Harry stopped pacing the floor of the hospital ward when Buffy came out from behind the curtain that had been drawn around Dawn’s bed. “How is she? Can I see her?”
“Madam Pomfrey gave her something to sleep,” said Buffy. “She says she’s going to be fine, in time.” Buffy wasn’t as sure as she sounded. Even if Dawn recovered physically, what would what she had been through do to her?
Harry seemed to be thinking the same thing. “I’m sure she’ll be okay. She’s strong.”
“I hope so,” said Buffy. “She’s been through so much… I’m afraid that one day… Sometimes it seems easier to just give up.”
“But not today,” said Harry. “Not after what they did to her.”
“You’re right.” Buffy lifted the necklace that was still dangling from her hand, and looked at it again. “I seem to recall someone telling me that these Portkey things are reversible.”
“That’s right,” said Hermione. “They contain the memory of where they came from, and can take you back there.”
Buffy’s eyes hadn’t left her cross. “I think it’s time I taught these Death Eater guys that it isn’t a good idea to piss off a Slayer.”
“Two Slayers,” said Kennedy.
“Three,” said Ginny.
Buffy looked at her. “I promised your parents not to put you into a fight before you’re eighteen.”
“This fight came to me,” said Ginny. “And you’d already burned down your first school building when you were my age.”
“And she’s going to have her big brother watching her back,” said Ron.
Buffy looked around the room, taking in the looks on everyone’s faces. She could see the same determination on all of them. She focused on Dumbledore for a moment, wondering if he would raise an objection to his students taking part in the assault. He didn’t. “Okay, everyone who’s coming, follow me.” She turned and strode away toward the exit. No one stayed behind.
“Where are we going?” asked Ron as he followed Buffy down the hall.
“The Room of Requirement,” said Buffy. “I didn’t pack any weapons.”
Buffy looked around at everyone. She, Kennedy, Ginny and Giles all had staffs, and nearly everyone had at least one knife. Buffy had briefly considered going back to their house in Westbury to get the Scythe, but she decided against it. For the most part the Death Eaters were human, and she was still reluctant to kill them—and the Scythe was made for killing things. There was at least one Death Eater she was ready to make an exception for though, if she could identify the one that had hurt Dawn. Harry, Ron and Hermione had decided to rely mainly on their wands, and Professor Dumbledore had refused to take any weapon beyond his wand.
“When we get there, we work in teams,” said Buffy. “Slayer and magic. Harry, you’re with me. Kennedy’s with Willow. Ron and Hermione with Ginny. Giles with Dumbledore. Everyone stick with your partners.” She looked around to be sure that everyone understood their assignments.
“We don’t know what we are going up against,” said Giles. He looked at Dumbledore. “Perhaps we could get some Aurors to help us?”
“No time,” said Buffy. “The longer we wait, the more likely they’ll have either cleared out, or set up an ambush for us. If we’re lucky they don’t know Dawn’s gone yet.”
“Very well, Miss Summers. May I have your necklace again, please?” Dumbledore held out his hand.
“Here you go,” Buffy dropped her necklace into it.
Dumbledore held it out, holding the chain, and letting the cross dangle. “Now everyone take hold of part of the chain.”
They all crowded around Professor Dumbledore and reached out to take hold of the chain. It was a tight fit. “All right,” said Dumbledore. “Here we go. Three…two…one…”
Buffy felt the yank just behind her navel, and the world spun around her. When it stopped spinning she found she was in a much smaller and darker space. A space with a very pungent odour to it. It seemed that the only thing that kept a couple of their party from falling over was that there wasn’t room for them to fall over. The nine of them were all crowded into a tiny six by six cell. Her inner fury at the Death Eaters grew even more at the thought of Dawn being held here.
Buffy turned toward the door. “Give me a little room.” She nudged her companions to get them to back away as much as they could.
Hermione had raised her wand and was pointing at the lock on the door. “Aloho—”
Clang! Buffy’s boot had hit the door before Hermione’s spell was finished, and the door sprang open. Bits of metal from the broken lock fell to the floor. Buffy turned to look at Hermione. “I’m sorry, what were you about to do?”
“Never mind,” said Hermione.
They all spilled out into the torch lit corridor. “You think anyone heard that?” asked Ron.
