking figure separated itself from the spreading group, and Millicent watched, dazed, as he walked toward her, stopped in front of her, the dark gashes in his mask tilting down to her. She couldn't see his eyes, and her imagination told her red, red, red, like blood.
"Millicent," the mask growled, not unkindly, muffled through the white.
And Millicent knew. She had long ago suppressed the instinct to step backwards and cringe from him, and stared up, her traces of fear dispersing into an immediate defensive. A necessary rebellion. She only nodded, wary of what would come from his mask.
"Join us," he urged, clapping his heavy, heavy hand only her shoulders, and Millicent looked at him with dumb incomprehension.
"Strong, cruel girl," he insisted, Millicent wondering at the smile she could hear, "I've raised you for this moment. You'll make me proud."
She knew it was a lie—he'd been disgusted in raising her, that she wasn't small, petite, beautiful, and as talented as she had wanted. But as he pulled away to fling a jet of blinding green at a Gryffindor Fifth Year, Hagger she thought, Millicent found herself not caring.
She didn't care that he wasn't proud now, that it was conditional, that only now was he paying attention to her, when she could be of some further use to him. That he had to be lying, had to be, because it he'd looked at her, and she couldn't see his eyes or the lie in her fact, and she could feel herself flying.
Millicent Bulstrode hated her father, as much as she couldn't help but love him. And all she had ever wanted was for him to look at her, and see someone he needed, not something failed to throw away. Nodding, though he couldn't see it, Millicent nodded, and nodded, her head bobbing stupidly as she blinked back tears.
At least it was raining. No one would ever have to know. Curling her fist around her wand for defensive purposes, she turned slowly around, and narrowed her eyes against the flooding water.
Huddled beneath the cracked and crooked wood of the shattered Hufflepuff stands was a sobbing first year. Millicent walked toward him, knowing exactly how his blood would look splash against her fist, and washed away by the rain.
"GET BACK TO THE CASTLE! NOW! NOW! NOW!" Harry yelled, hovering on his Firebolt above the crowd of students. He hurled hex after hex at the Giants, and while some of them made a dent, it wasn't enough to stop them from ripping off limbs and throwing students around.
Harry dove, effectively blocking a giant from snatching up a first year Gryffindor girl. Her face had either been painted red for the match, or she'd been smeared with blood. Either way, Harry knocked her over on purpose as another giant swung for her. "RUN!"
She scampered away the best she could until she found herself in the clutches of a werewolf. Harry watched in horror as it shredded the girl piece by piece, and then let out a terrifying howl.
And then suddenly, one by one, there were loud cracks across the grounds, and the Death Eaters, hooded and masked appeared. No sooner had they arrived, they started blasting students with Curses. One blonde witch dropped to the ground, convulsing and shrieking under the Cruciatus Curse.
"REDUCTO!" The Death Eater was blasted off his feet, sprawling out in the mud. His mask fell down, and Harry saw that it was Goyle's father, looking simultaneously tetchy and dumbfounded, as if he'd been swatted by a fly.
Goyle's Curse headed straight toward him, but it was suddenly diverted by an unknown shield around him. Looking around, Harry reversed himself, stopping short when another crack -- this one loud enough to make him deaf -- startled him. He nearly fell off his broom until he noticed the paler than pale face and the red, slanted eyes of Voldemort before him.
"Harry Potter," he whispered lowly, and somehow Harry could still hear him above the rain and the shouting below. "Are you ready to finish this?"
What was strange was that Harry was twenty-five feet in the air.
Blaise looked over the battlefield with a sort of empathetic horror. From his vantage post on his broom, he could see all the carnage as it was unfolding on the Hogwarts grounds. Giants, trolls, Inferi, and Death Eaters, oh my! He suspected that Voldemort would be showing any second, a thought which both terrified him and made him strangely determined. Giants batted at the tail of his broom, and Blaise barely was able to keep aloft with the sheer displacement of wind as their mighty arms cut through the air.
He had been helping as best he could, of course. Hexing creatures from above was a difficult sort of aiming procedure - he didn't want to hex a student, of course. Unless it was Finnegan. And even then he'd sort of feel bad. Blaise turned his head to yell at Draco: "We need to do somethin'! I can't get a good hex in from up here!"
Thank goodness that he and Draco had kept their wands during the match - they had intended to cheat with them, but now their possession of the illegal aid might very well save their lives. Blaise sensed another ranting journal entry about the importance of cheating if he lived through this.
That bloody vow. Draco hadn't expected the finals to turn into a battle for their lives. He just pictured Potter dying off someplace far away where the vow wouldn't even be needed. Now he was blasting when he could, but dodging more than anything. And that stupid vow meant he had to fight or he'd die anyway. Lovely. At least he had a height advantage, which was more than he could say for the poor sods in the stands.
Unlike Blaise, though, he didn't really care if a student got caught in a blasting curse or stunning hex. At least he wasn't using Unforgivables. Besides, he was fairly certain they'd rather take part of a blast or stun instead of being ripped apart or killed outright. Therefore he was justified in his own mind.
At Blaise's call, though, he nodded and swung around to fly over closer to his best mate. "There's only so much we can do, mate! Unless you've got troll repellant in your trousers!" he shouted, putting up another shield charm and dodging another swinging monstrous hand.
"I've got nearly everythin' magical an' wonderful in my trousers, mate!" Blaise answered back as he banked hard to the right. "'cept that!" He summoned a bit of greenery to whack a troll in the face down below who was terrorizing some third year Slytherins. The Gryffindor in him couldn't help but join in and help out the students; but the Slytherin prevented him from all-out getting on the ground and pitching in. Blaise was brave, not stupid - for the most part.
Unbeknownst to the pair, two sets of eyes were on the ground, and both were set on Draco. Revenge against the useless rat who had betrayed their Dark Lord would be very sweet indeed.
Amycus Carrow released control of a few Inferi, allowing them to trudge along without aide, so that focus could be on the son of Lucius Malfoy. Wand raising at the target, Amycus glanced over at Alecto and smiled. "This will be pleasant."
Alecto smiled her trademark close-lipped smile, her blue eyes chilling. Like her brother, she was fat and filthy. "I look forward to reminding any son of Malfoy that disobedience is met with the greatest reprimand," she answered as she stepped towards her brother, raising her wand as well. "Would you do the honours?"
"I would be delighted to, dear sister," cooed Amycus, returning his own grim smile as he tightened the grip on his wand. His double-chin wobbled. Although he entertained the idea of using the Killing Curse, the boy wouldn't really learn anything from the lesson. A bit of pain was in order, but first he needed to be swatted from the air. Amycus uttered a dark curse, sending a small blue fireball streaking towards Draco Malfoy. That should do the trick.
Alecto added to the curse by muttering a summoning charm to the boy so that he would fall towards them. After all, it wouldn't be any fun if he were to fall into the open mouth of a waiting giant, would it?
Blaise saw a flash of blue out of the corner of his eye, and he blinked. The bright flash had nearly blinded him. "Draco...?" he called out uncertainly - where did his friend go? "Now is not the time to fuckin' play hide an' seek!"
"Uhm," came Draco's startled reply. He was starting to get pulled in a direction by some unseen force and it had caught him by surprise. "Something's got me, Blaise! Help!" All right, so he wasn't that great under pressure. Something was yanking him out of the air and that had set him into a panic, considering he knew what was on the ground. Well, at least he hadn't seen the fireball streaking in his direction yet.
Blaise flew over to where Draco appeared to be... sinking? "Mate...?" he queried, zipping around his descending friend. "I think you're too heavy? Just calm down, yeah? Here, let me - "
But whatever magic Blaise was about to perform was abruptly null and void as the Italian saw the massive blue fireball heading straight towards Draco. Unthinkingly, he drove his broom directly in its path, never once considering any other option. The tail of his broom (and the steering charms) were melted into ash in only a moment. Blaise spun helplessly through the air, eventually landing with quite some force on the ground. He swore he heard something crack, but as he struggled to get up, he knew that he'd only have some nasty bruises. Staggering, he tried to get his bearings, his wand out and his broom smoldering a few steps behind him.
"Blaise!" shouted Draco, diving his broom down after the fallen Italian, not even realising that the blast was meant for him. They were under attack by magic, and that meant Death Eaters. Which meant for certain they knew he no longer intended to aide the Dark Lord. He jumped off as soon as he was close enough to the ground, wand at the ready. So much for that height advantage.
While his blast had been intercepted by that annoying little Zabini prat, Alecto's summoning charm had done enough to get the two young Slytherins close to the two Carrows when they hit ground. With Alecto at his side, Amycus leveled his wand at the pair and grinned darkly. "Ah, I see I'll get the chance to watch all three Zabinis die, then."
Professor Sibyll Trelawney floated through the battlefield as ethereally as if she was distantly related to a Dementor. Her glasses had magnified her eyes to insect-like proportions, and her thin lips were drawn in a dimly disapproving line. She had anticipated this frenzied descent of Death, of course – horrifying predictions were her specialty – but it gave her no pleasure to see it realized. There was little Charles Benton, killed just as terribly as she had foreseen in his third year! And there was Rachel June, ripped to bits by a werewolf as Trelawney had once warned.
Still, despite her preoccupation with her Sight, Trelawney was fighting bravely. From her wand came all manners of healing and spells, sent directly towards the students in panicked pain. Those were the ones who needed the most help, after all.
Professor Filius Flitwick may have been tiny, but he wasn't one to be underestimated – even if everyone did anyway. With a high-pitched yip, he charmed a bush to sprout heavy vines that reached out and attacked a troll, shaking and strangling it until it finally went limp. Flitwick then leapt atop the toe of a giant that had been harassing a sixth year, biting mightily.
Hagrid roared in rage as a troll sank its teeth into his shoulder. His bellows echoed over the grounds and into the surrounding forest. Groping wildly against his attacker, Hagrid picked up something big and heavy (later discovering that it was indeed a stone bench) and bludgeoned the troll over the head with it until it stopped moving.
Still, his howls did not go unheard. They rattled deep into the heart of the
The Centaurs had heard Hagrid's call. Hooves dug into the muddy ground, horns tooting loud and unwavering to alert them all – and only a few moments had passed before the Centaurs raced into the clearing. Although they arrived only shortly after the Ministry did, they selflessly set to work, reclaiming the territory that was once theirs from the hands of Voldemort and his followers.
Harry dove straight down toward the ground in time to see Grawp run from behind Hagrid's Hut and join the fray. For one apprehensive moment, Harry worried that Grawp might turn his back on Hagrid and join Voldemort's rampaging giants. But the moment he heard a strangely human voice roar, "HERMY! RUN!" Harry breathed a sigh of relief. He watched Grawp swipe giants' legs out from under them, keeping them from stampeding over clusters of students. Maybe Grawp didn't even the odds against the giants, but it was something.
Hagrid even seemed to be holding his own against several trolls, banging five of them in turn with his umbrella. One troll ended up with flower bushes for arms. "Git offa th'grounds, ya devils!"
It might have been funny, even amusing, if Harry wasn't currently being chased by Voldemort. At the last possible moment before impact, Harry pulled up on his broom sharply, never losing his balance.
The rain was still coming down in blinding sheets, and more than once, lightning nearly struck Harry or his broom. Every turn he made, though, Voldemort followed -- Apparating, Disapparating, hovering, hexing, and cursing. Each time, Harry thought to swallow the small phial of Felix Felicis in his pocket. Merlin, he hoped the rest of Dumbledore's Army had taken his advice and brought it with them wherever they went. He also hoped they had actually been able to get a hold of it long enough to drink it.
A Curse blasted over his head as he swerved to the left, and then the right. Another crack. Voldemort hovered in front of Harry, and he jerked his Firebolt to the right, trying not to smack right into the repulsive figure. Harry's shoulder banged against the side of the castle, and now he nearly lost his grip on the Firebolt. His foot slipped off the end of the broom, and his glove-covered fingers clutched around the neck tightly. Falling from sixty feet in the air would certainly put him out of the fight quickly, and that was simply not an option.
Think of it like outrunning that Rogue Bludger second year. Or more like out flying the Horntail, really. Nasty, brutal, violent. Could end in sudden death. I've got to keep him occupied until Hermione and Ron get rid of Nagini. I can't do anything until Nagini is dead, Harry thought to himself frantically, systematically shutting down his mind so that Voldemort couldn't invade it.
Higher and higher Harry went, the Firebolt turning with relative ease. The sky was so dark that Harry almost forgot that it was mid-day. Of course, this sudden realisation brought new questions. Harry had to wonder how the werewolves were in their current wolfish states. There was no full moon in the afternoon, not even in the midst of a thunderstorm. Had they learned to control their wolfish sides? Had they taken some sort of potion to act as the full moon?
And why was Harry even thinking about this when Voldemort hot on his tail?
Scratch that. In front of him again.
Harry grew more and more frustrated with every Apparition. This was Voldemort's trick, and Harry knew it. He'd been using it nearly every skirmish, every battle, and it was growing tiresome. Especially when -- and Harry could actually hear Hermione's shrill voice from third year -- You can't Apparate on Hogwarts' grounds! Honestly! When are you two going to read Hogwarts: A History?
The wards on the castle must have been completely broken when they'd destroyed the Horcrux a few weeks ago. That had been why Voldemort wanted Malfoy to test the wards, but, if Malfoy was feeding the Death Eaters' misinformation, then how did they know they could Apparate? He supposed, on the assumption that he could actually trust Malfoy at all, that the Death Eaters could have tested it over weeks on their own. There had certainly been enough time for it, but then how come no one had seen anyone suspicious enter the --
Hang on, Harry fumed to himself silently. It would have been easy to have tested the Anti-Apparition Wards Polyjuiced as a Muggle wouldn't it? A quick Apparition to the
Crack! Dodge to the right around the billowing robes. Crack! Scale upwards over the pale, pasty white face. Crack! Nearly halt in order to refrain from slamming right into him. Next time, Harry had half a mind to bash right into him and clobber him over the head with his broom. Somehow, he didn't think that was a good idea.
Harry circled the castle, over and over again, darting between towers and archways, trying to stall as long as he could without drawing Voldemort's attention to his plan. But as if on cue, Harry's scar suddenly seared with pain, seemingly splitting at the seam. He gritted his teeth, rain splashing against his chin, flattening his hair, and leaned into the wind, urging the Firebolt faster and faster...
Until he could almost hear the snake-like hiss in his head. Delaying the inevitable will only make it worse for you. Delaying the inevitable only makes me angrier.
"You think I care if I make you angry?" he muttered under his breath, quite certain that Voldemort could hear him.
Crack! Voldemort appeared in front of him, wand directed at Harry's head. "Oh, I think you do."
"That's really the last time I let you do that," Harry growled, pitching forward, compelling the Firebolt to its top speed.
Voldemort didn't have the time necessary to think about his Disapparition, which was just how Harry planned it. With the force of a speeding nogtail, Harry crashed into him, tumbling from his broom and latching onto Voldemort's arm, kicking Voldemort's feet out from under him. If Voldemort was going to Disapparate, he was going to have to do it with Harry attached.
In a flurry of red and black robes, they battered into Dumbledore's tower, skidding down the tiles. Harry's back ripped to shreds over the unyielding stone shingles, knocking his elbow hard against a gargoyle. He yelped, jerking his arm inward. He couldn't quite remember Voldemort ever as bumbling and clumsy as he was now, his thin fingers darting out for anything to stop his fall and missing nearly everything.
The overhang before an eighty foot fall was as good as either of them were going to get. Harry's hands locked onto Voldemort's ankle. Voldemort's fingers pried into some groove. If Harry fell off the castle, Voldemort was going, too.
Blaise would have wished to make a fabulously cutting, memorably brave comment in return to Amycus's insult, but instead, he gave a rather enraged warrior cry: "NAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!!!"
Lunging at the rotund Death Eater with exactly no care as for the wand pointed in his direction, Blaise demonstrated once again that he had very little survival instinct - but at least the Death Eater likely wasn't expecting a physical attack.
Alecto gasped and instantly her wand was pointed at the boy, casting a blasting hex. Blaise flew off of her brother and landed in a heap of arms and legs going in every direction at once.
Amycus managed to retain his standing position during the attack, but it bothered him that he could be caught off-guard like that. He straightened his robe and yanked off the mask that had gotten twisted in the attack. "Well, then. Thank you, sweet sister." He leveled his wand on Blaise and narrowed his eyes. "Let me show you how to tame your beast, Malfoy." Making a stabbing motion with his wand, he growled out a painful word. "Crucio!"
Blaise's eyes flung open - he knew what that word meant - and was promptly blasted with the Cruciatus Curse. Jagged throttles of pain moved all over his body; tears sprang to his eyes as he gasped once and then screamed. He'd been under the Cruciatus before, of course - but he'd at least been prepared for it. Nothing was as bad as this - nothing. The battle faded away, only the sounds of a woman laughing and congratulating someone reaching him.
"No!" howled Draco, pointing his wand and using the first of the spells he had learned from Potter. It was one Draco knew only too well. "SECTUMSEMPRA!" came his hoarse yell, sending that painful spell arcing towards the distracted Amycus Carrow with as much force as he could muster. Draco being no slouch in spell casting and angry besides, that was something to be worried about.
The spell hit Amycus square in the chest, bisecting his left arm at the shoulder and taking off the left ear. Blood sprayed everywhere, causing the Death Eater to topple backwards in shock, twitching. Draco merely firmed his lips and pointed his wand at Alecto.
Alecto howled in rage, nearly tearing out a chunk of her own hair in horror at seeing her brother toppling backwards, bloody and missing an arm. Without wasting a second, she sent a quick fire spell towards Amycus - cauterizing the wound in hopes it would keep him from bleeding to death. Her wand then pointed at Draco, and she shot off a sharp icicle with a center of sheer poison.
Blaise, in the meanwhile, was recovering on the ground, his limbs still quivering from the force of the Cruciatus. He recognised the curse that the woman had thrown - and with a hoarse voice yelled: "Don' melt that fucker! It's got poison innit!"
Luckily, Draco hadn't even considered melting the sharp bit of ice racing towards him. He honestly hadn't expected her to be able to respond so fast as to get two spells off while he had his wand trained on her. No more underestimations. Draco just deflected the incoming icicle towards a troll and readjusted his aim on Alecto Carrow. Salazar, what a stupid name. At that, another spell from Potter. "Contundo!"
Alecto was hit by the spell, and she spiraled backwards with a shriek. The effects of the spell were to use the surrounding air to crush the target; Alecto gasped for breath before crashing to the ground. How did this little idiot learn such things? She wondered, dazed and in a great deal of pain. Her ribs were broken, that much she knew immediately.
