Potter on Paper: Fanart and Fanfiction by Mudblood428
AFTER THE DIE IS CAST
Chapter 11: Two Serpents
Voldemort spoke slowly, rolling the syllables of Harry's name around his tongue as though he could taste each letter.
Fearing he might betray himself, Harry said nothing; the pain in his scar was too great. Behind him stood the DA, their wands at the ready, but they were as useless as the wounded Aurors behind them - lame and asphyxiated in the swirl of icy wind. Harry, his feet fused to the pavement despite a lurking fear that the storm would topple him to the ground at any moment, turned his head slowly towards the space where he knew Ron and Hermione had been standing. To his relief, he did not find them, knowing they had done as he had wished and hidden beneath the invisibility cloak. What he would have given in that moment for enough invisibility cloaks to hide rest of his friends. To hide Ginny....
"So good of you to wait for my return," said Voldemort in a resounding voice as he stepped into view, flanked by his Dementor entourage. "I would apologize for my tardiness, but I see you've had company." His crimson eyes flitted beyond Harry to survey the terrified crew behind him.
With great effort, Harry raised his wand. "You're not here for them," he called over the roaring wind.
Considering him for a moment, Voldemort grinned in amusement at Harry's nerve. "I couldn't agree more."
Raising one ashen hand high into the air, Voldemort made a swift motion that sent the Dementors retreating slowly into the shadows. The freezing gusts faded away, stranding them all in a vacuous silence save for the soft din of chattering teeth and shivering. Harry did not need to look back at the DA to know that, though the Dementors had not attacked, the Dark Lord's very presence had dispirited and stripped them of one last resource: all courage was gone, replaced by indelible fear.
"We are of the same mind, then," murmured Voldemort, the pupils of his eyes invisible beneath the shade of twilight. He drew his wand from the folds of his obsidian robe. "At last, our feud comes to an end. I confess… I have eagerly anticipated this day."
“Then let them go,” growled Harry, channeling every ounce of his desperation in an effort to focus through the throbbing in his head. “It’s me you want!”
Looking exaggeratedly around the concourse, Voldemort pretended not to hear. "What a pity we couldn't find a nicer arena for our final duel, Harry. No matter. We'll just have to… make do."
Before anyone could react, a great burst of ice-cold air ripped through the concourse over Harry’s head, knocking him backwards. Several screams rent the silence only to be squelched as soon as they were uttered, as though a stopper had been put in their mouths. Gasping for air, Harry pushed himself onto his feet to see the effect of Voldemort’s spell and found a haunting scene.
There the DA stood, mid-scream, their eyes frozen wide in horror. Indeed, it was their eyes that gave the only indication that they had not been killed – from where he stood, Harry could see that life stirred enough behind Luna’s bulbous pupils to force a tear to the surface, though her face remained cold and lifeless as a statue.
Voldemort had petrified them all… except Harry.
"There, that's better. Can everyone see?" shouted Voldemort, laughing in a way that uncannily reminded Harry of a Dementor’s rattling breath.
“What do you want with them?” yelled Harry, quivering with hatred and weariness. “If you don’t want to kill them, why don’t you release them?”
"You severely lack imagination. They’re no good to me dead,” he sneered. ”Honestly, I couldn't have planned this better myself. You see… your friends are going to watch me kill you, Harry. I have ensured that they won’t miss a single moment. Here,” he said, gesturing theatrically to the lot behind Harry, “is a fresh, young generation of wizards who, after tonight, will know exactly who I am... and who you are not!"
“No…” whispered Harry, reliving the night he watched Dumbledore die, petrified and powerless.
”Your friends have made the unfortunate error of believing themselves capable of fighting me,” murmured Voldemort as he advanced several paces towards Harry. “I should kill them for such arrogance. However, they will be far more useful after this night is done, when they disperse to spread the story of how The Chosen One perished,” he hissed, baring a mouthful of gnarled teeth. “Think how I shall be revered when you are no longer there to fill these whelps with false hope. Think how I will be feared then, Harry. No. I shall not kill them.”
Voldemort’s words sent something strange through Harry’s being – as though his blood had been infected by an invisible toxin. Harry instantly remembered Ron and Hermione’s promise and whipped his head around for a footstep, a whisper, any indication that they might not have been petrified. As though they had read his thoughts, he caught a glimpse of several floating dots of dried blood emerge from behind a pillar. Harry was suddenly quite grateful that Theodore Nott had shed his blood onto the invisibility cloak.
“Forgive me,” Harry mouthed, and raising his wand ever so slightly, he thought, I can’t risk you two interfering until the last Horcrux is gone. Imagining their faces one last time, a voice in his mind cried out, 'Petrtificus Totalis!' The floating drops of blood dropped low to the ground and were motionless.
"Look at me when I'm speaking to you, Harry," came a slippery voice from behind, and Harry slowly turned back.
“My, how the years fly by,” said Voldemort. “Been almost a full sixteen years since first I saw you, has it not?"
He walked in a crescent towards Harry's left side, appraising him through narrowed eyes. "You're taller than I remember," he observed, amused. "I can see it now that you're standing up. That in itself is a miracle of sorts. Forgive me for saying so, Harry, but you look positively exhausted!"
Harry flinched at the comment and realized at once what had made Voldemort say it. He was exhausted; after all, Harry had exerted himself throughout the night without a moment's rest. Realization suddenly dawning on him, everything that happened since the very moment Harry arrived on Platform 9 ¾ took on an entirely new significance, and he became seized by an anger so complete that he barely felt the pain in his scar anymore.
"This was all about me, then – to weaken me," said Harry breathlessly, sensing a potent darkness filling him up from deep inside. "The Death Eaters, the Inferi, the battle... everything! London was never in danger!"
