The New Dawn
“George! Angelina!” Lee roared; he was dueling fiercely with the Death Eater called Yaxley, as Voldemort and swarms of Death Eaters poured past him into the Great Hall, firing curses at random, not caring who they hit, but the spells were being deflected more than they landed. Hannah Abbott and Seamus Finnigan skidded into the Great Hall, just avoiding a curse from Voldemort himself. George saw Lee, and he and Angelina came running to help.
It was mayhem; Peeves was dropping ceramic pots on Death Eaters, cackling madly; centaurs fired arrows, downing Death Eaters with deadly accuracy and kicking out sharply with cruel hooves. Lee blocked curse after curse from Yaxley, and George joined in with him. Angelina, though her arm was heavily bandaged, was dueling a Death Eater and winning.
Lee wanted to laugh; the wave of newcomers was overwhelming the Death Eaters—and then the kitchen door exploded off of its hinges, and the Great Hall was flooded with house-elves, who came tearing into the Great Hall, shrieking and brandishing knives, forks, pots, pans—Lee was fairly certain he saw a meat tenderizer, too. They attacked the Death Eaters, unrelenting and vicious, egged on by a positively ancient elf who was screaming at the top of his voice, waving a sharpened meat cleaver with abandon.
Lee glanced at George, blocking yet another of Yaxley's spells. George looked just as bewildered by the good fortune as Lee felt. Their eyes met, and they nodded at each other. For just a moment, Fred was there, speaking in both of their ears.
“EXPELLIARMUS!” shouted Angelina, and Yaxley's wand soared into the air. George and Lee leapt as one to tackle him, bringing him hard to the floor. Ten feet away, Professor Flitwick had brought down Dolohov. Hagrid picked up and threw a man bodily down the length of the Great Hall.
“Look out!” George shouted, seizing both Lee and Angelina by the collars and yanking them down to avoid the curses that brought down Fenrir Greyback.
“Gits,” Lee said viciously, watching the Malfoys weave among the fighters, not joining either side, just looking desperately for Draco. He got up, drawing his wand, but George seized his arm.
“Let them go,” he said. He was helping Angelina up. “Let them try and find the prat.”
Lee looked into George's eyes. There was someone different there.
Hermione, tears streaming from her eyes, flung up a protective charm to deflect the curses that flew between Ron, Neville, and Fenrir Greyback. She could have helped there, but she knew who she wanted…
A peal of insane laughter brought her attention to the center of the Great Hall. Bellatrix was firing spells into the crowd, not caring who or what she hit. Her heart still broken at the loss of Harry, still burning with anger and hatred for the night at Malfoy Manor, Hermione gave a scream of fury and charged forward.
“EXPULSO!” she shrieked, aiming at the flagstones beneath Bellatrix's feet—Bellatrix stumbled backwards, but emerged from the cloud of dust, coughing. Her eyes found Hermione.
“You again,” she said, not bothering to disguise the delight in her voice. She laughed horribly. “Let's have it, Mudblood, let's see what you've got!” Hermione fired off four curses so quickly that Bellatrix leapt backward, unable to block them, only just avoiding them.
“You're finished, do you understand me? You're FINISHED!” Hermione screamed, still casting curse after curse—and as she did, she realized something utterly amazing. She had scared Bellatrix Lestrange.
The spell hit Hermione with a percussive force. She fell to the floor, winded, but the pain did not come. She looked up, and the shock she felt was mirrored Bellatrix's in Bellatrix’s face. “You’re going to have to do better than that, I guess!” she snapped.
Bellatrix raised her wand, snarling. “Avada—”
Luna leapt forward and Stunned the Death Eater Ginny had just wrestled to the floor. She offered her a hand, and Ginny hopped to her feet, panting.
“Good work,” Luna said confidently. “What's next?”
They gazed around the madness that filled the Great Hall. Duels raged everywhere; centaurs fought viciously, rendering whole groups of Death Eaters unconscious; Fenrir Greyback lay unmoving in a heap, bound by thick black cords. In the very center of the Great Hall, Professor McGonagall, Professor Slughorn, and the Auror called Kingsley were dueling Voldemort himself.
Death Eaters were falling everywhere, but the survivors and the reinforcements, the defenders of Hogwarts, were perfectly safe. Luna could see on the surprised faces of others that this was not going unnoticed. Ginny looked at her, shocked.
“How is this possible?”
Luna spun around. Hermione was fighting Bellatrix Lestrange singlehandedly, and she had just been knocked off of her feet. There was no way to get a clear shot at Bellatrix without hitting someone. She raised her wand, prepared to kill Hermione, who was still getting to her feet.
“Let's go!” yelled Luna. She seized Ginny's hand and in one, fluid movement, they tackled Bellatrix Lestrange around the waist, bringing her down onto the flagstones. And then, suddenly, they were airborne. Bellatrix had blasted them away. Luna scrambled back to her feet, her wand out, and she and Ginny leapt up to join Hermione.
“Incarcerous!” Hermione screamed, but Bellatrix, laughter in her face, flicked her wand, and the ropes turned to smoke.
“Stupefy!” cried Luna. And then, suddenly, she was dueling Bellatrix Lestrange with Hermione and Ginny on either side of her, all three of them trying fiercely to bring her down. Luna could see Neville out of the corner of her eye, occupied in a duel he was winning. She knew he would try to come and help, and she did not want him to.
Bellatrix was not laughing at them anymore; Luna was reminded forcibly of a caged animal. The spells she cast at the three of them turned from multicolored jets of light to streaks of brightest green. She no longer wanted to play.
A hand seized Molly's ankle, and she whirled around. Dolohov was fighting to get up again.
“I don't think so!” she barked, and her Stunning spell knocked him out instantly; then she bound him tightly with ropes. A jet of orange light flew past her elbow, and she turned; Arthur was dueling Travers with an injured arm beside Charlie, who had led the reinforcements into the castle. She ran forward to join in.
“Fancy meeting you here, Mum!” Charlie shouted, blocking a curse. “Whole family present and accounted for?”
For a moment, Molly thought she could feel her heart tear a little more as she too blocked a spell. How could she tell Charlie? Travers fell to Arthur's charm, writhing and shrieking as boils erupted over his face and neck. Molly seized Charlie's arm, feeling the stabbing pain rise in her throat. “Charlie, listen to me—”
And then she heard it; there was an echoing bang, and Molly was urged by every instinct in her body to turn around. One of her own was in danger, she knew it.
In the center of the Great Hall, two duels were raging. Those fighters who were not still trying to bring down Death Eaters (of which there were many, to Molly's shock) were watching them as though they were some kind of performance. On one side, Minerva, Kingsley, and Horace Slughorn were dueling Voldemort in front of the stained glass windows that made up the end of the hall, but that was not what Molly saw.
Hermione, Luna Lovegood, and Ginny were ducking and weaving around the Killing Curses that Bellatrix Lestrange was casting at unimaginable speed. One sailed just inches over Hermione's head, and another narrowly missed Ginny's arm.
Arthur and Charlie both saw where she was looking and screamed, “Ginny!” but Molly charged forward, blasting people out of her way. She emerged into the wide clear space, knocking into something solid that she did not bother to look at as another Killing Curse just missed Ginny's elbow.
“NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!” she screamed, and Bellatrix stopped fighting long enough to face her, giggling. Molly tore at the strings of her cloak, casting it away, her hair flying behind her as Hermione, Ginny, and Luna gaped at her in astonishment.
“OUT OF MY WAY!” she roared at them, and the three girls obeyed at once. She let fly a powerful curse, which only just missed Bellatrix. She was, perhaps, a little rusty, but she could do this. She would do this, her heart told her so.
Bellatrix was laughing at her, laughing hysterically, even as the flagstones at her feet began to crack; Molly could feel the heat rising. Neither of them were going to give up. This was to the end, whatever that may be, and Molly was not afraid in the slightest.
A few of the Hogwarts students watching ran forward, wanting to help.
“No! Get back! Get back! She is mine!” Molly shrieked, deflecting a jet of silver light.
Bellatrix bared her teeth, cackling. “What will happen to your children when I've killed you?” she asked. “When Mummy's gone the same way as Freddie?”
Molly did not know how Bellatrix Lestrange knew her son's name, and she did not care. All the love she had ever felt for Fred, for Harry, and Tonks and Remus and Gideon and Fabian and everyone she had lost pounded through her veins; it was not grief. There would be time for grief later, when she had won. This was certainty. It was strength.
“You—will—never—touch—our—children—again!” she bellowed, letting off a round of spells that she barely realized she knew. And the last curse, the final jet of orange light—that was the one.
It was over.
It was over, even as Bellatrix screamed with laughter. The spell hit her directly in the chest, and her eyes widened in shock. She fell backwards.
