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Once all the Order had been notified, and the strike team had been mobilized, Severus took Harry aside in his quarters and proceeded to cast several layers of protective wards about him-wards designed to reflect harmful magic back upon the caster, wards to shield against strong curses like the Blasting Curse or Incendio. Harry's Occlumency lessons had increased his natural resistence to the Imperius Curse, and Severus gave Harry a potion to counteract the effects of a Cruciatus if he happened to end up getting hit by one. The wards were layered expertly, one lying atop the other, overlapping seamlessly.

When Severus lowered his wand, Harry felt oddly as if he were encased in a suit of airy armor. The wards made his skin tingle and an icy sensation creep along his spine, but the feeling would fade soon, Severus assured him.

"Now then, you know what you are to do?"

"Yes, sir. I'm to go with Tonks and Charlie to the Hall of Prophecy and find the globe with my name and the Dark Lord's on it. Then I'm going to remove it from its shelf and walk back to the middle of the room with it and lower my Occlumency shields and start thinking really hard about how I have the prophecy."

"Good. Hopefully, he will sense the connection and see you standing there with the globe. And then he will send his Death Eaters and come himself to fetch the prophecy back. And once they appear, you are to allow Tonks and Charlie to defend you and stay out of the way as much as possible. Are you clear on that? I want no heroics, no charging into battle, you are to let the Aurors handle the Death Eaters. But, if you are attacked, don't hold back. Use everything you've learned, including your boxing skills and even your Animagus form. Sometimes a well placed right hook can turn the tide of battle as well as any curse or hex."

"Don't worry, sir. I'll be careful. I'm not . . .as impulsive as I used to be. I learned that from you, Sev."

"Thank Merlin some of my lessons stuck," Severus teased. He looked down at the boy, whom he had grown to love, all unwittingly, like a son, and thought Here is a young wizard and a boy . . .no, a young man, to be proud of. He placed his hands on Harry's shoulders and squeezed gently. "May fortune and Merlin favor you, Harry. Be safe."

"What will you be doing, Sev?"

"What I must and need to be doing." The Potions Master answered cryptically.

Abruptly, Harry reached out and put his arms about his guardian. "I'll come home to you, Sev. I promise."

For one instant, Severus froze, like a startled deer. Then his arms came around Harry and he hugged him back, awkwardly at first, but then he tightened his hold, until the slender boy was pressed against his shoulder. Ah, Harry. You know me better than I know myself. I shall worry until you are safe at home again. "Thank you, fledgling," murmured his guardian.

Harry remained in his embrace for a moment more, before his shyness reasserted itself and he drew away. "See you in a bit, Sev." And with that, Harry stepped into the fireplace and was whisked away to Grimmauld Place and from there to the Ministry, accompanied by the Order strike force.

Severus paced for several minutes, feeling like a parent who has just watched his son leave home to join the army, proud and terrified at the same time. At last he flung himself onto the couch and pulled out the book he had been studying for two weeks straight. He had almost mastered the tenets and now all he needed was an animal encyclopedia.

"Twixie!" he called softly.

"Yes, Master Severus?" she popped into view, smiling.

"I need you to go on an errand to the library. Ask Madam Pince if she has any animal encyclopedias, not just of magical creatures but of ordinary ones as well."

"I shall be back in a flash, Master Severus!" promised the little elf, then she vanished.

Severus settled back on the couch to wait, wondering tensely if anything had happened yet at the Ministry.

* * * * * *

Arthur, Sirius, Remus, and Shacklebolt were all inside the Hall of Prophecy, hidden behind strong concealment and disillusionment charms, inbetween the shelves containg the globes with recorded prophecies that had been made by various seers down through the centuries. All of them waited, wands in hand, for the Death Eaters to approach.

Moody and four other Aurors took up position just inside the entryway, guarding the door from anyone attempting to come into the room from the corridor.