"Don't flatter yourself. If you hadn't shown up, all that would be left of London is a vacant spot on the map," said Voldemort, a hint of bitterness in his voice despite the cool grin on his lips. "When you arrived with the Malfoys and your Auror friends attacked, I confess I thought my plans had been foiled. But that was simply because we both had forgotten one very important thing: that the Boy Who Lived cannot resist an opportunity to save the day and that I, resourceful wizard that I am, cannot resist an opportunity to let Harry Potter unravel in his own compulsive heroism!"
Each word sent Harry’s mind reeling. All night he had felt it – the queer sensation of being at odds with himself, divided down the middle every time he forced himself forward against the protests of his body and the ill-omened voice in his head that foresaw this moment. He felt his hope begin to wane, and resolve and determination now seemed insufficient to mask the weariness that had been invading his being since the moment he passed through the gate to King's Cross Station. Harry’s heart was racing now, whether with fear or anger, he could not tell. This was Voldemort’s game and he had made pawn of him; the Lightening Round was done at last leaving one final trial before Sudden Death.
At once, the folded piece of parchment that held the incantation felt heavy in Harry's pocket.
“The sun shall be rising soon. I don’t mean to rush you but, unless you want Muggles to become the next unwilling spectators, I think we should begin,” said Voldemort in a silky tone. With mock grandeur, he conjured the very same Serpentine Shield he had carried in the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic two years ago and fell gracefully into an offensive posture. “Are you ready to die, Harry Potter?”
Harry sucked in ragged breath and raised his wand. “If I die, I’m taking you with me.”
“Bold words.” Lord Voldemort’s eyes glittered ravenously. “Begin.”
Rushing forward, Harry cast the first spell – white light bursting from the end of his wand towards Voldemort. An instantaneous explosion of sound rent the air as it made contact with the Dark Lord’s shield, firing off into a brick pillar with a force that gauged a craggy hole through it. Dust was still flying through the air when Voldemort’s parry flew towards him in a shaft of fiery red light.
Harry leapt in front of it, squarely blocking the curse with his shield cloak, and with an ominous knell, a glowing blue beam rebounded towards Voldemort, who swiftly deflected it into the concrete floor and reengaged. “That was a good trick,” spat Voldemort mockingly while Harry caught his breath. “Cloaks that fire back. I might have known you would require the assistance of some hackneyed invention!”
At that moment, Harry saw another bright flash before his eyes and threw himself on the ground, feeling the rush of hot wind on his back as the curse flew past. Harry rolled forward onto his feet and cast another nonverbal Disarming Spell that soared just beside the Dark Lord’s cloaked arm - barely missing him, but invoking a queer expression on Voldemort’s face, as though he already knew the outcome of their exchange. Indeed, he looked quite entertained and it suddenly occurred to Harry that something was terribly amiss. Voldemort’s curse had struck his shield cloak and rebounded, which meant… Voldemort was not firing Unforgivable Curses at all!
Indifferent to Harry’s near miss, Voldemort slashed at the air in a downward motion with his wand, sending his curse into the ground by Harry’s foot and producing a suffocating black smoke that blew up into Harry’s face. Gagging on the noxious vapors, Harry fired blindly into the cloud and, feeling his heart wrench in his chest, heard it ricochet off of Voldemort’s shield into the void.
“That was greatly amusing, Harry, shall we go for another round?” Voldemort scoffed as Harry staggered out of the smoke’s cover, utterly aware of his own fatigue.
He was suddenly at a loss, breathless amidst a flurry of doubtful thoughts. These were mere parlor tricks. Why had Voldemort been so eager to torture Harry before only to toy with him now? And then it hit him – the unmitigated truth. Like everything else that had happened that night, this was meant to weaken Harry in front of the DA, to drive ‘The Chosen One’ to a place where he could no longer fight back, destroying everything he had ever meant to the Wizarding World at the same moment that Voldemort would take his life in an abject scene of humiliation. Harry brought his hand to his collar feeling more naked than ever before without the locket around his neck, as though losing the trinket meant losing the protective essence of Dumbledore himself.
Harry followed the skirt of Voldemort’s robe as the Dark Lord slinked around him like a boa constrictor about to squeeze the last drops of life out of its prey. Would it still be a sacrifice if he died at the hands of Voldemort simply because he was too weak and too tired to fight back?
No. It would mean the sacrifice of Ron and Hermione...
He quickly eyed Voldemort’s shield, knowing exactly what he had to do, praying with all his might that he still had strength left to do it.
“I had you figured wrong,” gasped Harry, his wand still raised. “I thought smoke and mirrors were the trademarks of novice Wizards!” Conjuring all of his energy and feeding it into his wand, Harry thought with an intensity that made his wand vibrate in his palm, “AUCTARE REDUCTO!”
In a comet of brilliant red sparks, Harry’s spell struck squarely with Voldemort’s shield, blasting it apart and sending them both careening backwards from the force of the explosion. Red-hot fragments spewed out in all directions, scorching the ground where they landed. To the sound of Voldemort’s furious roar, Harry felt the last bit of strength drain in the attempt to regain his footing. All around the world had begun to spin – the pain in his scar more tremendous than ever before.
Not yet, he thought fiercely to himself, commanding his body to remain standing. Not yet...
The look of amusement on Voldemort’s face was gone. With a murderous glare, he thrust out his wand, shouting words that were unintelligible to Harry’s buzzing ears. As the glowing light approached him, Harry could barely make out which curse Voldemort had cast before he was suddenly on his back, his wand wrenched violently from his grip and flung out of reach. He had been disarmed.
“I have been merciful thus far, but it seems the time for leniency has long passed!” bellowed Voldemort angrily as he towered over Harry’s injured form. “You’ve destroyed my shield – you must think yourself a great wizard! But let us see how the Great Harry Potter can withstand the Cruciatus Curse now! CRUCIO!”
