Hi Everyone, well it's the penultimate chapter...
Firstly a special thanks to Jake for giving this chapter a really good beta reading, thank you! J
I have had the same `disclaimer' thing for ages but just to say that obviously I make no claim to the characters below, but am really happy to have had the chance to play with them. Thank you to all of you that have emailed and provided feedback it really has been great to hear from you!! Thank you!!
I am very open to constructive feedback and comment on the story so please, if you have time and would like to please, either comment or drop me an email on phill2818 at hotmail .co . uk
Harry Potter and the Unforeseen Hero
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Battle of Hogwarts
Harry could smell the smoke, see the crimson flame and hear the screams; he could be there again right now it was so fresh in his memory. He knew that this would be one of the harder phases of their story to tell. It was so fresh and so personal to all three of them, none more so than Ron, who Harry was acutely aware would suffer significantly for the next few days.
It was how Harry imagined any hell would be. The Death Eaters had attacked not long after the defenders of Hogwarts had made their final preparation. In some ways that was a blessing Harry thought, it didn't give anyone time to consider what they were about to experience; it just happened.
After the initial shock had abated Harry had had a rapid conversation with McGonagall, Kingsley and Mr Weasley. He closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed his eyelids gently. They had all been in the Great Hall and Harry had forced his way onto the raised platform determined to speak with the `leaders' of this engagement. They, after all, did not know what the main objective was.
"I need to speak with you" Harry could remember stressing urgently in Mr Weasley's ear.
"Is now the moment Harry?" He had responded.
"YES, this cannot wait" he had replied and Mr Weasley had complied, pulling Shacklebolt and McGonagall to the corner of the platform too.
"What is it Harry?" Mr Weasley had asked as soon as they were secluded.
"I thought you should know what we need from this. You can organise as much as you like but, if we don't achieve our goals, it will all have been for nothing" he remembered the look on Mr Weasley's face, shock, confusion, realisation that Harry was not the boy he had known before they disappeared on the hunt for Horcrux's.
"Tell us" he had said as the expression on his face softened.
"We have two primary objectives: one, kill Voldemort and two, kill the snake Nagini" Harry remembered Kingsley's condescending tone as he had interrupted him and begun to lecture him on priorities but Harry had not let him get into his stride "Kingsley! I know you mean well, really I do, but you don't know what is going on here. Dumbledore gave me a task, you know this and this task gives me substantially more knowledge than you on this subject. The two objectives I mentioned are of highest and equal priority. Everything else is secondary; capturing Death Eaters, protecting the school, I mean it, everything else is secondary, if we can achieve those two things no matter what else that happens here today we will be able to breathe the free air again."
"Anything else?" Kingsley had said submitting to the strength of Harry's conviction.
"Keep as many people from Voldemort as possible. You all know that there is only one way for this to end and I am prepared for it. I have a plan."
Kingsley had relayed Harry's instructions to the many people that were in the Great Hall. Teachers, the Order of the Phoenix, Hogwarts students and many other faces Harry had not anticipated seeing. They had divided everyone into groups and given each group a specific task.
Harry opened his eyes and the scene dissolved from reality back into a vivid memory. He could have sworn that the taste of smoke still lingered in the air.
"I was there that day, did you know?" Cuffe asked.
"No, I didn't" Harry said looking at the older man.
"Yes, I was placed with McGonagall and sent to Gryffindor Tower. We started off by protecting the fighters from our side but well, you know that things did not run smoothly, I was soon in the main scrum."
"You can answer a question for me Mr Cuffe. How did you know what was going on and how did you get to the castle so quickly?" Draco questioned.
"Oh that is easy, McGonagall had long felt that there maybe a situation that would require emergency support. Don't misunderstand me; I don't feel for one second that she believed that the final battle would be held in Hogwarts! But with so many young charges and the ever-declining state of affairs I think she felt that she had an obligation to be able to rapidly call in support. She approached me, as she approached a wide number of people, to request their potential support. Once I had agreed to offer my support in a time of crisis she placed a charm upon me that allowed her to pull the others and me through the wards. Technically you see we were not apparating into Hogwarts we were being pulled to it."
"Right" Draco said nodding his head sagely.
"Did you boys want to continue?" Cuffe asked gently.
"I am not sure there is much to say to begin with the battle seemed controlled, like our plans were working out, you know?" Ron said before continuing, "We, that is Harry, Draco, Hermione and I, had no specific plan. We knew that we had to get to Voldemort but where he was, who knew" he paused as his voice betrayed the slight hint of a crack. He took a deep breath and steadied himself.
