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Red eyes glowed hot as coals above a cold grin. Voldemort’s dark robes steamed as he stood over tattered bodies and blood-drenched stones.
‘My power is supposed to be love, according to Dumbledore,’ Harry said, stifling the churning anxiety in his stomach. ‘I’m going to throw amortentia at you and run away.’
Voldemort’s crimson eyes narrowed. ‘There is no such thing as love. It is a child’s desperate wish. Dandelion seeds sailing into the sea on a cold wind.’ He raised his wand and cut the right sleeve from his robes, letting the scrap of black fabric float away into the dead. ‘If love is your weapon, your death is certain.’ The cold grin returned. ‘But you do not have love, do you, Harry? The girl is dead. Your dreams are spent. All that is left is power.’
Harry flexed his fingers on the Elder Wand. ‘You are nothing.’
A flinch spasmed across Voldemort’s face. ‘I am the greatest wizard that has ever lived! I’ve mastered magic other wizards cannot begin to comprehend, let alone cast!’
‘You’re nothing. Nobody.’ Harry took a step further forward into the rain. ‘Tom is forgotten, less than a memory. I am the Dark Lord’s equal, not Tom’s.’
Voldemort’s face twisted into a glare. ‘Tom. Voldemort. They are just names. Means to an end. I am here. I am great.’ He thrust his wand at the corpses, bathing them in an eerie yellow aura of magic. ‘It doesn’t matter what title they whisper their pleas and curses to. It doesn’t matter what names they call me. I won’t be forgotten. I will exist forever.’
The bodies rose, jerking and spasming onto their hands and feet. Nails, hair and teeth elongated, skin swelled up, cracking and hardening, dead faces twisting into snarls.
‘If I kill you here, you won’t return,’ Harry said. ‘I can guarantee that.’
‘My horcruxes.’ Raw fury blazed in Voldemort’s scarlet irises and he swept his wand forward. ‘I will tear you limb from limb, Harry. Your death will be the moment in which I restore my immortality. Your defeat will be total and my victory, final.’
Harry allowed himself a small smile and a moment of quiet satisfaction. ‘Not if I kill you.’
The inferi hurled themselves forward. Ron’s wild red mane trailed behind him as his defiled corpse lunged ahead of the pack. Harry bathed the horde in Fiendfyre, turning the first couple to ash. Voldemort’s magic washed into the crimson flames and they exploded beyond control.
Merde. Harry abandoned the Fiendfyre and forced his magic into the air, sweeping the inferi back against the walls.
Voldemort squashed the flames and unleashed a storm of spells. Harry deflected them away, releasing a stream of butterflies from the tip of the Elder Wand. They swarmed upon the inferi in a cloud of dark wings, turning them to dust.
‘Lacero.’ Harry slipped other curses into his assault between wand motions, burying Voldemort in a hail of hexes.
Voldemort batted the first three curses aside and apparated across the courtyard. Harry’s spells scored long, dark scorch marks into the stones as he twisted around, continuing his attack. Voldemort hurled his own spells back. They exploded in the middle of the yard, crackling beams melting sizzling holes through the stone cloisters and sparks showering down onto the thin veil of dark dust beneath their feet. The tree in the corner withered and burst into flames.
Harry transfigured the stone behind Voldemort into serpents and sent them lunging forward into the shivering aura of Voldemort’s magic. They melted into smoking, bubbling orange pools a metre from his back.
‘Contusio.’ Voldemort flicked a string of silver beads of light from the tip of his wand.
Harry threw up a shield, wincing as the silver sparks burst against it in a bright flash and deafening clap. Bright red spells punched through the bright wall of magic.
Merde. He apparated up to the roof, stripping the tiles from it and hurling them down at Voldemort in a wave of lichen-patched stone.
‘Fulminis.’ Voldemort obliterated the tiles in a brilliant white flash.
Harry apparated back down into the courtyard as the roof exploded behind him. Voldemort whipped the crackling beam of lightning back ‘round, slicing through stonework like butter.
‘Fulminis,’ Harry cried, unleashing his own.
White light seared at his eyes. Harry threw up his shield and blinked the green spots from his vision as washes of colour burst across the wall of pale light protecting him. A flash of green hissed over his head.
He apparated across the courtyard and gulped in a few deep breaths.
Cracked, charred columns lay strewn across the flagstones amongst a mound of shattered tiles and dust. Molten stone steamed and smoked beneath where their spells had clashed.
‘See, Harry.’ Voldemort raised his wand, veiled in a shivering cloak of haze so hot the stones beneath his feet glowed and wept. ‘You are outmatched.’
He shoved a stab of fear down. No. It doesn’t matter how powerful he is. Harry flicked the Elder Wand and closed the air around Voldemort, smothering the shimmering aura to a faint flicker. I mustn’t lose.
