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Stories begun in 2006 (post-HBP)

Author Notes:

This is the final, edited, complete version of Harry Potter and the Last Horcrux.  Chapters 1 through 14 were completely written prior to publication of Deathly Hallows in 2008; chapters 15 through 19 and the alternate ending were in draft or outline form at that time.

THIRTEEN
The Last Horcrux

July 31, 1998     The Ministry for Magic, City of London

4:25 AM

Shacklebolt's lynx patronus burst through the wall and presented itself to Harry. The message wasn't one that Harry wanted to hear: We've been found out. The house-elves can still transport themselves but can't carry anyone with them. Advise that you retreat and attempt to reach the nexus from another direction.

“The news could be better,” Twing said as a string of cutting curses chipped away at their conjured barrier.

“So... another of those banging things, then?” Ron suggested.

Twing elbowed Ron and said, “Make certain that you cast that spell to deaden our hearing, yes?”

“I didn't know you were about to throw the thing. I didn't even know what it was!” Ron groused.

Harry took one of the two remaining flash-bang grenades from his vest and said, “On three...”

As soon as the flash faded, Harry and Twing stood and fired on the Death Eaters: blasting curses from Harry and 9mm bullets from Twing. Ron deflected curses from Twing and Ginny did the same for Harry. Within ten seconds, every Death Eater in the room lay on the floor, dead or mortally wounded.

Hermione spoke up from behind them.  She was surrounded by fallen fighters and her hands and shirt sleeves were blood-stained.  “I've done all I can.  No one's going to bleed to death, but we have to get them to hospital now,” she said.

Another lynx appeared and notified them: Dobby is coming to you. A few moments later, the house-elf appeared next to Ginny.

“Hello, Miss Wheezy. Hello, Harry Potter. Dobby apologises that he and the other house-elves cannot pop the injured to Madam Pomfrey, but the evil ones cannot keep us from using magic, not without keeping themselves from using magic. We will take Harry Potter's fighters to Madam Pomfrey,” Dobby said. He snapped his fingers and two of Hermione's improvised stretchers lifted two feet from the floor. Two more house-elves popped into the room. One levitated the other stretchers, and the other stood in an alert stance.

Twing said, “We cleared the rooms behind us but that may have changed.”

The alert house-elf said, “Cook will not allow Harry Potter's fighters to be hurt a second time. Cook will defend them with his life if need be.”

“Be careful, all of you,” Harry said. With that, the three house-elves floated the wounded out of the room and toward safety.

Hermione sighed, “I... I didn't imagine it would be like this. I don't know what I expected, really...”

“Do you see why I didn't want you to come?” Harry asked.

“I'm here now and I won't leave,” she said.

4:40 AM

“One more sodding room...” Harry groaned.

“I am running low of bullets,” Twing said.

Ron said, “Dobby might be able to bring those things, even if he can't carry a person.”

Twing shook his head. “I packed every magazine that I had. There are three left including the one that's loaded. Eighty-one bullets, that is all.”

“You're already torn up, Twing. You can't go any further,” Ron told him.

“This is my place, Ronald. This is what I came for,” Twing insisted.

Harry grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him: “Someone has to get to the army when it's over – to the Prime Minister, really – so they know that he's dead. We don't know if Shacklebolt's still alive. Someone with a bit of authority has to tell the Muggles when it's over. I need you to stay clear – to stay alive.  Please.”

Twing looked to Ginny. “You're with him to the end, aren't you?” he said, and she returned a resolute nod.

“If you are unavailable tomorrow, I will be most put out,” Twing said in the poshest of tones. Ginny laughed but her eyes were watery.

Harry rolled his eyes and said, “Sweet Merlin, will you just kiss her and get it over with?” Ginny flushed crimson and Twing nearly choked on his tongue, so Harry added, “What, did you think I was joking?”; then he turned away from them and faced Hermione.  After he landed a playful punch, Ron did the same.

All the while Hermione continued to cast spells on Twing's leg.  “This is definitely a lash-up job. I'm afraid that you may end up with a limp,” she told him when she was finished.

