Harry swallowed hard as he stepped over the ruins of one of the chamber doors and crossed into the large cavernous room beyond, only to be instantly engaged in battle by one of the Death Eaters. He became lost to the rest of the Order, and they to him as each of them was swept away by a separate opponent, and some had the misfortune of facing two. He didn’t know who it was who faced him, but he found that he didn’t care as his body moved effortlessly, although without practice, against his faceless opponent. His arms and legs ached terribly from lack of use; being locked in a cell for Merlin only knew how long had not done wonders for his body and he was feeling the strain of it. As the duel progressed, Harry became very glad, not for the first time, that he had taken up duelling during the previous summer with many of the occupants of Grimmauld Place because it was certainly necessary to his survival now. He knew that Remus and Tonks were somewhere close by, duelling with similarly unknown Death Eaters, whilst the rest of the Order, or at least those who retained a consciousness of their location in the room, tried to remain close to one another. It didn’t work particularly well however, and Mad Eye soon raced off into the middle of a large throng of Death Eaters, his desire to fight and almost relive the old times overriding his common sense, or what little of it remained. Minerva was hot on his heels and made sure that he was not cut off from the rest of the group, or the Aurors as she fought those who shot curses at her back, whilst attempting to protect her own. In the middle of the room, Harry dimly realised that Dumbledore and Voldemort were having a battle of words, rather than of spells. He was too far away to hear what they were saying, however, but occasionally parts of their conversation would drift over to him and he would wonder just what stopped Voldemort from killing Dumbledore and what it was that would give him the power to defeat the Dark Lord where others had failed. “… it matters little, you shall not prevail, Dumbledore.” It was Tom’s voice which brought the words over to Harry, and the young boy narrowed his eyes as he was dragged away towards the edge of the room. “You speak with much conviction despite having heard the whole of the prophecy. How can you be so certain that victory is yours when your downfall has been Seen at Harry’s hands?” Albus asked Tom calmly, dodging one of the spells which ricocheted towards him. “That mere child defeat me?” Voldemort asked, a sneer on his lips as his eyes traced Harry. The boy was easily overcoming one of his more inexperienced Death Eaters and he was certainly skilled, but he was hardly of any threat to himself should they duel together. Or so he believed, and yet the more he watched Harry duelling, the more he decided that perhaps there would be something within him that could finally overcome him. “Do you fear death, Tom?” Albus asked Voldemort calmly, knowing that each time he addressed him with his name he grew more and more angry. “Fear it?” The words were spoken barely above an incredulous whisper, and yet even over the screams and shouts of hundreds of people duelling, cursing and dying around them the words reached their intended ears. “There is nothing in this world which I fear, Dumbledore.” “And yet you feel that you must concoct various schemes, growing in their devious nature in order to trap the one who could potentially destroy you. Why is it that you do not face him yourself? Are you too cowardly to take on a young boy?” Albus said, picking his words carefully. He knew that if he could manipulate Voldemort into duelling with Harry before the younger was entirely worn out by other opponents then they may stand a chance. Harry’s resourcefulness and astounding ability to escape the most incredible situations had never failed him yet. He could only hope that today would be no exception. “… surprise me, Dumbledore.” Remus turned around when he heard the words spoken by Tom Riddle from the other side of the room. It seemed that the chamber had been built especially to carry sound and amplify the words of those spoken in the middle of it, although charms could easily have assisted them there. He leapt to the left to avoid a quick stunner which shot out of the wand of the man opposite him before sending his own quick curse. In a moment the man was tied up from his ankles to his neck with a very tight, vine-like rope with certainly no obvious escape. A quick vanishing spell later and Remus was freed from his opponent temporarily and scanned around the room for the rest of the Order. Harry was nearing the middle of the room where Voldemort and Dumbledore stood, temporarily silent. They were merely observing each other and occasionally one of their glances would pass to Harry whom it seemed was being steered towards them and could not help it. Remus felt his stomach plunge and he knew with almost certainty that Voldemort planned to duel with Harry until the death. He knew already whose death it would be, and it was not the one he had been hopeful for. Remus was dragged from his observations of his godson as Tonks flew into the side of him, almost knocking him over as she duelled fiercely with Bellatrix. Neither of them was backing down and Tonks shot a strange, purple beam at her opponents head. It missed by mere inches and Remus wondered just what the spell would have done to her had it hit. He felt almost invisible as he dodged one of Bellatrix’s spells and slipped unnoticed into a large throng of duelling Aurors and Death Eaters. It was slightly unnerving that he recognised very few of them but he was not surprised to see that the Aurors were clearly on the winning side. He knew that it would be so; the Death Eaters were always on the look out for themselves where as the Aurors had been strictly trained to be conscious of their fellow Aurors and to help anyone else in need. The Death Eaters were dropping like flies, and every spell shot at an Auror was intercepted by another, should it’s intended target have failed to notice it. Remus brought up a hasty but strong shield around himself as one of the younger Death Eaters sent a spell at his chest. He did not need to respond however, as one of the Aurors quickly did that for him, sending Remus a slight smile before he too disappeared into the crowds of people. Mad Eye and