For the second time since he had arrived at King's Cross, currents of pain seared through Harry’s flesh, forcing a scream from his throat and throwing his frame into violent convulsions. Malfoy’s curse earlier that night could not compare to the agony that Voldemort was inflicting upon him now. The very cells in Harry’s body were betraying him, pressing him steadily to the edge of unconsciousness and despair - the only welcome sensation was of the tears forming beneath his burning eyelids.
Harry was numb and incapacitated when Voldemort lifted the curse at last.
“Just look at you.”
His face pressed against the cold concrete, Harry answered with a soft moan, a sound that brought a menacing grin to Voldemort’s face.
“You’re pathetic,” he murmured, his voice brimming with contempt. “I wonder, what would dear Dumbledore think of his favorite pupil if he could see you now?”
The sound of Dumbledore’s name on the Dark Lord’s lips created a surge of energy in Harry, and, balling his hands into fists, he pushed himself clumsily onto his knees, aching all over as though his body had suffered a vicious lashing. “Don’t... you dare... talk about Dumbledore!” Harry grunted, looking up into Voldemort’s face with unrestrained hatred.
“Or what? Do you intend to fight me, Harry? Without a wand?” sneered Voldemort, glaring back with challenging eyes. “How history does repeat itself! I can see now.... You are the very image of your father before I killed him!”
“You snake!” With a groan that seemed to spring from the center of his chest, Harry commanded himself to stand up. Watching in restrained incredulity as Harry got back on his feet, the Dark Lord’s eyes became two thin slits.
“Enough,” whispered Voldemort, raising his wand in the air. Harry felt sure he was going to curse him again, but instead, Voldemort drew with his wand a long burning stripe in the air, which he then took hold of with his left hand. At his touch, a cruciform hilt formed in his palm, extending up into a long gilded blade. Harry recognized it almost immediately.
"There. You know what I am holding, don't you? You murdered a Basilisk with it five years ago, did you not?”
Harry’s stomach twisted into a knot at the sight of what was in Voldemort’s hand. “Godric Gryffindor’s sword,” he whispered, astonished. So this was the precious relic that Wormtail had warned him about! “You’re a snake and a thief,” he spat.
The Dark Lord’s eyes snapped up from the sword. No sooner had the words left Harry’s mouth than he was thrown backwards onto his back as if by some invisible Bludger, the wind knocked out of him. “Fifty points from Gryffindor for your cheek, Harry,” hissed Voldemort coldly, his wand raised.
“You... don’t have the right... to carry that sword...” Harry coughed, willing air back into his lungs as he rolled onto his side.
“Don’t I?” Voldemort held it with both hands, inspecting the large egg-shaped rubies with greedy admiration. “It was rather fortunate that so many of your professors were here trying to protect you, Harry,” he said, watching with one eye as Harry struggled to his feet. “I practically could have waltzed into Hogwarts through the front door and plucked it out of Dumbledore's old office myself. Of course, Severus was good enough to do me the honors. Pity he and Bellatrix never got along."
Harry drew in a sharp breath. Voldemort knew Snape was dead.
Observing with amusement as the twilight glinted off of the silver blade, the Dark Lord spoke in a frigid timbre. "I make it a point to know the whereabouts of my Death Eaters."
"Snape betrayed you."
Voldemort snorted at him, grinning. “True. And yet, here we stand.”
Staring in sickened bewilderment at Voldemort, Harry felt a shudder go through him.
“Don’t look so surprised, Harry. Severus served a purpose. And now he's dead. As far as I'm concerned, everything is as it should be."
Harry shook his head in disdain. "Is that right? Your Death Eaters have been defeated. Less than a handful are left that haven’t been destroyed by the Inferi who, I might add, have been incinerated in the tunnels below. Do what you want with me, but who’ll follow you now?"
“Fool,” hissed Voldemort. “Human nature favors the possession of power. That is something I offer in abundance!"
"But you don't offer them power!” countered Harry. “You just use Death Eaters to win power for yourself!"
Voldemort shot him a frigid grin. "Insignificant detail. What matters is that they perceive themselves more powerful because of me - so long as there are those who hunger for it,” he snarled, “I will always have Death Eaters!”
Tightening the grip on Gryffindor’s sword, Voldemort took several paces in Harry’s direction. Harry did not back away.
“What a shame I was never your Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher,” whispered Voldemort ominously. “I feel sure you might have learned a great deal from me. But then again... perhaps it's not too late to teach you a valuable lesson.”
With unprecedented speed, Voldemort struck Harry hard across the face with the hilt of the sword sending him toppling dazedly to the ground. Harry tasted blood in the back of his throat – the bridge of his nose had been smashed in – and though his eyes were watering, Harry watched in fearful astonishment as Voldemort approached him, no longer aiming with his wand, but with the sword instead.
“Tell me, Harry…. What became of the Garden Snake that tried to match the formidable length of the Python?”
Not bothering to wait for an answer, Voldemort brought the blade of the sword under Harry’s chin, laying it threateningly beside his Adam’s Apple. His eyes glued to the steel blade, Harry dared not to breath.
Voldemort moved the sword’s tip to the collar of Harry’s cloak. “The Garden Snake stretched until he split... right... down... the middle...” With every word, the blade traveled further down Harry’s center, tracing a line through the middle of his body, but never penetrating the skin. “Now. Can you guess what the moral of the story is, Harry?”
Feeling a surge of pain in his scar, Harry bit the inside of his cheek to prevent a whimper from escaping his lips.
"You don't know. Well, that doesn't surprise me,” sneered Voldemort at Harry’s silence. “You see, that is what happens when you compete with your superiors. Like a worthless, pathetic night-crawler... you die."