His question was answered by a muffled voice from the far end of the hall. “What does it take to keep that mudblood bitch quiet?” Buffy heard a door opening, and raced toward it. The Death Eater coming down the stairs stepped into the corridor just in time to have Buffy’s staff hit him in the face. He was also hit by combination of Stupefy, Impedimentia, and Petrificus curses before he hit the floor.
Buffy heard a commotion from beyond the door at the top of the stairs. Whoever was up there knew that something was happening. She decided not to give them the chance to prepare for an attack. She ran up the stairs, taking them four at a time, and hit the door at the top, taking it right off its hinges. She barely paused to take in the scene: half a dozen black cloaked wizards raising their wands toward her. She leapt as the curses started to fly.
Buffy was clear of the door before the first curse hit. Kennedy wasn’t so lucky. She was hit by the full force of a Stupefy as she came through the door after the older Slayer. It wasn’t enough to knock her out, but she was staggered by the force of the spell. It didn’t make any difference to the outcome though. Buffy was already among the Death Eaters, spinning and striking with her staff and her feet. It was all over in seconds, and none of the Death Eaters were left standing.
Buffy took the time to look around while Professor Dumbledore moved around the people she had taken out, diswanding, and binding them. She looked at Kennedy. “You okay?”
“Hunky dory!” said Kennedy. “I’ll be fine as soon as the room stops spinning.”
Hermione pointed her wand at Kennedy. “Ennervate!”
“Whoa!” said Kennedy. “That’s quite the little pick-me-up!”
“Which way now?” asked Buffy. They appeared to be in the entry hall of a large house, with several doors around them, and a grand staircase leading up to another floor.
Willow pointed up the stairs. “I’m feeling some really dark power up that way.”
“Okay,” said Buffy. “Everyone stick together. No running off on your own!” She led the way up the stairs.
Harry found himself struggling to keep up with Buffy, Kennedy and Ginny as they ran up the stairs, and he wasn’t the only one. Ron, Hermione and Willow were lagging a little behind as well, and Giles and Dumbledore brought up the rear.
There was a broad landing at the top of the stairs, and the Slayers paused for a moment to let the others catch up with them. Buffy pointed to a large pair of doors in front of her. “Through there?”
Harry nodded. He could feel what Willow had sensed from down below now. “Through there.”
Buffy stepped up to the doors and gave them a kick in the centre, where they met. They crashed open, with the sound of splintering wood. Buffy stepped through into the next room, with Ginny and Kennedy flanking her. “Who here ordered an ass kicking?”
Harry looked past Buffy, and saw a frozen tableau of about a dozen Death Eaters in their black robes and masks all looking toward the door. No one moved for a second that seemed to drag on forever. It was ended by a wordless growl that came from the Death Eaters. They raised their wands and pointed them toward the door.
Ginny dove left, and Kennedy dove right as a flurry of curses flew toward the door. Buffy leapt over the initial volley and came down moving fast. The others, behind the Slayers, were saved from the blast by a quick shield spell that Willow threw up.
Buffy wasn’t able to tear through these Death Eaters as quickly as she had the ones downstairs. The room was bigger, and they were more spread out. On the other hand, her support had time to catch up with her this time. It wasn’t just one Slayer attacking the Death Eaters. Ginny and Kennedy were attacking too, with magical fire support. Harry stuck with Buffy, like she’d told him, using his wand to shield her from attack, and firing off his own curses when the opportunity presented itself. Ron and Hermione were doing the same for Ginny, with Hermione concentrating on protection, while Ron concentrated on offence. Willow was providing an almost impenetrable shield for Kennedy, while Dumbledore hung back from the fight, providing a little extra protection wherever he saw it was needed.
Giles attacked with his staff. He didn’t move as quickly as the Slayers, but Harry thought he made up for his lack of speed with an extra level of viciousness. His lack of speed cost him though. He was caught by the red blast of a stunner spell that was fired by someone lurking through one of the side entrances to the room. Harry sent his own Stupefy curse through the same doorway an instant later, but he couldn’t see if it hit anyone.
Giles wasn’t their only casualty. Hermione fell to a full body bind spell—she had been concentrating on protecting Ginny from a barrage of stunners. The sudden loss of Hermione’s protection let Ginny get hit by a Stupefy. It took her out of the fight for several seconds while she recovered, but it didn’t matter. It took a little longer than it had downstairs, but soon there were no Death Eaters left standing. The last few escaped through a doorway hidden behind an ornate raised chair.
