Grazhir :: Harry Potter :: One Winged Angel :: 35 :: Let’s Dance

35 • Let’s Dance

Harry and Tom did, actually, make use of the time turner Tom had mentioned, simply on the off chance someone nosy (Dumbledore, perhaps?) decided to try to find out just exactly when Harry had managed to get to Gringotts to investigate his finances. Harry had already been on his walk that day so he knew there would be no problem for him to turn back time for several hours and slip off either with Dobby’s help or a portkey. And indeed, he returned to the house on Privet Drive with no one seemingly the wiser for his visit to the bank.

They repeated the process on Tuesday. Greltack seemed rather amused to see them and they spent most of both visits simply talking, though Harry did finally mention the name he would be using, just so the goblin would know beforehand. Greltack’s only question of any substance was in regard to Harry’s eventual appearance, which threw him for a slight loop.

“You know, I never did decide on that,” he admitted. “I’m not so sure I should use what I am now.” He gave Tom an uncertain look. “Ash, what do you think?”

Tom hid his surprise well at the use of his assumed name. “People may see the resemblance, vague as it is, but most people don’t seem to be very perceptive, I’m afraid. However, you might consider changing your eyes to blue, not grey. It would be one step further away.”

“You are referring to Sirius Black?” asked Greltack.

Harry nodded. “I really couldn’t think of anything else at the time, and I don’t think he would have minded.”

“I’m sure he wouldn’t,” Tom said supportively. “And on that note, we should probably get going. Greltack, you’ve been most kind to let us sit with you again.”

Greltack inclined his head. “It is no trouble, and I assure you that should Dumbledore make inquiries he will learn nothing more than the law demands, and less than that if I can manage it.”

“Brilliant. Thank you,” Harry said with a smile. “Until next time.”

And so Harry returned from the bank for the second time in less than a week, completely unobstructed. He shook his head over that. It was so appallingly easy to fool the Order. And he knew they were only doing what they thought was best, or wanted to believe that, but it did not change the fact that they were, overall, woefully inadequate. Whether that was their fault or Dumbledore’s really didn’t matter in the long run. Not anymore, anyway.

Harry was nearly vibrating with anticipation by the time late evening arrived that Saturday. A note had already gone with Dobby in order to inform Ron that Harry would be removed that night, but even then it was couched in very vague terms. He was in the middle of dashing off a note to explain his abrupt absence when he sensed Tom drawing close, and glanced over to see what appeared to be the Weasley twins climbing in through his window. After a quick nod he finished it up and left it on the desk, then waited.

No one said a word for several minutes, then one of the twins suddenly spoke in a loud, harsh whisper. “Harry! You need to come with us, mate.”

“What in Merlin’s name are you two doing here? You’re going to wake up my uncle if you aren’t careful.”

“Damn it, Harry, Ron’s in St. Mungo’s. The Order has no intention of telling you either. Bloody hell, you’re of age now. They can’t stop you from coming!”

Harry shot out of his chair, making sure it scraped back across the floor for effect. “What!?” he practically shrieked, then lowered his voice immediately. “What’s happened? Why is he at hospital? Why would they keep this from me?”

A slight noise at the door was studiously ignored. “Because, Harry,” one of them drawled, “it’s not safe. You might get hurt. You might put Ron in danger.”

“What happened?” he demanded in a deadly tone.

One sighed loudly and said, “That blasted brain attack finally caught up with him. He’s completely delusional, keeps wailing about your death like it’s in the past. Nobody can get through to him. We thought maybe you could. If you’re actually right there with him, he might be able to pull out of whatever fantasy world he’s stuck in. Now will you please get your things?”

And like a good, reckless hero, Harry starting tossing things around the room as though trying to figure out what to take. A twin made as though to open his wardrobe, only to stop when Harry said, “Forget the damn clothes. I’d only end up burning them later.”

He dived under the bed and yanked a few things out, crawling on his knees to his trunk to open it and chuck them in. “Grab those books off the desk. I don’t plan on coming back here.” He had no doubt it would be Tom answering that request, if only to put in place the letter he had prepared in advance to mock Dumbledore.