Harry's lip was beaded in sweat. "You make the assumption that we’re both snakes," he croaked, glowering at him in defiance.
The Dark Lord spoke softly. “How could I forget? Harry Potter, Noble and Good, thinks himself better than a snake! Well, there is more snake in you than you dare to recognize, boy. I can see in your eyes how greatly you desire me dead. You thrill at the idea of seizing me by the throat and prying the very life from me with your bare hands,” he hissed. “Do you deny it?”
Revolted, Harry stared back, suddenly unable to locate his voice.
“The time has come to face what you truly are!” Voldemort’s eyes shone with wild glee. “In your chest beats the heart of a murderer.... Just like me!”
“I am NOT like you!” shouted Harry, and with both arms he swung at the sword, shoving the blade roughly out from under his chin. But before he could move away, he felt a cold sting on his cheek and reflexively brought his hand to his face, stunned. Quivering to the tenor of Voldemort’s savage laughter, Harry pulled his hand away and saw it stained in his own blood. Voldemort had sliced him in the face.
“Careful now, Harry.”
Rolling onto his stomach, Harry slowly propped himself onto his knees, overcome with self-disgust. He knew there was truth in Voldemort’s words; perhaps he had not been able to kill Bellatrix before, but standing before the Dark Lord now, Harry wanted nothing more than to destroy him – to force him to feel the sixteen years worth of pain that Harry had suffered. It was then that he heard Dumbledore’s voice in his head, seeming to come from a place far away and long ago, speaking words Harry thought he would never hear again...
There is a force, Harry, at once more wonderful and terrible than death, than human intelligence, than forces of nature.... It is this power you possess in such quantities and which Voldemort has not at all...*
Tears rising to his eyes once more, Harry spoke to the voice in his head. “But where? Where is it now?” he whispered miserably. “Why has it abandoned me?”
“Who are you talking to, Harry? I hope not yourself!” jeered Voldemort coldly, but Harry barely heard him. The voice was answering...
It was your heart that saved you...
“My heart,” Harry breathed.
“ANSWER ME!” Harry felt the blade of Gryffindor’s sword against his cheek. Wordlessly, he raised his head and looked boldly into the blood-red orbs of Lord Voldemort’s eyes.
With a weak grin, Harry said, “You’ve already lost.”
“Is that so?” In that moment, Voldemort looked as though he might have cut Harry to pieces were it not for the curiosity visible in his cold grey features. “I am the most powerful wizard in the world. Immortal. Unstoppable. With a mere snap of my fingers I could break you,” sneered Voldemort, staring penetratingly into Harry’s face. “How does that make me the loser?”
“Oh, I’ll tell you, all right,” said Harry, fire rising in his chest. “Bit by bit... piece by piece, for a year – no – longer... I’ve been undoing you! Even here where our paths cross for the last time, you are at my mercy!” Feeling inexplicably stronger, as though strength were being poured into him with every word he said, Harry pulled himself to his feet. “Now, I can say it,” he exclaimed. “I destroyed Hufflepuff’s Cup!”
Voldemort, filled with a potent fury, took a swipe at Harry and, with the blunt hilt of the sword, struck him to the ground so hard it threw him skidding backwards. “So you’ve found out about my Horcruxes then,” Voldemort said darkly. “Bravo. But I’ve been careful, Harry! The cup is but one of many!”
Clutching at the left side of his face, Harry noiselessly pushed himself up off the ground. He turned around, lurching under the ache, and brought his hand away from his face, revealing a bleeding welt to match the one that Wormtail had dealt to Ginny.
“Imagine that,” laughed Voldemort. “Like a dog, he stands and begs for more!”
Harry swayed on the spot, blinking back the throbbing behind his left eye before coming back to himself. “Better I were a dog than a snake,” he spat wearily. “I’m sure Nagini would agree, or did you think her death was an accident?”
Voldemort’s crimson eyes went wide.
“You heard me right. I lured Nagini to the cave. What an ironic twist that she, too, was destroyed by the Inferi you created!” Wincing, Harry felt Voldemort’s rising desperation in his own scar and fought to keep his wits.
“And the locket?” continued Harry. “You have yourself to thank for that one as well! Maybe you shouldn’t have burned your bridges with Regulus Black!”
Mad with rage, Voldemort swung the blade at him, slashing Harry’s right side and splitting the fabric of his shirt. Harry staggered backwards, and collapsed onto his knees, clumsily stuffing his hand under his shirt where his blood had turned the fabric to deep scarlet.
“You can’t hurt me anymore!” grunted Harry raggedly. “What a tragic waste your life will have been after tonight!”
At the statement, Voldemort’s face contorted with indescribable loathing. “Fiend! Perhaps you have destroyed my Horcruxes, but it won’t matter after I finish what I started sixteen years ago!”
Then Voldemort did not know he was a Horcrux, thought Harry with satisfaction.
“Do it, then!” he hollered back. “But not before I tell you what the true difference is between you and me!”
Voldemort, seething with evil, advanced on him one slow step at a time. Clearly, he wanted to savor this moment. The sword was drawn and its steel blade glittered brilliantly in the moonlight. “And what difference is that?” the Dark Lord hissed.
Finding the strength to withstand the burning ache in his wounds, Harry reached up and peeled off his shield cloak, letting it fall gently to the ground at his feet.
“I am not afraid to die.”
Nothing Harry had said before made Voldemort react as this one declaration did. The Dark Lord flung out his wand and aimed it between Harry’s eyes.
“Not afraid to die, are you,” snarled Voldemort. “Foolish to the bitter end! Well.... What if SHE dies?”
Suddenly, he whipped his wand towards Ginny. “IMPERIO!” he cried. Out of her petrified state, Ginny instantly sprang to life and staggered away from the rest of DA towards the space where Harry and Voldemort stood – a pained expression on her face as she tried to resist the power of the curse, whimpering with every step as if she were walking on shattered glass.