Voldemort’s veil of magic tore free and a serpent’s maw lunged from the lava at the courtyard’s centre, thrusting its fangs at Harry. He transfigured the stone beneath into towering spikes puncturing the creature’s skin and splashing molten rock across the courtyard.
Voldemort’s soft laughter drifted over the hissing and sizzle of the lava. ‘See how strong I have made you? Everything I took, everything you sacrificed, it’s made you more powerful than any save myself.’ He twirled his yew wand in his fingers, showering the ground in silver sparks. ‘Be proud, Harry. There is no other wizard or witch who can almost call themselves my equal.’
Almost. A tight, bright point of cold welled within him. I didn’t lose Katie, Sirius, and so much more for almost.
Raindrops froze, falling to shatter on stones surrounding him. Hoarfrost crept in spirals from his feet and his breath misted in the air.
Voldemort’s crimson eyes narrowed. ‘You have surpassed spells, too.’ He thrust his wand out. ‘So be it.’
Die. Harry levelled the Elder Wand at him and forced every drop of power he could drag up through it. I need to be free.
Two waves of magic crashed together at the courtyard’s centre in a flickering, howling storm. Freezing and searing winds buffeted Harry, steam billowed into the sky, and sparks fountained across fractured stones. The flagstones beneath crumbled away to dust and stray arcs of magic flashed from the whirling cloud of magic like lightning, shattering columns and walls.
A dull, low throb settled in Harry’s limbs, biting deeper with every second. He clung on and clenched his jaw.
Voldemort bared his teeth and took a step forward, sweat trickling down the side of his pale skull. The ache sank its teeth further into Harry as he forced himself to take a pace toward the storm. Voldemort staggered a step closer, then another, clutching his bare wand arm with his free hand. Blood trickled from beneath his nails and dripped from his forearm.
The storm churned, bulging and bubbling, flickering with bright light. Beams of magic lanced from its whirl, scorching deep, glowing marks across the ground.
Harry dragged his right foot forward a step, but his left leg turned to lead and refused to move. The maelstrom burst, tossing him back into the wall like a rag doll. Pain exploded through him as he hauled himself up on the wall, his ribs grating with each gasp and a slick, hot tang of copper coating his tongue.
I can’t lose. He swiped sweat from his eyes and slashed his wand forward.
The hazy basilisk tore through Voldemort’s shield and smashed him against the gatehouse. He spluttered blood onto the stones, smearing red from his mouth on the back of his arm and stood.
A shimmer of magic fell over the castle.
‘The Ministry,’ Voldemort said, glancing up at the sky. ‘Come to desperately throw what little they have left at me.’
‘You’re outnumbered.’ Harry forced his wand up. ‘Trapped.’
‘We are both trapped.’ Voldemort’s bloodstained lips curled into a cold grin and he raised his yew wand, drawing a ribbon of silver light from its tip. ‘But you are spent.’
The silver ribbon snapped forward.
Harry clawed up what he could from the last dregs of his magic. ‘Fulminis,’ he gasped.
The bright white flash met the silver ribbon in a thunderclap in the air above them, shattering the Owlery tower behind him and the bridge beyond Voldemort. Stone crashed down around them, spilling into a great mound of rubble, and owls burst across the skies above the swirling dust.
Voldemort clambered up onto the heap, sweeping back the dust with a flick of his wand. ‘Ever you surpass my expectations, Harry.’ A strange gleam of hunger hovered in his scarlet irises. ‘If only I could let you live, watch you grow, see what you become.’
I’ve got nothing left. Harry dragged himself to his feet.
The yew wand snapped up.
He threw up a flickering, faint shield and conjured a swarm of dark butterflies. I can’t win. I can’t even apparate away to try again because the Ministry has trapped us here. A bubble of mirth burst in his throat, but the laughter died on his tongue. And after I’m dead, Voldemort won’t stop at Britain. One day, he’ll hurt Fleur.
Harry raised his wand and scrawled runes of purple flame into the air. ‘One final defeat,’ he whispered. ‘Then nothing.’ He finished the last of the runes and watched the colours burst against his shield, watched the butterflies explode into wisps of dark mist, and felt the emptiness claw at his heart. ‘You’ll have me soon enough,’ he told it. ‘Forever. But you can’t have her.’
All that time trying not to repeat my mistakes and I never learnt. Harry closed his eyes and let the silver-haired, green-eyed girl dance and laugh with her mother behind cold glass. Perfect wishes don’t come true.
He opened his eyes, drawing the magic in the purple runes into himself as the last of his butterflies exploded into black mist and his shield burst. Voldemort swept the smoke away and levelled his wand at Harry’s heart.
Harry let the Elder Wand slide through his fingers.
Voldemort’s eyes widened. The question hung in them, off every line in the shock upon his face.
Why? Harry drew himself up and let a small smile spread across his lips. For Fleur. As always.
A brilliant emerald flash washed the world away.