Within two minutes Harry was back on his feet and glancing around the room as though checking for anything he had missed. He skipped over to the desk quickly and made out as if he was writing a note, then pointed and said, “Right, grab that, will you? I’ll just get my broom and we’ll get the hell out of here.” He ducked back down and slid part way under the bed, jostling it for effect, and not incidentally placing the time turner near one of the legs, then scrambled back out with his broom in hand.

“Let’s go. If Ron needs me, I’ll damn well go no matter what the Order has to say about it. Hedwig will find me like always.” He switched off the light, and they were off out the window. In point of fact, they only flew a short distance before they landed, though it was well outside any wards Dumbledore may have placed in the area. After an exchange of glances, a portkey was produced, and they very quickly disappeared.

Harry flopped onto the first seat he saw and exhaled, then looked at the other two men. One of them shifted to Tom, while the other waved his wand and became Snape. “Well?”

“I think that went well,” Tom said. “Your darling cousin was right where he should be, due to an unexplained urge to listen at the keyhole, and will tell his parents in the morning that you’ve dashed off. They will receive the news with a certain amount of enthusiasm, probably have dinner out to celebrate, and hope that they never again see one of our kind.”

Harry arched a brow. “Then they will be disappointed when some of them come to question them on my disappearance. If nothing else, Dudders can honestly report on what he overheard, and saw if he was peeking. He’ll probably be overjoyed to get his spare room back, too.”

Tom furrowed his brow. “I should probably make sure they do not disturb the room for several days. I would become annoyed if our evidence was binned by an idiot because I didn’t think far enough ahead.”

Severus snorted softly, then said something truly remarkable. “With you two checking the angles, I sincerely doubt you’d miss much.”

Tom turned his head lazily and smiled. “Don’t sell yourself short, Severus. You are, after all, a brilliant man, and have pointed out some severe oversights already.”

“You’re far too kind,” Severus retorted in a sweetly sarcastic tone. “I shall treasure this moment forever.”

Harry laughed; he just couldn’t help it.

*

Another note found its way to Ron to let him know Harry was safely with Tom, and Severus or Remus would inform them the moment the Order was aware of him being missing. And, of course, their reaction. Harry could almost have set his clock by it. Severus was called to a meeting of the Order before noon on Friday. They had taken almost an entire week to take alarm over him not stepping foot outside the house once in that time. He was starting to have unkind thoughts again. They would have to wait until after the meeting to know for sure.

As it was, Severus was popped into the Chamber library at around dinner time. After greeting them he said, “I was not about to stick around for a cozy meal with a legion of idiots. In any case, I would appreciate the use of a pensieve.”

Shortly thereafter all three were enjoying the dubious delights of the memory of an Order meeting.

“We are here to discuss the disappearance of Harry Potter,” Albus said gravely. “It is true that his guards had noticed a departure from his usual activities thus far this summer, but we all thought there was something he needed to work out on his own.”

The old man did not appear to notice the muttering and uncomplimentary expressions that suddenly erupted. “Remus was sent in to ascertain the situation, being one of the people most close to Harry,” he continued, then looked toward the werewolf. “If you would?”

Remus nodded, then appeared to collect his thoughts, looking as though he was barely restraining himself from doing something horribly foolish and destructive. “As most of you know Harry has been seen out and about this summer on a fairly regular basis. There was cause for concern when that stopped, but with no evidence that anything untoward was occurring, it was not investigated immediately. We all know he was extremely antisocial last year, so perhaps he was backsliding into that behavior again.

“However, it was my duty shift this morning. Owing to my much more sensitive hearing I was able to overhear something that seriously alarmed me and immediately contacted Albus to consult on what should be done. Once I had permission I entered the house to question the Dursleys.”

“And?” Molly demanded, half rising from her seat. A stern look from Dumbledore silenced her.

“Harry was lured away. The cousin heard something late that night on the ninth so he went to investigate, listened at the door and watched through the keyhole. He was able to tell me that two identical young men with red hair were in there with Harry, and—”

“There is no way my boys would have done this!” Molly shrieked, standing up quickly and attempting to loom over the table, a rather difficult thing to do by such a fairly short person.

“I didn’t say it was them,” Remus replied with exaggerated patience. “Please don’t jump to conclusions. I’m sure if they were questioned it would become clear they had nothing to do with this. May I continue?”

“Please do,” Albus said quickly.