“Harry...” she whispered.
Harry felt his courage come undone. “YOU LEAVE HER ALONE!” he cried lunging at Voldemort’s wand.
Before Harry could reach the wand, a dozen ropes flew at him, binding his arms to his sides and his legs together until he toppled helplessly onto his side. A few feet away, Ginny dropped to her knees, her face screwed up in her desperate struggle to disobey the tempting voice Harry knew she was hearing.
“Not so brave now, are you?” said Voldemort to Harry as he walked towards Ginny and lifted her chin with the edge of the sword.
“If she dies, you’ll have another blunder like the one you had when you killed my mother,” shouted Harry, choosing his words carefully. “You can’t kill her!”
“Oh, can’t I? Is that because she loves you, Harry?”
Harry paid no attention to the taunting tone of Voldemort’s question; he was watching Ginny’s face. She looked back at him with something like longing and as a tear traveled down her cheek, Harry thought his heart would burst – whether with despair or with hope, he could not tell. Without uttering a word, she had given Harry the answer to Voldemort’s question.
“Yes,” he whispered. “She loves me. If you kill her, it’s your funeral.”
“Verily spoken,” hissed Voldemort, looking amused once more. “As it happens, I don’t have to.”
Suddenly, Ginny snapped upright, her eyes glazed over, and drawing her wand from the pocket of her cloak, she thrust it against her own throat.
“Why should I kill her when I have a perfectly willing accomplice!” the Dark Lord exclaimed. Threading a finger through her hair, he added, “In the past, we’ve been something of a team, Ginny and I, though I suspect she’d rather forget her role in petrifying those filthy Mudblood students at Hogwarts. Either way, Miss Weasley is perfectly capable of doing the job for me. Aren’t you, Ginny?”
Horrified, Harry knew of only one thing he could do. “Ginny! Listen to me!” he cried. “Fight it, Ginny! The Imperius Curse can be fought!”
Her eyes drifted to Harry’s face once more.
“Fight, I said! You must-“
At that moment, Harry felt an invisible vice around neck begin to constrict, stopping his voice. Able to neither speak nor breathe, clawing at his throat, Harry felt himself begin to grow faint.
“No interruptions!” yelled Voldemort, lifting the spell before Harry could pass out completely. Ginny screamed as he brought the blade of the sword to the center of Harry’s chest.
“No! Please! Leave him alone!” she shrieked.
“Willful little Blood Traitor, isn’t she?” snarled Voldemort, causing Ginny to gasp as he forced her away from her independent thoughts once more.
Still reeling from near-suffocation, Harry felt Voldemort take a handful of his hair and yank him upwards, commanding him to sit up. “Tut-tut, eyes open, Harry! Believe me, you don't want to miss this!”
Harry could naught but watch in breathless terror as Voldemort crouched down beside him and forced his face in Ginny’s direction. In his ear, the Dark Lord whispered words of bitterness, anger, and abject misery – consequence of a lifetime filled with unfathomable hatred.
“This is what it looks like when love dies...”
In that moment of exquisite torment, the world seemed to freeze to a standstill around them. Harry heard nothing but the sound of his racing heart as a final tear fell from Ginny’s cheek, and meeting her afflicted gaze, he felt his spirit give way. He was supposed to die, not Ginny, and feeling hot tears running down his face, Harry cursed the last fading stars in the heavens for daring to look on as the last person ever to confess her love for him died before his eyes. Indeed, the last among so many who had perished for loving him...
Voldemort waved his wand at her; for a split second, Harry felt as though Ginny’s eyes were piercing directly into him. Even now, they stared out in hard, blazing defiance...
And then they closed.
Ginny’s lips mouthed the Curse and green sparks flew out in all directions from her wand. A harrowing knell sounded throughout the station as the spell struck her shield cloak, but the spell did not deflect. At once Harry felt the wind knock out of him and was thus startled to find that the deafening scream filling his ears was his own as Ginny crumpled to the concrete floor.
Harry’s heart splintered in his chest. Still trapped in the ropes, he began to weep without reserve to the sound of Voldemort’s heartless laughter.
“I give you the famous Harry Potter!” bellowed Voldemort triumphantly to the petrified DA. “Look at your Chosen One now - nothing more than the broken husk of a human being you see before you! Remember it well, for this is the fate that awaits those that dare to challenge my strength!” Turning his cruel gaze upon Harry, Voldemort released him from the ropes, but Harry remained motionless. “Cheer up, Harry,” he taunted. “You’ll be with your dear Ginny soon enough!”
At that moment, possessed by madness, Harry sprang up from the ground and in an act of supreme desperation, lunged at Voldemort, tore the sword from his hand, and swiftly thrust it into Voldemort’s side. Voldemort looked stunned, but only for a brief moment before his astonished expression was replaced by one of wild mirth. Feeling instantly sick to his stomach, Harry watched Voldemort burst into shrieking laughter as he took hold of the sword and pulled it effortlessly out of his body. He did not so much as flinch as dark blood oozed from his flesh.
“You can’t even feel,” whispered Harry, his eyes wide with disgust.
“Didn’t I say a murderer’s heart beat in your chest?” said Voldemort. “Of course, you are a terrible excuse for a killer. In your inexperience you failed to account for the simple fact that I cannot die!”
Just then, Harry realized that his moment had arrived at last. “Maybe you cannot die, but I can.”
Breathing heavily, he knelt down on one knee before the Dark Lord, who looked on curiously as Harry began to speak in a voice far older than his seventeen years of age.
