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Chapter Four: The End is Nigh

"It's him!” Harry had leaped out of his favorite reading chair at the sound of a tremendous bang from just beyond the walls of the house, and now he was frantically searching for his wand as well as he could with a baby in his arms. Lily, whom he had had on his lap while reading her a bit of Beedle the Bard, made her disapproval at being jostled known by letting out an ear-piercing shriek.

“It's who, Harry?” asked Ginny from the other side of the drawing room, where she sat, as she so often did, writing letters to her friends. She got up and quickly closed the distance to where Harry was still desperately patting his pockets and groping in the cushions of his chair with his free hand. “What's wrong?”

“Voldemort's wrong!” cried Harry, spinning around and thrusting Lily into Ginny's unsuspecting arms. “Take her and run!” Harry finally spied the tip of his wand poking out from beneath the coffee table in front of the sofa, and he hurriedly bent to retrieve it. “Get as far away from here as you can, and I'll catch up with you soon.”

“But Voldemort's dead, Harry.” Ginny, looking on the verge of tears, had placed a hand on Harry's chest. Harry could feel his heart beating against it furiously, but within moments, the only thing he could feel was a searing pain that ripped through his scar. He fell to his knees, all too aware of a sudden wetness on his forehead. Gingerly, he reached up and wiped his brow, only to find that his fingers were drenched in blood. Through the fog of pain, he could just make out Ginny's scream.

With every last ounce of strength he could muster, Harry staggered to his feet, his head swimming with thoughts of this being the end, and trained his wand unsteadily on the door.

“Go!” he groaned towards Ginny, who had turned deathly white, and whose trembling hands were clutching tighter to the screaming Lily's back with every passing moment. But there was no time, and Harry knew it. This was to be the end.

With a great crash, the front door was blown backwards off of its hinges, and Harry, who was now watching the scene play out in slow motion, as if viewed through a high-powered set of Omnioculars, put his arms up to protect his head. After the onrushing door had whistled past – it had barely missed him – Harry dropped his hands and once more pointed his wand at the opening where the door had been.

A fresh wave of pain washed over him, and the flood was starting to be too much to bear. He stumbled forward, right to the feet of his arch-nemesis. He didn't want to look up, didn't want to see those cold red snake's eyes looking right through him, but he had no choice. His body was through taking orders from his brain.

“Lovely to see you again,” Voldemort said quietly. The condescension in his high piercing voice was palpable, and it grated on every last one of Harry's nerves. Harry trembled with rage, and raised his wand. The Dark Lord merely laughed. “Tut tut, Potter. I don't think you'll be wanting to do anything silly.” He nodded down at his own arm, and Harry, dread dawning on him like a burst of Fiendfyre, realized that Voldemort's wand was pointed directly at Lily.

“NO!” Harry shouted, with a strength he would not have believed himself capable of, “NO! TAKE ME! I'M THE ONE YOU WANT!” Voldemort's lipless mouth drew even thinner into something approaching a sneer.

“You honestly believe I'd be willing to take that deal?” Shrill laughter filled every corner of the room, and Ginny shrieked, but remained rooted to the spot.

“She's just a child!” Harry pleaded, hoping to make Voldemort see reason, but knowing it was a wasted effort.

“And so were you. Yet you still managed to defeat me. Not once, not twice, but time after time. No,” here he shook his head slowly, “Why would I take the life of only one Potter on this night, when I can have the whole set?” With a movement so quick that Harry only just caught it, Voldemort switched the direction his wand was pointing, and bellowed, “AVADA KEDAVRA!” The last thing Harry saw was a flash of green light, and then he awoke with a start.

The green glow seemed to linger for half an instant longer than it normally did, but this dream had been more intense than his recent nightmares. Harry could feel the damp sheets twisted around him, and he knew that he was sweating profusely. His entire body ached, but his scar remained pain-free. If the worst that Voldemort could do was haunt his dreams, Harry considered himself a very lucky man.