Remus massaged his forehead and said, “Those two men spun a tale for Harry about Ron being in St. Mungo’s. They said that attack on his mind during the Department of Mysteries fiasco had finally caused him to become delusional, that he was claiming Harry was dead and wouldn’t listen to reason or believe otherwise. They also told Harry that the Order had no intention of letting him know, and that they believed Harry’s presence could pull Ron back to reality.

“Naturally, as soon as Harry heard that Ron needed him he threw all caution to the wind and tossed some things into his trunk, then flew off with them. We have no idea where he is or what’s happened to him. However”—he held up a firm hand to stop Molly from erupting again—“I did find a few peculiar things when I checked his bedroom.”

He ran rough hands through his hair and took a deep breath before reaching into his pockets. Remus placed a time turner on the table, which elicited several sounds of surprise, then produced a piece of parchment. “No, I have no idea where he could have gotten such a thing, or what he’d have used it for,” he said, then turned to Albus. “I don’t think you’re going to like this.” He indicated the parchment in his hand before passing it up the table.

Albus took a fair amount of time reading it. People at the table were moving restlessly in their seats, and Molly looked to be ready to bolt, probably of a mind to check to see that three of her sons were actually safe and healthy. Eventually he looked up with no trace of a sparkle in his eyes and swept his gaze over the assemblage.

“This is definitely the handiwork of Voldemort. While I cannot be certain he himself was one of the two men, it is likely given the contents of this letter.”

“But wouldn’t Harry have sensed his presence?” Minerva asked.

Albus shook his head slowly. “Not necessarily. If you recall, Severus was able to pass on that Voldemort began occluding his mind so that Harry could not inadvertently pick anything up from him. As I assume he has iron-clad control over that, it is possible he could stand right next to Harry and the boy would never realize it, especially if Voldemort was exercising similar control over his emotions. Harry also managed to come into his own with Occlumency.”

“The blood wards?” asked Hestia.

Albus looked thoughtful for a moment, then shook his head again. “It is not something I had considered in that light. Remember, please, that Voldemort did use Harry’s blood during his resurrection ritual. I must allow at this moment that there exists the barest possibility that if he had entered the wards without the intent to harm Harry, they would not have reacted.”

“Not harm!?”

Albus cast a patient look at Arthur. “Yes. His intent would have been the safe and quiet removal of Harry. In fact, thinking about it further, I would be surprised if it was not him personally. I sincerely doubt that his Death Eaters could have accomplished this mission without him being present. The temptation to subdue Harry by more forceful methods would have very attractive.”

“That’s a hell of a thing to hinge a theory on, Albus, and you know it,” said Moody.

Albus gave the faintest of shrugs and nodded. “If you wish to see it that way. Have you a better explanation?”

Moody scowled and sat back, clearly unhappy.

“Albus,” Remus said in a strained voice, “where do we go from here? Harry could already be dead for all we know.”

Molly choked back a sob at such blunt speech and leapt to her feet, dashing from the room a moment later. Albus watched her leave with a faint frown, then turned back to the remaining members. “We search for him, of course. Severus, you’ve not heard anything of note?”

Severus shook his head. “No, Albus. I would have told you. Whatever is going on, the Dark Lord has been keeping these plans very close to his chest. I would speculate, if it was him, that his companion was controlled via Imperius and obliviated afterward.” His tone was a mixture of irritation and admiration, something that occasioned more than one dark look in his direction.

The meeting broke up not long after that, and people had been assigned areas to sweep in the hope of finding some sign of Harry.

Harry looked over at Tom and said, “I think I’m in shock.”

“Why is that, Harry?”

“I almost can’t believe they fell for this. Do you really think we’re all right at this point?” Harry asked, casting him a look that clearly asked for reassurance and comfort.

“Yes,” he said with a nod.

“I would not trouble yourself,” Severus added. “All we need do at this point is move the remaining pieces into place, then stage the final conflict.” When it appeared that Harry was still uncertain he added, “I have been in close contact with Dumbledore for many years. While I will not presume to claim that I cannot be fooled, what I have seen does in no way alarm me or cause me any degree of suspicion.”

Tom could feel that Harry’s unease settled slightly, but not entirely. Uncaring of the fact that Severus was with them he reached out one hand and pulled his bonded to him, guiding him down onto his lap. “It will be all right, Harry. Very shortly this will be over, and that man will never be able to interfere with your life again.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just so . . . convenient.”