Minerva were still defending each other from a quickly diminishing number of Death Eaters and Remus knew that they did not require his assistance and he would only provide another body to protect. Someone running towards him caught his attention and he spun round only to catch Severus as he tripped. The Potions master gave Remus a quick glare before he regained his footing and raced off to the other side of the room. Severus was less than pleased that the damned wolf had been the one to catch him when he fell, literally, not metaphorically, although he debated which one of the two would have been the most humiliating. He wasn’t particularly bothered by this however, but several of the Death Eaters recognised him and weren’t all that pleased by his duplicitous actions in the past. This was the reason which had caused him to spend much of his time dodging in and out of the duelling persons around him, slipping in and out of the occasional duel himself but never remaining in one place long. He glanced to his right and saw a flash of green. Then he was falling, falling… There was a thud and Ron hauled himself up from the floor. He had been specifically ordered to stay put by the side of the wall outside the prison by his parents, the Order and various Aurors and Ministry officials and yet there he was attempting to get back inside. He had fallen because Hermione had hexed him just before he got to the gateway and he slipped back to the bottom of the small but slippery slope upon which they were standing. The look which Hermione gave him as he landed at her feet was one of little pity. She cared little for the fact that he had foolishly tried to regain access into the prison from which they had finally been freed. She was fully aware that Harry and the rest of the Order were in there but right now she had more important things to be doing, like keeping Ron from the danger within. That was her task which she had assigned herself and it was one which without her would have failed long ago. Inside there were screams, shouts and the occasional cry of absolute agony but they would not enter. They had been barred by all who had spoken to him and had been the first to be forcefully removed from the building. More people were supposedly on the way to assist them should they need it but it really all depended upon Harry. They knew that now. Harry was also painfully aware that everything had been placed upon him as he spun round so that he was going the other way; away from Voldemort and Dumbledore and reversed the three spells which were shot at him in quick succession and sent three of his own. One was dodged effectively, but the other two were straight on target and the Death Eater in question, whom Harry suspected was Narcissa Malfoy, was stunned and then bound in an instant. “Very well done, Harry,” said a voice from behind him and Harry turned, already prepared to see Voldemort looming over him. Sure enough, the Dark Lord followed after Harry and stood over him, vanishing Narcissa to somewhere neither Harry nor Dumbledore knew. “Your skills have greatly improved but I wonder to what extent.” Oh for Merlin’s sake! Why not just throw ourselves off the bleeding Astronomy tower?! Severus thought bitterly as he watched Dumbledore calmly allow Voldemort to step forward to Harry. He dragged himself up from the floor upon which he had just thrown himself to avoid the Killing curse which had not been aimed at himself. He glanced back to the scene just ahead of him. At the present time only words were being exchanged but he knew it would not remain that way. Soon they would duel until one of them was death and the fact that it would be Potter’s funeral that none of them would be alive to attend was almost a certainty. He turned quickly to see that three Death Eaters had been creeping up behind him, which in such a loud and busy atmosphere was not a difficult thing to do. Severus didn’t particularly fancy his skills against those of three people who could potentially be some of Voldemort’s finest so he ran. He was racing through the crowds and occasionally caught glimpses of those he knew, although he kept his eyes out for the main duo and the duel that would change everything: Harry and Voldemort. Voldemort was facing Harry now, their wands were drawn and many of those watching wondered whether they had adopted the position automatically or whether they had intentionally stepped apart to begin their duel but Remus, who had been watching from a nearby crowd for sometime, knew that it had been Harry who had stepped back from the man. “So Harry, let us see whether or not you; a mere child of no particular magical talent, can beat me; a man of strength and power enough to survive the killing curse once and return to his full strength. Do you believe you can beat me?” Tom asked him, a slight smile tugging at the corners of his lips. He was certain that he would not lose to a boy who was still an infant compared to himself and yet, the slightest bit of uncertainty remained as the prophecy ran through his mind. Harry looked confident, too confident for one facing himself. What did Harry know that he did not? “I am certain I can,” Harry replied softly. His voice was barely loud enough for Voldemort to hear it under normal conditions but there was certainly magic in the air for Severus, Remus, Minerva and even Ron and Hermione outside heard his response. “Then let us duel! Crucio!” Voldemort cried and the red spell shot at Harry’s chest. He leapt out of the way just in time for it to slip by him with ease, but it had been alarmingly quick and Harry knew that unless something miraculous happened then he would not win this duel. Dumbledore watched from the side calmly. He knew that he could not interfere in this duel, at least not intentionally. It was not his battle anymore; he had long since finished being the key player in the battle against the upsurge of evil although most had failed to realise it. Glancing to the side he saw that Severus was still being pursued by three Death Eaters and they were quickly gaining ground upon him. “Locomotor Mortis,” he murmured and the legs of one of the Death Eaters locked together. The man fell forwards, unable to move his legs and his wand was thrown from his hand. He scrambled for a moment in midair, his arms flailing as he fell face first towards the stone floor of the chamber. He