Harry took the opportunity to look around while Dumbledore released Hermione from the body bind, and revived Giles. They were in a large room that was hung in black tapestries adorned with a red snake emblem. The floor was highly polished black marble. The lighting came from torches spaced around the walls. The ceiling overhead was midnight black. Harry couldn’t tell if there was even a ceiling there at all, it was nothing but a black abyss.
Ron put what Harry was thinking into words: “Looks like we’ve found Voldemort’s throne room.”
“Yeah, but where’s the head snake?” asked Buffy. Her eyes kept scanning the room, keeping a watch on the side entrances. Several Death Eaters had sniped at them from those doorways during the fight, but there was no sign of them now. Her Slayer senses were telling her that something evil was nearby though. “Willow, are you getting anything?”
Willow pointed toward the throne. “That way.”
Giles was looking around warily too. “Are you sure this is a good idea?” he asked. “So far we’ve had the element of surprise, but now they know we’re here, and they’ll have had a chance to regroup, call in reinforcements. Maybe set up an ambush.”
Buffy looked around at the Death Eaters on the floor, all of whom Dumbledore was diswanding, and binding like the others downstairs. “So far we’ve done nothing but take out minions. I want the head guy.”
“And he wants you,” hissed a voice from behind the throne. A figure stepped out into the room, clad in black robes, trimmed with red. Buffy could see the bone white skin of his face under his hood, and the burning red eyes. More Death Eaters started to appear from the side entrances to the throne room, surrounding them.
“So you’re Lord Moldywart,” said Buffy. “Can’t say I’m impressed.”
Voldemort hissed. “You will pay for your insolence, Muggle!” His skeletal hand lifted a slender wand. “Imperio!”
Buffy heard a whispering in her mind. It was a soothing voice, telling her what to do. “Kill the boy, and the old man,” it urged her. “It will be easy. Take your knife and slash their throats.” It sounded like such a reasonable thing to do. She knew she would be happy if she just did that one simple thing. It wouldn’t be any bother at all. Her hand went to the hilt of the knife sheathed at her belt.
Buffy’s hand moved too fast for anyone to follow it. She snatched the knife from her belt, and let it fly, straight into Voldemort’s heart. There was a gasp from the Death Eaters as he staggered back.
“Save your mind control crap for the tourists!” said Buffy.
Voldemort didn’t collapse to the floor the way Buffy expected him to. He let out a laugh that chilled everyone who heard it to the bone. His hand came up and pulled the knife out of his chest. “You think your Muggle toys can harm me?” He held up the knife, and Buffy saw that there was no blood on its blade. He tossed it aside. “Destroy them!”
The Death Eaters surrounding them let forth a barrage of curses. Willow’s hands flew up. “Protege!” A golden shell surrounded them all, and the curses were reflected harmlessly away, but no one inside her shield could do anything about their attackers, either.
“It seems that there is one among you who has a little power,” hissed Voldemort. “No matter.” He pointed his wand at Willow. “Avada Kedavra!”
Green fire from Voldemort’s wand crashed against Willow’s shield. The power of the curse was attenuated, but it wasn’t stopped. Willow screamed as it hit her. She and her shield collapsed.
“Willow!” screamed Kennedy. She turned toward Voldemort. “You bastard!” She charged at him, heedless of everyone else in the room. She was caught in a crossfire of curses, and collapsed to the floor.
Buffy had wanted to join in Kennedy’s head on attack on Voldemort, but years of experience didn’t let her. She held her grief and rage in check, channelling it into a remorseless attack on the Death Eaters around her. First she’d deal with them, and then she’d deal with Voldemort.
They broke up into their teams as they attacked. Harry stuck with Buffy—shielding her from the curses flying at them from all around—and Ron and Hermione shielded Ginny, while the Slayers attacked the Death Eaters.
Unfortunately, there had been a very ruthless form of natural selection taking place with the Death Eaters. The ones who were still conscious were the ones who knew to stay away from the Slayers, and snipe from a distance. They too had learned to work in teams of two or more, each providing cover for their partner, and they had more teams. There were always Death Eaters free to snipe at the Slayers without having to worry about protecting themselves from attack. Ginny was the next to fall, caught by a curse that got past Ron and Hermione’s protection spells, and then Giles got knocked out again. Dumbledore moved to help cover Ron and Hermione.