Harry was walking down the rows of crystal globes, drawn towards the prophecy unerringly, like a moth to a flame. Even though he knew it was false, still it called to him, for Trelawney had imbued it with a portion of her Seer's gift, just enough to make it so that only the two spoken about in the prophecy would be able to retrieve it.

Beside him, disguised as Hermione, walked Tonks, and on Harry's other side was Charlie, wearing a glamour that made him look like Ron. They had decided that Harry would never have gone alone to the Ministry and who better to accompany him than his two best friends?

Harry walked slowly down the aisle, his feet making almost no sound, but leaving footprints in the dust that coated the floor. Clearly, this was not a place house elves came to clean very often. And it was quiet. Too quiet. Almost like a tomb. Harry shuddered and quickly stopped that line of thinking. He could feel the siren call of the prophecy growing louder in his head, from a whisper to a wail.

Come to me. I await you! Come! Take me, hear me, heed me! Come!

Over and over the message was repeated, until his head began to throb in counterpoint. Okay, okay, I'm coming! He thought irritably and stopped at the forty-fifth row and turned right.

He walked down about twenty globes, all of which were dark and had a strange gray smoke weaving about inside of them. The essence of a prophecy, recorded the instant a Seer's power activated.

Suddenly, a globe flared and began to glow an icy blue. He stopped and lifted it from its base, hearing it sing a song of welcome in his head. He turned over the tag and saw, to his astonishment, that it did not read Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort as it should have.

Instead the label read Harry Potter, Severus Snape, and Lord Voldemort.

Harry blinked and rubbed his eyes. There had to be a mistake. There was only one prophecy where he was named, wasn't there?

Listen and heed my words.

He cupped the globe in his hands and heard Trelawney's voice, reciting in a singsong chant:

"The shadow of the Dark One shall rise to cover the land . . .but the shadow shall be vanquished . . .by sacrifice and truth and two hawks flying. Together they shall find what is hidden and teach death to die!"

Harry just stood there, stunned. But . . .that's the prophecy Trelawney spoke of at the staff dinner. The one that no one took seriously, except maybe Trelawney herself. Could it have been . . .a true Seeing?

He clutched the globe to him, hearing it whisper the same record over and over in his mind.

Two hawks flying . . .this means me and Severus. But how can this be? Harry's mind whirled.

Two prophecies. One false and the other real.

Suddenly, Harry knew what he had to do. He whispered a spell to shrink the globe and tucked it into a small pocket of his robes where he usually kept open jars of ink, the pocket was spelled to seal whatever was inside in a cushioning bubble, and so prevent spills and breakages. He would show the new prophecy to Severus later and they could decide what to do about it then. One thing he did know, was that Voldemort must never learn of it.

With that in mind, he quickly Occluded the knowledge from his mind, encasing it behind a wall so thick that it was virtually impenetrable.

"Harry? Is something wrong?" asked Tonks, though she sounded like Hermione.

"No, I'm just . . .it's over here somewhere . . ." He cocked his head and listened with his mind for the faint call of the false prophecy, which just happened to be in the same row, down twenty or so globes from the first one.

This time he read the tag before trying to pick up the globe, which glowed with a faint blue light. It read: Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort.

He removed the globe from the shelf and heard it start to speak:

"The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches;born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies; and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal, but he will have power the Dark Lord knows not; and either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives."

He breathed a sharp sigh of relief. This was the right prophecy . . .the one he had come here to retrieve, in any case. Holding the globe cupped in both hands, he started back towards the end of the row, where Tonks and Charlie waited.

"Did you get it, mate?" queried Charlie, sounding eerily like Ron.

"Yes," Harry replied, showing them the globe, which was still glowing faintly.

"Good job, Harry!" praised Tonks. "Now for phase two." She turned and lifted her hand in the air, making a fist, then lowered it, so the others would know the globe had been retrieved.