landed with a crash and Dumbledore took a slight smile in seeing the man disabled but not yet dead. He turned back to the battle between Harry and Voldemort, unsurprised to see that Harry was already being pushed backwards by the sheer strength of Voldemort. It was a surprise to none that Harry could barely keep up with the furious pace of Voldemort, and yet without his excessive duelling the summer before he would not even have lasted a moment against the man. Tonks watched Harry duelling furiously and desperately trying to hold his ground against Voldemort momentarily forgetting the fact that she was in the middle of what was essentially one large battlefield. She staggered to the side slightly as something hit her on the side of the head and Tonks spun round quickly to see what it was which had hit her. The offending missile had been a wand on the floor, although she looked round and could see no assailant, only Snape running away from two Death Eaters, the third of whom was still bound on the ground. She was unaware that it was his wand which had flown through the air and hit her. Still searching for the man who had thrown his own wand at her, Tonks spotted Minerva and Mad Eye. They were still surrounded by Death Eaters and had been for some time but the mob around them was increasing; she knew that they would have great difficulty fighting their way out of there and, without another moment’s thought on the matter, she was off to their side. Mad Eye glanced round to see Tonks running towards him and he groaned inwardly. She was a good Auror and she had always meant well but he couldn’t help but think that she should have been refused access to the Auror Academy. She was too clumsy and never thought before she reacted to anything. That was probably the reason she was now running to assist them, he reasoned. The truth of the matter was that they didn’t need her help; one more person to help them would be one more body to protect and realistically two was an ideal number for duelling when outnumbered. He looked towards Minerva as Tonks began to fight her way through the Death Eaters and into the middle of their circle, knocking five people unconscious in the process. The Transfiguration professor didn’t seem as annoyed as Mad Eye felt at Tonks’ appearance at their side, but perhaps she wasn’t showing it, he thought. Just as Tonks had managed to get right into the middle of the circle there was a sudden flurry of curses in their direction and it seemed that the addition of a new member to Mad Eye and Minerva’s fighting squad had been just what they were waiting for before they made a planned attack. Several of the spells hit Tonks hard in the chest as she stood between the largest amount of Death Eaters and Mad Eye and she stumbled back into the intimidating ex-Auror. Mad Eye wondered why he had ever allowed Tonks to help them as the young woman was thrown into him and he staggered out between two Death Eaters on the other side of the circle, struggling to regain his footing as he went. The first thing which met his eyes when he stood up, now outside the circle of Voldemort’s supporters was Severus. He was still being chased around the large chamber by two of the Death Eaters who had been doing so before and Mad Eye felt a surge of anger in him. Leaving Tonks and Minerva to defend themselves, as he was sure they were capable of doing, he marched off towards the place where Severus appeared to be heading. “Impugneous!” Mad Eye cried and a wave of energy shot out of his wand towards the Death Eater closest to Severus. Their feet came out from underneath them and the man flew forwards landing with a thud on the ground. “Crucio!” yelled the sole remaining man in pursuit of Severus. Mad Eye leapt out of the way of the spell but it carried on towards Remus. It knocked him to the ground and he suffered for a split second in agony. He hauled himself back to his feet to see one of the Death Eaters send another spell towards Mad Eye but he leapt out of the way. The Cruciatus spell hit Severus full in the chest, who had not been quite as quick as Mad Eye to remove himself from it’s path. Severus could feel himself falling backwards and on the edge of his vision he could see Potter and Voldemort duelling just as fiercely as they had been the last time he had glanced in their direction but they seemed alarmingly close now. He was going to fall into the middle of them! He didn’t however and Severus fell backwards into someone else who had the misfortune to be standing behind him. He landed on the floor with a thud and rolled over to see who it was who had stood behind him. His mouth fell open in horror. Harry had barely enough strength to continue the duel but he had to try. For the sake of the Wizarding world and all he cared about he knew he had to try. Voldemort did not appear to be tiring however, but he was winning ground against him and they were almost back to the place in which they had begun duelling. On the corner of his vision he could see Dumbledore standing, watching them intently. He was not duelling with anyone else and indeed no one else dared to challenge him to duel. He couldn’t blame them; he would not be particularly keen on attempting to kill Dumbledore, but then he wasn’t keen on attempting to kill anyone, Voldemort included. He still didn’t know whether he could truly kill when he had the opportunity to. Then it happened. There was a flash to the side of him and he saw someone falling into Dumbledore. He turned his head just for a moment and then he realised his mistake. Harry turned back to Voldemort, but it was too late. The curse was already leaving his lips. “AVADA KEDAVRA!” His yell echoed around the cavern. A bright green lit up that area of the room for a millisecond. A body fell to the floor, but it was not Harry’s. “NO!” Harry cried as he stared down at Dumbledore’s lifeless body on the floor around him. His gaze moved back up to Voldemort. He had opened his mouth to speak but Harry would not listen any longer. “Avada Kedavra!” And that was it. That was the end. A/N: At some point I promised you action and there it was. There'll be one more chapter which hopefully ties up any loose ends after this which will appear on Friday. I love reading (and responding to) your reactions to my work so reviews are always welcome :o)
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