"Initially the four of us waited. We waited to see how things would unfold. The plan seemed to be working. The groups of fighters engaged the Death Eaters who quickly appeared all over the castle, the support from those in the towers helped to keep the odds in our favour. It was easy to see because the fighters would pick up a group of Death Eaters and then spells from the towers would come down and take out some of the Death Eaters to make it easier for the fighters" he again paused and Harry looked at his friend. He looked determined and so Harry didn't interrupt.
"It all really changed though when he sent in the Spiders and the Giants. We just didn't have an answer for it. It changed the whole thing, any semblance of order quickly disappeared as the fighters in the towers initially tried to control the giants but then quickly became overrun themselves with the spiders. Which of course meant that the fighters on the ground lost all their support and so the battles with the Death Eaters were much harder. I think it really changed for the four of us when..." his voice definitely did crack this time and Harry laid a hand on Ron's shoulder and gave it a squeeze.
Stuttering Ron continued "Wwwwhen we saw Lavender Brown. A giant crushed her and our fighters were being pushed back towards the school. You were there" Ron said and looked up at Cuffe.
"You know what it was like, once the fight was pushed back into the school, it was crazy. Fires in the halls, furniture bewitched to attack, spiders, unforgivables flying left right and centre. I don't know about the others but I just felt completely disorientated. It was Hermione really, she pulled us around" Ron brushed a stray tear from the corner of his eye.
"She got us moving again............"
"COME on!" Hermione shouted and pushed Harry.
There was an ear splitting cracking noise as a huge fist appeared through one of the huge double doors at the entrance to the castle. Debris flew everywhere and Ron was spared a flying chunk of wood from hitting him as Draco quickly erected a shield around them. The fist was quickly withdrawn and huge fingers forced their way through before ripping the door from its hinges. A flaming chimera charged through the door and wrapped itself around benches, tables and the rich tapestries that adorned the walls, all instantly catching fire and throwing out plumes of smoke.
Lupin, Fred, George and Lee Jordan fell through the opening where the door had once been and as they edged immediately away from the space that they had just appeared through it became clear why. Four masked Death Eaters appeared after them and a technicolor stream of light followed Harry's friends. The severity of what he had just witnessed snapped Harry from his reverie and he immediately leapt forwards deflecting a sinister looking yellow curse away from Lupin. The other three stepped immediately into action as Draco appeared by Harry side. It was almost like being back in the forest again, these were simply conjured Death Eaters that could cause no real harm.
They moved in seamless harmony, Harry going high and to the right, Draco low and to the left both targets crumpled down before them as Lupin and Fred easily downed the final Death Eater.
"We are getting destroyed here!" Lupin shouted in frustration as the danger momentarily abated.
"Come on Remus, pull yourself together, we have to help the others" Fred shouted and ran back through the open doorway that they had just entered from. His disappearance did not last long however, as he soon reappeared deflecting first one, then two and a third curse away from his body as a group of four Death Eaters pushed back into the hallway.
The next five minutes were as if someone had pressed the `fast forward' button for Harry. The Death Eater nearest to him fired a curse in his direction, which Harry dodged and it hit a bench, causing it to burst into flames. Smoke enveloped the space even further and his vision was obscured more than a short distance in front of him. He heard Lupin cry out with pain and his heart fell to the pit of his stomach. He ran in the direction of the noise.
"Are you ok?" he shouted at the prone body of Lupin as blood pumped from his arm.
"No, its cut badly, I need help" Lupin winced with pain.
"HERMIONIE" Harry screamed and in a flash the bushy haired Gryffindor was there and Harry shouted "can you fix him?"
"I don't know!"
As Hermione began to root around in her bag looking for a treatment Harry could here the stifled grunts and shouts of Ron and Draco, presumably duelling the Death Eaters that had entered the room. He ran blindly in the direction of the screams to see Ron and Draco duelling a Death Eater each. With one flick of his wand he aimed a curse at the Death Eater closest to him, who crumpled from the unexpected curse. Distracted by the fall of his fellow the other duelling Death Eater left his guard down and received a curse to his exposed side.
The smoke was slightly lifting and Harry saw Fred and George floor the other two Death Eaters. Glancing around he saw Lee Jordan with Lupin.
"Where is Hermione?" Harry bawled.