“There are worse things. Just as long as I remain dashing...?” Twing quipped.

Ron said, “You're stuck with us until the house-elves can come back, at least.  We'll conjure another set of barriers, and then we're going to layer it with Notice-Me-Nots, disillusionments, silencing charms, the whole lot. If you stay quiet, they won't know you're here. Don't send bullets at anyone unless there's no other choice.”

Harry shook Twing's hand; he said, “Coming in here without a wand... you're either the bravest person or the biggest nutter I've ever met. I wish I'd had the chance to get to know you a bit, Anders.”

“When you have won, we shall 'go and have a pint', as they say. I look forward to it,” Twing said warmly.

Harry flinched and jumped to his feet. “Wands out,” he hissed.

Ron cast a Supersensory Charm on himself and then quickly dispelled it. “Left side,” he mouthed. Harry moved toward the entry to their left and flattened himself against the wall. Ron ambled toward him and did the same.  A second later, they found themselves crossing wands with Neville and Demelza Robbins, an old Quidditch teammate.

“Bloody hell, Harry, I guess you got the drop on us,” Neville said.

“That was the idea,” Harry said; “Where are the rest of you?”

Neville said, “Magnus has us checking the perimeter of the Room of Doors. Are you lot responsible for the dead Death Eaters we've been finding?”

“That would be us,” Ron said.

“What's in the next room?” Neville asked.

“Fourteen Death Eaters; we've set up a Reflecting Barrier and an Imperturbable Charm, so we can see them but they can't see or hear us,” said Harry.

“They're pretty well set up: barricades, good visibility... there must be a clever one in the bunch,” Ron added.

“Isn't Twing with you? I saw that little Christmas cracker of his earlier, when we were coming through the Atrium. I should think that would do the trick,” said Neville.

“It would, if I weren't almost out of ammunition,” Twing called out.

“Ahh, I suppose it can't be conjured?” Neville wondered.

Twing said, “Conjured bullets often cause guns to jam and misfire.”

“Bother,” said Neville.

“We've got something else, I think,” Twing said; “Do you have any of those silver balls that Fred and George Weasley assembled?”

“Two of them, I think,” Harry said as he felt inside the various pockets of his vest.

Twing said, “Fred told me to throw them as far as possible –”

“– and be sure to duck. George told me that, I think,” Harry recalled.

“He said that they explode after bouncing twice against a hard surface, something about... eruption fluid? It was something of that sort,” Twing said.

Hermione's brows shot up. “Was it erumpent fluid?” she blurted out.

“Yes, that was it. Apparently it's inside there in a compartment made from a worm, if that makes any sense... and there are two other things in different compartments... when they combine... boom,” said Twing.

“Erumpent fluid will explode well on its own. They must have used flobberworm skins for their stabilizing effects – a genius idea, actually. Do you remember either of the other ingredients?” Hermione asked.

“Ehh... one had something to do with winding, and the other is a powdered root. Sorry, that's all I can remember,” said Twing.

“Winding... winding... oh, they wouldn't! They wouldn't have... would they?” Hermione gasped.

“Fred and George would do anything,” Ron pointed out.

Hermione said, “Ashwinder eggs, then. They put erumpent fluid and ashwinder eggs inside those things. What they won't blow up, they'll burn. I won't even hazard a guess what the other ingredient is, but considering the source I'd expect that it accelerates the other two.”

“Magnus is hoping he'll get to the Room of Doors from the opposite side, Harry. What ever you've planned, you'd best do it quickly,” Neville said.

Ron said, “Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder first, do you think?”

Harry nodded; he said, “Two of these balls should do the trick.”

“Two will probably collapse the entire building,” Hermione dead-panned.

“One it is, then,” Harry decided.

Hermione said, “Let's get the barriers placed for Anders, and we can all take cover behind them for now.”

Several moments and a dozen or more charms later, Harry and Ron were at either side of the charmed doorway and their five companions were behind the newly conjured barriers.

“On three?” Ron asked.

“Throw the powder first,” Harry said.