“You’ve taken everything from me and so I’ve got nothing left to lose,” he murmured. “As of now, I’ve only got my life to offer and I don’t give a damn if you take it. But know this. You might think that killing me will secure your power, but you’re wrong. I'm not the first to rise up against you, and I won’t be the last – I’m one of many. Sooner than you think, they’ll come for you, and a million Horcruxes won’t spare you when they do!” Harry grabbed the blade of the sword with his blood-slicked hand and guided it to his chest. Gesturing to the DA, he added, “I’m not scared of you and neither will they be after tonight. Because one lesson you never learned from Dumbledore is that there are things in this life far worse than death!”
Voldemort’s mouth twisted into a ferocious grimace. “And are those your last words?” he spat.
Harry stared back, feeling blood travel down his arm as he maintained his grip on the blade. “No,” he murmured. “Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis!”
Voldemort’s eyes went wide and for a moment both he and Harry waited with bated breath for something – an explosion, anything – to happen, but nothing did. Voldemort let out a cackle and pressed the sword firmly against Harry’s chest. “Say good night, Harry Potter...”
“ACCIO SWORD!” came a weary voice from the ground beside them. Instantaneously, Gryffindor’s sword was torn from their hands and, stunned, Harry followed it in the air until it landed securely in Ginny’s raised fist, slicing her fingers as they closed around the blade before she gasped in pain and let it drop to the floor.
She was alive.
“You... you’re supposed to be dead!” roared Voldemort incredulously.
Raising herself from the ground, Ginny glared hatefully at him and, without a word, fired bright green sparks from the tip of her wand. Harry gaped at her, not daring to believe his own eyes – she had staged her own death! “The Imperius Curse can be fought!” she said, repeating Harry’s own words in a tone that matched the fierceness of her eyes.
Voldemort impulsively flung out his wand. “We’ll soon fix that!” he bellowed. “AVADA KEDAVRA!”
Without thinking, Harry stretched out his arm and threw himself in front of Voldemort’s wand, his vision blinded by a flash of green light so brilliant that it conjured from his brain a forgotten memory. He suddenly found himself recalling a place he had seen only once in person within the last year, but it felt far more familiar this time as it sprang to his mind’s eye. It was a nursery – the room at his parents’ house in Godric’s Hollow that he had come to know in infancy – the room where his mother perished under the Killing Curse in an act of sacrifice to save his life. Green light was everywhere, in his memory as well as before his eyes now, and he heard his mother scream his name... or was it Ginny? He could not tell. He only knew that his true moment of sacrifice had come.
Bracing himself for death, Harry closed his eyes...
A familiar voice echoed in his muffled ears.
Harry.... The incantation.... It is time....
“The incantation...” he repeated softly.
His eyes opened. He was not dead. Before him was Ginny, staring at him in a mixture of fear and disbelief. “Harry.... your hand...” she whispered shakily. Harry looked down, and hovering in his palm like a glowing green Snitch was a miniature orb of spinning, flickering light. Realization washing over him at last, Harry raised his eyes to return her incredulity. He had caught the Killing Curse in his bare hand.
“NOOOO!” howled Voldemort, backing away from Harry in horrified astonishment. “The curse.... It’s impossible!"
For a moment, Harry, too, was at a loss. But looking down at his hand, coated in his own blood, Harry realized exactly what had prevented the curse from killing him. A smile came to his lips, and, as his eyes locked with Voldemort’s, he drew himself to his feet.
“You wanted to know what the Prophecy said. I can tell you now,” murmured Harry, holding out the green orb for Voldemort to see, the curse beginning to spin like a top in Harry’s palm. “It said... ‘Neither can live while the other survives.’”
Without a wand, Harry made a swift motion with his hand and Voldemort’s wand went flying out of his grip. Voldemort’s eyes went wide.
“Your reign is over.”
At that moment, Harry felt something unidentifiable take command over him. He drew in a deep breath and felt a sinking sensation, as though he were being drawn deep inside of himself. The curse still contained in his palm, he began to recite the incantation in a tone almost melodic. The words spilled like water from his lips.
“Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis...”
The glowing orb flickered brightly. As though the very air around them were responding to the sound of Harry’s voice, a cool draught began to blow in from all directions. Like a cornered animal, Voldemort’s eyes darted anxiously about him, but he remained fastened to the spot.
"What are you doing...?"
Harry repeated the incantation once more. “Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis...” he said, his voice stronger, and the breeze instantly picked up speed. Debris began to lift from the ground, and as Harry spoke the incantation once again, the draught grew into a swirling wind.
“Stop-“ Voldemort began, but the sound of his voice was instantly swept away by the gale. Above them, the twilight sky was beginning to cloud over; a low rumble issued from the heavens as a dark veil swept over their heads.
Entranced by the green light, Harry felt compelled to speak faster. “Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis, Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis, Evocare Cultoris, Iudicare Mortalis,” he chanted, the Snitch-like sphere sputtering and flashing with every word. A massive tempest was brewing above them, lightening crawling through the clouds overhead, the wind growing ever stronger, causing Voldemort to shield his face against the powerful gusts before something altogether unexpected and tremendous began to occur.
Harry started to hear other voices. They began as soft whispers, and at first Harry mistook them for the blowing of the wind, but out of the torrent the whispers grew louder. They were speaking the incantation with him, the hushed tones blending with the sound of Harry’s chant until his voice was undistinguishable amid a chorus of invisible chanters. It was then that Harry began to feel his scar burn with a power unlike any he had ever experienced before. The pain was incredible, and yet he could not seem to stop speaking. Glancing at his hand, Harry saw the blood on his palm begin to sizzle on his skin.
All of a sudden, Harry felt something slice him in half. With a sensation akin to being flung from a high ledge, Harry felt something yank him roughly out of himself, and before he could realize what had happened, he was suddenly gazing out of a perspective that was not his own; from whose eyes he was looking, Harry could not tell.