She walked slightly ahead of him towards the entrance doors, followed by the others, who were still under concealment charms. The plan was to leave the Hall of Prophecy and head into a room nearby containing a veiled archway, where there were plenty of shadows for the Order to hide in and maneuver if it came to a battle.

The Veil was set upon a dais, and Harry looked at it curiously, seeing a wispy curtain billowing from a non-existent breeze and strange ghostly voices calling. "What is that? And why can I hear voices beyond it?"

"That's the Veiled Archway, Harry," Tonks murmured, laying a hand on his arm. "Don't go near it. Those who cross the Veil never return. It is a portal to the Realm of the Dead."

"But I hear voices," Harry began, hoping she wouldn't think him mad.

"Yes. Those who have lost loved ones and friends can hear the voices of the dead. Ignore them." She shuddered and turned her back to the archway. "This place always gives me the creeps."

"Okay, Harry. Try and see if you can . . .uh . . .call You-Know-Who here or whatever," Charlie ordered.

Harry lowered his head, dropping all of his Occlumency shields save for the one obscuring the new prophecy. Then he concentrated, looking at the globe in his hand and thinking hard I did it! I found the record of the prophecy Trelawney gave to Dumbledore that night. Finally, I have some answers! Now maybe I can actually Do something instead of just sitting on my bum and letting everyone boss me around.

He fixed the picture of the sphere in his mind and began thinking Look at this, I did it! Over and over, he sent the thought out and prayed that the weird connection between Voldemort and himself was still working.

Suddenly, there came multiple flashes of blue and red light as a company of Death Eaters Apparated into the room. Harry recognized all of them from pictures shown to him by Severus in one of their training sessions, though a few he knew from having met them before.

One was Lucius Malfoy, of course. The Dark Lord's right hand, followed by the insane Bellatrix LeStrange, rumored to be His Mistress, and then Nott, Rodolphus, Goyle, Rabastan, Jugson, Dolohov, MacNair, Avery, Rookwood, and Mulciber.

Lucius was the first to step forward, his pale blue eyes darkening with anticipation. "Well, well, Mr. Potter. What have we here?"

Harry backed away, drawing his wand. "Nothing you'd want."

"On the contrary. You have something that I need very much," Lucius continued, his cultured tones becoming hard. "Give me the prophecy, Potter, and you can leave." His cane came up menacingly.

Harry hugged the globe to his chest, knowing he had to make it look good. "The prophecy doesn't belong to you, Malfoy." He backed away slowly.

"It belongs to my Lord and he has sent me to retrieve it. Now give it here, boy!"

"Leave Harry alone!" Tonks cried, still pretending to be Hermione. She stepped in front of Harry, her wand drawn.

"Out of my way, you meddling little schoolgirl!" Lucius shouted, and then his wand was pointed at Tonks.

"Why, Uncle Luke, didn't your mother ever teach you not to hex a lady?" Tonks scolded, her features blurring back into her usual self, with outrageous purple and pink hair.

Lucius blinked, startled. "What . . .Dora!" An instant later comprehension lit his features as Charlie dropped his glamour and Sirius, Remus, Moody, and the rest of the Aurors came out of the shadows and attacked. "Wands out! This was a set-up!"

The other Death Eaters drew their wands and attacked the Order members. Within minutes spells were flying all over as the dark wizards attempted to finish off Harry's defenders and snatch the prophecy.

Three of the Death Eaters fell soon after, struck down by Stunners from Kingsley, Moody, and Arthur.

Lucius cast a Stunning Hex at Tonks, who dodged just in time. "Out of my way, Dora! Or family, or not, I'll send you back to Andromeda and your Muggle father in pieces."

Tonks cast a Burning Hex,"Incendio!" setting Lucius's robes on fire.

Next to her, Charlie dueled Dolohov, whose face was twisted into an obscene parody of a smile. "Crucio!" Dolohov yelled, but Charlie reflected it back upon him with a hastily conjured Reflective Defense spell.

Harry, trying to do as he had been told and stay out of the line of fire, decided the best way to do that was to transform into Freedom. He traded flesh for feathers and soared into the air, hovering above the fray, just over the veiled archway.

The voices of the dead hissed and groaned in counterpoint to the deadly conflict going on below.

Sirius faced off against Bellatrix, his normally merry eyes narrowed to slits, a menacing sneer on his face. "Long time no see, Batty Bella!" he said, usuing a nickname he had coined for her when they were children and she enjoyed tormenting his baby brother, Regulus. He had always detested her and her airs and her nasty sneaky ways.

She cackled at him. "If I had my way, dogbreath, my eyes will be the last thing you'll ever see, if you take my meaning!" She twirled her wand and chanted, "Somebody's gonna die, somebody's gonna die, and it just might . . .be . . .YOU . . .dear cousin! Confringo!"

Her Blasting Curse took out the wall just behind Sirius, but missed the Animagus because he dove to the floor in the nick of time. He rolled to absorbed the impact, for the room was shaking, and then he was on his feet, wand pointed at Bellatrix's back.

"Crazy bitch, you want to kill us all?" he shouted. "Incarcerous!"

Ropes shot out of his wand, tangling about Bella's legs. She shrieked, but managed to banish them with a wand wave before they could tighten and bind. "Why not, you inbred mongrel? Even if we all die today, at least I'll die knowing I took you with me!" She threw back her head and laughed again, the laughter of the doomed and the mad.

"You're insane, Bella. No wonder you fall in love with losers like Rodolphus and Voldy." Sirius shot back. He chanted a Net Bind spell, and a glowing magical net flew out of the tip of his wand and sought to ensnare the giggling hag.

Bellatrix set it on fire, then put up a Shield Charm, unmindful of the fiery sparks that rained down near her.

"Naughty, naughty, Siri. You know, if you want to wrap me up, all you have to do is conjure up a pair of cuffs," she smirked and hissed, "Imperio! Want to be my slave, Sirius?"

Sirius's eyes went blank for a moment, and he struggled against the curse, fighting it with everything he had.

"Don't fight me, cousin! Or I'll break you!" Bellatrix hissed, concentrating hard. "On your knees, Black! Crawl to me and kiss my feet!"

Sirius gasped, sweat streaming off of his forehead. Slowly, his legs began to bend, as the curse forced him to kneel to his sadistic cousin.

Above, Freedom shrieked, Fight it, Sirius! Throw it off! You can do it!

"Obey me, mutt!"

Sirius was shaking now as the curse compelled him to obey and he struggled to reclaim his will. He had always thought he was a match for any Death Eater, but in her madness and hate, Bellatrix outmatched him.

One knee touched the ground.

Unable to bear the cruel humiliation of his godfather any longer, Freedom dove at Bellatrix, hoping to break her hold upon him. Like a bolt from the heavens, the red-tail struck, talons out, raking the evil witch hard and ripping part of her hair and scalp away.

She screeched and cowered, but Freedom's attack did not disarm her, unfortunately. She managed to bring her wand to bear as he soared away, casting a Hailstorm Hex.

Deadly hailstones pelted the flying hawk and Freedom was forced to land and transform back before a large hailstone pulverized him.

"Ittle baby Potter!" shrieked Bellatrix, her eyes glittering with madness and pain. Blood slowly dripped down her face, creating a frightening tableaux. "Potter's an Animagus, are you? I know a spell to deal with your kind!"

"And I know a spell to deal with you too!" Harry cried. "Arcius frigid-" he went to cast a Freezing hex upon her, which would freeze her in a block of ice, but Lucius came up from behind and aimed a Meteor Curse at him, which was deflected by Snape's wards, but the force of it knocked Harry sprawling.

Meanwhile, Sirius had shaken off the last vestiges of the Imperius and sprang in front of Harry. "Leave him alone, you bastards! He's just a kid!"

"And children die, cousin!" Bellatrix crooned. "Especially Animagus children!" her eyes darkened and she hissed, "The Curse of the Maenads be upon thee, Harry Potter! Madness without end! Eterna rabiosa!"

An odd viscous mist drifted out of Bellatrix's wand towards Harry.

Only Sirius prevented it from latching on to him, since he was blocking the way.

The curse, drawn to the unique signature of an Animagus, quickly fastened upon Sirius and began to absorb itself into his skin. Sirus gasped and screamed as the curse ate its way into his mind, spawning madness in its wake, and he began to shift erratically, the curse affecting his ability to maintain control over both human and dog forms. One minute he was a dog, howling, the next he was a human writhing upon the floor.

"NO-O-O! Sirius!"

Harry was on his feet, his teeth clenched in rage. "I'll rip out your liver, you harpy bitch!"

He began to blur into Freedom once more, only to be stopped by Lucius's quickly spoken, "Animagus Revelaro!"

He was slammed abruptly back into his human form, and Lucius growled, "The prophecy, boy! Give it to me and I'll let you live."

Harry spat in his face. Then he cried, "You want it, go fetch it, Malfoy!" Then he threw it hard at the wall.

Lucius sprang for it, but was too slow.

The crystal spehere shattered into a million little pieces.

"No . . ." Lucius gasped. "No! Do you know what you have cost me? Do YOU?!" He whirled back upon the skinny boy, foam flecking his mouth, prepared to tear the young wizard to shreds.

The other Order members were too busy fighting their own opponents to notice that Harry was in danger, some of them were dead, and others, such as Remus and Tonks were badly injured. Moody was fending off two attackers, Goyle and Jugson, having already did for Rookwood, who lay still at his feet, his neck bent at an impossible angle.

Defend first, then attack! Severus's words rang in his head, and Harry swiftly cast a Shield Charm, praying that it and Severus's wards would hold against whatever Lucius tried to do to him.

Suddenly, there came a sharp screech from above.

Lucius glanced up to see a large goshawk with dark plumage hurtling toards him, talons outstretched to rend and tear.

He threw up a hand, but too late.

The great talons ripped into his face, taking out an eye and half of his cheek.

Lucius screamed in agony.

The goshawk bound to his enemy, his large beak tearing slashes in Lucius's head as well.

Harry gaped, a dozen thought running through his head. Where did this hawk come from? I've never seen one that large before!
The goshawk looked up and shrilled in fury, Run, foolish fledgling! Run, now!Before Harry could fully grasp that he could understand the dark hawk, he found himself obeying, backing away from the grim battle taking place in front of him, ducking a Bone Shattering Curse leveled at him by Bellatrix, then turning and shouting the Freezing Hex once more.

The icy hex hit Bellatrix like an arctic blizzard, blasting her halfway across the chamber and encasing her in a block of ice.

His back to the wall now, Harry glanced about, trying to see through the smoke and flashes of magical energy, who was left standing in the room.

He saw Kingsley standing over Remus, who was cradling his arm in his opposite hand, a laceration over his eye bleeding all over his robes, his face pale.

Moody and Arthur fought back-to-back, firing hexes back upon Avery and Rabastan. On the floor behind them were two other Death Eaters.

Tonks lay unmoving a few feet from the dais with the veiled archway, Harry prayed she was not dead.

He shook his head, he was faintly dizzy from being thrust too sharply out of his hawk form and back into human shape, but in spite of that his eyes were drawn back to the dark hawk that had been savaging Lucius Malfoy and the form of Sirius lying on the floor, convulsing weakly, though he was now fully human.

The goshawk had now taken to the air, leaving the severly injured Lucius whimpering and sobbing on the ground. The large hawk, at least twice the size of Freedom, circled and then dove at another Death Eater, Mulciber, who was trying to cast a Killing Curse upon Charlie Weasley.