The room beyond instantly went black and a few trails of inky darkness floated through the doorway. Amidst the shouts of confusion, Harry counted to three and then flung one of the silver balls into the room beyond. Ron crouched and Harry threw himself to the floor.

The explosion outdid anyone's highest – or lowest – expectations of the Weasley twins.  It was, in short, monumental. Harry was showered by bits of wall and gore. His ears rang. He heard Ron let out a groan and slowly turned onto his back. Most of the wall between the two rooms had been obliterated, and Ron was half-buried in a pile of rubble.

“You do make an entrance, don't you, Harry Potter?” said a high, thin voice through the dispersing darkness; “It was not as flashy as Dumbledore and his pet, but memorable all the same. So... shall we duel?”

“I'll need to clean my clothes first. I seem to have gotten your Death Eaters all over them,” Harry said with as much bravado as he could muster.

Voldemort let forth a chilling laugh. “I will allow you a moment to ready yourself, if for nothing more than your ability to joke at a moment such as this,” the Dark Lord said.

“Not joking, actually... suppose I should take off this vest,” Harry returned.

“Do as you will. It shan't affect the outcome of the day,” Voldemort hissed.

“We'll start when you dispel the darkness, then?” said Harry.

Voldemort said, “Why would I do that, when I can see through the darkness in perfect detail?” and followed immediately with a Killing Curse that Harry only spotted at the last moment; he dodged it by inches.

Harry fired back with a Whirling Dervish charm that caused the darkness to spiral away like an inky fog lifting. He silently thanked George for having taught him the charm; it had been an unspoken apology for having sold the Darkness Powder to Death Eaters the year prior. The exploded room was little more than a corridor now. Voldemort was standing casually in the centre of the Room of Doors, about fifty feet away.

“And now we bow, like civilized men,” Voldemort said.

Harry fired off a quick chain of Blasting Curses, Bludgeoners and Flaming Arrows as he returned, “I don't think so.”

Voldemort deflected most of the spells with a flick of his wrist; two Flaming Arrows were deflected at Harry and the Dark Lord avoided one Bludgeoner by stepping to the side. Harry cast a quick shield and the Arrows bounced away. Voldemort cast a Blood-Boiler over Harry's shoulder that had to be an intentional miss, so Harry dodged; out of the corner of his eye, he realised that the curse was aimed at Neville, who had dashed through the door behind him and clear of the room.  Harry palmed the second of the Weasley twin's silver balls and cast several Stunners, hoping that Voldemort would be surprised by the choice.

“You think to stun me, boy? You cannot possibly be that thick,” Voldemort sneered.

“That's true,” Harry said; he called out, “Aguamenti!” and sprayed the widest, heaviest burst of water he could muster.

Voldemort began to laugh at him. “Water?” he said in disbelief, without firing any sort of spell in return.

Harry cast, “Incendio!

“Have you lost your senses?” Voldemort laughed. The spray of water burst into a thick cloud of steam that filled the space between them.

“Ahh, now I understand: you're trying to take away the visibility again. Pathetic... a first-year could do better,” sneered Voldemort. As the Dark Lord blew away the sudden fog, Harry threw the last silver ball and dove to one side.

He heard, “What's this...?” and then an explosion louder and stronger than the first. This one was thirty feet further away, though, and he made it to his feet before Voldemort did. He cast everything that came to mind, as fast as he could manage: severing charms, blasting curses, flaming curses, magical ropes, entrail-expellers, slug-vomiting charms, tickling charms, and even an ear-twitching hex before he realised that Voldemort had no ears to twitch. Voldemort managed a thick, dark shield that shunted away most of the spells, but at least two severing charms struck true.

When the Dark Lord stood, the effects of the explosion were obvious. His robe was in tatters and his face and neck were burned. His wand arm hung oddly and dripped thick, black blood. His teeth were clenched and he was breathing hard.
“Oh, that was good... that was very good. Lord Voldemort was actually fooled for a moment. Touché, Harry Potter – touché,” he said from behind his still-visible shield; “It's time for a change of pace... think of me as your N.E.W.T. examiner, if you like. You see, I can demonstrate dark arts the likes of which no Hogwarts student – save myself – has ever seen. Observe!”