But there he was. Thrown from his body, Harry looked on in disbelief... at himself! Feeling as though he was looking into a mirror, there before his eyes, a mere several meters away, stood another Harry, his lips speaking the words from the parchment, and his green eyes staring vacantly back as if lost in a hypnotic trance. Recognizing the expression on the other Harry’s face, he knew instantly where his spirit had come to rest.
He was inside Voldemort’s body.
And then Harry saw them – the chorus of the dead. From the lifeless bodies scattered throughout the platform, ethereal shapes emerged and began to walk towards his other self, pausing beside him as they echoed the incantation. Instantaneously, Harry felt a terror surround him - so great that he knew it could only be coming from Voldemort himself. These were the Dark Lord’s victims. They had come to judge him at last.
The tempest was stronger than ever now. The metal that held the ceiling aloft began to groan, and one by one the glass panes in the arch above began to burst, raining sparkling fragments that were instantly swept up in the wind, containing them all in a spinning cloud of glistening dust. Behind the other Harry, the DA began to stir – Voldemort’s spell was lifting. Looking out through Voldemort’s eyes, Harry watched as Neville fell onto his knees from his frozen position – Seamus shook the life back into his limbs in time to catch Lavender as she stumbled forward – the wind swept the invisibility cloak off of Ron and Hermione to reveal their stunned expressions as they watched the other Harry with admiration and fear. There was a terrible beauty in the way he stood unwaveringly erect, his voice fierce despite the indelible pain in his face as he held Death in one outstretched hand...
More and more phantoms were emerging from the shadows, but then, Harry saw something that made his spirit lift. Out of the other Harry emerged two more souls that he recognized immediately.
Just then, Harry heard screaming and looking back at his other self, he was shocked and horrified to see that the other Harry’s eyes no longer looked like his mother’s. They had turned a deep red – indeed, the same bloody crimson as Voldemort’s eyes. A cold expression crept onto the other Harry’s face until he became the very visage of Tom Riddle himself. It was as though the Horcrux inside of him had found its way to the surface of his skin, and looking on in abject terror, Harry watched as the scar on his forehead split open, releasing a torrent of brilliant white light.
Once more Harry felt the sensation of being viciously ripped in two and found himself thrust back inside his own skin, unprepared for the anguish in his body as it warred against itself. Though his hand was still outstretched, he was no longer speaking the incantation – the agony was too great – and looking at the glowing green sphere in his palm, he saw that the blood had burned away. The curse was slowly seeping up his arm turning it the same charcoal color that Dumbledore’s arm had been after he had destroyed Gaunt’s ring.
However, nothing could have prepared him for what he saw only feet ahead of him. There crouched Lord Voldemort, writhing and screaming in anguish, clawing violently at his skin as though his blood had turned to poison in his veins. Where once Voldemort could not feel pain, he could plainly feel it now, and squinting through the indelible agony in his forehead, Harry understood why. Running through the Dark Lord were three drops of Harry’s blood, and by some connection forged by the incantation, the more the Killing Curse burned into the blood on Harry’s hand, the more Voldemort seemed to suffer. The blood surging through Voldemort’s veins was poisonous!
In that moment of supreme suffering, Harry felt yet another wave of pain in his forehead and nearly fainted from the intensity of it. His scar had started to bleed, and his breathing grew short and convulsive as he felt the wet warmth traveling down the side of his face and tried not to cry out. Thinking only of how welcome death would be once his task was done, he knew he could bear no more.
This is what it must feel like to die, he thought with bitter fascination.
“Harry, hold on!” shouted Ginny desperately over the tumult. “You must hold on!”
It was then that Harry began to sense a strange calm seeping into him through his suffering. With every wave of agony, he began to stray - to wander to the border of his own existence until he could almost taste the peace on the other side. Anchoring himself to this sensation, Harry staid his tortured thoughts knowing that such unbearable pain could not possibly last forever. The end was too near to him now...
Listening again for the voices he had heard before, he found that they had disappeared. Before him, Lord Voldemort cowered into a crumpled heap, his skin alive with red welts as though acid had been poured onto his body. And then, as if sensing Harry’s intentions, Voldemort’s eyes raised to look hatefully at him.
Harry returned his gaze and was filled with an eerie sadness. “Bow to death, Tom Riddle,” he whispered, and he closed his fingers around the brilliant green orb.
There was a mighty explosion. From the space between Harry and Voldemort, a shockwave rippled outward, leveling every spectator to the ground and sending wreckage flying out in all directions from the blast. With a deafening roar coming from the sky above, a tremendous funnel-shaped cloud descended and touched down onto the platform through the gaping hole in the ceiling, enveloping Harry and Voldemort both within the thick spinning cone. As quickly as it had appeared, it rose back into the atmosphere, leaving Harry alone on the platform standing before Voldemort’s empty robe. Slowly, the skies cleared, revealing a sight that they all had almost forgotten throughout the course of that endless night: the rising sun.
Once more, silence fell upon the platform.
Blood seeping between the fingers of her closed fist, Ginny struggled to her feet. Harry’s right hand fell limply to his side and he turned to look glassy-eyed upon her tear-streaked face.
At once, his legs gave way beneath him. The world closed in around him as he felt Ginny’s arms circle tightly around his chest and his wilted figure collapsed forward into her embrace. Helpless beneath the dead weight of his battered frame, Harry and Ginny sank to the floor.
Groaning in pain as she struggled to lay him gently on the ground, Ginny fearfully looked into Harry’s face. His skin was a ghostly gray against the bright stripes of red blood that trailed from his forehead down his cheek, and his breath came in short shallow spurts.
“Harry,” she whispered, touching a trembling hand to his cold cheek. His eyes seemed to stare at nothing, and though his chest still rose and fell with each grating breath, his expression was empty.