The shadow of a giant fell over her, and she tried to move out of its way – but failed. There was a popping sound, and then silence.
"Ewww..." Blaise supplied helpfully.
Draco didn't have time to react or check to see if either Carrow was still alive. The giant loomed too close and there were dozens if not hundreds of other targets to fight today. Still, he made sure Blaise was on his feet. "You all right, mate?"
Blaise nodded, exhaling. "Yeah, 'm fine," he answered, dusting himself off. "I'll be great." Glancing apologetically at his ruined broom, he gestured to Draco. "If ya want… you can get back up there. I'll be okay. An' they're gonna be comin' after you more than me, you know? You'll be safer in the sky."
Draco pursed his lips and shook his head. "I didn't just save your arse in order to leave you here," he smirked. "Let's try to get closer to the castle. Don't worry, I'll watch your back." He chuckled then, if just from the elated feeling he had from the adrenaline rush. It'd be nice if the rain stopped, though.
Bellatrix Lestrange's heavily sunken eyes darted rapidly across the battlefield. The army of the Dark Lord was truly something to behold. While she at first felt that the Dark Lord didn't need anything beyond his loyal Death Eaters, she had to admit that watching a giant or a troll ripping a student apart had a certain charm to it. A cruel smirk danced across her lips. Two times now, she'd been denied the chance to finish off the son of the Longbottoms. That was going to change today – they could bury him right alongside Potter and Dumbledore.
Her wand was up and prepared for the instant she spotted the boy, looking for any sign of a dumpy lad following around his more well known friends. He was such a follower, that one, and that made him extremely predictable. All the fear and terror in the air had such a calming effect for her and if there was a heaven for Bellatrix Lestrange, she was in it. Still, she regretted that Frank and Alice Longbottom were still alive. If she could have sent them as Inferi at their son, that would have been the ultimate enjoyment.
When she was nearly ready to give up on finding Longbottom, mentally reminding herself to deal with whomever kept her from her prize, her eyes landed on the back of a robed student that couldn't be anyone else than Neville Longbottom. With a cackle, she cast the same summoning spell she used on him at Volcanus, causing the student to hit the ground and skid over towards her feet.
"Aww, little Longbottom's fallen on the ground again. Poor, clumsy little Longbottom." She rather enjoyed taunting him with that little baby voice. She could tell it infuriated him. With a raise of her wand, her target was lifted to his feet and spun around to face her. The only problem was that this wasn't Neville Longbottom. "Who are you?" she screeched, angered at having been made a fool of.
Neville, who actually witnessed what happened and had his wand readied from fighting off a troll with Dean's help, turned towards Bellatrix with a decidedly grim look on his face. This was likely his last chance to strike down Bellatrix Lestrange. He could redeem his failure at Volcanus, get revenge for his parents, and revenge for Lavender all in one opportunity. Harry had taught him to fight and to protect others from Voldemort, but when he saw her and what she was doing to that poor student she had mistook for him, all thoughts of that fled his mind.
She had taken too much from him, from the Browns, from so many families. People like Bellatrix Lestrange wandered through life doing things that just screamed out "Kill me, Kill me." At this point, Neville was willing to oblige. He was breathing slowly and tried to remain calm, but he wasn't sure how long he would be able to keep it up.
He could have called out her name, but that would have just alerted her to his presence and possibly endanger the student she was currently using the Cruciatus on. Instead, he just aimed his wand and hit her squarely in the back with a blasting curse.
Bellatrix shrieked, losing her concentration on her spell and releasing the victim. There was slight satisfaction in the fact that he wasn't moving aside from a few twitches here and there. She turned to face her attacker and was instantly glad to see Longbottom was still alive for the moment. She threw her head back and howled with laughter. "Oh, you're learning!"
"Yes," Neville nodded, the anger welling inside of him. "If that's what it takes to bring you down, then so be it."
He gripped his wand so tight, his knuckles were white. "And now you bring all of this to attack a group of students... how pathetic." He was shaking so that his words were wavering. He likely didn't have much of a chance of beating her if she had any help, but he wasn't afraid of her. She could knock him down a hundred times and he would get back up each time to face her. She would have to kill him.
Parvati had managed to defeat a second Dementor with her rabbit Patronus when she saw Padma's ocelot bounding after another. She was relieved to discover that in all this mess, Padma was at least all right enough to be fighting Dementors. Still, she wanted a better look. Parvati gave her area of the battlefield a swift perusal and then went running the direction she'd seen the ocelot come from.
"PADMA!" she shouted at the top of her lungs. Parvati had to see for herself that Padma was still okay, and make sure she didn't need any help.
Where was Theodore? How had he gotten separated from her? Why had he gotten separated from her? This was a disaster, and Padma could scarcely breathe. It was so cold outside, and the Dementors kept circling around her. Her Patronus drove the creatures away, but more would usually replace them. The Dementors must be multiplying like mad.
After all, in a place like this, fear was thriving.
Someone yelled her name? A female someone. It couldn't be Lavender, not after she'd seen their childhood friend aimlessly walking the grounds. Padma thought "Lavender" might have made her way to Parvati, and though she'd been frantically searching for her twin, it had been nearly impossible in the fray.
Parvati looked as bad as Padma felt, and she rushed to her sister, casting a Patronus toward a group of Dementors along the way. Curiously, this Patronus was much brighter than the others. "Parvati! You're.. there you are! I was worried sick, and they... smashed... two girls... awful. I can't..."
"Are you all right?" Parvati asked frantically. She'd been worried about Padma ever since the trolls took the field, and things had only gotten exponentially worse since then. She thought Padma looked just as miserable as she felt.
Another Dementor, coming toward them. "Expecto Patronum!" Parvati shouted, pointing her wand firmly. Yes, hers was brighter, too.
"I-i'm fine," Padma lied. She was far from fine. She'd just witnessed two of her classmates brutally killed, just sent Theodore's little cousin back to hell with one simple Flame Spell.
"Oh, god, I was so worried," she repeated, almost forgetting about the battle going on. A shadow caught Padma's eye, and she shoved Parvati backward and into the mud to avoid being stomped by a giant. "Where's Harry? Why isn't he stopping this? I want to go home!"
Parvati quickly grabbed Padma's hand to pull herself back up. "He's got to be in the air, with the others," she said, shouting to be heard over all the battlefield din. She looked over her shoulders again, trying to keep up a steady check for threats. Constant vigilance, as they'd been drilled so many times. "I know Dean was, I saw him earlier."
It was useless to try and wipe the mud and grass and blood from her robes. They were so beyond repair, and Padma could kick herself for even thinking such silly thoughts. I'm not the Gryffindor here! She is, she tried to remind herself.
"H-have you seen Theodore? I lost him. The Inferi came, and after that, I lost him!"
Parvati shook her head. "I've hardly had time to see--" She grabbed Padma and dragged her a few stumbling steps, getting them out of the way of an oncoming troll. Thank Merlin the things were so stupid. "--see anyone," Parvati finished. "I was with Seamus, but..." She looked around, and Seamus seemed to have been lost somewhere in the muddy, bloody mess. She hoped he was holding up.
"Stupefy!" Padma shouted, aiming at a sneaking vampire. The spell seemed to have worked, much to Padma's relief. "He's around. He's tough, Parvati. He'll be all right." Right?
Parvati nodded. "We will, too," she said firmly. She was trying to convince herself as much as she was her sister. After all, if they didn't believe that, they really wouldn't make it out alive.
Padma nodded vehemently, thinking very much along the same lines as Parvati. Only Padma was wishing so very hard that she hadn't fallen on side, smashing her phial of Felix Felicis; she so desperately wanted to make it out of this.
"Did you take the potion?" Padma grabbed onto Parvati's hands, wide-eyed and frantic. If Parvati was able to down her potion, Padma would feel so much better. "Did you take the luck potion?"
"I didn't bring it out here!" Parvati replied, biting her lip. "It just never occurred to me that..."
She'd just been thinking about the Quidditch match: Gryffindor versus Slytherin, for the cup, biggest match of the year, chatting with Hermione about NEWTs all the way down, and pushing the War to the back of her mind. It had seemed safe. She felt stupid now, having ever thought she was safe, but there was naught to be done about it now.
"Did you?" Parvati asked.
Padma burst into tears, emptying her pockets and showing Parvati the broken phial. "I broke it. I got pushed in the bleachers when we were trying to get out, and it broke."
A familiar form passed by them, wandering aimlessly, wandless, and seemingly without a care in the world. "Anthony!" Padma shouted, out of her stupor for the moment. "ANTHONY!"
Grabbing Parvati's hand, she took off after him.
Parvati ran along behind her, effortlessly falling into pace with her sister. They had to catch Anthony--what was he thinking, wandering around like that? With no wand!? He was going to get himself killed.
"ANTHONY!" Parvati shouted along with Padma. "Anthony, wait!"
With Anthony's aimlessly wandering pace, it was easy to catch up to him. As they reached him, Parvati grabbed his shoulder to spin him around. Strangely, he turned with no trouble at all. That was Parvati's first clue that something was wrong.
What stared back at them was not Anthony Goldstein. Anthony Goldstein, bitingly sarcastic, socially awkward, terribly sweet when he put his mind to it Anthony...was gone. His eyes were empty, looking blankly, unrecognizingly, at the twin girls who had been two of his best friends.
"Anthony...? Anthony! ANTHONY! No, no, no, no...." Padma moaned, clutching her forehead. Her shoulders started to shake, and her eyes burned. Anthony was gone. He must have forgotten his potion, too. It didn't look too good for them. Padma couldn't remember Theodore taking his either, and where was he?
Swiping at her eyes furiously, she stunned Anthony's hollow shell; it was better that he was unconscious, even if it wasn't really Anthony anymore. "C-come on, Parvati. We... just, come on."
Parvati shivered as Anthony went unconscious. It was better that way. She couldn't stand looking at those blank eyes.
With Anthony down, Parvati obeyed Padma's summons and reached for her hand. She was too late to grab it, though: another troll was charging through. "NO!" she screamed. Parvati had just found her twin: she couldn't lose her again. As she jumped back from the troll, though, a Dementor was coming in, and she had to dispatch her Patronus.
After dodging the troll and casting several Stunners at an advancing werewolf, Padma spun around, intending to return to Parvati.
But all she saw was more impending doom and another fallen friend.
Tracey had her wand out. She wasn't sure what to do with it now that she had it, but at least having it out at all was a complete step up from the last situation she had been in.
Not that this time even compared to that stupid fire. No, this time was much much worse, and Tracey wasn't oblivious to that fact. She looked around for some sort of sign of something to do....but all around her were students...and student parts....and death and carnage and trolls and Death Eaters and everything else that she was positive would haunt her dreams for the rest of her life. Even though it looked like that wouldn't be for too long at this point.
She was sure now that her lack of being able to act under pressure would be the death of her.
Daphne Greengrass had very mixed feelings upon seeing her old friend. By all accounts, they were now enemies on the battlefield. Tracey looked like a scared rabbit, and a hundred years ago (or maybe it just felt like a hundred years ago), Daphne would have felt protective and stood idly by to protect her friend.
"Tracey," Daphne warned, her wand at the ready. Her fingers curled at Tracey's elbow, jerking her out of the way as a troll lumbered by. It was a good thing the trolls and giants and everything else on the Hogwarts grounds appeared to have been given strict orders not to harm anyone fighting on the Right Side, lest Tracey be smashed into a pulp. "You need to pick a side, Tracey. You know what's right, and you know where I stand. Are you going to follow Parkinson's footsteps?"
This wasn't the Daphne that Tracey knew, even if she looked like her. Her dirty blonde pigtails were lifeless, dull, and muddy. Her eyes, though, her eyes looked more alive than they ever had.
Tracey gave a jump when Daphne grabbed her, startled out of her gaze. She had held her wand up defensively but quickly lowered it once she realized it was Daphne.
Was she really asking Tracey to pick a side? Now? If she couldn't do it during peace time, what made Daphne think Tracey had the balls to pick NOW? Daphne was right. Tracey knew what side her best mate was on. Tracey also knew what was right (or so she thought) and at the moment, they were both different sides.
Maybe she could stall. Just long enough for one of those trolls to come kill her before she had to make a choice. She blinked a few times as she looked around at the carnage. "What did Parkinson do?" she asked, her voice only half there.
"Not now, Tracey," Daphne growled, stepping in front of her and shaking her to snap her out of it. Her gaze was sharp on Tracey, missing nothing. Not the desire to run away, not the intent to stall. Not the disbelief.
It wasn't that Daphne didn't have sympathy; it was mostly out of fear that she'd lose Tracey forever. This battle would be over soon, and the Dark Lord would be victorious. Where would that leave Tracey?
Dead. Daphne would do it herself, if need be, if only so Tracey could be put out of her misery. "Snap out of it. If you don't snap out of it, you'll be dead."
Harry's grip was slipping. The combination of rain and aching scar made it almost impossible to keep his fingers clamped down on Voldemort's ankle. Voldemort's ankle. The concept was strange and repulsed him. Ankles and shins and wrists were things for humans, not monsters.
The robes over his left elbow were shredded, and a huge gash from the gargoyle bled freely, blending seamlessly with the crimson in his Quidditch robes. His wild hair amassed around the crown of his head.
Another jolt shot through his forehead. The pain magnified ten-fold without his fingers to press down on it, to split the pain with another pressure point. His eyes streamed, and his jaw locked with an audible snap. He swallowed a strangled grunt, grinding his teeth.
Harry didn't have long to think about the pain; Voldemort Disapparated without him. Flailing, Harry knew with utter certainty that the only thing that would stop this fall was one of the spires on the mini-towers, nearly seventy feet below.
That wasn't the worst bit, though; Voldemort had left a present in the form of a spell that felt like a crushing rock or an anvil in one of those Wile E. Coyote cartoons
The faster he fell, the louder he screamed. If he hit anyone, he would certainly crush them into an indistinguishable blob of robes and hair and flesh. Or maybe he'd be liquefied on impact. Hadn't he read a book some summer holiday, some left over science fiction comic book of Dudley's, where some character had been pulverised? What a way to go.
However it happened, Harry had failed one Horcrux shy of fulfilling his destiny.
Harry half expected his stomach to wiggle its way out of his mouth, followed by the entire 9 meters of intestine. His heart would rip from his chest, eyes popping out of their sockets and breaking his glasses. If he was lucky (in terms of pain and suffering), he'd be dead long before he reached the ground.
As he panicked and flapped madly, he found that his life did flash before his eyes, a useless fact he really didn't care to know at the moment. But it wasn't the brilliant thing talked up in books. No, it was awful. Terrible. Horrible even.
Harry thought of all the things he was sorry for in his life: for not convincing Dumbledore that Snape was evil, for not saving the Wizarding World as he promised, for playing the betrayal game the year before, for all the appalling things he'd said to Luna and Hermione and Ron, for using the Cruciatus Curse on Theodore Nott, for leading Draco Malfoy in Padma Patil's direction, for getting angry with Hermione third year when she tattled to McGonagall about the Firebolt, for throwing that badge at Ron's head in fourth year, for treating Parvati Patil poorly at the Yule Ball, for making his aunt and uncle as miserable as he did, for listening to Kreacher two years ago, for not using the mirror when he had the chance, for keeping Tom Riddle's diary, for letting Ginny get possessed twice...
The list went on and on, but most of all, he was sorry for wasting his parents' sacrifices.
As the summit augmented, spanning his entire gaze, all that Harry could do was shut his eyes. He clamped both hands over his glasses. Where was his bleeding wandless magic through force of will now? Had Voldemort's spell caused this? Or maybe the real question was: was Harry so afraid that he would rather face death than become a murder.
No, he's got to be stopped, Harry told himself firmly. Pulling his hands from his face, he shifted, squirmed until he was facing upward. He couldn't see his impending doom, and maybe that was for the best. His hands worked on pushing the spell off him physically. It likely would not work, but he had to try.
The wind whistled by him, and he noted the library windows. It was odd that some of the memory ghosts from the Founders' time were peering out of the window at him. One particular witch's fingers were locked around her lips, though Harry could see the shock. Perhaps something happened on this day nearly one thousand years ago?
Harry brought his knees up, wrestling with the invisible enchantment to no avail. Third floor windows. His nails clawed into it, probing for some sort of catch, some sort of release. It was completely solid. Second floor windows, more students. More looks of horror and shock, more witnesses to the downfall of Harry Potter.
He cringed, awaiting impact.
It came in the form of twin, enormous hands catching him, cushioning the blow. The rain began to pelt Harry's face once more, and it seemed as though the world had come rushing back at him. He opened his eyes, adrenaline flooding through his veins. Sitting up in the enormous hands, he let out a whooping cry.
"Harry -- no die!" Grawp bellowed, dropping Harry to the ground without a second thought.
Rubbing his aching back (and now arse), Harry noticed his wand half buried in the mud. The spell had disappeared, and Harry looked up toward the castle to see Voldemort hovering near the tallest tower -- the Astronomy Tower. He grabbed his wand, not bothering to reply to Grawp, and Apparated.
Parvati saw the hooded figures take the pitch and resisted the urge to scream again. The Dementors were starting to fall back, but there were still giants and trolls everywhere -- and now Death Eaters. What else could they be? Death Eaters, the ones who killed her parents, who killed Lavender, who destroyed her life.
Suddenly, she was less scared. Parvati Patil was angry. She was angry, and she was going to use it. She got her wand out and decided that finally, the right people were going to pay for everything that had happened to her this year. Without another thought, Parvati charged forward, throwing a particularly nasty Stinging Hex on the first black cloak she came upon.
Fenrir Greyback sniffed the air. His hybrid form had many benefits in that he was able to look almost human, but retained the brilliant sense of smell – not to mention the teeth and claws. Something nearby smelled good. And on this battlefield, that was a welcome smell. With a snarl, he tore out the throat of the boring child in his claws and dropped the corpse to the ground so he could search for the source of that smell.
It didn't take long, though, as he spotted a lovely young bird running directly to the fray. There was nothing quite like a meal that delivered itself.
The Death Eater knocked her down quickly with just a Blasting Curse. He had clearly decided she was not much of a threat, and that there was bigger game available on the field. Parvati scrambled back to her feet, intending to show him that she was not to be trifled with, when she saw the werewolf.