"I dunno mate, I haven't seen her" Lee called back.
"HARRY, we have to get moving, we are not helping here" Draco shouted trying to call him back to their mission. "We need to find him, we need to kill the snake."
"What we need is a fucking clue about where the hell to look for him" Ron shouted.
"Well I don't exactly see a sign post do you?" Harry called back sarcastically and coughed as the smoke pierced his lungs.
"We can't stay here. You four, get out of here!" Harry shouted to Lupin, Lee, Fred and George.
Harry turned back to face the other members of his group. It only took a split second but the damage was done and nothing he could do could change that. In turning back to face the group something caught the corner of his eye and he immediately spun back in the direction he had come from. But it was too late. The jet of green light had left the floored Death Eater and sunk squarely into the back of Lee Jordan. Who crumpled like a sack of potatoes with a dull thud and a finality that penetrated Harry's very core. Three spells flew back towards the Death Eater whose hand finally dropped to the floor.
"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO" the anguished cry that fell from Fred's mouth cut Harry like a knife. He wanted to go and to comfort the Weasley twins. He wanted to close his eyes and pretend that what had just happened was a nightmare, something that he would wake from.
"Harry we need to get moving" Draco said and Harry turned angrily on the blond "That was Lee Jordan, they just fucking killed him."
"I know Harry but we can't help him now. But we can help all of the others still alive and fighting by finishing this quickly. What we need is a fucking sign that says `Voldemort here' or something" Draco said.
"Where the FUCK is Hermione?" Harry screamed ignoring Draco's instruction.
"Harry, what about the map. The Marauders map, have you got it!?" Ron said urgently. Harry mentally chastised himself, how could he have been so stupid as to forget the Marauders map? It was so obvious to him now, he would look at the map, find Voldemort and then...
And then what? The prophecy had been clear...`either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives'. Kill or be killed. He had always known that it would come to this and he had long since reconciled himself to the possibility of death. But that had always been at some undefined future time but here it was, now. The time to fight was now, he had said so himself, in fact convinced the others of it too. Kill or be killed.
"Harry? Quick come on!" Ron urged and Harry was, not for the first time today snapped out of his reverie. He dug around in a protective bag that Hagrid had given to him and pulled out the map before tapping it and muttering the incantation `I solemnly swear that I am up to no good' and the map formed around him. He scanned his eyes over the document but it soon became apparent that this would not be an easy task as the dots were heavily concentrated in a number of areas that made it difficult to identify particular names. He pulled the parchment closer to his eyes and tried to locate his own dot, the billowing smoke clouds were not helping. Barely had he found his dot had he time to call the warning "Behind you!!"
Ron and Draco span round and shot curses in the direction Harry had indicated, they connected with two masked Death Eaters who crumpled instantly. Hermione stepped forward over the bodies of the two Death Eaters.
"Where the fuck have you been?" Harry shouted.
"I got a little lost."
"This way" Harry called and stepped over the two Death Eaters and walked quickly away from the billowing smoke into a classroom that had not yet been destroyed by the fighting. "I couldn't see" he explained as the other three joined him in the pokey space. Laying the map out on a table the others hunched around examining the map closely. After a few minutes careful searching Ron slammed his finger onto the map causing the others to jump.
"Here, I am sure I saw it here" and he tapped the spot ferociously. The four leaned in to look at the spot Ron was indicating more closely. He gesticulated again at a spot just by the Owlery and Harry could hear Ron's teeth grind and as if there was any lingering doubt this was swept aside when Draco said, "Yes, I saw it too"
The silence once again enveloped Harry and the daunting prospect of his task loomed imminently over him like a heavy weight pushed him into the ground. Thoughts flashed in front of him; the cupboard under the stairs, discovering that he was in fact a Wizard, beating Slytherin in his first Quidditch match, learning that Sirius was his godfather, his first kiss with Cho, but his thoughts went no further as the velvet smooth touch of Draco's thumb ran down the side of his cheek.
"Are you ok?" the blond whispered.
"Fine" Harry replied and forced a smile.
"I will be with you, you can do this, we can do this" the steely determination fortified Harry and he drew in a deep breath. Hermione coughed and turned around away from the embracing couple.
"Come on, lets go" Harry said to the small group and moved back towards the door of the classroom. Before the others had a chance to ask questions or even respond Harry turned the door handle and pulled the door back a crack to peer out. The smell of smoke remained thick and hanging in the air but Harry could detect no immediate movement. Pulling the door open a little wider he glanced down the hall.