Harry felt very fortunate to survive the next two minutes of Voldemort's onslaught. He was pounded by curses of colours, effects and intensity unlike anything in his imagination. One black beam that barely missed him actually smelled evil. He shielded against some, dodged others, and blocked the rest with anything he could conjure or summon. Just as he didn't think he could continue, Voldemort growled and turned away from him.

Harry dove behind the rubble pile, where Ginny and Hermione were still pulling Ron free. Magnus had already taken several shots at the Dark Lord from the opposite side, and freeing Ron looked to be a slow process. Being rather short on patience, Harry decided to solve two problems at once: he banished the top half of the rubble pile toward Voldemort's back.

Hermione started, “Harry, I can –”

“Get him out of there,” Harry cut her off. Just as she started to protest, a cutting curse caught him high. He dropped to the floor and rolled behind the remaining rubble.

“It's the same shoulder,” he ground out.

Hermione winced as she probed the wound with her wand. “It's a right mess, that's what it is... I can probably fix part of it. You should be able to move your arm, but it'll be painful to do it.”

“Do what you can. I need both arms,” he said.

As she worked, she said, “We need to get him away from the doors, don't we? You need to open the Room.”

“That's assuming that it will open at all,” Harry pointed out.

“What do we do if you can't get it open?” Hermione asked.

Harry said, “Maybe someone could try using a Killing Curse on my scar... that's pretty out there, isn't it... not much better than trying to have a Dementor try to suck it out. Lovely idea, that was.”

“We were trying to think of every possibility, all right?” said Hermione.

“If you believe the prophecy, I probably have to let him kill me. It's either that or the Veil,” he said.

“Then we'll get the door open,” she said; “Can you move your arm?”

“Yeah, I think so... aaaah! That's... not much fun,” he gasped.

“Here, hold still,” she said.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Something I'd forgotten to do earlier,” she said.

“What's that?” he asked.

She said, “This is going to sting a bit.”

Harry said, “I can handle a bit of... gaaah! Do you enjoy hurting people? It's a dentist thing, isn't it?”

“Stop whinging,” Hermione said. As she traced her wand across his upper arm, smoke rose from his skin.

He said in a choked voice, “You're giving me a tattoo? This isn't exactly the time –”

“It's a rune of protection. You'll need one on the other arm as well, and one more rune on this side. Now, hold still!” she said.

“Hurry, then. I don't like the sound of things – it's too quiet,” Harry said.

Twing came up beside them. “Magnus needs a rest,” he said.

“What are you doing?” Ginny demanded.

“Giving Magnus a rest,” Twing said. He leant over some of the remaining rubble and took three quick shots at Voldemort, then three more.

“Is that a gun? Is someone shooting a gun at me?” Voldemort howled.

Twing took three more shots and caught the Dark Lord twice in the leg. Voldemort conjured four metal discs the size of serving platters and sent them into the air with one wave of his wand. The next three shots were intercepted by the discs, and the three after that were turned back on Twing; he dove for the floor and groaned when he hit.

I – will – not – be – attacked – by – a – Muggle!” Voldemort shouted. Harry saw blue flashes from Magnus's position, and Voldemort turned the other way again.

“Are you finished?” Harry snapped at Hermione. The smoke made him want to gag, as much for the thought of it as for the actual smell.

“Almost there...” she said. Her wand tapped the last of the three runes and she muttered an incantation. It sounded vaguely familiar... something-something excandesco, he thought.

“Done,” he said as he stood and aimed his wand at Voldemort. Harry and Magnus began to level fire on Voldemort from opposite directions.

“Death Eaters, to me!” Voldemort called out. He returned to the fight for several volleys and then called again, “Death Eaters, to me!”

“No one's coming,” Harry said.

“Impudent brat!” Voldemort spat. He shifted the metal discs behind him to catch Magnus's fire and advanced on Harry, wand blazing.