“Ron...” she croaked, “Hermione... please... somebody, help...”
Hermione and Ron had been thrown onto a separate platform from the force of the explosion and lay in two heaps on the ground. At the sound of Ginny’s call, Ron forced himself onto his back. He, too, found the wind knocked out of him from the impact of his fall. “Ginny... are you all right?” he managed between coughs. “Hermione...” Beside him, soft moans came from Hermione’s broken figure. Rolling over towards her, he pulled her around by the arm to face him. She looked at him breathlessly.
“I’m... okay.” She found his hand with hers and squeezed it.
This time Ginny’s voice was louder. “Someone help! It’s Harry...”
With extraordinary effort, Ron and Hermione peeled themselves off the landing and staggered across the tracks, falling over Muggles and wizards that lay dead or unconscious throughout the station. When they finally reached the opposite side, they found Ginny propped beside Harry’s body, tears streaming down her cheeks. “He’s alive,” Ginny cried, “but he’s not responding! I don’t know what to do..."
Ron knelt down on Harry’s opposite side and lowered his ear to Harry’s mouth. “His breathing’s sparse,” he said in a trembling voice. “Harry, can you hear me? Give me a sign you’re still with us, mate!”
To everyone’s great relief, Harry’s head slowly turned in Ron’s direction. Hermione released the breath she had been holding in, and Ginny let out a small sob. “Harry, it’s going to be okay,” Hermione said, taking her place next to Ron by Harry’s head. As Ginny pulled off her cloak and draped it over him, Hermione tore a strip of fabric from her own robe and dabbed at his forehead. “We’re here. We’re going to get you out of here...”
You have strength enough for this, Harry thought fiercely to himself as he forced air into his lungs.
“No,” Harry whispered. The word, though barely audible, made Ron, Hermione, and Ginny flinch.
His glazed eyes shifted from Hermione to Ron and back. “I’m not... going... anywhere...” he said between shallow breaths.
Ron looked positively sick. “What are you talking about?”
Harry smiled wearily in spite of the vice-like tightness in his chest. “It’s over... it’s done... I’ve done... what I set out... to do...”
Ginny’s hand was over her mouth.
“Harry, you’re too weak,” murmured Hermione, fighting back tears. “Save your strength-”
He stopped her with a meaningful look. “Strength... in numbers...” he whispered. For a moment there was only silence between them before Hermione bowed her head and covered her face with her hand, her shoulders shaking as the tears forced their way out of her eyes.
"Please... let me say this...” murmured Harry. “Every victory… tonight... was because... you were with me....”
Harry turned to Ron and nudged his arm.
“I was stupid … to think… I could go it... alone,” he continued, sounding almost pensive through his pain. “To think… this was my battle... and no one else’s...”
Ron sniffed loudly and looked away.
"You’ve been... more than... my best... friends...” Harry whispered raggedly. “You know that... don’t you...?”
Harry’s voice was fading with each passing breath as the weight on his chest grew heavier. Aware that his body had already begun to tremble, he pushed the vision of Snape’s death from his mind and focused on his friends. His breath hitched, causing Hermione and Ron to exchange anxious expressions.
“Don’t... be... afraid...” whispered Harry.
In that moment, they all understood. Harry was saying goodbye. Doubling over in anguish, Ginny buried her face in his neck and began to weep with all her breaking heart.
“Ginny...” He turned slowly toward her and managed to raise a hand to her head, letting his fingers roam in her hair as they had done in happier times. Leaden with emotion, his voice wavered. "I'm so sorry... Please... forgive me..."
“Forgive you?” she whispered against his cheek. “For what?”
"For...” he breathed into her ginger hair, but his voice trailed off. She pulled herself up to gaze at him, two tears rolling off of her nose onto his pale face. Heartened by the look in her eyes, Harry brought his hand to her cheek and weakly ran his trembling fingers along it. "For never saying... a piece of me... died... every time… you walked... away from me..."
She tightened her grip on his robes. “Oh, Harry, don’t,” she cried.
“For waiting. . . so long. . . to tell you,” continued Harry softly, “that... I love you... with so much. . . of my heart... that neither time... nor death.... can stop it....” A solitary tear running down the side of his face, he added, “I... always will...”
Rekindling her defiance, she gripped his hand and gazed fiercely at him. “No! You're not going to die! Not here! Not like this...” Ginny’s voice faded to a rough whisper. “I won't let you!”
He gazed longingly at her, took her wounded, bloodstained fingers and pressed them gently against his heart.
“You already... saved my life... Ginny...”
Golden sunlight began to seep through the broken glass above them, its soft warm glow creating an eerie dissonance against the mordant sound of approaching sirens. By this time, DA members had begun to stir, and those that had revived looked on with horror at the scene unfolding between Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione. Their champion - their hero - ‘the boy who lived’ - was dying.
Ron took Harry’s withered hand in his and, wiping his eyes with the sleeve of his robe, struggled in vain to speak. Beside him, Hermione was also speechless, though hot tears flowed freely from her eyes as she continued to press her palm to Harry’s forehead, stroking him tenderly with her thumb. It seemed their combined grief had completely stripped them of their voices, but then, some things never needed to be articulated between them.
Ginny alone found the right words.
“I love you, Harry,” she told him, gazing unflinchingly into his face, and she touched her lips to his long enough to draw in his last breath as it left him. Pulling away, she found his eyes closed, a peaceful smile playing on the corners of his mouth.
Harry Potter heard Ginny’s anguished cry from a distance. No longer bound in a broken body, he watched as Ron and Hermione wept in each other’s arms while Ginny lay crumpled atop his lifeless frame, sobbing passionately into the folds of his robe. And therewith, brimming with love for his friends, he passed out of all thought and feeling and fell blissfully into the embrace of eternal night.
*Quote paraphrased from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix