Chapter 46 : The Beginning of the End
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The next two weeks saw the funerals for the dead. By the end of the first week, Harry had used up all his tears. He felt almost empty inside, the hole left by Fawkes’s death simply was not healing. He refused to lean on Ginny for she was barely holding up herself.
Bill had always been her favourite brother, the eldest, always there looking out for her. Without him she seemed lost and confused, unable to decide who to turn to.
She wasn’t the only one lost and confused in the DA. Hannah could frequently be seen sitting at a particular window where she and Justin had shared their first kiss, tears pouring down her face and a haunted stare marring her kind face.
Dean likewise seemed confused as to what to do without Seamus. The two had been inseparable since the beginning of first year. Lavender and Parvati would often sit either side of him and the three would sit with their arms around each other, just crying.
The founders were doing their best to keep everyone’s spirits up but they themselves were struggling since they had developed fast friendships with the students and it pained their hearts to see such young people give up their lives for what they believed in.
Harry, unsure what he needed to do for Fawkes’s body, went to them after the last funeral, “Can you please tell me if there is something I need to do for Fawkes? H-he never told me what is done with a phoenix’s body when the-they die. I had just assumed they would burst into flame and not be reborn”
Rowena stood up and guided him to the lounge, “No, when a phoenix dies permanently their body remains. Generally three options are taken though, burn the body yourself, entomb the body so that it cannot degenerate or return the body to the home of the phoenix and let the wild birds decide.”
Harry stared at them, “And what did you do?”
Helga smiled sadly, “Godric and Rowena burned theirs after taking some of their feathers and having them turned into magical objects. Salazar entombed his and I returned mine to the wild.”
Dropping his eyes slightly, “And what should I do?”
Rowena wrapped her arms around him, “Oh Harry! That is a decision only you can make. It breaks my heart that you have to make the decision so young, it just isn’t fair!”
Looking at her he replied wryly, “Nothing about my life has been fair Rowena, there is no reason to think it would start to be now.” He sighed, “I would still like your opinion, after all, you were bonded to Fawkes as well. I think he would want your input as well.”
Her eyes softened and sparkling tears appeared, “I thank you Harry. I would probably burn his body, for me it gives me a little bit of happiness, because I can then just p-pretend that he is simply regenerating again into a different form.”
Harry nodded, “So be it. And it is perfect for Fawkes because he loved flashing; he often told me it was his favourite pastime.”
“Will you take some of his feathers?” Salazar asked softly.
Nodding again he replied, “Yes. His feather resides in my wand, perhaps I’ll have someone make another, or something else.”
The portrait to the Nest opened and Ginny, Ron and Hermione climbed through, talking quietly. When they saw Harry and the founders they gave smiles and immediately sat down, Ginny cuddling up to Harry quickly.
She looked into his eyes, “Magorian asked Luna to pass a message to you but she found us first. Apparently he says to thank you for talking with the acromantula. Since we made our deal with them they have been much more docile.”
Harry smiled down at her, “Well, we had better keep our promise to them, otherwise I can see that docileness disappearing very quickly.” She nodded in agreement, leaning her tired face into his shoulder.
“Snape? Where the bloody hell have you been? W-” Harry exclaimed jerking upright and moving away from the others.
~I don’t have time for stupid questions Potter! I have been discovered as a spy, even now the Dark Lord is after me. I’m dodging curses at the moment.~ Snape snapped, though his voice was surprisingly calm despite his situation.
Harry felt his eyes go wide, “What can I do? How can I get you out of there?”
~Do nothing! His fortress is impregnable, any attempt to get into it would be foolish. But I just discovered he is planning to attack Hogwarts with the remainder of his forces tomorrow. ARGGHH!~
~He will be leading the attack himself, you can defeat him!~
Harry winced, “I-I don’t know if I can!”
Snape gasped in pain, obviously hit with some sort of curse, ~Put aside your own ego Potter! How many more casualties does this war need before you think you can?!~
Harry clenched his hands, “This isn’t just about me Snape! There are great risks if I kill Voldemort in my current state of mind!”
~Potter! Your state of mind has always been delicate yet somehow you manage to pull through. You can’t just run away and hide behind people tomorrow! You must fight the war you were born for!~ Harry could almost hear the exertion in the man’s voice as he panted, ~End it Potter! End this war! For all those whose voices have been silenced, end it- ~
His voice abruptly cut off and Harry bowed his head, “I will Severus, I will.”
He stood stock still for a couple of minutes, clenching and unclenching his hands until Salazar stood up, “Harry?”
Looking at the snake founder he sighed, “Snape is dead.”
Ginny gasped, “W-What? How?”
Harry shook his head, “I don’t know, he was under attack when he talked to me. Somehow Voldemort found out that he was a traitor, though how I can’t imagine. Snape was always so careful; I can’t see him slipping up.”
Salazar grimaced, “It could be that Voldemort was simply suspicious of him. Perhaps he felt that there was too much stacked against Snape for him to be left alive.”
Harry sighed, “I guess we’ll never know. But Snape did manage to warn me of an attack tomorrow. Voldemort is rounding up all his forces to attack Hogwarts.”
Concern flashed over Salazar’s face and he abruptly turned and sat down, staring at his hands in deep thought. Helga looked at him, “He isn’t ready!”
Harry, knowing what she was concerned about went over and knelt by her, “Helga, if I don’t take him out tomorrow, we may not get another chance. Yes I am angry and hurt over Fawkes’s death, yes I will do whatever it takes to kill Voldemort, but I am not letting my emotions control me. Your lessons are too well ingrained in me. I feel empty, which I know is not a good thing, but it is better than running around in a white hot rage.”
She shook her head, “It is still too risky Harry. It has only been two weeks, whether you know it or not, your emotions are still very much in control of you!”
“He is right.” Salazar muttered, looking up, “Harry is right, we will not get another opportunity like this again. To have Voldemort walk so willingly up to us and practically ask us to kill him.” He turned to Harry and stared deep into his green eyes, “But you will not fight Voldemort alone, is that understood? You may be able to walk through killing curses now, but you can still be incapacitated in a fight. We will fight alongside you.” He smirked, “Besides, I have a few choice things to say to my descendant anyway.”
Harry dropped his gaze, “Alright, I am not going to turn down help. Do you honestly think I can do it though?”
“Kill him or kill him without losing yourself?” Godric asked seriously.
Harry gave a lopsided grin, “The latter, I am pretty sure about the former.”
Ginny interrupted, “Yes Harry, of course you can. You have us by your side and we are not going to leave you. Just don’t do anything stupid!”
Standing up Harry nodded, “Well if we are going to do this for real then I need to call in our allies. Voldemort has bound to have been recruiting members same as us. I will also let McGonagall know that he is coming sometime tomorrow. She can take care of organising what is left of the Order and Amelia can get the Aurors here once I hold a meeting.”
Ron stood up as well, “Me and Hermione will alert the DA, I know the plans probably better than you by now. I’ll get them ready for tomorrow.”
Harry grinned, “Yeah well you were always better at strategy.”
Hermione gestured at the founders, “Um, just a thought. Should we let the rest of the DA and the Order in on their presence? I mean, I doubt we still have any traitors amongst us.”
Harry looked at the founders and then shrugged, “Why bother? They’ll find out tomorrow, and if we tell them now they will be too distracted by their presence to be of much use in preparing for the battle.”
She inclined her head, “Point I suppose.”
Helga glanced at Salazar, “So I take it we are revealing ourselves to Voldemort then?”
His eyes darkened and flickered red, “I most certainly am. I am going to completely disgrace him in front of his followers!”
Ginny snorted, “That’ll piss him off. He considers you a noble hero and modelled himself after your legend.”
Harry shrugged, “Well he is in for a rude shock then.” He called out “Faw...” realisation slammed down around him and he nearly collapsed. He never realised how much he depended on the phoenix’s ability to transport him anywhere at an instant.
Helga, instantly aware of his inner turmoil, shot to her feet and enveloped him in a hug. Ron and Hermione shared a glance before quickly disappearing, knowing that words of sympathy were the last thing Harry wanted. Ginny slowly got up and took over from Helga, holding Harry and staring deep into his whirlpool of a soul.
The wound from Fawkes’s death, still raw and bleeding, felt like someone had just plunged a red hot poker into it. Harry’s knees were shaking and he closed his eyes hard, biting his lip in an effort to control his emotions. After taking several deep breaths he opened his eyes again and said in a croaky voice, “I-I guess I’ll use the portal in my trunk to get to Gringotts then.” Pulling away hastily from Ginny he turned and rushed out of the Nest.
Nearly running through the castle towards the Room of Requirement where he stored his trunk he shook his head violently to dislodge the fresh tears that had appeared. Bursting through the door he barely even paused before hurtling himself through the portal.
As he toppled out the other side he glimpsed a startled goblin face before losing his balance and tripping to the ground.
“Not the most dignified entrance I have ever seen you make Lord Potter.” A wry voice stated.
Looking up Harry fixed his eyes upon Lord Lardol and grimaced, “I guess not, still it got your attention.”
The goblin stood back and let him get to his feet, “You always have our attention Harry. What brings you to Gringotts this sunny day?”
“Something not so bright and sunny I am afraid. Can we go somewhere private to talk please? I would prefer not to broadcast to the general populace what I am about to say.” Harry replied, some of his weariness breaking into his voice.
Consternation flashed over the goblin’s face and he nodded, swiftly leading the way through to his office and gesturing for Harry to take a chair. As soon as Harry was settled Lardol said softly, “Don’t take this the wrong way Harry, but you look terrible. When was the last time you had a decent sleep?”
Harry gave a half smile which looked more like a pained grimace, “Two weeks and one night ago.”
Sighing, the goblin nodded, “I figured that was the case. I have heard some pretty terrible rumours regarding the dead but not much more…?”
“Fawkes died if that’s what you mean.” Harry said bluntly, his voice and eyes devoid of any emotion.
Lardol’s head dropped, “I am truly sorry Harry, though I know such words are empty and you probably don’t want them.”
Harry inclined his head slightly before sitting up straighter, “I didn’t come to talk about what has transpired but what is going to happen. I have received word from my spy within Voldemort’s ranks that he is going to attack Hogwarts tomorrow with the remainder of his forces. I get the feeling he wants me dead quite desperately now and with his vampires being defeated, he probably feels that he needs to lead the attack himself.”
Instantly attentive, the goblin frowned, “Alright, I’ll get on and alert our battle groups to get to Hogwarts as quickly as possible. They should be there within an hour. I assume you have a place to put them?”
Harry nodded, “If they don’t mind living alongside humans they can stay in the Room of Requirement with the rest of the DA. However, if this is unsuitable I and some friends of mine can create a tent dwelling out on the grounds.”
Lardol shrugged, “While I think some of my people would not be averse to living alongside humans, most probably would see it as a burden. They would attempt to needle those that they were around so unless your people have good control over their emotions I think it would be better for them to be separate.”
“That is fine, I will see to the dwellings immediately. They won’t be flash, but it is only for a single night.” Harry replied. He sat silently for a moment before getting to his feet and sighing, “I am sorry for rushing out on you but I have much to do and less time then what I had hoped to do it in.”
The goblin gave an understanding smile, “War leaves little time for pleasantries Harry. When this is all over we can talk then.”
Harry nodded and turned for the door, pausing to say, “Thank you for all of your help Lord Lardol, it means more than I can say.”
Lardol followed him out the door, “Harry, by the end of tomorrow, I will be the one thanking you. I would say good luck for tomorrow, but I do not think you need it. I have no fear that you will defeat Voldemort tomorrow.”
Harry pierced the goblin with a chilling stare, “No, do not fear that, fear what comes after.” Not waiting for a reply, he stepped through his portal, missing the confused and concerned face of the head of Gringotts.
Coming out of the portal abruptly, Harry stumbled out and felt two hands automatically steady him. Looking up into a pair of grey eyes he nodded his thanks.
Malfoy smirked, “Must have been some meeting you were late for considering the way you hurtled your way into that portal before.”
Harry grimaced, “I take it Ron and Hermione have talked to you?”
Malfoy nodded, “Yeah, everyone knows about the attack tomorrow. McGonagall has put the castle in full lockdown and the Minister has brought as many trustworthy as she could.”
“Good, we are going to need all the help we can get. I don’t know the full strength of Voldemort’s forces, but he wouldn’t attack unless he was confident he could overwhelm us. He knows our strength, at least regarding our human forces.” Harry replied.
“Harry!” Ginny’s voice exclaimed.
Looking up he saw her picking her way through the room before hugging him quickly, “Everything went well?”
He nodded, “Yeah, but we need to set up some sort of dwelling for 80 goblins by tonight. Lardol will be sending them through as soon as he can alert them and he reckons it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to have them living with the rest of the DA.”
Draco snorted, “Sparks would certainly fly that is for sure.” The blonde Slytherin scratched his chin, “I’ll get some of the better Transfiguration students and create something suitable for them.” Without waiting for a reply he nodded at Harry and Ginny before turning and walking towards the rest of the DA.