Molly stood stock-still, trembling, as Bellatrix Lestrange hit the floor, dead.
Ron yelled in shock as Bellatrix Lestrange, the stuff of nightmares, the woman responsible for Neville's parentless childhood, Hermione's torturer, and Sirius's murderer… fell, dead, under his mother's wand. His jaw dropped, and he turned, thinking that no one else could possibly have seen what he had, but Harry was not there to corroborate. He would never be there again.
And then there was a shriek, a terrible, bloodcurdling scream. The roar of the disbelieving crowd at Bellatrix's downfall had drawn Voldemort's attention, even across the Great Hall. He saw what had been done. Professor McGonagall tried to engage Voldemort again to distract him, and Ron bounded forward, ready to defend his mother.
His pounding anger was so great, that for a moment, Ron thought that he was responsible for the explosion that rocked the entire hall. But then he saw McGonagall, Slughorn, and Kingsley’s flying bodies blasted through the air. Voldemort, in his rage, had blown them clear away, and was now gliding towards Ron and his mother, lifting his wand over his head.
“Mum!” Ron shouted, seizing her arm; she had frozen on the spot; whatever had just possessed her to face Bellatrix was not enough for Voldemort. “Run!”
“Protego!” roared a voice, and Ron flew backwards, his hand still closed on his mother's wrist. The crowd caught them, steadied them, and Ron looked around in confusion. The massive dome of a Shield Charm had sprung up in the center of the hall, just like the night he had returned to apologize to Harry and Hermione, a thousand years ago…
And then, fifteen feet in front of Ron, Harry appeared, pulling off his Invisibility Cloak, his wand drawn and level with Voldemort's chest.
“What the hell?” Ron bellowed, torn between anger, horror, and overwhelming, overwhelming, joy. Bizarrely, he felt a lump rise in his throat, and bit hard on the inside of his lip.
“Harry!” Hermione screamed from somewhere in the crowd behind Ron, and he whirled around. She was forcing her way through the crowd, running forward. He flung out an arm and stopped her. He had just realized something.
“Hermione,” he gasped. “The—the snake. Neville—the snake.”
She clapped her hands over her mouth. “Merlin's pants.”
They both looked around. The crowd had fallen silent, brought to a halt as Harry and Voldemort began to circle each other, edging around the border of the Shield Charm. Voldemort's red eyes were full of fury, scorching like coals. Harry, without lifting his own eyes from Voldemort's, called out, “I don't want anyone else to try to help. It's got to be like this. It's got to be me.”
Neither can live while the other survives. Ron seized Hermione's hand; she squeezed back fiercely, her eyes full of tears.
“Potter doesn't mean that,” Voldemort hissed, and Ron's heart leapt into his throat; there was fear, abject fear, in that voice. “That isn't how he works. Who are you going to use as a shield today, Potter?” Ron's mind was racing. The only way Voldemort would have ever believed that Harry was dead was if Harry had allowed a Killing Curse to hit him. That meant that Harry, the only person in the world to have ever survived the Killing Curse, had done it again. And that was impossible.
“Nobody,” Harry answered calmly, holding his wand level. “There are no more Horcruxes. It's just you and me. Neither can live while the other survives, and one of us is about to leave for good…”
“One of us?” Voldemort laughed, mirthless and insane. “You think it will be you, do you, the boy who has survived by accident, and because Dumbledore was pulling the strings?”
“Accident, was it, when my mother died to save me?” Harry shouted, and Ron felt Hermione's fingernails dig into his hand. “Accident, when I decided to fight in that graveyard? Accident, that I didn't defend myself tonight, and still survived, and returned to fight again?”
“Accidents!” screamed Voldemort, and the shriek was bloodcurdling. “Accident and chance and the fact that you crouched and sniveled behind the skirts of greater men and women, and permitted me to kill them for you!”
Ron stared at Harry. He was at the farthest point of the circle; they were facing each other, fifty feet apart, but Harry's eyes were on Voldemort. “You won't be killing anyone else tonight,” he said quietly. “You won't be able to kill any of them ever again. Don't you get it?” he demanded. “I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people—
“But you did not!”
“—I meant to, and that's what did it,” Harry retorted; even amongst this tension, Ron heard the blissfully familiar sound of Hermione's gasp of sudden comprehension. “I've done what my mother did. They're protected from you.”
“Bloody hell,” Ron whispered.
Her head spinning and throbbing, Minerva forced her eyes open. Horace was hunched over her, and he breathed a sigh of relief, helping her to sit up. The last she remembered, she had been dueling Voldemort. Now she lay prone on the floor of the Great Hall. A voice was talking loudly, and everything in the room had gone very still; no one was moving.
“You—you're back,” Minerva said hoarsely, still fighting to make sense of her surroundings. Her back, shoulder, and hip ached badly. She was fairly sure her right arm was broken. “Horace—I—”
“Never mind that now, never mind that,” he blustered. “You need to get up—you need to see this—can you stand?” With his help, Minerva got to her feet and looked into the wide, empty space at the center of the room. She almost fainted again. Harry Potter, very much alive, held his wand ready to attack as he and Voldemort circled each other, treading the lines of some invisible ring.
“Horcruxes, Minerva, he had Horcruxes,” Horace murmured, looking very unnerved. “I never imagined...and Potter's destroyed them...”
“Oh, my,” she whispered, feeling nauseated.
Harry was in the middle of speaking; unlike Voldemort, he looked calm and collected. Voldemort's eyes were wide and mad, burning with hatred.
“Yes, Dumbledore's dead,” Harry said softly, “but you didn't have him killed.” Minerva clutched Horace's arm tighter. “He chose his own manner of dying, chose it months before he died, arranged the whole thing with the man you thought was your servant.”
Minerva's heart leapt into her throat, as a gasp of shock rippled around the room. “What on earth—?” she spluttered, but Horace silenced her.
“What childish dream is this?” Voldemort hissed angrily at Harry.
“Severus Snape wasn't yours,” Harry said, and Minerva was shocked to hear the pride in his voice. Her heart felt as though it were going to beat out of her chest as her mind raced, trying to keep up with what she was hearing. “Snape was Dumbledore's, Dumbledore's from the moment you started hunting down my mother. And you never realized it, because of the thing you can't understand.” Harry swallowed, not lowering his wand or even blinking.
“You never saw Snape cast a Patronus, did you, Riddle?”
“Oh,” Minerva gave a little moan, and felt her eyes fill with tears. How many times had she seen that doe? How many times had she been entirely ignorant of what it meant?
“Snape's Patronus was a doe, the same as my mother's, because he loved her for nearly all of his life, from the time when they were children,” said Harry. Voldemort's nostrils flared wide and he flushed even whiter. “You should have realized,” Harry continued, raising his eyebrows, “he asked you to spare her life, didn't he?”
Minerva clapped a hand over her mouth. How wrong she had been about so many things, when all the while, the answers had been directly in front of her.
“He desired her, that was all,” Voldemort replied scornfully. “But when she had gone, he agreed that there were other women, and of purer blood, worthier of him—”
“Of course he told you that,” Harry said, and for a moment, Minerva heard in his voice the pity and understanding of Albus Dumbledore. “But he was Dumbledore's spy from the moment you threatened her, and he's been working against you ever since! Dumbledore was already dying when Snape finished him!”
Minerva's mind was churning. She was faltering, trying to understand, while at the same time, she knew that Voldemort was moments away from striking, from striking Harry down for good.
“It matters not!” he shrieked, laughing with insane relief. “It matters not whether Snape was mine or Dumbledore's, or what petty obstacles they tried to put in my path! I crushed them as I crushed your mother, Snape's supposed great love! Oh, but it all makes sense, Potter, and in ways that you do not understand!”
Still, the two trod their circle, and Harry was unfazed, unsurprised by Voldemort's reaction. The entire hall was rapt; Minerva actually leaned in a bit, listening intently. Her hand closed on her wand, but there was no way she could help, not at this moment.
Voldemort was now speaking rapidly, feverishly, his red eyes on fire as he gazed intently at Harry. “Dumbledore was trying to keep the Elder Wand from me! He intended that Snape should be the true master of the wand! But I got there ahead of you, little boy—I reached the wand before you could get your hands on it, I understood the truth before you caught up. I killed Severus Snape three hours ago, and the Elder Wand, the Deathstick, the Wand of Destiny is truly mine! Dumbledore's last plan went wrong, Harry Potter!”
Minerva gaped at him. He was utterly mad. The Elder Wand, the mythical, invincible wand, was a fantasy. Then—
“Oh, my word,” Slughorn whispered, as the same memory struck both of them. The wand that Dumbledore had always carried, won in the duel against Grindelwald—Minerva remembered asking him about it. He had always said that Grindelwald had left it to him, a token of esteem between rivals, but could it be? And then, like a crashing wave, Minerva recalled the night that she had seen Voldemort in the castle, the night that she had looked out at the tomb.