One of the doors in the nexus to Voldemort's right suddenly opened, and Neville charged out with the Sword of Gryffindor drawn. From the look on his face, Neville was almost as surprised as Voldemort when the sword struck true. Neville's momentum buried the blade in Voldemort's side nearly to the hilt.

“GRYFFINDOR!” Voldemort hissed. He jabbed his wand and banished Neville so hard into the wall that he left a mark before he slid to the floor. Then he stopped, and pulled firmly on the hilt. The sword slowly worked its way free, dripping with thick black inhuman blood. Voldemort didn't cast a healing charm after the sword clattered to the floor; he cast a sealing charm.

“He... he's a true homunculus – no organs, no vessels... just a blood bag!” Hermione gasped.

“How do I kill that?” Harry said in a panic.

“Drain him completely... I think...” Hermione returned.

Voldemort turned around and angrily thrust his wand toward Magnus's position. The Icelander literally tore through the wall and flew toward the Dark Lord. With a jab and a wave, Magnus struck the wall opposite of Neville and fell face-first. He turned back to face Harry and began walking toward him. He batted away each spell Harry fired with quick waves of his wand.

Harry heard Ron groan behind him. “I've got him out,” Twing said.

“Get him out of the room – out! Out!” Harry shouted.

“I don't know if he should be moved –” Hermione started.

“Get him out now!” Harry ordered.

Twing didn't hesitate: he pulled Ron to his feet, slung him over his shoulder and headed for the far door without a single look back.

“Hermione, Ginny – GO!” Harry demanded.

Hermione stood next to him and began to fire all manner of surprisingly dark curses. She and Ginny took turns casting shields and firing. Most of Ginny's spells were blasting curses but she even attempted a Bat-Bogey curse out of frustration; only three pathetic bogeys took a few flaps around the snake-like slits in Voldemort's face before they disappeared. The net result of all their work was that Voldemort slowed his stride somewhat. Ginny moved out to one side in an effort to force the Dark Lord to divide his attention.

Voldemort stopped for a moment and said, “Ah, of course... you're the one who opened the Chamber of Secrets. Imperio.”

“No... no...” Ginny sobbed.

“Fire your strongest Blasting Curse at Mr. Potter, please,” Voldemort ordered.

“I... won't...” Ginny bit out.

Harry and Hermione fired curse after curse at Voldemort, but it was as though they were standing still. What wasn't intercepted by the whirling metal discs seemed to bounce off of the Dark Lord.

“I owned you before, girl, and I will own you again. You're too weak to resist me,” said Voldemort.

“I - fought - you - for a year,” Ginny managed.

“Kill Potter and the girl – NOW!” Voldemort demanded.  Ginny's arm shook as she raised her wand and turned to face Harry.

“Good! Very good! Now DO IT!” said Voldemort.

“I will... NOT,” Ginny snapped; she turned in a trice and fired three rapid-fire and surprisingly powerful Reductor Curses at the Dark Lord. One made it past his shields and sent him flying backward into the conjured stone barriers. Harry took Hermione by the hand and ran toward the Room of Doors, with Ginny close behind. Harry reached for her with his other hand and she took it.

“You beat him! You beat him!” Harry told her. Ginny gave him a nod and a determined smile.

Hermione said, “I have Magnus; Ginny, get Neville. Let's move them to the corridor. Harry...?”

Harry called out, “I ask for the Room of Magical Energies!”

The Room of Doors shuddered and tried but failed to turn; there was simply too much damage from the two explosions. There was a second round of shuddering, and two of the doors near the spot where Neville had fallen slid apart. The faintly glowing door appeared between them.

“No – you – will – not!” Voldemort thundered. He shot across the rooms as though he was flying, and a wave of raw magic preceded him. Before he could cast a shield of any sort, the wave struck Harry and threw him backward. Ginny ran back into the room and tried to summon Harry clear.

Voldemort hissed, “Goodbye, blood traitor,” and cast a too-familiar purple beam. Harry cast a shield spell in front of Ginny but it didn't fully block the curse. She slumped backward, sliced across the stomach, and struck the floor hard.

Hermione tried to reach Ginny, but caught a cutting curse that her hastily-cast shield couldn't block. She fell to her knees, cradling one arm. Voldemort promptly blasted her wand into a thousand fragments.