“That, my dear Harry, is why we are Slytherins,” Tom said with a smirk. “We like to see beneath the surface whenever possible. Others are not so curious or cautious. And if it makes you feel any better, I too will not be fully at ease until this is done with.” He paused to run a hand through his bonded’s hair before saying, “If you don’t object, you might benefit from a nap. Severus and I can continue to talk, and I’ll tell you whatever you wish once you’ve rested a bit.”

Harry nodded a bit reluctantly, but allowed himself to be guided off to the bedroom and tucked in after taking a sip of a potion to help soothe him. Tom returned to the library and sat back in his chair after getting a new glass of port.

“He is not usually so anxious,” observed Severus quietly.

“True.” He took a sip, deciding to be fairly open with his friend. “I think he’s scared.”

Severus arched a curious brow at him, not bothering to speak.

Tom shrugged. “Assume for a moment this did not work out as planned. Harry could see the entire wizarding world turn against him. Dumbledore might switch tactics to preserve his present position and cast him into the mud to be vilified and feared. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be worried that it is, in fact, too convenient. He forgets how much other people tend to bury their heads in the sand. We have over time presented a very believable scenario for people to swallow and digest. Right now, he is so close to freedom that he’s starting to choke up on the idea that it might be denied him, however unlikely.”

Severus nodded and changed the subject. “The Inferi?”

“They are already in place. Really, all we must do now is decide on the exact day and time to proceed. I would prefer it to happen during an Order meeting, though I know it might not be possible. Still, that does depend on how you feel about it as well. If you’d rather not be put in that position of vulnerability in front of so many, we won’t bother with that detail.”

Severus did not speak for several minutes. Tom assumed he was mulling the choice over in his mind. “To be perfectly honest, I lean toward not. I am not personally concerned at this time, but perhaps the brat’s comments should not be taken too lightly. He has spoken of convenience. What are the odds that it happening at exactly such a moment would raise suspicion in Albus’s mind?”

“That is a good point,” Tom said, swirling his glass around. “Maybe it is too convenient.” There was silence again for a time, then he said, “Tell me something, if you will. Assume that none of this had ever happened, and that Harry did manage to defeat Voldemort and your Dark Mark disappeared as a result. How would you have reacted?”

Severus gave him an intense look, then considered. “Outwardly tense, suspicious. Inwardly? I’m almost ashamed to admit I would likely be near to weeping with relief. I would have gone straight to Albus to show him.”

Tom nodded and had another sip. “Then we will not. You will know, of course, but you can simply rush off to see Albus once you recover. Well, that won’t be necessary. If you were at your home, I doubt anyone could get to you in such a state, so it should be safe to not bother with that aspect. Do you agree?”

“Yes.”

“Shall we discuss the control conditioning, then? I would like to hear your renewed thoughts on that. It’s not something I would normally talk about around Harry, since there are things he just doesn’t want to know.”

“I do not see any problems. They both seem to be firmly entrenched in their current identities thanks to those potions, not to mention your mental control. It should only take a bit of nudging in my opinion to start them off in that fight. The transfigurations are also set and cannot be cancelled, so that is not an issue. I do wonder at how well you’re holding up, however. Five people at once must not be easy for you.”

“I am weary, but I can hold on for a little while longer. The fact that those two sleep a great deal of the time helps immensely. I suppose the next thing to consider is what happens once those released wake up to find the bodies. I can certainly collapse the wards on the property.”

“I’m not sure.” Severus rose long enough to refill his glass. “Some of them might seek to be helpful, no doubt to help themselves as well, and take the remains to the Ministry, or at least call them in. You don’t plan to have every Death Eater present so it will cause some alarm all its own when some of them drop dead unexpectedly.”

He chuckled in amusement over that image. It was a damn shame Lucius couldn’t keel over in front of someone he was schmoozing at the Ministry when the time came. “I suppose I could make a few suggestions,” he said. “We will be there, after all. I could completely lose my head and start screeching out ideas. Surely one of them will get the bright idea to comply.”

Severus gave him a sharp look, then smirked. “Indeed. If nothing else, while they are unconscious, you can do a bit of tidying up. And there is nothing to say you cannot have several Death Eaters at the Ministry that day on errands, even if they make little sense.”