This time the goshawk footed Mulciber's wand arm, breaking the wizard's wrist with his strike before flying away again.

That damn bird's evening up the odds for us, a little, Harry thought, considering shifting to join his fellow hawk in the air.

Until there came a blast of magic so powerful that the door to the room was blown quite off its hinges and sent sailing across the room, nearly crushing Harry where he stood.

Harry jumped away, gasping and coughing from the dust.

There, standing in the doorway, was Voldemort.

The Dark Lord had come to see what was keeping his Death Eaters.

And he was not in a good mood.

Harry felt a sudden pain lance through his head, and he instinctively Occluded his mind, but he could feel the dark connection flaring to life despite his attempts to block it from his mind. He could feel his shields crumbling like paper before the onslaught of the Dark One's presence.

Panicked, he yelled, "Severus! Help me! He's trying to get into my head!"

From far away he heard Severus's voice, perhaps he was imagining it, but it reminded him to find his center and make of his mind a blank. He struggled to do so, he could feel Voldemort's anger mounting as he attempted to possess his nemesis.

Red hot coals stabbed behind Harry's eyes and he trembled and sobbed, this hurt, Merlin, how it hurt! He felt as if his brain were going to be turned inside out.

Then Voldemort spoke, his voice high and sharp. "Where is my prophecy, Harry Potter? What have you done with it, you wicked wicked boy?"

Harry did not answer, he was too busy trying to keep the scrabbling tendrils of Voldemort from his mind.

"You do not have to torture Harry to hear the prophecy, Tom," chided a voice.

It was accompanied by a brilliant flash of light, as Albus Dumbledore and Fawkes appeared in the room.

The phoenix released his wizard with a cry and vanished in a corona of flames, having sacrificed the rest of his celestial energy to bring Dumbledore across time to the Ministry and had now gone to be reborn.

Voldemort jerked up and his red slitted eyes burned with an unwavering hatred and something more . . .fear. "Finally decided to face me, old man? How very satisfying! I shall kill two birds with one stone, as the pathetic Muggles would say!"

Dumbledore drew himself up to his full height, power crackling in small purple sunbursts about him. "You will not be killing anyone today, Tom. Release Harry."

"You do not command me any more, Dumbledore!" hissed Voldemort. "I am no longer your student, old man. Shall we see who is now the master and who the apprentice?"

Voldemort lifted a hand and a wave of red force exploded from his outstretched fingertips.

It brushed against Dolohov in passing and the big Death Eater screamed and collapsed upon the ground.

Dumbledore raised a hand and the purple sunbursts coalesced into a shield.

The red bolt slammed into the purple shield with an enormous bang, showering sparks everywhere.

Harry felt the pressure in his head ease and he was able to Occlude his mind.

Tears of relief filled his eyes, but he stubbornly blinked them away.

He looked up at Dumbledore and thought, Finally! Nothing like an eleventh hour rescue!

Skreer!

Harry looked up to see the goshawk circling above his head.

If he concentrated, allowing the part of him that was Freedom to come forward, he could understand the hawk's cry.

Shift now! He cannot penetrate your mind when you are in hawk form. Change!

Harry obeyed, becoming Freedom in a heartbeat.

The red-tailed hawk soared up to glide in tandem with the larger bird of prey.

Who are you?

The goshawk turned his head, eyeing the smaller raptor with something approaching amusement. Call me Warrior. Stay close, a stray shot from those magebolts will finish you.

Freedom had a dozen questions he wanted to ask the strange hawk, but his attention was caught by the battle raging between Dumbledore and his former student.

Fire met ice and clashed. Lightning forked from Albus's wand was repelled by Voldemort's tornado gust shield. It bounced off it and ricocheted into the wall, leaving a blackened hole behind. Spells that were more sheer energy than anything else were thrown, repelled, and cast again.

Again and again, Voldemort attempted to cast his favorite offensive spell, and again and again it was never uttered, thanks to Albus's Silencing Charm, Mouthwashing Charm, and Tongue-tying Hex.

Voldemort countered those spells after a moment or two, but they only increased his fury. He had a terrible longing to best his former teacher and prove to the world that he, not Dumbledore, was the more powerful wizard.

"I will have the prophecy, old bugger! And not you or your Order of Fools shall stand in my way!" Voldemort thundered, sending another volley of pure dark power towards Dumbledore.

The old wizard shook his head. "If you wanted the prophecy, Tom, all you needed to do was . . .ask." he blocked the volley of dark magic and ricocheted it back onto Voldemort.

The dark wizard was knocked off his feet by his own spell, and lay for a moment upon the floor. "I am Lord Voldemort, and I do not ask for anything! I take!"

"Oh? Then it appears we are at a stalemate." Dumbledore said evenly.

Voldemort glanced around, and saw that over half of his most trusted were either wounded, dead, or stunned. It had been a most unsatisfying battle, the dark wizard thought grimly. But there was always next time. He licked his lips. His need for blood and despair was not yet sated.

He spotted the shuddering body of Sirius Black lying a few feet away from a cringing bloodied Lucius Malfoy. Despair and madness covered that one like a cloak. Drawing his wand, he began to siphon off some of the other wizard's despair and felt himself grow stronger. Ah! The taste of despair! Tis sweet! He gulped it eagerly.

Freedom shrieked in fury. Make him stop it! He's doing something to Sirius!

Feeding off his despair and pain. It is meat and drink to him. Warrior said.

"Stop!" Dumbledore ordered.

Voldemort laughed mockingly. "Not yet." His red eyes glittered. "Pain and despair and poison. All those sustain me." Abruptly he smiled, though it was cold and cruel. "If you will not give me the prophecy, Dumbledore, perhaps this will persuade you!"

There was a blurring in the air and suddenly Voldemort was gone.

In his place was a medium-sized black and green lizard.

A gila monster! Freedom thought, recognizing the venomous lizard from its picture in Dudley's animal encyclopedia. Voldemort's an Animagus too!

The gila monster scuttled over to where Sirius was lying and crawled atop him and prepared to bite into the unconscious wizard's neck, hissing in delight. Well, old goat? Whom shall you choose? Shall you sacrifice this one's life for the Boy-Who-Lived? Think fast, old man, for I hunger.
The lizard's maw gaped wide and Freedom could see venom glistening upon the teeth in his lower jaw. A drop of it fell, sizzling, upon Sirius's bared throat.

And Dumbledore hesitated. "Wait. I shall tell you the rest of the prophecy."

Now is our chance, Warrior hissed to Freedom. While he is distracted, we strike. Ready? You take the left and I'll take the right.

Got it. Freedom flexed his wings.

On an unspoken signal, the two hawks plummeted from the air, at a speed so fast they were mere blurs.

Voldemort was too busy trying to intimidate Dumbledore to pay attention to a threat from above, and so never noticed the danger until it was too late.

Freedom's talons closed over Voldemort's back end, digging deep into the lizard's soft body.

ARRGHH!

The lizard Animagus shrieked in agony as the red-tailed hawk seized him in a relentless grip, lifting him off Sirius and into the air.

A split second later, Warrior's huge talons closed upon the other end and together the two hawks crushed the life out of the gila monster.

Simultaneously, their talons opened, and the broken body of the lizard that had been Voldemort fell to the ground, landing with a crunch.

Freedom shrilled a victory cry.

Kreee-eearr! We did it! He's DEAD!

He began to fly circles about the corpse, relief crashing over him in a huge tidal wave. At long last, the slayer of his parents was dead.

Don't celebrate just yet, fledgling, warned the goshawk. Look.

At what? He's dead and we don't ever have to worry-bloody hell! What's happening?

The broken corpse of the gila monster suddenly began to tremble and crackle and split apart, and from out of the shell came a noxious green mist that coalesced into the form of the vanquished Voldemort.

"You may have destroyed my body, but I shall return! I am death's master and can never be fully destroyed. Someday I'll be back. And then you will suffer for your impudence!"

Then the shade vanished and the gila monster's corpse crumbled to dust and was blown away in the wind that Dumbledore summoned.

What did he mean, he was death's master? He can't be killed? How is that possible? Freedom asked.

Because he has used an ancient dark magic to split his soul, Warrior replied.

How do you know all this? Freedom asked suspiciously.

Harry, do you not know who I am? Warrior asked with an amused flip of his tail.

And then it all came together. Severus! You . . .you discovered your Animagus form.

Indeed. Very recently, in fact. The goshawk swooped down low and then transformed back into the familiar black robed Potions Master.

Freedom did the same a moment later, thrilled that Severus was also a hawk Animagus. But an instant later, all of his elation died as he looked at Sirius, lying so still upon the ground.

"Sirius! What about Sirius?" Harry cried, looking pleadingly from one to the other. "We've got to help him! Bellatrix, she cast some kind of curse upon him-a curse that drives an Animagus mad."

Dumbledore knelt beside the stricken former Auror and murmured a spell to detect curses. A white mist covered the prone Animagus.

A moment later Dumbledore looked up, his face grave. "I do not know what curse this is. It is not one known to me. But perhaps the Healers at St. Mungos will have better luck in deciphering it and breaking it." He rose to his feet, murmuring a spell that placed Sirius upon a stretcher.

"You could ask Bellatrix," Harry suggested. He turned and pointed at the spot where Bellatrix was encased in a block of ice.

Only to find, to his horror, that the witch was no longer there. The only sign that she had ever been was a melted puddle of water. Bellatrix had managed to dispel the Freezing Hex and escape. As had Lucius Malfoy.

"No!" Harry howled. "She's gone! We have to find her."

Dumbledore put a restraining hand on his shoulder. "Later, Harry. We have injured and . . .dead to tend to first."

"Dead?" Harry gulped.

Then he looked up and saw Moody and Arthur conjuring shrouds to place over the bodies of three Death Eaters and a single Auror.

"Who?"

Severus came up and laid a hand upon his shoulder. "His name was Sanders. A brave man."

"Oh. I'm sorry," Harry whispered, feeling unaccountably guilty.

"Do not blame yourself, Harry," Severus told him quietly. "This is a war, and people die. Ours as well as theirs."

Harry blinked back tears. Charlie was helping Remus to his feet, and Shacklebolt was reviving Tonks. Two other Aurors whose names Harry did not know were binding the remaining living Death Eaters for a trip to Azkaban.

"Severus, we must take Sirius to St. Mungos." Dumbledore said.

"I'm going too," Harry said with a determined glint in his eyes.

"Very well then, my boy. You will have to go with Severus via Sidelong Apparition." Dumbledore said, then he touched the stretcher Sirius was on and Apparated away.

Severus tightened his grip upon his ward. "Take a deep breath and count to three."

Harry did so and the next thing he knew there was a flash of blue light and he was being squeezed and pulled and finally spat out in the Emergency Spell Ward at St. Mungos Hospital for Magical Maladies.

He swayed and clung to Severus's robes for a moment, praying fervently that a cure could be found for his godfather.




 





Chapter End Notes:




So, there you have it . . .a new prophecy and a chance for them to defeat Voldemort forever.

What did you think of the battle?

How did you like Sev and Voldy's Animagus forms?

Note: A goshawk is one of the largest hawks, fiercer and quicker tempered than the red-tail. They can be dark brown or black with white undersides.

Oh and for those of you reading my Never Again series, I've just posted the sequel--Growing Pains.

Next: Sirius's condition is grave, can Severus help Harry alleviate his guilt over his godfather?





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