That distraction gave Harry a chance to return the favour. Just as Voldemort cast a Body-Bind at Harry, Harry's quick Expelliarmus shook Voldemort's wand just enough to slip it loose. The Body-Bind only caught half of Harry's body. He managed a Blasting Curse that assured the yew-and-phoenix-feather wand would never be used again. Then he immediately moved to dispel the binding.

One thing that Harry hadn't counted on - though he certainly should have - was that Voldemort had a second wand. Even though it clearly wasn't a perfect match, it was more than powerful enough to deliver a curse that shattered Harry's wand. The pieces of it slashed through his hand and the phoenix feather burst into flame.

His hand was in agony; he couldn't see his palm but it was surely charred. Try as he might, he couldn't move properly, and his attempt left him flat on the floor. His holly wand was gone forever. The elder wand was a foot from the fingertips of his other hand but it might as well have been at Hogwarts for all the good it did him.

“The accursed protection is gone, and your wand is no more,” Voldemort sneered. “You won't be saved by a mudblood this time, Harry Potter.”

“That's what you think, you monster,” Hermione said. She was in little better shape than Harry. Her left arm was cut badly from wrist to elbow. Her breathing was laboured; he wondered if her ribs were broken. She crawled until she sat awkwardly in front of Harry.

The Dark Lord declared, “History is written by the victors. Harry Potter will be the monster, not Lord Voldemort.”

“You're not even him any more... just a tiny piece,” Harry managed to say.

Voldemort scoffed, “That's not how it works, boy. A horcrux is a segment of the soul: seven horcruxes, ergo seven equal segments. You've destroyed five, I'll give you that much, but two remain within this form; you cost me the opportunity to create a sixth at Godric's Hollow. I will create one final horcrux, and let me assure you that no one will ever find it. Lord Voldemort will never die.”

He limped forward and went on, “In fact, I believe that I shall use your death, Potter, as the catalyst for my last horcrux. Let us do this the same as seventeen years ago... excepting the end, of course.”

“I don't think so,” Hermione said. She clasped her hands around Harry's arm.

“Release him and stand aside!” Voldemort demanded.

“Make me,” Hermione said, almost petulantly.

Voldemort let forth a high, chilling laugh. “You are certainly spirited, girl – foolish but spirited.  It ends here, Harry Potter.  Avada –”

Hermione squeezed tight against the rune on Harry's upper arm, so tightly that his skin seemed to burn with the touch. He felt a tiny bit of her magic reach out to the rune. There was a bright orange flash of light, and he realised that she had released the incantation embedded within it. Something-something excandesco... it was from Ravenclaw's Grimoire, he realised... advexi excandesco. It wasn't a rune of protection at all.  It was a transportation spell.

He shouted, “NO!” but there was no air in his lungs to carry the sound. In an instant he emerged from a mass of flames on the other side of the chamber and dropped to the floor.  Suddenly imbalanced, Hermione stumbled into the empty space where he had stood.

– Kedavra!

A green light glowed from Hermione's eyes for a moment and her mouth formed into a silent 'oh!' as the curse struck.

Harry felt the excratio pensare bond pull against him – the bond that held he and Hermione together so that they could share the burden of a curse. It was oddly comforting to know that they would be together again in seconds. He wondered if his mother had felt the same way about his father. He wondered if they would be disappointed in him.

Then the bond buckled and shuddered and he felt as if his insides were being torn apart. It made no sense: the Killing Curse was instant and painless. There was an incredible rush of – something? - and then he screamed as what was surely pure magic flowed through him and then out again: out his fingertips, his feet, his nose, his mouth. He thought his very soul would follow it, but somehow he was still Harry.

It was then that his head exploded with pain and light. His scar cracked and a sheen of blood flowed down his forehead. A hazy black mist swirled before his eyes and a second shout joined his own.  Voldemort added a third; he shouted, “NO! STOP!”  The shrill scream of the last horcrux continued as the black mist spun and shredded and finally disappeared.