Harry rolled over in bed so that he was facing Ginny, and propped himself up on his elbow. A wave of dizziness passed over him. The dream had apparently affected him far more than usual. A solitary ray of the morning's sunrise had found its way in through the blinds of the master bedroom, and it fell on Ginny's sleeping form. Harry scarcely blinked, so beautiful was the sight. Harry had never been much of a morning person, but he now made a point of it to wake up early every so often so that his eyes could drink in glorious moments such as this one.

With a sigh, Harry slumped back down on his pillow, and tried to surreptitiously adjust the covers around him without waking Ginny. He really needn't have bother, if she hadn't woken while he had been thrashing during the nightmare, there was little chance of her waking up now. For the briefest of moments, Harry was envious of his wife's ability to sleep so soundly, but he sighed again and closed his eyes to try and fall back asleep.

He sat straight up in bed, and the dizziness hit him ten times harder than before, but he had seen it again. Another flash of green light. Suddenly very worried for the safety of the children, Harry reached a hand over to Ginny's shoulder and shook it. “Ginny, wake up!” he hissed urgently. “Something's wrong!” And there it was again! A flash of green outside the window. Or at least he had been looking at the window before he blinked, but he could clearly see the bright flash through his eyelids. Ginny let out a feline moan and rolled over.

No longer the least bit worried about his dizziness or his aching body, Harry grabbed his wand from the bedside table where he always kept it, and jumped out of bed. He had to get to the kids and make sure that they were all right. He made his way as fast as he could towards the bedroom door, but a voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Oh my sweet Merlin!” Harry froze in place, hand on the doorknob. He knew he had heard that voice before, but he was having trouble thinking clearly. His thoughts seemed oddly clouded. Deliberately and carefully he turned around, making sure to have his wand at the ready. The voice gasped, and with a start Harry realized it was coming from the mirror. “You really need to get that looked at!”

Harry's vision started swimming as he looked at his reflection in the mirror. Great splotches of his skin had turned bright green, and several hideous looking boils oozed a slightly less green puss. Harry blinked at himself, and each time his eyes closed the light that shone through his green eyelids registered as a bright green flash.

“Oh!” he exclaimed, and he crumpled to the floor, unconscious.

When he awoke, Harry could tell without even opening his eyes that he was no longer at number seven, Genista Way. Wherever he was now smelled different, sounded different, and the air even tasted different. But the backs of his eyelids were still the brightest of greens. Harry's mouth was very dry, and he moved his tongue around noisily, trying to find any hidden bits of moisture.

“He's awake!”

“Oh thank Merlin!”

“All right, all right, I really must ask you to stay quiet.”

Harry opened his eyes to find none other than his mother-in-law Molly Weasley leaning over him, relief carved into every one of her face's features. “Mhhh!” he croaked. His dry throat caused it to be nearly unintelligible however. Molly pressed a finger to her lips, and smiled.

“Don't try to speak, dear. You're in St. Mungo's, and it would seem you've caught a rather bad case of Dragon Pox.” Harry tried to move his head so that he could look around the room, but found that his neck was too weak to support his head.

“Mr. Potter, I insist that you lie quite still. You are in no shape whatsoever to be trying to do... whatever it is you are trying to do.” Harry groaned. Ernie Macmillan had apparently never gotten over his great pompousness.

“But he will be all right Ernie?” This voice was Hermione's. And Harry could tell that she had been crying by the timbre of her voice. No doubt she had been feeling very guilty about his illness.

“Yes Ms. Gra- Mrs. Weasley – sorry, I do apologize – I think I have managed to slow the spread of the disease. It will take constant attention on my part, but I think Mr. Potter will make a full recovery. Now, I am going to leave you alone for just a moment. Please try to refrain from touching, talking to, or otherwise interacting with the patient. He is in a very fragile state at the moment.” Harry could hear a stilted set of footsteps retreat into the hall, and a door close behind them. With a stifled cry, Hermione flung herself on him.

“Harry, I'm so sorry! How can you ever forgive me for doing this?” Harry had no choice but to lay still and let Hermione weep on top of him. He was too weak to even raise a hand to pat her back reassuringly.