She knew it was a werewolf, even if it looked slightly different; she found the 5 Signs Which Identify A Werewolf running through her head involuntarily. The fur and the ears, teeth, and claws. It looked like a bastardized cross of human and werewolf. Was that even possible? It was an odd little thought, detached from the one that was screaming at her to RUN. Another thought came to the fore, though, fueled by the anger that had sent her charging in: this was a Death Eater, the same as the others. She hadn't been in the DA for the past two years just to freeze up and panic. She was going to fight.
"Here, pretty pretty," cooed Greyback, still out of her hearing range and loping over towards the young Indian girl. He sniffed the air again and smiled a huge toothy grin as he ran. This was going to be the sweetest meal of the evening and he felt perhaps he could even savor it.
Screeching to a halt in front of the girl, he snapped at her wand and missing by inches. "Hello, lovely little bird," he taunted, breath steaming with the smell of blood and gore. While his snout wasn't quite as elongated as it would have been in full werewolf form, at least he could talk and control himself quite a bit better. In full form, he would have just charged and killed the mite without pause. This way was so much more fun.
Parvati had never been more terrified in all her life. He was close, too close, and he'd be able to destroy her in an instant if she let him get to her. In her fright, she threw a simple Blasting Curse, trying to get enough distance that she'd even have a chance.
Greyback dodged it easily, being that he was very agile in his hybrid form. He would have whistled appreciation for her bravery, but that was one thing he couldn't do at the moment. So he just clapped and stepped side to side, laughing throatily. "Keep the wand, pretty. It's cute."
How did he move so fast? Parvati tried again. "Fera Verto!" she shouted, pointing her wand at his new position. She was not going to dance around and trade taunts with him. Belatedly, she hoped that the spell to turn wild beasts into goblets actually worked on werewolves. She probably should've thought of that before she chose it.
That spell actually managed to catch him on the arm as he dipped to the side, though it didn't seem to have any effect. He took a moment to glance at his arm before turning his hungry gaze back on the delicious morsel in front of him. "Well, that tickled. Perhaps I could keep you around to give me a few of those more often," he taunted, giving another throaty laugh. Stopping for just a moment as if thinking, he shook his heavy head. "No, I won't."
With that, he dipped to the right and jumped at the girl, ready to pin her to the ground and leer over her for a moment.
Parvati tried to dodge, but he was too fast for her. All she could manage was a little move to the right before the werewolf had her on the ground. She screamed at the top of her lungs, a piercing sound that managed to rise even above the noise of the battlefield. For someone so small, she managed quite a lot of noise.
Having pinned both of her arms down and putting his weight on her abdomen, Greyback howled softly along with her scream, taking extreme enjoyment in the sound. Ah, the sound of fear. It was almost as tasty as the flesh and blood he was about to partake of.
Exhaling slowly, he breathed directly into Parvati's face and dragged his tongue along her cheek. "Mmmmm," growled the old wolf, feeling like this victim alone paid for all the trouble he'd been through for this war.
Parvati struggled hard, kicking and thrashing, but Greyback's paws on her shoulders were too strong. She shuddered as he licked across her face--she could smell the blood on his breath, and she knew it came from her classmates. Parvati was starting to cry as she fought fruitlessly against Greyback's hold on her. It was becoming clear that she was about to be a casualty. There was no way she would come out of this alive. This was it: she was about to be joining Lavender in the next life.
Who would speak at her memorial, she wondered, with Lavender gone? Padma, maybe? Would any of the people who loved her be left at all?
Greyback dragged his tongue across the other cheek, sniggering as he enjoyed the taste of his morsel. Sadly he'd need to end this. There were more targets to choose from on the field and he couldn't spend all his time with just the one, so he bit down hard on her shoulder and savaged the flesh just a bit. Pulling back, he lapped up the blood and torn bits of flesh, letting her writhe in pain a bit just so he could get a taste. She was as tasty as she smelled.
He needed to end it, though, and started to close his jaws around her throat. A matter of moments was all it would take.
"We're all going to die anyway," Tracey snapped at Daphne, her eyes focusing on hers for the first time. Tracey had seen the attacks happen. She had seen the people die. She had seen the people, and things, kill. People were dying. Innocent people who never did a wrong thing in their life. Not-so-innocent people who were getting hit from behind with curses. Everyone was dying.
Picking a side was only putting the death off, or inviting it to come sooner. "Daphne, the "right" side, your side is killing everyone! Purebloods! Children! People who have NO place in this war!" Tracey exclaimed forcefully, speaking up to her friend for the first time, well, ever.
Daphne's face twisted into the ugliest sneer that Tracey had ever seen. And it was directed at her. Her fingers dug into the back of Tracey's head, jerking her by the hair and forcing her to her knees.
At that particular moment, Orla Quirke ran by, screaming her head off and trying to outrun a werewolf. With a quick Freezing Charm, the girl froze in mid-run. The werewolf growled, lunging toward Daphne before suddenly stopping and turning the other way. "You little traitor. You knew all along what I was going to be, what I wanted to be, and you dare talk to me like that?"
A flick of her wand, and Quirke suddenly jerked in their direction. Tears were streaming down the girl's face as if on pause. "You just watched all that time. Well, watch this." Her wand rose between Quirke's eyes. "Avada Kedavra!"
Quirke crumpled in a lifeless heap, and Daphne smugly blew on the end of her wand.
Tracey quickly pressed her eyes shut and tried to turn her head the other way.
"Well, at least you killed her quickly and painlessly," Tracey said softly. "Can't imagine the werewolf would have been as nice."
Tracey inwardly winced at her sudden voice. When had she decided it was smart to talk? Especially to crazy-uber-bitch!Daphne? And especially when Tracey was currently on her knees in Daphne's grasp? "Please....just let me go," Tracey begged quietly, trying not to cry.
Sympathy on the battlefield was weakness, and the Dark Lord could smell weakness a mile away. Daphne realised that this must be her test. Tracey Davis was her weakness, and she had to overcome it.
Daphne screwed up her courage, kissed Tracey's forehead, and said, "I'm sorry..." Perhaps the pause was intentional, that Daphne was trying to tell Tracey that she was sorry that everything had turned out the way it did. "...that you're not on the right side. Crucio!"
When Tracey had screamed her voice out during the fire, she had been in pain. When she woke up after drinking too much with an awful headache, she had been in pain. When she broke a nail, she was in pain. But Tracey Davis realized at the hands of her best friend, that she had never truly known what pain was until that moment.
Somewhere in the distance she was positive that she could hear herself screaming. Although far away, it was a different scream, a new one. One she had never had to use until now. However, not so distant was the overpowering sensation of hurt. It felt like every bone in her body was being shattered and pulled and stomped on and....well....she hurt. She was pretty sure she was also crumpled up on the wet ground and hoped for a moment that she didn't drown in a puddle, but the pain was to intense for her to really think of anything other than just how powerful her friend's curse was.
The Curse weakened substantially the louder Tracey's screams became. Daphne found that she couldn't hold it effectively for long. Stepping away from Tracey, letting the Curse lift, with a look of disappointment and shock, she stumbled, landing in the mud with a splash.
"Stay away from me," Daphne commanded. Tracey would be the reason Daphne never made it to the Death Eaters, but without Tracey, Daphne knew she'd be lost. It'll heal in time. "Or I will kill you."
There was a pause in which Daphne stared at Tracey just long enough to make sure she hadn't suffocated in the mud, and then Disapparated to another part of the battlefield.
Tracey fell into a coughing fit once The Curse was lifted. She looked up at Daphne as she spoke and studied her friend as best as she could for what she assumed would be the last time. When her friend disappeared with a pop, Tracey had to muster up all her strength to not lay there and sob. A really large part of the young blonde wished that Daphne had just gone ahead and killed her.
Millicent wiped the blood from her fists, the red leaving a slick streak on her black robes. She smiled, humorlessly, at the crumpled heap of the first-year on the ground, kicking once at his still ribs before moving on.
Other than keeping out her wand for weak shield charms, Millicent had resorted to her fists, her limbs, since her father had tapped her for the fight. As much as she loathed the man, the recognition had made her easy for the fight, a childish euphoria melting into long-established biases and inclinations toward the less than light side. As a result, she doubted she had actually killed anyone, though she had certainly left most unable to fight, unable to run, and more than a little debilitated.
There had been, however, the wonderfully horrible sound of bone snapping as she shoveled her foot into a fallen fifth-years neck...
Millicent lunged toward a Gryffindor Sixth Year whom was holding her own rather well against a masked Death-Eater, plowing her right fist into her skull.
Spinning, Megan's wand shot out charm after charm, both offensive and defensive. She would have liked to use her fist, or knees, or feet, but there was little she could do with them against giants, trolls, and Death Eaters. She was bruised and had a badly cut lip, but had so far managed to remain mostly unscathed besides her incredibly muddy clothes and blood-stained skin here and there. Megan thought she heard a shriek behind her and spun again, to see Millicent fucking Bulstrode's fist contact a Gryffindor's head. Here was someone she could fight, here was someone she could use her fists on... and with a sickening lurch of her stomach, she realised, here was someone she wouldn't mind killing.
Megan stuffed her wand deep into her trousers, thankful to have been wearing men's pants, with deep pockets, and stripped off her favourite denim jacket, squaring her shoulders, bare beyond the white tank top she wore. Cracking her knuckles she stepped into Millicent's line of vision, eyes blazing. "BULSTRODE!" she yelled, voice hoarse. "Pick on someone your own fucking size," she continued, being suddenly reminded of first year and her words to the Slytherin when she'd been attacking a helpless curly-haired Hufflepuff.
As her favorite Hufflepuff (a dubious Honor if there ever was one) moved some feet in front of her, a slow, thirsty grin spread over Millicent's face. Noticing Megan's absence of wand, she put her own away, nodding slowly. "Jones," she said, almost conversationally, her eyes narrowed and very dark.
Her knuckles were raw already from constant abuse, for given her upper hand in not needing to fight any of the dark creatures; she had been able to focus more on fighting as she would. Millicent regarded Megan across the short distance, unable to keep from remembering the past seven years of school. Their conflicts had been as constant as the sun, it would be a shame to kill her. This would be the end, though.
They'd never held back before. "You can run if you like," she jeered. "Abbott's probably too pretty to waste in killing, anyway."
"I don't run," Megan spat, lip curling menacingly. Her view of their last seven years was similar, but had a few key differences. Megan was one who fought in defence, rarely, very rarely, unprovoked. Megan defended her friends' honour and safety, not much of her own, and Millicent had been working for the last seven years to take that away from them. Perhaps just to provoke Megan, perhaps because she got some sickening delight out of it, Megan didn't know or care, but she wasn't going to stop. Sure, she liked being able to fight someone and have them fight back - most guys wouldn't, most girls weren't fightable. It made things fair, on an even playing field - and true to Hufflepuff, Megan liked that.
She, however, liked nothing about Millicent. She could admire her skills, as, she was practiced and strategic much more so than Crabbe or Goyle who just used their builds to dominate, fat fists flying. But Megan held no sympathy or even companionship to the Slytherin even though in reality, she probably knew her the best of all the snake's house.
Clenching her jaw, she raised her fists. "Fucking try me."
"You first," Millicent shot back, shaking her head and out the memories, as if the physical action could have some effect on lingering reminiscence. There had been few joys in Millicent's life, unlike Megan's, a consequence of which made frequent, equaled fights something to look forward to--perversely enough.
Still, even as she said it, she raced forward, her feet sliding in the torn up grass and thick mud. With a howl of effort and momentum, she twisted at the last moment, skidding, bent over at her waist and aiming for an elbow in Megan's gut.
Megan saw it coming - Bulstrode was a Slytherin through and through after all - and was able to twist out of her elbow's path just barely, but not enough for their shoulders not to connect instead. She staggered, the impact throwing her off balance and she ran forward to try and use Millicent's body to keep her up. She tackled the bigger girl hard, and shoved at her shoulder, trying to throw a punch at her face.
The blow, though she had been the initiator, left her off-balance long enough for her to be susceptible to Megan's tackle. While it didn't take her immediately down to the ground, the wet, slippery ground saved her from an immediate introduction with Megan's fist. Her body slide, feet building up a crater of mud as Megan's knuckles grazed hard against her cheekbone.
But the ground combined with the force of the other girl did send Millicent to her knees, then, and as she struggled to rise, she sent her firsts first in a whirlwind of a shield, speed detracting from strength of blow.
Megan wasn't immune to the slick mud beneath them either, and, like usual, had gone in head-first without giving their surroundings a second thought. She slipped, knee snapping back and pulling back to avoid Millicent's fists. One knee on the ground beside her opponent, she grabbed at her robes and yanked on the collar hard enough to hear it tear. Normally Megan wasn't one to go grabbing at clothes, but in their tangled, slippery position, there wasn't much else for her to do until she got a good angle on Bulstrode.
Millicent's robes ripped loudly, but the sound lost itself in the cacophony of the massacre surrounding them. Snarling, Millicent slid into position, one knee still sinking into the ground as her other foot shoved down. She jerked back, leaning far, far back as she swung her arm around Megan's and grabbed hold of her shoulder, attempting to use her to help herself stand, while also out of balance from the lean.
It didn't take much for Megan's balance to give out as Millicent shoved down on her and she had to bite her lip hard not to shout out in a bit of pain with the odd angle her arm was being twisted. She slid down and tried to bring her left around, making a fist and jabbing at the other girl's ear. If Megan had it her way, as much as later on it might have shaken her a bit to admit it, Millicent would be dead after their last run-in with one another. Unfortunately, she would have liked it to be one in decent weather and just the two of them, none of the raging chaos... with all of this, it was impossible to tell who just might accidentally be ripped away and pulled apart by a giant, or hit by a stray hex... though, given Millicent's apparent loyalty, Megan had a sinking feeling that the odds were against her.
Millicent, though now on her feet, was still hunched and straightening, when Megan's fist crashed into her ear. She was amazed it wasn't bleeding, as her head crashed sharply to the side, her neck making a sharp cracking sound but not snapping. Losing her balance, Millicent staggered again to her knees. Despite the pain erupting in her skull, she still found a moment to howl. Millicent launched herself blindly at the other girl, nearly missing and falling face-first into the mud, except that her hands caught a shoulder, once again. Given that her head already quite hurt, she imagined it wouldn't do much worse to slam her forehead forward, ideally into Megan's.
Megan saw it coming though, and was able to just barely swing her head back so Millicent connected with her neck instead. Unfortunately, that made it suddenly harder to breathe and she desperate reached over, flailing at Millicent's face with her fists, and shoving the bigger girl away from her. Once she did though, she wasted no time in just diving forward once more, knowing now that taking the time to try and get up was a mistake. So she tackled from her knees.
Caught in the nose by a fist, and shoved effectively back, Millicent hadn't the necessary second to collect herself before she toppled beneath Megan. Her head still screamed in pain, worse now, actually worse, and she went down easily, hitting the ground hard. Gasping in one immense breath, Millicent flung one arm defensively over her fast, and jabbed out with an elbow, in hopes of catching something, anything of Megan's.
She was successful in just catching Megan jaw, it cracking slightly, but Megan easily continued forward, drawing her fists back after regaining her headspace from the hit. She began to viciously and almost uncharacteristically go for the other girl's face, neck, anything exposed, anything vulnerable. She remembered what that challenge of Hufflepuff's had taught her. Sometimes, fair play was not an option. Or. At least, that, some people, didn't deserve it.
This sort of attack was unprecedented, even from the happily forceful tomboy. Millicent did not expect it at all, relying on past understanding and not what this kind of situation could bring out in a person. She had no time to even gasp with surprise as her arm was beaten back and his face whipped under an onslaught. Millicent couldn't even get her arms up in between the pounding; she felt her nose snap in and her left cheekbone crack. She'd been hurt before, she had a high pain tolerance, but her blows toward Megan became clumsy and distracted.
And the tomboy had no intention of letting up, it being a bit of a sick relief to get her fury out on someone, but a familiar yet chilling sound somehow broke through the chaos and came to Megan's ears. Hannah. Somewhere, Hannah screamed. Megan reared back with a shove and pushed off of Millicent. She'd never regret not hesitating to give Millicent and extra kick or maybe spit in her face for dramatic effect, but the thought had struck her at the time.
Did Millicent have a face any longer, or was it only pulp, a great deal of pulp that had emerged from a split orange. A split grapefruit, perhaps, everything was splitting and spitting out something, blood, Millicent was prone on the ground. She twitched, her arms limp beside her and quivering, as the rain beat against her much abused skin. Had she lost? Where had Megan gone? Millicent grunted, but for the moment, couldn't move an inch.
"Oh god," Padma whimpered, dropping to her knees, clutching her shoulder. With no idea what she'd landed on, except that it cut into her knees, she choked and panted for breath. Tears stung her eyes, and she couldn't quite figure out why there was such pain in her shoulder. All she knew was that she hadn't been hit with a Curse.
It felt like she had been bitten, shook around like a rag doll, and pounced on. Her head spun, and she sicked up in the mud. There was uncontrollable fear, and a tiny nagging question about on her memorial.
No, not her memorial. Parvati's memorial. Why was she thinking about Parvati's memorial?
It was too much, the pain in her shoulder, and Padma was lost. She'd hoped that the war wasn't a brutal thing, that most were taken with the markless Killing Curse, and, while there were those who got off lucky, most did not. Most were ripped apart or slammed into trees.
Bodies (and body parts) were lining up. Soulless students wandered aimlessly around the grounds, bumping into werewolves who devoured them or stumbling over their dead counterparts. Parvati was out there somewhere, bleeding and hurting, and Padma needed to get to her. Staggering to her feet, she looked around for Theodore though red-ringed eyes, streaked with blood.
Theodore set off a hex towards a rampaging troll, and it did little more than make it stumble. His teeth were gritted, his eyes in slits, and it was obvious with the way he was gripping his side that he was in a slight amount of physical pain.
But emotional pain had simply ceased touching his heart. It hadn't taken much for Theodore to very quietly lock away his feelings in a compartment in his heart - seeing his little cousin burn into ashes and blackened skeleton had been enough to accomplish that.
"I'm here," he called loudly, hoping that his girlfriend heard him. He stumbled over a body, and he tried his hardest not to recognise the face. It was simply easier that way.
Meanwhile, Padma was staring down at
She tried to swipe the tears from her eyes, but all she succeeded in doing was smearing the gunk around her face. With as much resolve as she could muster, she pushed herself backwards and up and right smack into Daphne Greengrass.
"Alone at last, Patil," Daphne whispered into Padma's ear, spinning her around. She laughed, digging her fingernails into Padma's arm tightly.
Standing on the roof of Hogwarts castle was easier said that done, and Harry found his footing slipping again. This time, though, he'd be prepared; his wand was not leaving his hand. Voldemort would have to pry it out of his cold, dead hands.