Voldemort stayed aloof through most of the fight. Only contributing a laugh from time to time, as someone fell. He seemed to find the casualties taking place on both sides to be equally amusing. He didn’t deign to join in until Buffy, Harry and Dumbledore were the only non-Death Eaters left standing. They stood back to back in a triangle as the Death Eaters slowly closed in on them.
“Enough!” said Voldemort. He raised his wand and pointed it at Buffy. “Crucio!”
Buffy screamed as the pain ripped through her body. Her staff clattered to the floor, and she fell to her knees. Harry and Dumbledore both sent curses flying at Voldemort, but they were deflected by other Death Eaters. Voldemort slowly came forward, Death Eaters parting to make way for him.
Voldemort released Buffy from the Cruciatus curse. She reached for her staff, and climbed back to her feet, rage burning in her eyes. “I am going to kill you slowly,” she hissed at him through gritted teeth.
“You think so?” asked Voldemort. “I think it is you who is about to die.” He pointed his wand again.
Harry could feel the power gathering in Voldemort, and he knew the words he was about to say. He desperately tried to think of something, anything he could do to stop what was about to happen. He felt the power concentrating, knowing that there was nothing that could stop it. He heard Voldemort begin to speak the words: “Avada—”
“No!” cried Harry. He could feel the power, and he could remember how Willow had pulled power out of Kennedy and Anya that day over a year ago. He reached out with his hand, and his mind reached into Voldemort. He ripped the power out of him.
Voldemort gasped, and fell to his knees. Harry felt the power filling him, and with it the rage, the envy, and the loathing. Rage at the world that had abused him as a child. The envy for all those things that others had, that had been denied him. The loathing of everything around him. Harry looked down at Voldemort on his knees, and his rage grew. This man— this thing had stolen his family from him. It had hurt and killed his friends. He stepped toward it.
Buffy looked at Harry, and saw the rage in his face. She saw the solid black of his eyes. “Uh-oh.”
The Death Eaters were too stunned by seeing their master fall to do anything. They stood motionless as Harry approached Voldemort. They watched as Harry knelt, and placed his hand on Voldemort’s chest. “You don’t deserve to live!” he hissed. His hand started to glow as he sucked every little bit of power remaining out of Voldemort. It was an empty husk that fell to the floor when he was done.
A deathly silence filled the throne room when Harry stood again. He slowly turned, looking at all the Death Eaters around them. It was impossible to tell in the dim light, but Buffy knew that Harry’s hair was coal black, matching his eyes. His face was lined with dark veins, and it terrified her. She remembered when Willow had looked like that. “Harry, you have to stop this,” she whispered.
Harry let out a wordless cry of rage. A ring of magic burst out from him, knocking all the Death Eaters around them flying back against the walls. They fell to the floor, and they didn’t get up. Harry stood still for a moment, panting for air. The veins showing on his face faded, his eyes reverted to their clear green. He collapsed to the floor.
Buffy and Dumbledore stood still for a moment, the only ones left standing. The floor around them was littered with bodies. Dumbledore moved first, stepping forward, and kneeling beside Harry.
Buffy spun around, looking for Willow. She spotted her a few yards away, lying in a surprisingly clear area of the floor. She jumped over the unconscious bodies of several Death Eaters as she rushed toward her.
Buffy dropped to the floor and gathered up her friend in her arms. She let the grief she had been holding in come pouring out, and she started to cry. “Oh god Willow, I’m so sorry!” She held Willow’s face against her chest.
“So ’m I,” came Willow’s muffled voice.
“What?” Buffy took hold of Willow’s shoulders and pushed her back. “Will! You’re alive!”
“I’m still waiting for a second opinion on that one,” said Willow.
“Oh Willow!” Buffy pulled Willow back, and hugged her even tighter.
“Gack!” said Willow. “Slayer strength!”
Buffy quickly let go of her. “Oh! Sorry.”
“’S okay,” said Willow. “Jus’ le’me sleep for a week or two…I’ll be fine.” She snuggled up against Buffy, closed her eyes, and passed out again.
|Chapter 52: Rescue||Contents||Chapter 54: Cleanup|