“Hermione,” prodded Molly gently, “perhaps you could give Harry a bit of room to breathe? After all, the Healer said-”

“That was just Ernie's way of saying don't kill my patient,” squeaked Hermione, rapidly wiping tears off of her cheeks. “He's always been like that, Mum Weasley.” But all the same, Hermione lifted herself off the bed, and Harry could hear her pull a chair up to the side of the bed, its legs making a terrible screeching noise on the floor. “Sorry,” she said again, and she fell silent.

“Whaals Geynnn?” asked Harry, trying to make himself understood despite the dryness of his throat. Mrs. Weasley, seeming to understand his difficulty, used her wand to conjur a glass of water and a bendable straw.

“Here you are, Harry,” she said kindly, and she held the glass in front of him and placed the straw in his mouth. Harry had never tasted anything as sweet. Even butterbeer or firewhiskey hadn't ever revived him so completely.

“Where's Ginny?” he asked, once he had drained the cup of the entirety of its contents.

“She's with the kids,” Hermione answered, then, seeming to anticipate Harry's next question, she continued. “They've all got Dragon Pox too, but nowhere near as bad as you've got. It's far more dangerous for someone our age.”

“I hadn't noticed,” noted Harry, dryly.

“Well I see you've still got your sense of humor then,” Mrs. Weasley said with a chuckle. The door to the room opened, and Ernie's footsteps re-entered.

“All right then, I am going to have to ask the two of you to leave. It is time to pop Mr. Potter's boils, and I assure you that you do not want to be around while I do it.” Harry sincerely hoped that Ernie was making the procedure out to be far worse than it actually was. He could hear the scraping of two chairs as they were pushed out away from the bed, and both Hermione and Mrs. Weasley leaned over him.

“We'll be just outside if you need anything Harry,” said Mrs. Weasley, bending down to give him a kiss on the forehead. Hermione nodded enthusiastically.

“Anything at all! And we'll let Ginny know that you're all right. She's been so worried, but didn't want to leave the kids. She thought they might get a bit scared if both their parents had left in the morning without warning.”

“Tell her that I love her. Please?” Harry wanted to add in a request about the sexy Mediwitch uniform that Ginny had worn for Halloween a few years back, but decided that Mrs. Weasley had no need to hear such things.

“Of course, Harry. We'll send her along as soon as we can.” The two women left the room slowly, and Harry could tell that they really wanted to stay. It was only a moment after the door had closed behind them that Ernie popped into his field of vision with a dour look on his face.

“This is going to be quite painful, Mr. Potter.”

“You can call me Harry, you know.” Harry was certain he saw the briefest of smiles on Ernie's face, but the healer was quickly back to business.

“The smell of the pus is quite pungent Mr. Potter, so I am going to have to cast a Bubble-Head charm on the both of us. You are familiar with the Bubble-Head charm, are you not?” Harry tried to stifle a laugh, but it was painful to do so, and he wound up cringing instead.

“Ouch, don't make me laugh, Ernie!” This time, the smile stayed.

A/N:  All right, all right... I'll yield.  There will be more than one more chapter.  This is more to do with my muse suddenly getting inspired for the already planned chapters than because I've added additional plot.  I still plan to end this in the same way, it will just take a bit longer to get there.  I also think that the shorter chapters are screwing up my estimates.  When I said two chapters, I think I might have been thinking of how much information I can get in my really long chapters.  But I just can't fit as much into these.  Not that I'm complaining, these short chapters are really fun to write.

And speaking of fun to write, the opening of this chapter was a blast.  I am thrilled with how it came out, and I feel it is among the best things I've ever written.  I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I also hope that you'll agree that this chapter is a return to form for me after a somewhat lackluster chapter 3.  I am much happier with this chapter, and I hope it shows.

And I absolutely MUST thank my wonderful reviewers, who are taking me on one heck of a ride.  Each and every one of you mean the world to me, and I'll continue to respond at length to all of you, even though it takes several hours a night to do so!

Until next time, I remain, your humble author.

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