Harry felt as though he was free of the body bind, but when he moved to clear the blood from his eyes, he still couldn't manage to lift his arm.  Voldemort was far from uninjured himself: Neville's jab with the Sword of Gryffindor had left him listing to the right; he was burned more badly than Harry had realised; and various curses had cut his arms and torn to shreds his right leg. He unsteadily pointed his spare wand; both his hands shook badly.

“You were a horcrux, you miserable brat! You were my last horcrux, and you knew it!” he screamed.

Harry fought to his feet. “None left... and now... I'm going to end this...” he stammered.

Voldemort shrieked, “You think you've won? I think not: the prophecy says that only you can kill me, horcruxes or not – doesn't it? That's what it was all about. I should have realised that from the start.”

“They're horcruces... bloody twit...” Harry ground out.

Voldemort ignored him; he said, “I can still copy myself again, and again, and again... who will stop me? You? You are a defeated schoolboy without a wand. Well then... I haven't the proper ritual stones for the task just now, so the order of deaths matters not. Goodbye, Harry Potter.”

A quiet Expelliarmus came from the far side of the chamber. Voldemort's wand shook and clattered from his grasp.
“The blood traitor still lives?” Voldemort rasped. He tried to summon his wand with a wave of his hand, but it only shuddered.

Harry managed to reach across his body with his left hand and knock the elder wand loose from his pocket. He rolled to the floor, left arm outstretched, and the wand skittered into his hand. He cast the only spell that he knew for certain the temperamental wand would accept from him.

“EXPECTO PATRONUM!”

Voldemort hissed at the approach of Harry's silvery stag. “You think to ward me off, do you? Ridiculous, boy!” he boasted.  The stag cantered around Ginny, whose wand was loose in her hand; it looked as if she was trying to speak but failing at it. Voldemort leant to pick up his wand, but then stumbled backward and raised his arm to shield his eyes.

“I won't let you hurt her again,” Harry said. He painfully rose to his feet. Just as at Hogwarts, the patronus stag continued to hold its place even though his wand and his thoughts were directed elsewhere.

What magic is this?” Voldemort demanded, even as he backed toward the side of the room.

Harry drew strength from somewhere.  He said, “Ollivander told us about someone who made too many copies of a magical something-or-another. In the end, it wasn't anything like the original. You can try to copy yourself, but it won't work.

“Nonsense – Lord Voldemort's magic knows no constraints,” Voldemort scoffed, though he couldn't let his arm down for fear of looking upon the stag.

Harry closed in on the Dark Lord; he said, “You're not very good at maths, either. I've thought about this for a while now. If you've actually managed to split your soul, then there's a little less left to split each time. You said there were seven equal segments, but I don't think so. The first split left you with half a soul, the next with a fourth, and so on, and so on. You're barely human any more... practically a dementor. Prongs!” The patronus stag dashed toward Voldemort, who now huddled against the wall.

Voldemort forced himself to look toward Harry and said, “We're at a stand-off, it seems. For whatever reason, I can't seem to stand against your patronus, but you can't attack me for fear of dispelling it. What happens now, Harry Potter? My men are surely closing in by now.”

Harry said, “I'm not so sure about that, Tom.”

“You will not call me by that name!” Voldemort snapped.

Harry went on, “Your men didn't come to you before. I figure they're all dead now.”

“Killed? I doubt that, Potter – stunned, perhaps, but not killed. Your people think like Aurors. My Death Eaters will rise again,” said Voldemort.

“No, I meant what I said. We didn't come today to take prisoners. Think about it. Macnair? Dead. Mulciber? Dead. Rookwood? Dead. Bellatrix? Dead.”

At that, Voldemort said, “You're lying!”

Harry pointed across the room and said, “She went through that door a few hours ago. I figure that she's dead. We're not taking prisoners, Tom. We came here to rid England of you and everyone with you. It's finished now. Somnus.

“What...?” was the last thing Voldemort said before he slid to the floor, soundly asleep. Harry's patronus stag immediately settled beside the unconscious Dark Lord.

Harry struggled toward Ginny; “Oh, God... can... can you hear me?” he asked.