“Yeah, it did,” said Harry, and Minerva felt suddenly lightheaded. “You're right. But before you try to kill me, I'd advise you to think about what you've done…Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle…”
Voldemort hissed horribly, his eyes suddenly burning a brighter red. “What is this?”
“It's your one last chance,” said Harry, his voice firm, but compassionate. “It's all you've got left…I've seen what you'll be otherwise…Be a man…try…Try for some remorse…”
“You dare—?” Voldemort shriek.
“Yes, I dare,” Harry cut him off, “because Dumbledore's last plan hasn't backfired on me at all. It's backfired on you, Riddle. That wand still isn't working properly for you because you murdered the wrong person. Severus Snape was never the true master of the Elder Wand. He never defeated Dumbledore.”
“He killed —”
“Aren't you listening? Snape never beat Dumbledore!” Harry shouted, his voice echoing and terrible. Voldemort was startled into silence. “Dumbledore's death was planned between them! Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand's last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand's power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!”
“But then, Potter, Dumbledore as good as gave me the wand!” Voldemort spat, and Minerva had the distinct impression that his smile, his laughter, was leading to a breaking point—the final curse was coming. “I stole the wand from its last master's tomb! I removed it against its last master's wishes! Its power is mine!”
Minerva felt ill, but Harry looked impatient and angry. “You still don't get it, Riddle, do you?” he demanded. “Possessing the wand isn't enough! Holding it, using it, doesn't make it really yours. Didn't you listen to Ollivander? The wand chooses the wizard…The Elder Wand recognized a new master before Dumbledore died, someone who never even laid a hand on it. The new master removed the wand from Dumbledore against his will, never realizing exactly what he had done, or that the world's most dangerous wand had given him its allegiance. The true master of the Elder Wand was Draco Malfoy.”
“What?” Slughorn gasped, and the cry was echoed across the room. As though drawn by a magnet, Minerva's eyes found the top of Draco Malfoy's head. He had been reunited with his parents. They stood in a corner, looking too frightened to come closer, but just as scared to flee. The boy's eyes widened.
“But what does it matter?” Voldemort hissed. “Even if you are right, Potter, it makes no difference to you and me. You no longer have the phoenix wand: We duel on skill alone…and after I have killed you, I can attend to Draco Malfoy…”
“But you're too late,” Harry told him. “You've missed your chance. I got there first. I overpowered Draco weeks ago. I took this wand from him.”
Minerva's head was spinning as she looked at the wand Harry held. The only people in the room that seemed to comprehend any of this were Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, who stood directly across the circle from her, white-faced and plainly terrified. She was seized by the sudden notion that the events of this one night might never make sense to her at all.
“So it all comes down to this, doesn't it?” Harry continued quietly. “Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does…I am the true master of the Elder Wand.”
And suddenly, so suddenly that Minerva and many others cried out in fright, a burst of sunlight blared through the stained glass windows. In the center of the circle, Voldemort, his back to the light, seized the moment and slashed his wand down. The jet of green went straight for Harry's heart, and Minerva screamed out—
“Expelliarmus!” shouted Harry, obviously blind, not able to take aim, and the red light collided with the green.
“Good heavens!” roared Slughorn, leaping back a few paces and taking Minerva with him as gold sparks exploded deafeningly in midair and set the circle aflame in gold. The Elder Wand spun through the air, and Harry snatched it in one hand, as the green jet blasted backward, directly at Voldemort. It hit its mark, and Minerva gasped.
The monster fell, red eyes wide and lifeless, and landed spread-eagled on the floor of the Great Hall.
The gold flames vanished at once, and Harry stared at the body stretched before him. He was breathing heavily, and didn't seem to be able to do anything more than stare down at Voldemort in shock.
And then the crowd erupted into screams, tears, shouts of joy and shock and fright. Minerva, ignoring the burning pain of her broken arm, ran forward and seized Harry in an embrace he did not seem to notice. She kissed the top of his head just before he disappeared under a mountain of limbs, and grateful, overjoyed cheers as every single person in the room leapt on him.
Minerva's tears spilled over; she sobbed, leaning her head back to gaze up at the brilliant, gleaming gold of the enchanted ceiling. The sunlight—fierce, real, and alive for what felt like the first time in decades—dazzled her, blinded her, as it gleamed through the broken stained glass windows and ruined walls of Hogwarts.
Harry had won.