Ginny turned surprised eyes to Harry, “Who would have thought that Draco Malfoy could turn into a decent human being after all?”
He smiled down at her, “I guess getting him out from under his father’s influence and giving him a real family in Andromeda and Ted did wonders.” He sighed, “And watching his mother get murdered couldn’t have helped.”
Ginny winced, “No, I guess not.” Wrapping her arm around his waist she started to lead him out the door, “Come on, we need to eat something. Nodsy already sent word to the elves so you don’t have to let them know and I am sure that the centaurs are well and truly on top of preparations thanks to those blasted stars of theirs.”
Harry laughed, “You’re right and I am starving. Let’s see what wondrous creation Dobby can create us within seconds this time.”
They made it almost to the kitchens before a voice called out “Harry!”
Groaning he turned around, “Yes Rita?”
The reporter hastened up to him, “Is it true? Is You-Know-Who attacking tomorrow?”
“Yes, Voldemort will be brining his full force against us. Why? Wanting to back out now?” Ginny replied scathingly.
The older woman shot her an annoyed and insulted look, “Don’t be ridiculous! I just needed to get all of my reporting gear together.”
Harry frowned, “Pardon me?”
She rolled her eyes, “You don’t seriously think I wouldn’t record this? The battle of our age? It’ll be the biggest story of my life, there is no way that I am just going to sit back and watch!”
Harry chewed his bottom lip, “Well I can’t stop you, but just remember, in bug form you are very easily squashed.”
She sniffed, “I am well aware of the limitations of my animagus form Harry, I know how to keep myself out of harm’s way.”
Ginny muttered something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like “Pity.”
Shooting her a cautionary glance Harry replied, “Very well, record your story. I just hope you won’t be too disappointed when I survive.”
She blinked, “Harry, I would be personally devastated if you died.”
“Uhuh. Now if you’ll excuse us, Ginny and I have somewhere to be.” Harry said, walking past her and back towards the kitchens.
As they opened the portrait hole they were met with a wave of noise which almost buffeted them back out again. As they stepped through they saw why. All of the battle elves that had been sent to help had already arrived and the Hogwart’s elves were frantically trying to get them out of the way.
Dobby noticed Harry and Ginny and at the top of his shrill voice he shouted, “STOP!”
Instantly, everyone froze and he made his way over, “Harry Potter! Dobby is glad to see you! What can Dobby do for you!”
He smiled, “I think the more important question is what can I do for you? You all seem swamped at the moment.”
Another elf that Harry didn’t recognise nodded, “We is finding it hard to do all of our chores with the new additions. We is unsure where to put them!”
An elf dressed in light leather armour walked forward, “Lord Harry Potter, it is an honour to serve you in this war. We is all willing to lay down our lives for you!”
He nodded, “Thank you very much, however, perhaps it would be better if you and your people relocate to the Room of Requirement? It is much more comfortable and not as crowded as in here.”
The elf considered him for a moment before nodding, “That is sensible Lord Harry Potter, we is moving immediately.” He snapped his fingers at the elves and instantly they disappeared.
Harry gave a wry grin, “Not your usual elves that is for sure.”
Dobby nodded, “They is unused to dealing with wizards, they is living outside of all magical communities other than their own. They is still trustworthy though!”
Ginny put a hand on the diminutive elf’s shoulder, “Oh we have no fear of that. We are very grateful for their assistance. Now, if it isn’t too much bother, could we please have something to eat? We are starving and have been on our feet for a while now.”
Before they could blink, the elves had them seated with a large feast before them. They ate hungrily until their appetites had been sated. Harry looked at Ginny, “Have you spoken with your family today?”
She looked away guiltily; since Bill and Fleur’s funeral she had done her best to avoid her parents, afraid that they would try and hide her away in an effort to protect her. She shook her head, “No, but I talked to Charlie earlier. He is finding it difficult to be the oldest sibling now as he always looked up to Bill. We all did, he was always the perfect brother; kind, brave, smart and cool.”
She shook her head viciously, “And now he is dead, everything he was, everything he could ever be, it’s all gone.” She dashed her hands against her eyes, “This war has to end Harry, it has to, before too many more people lose their lives to this senseless slaughter.”
He drew her into a hug, “It will Ginny, I swear it.”
A/N: I am sorry for the poor quality of this chapter. I absolutely hate it, its very disjointed, stilted and unreal but I just couldn't get words to flow for it. However, hopefully the next chapter should make up for it! :p
Thanks for reading, and as always, please leave me a review!
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