At the rate Harry was going, that looked more and more the likely outcome.
Voldemort pulled his lips back in what appeared to be a smile of some sorts. His elbows bent, hands clapping together mockingly. "Bravo, dear Harry. Bravo. What a splendid show of sheer, dumb luck."
Luck! I'd almost forgotten about that! Slyly, Harry's unoccupied hand moved to his robes' pocket, feeling for the phial of Felix Felicis. As awful as it sounded, Harry knew that he would need it more than anyone considering the odds stacked against him. The fact of the matter was that Voldemort was a better wizard than he, Harry, could ever hope to be.
Still, Dumbledore was the greatest wizard since Merlin, and he had been taken out by a someone who had gained the upper hand only out of cowardice and good luck. Perhaps Snape had taken the Luck Potion that day?
If Harry intended to use the potion, and he most definitely did, he would have to wait for the right moment, when Voldemort had his back turned. Yeah, good luck with that, mate. He's not Malfoy, and he's certainly got more attention span that Zabini.
"What? You thought you could get rid of me so easily? Come on, Tom, you should know better than that."
The name hit the mark; Voldemort hissed loudly, his features less human and more snake. His red eyes narrowed to slits, and he hovered just a few metres closer to Harry. Harry might have appreciated the graceful movement of Voldemort's wand hand floating upwards, except he knew that something terrible was coming.
Harry'd expected it, his feet shuffling outward to drop to his knees on the ridge of the roof. His knees might forgive him in time, especially considering the spell flew over Harry's head, splintering shingles. It left Harry in a very uncomfortable position, slate and stone arguing with his knees. His elbow, however, was throbbing and screaming at him.
"Very good. Finally bowing. You're getting cleverer by the moment," Voldemort sneered, his nostrils dilating in amusement. "Why I do think Dumbledore would be very proud of you right now."
"I bet he would, considering I'm going to kill you soon," Harry retorted with a knowing smirk.
Harry saw rather than heard Voldemort laughing darkly. Grotesque and distorted though the face may be, the laughter was rich and honest, probably the only honest thing about him. The laughter made Harry more nervous than any of the spells Voldemort could throw at him.
On the flip side, laughter was a good sign. Voldemort had no idea that his days were really numbered. He must really be confident that no one's found them if he's not taking this seriously. Dumbledore was right; he underestimates far too much.
With a wince, Harry gingerly pushed himself up, his wand never leaving Voldemort. His knee cracked, and he very nearly lost his footing again. He was so exhausted, and the battle hadn't even begun. Voldemort had the upper hand here.
Stalling had never been Harry's forte. It made him feel useless, and there was nothing worse in Harry's mind. He needed to act! He wanted to finish this blasted thing already!
Voldemort's curse struck Harry in the chest before he had time to push his frustration out of his mind. Voldemort must have sensed his irritation and capitalised on it.
Harry fell on one side of the slope, his fingernails digging into the apex so hard he thought they might pop off. His knees curled up against his chest. He howled through gnashing teeth, the sound painful and strangled. Every vein that could be seen bulged and turned an angry red. He wasn't breathing, only trying to relieve any of the all encompassing pain. The wood of his wand gouged into his palm, his knees probed his ribs.
"I do so enjoy toying with you, Harry," Voldemort whispered. "I will miss these moments when you are gone. Your name will be forgotten over the years. I doubt it will take them months to forget. How fickle they all are."
Sweet relief came swiftly, almost mercifully, and Harry wheezed to catch his breath. His body felt like a giant pin cushion, prickling as if he'd simply fallen asleep with his circulation cut off. Glancing up, he muttered, "Stupefy!"
A purple shield cloaked Voldemort who merely laughed and tossed another spell in Harry's direction.
It was unusual. First, Harry's body began to vibrate. For a moment, he thought Voldemort had botched whatever spell he'd intended until the vibrating turned to convulsing. Harry's feet rose off the roof. The urge to sick all over Voldemort washed over him until he realised he was really just the urge to vomit. His throat swelled up as he clutched at his throat, her face turning purple. Warm liquid dripped over Harry's lip, acidic and numbing. His tongue rolled out of his mouth, swelling and suffocating.
With a flick of his wrist, Harry went sailing across the sky, pounding over and over again into the side of the tower.
Only Greyback's jaws never connected and suddenly the air was rushed from his lungs as the body of a young man rammed shoulder first into his ribs. Justin Finch-Fletchley happened to be nearby, trying to drag another wounded student to safety when he heard Parvati scream. From there it had been a dead run towards her. He didn't even have time to think of a spell, so he just hurtled his own body into her attacker, knocking the werewolf off of her and earning a claw across the chest for his efforts. He slumped down on Parvati, immediately going to work to try and heal her wounds. The taste of Felix Felicis he'd taken while bringing over the healing supplies was probably the one thing keeping him alive and he escaped getting a mortal wound. Still, Parvati was safe for the moment and that was all that mattered.
Greyback stood up and growled deeply, ready to kill the girl and her stupid little hero. He flexed his claws a moment and howled in frustration. No one interrupted Fenrir Greyback while he was feeding. NO ONE. He took a step forward, preparing to charge. Only, his plans were cut short as another werewolf barreled into him, snapping and clawing as the two tumbled into a rough ball of angry wolfen snarling.
Remus Lupin's time among the werewolves had taught him how to use the hybrid form too, and he'd arrived with Tonks and the rest of the Order to help in the fight. In fact, the hybrid form was even more of a boon for him, since people could actually recognise him and not confuse him with the more feral werewolves on Voldemort's side.
"Professor Lupin," breathed Justin, glad to see they weren't about to get killed. It seemed to go on forever, Justin tending a shoulder wound while the two werewolves fought. It was odd seeing Professor Lupin looking like he got stuck halfway transforming into a werewolf, but if it meant he was helping them and not trying to eat them, he was not going to make any complaints.
As soon as it began, it was over, as Lupin's initial attack managed to pierce the older wolf's heart via his armpit and everything from there had just been a frantic fight to take Lupin with him. With a final savage growl, Lupin ripped the throat from Greyback and stood victorious over his age-old nemesis. He stopped briefly to check on the two kids, shifting back into human form entirely before tearing off into the rest of the battle and returning to his hybrid form.
Justin could only stare in horror at yet another horrible death, even if it was what could have happened to them. Instead, he focused on Parvati. "Are... you okay?" he asked, feeling stupid already for asking it.
Parvati was breathing shakily, in tiny little shudders. "I...I..." The words weren't coming. She'd been bitten, bitten by a werewolf, and she still wasn't quite sure how she was still alive. He'd been just about to rip out her throat, just like Lupin had just done to him, and...
"Oh Merlin. Oh, Merlin!" Parvati was starting to lose it a little. She was still bleeding: she could tell she was--it had soaked all the way through what remained of her shirt. Justin was a brilliant healer, but werewolf wounds were notoriously hard to deal with.
Parvati frantically tried to grab at her wand, but found her shoulder wouldn't work to do it. It had been chopped up in Greyback's powerful jaws. "It won't move!" she cried. Finally, some coherent thoughts managed to break through the fog of pain and fear. "My shoulder won't move!"
Justin grimaced and put more salve onto her wound, hoping some of this would work. He'd used belladonna in the mixture with the hopes it would counteract werewolf bites, since there were fears that they'd be facing werewolves. He didn't know if it'd do anything, though, since he couldn't exactly test it. "I'm sorry!" was all he could get out as he pulled out his wand. Having spent the entire fight dodging and healing where he could, Justin was mostly covered in dirt and blood from other people, but he could still protect Parvati.
"Can you walk? I can get you to the spot behind the bleachers where I'm trying to the wounded!" he shouted, dodging a random blast by sheer stroke of Felix luck.
"I..." Parvati bit her lip, trying to sit up more. "Yes, I think so." She used her good arm to push herself upward, very slowly getting to her feet. The pain in her shoulder was still there, but under the salve it was becoming bearable. She could at least get behind the bleachers and maybe do some good for the other students back there. She'd been practicing her healing charms with the rest of the group, after all, and she was better at that than all this dueling and brawling.
"I'm glad you're safe," he said, grabbing her by the hand that was attached to her unwounded shoulder and trying to lead her away from the fighting. He was starting to get rather good at it, throwing up shields on himself and Parvati as needed. Harry's idea for this potion was brilliant. After lots of work, he finally got her over to the rudimentary hospice and started tending to the wounded. Parvati would heal for the most part, but there were so many more needing his attention.
Parvati would talk to Justin later. Then she could thank him, or at least do the best she could to thank him. It was hard to come up with anything to match a boy saving your life.
For now, there were wounded, and Justin had numbed her arm up enough that she could try to help.
Hermione's loud shriek was swallowed by the sounds of explosions, screams, and the snapping of bones. A blast of dirt sprayed the girl and she slammed her eyes shut instinctively, turning away to keep from getting blinded. It was just a split-second of blindness, but it was just enough for a Death Eater to spring forward, hissing a Cruciatus that she was just barely able to dodge.
The battlefield was now carpeted with bodies, and Hermione kept tripping over body parts, over students she used to boss. Her hair was both bushy and limp with ash, blood, and sweat, and her brown eyes were wild and fierce. She didn't look like Hermione really at all in this moment - although her prefect badge was somehow still impeccably shined.
She heard the sound of a hiss to her right, and the most enormous hooded snake she'd ever seen in her life raised itself up. Hermione froze, then swung her wand out towards the snake.
"Ron!" she hollered. "It's Nagini!"
Ron had managed to blast a masked Death Eater and whirled to keep himself at Hermione's side. He wouldn't leave her alone as long as he had breath in his body. His fringe was hanging into his eyes, slick with blood and sweat. He even kept his broom nearby in case he and Hermione needed a quick escape.
While he didn't hear the snake or its approach, he certainly heard Hermione's shout. Turning quickly again, he rushed to stand between her and the snake, wand raised.
While appreciative of Ron's valiant bravery, having him stand between her and that blasted snake was not what Hermione was intending.
"Ron!" she hissed frantically, stepping beside him. "Attack her!" And at that she unleashed a barrage of curses onto the snake - every single curse that her eager mind had ever read of and absorbed, she flung at that horrific snake.
"And mind her fangs!" she added bossily, wiping a matted curl from her forehead.
Ron didn't know as many curses or hexes or even jinxes as Hermione, which didn't really keep him from trying. He threw blasting curses, cutting curses, and even a smoking charm right down the snake's throat. Most of them didn't even seem to work, which was testament to how much Voldemort had prepared for this.
Still, separating himself from the snake had to weaken it somehow. He fired a few more blasting curses at it and Ron called out "How do we hurt a snake?" Surely Hermione had read something that was especially effective against snakes.
"Try ice spells!" Hermione snapped, shooting off a blizzard curse. "Snakes are cold-blooded. They go into hibernation during winter. She's far too powerful to- oh!"
Hermione had tripped upon what looked like someone's leg. She permitted herself a horrified gulp and a quick gag before raising to her feet once more - there's no time for that, she reminded herself.
"She's far too powerful to merely go to sleep," Hermione continued to lecture, "but it'll certainly slow her down."
Ron remembered briefly of a time where he had absent-mindedly caused it to start snowing in class once, though Hermione had been kind enough at the time to stop him. However, he really didn't know how he'd managed that one, considering he wasn't even paying attention at the time. "Uhm," he started, not sure if he knew anything that would work. Only then he had a Bright Idea.
"Aguamente! he shouted, dousing the snake in several gallons of water as he stepped back to dodge a strike. He didn't have time to smirk at Hermione, knowing full well she might be wondering what the sodding hell he was trying to do with water. In the next instant, he cast a spell to freeze all the water he'd just summoned.
Hermione had to smirk; it was a very clever move on Ron's part - and worthy of someone so skilled at chess. "Brilliant Ron!" she complimented, shooting off a spell involving razor-sharp icicles. Unfortunately, none met their target, and Nagini was quite stroppy after her dousing and subsequent freezing. The snake was certainly moving more slowly now, but she had reared back, her hood fanning out as she waved back and forth, ready to strike.
And strike she did - Hermione barely had time to dodge as Nagini shot forward. Her fangs sank into the dirty ground only inches from Hermione's sock-covered calf. Hermione recoiled only slightly - instead bravely taking advantage of their temporary closeness and uttering a powerful blasting curse at point-blank range.
Ron dove out of the way, too, nearly stumbling and sprawling face-first in Merlin-knows-what, which he really didn't want to think about. He didn't have time to think about it, though, because there were more important things going on at the moment. He could reflect on all that later. He spun quickly and recaptured his balance, if just barely. As Hermione struck with her blasting curse, it obviously shook the snake violently, so Ron took advantage of the moment and struck at the back of the snakes exposed head as well, using a powerfully uttered Diffindo and hoping it would slice up the snake enough to injure it.
Nagini writhed, letting out a strangely human-sounding scream. Its scales flexed and glinted in the rain strangely, quickly becoming coated with mud as it twisted against the ground. Hermione let out an exhalation - they'd managed to injure her.
Now for the killing blows.
Hermione got back to her feet and shot off a series of cold-blasting spells, followed by another blasting curse. The snake seemed to be weak against those.
Ron continued to pour on the blasting and cutting curses. It seemed to be working! The evident success was enough to spur him on a bit more and he even moved up to stomp onto the snake directly behind its head. He'd seen Hagrid pick up snakes that way, so it made sense to pin in like that.
Only he wasn't expecting the tail end to whip around and knock him off his feet. That sent his blasting curse off in the wrong direction!
Hermione gasped in horror as the snake reared and advanced on Ron, who had fallen to the ground. Nagini's hood twitched in rage, her tongue darting out to taste the air, to calculate just how far she would have to dart to end this boy. For once in her life, Hermione operated on pure, furious adrenaline - and sent off a staggering blasting curse of her own that struck the snake in the side of the head.
That gave the giant snake enough pause to allow Ron to roll away and get to his feet, even if he wasn't quite in a position to fight back at the moment. It took everything he had to not retch after rolling through what could only be described as someone's lower intestine. Even as his face was turning a bit green, he wheeled about with his wand. How could any thing be this bloody tough?
"What about a hybrid?" he shouted, though he honestly never put any faith in them, much less taking any time to learn any of them.
Hermione nodded, racking her brain for the ones that Padma had taught the D.A.. Unfortunately, most of the hybrids were defensive in spirit - few had been designed with sheer carnage in mind.
"Won't do!" she called back, taking a breath and summoning back her concentration. "Just... keep... blasting her!"
If Ron could shrug and fight at the same time, he would have done so. All he could do was nod and continue blasting and cutting and firing ice spells. Surely this bastard would drop eventually. This was bloody insane! And Ron was getting tired!
As luck would have it, though, he and Hermione actually managed to hit the snake at the same time on each side of the head with a blasting curse. The snake's body twitched and it stopped attacking for a moment, obviously stunned and feeling its injuries.
"Now!" Hermione yelled in what was decidedly a fearsome voice and a rather mad-with-violence expression - no wonder the boys of Gryffindor had a healthy fear of her when she was in a strop.
She aimed her wand levelly at the stunned snake, taking her time in aiming correctly amidst the vertebrae and scaling - and silently cast a slicing spell. The air above and through Nagini was scissored, and the snake gave a strange lurch as its head rolled several inches from the rest of its body.
Hermione glared down at the remains of the snake with a cold satisfaction on her face. Its body was still twitching violently, as if whatever spirit Nagini might have possessed was still desperately clinging to life.
"It's an illusion," Hermione explained grimly. "Ron, cast a crushing hex on her body to keep it from hurting anyone else. Snakes always twitch like that even after death."
And with that, Hermione tossed her hair over her filthy shoulder, and looked very scary indeed.
Ron, not for the first time in his life, did exactly as he was told without argument or complaint. He'd really never seen Hermione quite as... well, whatever she was at the moment before. He crushed and bound the body as quickly as he could before walking over to Hermione and trying to put his arm around her for a moment. They did it, though. They killed the blasted snake and eliminated one more Horcrux. Now they just needed to find Harry.
"Brave little Longbottom. Just like his parents," Bellatrix cooed. She'd lost her baby voice almost instantly. "I hope it was worth it."
Without waiting for the boy to retort, Bellatrix's wand came down in a slashing movement, attempting to cut across the boy's chest with a Severing Charm.
Neville dodged the spell, having remembered the motion from the last time he faced the Dark Witch. "Really now, where's your originality," he snarled, stepping forward and brandishing his wand again. "Furnunculus!"
Bellatrix veered to the right to dodge the spell, but tripped over the student that she had been torturing just before. Neville's spell caught her squarely on the chest, causing a magnificent storm of boils to well up underneath her robes and along her neckline. It was all she could do to not scream in both pain and shock.
"Silly, little boy," she rasped, clacking her tongue and bringing herself back under control. Her eyes narrowed in hatred. "I'm going to—"
Neville interrupted her retort by following up with a spell he read about during his time visiting his parents in St Mungo's. It was invented by Urquhart Rackharrow in the 1600s; his portrait still hangs in the Dai Llewellyn Ward. It seemed fitting to use it on Bellatrix, since if it hadn't been for her, he wouldn't have spent so much time there. It was just a simple entrails-expelling curse and while disgusting, it wasn't an Unforgivable. He wouldn't sink to her level.
The last few words of Bellatrix's comment was lost to her as her throat bulged and her innards began to spill out through her mouth and her other end. It was a disgusting sight and Neville couldn't keep himself from looking away. After a few moments, he heard her hit the ground and lost his breakfast all over the ground around his feet. It was the most horrible thing he'd even seen and he would certainly petition that it be made Unforgivable.
Only his thoughts were interrupted by a sharp prick at the back of his neck. "Avada Kedavra," came the utterance behind him from a growled male voice that sounded stricken by grief. Neville managed a smile of satisfaction before the light left his eyes and he slumped to the ground.
Rodolphus Lestrange took one last look at what remained of his wife, unable to completely comprehend what this little idiot had done to her before looking up at where the Dark Lord was battling Potter. He'd lost his wife and a large portion of his life to the Dark Lord. Was it worth it? Perhaps he would play the rest of this fight safely and see who won before making his next decision.
Neville Longbottom found himself bathed in light and colour. He shielded his eyes and tried to look around. Where was he? What happened to the battle? Did he defeat Bellatrix? So many questions!
Lavender appeared before him, her white dress fluttering around her calves. She smiled at him and held out her hand, "Darling, it's going to be all right. Vengeance has been served and now you can rest." She seemed to be floating off of the ground, and he could notice she still wore the same nail polish as she did in her years at Hogwarts.
Lavender waited patiently, still smiling faintly. Both of their lives had been cut short, but now they were finally together, peaceful. Still, she knew Neville, and knew he might need a bit of convincing. She cast a small glance over her shoulder, and watched as Chelsea Brown appeared behind her, wearing a very similar white gown and also holding out her hand.
"It's okay, Neville. You're with us now."
There was a bright flickering light which cut through the rain. A cheerful, nosy looking otter was suddenly by Harry's side, waddling ungainly forward and making a high pitched chirping sound.
Harry! came Hermione's voice, but the frizzy-haired witch was nowhere to be seen. We've killed Nagini! Ron and I! She's dead!
The green otter flickered, cleaning off its whiskers delicately. You can do this, Harry. We know you can!
And as suddenly as it appeared, the Patronus disappeared, jumping into an imaginary river with a green splash of light.
"Dumbledore teaching you new tricks?" Voldemort sneered, looming over Harry. He dropped to his haunches, curling one long, skeletal finger under Harry's chin.
Harry realised that the Messenger spell the portrait Dumbledore had taught them informed only the intended. Voldemort hadn't heard a word. He brought his steely gaze to meet Voldemort's, but Harry was no longer afraid. He had hope now. The last Horcrux had been destroyed, and now it was time to start unleashing a bit of his own power on the arrogant fool. "Dumbledore taught me quite a lot, Tom. Surely you must know why I wasn't in the castle all those months. I know you had your spies looking for me."
Harry saw Voldemort's red eyes flicker down the side of the castle. Though it was little more than a speck, Harry could see that Nagini was very, very dead, and Hermione and Ron looked victorious.
Quickly, he reached inside his robes and pulled out the phial of Felix Felicis. Hermione had insisted in charming the phials to hold the exact amount for one dosage. "Who has time to count out the proper dose in the middle of an emergency, Harry. Honestly!" He had rolled his eyes at the time, but he could not have been more thankful now. The drops splashed on the back of his throat, and he tossed the container aside before Voldemort returned his attention to him.
"Are you going to get out of my face yet or what?" Harry could have sworn he saw the most minute trace of worry flit across the wizard's face.
"You're about to learn a little bit more from Dumbledore. I grow tired of your mouth, Harry. I think it's time you learnt a little respect for your betters."
Harry couldn't quite make out the odd combination of Latin and hissing. The wounds he'd acquired over the months he'd been savaging for Horcruxes began crawling. No, it wasn't the wounds, it felt like something was crawling beneath his skin. No, not crawling -- slashing. Something under Harry's skin was tearing muscle and flesh open. It wasn't quite as sweeping as the Cruciatus Curse, but the old wounds ripped anew were a terrifying kind of torture.
Welts bubbled on the surface of Harry's skin. Dry-heaving against the pain and disgust, Harry drew giant panic breaths to keep from screaming out. He was not going to give Voldemort that satisfaction again. He managed the task fairly well considering, until flesh peeled from flesh over the scars where the old wounds lay. The layers snapped back as if fastening to the undamaged skin.
Harry howled loudly, echoing over buildings and towers, and likely to the ground below. Even the gash in his chest where the gargoyle Horcrux had been reopened. The blood gushed out in rivers. It washed away in the rain, trickling down the roof's slopes, but not before Harry's fingers grew slick and slipped, his face slamming into the apex.
Wasn't the Felix Felicis supposed to keep things like this from happening? If Harry had his wits about him, he would have asked himself a more important question: was THIS the luckiest thing he could have hoped for?
Megan stood a few yards from Hannah, her back to her friend as she was attempting to heal a second year's wounds. It was her job to do the cover, it was her job to keep Hannah safe from the Inferi, the monsters, the giants, the Death Eaters. She kept Hannah safe and then Hannah, could keep others safe. Megan didn't think of it as a selfish thing to do, even though it might have been. But it kept her focused. She fired rally after rally of hexes at approaching opponents. The pair had doubled back from the castle toward the Quidditch stands, not near enough to have any cover, but, not so far for it not to be a hope in the near future. They'd mostly tried to avoid the actual robed figures, Dementors and Death Eaters alike. They were out of their element, Megan knew that. She fought things with fists, not magic, though, her shielding charm had improved just from the constant casting in Hannah's direction. Now she spun to check Hannah's other flank. "Hannah, DUCK!" she yelled, sending a fireball over Hannah's head and toward an oncoming Inferi.
"Ooh!" squeaked Hannah as she ducked, the Inferi getting a blast to the face. Blinded, it started off in another direction.
Hannah slowly stood up, wand at the ready. For a moment she looked at Megan over her shoulder, wanting to comment at how impressed she was at her Defence skills, but now just wasn't the time. Once again crouching down and binding the last of the second year's wounds, she ordered him to stay low and behind Megan at all costs.
Before the boy could respond, Hannah spotted over his shoulder a fifth year girl wailing and clutching her leg which looked very much broken.
"Megan! I have to grab her! She needs help!" she yelled toward her best friend before checking for oncoming Death Eaters or Inferi and running toward the middle of the field where the girl lay. She knew Megan would cover her for the time-being. They had a system so far, and luckily, it was working rather well.
Megan nodded in response. "Right!" she called back, immediately spinning to survey their current situation and falling into a side-gallop near Hannah. She stayed far enough away to give Hannah the room she needed and to meet opponents before they could get to her, but close enough to be able to sprint over to the other side of Hannah in a second's notice. Upon reflection, Megan would realise that only with Hannah could she have ever achieved some sort of order amongst the utter destruction around her. They made it a duty, a sort of mission. It gave them purpose and drive, where it had been hard to find any minutes before, and it forced them to keep their heads when they felt about to panic.
So now Megan moved to jog around Hannah and the other girl, creating a sloppy perimeter. She stood her ground wand at the ready, and took a moment to turn and glance back at Hannah. "Need anythi-" she began but was cut off by a sharp stab to her chest. She staggered, nearly dropping her wand, and clutched at her shirt with a pained grunt. She looked up and her grey eyes widened. A Death Eater. They'd managed to avoid them so far. But this one seemed to be staring right at her through that terrifying mask. Megan opened her mouth to shout, to scream at Hannah to run, but had barely begun forming the sound of an "H" when the Death Eater shot what looks like yellow electricity from it's wand with ease. Megan legs were suddenly enveloped in white hot pain, and she could only throw her head back and scream as she felt the bones begin to fracture in her legs. She couldn't do anything but balled her hands up into seizurely fists and gnash her teeth as her legs gave way from underneath her. Her skin felt like it was on fire, she felt like her knees had snapped in the wrong direction, she heard cracks and pops, she closed her eyes and screamed some more. Before she knew it, she was on the ground twitching, feeling as if a boulder had crunched them under its weight.
In all actuality, her legs had merely fallen completely limp, causing her to collapse, and as the spell shot pain to her nerves, telling her that her bones were being broken over and over again, she twitched and seized, never noticing the way her legs refused to respond.
"MEGAN!!!" Hannah gave a deafening scream and ran to Megan's side before looking up at the slowly nearing Death Eater. A cold, chilling laugh was heard underneath his skull-like mask, his wand still pointed at Megan's form.
"NO!" roared Hannah, stepping in front of Megan's body. "DON'T YOU TOUCH HER AGAIN! STUPEFY!"
A hex blasted from Hannah's wand directly toward the Death Eater who deflected it with ease.
"LOCOMOTOR MORTIS!" Hannah shouted more desperately, and the Death Eater deflected it once again, just as easily. He canted his head back in bloodcurdling laughter before sending an unspoken hex toward Hannah Abbott.
Slowly, she was lifted off the ground with what felt like an invisible grip around her neck and thrown like a rag doll in front of the Death Eater, his wand pointed directly at her head.
Once the Death Eater had taken his wand away, the sheering pain became a sore numbness below her waits and she gasped for breath, head rolling on the ground and moaning quietly. She managed to roll her eyes up to watch Hannah step in front of her. Her friend's shout made her wince, but then, she shook her head and slowly got oriented again with Hannah's continued shouts. Megan forced herself to focus and suddenly, Hannah was taken away from her. Pulled, just like that, away from Megan's outstretched hand that had been weakly reaching for the blonde's ankle.
Something about having Hannah's mud-stained, sopping wet Mary-Jane and frilly socks inches from her fingertips one moment and gone the next, made Megan's eyes zoom into focus and her brain snap back to where it was. She shoved her torso off the ground. "HANNAH!" she screamed, and began to get up. But as soon as she even thought about moving her legs, pain shot through them again and she cried out. Eyes watering, she tried to get to her knees, tried to bring her legs around and get up, but her legs merely lay there, unmoving and she could only succeed in arching her back, pushing her stomach barely off the ground.
Hannah Abbott was trembling, half under the pain she was in from being thrown to the ground, and half because a Death Eater towered above her, his skull mask looming over her tiny, helpless form. Out of desperation, she tried to shoot off one more hex at the Death Eater, but it was useless. Her wand was shot out of her hand as fast as she was torn away from Megan. She heard her best friend's screams, calling her, but she couldn't do anything. Hannah was vulnerable... defenseless... and for the first time in her life, without Megan Jones by her side to threaten end's meat of anyone who tried to touch her.
Now, after failing so miserably at protecting her best friend, Hannah wanted to apologize for not being able to be the same source of strength Megan was for her.
Her eyes watched the wand pointed at her face, and her gaze even lingered toward the inside of the Death Eater's sleeve. There, on the inside of his forearm, the emblem of the Dark Mark was etched.
Most people had never lived to see the mark and tell of it. Hannah Abbott was certainly no exception.
"Crucio," the Death Eater spoke calmly, and a burst of white light emitted from his wand and engulfed her face. In a second, Hannah was on the ground, writhing in the most extreme pain ever humanly imaginable. Her face and body contorted, veins popped from her neck, blood rushed to her face as she screamed agonizingly and clutched rigidly at herself.
For a split second, the Unforgivable was removed. But before Hannah had the luxury of passing out, it was cast again -- this time even stronger.
Megan didn't have to think twice before she knew what was happening. They'd been shown that. Told about it. Megan felt the adrenaline rush her veins once more and her throat tightened even as she screamed. "HANNAH!" she shrieked and lurched forward. But again, with her long legs as dead weight behind her, and the ground uneven and slippery, there was little she could do. She scratched at the tears beginning to form in her eyes and struggled, twisting her body from side to side, even as the movements made her legs throb over and over again.
Suddenly, the pain there wasn't as unbearable. The chaos around her, other screams became dulled and somewhat like mere echoes. Right then, there were only Hannah's.... and her own. With her wand having been thrown from her grasp in her frenzy and her legs out of commission, Megan Jones could do nothing but whimper and scream, and cry, and struggle as she watched her best friend, the only person in the world Megan would really, truly do anything to protect, writhe and shriek in pure agony in front of her. Her arms were outstretched and clawing at the mud, but it was just no use.
The pain was increasingly overwhelming. The muscles in Hannah's arms and legs were pulled so drastically it was hard for her to even move. She wanted to beg for death, but couldn't open her mouth. Nothing, no energy was left in her small body anymore to fight it. When the intensity tripled, her body twitched, more out of reflex than anything else. There were no more screams, only short grunts. As the fourth and final Cruciatus was cast -- the last excruciatingly violent pang shot up and down her abused body, very much like a fierce electric shock.
It was then her body couldn't take it anymore. Something snapped in her mind.
Hannah lay unconscious in front of the Death Eater, dirt-clad and pale, her static, empty blue gaze staring lifelessly at the stormy sky.
It was then that the sheer panic settled in on Megan. "NO! NO NONONO!" she began to scream as loud and as desperately as her lungs would go. She began to even more frantically clutch at the ground, her words became just pure sounds of animalistic terror and rage as she pushed her body forward inch my inch, tears streaming down her cheeks and body shaking violently. It was then that the Death Eater turned to her once more and lifted his wand with a cold chuckle. Megan was too far gone to notice. She was in her own world now, one focus, one goal, to get to Hannah, to help her, to protect her, her friend's screams echoed in her mind making her head throb.
Zacharias Smith, however, had heard the screams of his fellow Hufflepuffs and staggered out from under the stands. He had always liked Hannah, as bubbly as she was, and seeing her body crumpled to the ground and staring at the sky made him feel sick to his stomach. And then Megan screamed again. She hadn't even noticed!
Zach really did dislike Megan Jones. He didn't quite hate her, but he definitely could have done without her being around... or so he thought. But he felt a tug in his chest as the hooded figure loomed over the frantic tomboy. His feet were running toward the girls before he could even really think about it. He wondered, briefly, if this is what it'd been like for Cedric...
Megan's shrieks were just enough, along with the rest of the chaos to hide Zach's approach from behind and he planted his feet firmly, squared his shoulders and shouted at the top of his lungs. "STUPEFY!"
The Death Eater fell to the mud with a squelching thud. Megan still didn't notice. Neither did she notice Zach begin to rush to her, nor did she notice the Aurors beginning to pop up here and there. She wasn't aware of the one that took out the troll that had grabbed Zach by the middle right before he could reach her. She didn't see him be thrown into a tree or hear his neck snap when he fell into a heap on the ground. Megan could only scream over and over again, only stopping to cough up a pained sob, or clench her teeth and practical roar in rage and agony as the vibrations from the troll falling to the ground shot darts of intense pain up through the bone marrow of her legs. She just kept trying to reach Hannah. The fallen girl's blonde curls were the only thing that could distinguish her from the mud in Megan's teary eyes. She clawed for that spot of bright amongst the muck, she needed it, needed to get to it... needed to save it. But even in her panic, she felt the growing hole in the pit of her stomach. The gnawing realisation, that now. She was useless.
Padma cried out, wincing. Unfortunately, Daphne had grabbed her wand arm, effectively rendering it useless. She did the only thing she could think of, she brought her knee up into Greengrass's groin.
It was enough for the other girl to drop her. "Why you little bitch!"
Theodore heard the altercation rather than saw it - a massive werewolf had rounded on him at that moment, the froth pouring from its mouth a violent red. It was a testament to how many people it had killed.
"Padma, I'm coming," he called, leveling his wand at the werewolf, knowing with a sinking heart that he'd be tied up for more than a few moments. Oh, he hoped Padma kept her head against Daphne...
"I think it's time you paid for all your mistakes," Daphne said coolly. It was strange how none of the creatures had been attacking Daphne from the start. Now that she was on the Death Eater's side -- and oh, she'd had fun tormenting the Gryffindors she'd come across, no matter the age -- it seemed that the giants and trolls almost obeyed her. There was nothing so invigorating as power; Daphne knew without a doubt that she was on the right side. "Starting now."
Despite the gnawing pain in her arm, Padma raised her wand, sending a Disarming Spell at Daphne. No one was going to stop her from getting to Parvati, wherever she was on the battlefield. Merlin help Greengrass if Padma gained the upper hand now.
Daphne dodged it easily, clearly in much better shape. The Killing Curse was much too simple, too easy for Patil. Oh, no. Daphne had a brilliant, excruciating death scene planned. Daphne wanted her to suffer. "That wasn't very nice, but guess what? I no longer care to be nice. Extapersulto!"
There wasn't time to dodge, not when Padma's brain was turning over that spell. Her mind translated Latin fairly easily, considering she had spent over two years working on her hybrids, and what were the hybrids but crosses of the Latin and focus? This spell, however, was unfamiliar. Something about murmuring? Maybe it was skipping? Something like that.
It didn't take long for Padma to find out. The din of screams and giants' roars was suddenly drown out by an ever growing thumpthump thump thumpthump in her head. It was all encompassing, and Padma suddenly fell onto all fours, clutching her chest and panting heavily. Her heart felt as though it was being squeezed, the beat growing dimmer and dimmer. The loud hammering made it hard to concentrate on anything else.
What frightened Theodore most was when he saw the top of Padma's (admittedly short) frame duck down from sight. The werewolf was requiring most of his attention, but his peripheral vision nevertheless refused to forget his girlfriend's presence. He caught sight of Daphne Greengrass's braids - though the rain had soaked her blonde hair black - and for the first time since the battle had begun, felt real fear in his heart.
And yet. There was nothing he could do to get to where she was - the werewolf gave a guttural howl and lunged at him, and Theodore was barely able to dodge. Landing hard on his arse, he coughed, gasping for breath. Oh, he had no time for his asthma now! Tearing himself back onto his feet, he cast a fierce ramming curse at the magical beast, his hatred of werewolves tripling threefold. If Padma was injured because of this bloody werewolf getting in the way, Theodore vowed to dispose of every nasty beast that ever had the inclination to howl at the full moon.
"That might cover your first mistake -- being born," Daphne cooed, absolutely ecstatic at the effect of her spell. She held her wand steady, pointing at Patil's chest, giving every ounce of energy she had. The first part of the plan was to weaken the Head Girl's heart. The second was to hold the torture curse until it literally burst.
Padma noticed that her nails were blue. In fact, the tint seemed to be crawling up her arms. Her hands tingled, sharp pinpricks darting in and out of her fingers and palms. She couldn't breathe, and the sound in her head was growing more and more monstrous by the second. The beat changed, however, into something infinitely more terrifying. Thump thump thumpthump thump. Even in her debilitated state, Padma knew that wasn't good, and her heart even seemed to be slowing down. Funny, she was going to die of a broken heart.
"Your second mistake? Breaking up Slytherin the way you did. We worked before you came along. I hope you remember the last time Theodore fucked you, because that's the last you'll ever get," Daphne hissed, spitting out the Cruciatus Curse.
Padma let out a shriek that would have made a banshee jealous, writhing and twitching. Convulsing really.
Theodore heard the hiss of the Cruciatus, and then Padma's screams rang in his ears. The werewolf, however, was still right at him, darting forward, leaping at him, whimpering and keeping him at bay. It seemed to be injured, a fact which pleased Theodore greatly, for instead of going at his throat it appeared as if it was more interested in keeping him away from the drama unfolding between Greengrass and his girlfriend.
Theodore was having none of it. With a quick 'accio', he summoned someone's arm from the ground, stripped it of its flesh with a scything charm, and blasted it halfway across the battlefield.
"Fetch," he ordered wearily. The werewolf tilted its head, gave a strangled bark, and took after the body part joyfully.
Daphne stood over Padma, and the gleam in her eye was nothing sane to Theodore's vision. Padma's face was nearly blue, and she looked... well, she looked about to die at any moment. Theodore's own heart leapt into his throat, and it almost seemed like things were happening in slow motion after that.
Ernie whipped around toward a new sound, far but infinitely familiar, if not incredibly wrong. Megan. He ran, feet sticking in the red-dyed ground, until he saw her, collapsed and reaching for Hannah.
Nothing left much time for analysis, for wondering why Megan wasn't getting up, or the look in Hannah's empty eyes. Megan moved and Hannah did not, so he needed to get Hannah somewhere safer, if there was such a thing, and then get back to the fray. It was that simple. He had promised he would never drop her.
Seamus heard her scream over all the other sounds of the battlefield. He'd been hit with a Cruciatus just a minute before, but he went running toward the sound anyway. The only thought in his mind was that Megan was in trouble, bad trouble, and he had to help.
He found her on the ground, sobbing and screaming—Ernie was already carrying Hannah's limp body toward the bleachers, and that was what Megan seemed to be grasping for.
"Megan!" Seamus shouted, coming to a skidding halt next to her. "Megan, I—"
"My legs!" she gasped hysterically. "My legs, Shay, they're…I can't…"
"It's all right," he said, trying to manage a soothing tone in all the chaos. If her legs were the problem, she wasn't going to be able to walk herself to wherever it was Ernie was carrying Hannah, which meant he'd have to get her there the same way. Seamus looked back over his shoulder: Ernie was ducking past the side paneling in the stands, which meant something must be happening there. That was where to go, then.
Seamus picked Megan up, and she almost immediately began to thrash, whether with pain or hysteria he didn't know. Her legs, he noticed, didn't move at all, despite how hard she fought. In all the blood and mud and mess, though, it was impossible to tell what her wounds might be.
"Hannah!" she shrieked. "I've gotta get to Hannah, Shay, I've gotta…"
Seamus ducked a curse, hopped up and kept running. "If ye don' stop fuckin' fightin', we're not gonna get anywhere," he snapped. Megan finally stopped thrashing quite so much, but a movement that touched her legs sent her into another convulsion.
Luckily, the stands weren't far. When they arrived there, they found several students working as healers, trying to handle the worst of the casualties.
"HANNAH!" Megan could see where they'd already taken her in hand, trying to determine just how badly off she was. Megan's head snapped back to look at Seamus pleadingly. "Yeh've gotta take me over there, please, Seamus…"
He knew it was a bad idea. She'd just get more hysterical and upset. However, Seamus didn't have the heart to just give her a flat no or the time to argue with her. "All right," he agreed reluctantly. He continued, with a firm tone that would brook no argument. "But ye stay quiet, ye do as ye're told, and ye do not get in the way for any reason, d'ye hear me?"
Megan nodded quickly; she would have agreed to build a hammered dulcimer out of candy floss to get to where Hannah was. Her own pain was almost inconsequential in comparison to the fact that Hannah could very well be dying or dead. She had to see her.
Seamus carried her over, setting her down where she could lean against one of the wooden posts that held the bleachers up. He didn't want to leave her there, because he knew she needed someone…but there were people on the field who needed him more. "I'll be back," he said with a quick, quiet urgency. "An' just in case I don' get to say it again…I love ye."
Seamus kissed her, short and hard, and took off again. The battle still raged on the field, and there he was bound.
Megan felt a chill deep inside her as she watched him leave. For the first time, she was realizing that all in a few minutes, she could lose everyone. Hannah could die there on the ground under the bleachers, right before her eyes. Seamus might not come back from the field. Her life as she knew it could be over. Her view of Hannah began to blur with tears.
Tracey was curled up in a ball on the muddy ground, trying to ignore the tremors of pain that were still shooting through her body. Of course, it was relatively less than when the curse had actually been on her, but it still hurt. And her mind was refusing to wrap itself around the situation. She couldn't accept that her best friend from childhood had just used an Unforgivable on her. She couldn't accept that people were dying around her by the second and she was very likely next. She couldn't accept that Death Eaters and the like were at her school.
The only thing she could accept at this point was that she had no will or desire to move herself from her current position.
Seamus was coming from under the stands when he saw Tracey huddled up in the middle of the field. He'd just managed to get Megan, half-paralysed, to the healers, and left her still in a panic over Hannah. He was headed back out into the fray, and caught sight of a blonde head bent over on the ground--whoever she was, she was still alive, because he could see her shaking a little...and he was pretty sure she was Tracey Davis.
"Tracey!" he shouted at her, ducking a curse and jogging toward her. "Get up, Tracey, ye're gonna get yerself killed." Christ, he hoped she hadn't fallen victim to the Dementors already.
Tracey was pretty sure she heard her name. And she was pretty sure it had come from Seamus Finnegan's mouth. Maybe that's the point she thought to herself. Sure, later on she'd look back on this (if she survived) and hate herself for being such a baby, but right now, it just felt so easy. "Can't," she said quietly, her voice once again damaged from screaming so much. At least this time she had a better reason though.
"Goddammit," Seamus muttered, bolting to where she was. Apparently he'd found the next thing that needed to be done: getting the wounded back to where they could get help. He didn't know exactly what the nature of Tracey's "can't" was, but he did know that he couldn't leave her there in the mud to get stomped on by a giant.
When he reached her, Seamus gave her shoulder a shake to get her attention. "Yer legs workin'?" he asked. That was the last problem he'd had to deal with, after all.
Tracey stretched her legs out slightly in response to his question but winced as she did so. Geez she was sore. Was she supposed to be sore? After all, she wasn't sure what was or wasn't normal for an Unforgiveable. Or maybe she was just sore because her body no longer cared about working. With some difficulty, she pushed herself up into a sitting position.
And that was as much as she was moving. She liked her spot in the mud. It was completely lacking student body parts with the exception of her own and she liked it that way. Moving only meant seeing more of what was going on and where was the good in that?
Seamus could tell something was wrong with her. It could be a spell, it could be purely in her head, but either way she was a right mess. "All right, love, now ye've gotta get up," he told her firmly. He bent his knees and picked Tracey up under her arms to give her a lift in the right directions. "We're gonna get ye back to the bleachers where it's safe, okay?"
Safe as anyplace out here is, anyhow.
"It's not safe," she said quietly. "Might as well just stay out here. Get it over with faster," she said, rambling to herself at this point. She looked over at Seamus, and narrowed her eyes. Why was he helping her? Shouldn't he be calling her a traitor too? Shouldn't he be cursing her or at the very least, leaving her where she was?
"Ye can just shut that talk off right now, Miss Davis," Seamus replied, his tone brisk. "Yer choices are--fuck!"
A curse had come zinging by, narrowly missing them. Seamus turned around sharply, nailing the perpetrator with the same freezing hex that Dean had used to such handy effect earlier. He turned back to Tracey, moving a little faster now that he'd been reminded of the urgency of the situation. "Two choices: get up an' run wi' me, or I'm pickin' ye up an' takin' ye."
As the curse went by, Tracey quickly lifted her wand up defensively. She then looked down at it with a confused expression. Had she really been holding it this entire time? Through the grabbing of the hair and the cursing and now.....and all she could manage to do was raise it up? Not even use a spell of some sort? How pathetic was she? What was the point of going to school for seven years if she completely folded under pressure and magic became completely useless?
While these thoughts went through her mind, she completely missed what Seamus had said. In fact, she had completely forgotten that he was there in the first place.
If Tracey couldn't make the choice, Seamus would make it for her. He knelt down and grabbed her up, took a quick look around and starting running as fast as he could manage in the direction he'd come from. He was worn down and weary, but the wounded and mind-broken had to get to help somehow. As he ran back toward the bleachers, Seamus was already planning to go back and do the same again. He was probably of more use running the wounded than he was as an active fighter, he thought.
Tracey let out a small squeak as Seamus picked her up and ran. Lucky for him she weighed pretty much nothing which would hopefully make the running thing a whole lot easier. As he brought her somewhere (she really hadn't been paying attention) she looked around them quickly, trying to find Blaise. Was he alive? Had Daphne done something to him as well? She tried to stop herself from worrying, however. "Dirty blood," she said softly, not even aware she had said it out loud. But blood had never mattered where Blaise was concerned and at that moment, he was the only person she really cared about that was left.
She quickly shook herself out of her thoughts and tried to focus on what was actually happening. "You okay?" she managed to ask Seamus, although now was hardly the time for a conversation.
He'd looked up to see where Megan was--she was sitting precisely where he'd left her, staring as a couple of students worked hard on healing Hannah. At the sound of Tracey's voice, Seamus turned back and gave her a wry half smile. "Save fer a Cruciatus an' a paralysed, panickin' girlfriend, 'm doin' fine. Yerself?" He did want to be sure she wasn't in need of medical attention before he just left her to her own devices in the makeshift healing area.
Tracey looked around at the people in the area. She saw Megan in the distance....as well as a familiar blonde Hufflepuff. "Oh Salazar, we're all going to die," she cried as she sank to the ground. If the Death Eaters were going to hit anywhere, here was the loser area that they'd be sure to get. And Tracey was right smack in the middle of it. It figured, really. Tracey would die as the Slytherin traitor who was hanging out with the pathetic Hufflepuffs. How peachy.
"Way to be hopeful," Seamus responded dryly. If she had the energy for that much gloom and doom, she at least wasn't dying. She didn't seem to be quite so numb as she was out there in the mud, either.
"It's a talent," she said flatly as she started examining her wand again. After a few seconds, she quickly brought it down over one of her knees, successfully snapping it in half. It wasn't like it was doing her any good anyway. She threw the two pieces, not paying any attention to where they landed. Although she had liked her previous place of sitting, she gave a great big sigh and decided that this place was an okay place as well. At least here she was sure to get attacked and hopefully killed. After all, who wouldn't go after the bleachers 'o blood traitors?
Seamus's eyes widened a bit at Tracey snapping her wand. A witch's wand was her best protection in a spot like this, not to mention the only means by which she could really be useful...clearly, the girl had gone off the deep end and straight to the bottom to swim with the flounder.
"Stay safe, okay?" Seamus said with quiet concern. That said, he quirked another half-smile. "Don' make me've risked me neck for ye just so ye can go get yerself killed anyway."
Tracey looked up at Seamus, focusing on him the best she could. The way he said all of that sounded like he was leaving. Was he really going back out into the fighting? "Don't die," was all she managed to say to him, forcing a small smile onto her face for less than a second before it faded away.
"Yes'm," Seamus replied, giving her a little smile back. With that, he was heading back out. He'd be in and out of the bleachers several more times in the next twenty minutes, bringing in more wounded, some in seriously bad shape.
Then, he just...didn't come back.
The castle was not happy.
Correction, slight: the castle had not been happy for several weeks now. No, ever since it had been oh-so-rudely attacked by that impudent Gryffindor and his loyal friends, it had been nursing its hurt pride and sulking in a highly annoyed manner, though of course no one had really noticed its sulk. They had noticed its strange behaviour, of course, and the castle took some pride in the fact that by jove, it still had some sass in those old stones after all!
The castle's builders were none too happy as well. In fact, they were so distressed over the sorry state of things, that they had it in their heads that they might as well wake up, have a brief constitutional about their beloved school, and then teach the usurper a very stern lesson about taking what wasn't his.
Salazar Slytherin was unusually quiet as he emerged from the particles of dust released by a shattered window. He didn't feel personally responsible for what the student of his house had become, of course, but nevertheless he was most disgruntled as to what this would mean for the reputation of his House. Helga wasn't exactly her cheery self either - emerging from behind a centuries-old tapestry, she wrung her hands and looked sadly about the place.
Rowena Ravenclaw's usual serene and knowing glance had long since dissolved into a stern and intent one as she made her way through the castle toward her destination. Her slender fingers steepled, elbows bent. She didn't look as though she ever walked a day in her life, merely floated from place to place.
Godric Gryffindor, on the other hand, looked like a lion. Years down the road, some would say that Rufus Scrimgeour had to be descended from Godric with such similar features. But where Rufus was hard-lined and perpetually frowning, Godric was usually all-smiles and good humoured.
But not today.
The castle simply ceased to be home for their memories. The walls of the fortress could not hold such blackness inside it, and each of them knew they must eradicate it.
Helga piped up first. "Well!" she stated cheerily, twirling her cedar-made wand in her stubby fingers, "there will always be another school."
"Yes," Salazar answered patiently, but with the edge of disdain present in his voice if you chose to hear it. "But there will never be another Hogwarts."
Helga fell silent fretfully, knowing that the dark man was correct. "Well!" she eventually chirped, "time to get on it, yes?"
"We always knew it would come to this day. Godric's ratty old hat chatters on and on about it constantly," Rowena said in a low, melodic voice. Oddly, she seemed as calm and serene as another current student of Hogwarts, despite the task at hand.
"Yes, we did," Godric answered in a gruff voice. He hadn't looked at his peers quite yet, choosing instead to look around the hallowed corridors with something of quiet nostalgia. He really would miss this castle; it had been their finest achievement. They were all still friends at this time. "And now, Helga, would you be a kind soul, and take your place by my side? Rowena, here." He indicated the spot between Salazar and himself.
Helga padded over to Godric, exhaling slowly. The castle creaked wearily as she did so. Salazar made room for Rowena, his large-nosed profile regal and... somewhat sad. It had always been his hope that Hogwarts would have withstood every test that had been thrown at it, but that simply wasn't the case.
And with a shrug of his wide shoulders, he was ready.
Seamus soon found himself occupied with carrying the wounded back to the spot under the stands. So many of them, it seemed, and more and more with every passing moment. He could only carry one at a time, because he needed his wand to make sure he didn’t get himself dead somewhere along the path. He kept fighting, despite the fact that it felt like every single inch of him hurt, and was doing fairly well until he found himself face-to-knee with a giant.
The creature picked him up easily as a child would a doll, hurling him through the air straight at the castle wall. He hit it with a sickening thud and a collection of sharp cracks as bones broke. Seamus was already unconscious before he even began to fall. He never knew about the newly-arrived Auror’s Cushioning charm that saved his life.
When Harry thought he could stand it no longer, his vision dimming, the castle began to shake and shake violently. At first, it was just the Astronomy tower, swaying and quivering. The castle let out a scream of its own, though it sounded accusatory and demanding. It didn't surprise Harry in the least; he was used to the castle behaving oddly as of recent.
Voldemort, however, actually slipped backwards. He tripped on his robes and clung to the spike at the top of the tower, holding on as if his life depended on it. There wasn't slight worry on his features anymore; he looked utterly paralysed with fear.
"They're... all gone," Harry told him smugly, simultaneously laughing and coughing up blood. "Where did you think I was all this time? On holiday? We found them all -- even the one Regulus stole -- and we destroyed them."
Every other tower in the castle began to rumble, waving against the wind in a sort of hypnotic dance. There was an awful shriek from somewhere across the grounds, on the other side of the fortress. Harry thought that it told of a wizard who thought he could taint the castle with his soul. The shriek was eerily melodic, and Voldemort's expression confessed that he heard the accusations, too.
The voices sounded like a choir, growing louder until Harry could make out the words.
"What once stood
proud and regal,
You dared disgrace the founders' toil,
The blight we heard upon the squall
Your life forfeit, and plan a-foil
Darkness will not reign o'er this--"
The voices were drowned out as Dumbledore's tower broke free from the structure with a loud bang, cascading down and smashing to bits in the courtyard. One by one tower's shattered and splintered. The Great Hall imploded with an ear-shattering screech. A cloud of dust rose higher and higher, and Harry could hear screeching and wailing from inside the castle.
"What's going on!"
"I don't know!"
"Oh, Merlin! Jill! Jill, wake up!"
"Run, Magdalene! THE CASTLE IS COLLAPSING!"
A roaring cyclone tore upward from the Astronomy classroom, through the roof. Voldemort's robes flapped toward the whirlwind. Harry heard him howling out in protest. The gale snaked around his ankles, arching upward as if it were a giant vacuum. The castle was trying to claim Voldemort, and he knew without a doubt that it hadn't been Dumbledore's gargoyle that was the Horcrux.
It was the entire castle. He, Hermione, and Ron had disrupted the Horcruxes protection enchantments and the castle's own defence mechanisms. The castle had understood that the Dark Magic behind the creation of a Horcrux had smeared the sanctity of the establishment, had disturbed thousands of year old magic, like a poison festering in a person's bloodstream. The castle had been trying to spit out Voldemort's pollution.
Felix started nudging Harry. Look at your wand. Use your wand. The desire to cast a spell heightened until Harry found himself shouting, "Accio Firebolt!"
It was strange. Theodore Nott was usually a person of logic and mathematics, cool and collected and always weighing one possibility against one another. But now, as his wand rose, he couldn't seem to get his mind to focus in the least. Part of it was shivering with rage, the other, in terror. Padma couldn't die - she was literally the second person in the entire world that he had ever loved, and she would not be the second person in the entire world that he had loved... that had died. Not if he had anything to do with it.
But what to do. Aim for Daphne, his senses told him. But aim what? What? Her face.... her face was not meant to be that colour. Focus. Focus.
Theodore remembered one of Padma's hybrid spells that she had taught him in confidence one drowsy night at Rhonda. How she'd been so quietly proud of herself, and yet so worried that they wouldn't be useful...! But which one to use? The banishing and blasting hybrid would probably be enough to knock Daphne off her feet; pity that he was being good and couldn't just cast his own Cruciatus upon her.
Padma's screams grew quieter, eerily disappearing as she tried to catch her breath. Her heart wouldn't last much longer. Seconds, really. All he'd have left was seconds, and he'd have given anything for just a few seconds more to consider his options, just a few seconds more with his father before he'd been buried in a dirt plot and covered over with roses and a stone, as if bloody roses and a stone made a bit of difference when the one you loved was cold and dead and blue as Padma's straining lips now were.
Theodore remembered the incantation, but he was too emotional to control it. The words rolled off of his tongue as he hissed, "Flaminis Repello", throwing the Banishing Blasting hybrid squarely at Daphne's torso. He thought that he could almost smell those strange funeral pyres in India all over again.
The hybrid wasn't quite successful in the way that Theodore might have wished. Daphne was banished in one direction, but was blasted into the other, being stretched and torn in one loud grinding and popping of bone and tendon.
In effect, Daphne Greengrass exploded, and exploded rather violently. Several feet away, a fourth year Hufflepuff was clocked in the back of the head by what appeared to be flesh and a piece of material.
"What's that?" asked his friend.
"Dunno," answered the fourth year, turning over the green material in his fingers before dropping it carelessly to the ground. "Slytherin, somethin'."
Suffice to say, Daphne Greengrass was very dead indeed.