Ginny coughed furiously and then managed to say, “Sleep? You... he's asleep?”

“I can't cast curses with this wand,” Harry said; “You hang on, Ginny – do you hear me?”

“Where's Hermione? Where is she?” Ginny asked him.

“Dobby!” Harry cried out.

The house-elf appeared nearly beneath Harry's feet; he barely managed to remain standing. “Yes, Harry Potter...? You... that... it's... is He dead?”

“He will be in a few minutes,” Harry said. “I need healers here, now. Ginny needs help. Neville and Magnus are in the corridor.”

“Dobby will do it, but what about Miss Granger...? Miss Granger? Dobby is calling, Miss Granger...” Dobby nudged Hermione's shoulder again and again, and Harry put everything he had into holding down the emotions roiling inside of him.

“She's dead, Dobby. Just... just get the healers, would you?” Harry asked.

4:55 AM

Harry didn't notice when Dobby returned. He barely registered the commotion around him. He waved off one healer – it might have been Madam Pomfrey, but he wasn't sure. He re-cast the Sleeping Charm on Voldemort and levitated his body toward the glowing door. Several people gasped at the sight, but he didn't care. He went back and picked up Hermione in his arms. There was an exquisite pain in his shoulder, but he wouldn't let it stop him.

“Mr. Potter! What are you doing?” someone called out.

Another said, “We were... we were about to collect the body, sir –”

He ignored it all and carried her with him to the door. It was awkward, but he somehow tapped the door the requisite three times, and said in a thick voice, “I ask permission to enter.” Nothing happened.

“I ask permission to enter,” he repeated. Still, nothing happened.

“Please let me in... I have to finish this... please let me in, or it will have all been for nothing... please,” he begged. Just as earlier in the morning, the door became brighter and brighter until the entire Room of Doors was washed in a white light that flickered and danced on every surface.

The white fog that had earlier reached out for Bellatrix Lestrange pooled on the floor and swirled around Voldemort's sleeping form. Slowly, almost as if he were on a funeral bier, his body drifted into the fog and disappeared into the Room beyond.

“Thank you,” Harry whispered.

Something urged him to step forward. It wasn't so much a voice as feelings that he sensed. He was being invited in. He heard pleas to stop, but the urging to enter the Room had to be satisfied. He knew there was no going back.

Once inside, the light dimmed enough for him to open his eyes without blinking back tears, but there was still no sense of walls or boundaries of any kind – it was just a white endlessness. He turned and couldn't see a door behind him.

He dropped to his knees but somehow kept Hermione in his arms. Her head settled limply in the crook of his neck. He was running on something outside of himself, he knew; it was almost impossible that he was still conscious.

“I'm sorry,” he said; “I never wanted to kill anyone. I never wanted any of this to happen.”

It wanted to know what his purpose was, what he was asking for. It wanted to know why he had been drawn into the war in the first place. It wanted to know why he brought Voldemort to it rather than killing the Dark Lord himself. It wanted to know his deepest hopes, dreams, fears and wishes. It wanted to know him, he realised. He couldn't fight it, and wasn't sure he would put up a fight if he could. It rifled through his memories but the feeling was of a soft caress. It was taking care of him.

What do you want?

It didn't actually speak aloud, but it may as well have spoken – the question was perfectly clear.

“You can't give me what I want. She's dead,” he said aloud.

What do you want?

“I just... tell me she's... that she's somewhere safe, that's she's all right... that's all I need to know,” he said, and somehow he knew that she was.

What do you want?

“How do I set you free? Whoever you are, or whatever you are, this isn't right. You're not supposed to be locked up like this. I... I want to make things right,” he said.

The light became brighter and brighter until he had to squeeze his eyes shut. He could still sense the brightness through his eyelids, and there was a gentle warmth, and a breeze, and then nothing at all – pure darkness. He opened his eyes.

He was on his knees in a dimly lit and empty metal-walled room; its only feature was the open door behind him. Voldemort's body was gone. Hermione's body was gone as well.  There was nothing left.  He fell forward into the darkness.

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