“All right. How long do you think we should wait to move now that Dumbledore is aware of his stupidity?”

“Term will begin in just over two weeks. We ought to move quickly. While much amusement could be garnered by stretching things out and making the Order sweat over their inability to gain any ground, I don’t think that would be wise. Granted, the Dark Lord has a reputation from the past of toying with the boy, but he has already done so for a week now. Surely he would wish him dead quickly at this point to lessen any chance of interference.”

“Assuming that our duplicate looks suitably roughed up. . . . “ He looked over at Severus and smiled. “Are you doing anything on Tuesday, my good man?” he asked cheerfully.

*

Harry took a few deep breaths. Ron had already been informed of their plans, once again couched in very vague terms, but in such a way that he knew would be understood. They had, after all, spent some time devising code phrases before they left the school, just for that purpose. Hedwig, of course, had totally disappeared from public view, and had already been subjected to her new look.

Harry’s first view of Voldemort’s stand-in had startled him rather a lot. It was shocking, and almost frightening, to have Tom so close by and yet also see a precise duplicate of the man he had battled so many times in the past. That same unhealthy pallor, those same snake-like nostrils, and those same slit-pupiled red eyes. It made him want to shudder and whip out his wand. He quite nearly laughed and blushed at the same time when he realized he had positioned himself in front of Tom protectively.

His duplicate was equally shocking, but for a different reason. That man looked as though he had been underfed and beaten several times, or at least subjected to a number of rounds of Crucio. Even in sleep he looked tired and haunted. Were either of them awake Harry had no doubt given what Tom had imparted that they would act as though they were who they appeared to be. And soon, he would see.

He himself looked like Haze, not Harry. Likewise, Tom appeared as Ash. They were both covered in enveloping black robes, enough to blend in without dressing as actual Death Eaters. It was a simple precaution, despite the fact they they would be watching events from outside the audience chamber, on what would be considered a mezzanine level if were open. Tom would have no trouble controlling them at that distance, especially now that he had released the Dursleys. He could fix all his attention on the play they were about to set into motion.

Harry turned around and wrapped Tom in a hug, once again seeking reassurance he would never ask for directly.

“Are you ready?” Tom asked.

Harry nodded, letting his cheek nuzzle his bonded’s chest, then released him and stepped back.

“All right. Head to the observation room, then. I would say have Dobby bring Ron, but we already know he’s being very closely watched. Stay invisible until you enter and bring up the wards immediately. I will join you in just a few minutes.”

“Snape is already there?”

“Yes. He will be waiting.”

“Okay.” Harry pulled Tom’s head down for a kiss, then turned and vanished, quickly making his way through the maze of corridors until he reached the observation room and stepped inside. A scan of the area revealed nothing and no one but Snape so he pulled the door shut firmly and activated the wards Tom had arranged for. Only then did he shimmer into view.

“Sir,” he said by way of greeting. “Tom said he’d be here in just a couple of minutes.”

Severus nodded and moved to stand by the window that overlooked Voldemort’s throne. Harry joined him a few moments later, nervously looking back over his shoulder every thirty seconds or so.

“Please desist,” Snape said quietly. “Doing that will not make him appear any more quickly.”

Harry looked at him in mild astonishment. “Sorry, sir.”

“Severus.”

Harry did a double take. “I’m sorry?”

“I am no longer your professor. My name is Severus. You may use it.”

“I—yes, all right. Thank you. Do you have a calming potion handy?” Harry was not about to do anything Tom thought would make the man uncomfortable.

“Yes.” Severus slipped a hand inside his robes without looking and pulled out a vial to hand over. “One small sip. Keep it if you wish.”

Harry took it gently, careful not to touch the man, then said, “Thank you. If you like, I don’t mind if you call me Haze. I need to get used to it as it is.” He opened the vial and took a small sip, then sealed it and tucked it into his shirt pocket.

“Very well.”

The door opened, causing Harry to whip around. Tom stepped in and shut it behind him, then joined them, placing a calming hand on Harry’s hip. “It begins,” he said simply.

*

Voldemort strode into the room like he owned the world, or would shortly, his robes swirling about behind him dramatically as he made his way to his throne. He sat down with a flourish worthy of a king and let his horrid gaze sweep over the room slowly. Those minions already present shrank back slightly, unaware of what was about to take place.