Padma continued to convulse on the ground; it seemed that the residual leftover magic was taking its toll. But she was no longer making that strange strangled sound, and that was a good sign. Or as good a sign as Theodore was going to get.
The bluish hue faded little by little, but while the thudding in her ears was subsiding, that strange skipping wasn't. Padma could breathe again, albeit haltingly, sputtering and choking.
And Theodore was instantly at the ground, touching her in a strangely calm fashion, holding her and stroking her hair as she sputtered into a strained breathing. He suddenly felt very, very still - as if the entire battle was safely away in some monstrous snow globe, and it was only he and Padma. He didn't realise that he was covered from head to toe in blood, and truth be told, he wouldn't have cared either way.
"Padma," he murmured. "Padma. We've got to get you to someone who can heal you."
Parvati worked steadily, applying healing charms to whomever she could help. She supposed she should count herself luckily that the werewolf had bitten her right shoulder—at least that left her usual wand arm still functional. A lot of these charms' somatic components were too complex for her to attempt with her right hand.
Her shoulder still hurt like the very devil, even with liberal application of Justin's healing salve. Parvati kept going for more, enough to keep it numb and the bleeding stopped so she could keep working on other people. The carnage was terrible, and it all seemed to move so fast. Every moment, another person was brought under the bleachers with horrible wounds, some even missing limbs, people screaming and crying, and that didn't even touch the ones whose minds were too shattered to even speak. For them, Parvati forced herself to keep going—the DA's Healer's group was small, and they couldn't afford to lose any more. Hannah Abbott going down had already taken one of their best, which left Parvati and Justin to manage a makeshift infirmary under the bleachers. So Parvati continued to work, taking Justin's orders and ignoring the pain in her shoulder.
Then with no warning, there was a pain completely unrelated to her shoulder, sharp and insistent and nearly blinding in its intensity. It came from deep in her chest, and Parvati thought for a moment that perhaps she was going to die. She stumbled, falling to her knees on the sludge of the ground. Air was suddenly precious, impossible to take in but in tiny gasps. She had to be dying; there was no other explanation.
And as quickly as the pain had come, it disappeared. It was like the band that had been steadily tightening around her chest a moment before was cut, setting her free again. Parvati took a deep breath: oxygen had never ever felt so good.
"Parvati, are you all right?" Justin asked, reaching down to offer her his hand. She took it, giving him a little nod.
"Fine, fine…just tripped," she said as she got to her feet. She was a little shaky, but she could stand. She had to. So Parvati gave Justin a quick peck on the cheek and grabbed up her things. "Thanks," she said, and they were both off again in their opposite directions, trying to save whomever they could.
Seamus became dimly aware of the rumble next to him—the shouting didn't even register, as there'd just been too much shouting that day. As the noise roused him, he became intensely aware of the pain that starting at his head and ended somewhere around the tip of his big toe. He knew he should move, that he should get up and get away from the rumble; was that a rock falling on him? It was so hard to tell when everything already hurt so badly. Movement was going to be impossible.
It was a rock, and then another…and then the whole wall. Panic washed over Seamus as he saw the chunk of stone and mortar coming after him, as he was certain it was going to kill him. Reflexively, he started to whisper the words of the Hail Mary under his breath. His father had once told him there were no atheists in foxholes: perhaps he was right. As the wall came closer at a dizzying speed, Seamus clenched his eyes shut, unable to watch it anymore… and was very surprised to feel only an odd squishing feeling on his face. The wall had made an abrupt stop, mere inches from the end of his nose.
The cushioning charm that had protected him in the fall had saved Seamus Finnigan's life for the second time that day. Instead of being crushed under the massive weight of the pieces of what had been a castle wall, Seamus was instead just pinned under it. The stones had piled above him, putting him mostly in darkness but at least still alive.
He was conscious just long enough to have the coherent thought of being very grateful to be alive. Then, the blackness overtook him once again.
Crippled by fear and feeling none of the zeal Felix Felicis would have given him, Ernie spent no time marveling how he had managed so far, when he had never drunk from his phial. His back to a Ravenclaw Sixth Year's, Jove Beggins, he nodded, shouting, "RIGHT, GO!"
Both boys launched themselves forward. Ernie dove into a cluster of vampires as Jove, he knew, had charged toward two werewolves – momentarily distracted by tearing off pieces of a student he had been unable to recognize, when they'd got there. There was no time to be sick, no time to shriek in horror or faint, because he had to stop this, he had to save them, these were his students. He was Head Boy. He had to—
The vampires had cornered a few girls from Hufflepuff, in their Fourth Year, and seemed to be toying with them as they deflected the weak hexes the girls shot from their wands. He had gotten one of the vampires with a stunning spell as he moved forward, and pushed the frozen man down, to the side, as Ernie threw himself in front of the girls, spinning to face the ghastly white beasts.
Unspoken magic streamed from his wand, vicious hexes he had winced to think of using when instructed during the DA. One vampire's chest ripped open, blood spurting in what should have been a comical manner, and it staggered back. Every other spell maintained his shield charm, the rest being a slew of offense. His left arm had been continuously flung up, to shove back against the clawing nails and occasionally darting teeth of the rest.
There had been eight vampires. There was one when the entire earth groaned, and the most ear-splitting thunder Ernie had ever encountered sundered the air. And the castle fell. Ernie would never be able to look back and pinpoint how long it took to crumble, never be able to discern it, for in one moment he was attempting to stun a vampire, a tall, cloud-white and black-haired man who was much, much too thin. And in the next, he stared as walls cracked, shook, and leaned in.
Ernie's hands fells and his jaw dropped, and his brow eyes popped. The vampire did not wait for him to recollect himself- the next Ernie knew, as the castle continued to implode, his neck felt as if it had exploded, pain searing and erupting from every pore as thin nostrils breathed cold, cold air against his wet skin, and teeth dug viciously, tearing into his skin and – he couldn't imagine what else.
Ernie screamed. He screamed, and choked on the sound, because it burned his neck to do it, to push back his head and howl, against the vampire's mouth. He screamed as his left arm lit up with what had to be flames, and screamed, hoarsely, as he tried to plunge it into the vampire's gut and couldn't, couldn't, and screamed "Stupefy" as he jabbed his wand, instinctively, at the monster.
The vampire fell with his teeth still in Ernie's neck. Skin tore, but fangs caught against bone before they could be freed from the hold. Ernie staggered forward, his head, neck, body wrenched down with the vampire's immensely dead weight. He was pulled to his knees before he was able to shove his head down and the vampire away.
Even with the heavy rainfall, he could feel the new, warm pressure of a different kind of liquid. Ernie couldn't angle his head to see the wound, but blood gushed from it, around his neck as if following a path, a twisting river, streaming down his front, melting into his red, red sweater.
He lifted his right hand, dumbly, twisting the wand so to press his fingers against the tears in his neck, the blood pouring like the rain. His neck, his arm, were wreathed in pain, writhed, agony, agony, he stumbled forward, a few steps past the fallen vampires.
Ernie hoped the girls had gotten away before he fell forward, losing consciousness before he hit the ground.
The Firebolt's Steering Charms were failing. Harry clung to the broom as if his life depended on it, eyes wide, praying that the Braking Charms wouldn't go astray. The muddy ground grew closer and closer, and the wind rushing in his ears howled mercilessly. How had he managed to steer the Nimbus 2000 with a broken arm was beyond Harry, as he eased up the best he could to slow his descent. The ground was a water-coloured painting, smeared with dull browns, greens, and the occasional smattering of red. The castle collapsed, dust billowing out, enveloping him.
With a hard crack, Harry slammed into the ground, fairly bouncing and tumbling. Something in his shoulder wasn't Right anymore.
Blaise completely missed Harry's graceless ground-bound splat, as he was somewhat wrapped up in fighting a particularly ugly troll. He found that fighting with fists was suiting him better than using his wand, for magic bounced right off the trolls' thick hide. With what passed as a manly screech of battling rage, Blaise charged at the troll only to be sent tumbling backwards. Never to fear - this was about the fortieth time that such had happened, and Blaise's hard head protected him in unforeseen ways.
Draco, however, was not a physical fighter. He wouldn't be charging in haphazardly, swinging his fists like some pale, blonde version of Megan Jones. He was much less ape-like, anyway.
What he did have to his benefit, however, was that he was quite clever and this battle was truly testing that cleverness to its limits. He really did not expect to be attacked from all sides when the war found him, much less that it would find him during the finals Quidditch match. If it wasn't Death Eaters, werewolves, vampires, or trolls, it was Aurors, giants, and students. If Blaise hadn't been watching his back, Draco would very likely be dead at the moment.
His magic couldn't hurt the troll directly, but that didn't mean he couldn't use objects or the environment to hurt the troll. Like this piece that belonged to the castle that he could whip into its face, for instance.
On all fours (or three as the case may be, given his broken arm), Harry looked through his matted fringe to see Draco Malfoy and Blaise Zabini just ahead of him. He waved his injured hand tightly, flailing to get their attention. He didn't have much time before Voldemort Apparated in front of him or behind or to the side, and with the castle spent and Nagini gone, it was really coming down to the end.
On top of the castle, there were no Death Eaters to interfere, no trolls, no vampires. What Harry needed right now was a line of defence, someone who could keep all those other forces at bay for just a few minutes.
When his thrashing managed nothing, Harry yelled out: "MALFOY! ZABINI!"
Blaise heard his last name bellowed, and he shot up from the ground with narrowed eyes and a frazzled expression. His Quidditch uniform was streaked with mud, but he had yet to accumulate any injuries save some bruising.
Who was calling him? Probably yet another person eager to kill him, or kill his best mate, or kill them both. Blaise knew neither of them were all that popular in either camp at the moment. So it was to his surprise that he saw a bedraggled looking Boy-Who-Lived attempt to flag them down.
"Oye, Draco!" he called out warningly, hexing a Death Eater that was readying some sort of nasty at his friend's back. "Potter...."
It never occurred to him not to go see what Potter wanted. Blaise did well with orders, after all. "C'mon!"
Draco hurled two more pieces of fallen castle at the troll's head, finally landing a direct hit and either killing or knocking out the large beast. He didn't really care which at the moment. Blaise's comments caught his attention though and he spun around, which landed his eyes on a battered and beaten Potter. Normally he'd laugh and mock the boy, but this was... slightly different.
Silently thanking Blaise for the well-timed blast, he ran over to Potter and with Blaise's help, tried to help the boy to his feet. "Strong enough to finish this, Potter?" asked Draco, throwing up a quick shield just in case.
"Hey, I can destroy an entire castle; I'm up to finishing it," Harry coughed, covered from head to foot in ash and blood. He smeared the back of his hand across his forehead. Not much time. Hurry up! "The castle crumbled because it was a Horcrux. Don't have much time to explain it. A Horcrux is a piece of Voldemort's soul. He put it in there years ago. Same with that bleeding snake --" Harry wobbled on his feet.
"All of Voldemort's Horcruxes are gone. We destroyed them all. I need... some time. I need you to cover me so none of the other Death Eaters can get into this. Voldemort's mine." Silently, he added, I don't know how much longer I've got.
Blaise blinked. And then blinked again. Did Potter just....? He glanced at Draco to see if the blond boy was as flummoxed, befuddled, discombobulated, and all those other words that rightly described the complete shock he was feeling. Potter, asking for help. It really must be the end of the world. Eventually, he shrugged, taking a step back. "Sure, sure thing. I'll cover you. Don' worry 'bout a thing."
Draco was indeed a bit baffled. Potter was asking him for assistance? The rain must've been messing with his hearing. What the bloody hell was a Horcrux?
"Er, no problem. Defence. No one will reach you," he added, finding his composure. After all, he'd made that stupid vow and meant to see it through.
"I need your word, Draco," Harry urged, grabbing Malfoy's arm -- to prove his desperation or to steady himself, it was unclear.
"I can help," came a familiar voice from behind Harry. It was none other than Luna Lovegood, bloody and sullied, and staring directly at the three boys in front of her with her wand drawn. It was odd to see it in her hand for once and not behind her ear. Luna's matted blond hair stuck to the side of her cheek where a large gash was present and leaving a trail of blood down her neck which was absorbed by her collar.
"Really, I can. The D.A. taught me well this year," she added with an emphatic nod, even despite how much pain she was in. Luna did her best to hide the fact that her left arm was broken in at least three places and her ankle was not taking to her weight very well.
Draco glared at Luna for a moment, then at Potter, then nodded. "You have the bloody vow. They won't get to you unless I'm dead and at that point, I don't care anymore," sneered Draco, pulling his arm free. He looked over at Blaise and nodded for his mate to ready his wand again. They were going to need more than fists for this.
"Now go take care of what we're counting on you for, Potter," he called over his shoulder.
"Oh, this is so bloody inspirational," Blaise muttered loudly, not caring who or what heard him. "Draco an' I are fightin' off people we were gonna be joinin' like... two months ago, an' who else is gonna be helpin' us fight but a slip of a bird who weighs like 3 stone when wet, an' half of that is in her bloody eye, an' besides all that, she's fuckin' mad!"
Still, despite his griping, Blaise aimed his wand grimly, the set to his mouth serious. He knew that the odds were not in their favour, but eh. He'd always wanted to go out with a bang. And for the first time since the end of October, he felt in his gut that he was, in fact, doing the right thing.
"I'm not mad!" Luna shot back shrilly, glaring at Blaise as though he'd just spoke about slaughtering a Crumple-Horned Snorkack. "Quite honestly, you should be relieved because you two are going to need all the help you can get!" Besides, Luna was going to do everything in her power to aid Harry as much as possible. It was the least she could do, even if it took all of her strength...or more.
"Fight them not each other," Harry objected gruffly before locking his fingers around Luna's shoulder to keep her from wandering off just yet. "I don't have much time; I just wanted to say I was sorry."
"Don't think on it," Luna said. She looked over Harry's battered face and felt her stomach knot. "There are much more important things..." she paused a moment, biting back tears with all her might. "Harry, please... be careful."
"Yes, yes, and he loves you, and you love him, this is all wonderful, now less talking and more hexing, please," grumbled Draco, gesturing to the rest of the war going on. What was this, some story in a book? Next thing you know, Blaise will be frolicking with Abbott and getting a pet bunny.
"That was so sweet, Draco," Blaise piped up in a drippy voice. "I love you. Lots and lots. Will you hold my hand after the big scary batt--"
But he was promptly interrupted by a Death Eater sending a potent blasting curse in his direction, his snark lost to one's imagination. The Death Eaters were quickly making their way over to Potter, all eager to protect their master. Blaise pursed his lips, readied his wand, and thought of all the arse he'd get when birds heard of what a hero he'd been in battle.
Luna had ignored both Draco and Blaise as she watched Harry leave, not before being interrupted by a flash of red light that barely missed her nose. Four or so Death Eaters were rounding on them and Luna, with her wand drawn, and her head high fired a blasting hex on the hooded figure directly in front of her and it was a hit square in the chest. "For you, Harry," she muttered under her breath and braced herself for the worst that was yet to come.
After Megan, Millicent had lain on the ground for a long moment, unable to even inhale mud through her shattered nose, through her very split lips. Her entire face felt as if it had swelled to the size of a melon, an enormous purple welt instead of skin, instead of her nose, ears, mouth, eyes. She had laid there, absorbing her loss with the rain, with the soaked dirt against her skin, knowing that the reason Jones hadn't killed her was the word she'd shrieked before jumping off and away.
It had been a blur of syllables and soft consonants, hard to hear in her damaged ear, but Millicent had hear Jones go on about Hannah enough to know it had something to do with the pig-tailed, simpering Hufflepuff. With a muted bitterness, she wished her very dead before climbing to her feet, shuddering breaths working their way to her lungs, wheezing behind bruised ribs.
Millicent gazed at the carnage, having even more difficulty due to her double black-eyes, and lurched toward the nearest student she could find. Her father trusted her. He's proud of me, Millicent thought, deliriously, he's so proud of me.
It felt like hours and hours because of the incredible aching in her body, but like seconds from the joy of fist cracking skin and breaking bone. The castle had fallen, complete lunacy, but since everything was completely crazy, Millicent had only laughed and shook herself like a dog before going on. And on.
She was throwing her foot into the still body of what looked like Jenkins McForster, his face too marred by boils, when suddenly her body stopped moving. With her right leg still pushed forward into a hearty kick, her body plummeted stiffly forward. Her leg caught the mud, squelching and sticking awkwardly, and sending her head over feet into the mud. She stared blankly up at the sky, the rain pelting her open eyes, as a wheezing wizard stood over her.
"Auror Joseff Tooken," he gasped, his voice cracking with something very familiar to Millicent – hatred. Disgust. One of the two.
"You're under arrest." He flicked his wand and Millicent noted with faded jealousy that she lifted into the air easily.
She could feel her mind sliding far, far away, unable to grasp it. Unable to understand everything. Arrested. As her eyes gazed ahead, through the rain, she looked once more at the heaps of rubble, the massive, massive rubble, that was the castle.
What? It struck Millicent, abruptly, that Ernestine was inside. But she couldn't open her mouth to scream, she couldn't move her arms, her legs, to pull away and rescue her cat. She couldn't curse the man for arresting her, when she was doing what she had been born to do, for this moment.
Millicent did not know where she was being taken. As she couldn't close her eyes, she knew she was bound to find out.
Harry Potter watched Malfoy, Zabini, and Luna head off to start the wall of protection around him. The Unbreakable Vow that Hermione had placed on Malfoy just the week before was the only confidence that Harry had in him. If he failed to keep the Death Eaters out of the battle, his chances were all but screwed. Sheer will and determination propelled Harry to his feet, grimacing in utter agony at the pain in his side, his legs, his head. Voldemort's curses had proved more than Harry anticipated. Still, the snake-like creature hadn't been able to manage the Killing Curse on him.
Thank Merlin for small favours.
Ron grasped Hermione by the arm and pointed towards Harry, who looked as if he had managed to escape Voldemort and the collapsing castle just in time. As he pointed, he finally noticed Aurors and members of the Order fighting alongside the students while others aided the injured.
"Thank Merlin," Ron breathed, glad to have some help on the grounds.
He could only hope the DA was still holding his own as he and Hermione had previously their hands more than full facing off against Death Eaters and that bloody giant snake. He needed to remember to thank whomever pulled the Death Eaters off so they could focus on Nagini.
"We've got to help Harry," he shouted to Hermione over all the noise. Ron didn't even have time to think about all the people who had been killed around him - not yet.
Hermione yelped as she ducked a nasty bone-breaking curse. "I know!" she yelled back, wiping off her now-bloody knee and rising to her feet, exhaling. Her hair wafted out with the force of her breath.
The castle... the entire castle had collapsed into itself. Hermione was both horrified and elated. Something had to have caused that, and she doubted that it had been the trolls and giants however much destruction they had been causing.
Her head snapped back to Harry. "Come on! We've got to get to him!" Which wouldn't be an easy task with as many Death Eaters that were still between them and Harry - at least the Aurors were causing the more cowardly ones to apparate. Hermione had no intention of letting their master be alive to punish them later - oh, she'd let the Ministry sort that one out.
Ron had an instant to wonder why she was agreeing with him and yet somehow still managing to make it sound like she was right and he was wrong. Nodding grimly, he pointed his wand at a werewolf. "Reducto!"
Then he stood with his back to Hermione to defend her for the moment. "Apparate over to him! I'll cover you and follow!"
Harry staggered, clearly on his last leg. His head was spinning, and blood matted his hair, his arms, his chest. The wounds he had suffered on the roof were pushed far into the back of his mind, though he was aware of what they could mean. He stared at what had been the roof of Hogwarts castle, now an enormous pile of smoldering rubble. He'd had no idea what had gone on inside the castle, and frankly, he didn't care. The castle was destroyed, one less Horcrux to deal with. Watching the roof try to swallow Voldemort had been vindication and motivation enough for Harry.
He gripped his wand tightly, held out before him as if he were blind and pushing a cane for sight. Harry's hope that Voldemort had been swallowed by the castle was all but gone when another loud Crack! rang through his ears. Voldemort didn't appear in the least bit hurting at all. "You don't look so well, Harry. Have you had enough yet?"
"Not... finished... by a long shot," Harry managed tightly, holding out his wand and clutching his arm against his stomach.
"You'll be begging for death soon enough. I have infinite patience," Voldemort drawled, readying his wand.
Hermione had moved up to Ron, preparing to apparate, but her hands covered her mouth in horror as she caught sight of exactly who had appeared near Harry.
"He didn't go down with the castle," Hermione murmured despairingly, although she'd always known as much. Somewhere in her bones, she'd known that this was It. The final battle.
"Let's go," she said fiercely, leaving just enough time to give Ron's hand a squeeze, released it, and Apparated.
Ron spared a glance to see where Hermione had Apparated, only to double-take when he saw who she had appeared behind. Voldemort was already there again.
"Shite," he cursed, taking a moment to brush away some of his fringe and disapparating right beside her with his wand already pointing at the dark wizard's back.
"I'm surprised you're not more worried," Harry coughed, spitting blood, "about your last bloody Horcruxes being destroyed. I've already got all of them, except for you. You think I'm going to let you out of here alive?"
"What makes you think I haven't made more?"
"The look on your face on the roof told me plenty." Harry didn't even look at Hermione and Ron. He didn't want to lose this advantage; it might be the only one they had.
Blaise Zabini was growing more and more exhausted by the second. His face was streaked with blood, his muscles protesting with every movement from the residual effects of the Cruciatus that one of the Carrows had performed on him. But the battle was raging on, and he knew that he couldn't stop to rest. He could barely make out Voldemort and Potter battling in the distance, but felt a small measure of pride nevertheless. He was helping Potter! He was doing a good thing.
And so when he recognised the Death Eater that arrived and had his wand pointed directly at Draco's throat as his old Head of House, Severus Snape, he only stared in shock at the man before collecting himself and shooting a shield towards his friend. There wasn't any time for a witty quip about detention; this was about survival.
Draco had developed a limp from both a nearly missed stunner and something had also clearly stabbed into it because he was bleeding. Stunners were apparently good at numbing the pain, though. He'd been making sure he didn't lose sight of Blaise as that would probably spell death for either or both of them. Between Dementors, trolls, giants, werewolves, vampires, and whatever else the Dark Lord wanted to throw at them, Draco honestly had to admit he was surprised they weren't dead yet. He could only hope Pansy was okay. She had to have been in the stands for him.
Still, he'd even taken a blast full to the chest thinking the Ministry was on their side, so his breathing was a little ragged. Apparently Shacklebolt hadn't informed them, but he saw the bald Auror shouting orders and the Ministry goons retreated. Without apology. For now.
Severus Snape moved like a snake - elegant and poisonous. His ugly face was lit up in a sneer, the greasy hair framing his expression as he tossed a... not-so-deadly "Tarantallegra!" at the Malfoy heir.
Blaise blinked. From what he recalled in the dueling club from second year, Snape was usually a whole lot more nasty than that. Still, he wasn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Draco didn't think it wasn't a nasty hex in the least. With his wounds in his leg, a dance hex was one of the most painful experiences he'd had in a while. So much for the numbed feeling. He couldn't even control his legs and it felt like something was tearing. It was all he could do to not cry out.
Draco tried two different curses in response, including the Sectumsempra he learned from Potter, but Snape blocked them both. What else could he do? And he had help! "Blaise!" was all he could yell, trying to get his legs under control.
Blaise was busy duking it out with a spindly looking Death Eater, and looked to be winning through sheer force of will. His forehead trickled sweat - or was it blood - and with a curse under his breath, he managed to knock the Death Eater out. "Comin', Draco!" he called, aiming a blasting curse at Snape's back.
However, the old potions - and DaDA - professor was simply too quick. Releasing the tap-dancing hex on Draco, Snape spun around and cast a silent Expelliarmus. Blaise's wand shot out of his hand and rolled harmlessly a few feet away.
Which gave Walden McNair his opening. He knew this Italian prat was Malfoy's little helper. Bloody traitors, the both of them. Weren't the Carrows supposed to deal with them? Anyway, he aimed a kick at the boy's stomach before he could recover from the disarming spell. "Let's see what you've got, boy," he bellowed, laughing a bit. McNair was a physical bloke too and this job really was better than being a magical beast executioner for the Ministry.
Blaise let out a grunt of pain, clutching his stomach for a moment before pulling himself forward with his hands, clutching for his wand. Not finding it immediately, he turned over and staggered to his feet, exhaustedly preparing for a fist fight. His mouth was a grim line; Blaise knew that he wasn't at his best at the moment, and this Death Eater had at least three stone on him.
"If you fight lazily, you'll die the very same," came Snape's snide observation at seeing Draco in such pain over a simple Tarantallegra curse. Snape seemed content to fight only Draco, sending all sorts of hexes and curses towards what used to be his pupil. Still, they weren't particularly difficult curses - and no Unforgiveables were being thrown. What was more, he seemed to be distracted - he kept glancing to where Voldemort and Harry Potter were fighting as if keeping tabs upon them.
Hermione was already at the Dark wizard's back, and she was somewhat delighted to discover that she and Ron had the element of surprise - now what spell to take advantage of it? Belatedly she remembered one of Padma Patil's hybrid curses that had been introduced to the D.A. Voldemort certainly would not be expecting one of those... Gesturing to Ron to have her back, she tossed one of Padma's anti-disapparation spells aimed squarely at Voldemort's back. "Defectus Adversus!"
Nodding to himself, he decided a binding spell would work very well in combination. Giving a dark smirk, he uttered one of the spells Harry was fond of. "INCARCEROUS!"
Surprise was evident on Voldemort's reptilian features -- it couldn't really be called a face, could it? -- at the first spell. Ropes shot out of Ron's wand, wrapping around Voldemort's chest and arms, but it didn't hold him for long. The ropes glowed red and melted into the ground.
It was just enough for Harry to bellow the dreaded Curse and end the entire war. "Avada Kedravra!"
And for the second time that afternoon, Voldemort showed true fear. He'd underestimated exactly what Hermione's spell had done to him, and his usual disappearing act was no longer an option. The spell hit him in the throat.
Harry got the satisfaction of watching Voldemort's lifeless body crumple to the ground, and the Death Eaters who'd been stalled by Draco, Blaise, and Luna were howling in horror.
Before Harry could gloat and join the rest of the battle, his scar suddenly felt as though it had caught on fire. A million jolts of energy shot through him, pinpointing directly through the thin lightning bolt scar. It seemed as though something was sucking the life from him.
Harry, too, howled, though it was in pain. A bright, white light blasted from his forehead. Gritting his teeth, Harry fell to his knees, dropped his wand, and suddenly collapsed. His breathing was shallow, but the most noticeable thing was that he no longer sported the infamous scar.
Ron yelled in startled anguish and ran over to Harry, completely ignoring the fallen dark wizard. Oh Merlin, he couldn't have died too! He dropped his wand for a moment and fell to his knees by his best mate, crying before he even got there. "Harry!!"
Hermione could only let out a very undignified, and very thrilled war whoop - but that was before she saw Harry fall. With a shock of recognition, she darted forward, grabbing his wrist and feeling it.
"He's still alive," she murmured frantically, but was relieved - for a split second she had remembered when Harry had shared his fear that he was a Horcrux. "He's breathing, too..."
She checked for life-threatening injuries, for any reason that he had lost consciousness. There was no answer. "Harry!"
Ron could only hug his best mate to his chest and stand up.
"We need to get him some help!" he wailed. "Hermione, I don't know what to do!" And it was true. Ron, ever the strategist, had no idea what to do.
"Oh!" came a gasp from behind Ron belonging to Luna Lovegood, who was so scratched, beaten, drained, and pale, she looked as though she was about to faint any second. Her unblinking, wide, blue eyes stared at Harry's lifeless form in Ron's arms and took in Ron and Hermione's equally frantic expressions. She even took a moment to gaze at Voldemort's fallen heap of a body before taking in Harry's state one more time.
No. Harry. He wasn't...
Despite how weak and sick she felt, seeing Harry's battered and inanimate arm swaying helplessly over Ron's shoulder was enough to send a last surge of energy through her body as she departed from the scene to seek help from the nearest standing Professor.
But suddenly a bright, piercing light washed over the entire battlefield. Blaise was momentarily blinded. When he'd regained at least some of his vision, he took a quick glance to see what on earth had happened.
Merlin. Is that Voldemort all crumpled up in a heap?!
Draco had his back to the white light and his attention was pretty much consumed by the hexes and jinxes his once-favourite professor was throwing at him. He was using such simple attacks and Draco could deflect or dodge most of them. Was he playing with him? Still, he'd promised Potter no one would get through and he meant to keep that promise. Even if he hated doing it. If it kept him out of Azkaban, it would be worth it. Assuming he survived.
He tried a disarming spell, a smoke jinx, everything he could think of except Unforgivables and Snape just seemed to have able to cancel or counteract everything. Cursing under his breath, Draco gave up trying to hex Snape and turned his wand on McNair to give Blaise a better chance against the big man. "Pendo!"
McNair was about to land his fist in the distracted Zabini's face when suddenly the world spun and the next thing he knew, he was hanging upside down in front of his opponent. "What the bloody hell? Let me down!"
"Thanks, mate," Blaise answered wearily, wiping his bloody nose on his Quidditch uniform sleeve. "Hey sweetcheeks, guess what?" he asked McNair. "I think your darlin' Lord got blasted outta existence."
He said it, but he didn't really believe it. Potter had defeated the Dark Lord? Unthinkable! But still... Blaise had to grin at the thought.
He turned back to Draco and Snape, raising his eyebrows. Snape was staring at where the Dark Lord was lying, his beady black eyes glittering in the strangest manner.
"Potter isn't moving," Snape observed by and by, and he didn't sound particularly concerned one way or another.
McNair went into a panic. There was no other explanation his actions, but he finally realised he still had his wand and he aimed it at Draco, then at Snape. Why wasn't Severus still attacking the traitorous son of Lucius? Changing his mind yet again, he pointed it at Blaise and sneered. "Then why don't you join him?" he asked, casting some dark spell that looked as if it... well, belched some type of brown acidic substance at Blaise's face.
Reacting the only way he knew how, Draco dropped his concentration and let the big man fall on his head. His instincts told him to finish the man off, but instead ran over to Blaise. "Blaise! Blaise, are you all right?" Draco quickly cast a few water spells to try and rinse off all the gunk that had hit him in the face, not caring if McNair was still standing there.
Snape's eyes narrowed. He recognised that spell, and knew what sort of damage it was going to cause - and blast it all, if McNair hadn't managed to douse the loud-mouth Slytherin with the stuff over the right side of his face, and now the young Malfoy had spread a more diluted version of it down Zabini's throat and shoulder. Incompetent brats, the lot of them.
He turned with a flourish to McNair, his voice coldly indifferent. "Might I suggest that you apparate from here, Walden? The Ministry is coming. I was ordered to finish off the boy; you were ordered to get to Potter. I've got no intention of failing as astoundingly as you. Go now."
Turning his back to the hulking Death Eater, he raised his wand threateningly at the two boys.
Blaise was blinking his eyes, the skin where the brown liquid had touched it an angry red, but he seemed alright. "I'm okay, I'm okay!" he hissed, squirming uncomfortably in his uniform and pushing Draco away. "He must notta hit me good." He blinked almost dazedly, his face feeling hot. "FUCK MATE! Snape!"
Draco nodded, not sure what to make of that spell. He'd never seen anything like it. But if Blaise said he was okay... Draco wheeled on Snape again, wand still drawn. He just hoped Blaise would find his own and help him out. He hoped Luna was able to defend herse-- wait, why should he give a damn about Lovegood?
He scowled and firmed his lips. "Come then, finish off the boy."
Blaise spotted his wand on the ground a little ways away and snatched it up. Standing proudly, he squared his jaw and faced down his old professor. He didn't want to die (he hadn't shagged nearly enough in this lifetime), but at least he was beside Draco, his best mate-forever-an'-ever-amen. There were worse ways to go, really.
Unfortunately, he was about to experience it. Wincing, although his eyes remained trained on Snape, his fingers moved up to his face and throat. The wound felt furiously hot, although the rest of him was chilling. Strangely his forehead felt clammy. Blaise swallowed nervously, trying to work off the sudden spell of dizziness that was washing over him as he wiped his burning mouth on the sleeve of his uniform - strange, his lips felt very, very chapped from that stuff that had splashed on him.
Snape gave Draco a long-suffering expression as if he really couldn't fathom anyone being so mind-numbingly stupid. Ensuring that McNair had Apparated away, he lowered his wand and stated in a low, firm voice : "Your friend is going to die unless you take him to the Healing tent. I will assist you."
"I'm not falli-" began Draco, when he saw Blaise's movements in the corner of his eye. "Shite!" Jamming his wand into his belt, he wrapped his arm around Blaise and kept him on his feet. A healing tent couldn't be too hard to find, could it? His eyes scanned the battlefield, just now taking in all the devastation and death. It was like someone had taken a huge snow globe, filled with people and sharp objects, then shook it violently. It was horrible. It was good to see that the enemies were being rounded up or running away, at least. It was finally over.
He spotted what looked like people tended to wounded near one of the still standing bits of bleacher seats and worked to get Blaise there. He didn't want Snape's help or his bloody condescending attitude. "If you're so bloody smart, DO something!" he howled, worried for his friend.
A werewolf suddenly shot forward out of the crowd. Bloody foam poured from its mouth and it leapt towards Draco with a guttural howl. Snape lifted his wand, silently uttered a curse, and the werewolf suddenly began to choke, falling harmlessly to the red-streaked ground.
"Yes, Master Malfoy," Snape replied slyly, and there was little doubt that he had just saved Draco's life.
In the meanwhile, Blaise had broken out into an all-out cold sweat, no longer able to stand on his own. His eyes were wide and frankly terrified, and he clung to Draco's robes as he attempted to walk. Alarmingly, the skin that had been touched by the brown liquid was now turning a sickly purple, and peeling off in a bloody, pulpy mess. Blaise was losing a great deal of blood, and was growing weaker by the second.
Draco's smart-arse remark died in his throat as he could feel Blaise's flesh peeling away from his friend's face. Merlin, Godric, Salazar.. bloody Dumbledore. Whatever it takes, he has to live! Draco ignored the pains in his leg and arm, ignored the ringing in his head. This was more important. Stumbling along, he kicked what looked like a discarded broom, probably from one of the Quidditch players, and tried to seat Blaise on it. He didn't want to risk flying him too fast, but if it could just levitate him enough to speed up getting him to that healing area... Yes, it was working. Blaise was responsive enough for that at least. It was slow going but it was easier that trying to drag him.
And that's when the Ministry decided it would be a good time to intervene, of course.
"Severus Snape," called a young looking Auror that had graduated from Hufflepuff nearly seven years before: "You are under arrest for the--"
Snape shot the Auror a look of unmitigated loathing. "Yes, yes, very well. Blow your trumpet, Geoffrey Callahan, but get this boy to the Healing tents immediately afterwards. He is very ill."
Callahan stumbled a bit, shrinking under the gaze of his old potions professor. However, he secured Snape in an illuminated holding magic, gesturing for several other Aurors to transport the sickly boy to the tents. Blaise, in the meanwhile, had passed out entirely, the blood now trickling freely from his scalp down his face. He wasn't even recognisable as Blaise Zabini, anymore.
The Auror turned to Draco with a look of polite distaste on his face, but really, he couldn't be arsed to bother with Lucius Malfoy's kid one way or another. With a sharp jerk of his thumb towards the Healing tents, he kept moving onwards to the next victim... and the next... and the next.
It was as if some malevolent God had taken every horrific method of dying or being injured, thrown it in a hat, and had the students select their fate through a lottery. The platoon of Aurors that crawled over the battlefield had certainly seen gore in their times, especially those that had fought during the First War, but never had it so directly involved children. And those that lived could no longer be called children, for in their eyes was nothing but the reflection of death. Voldemort had been killed - that much was certain - but in the immediacy of the battle, there was nothing to celebrate. Those that lived were nothing more than lost soldiers - their lives that had been sliced through by time's sickle, and no amount of bedtime stories or exploding snap could change that. The rain would eventually stop, but the blood on the battlefield of what used to be Hogwarts would never wash clean.
The Ministry would have press statements in the next few days, of course, trumpeting the death of Voldemort and including the destruction of Hogwarts as a necessary sacrifice. There must be plans! There must be better safety in our schools, and a better assurance that the raising of Dark Wizards will not be tolerated! The Ministry was going to have to work harder, and get more involved for
But for now, focus remained on the survivors - on keeping them survivors. The Healing tents were overflowing. Harry Potter's unconscious body was laid among the rest as if he was just an ordinary boy, and perhaps he was.
"That's the Boy-Who-Lived, isn't it?" gaped a young Auror, looking gawky in his uniform as he assisted in passing out rudimentary slings and bandages.
"Him?" the gruff lieutenant shrugged her shoulders. "Don' think so. Too skinny. That bastard doesn't even have a scar."