"Coast is clear, come on" and he exited the relative safety of the classroom. Turning to the right he stepped forwards and he felt his confidence drain. Would the others think of him as a complete coward if he took Draco and ran off to another country and hid? Could he ever live with himself though? And like Patronuses his comrades appeared along side him and filled him with enough strength to take a further step forward.
They walked the short distance between the classroom exit and the courtyard with no interruption and Draco, without pausing, took a further step into the courtyard before doubling back and screaming with pain. The well-aimed curse, from who knows where, had hit him squarely on the thigh.
Ron ran immediately forward and propped Draco up as Harry stood by mesmerized by the sick sound of his boyfriend's screams. Harry was unaware but Ron was trying to pull Draco back under cover.
"HARRY" Ron screamed trying to shake him from his stupor. The scream of his name was like a distant memory from a long time past and it wasn't until the red streak of light struck the ground inches from where he stood that his reverie was interrupted.
Someone out there had just hurt his boyfriend; he could still hear the cries of agony. Some fucker had just hurt his beautiful man. Some evil twisted, Death Eater was going to pay for this. It was like someone had flicked a switch in Harry's brain the hot temper that often had bubbled over in his childhood took hold of him.
He took several slow, calculated and meticulous steps from the cover of the passage way and without even thinking about it easily deflected the first curse aimed in his direction away. The second, that soared his way moments later, was dispatched with the same ease. Harry had on occasion, sneaked down and peeked through the crack in the door to watch muggle movies at the Dursley's, they had on occasion portrayed the all action scene in slow motion. Looking back on it Harry understood what that might feel like as he flicked his wand and caused his first assailant to double over clutching his side. When the figure pulled their hand away a crimson stain adorned their palm. Deftly he flicked away two more curses that had been heading in his direction before diving for the courtyard floor and rolling nimbly towards the center, exposing his second assailant.
This time Harry did not even bother to raise himself from the courtyard floor, another well-aimed flick of the Phoenix Core wand and the Death Eater doubled over in pain before being wrapped in a full body bind curse. Harry had already played out his next move in his mind but something unexpected happened, before he could move to his left and raise himself back to his full height a burning so severe he felt that someone had cut open the top of his head and was crushing his brain. The scream was gut wrenching and he was paralyzed clasping his head desperate for some relief from the agony. He blacked out.
Consciousness slowly peculated back into his body and the first thing that he really became aware of was the closeness of a familiar scent and the low hiss of Voldemort's tongue on the wind.
"Draco you have fallen so far from the lofty heights you once commanded" the cruel hiss of Voldemort spat out over the sound of combatants fiercely defying the other party. Sensations flooded Harry's brain as he regained feeling throughout his body. It was at this point that he first realized his head was no longer hurting. The lethargy drained from his tired body as he prepared himself for the impending confrontation.
"You know nothing" Draco's response was not shouted, not screamed but, as befitted a Malfoy, calm, controlled and dignified. Harry could feel Draco pressed up against him and he breathed in deeply. With slow, barely moving motions Harry allowed his forefinger to explore the few inches around his hand to locate his wand.
"You and your family had the opportunity to stand at my right hand side, but instead you have nothing and you will soon be dead."
"It is you that will be dead and very soon" Draco's calm voice continued. Harry located the end of his wand.
"Enough with this childishness, kill him!" the command came and it cut through Harry like a hot knife through butter. But many things happened at once; several curses came towards their position and Harry felt Draco move to avoid them whilst simultaneously he heard the noise of fighting intensify. People flooded the courtyard and fights erupted in every direction. But even with the noise and chaos that assaulted his ears Harry heard the curse. He was not expecting it and he couldn't see its results but he imagined the look of pure shock on Voldemorts face as the words escaped Severus Snape's mouth.
"Avada Kedavra" Harry could see the hook nosed potions master's lips twitch as he spoke the incantation and somehow Harry could feel all eyes fall on the heaving snake as it hit the earth with a mundane finality. The time was close, very close. In the confusion he pulled his wand firmly into his hand and prepared himself. Harry could feel the palpable rage that now emanated from his target.
"You" the silent whisper carried and slowly the sound of fighting stilled until there was an eerie silence hanging thickly in the air. The sense of anticipation crackled in the air. `Well I guess we know for sure whose side Snape is on now' crossed Harrys mind as he pulled his wand firmly back into his grip. Harry slowly turned his head to face the pair and he could see Voldemorts snake like eyes boring into Snape's. Snape was noticeable for commanding coolness and disinterested expression he returned to his would be executioner. Snape lowered his wand to his side. Voldemort spoke in an enraged fury, spit escaping his mouth as he stared at the man who had struck down his last Horcrux.
"Do you have any idea what you have done?"
"I have a shrewd idea" Snape's deadpan monotone voice replied.
Harry could feel the curse building as if the magic surrounding the courtyard was being sucked towards Voldemort.
"Why?" the scream was barely intelligible and the spray that left Voldemorts mouth actually hit Snape.
"Love" said Snape, clearly and Voldemort looked taken a back as the word left his mouth as if he were revealing something indecent or dirty.
Harry responded on instinct turning and flicking his wand in the direction of the potions master and Voldemort. "PROTEGO" and with barely a moments hesitation Harry felt Draco scream the same spell. The bright white lights that had erupted from both Harry and Draco's wand crashed together turning a deep shade of red. The red light rapidly took form and a phoenix shape shot in front of the green killing curse. Harry could feel the crowd draw breath as one waiting to see what would happen. The curse, of violent green, passed through the phoenix loosing much of the intensity of its color but it did not disappear. It plunged straight into Snape who collapsed like a sack of potatoes under it.
"Foolish Potter, you should know that a shield charm does not stop the killing curse no matter what kind of elaborate charm you erect. Why don't you try using such a charm when I strike you and see what happens?"
"Why don't you give it your best shot? It won't help you. But I would suggest you think carefully before making your next move" Harry said tearing his eyes away from the prone figure of Severus Snape.
"What is this childishness?"
"They are all gone Tom."
"You dare to speak to me using that name."
"Clearly Tom, or I would not have said it."
"Its time for you to die Potter, once and for all."
Harry prepared for the curse, knowing that it would come but just as he felt it building tens of `cracks' echoed all around him and he was suddenly surrounded by Aurors dressed in head to toe with deep purple robes. Broad spread fighting resumed as the Aurors moved to secure the Death Eaters that had been watching the interchange. In the confusion Harry lost sight of Voldemort as a purple robed Auror obscured his vision. The noise was deafening, all around him and he quickly thrust his hand into Draco's so that they would not be separated.
"COME ON" Harry bellowed back in Draco's direction, pulling him forwards and into the sprawling crowd. He watched as Molly Weasley downed a masked Death Eater with an evil looking purple curse. He saw Mad Eye take a curse to the shoulder and watched as the dozen or so Aurors turned the tables quickly to their side.
Just as a tingling sense of expectation set in and a spark of optimism that the battle would not be forlorn his world split in two. Ron was dulling Fenrir Greyback and Charlie Weasley was close by sending curse after curse at Rodolphus Lestrange. It was in slow motion for Harry as the curse flew under Charlie's exposed right side and he fell. Rodolphus did not pause as the next flick of his wand saw a green curse fly towards Ron. The scream that left his mouth was echoed by Draco but it did not last as another purple clad Auror stepped in front and prevented Harry seeing the inevitability that was, until a fraction of a second ago, unfolding before his eyes.
Harry barely had time to draw breath as he glanced to his right and saw Voldemort. The Auror that he had been duelling fell and the snake like red eyes found Harrys green eyes in an instant. The curse sailed from Voldemorts lips a second later and Harry, clenching Draco's hand, screamed his best hope for salvation. "REVERTERE"
The electric blue shard of light sailed from the tip of his wand, the strongest spell he had ever cast, drawing strength from Draco as well as his own magical core. The two spells collided a little over half way between the two wizards. Harry's blue spell connected with the green and they exchanged colours the blue sailing back towards him as the green sped up with pace and crashed with an absolute finality into Voldemorts chest.
In a scene that, in any other circumstance would be funny, Voldemort became rigid and toppled backwards in a thundering crash. Harry fell to his knees, the force of the spell momentarily making him light headed. Moments later it fell silent as the combatants' ceased fire. In the silence Harry heard the sound that chilled him to his core. The scream was blood curdling and he could barely bring himself to turn in the direction that it had originated from.
Draco fell forwards wrapping his arms tightly around Harry's chest as he turned slowly to see Ron clutching the lifeless body of Hermione close to his breast. He was dry retching and sobbing into the fluffy mane of hair. It couldn't be, it just couldn't be.