Doors banged open at the back in a shock of sound, and three people stepped through even as more minions apparated into the room, quickly kissing the robes of their master before slipping to their places along the perimeter. Voldemort looked up and smiled coldly.

Two Death Eaters were dragging a struggling Harry Potter between them, forcing him toward the throne. Potter looked to be running on sheer adrenaline, and clearly wasn’t physically powerful enough to fend off his escorts, though one might well imagine he could sprint back out through the doors if given half a chance.

Naturally, Voldemort waved his wand in a negligent gesture and closed them. “How delightful to see you again, Potter. I’m so pleased you could join us.”

Potter glared at him and struggled against his captors ineffectually. “Yes, of course. It’s always a lot more fun when you’ve got someone at a disadvantage. So incredibly kind of you to make sure I don’t have my wand, you snake-faced bastard.”

“My, my. We seem to be a bit irritated, Potter. You really should work on your manners. You never know when their lack could cause you to suffer grievous harm.”

Potter stilled and arched one of his brows. “Manners? Would you like to apologize for possessing me, then? Surely that isn’t the sort of thing found acceptable in polite company. Go ahead, I’m sure you can think of something suitable to say.”

Voldemort tilted his head to one side and unleashed another cold smile. “I do like that about you, boy. Such a temper. It would be a shame to kill you if you’d already given up hope. I’m afraid half the fun would be gone, not that it would stop me, of course. So, Potter, does that mean you’d be willing to indulge in some sport? We could duel. That is, if you’re brave enough.”

Potter affected a look of surprise. “A duel? You mean you aren’t going to ask me to join you again? No fibs about giving me back my parents? I think I’m disappointed.”

“Futile, I’m sure,” Voldemort responded. “I am not about to let a viper like you slither into my company waiting for a moment to strike at me from behind, child. One of us is going to die today, Potter. Trust me when I say it will be you. The only choice you have is to stand there and take it, or duel me and die with honor.”

Potter merely snorted.

“I could up the ante, my young friend. I’m sure it would help you to decide if I brought in a few friends of yours I have waiting. Maybe seeing them drop before your eyes might spark some interest on your part. Perhaps a spot of torture?”

“You underestimate my intelligence,” Potter replied. “You would kill them regardless.”

“Oh, undoubtedly. Though I do admit I would be interested to see just how much you struggled as you watched me break their minds, or bled them dry before they died. I suppose I could even let a few of my more eager Death Eaters have their way with them prior to that.”

Potter snarled and began struggling again.

“You can’t be sure in any case. After all, you were stupid enough to fall for my plan to get you here. All it took was a plea for help on behalf of your dear blood traitor friend, and off you went, straight into my clutches. Now be a good lad and agree to duel me so we can get this over with, you can die, and I can move on to more interesting things. I begin to grow weary of this ridiculous conversation and may actually grow vexed if this drags on.”

“Haven’t you forgotten something?” Potter asked suddenly.

Voldemort made a show of thinking, then rested the full force of his gaze back on Potter. “Let me see. You’re presently helpless, I have your wand, the old man has no idea where you are. . . .” He paused. “You think I don’t divine your meaning, brat? If you wish to believe that us having brother wands will save you a second time, do feel free. It is always sweet to witness hope’s demise. Now, will you agree to duel, or shall I simply kill you now and be done with it? This is the last time I will offer.”

Eventually, after quite a bit of visible internal struggle, Potter capitulated. Those watching undoubtedly thought the young man was insane to think for even a moment that he could win. Then again, some of them undoubtedly thought their master was insane for giving Potter the chance to fight back magically. Voldemort slid a wand from within his robes and waved it around for a few moments, then made a great show of inspecting it and casting a few minor spells.

“Well, it seems to be working just fine, wouldn’t you say, Potter?” He turned his attention to the two minions and said commandingly, “Release him and take your places.”

They obeyed immediately, bowing quickly before scurrying off to join the others. Potter pulled himself up straight and ran a hand through his messy hair, his eyes never leaving his nemesis. One hand rose to clasp the pendant dangling from his neck, as though taking strength from it. He didn’t budge an inch when Voldemort rose and stepped down from the dais.

Voldemort looked him up and down, unleashed another cold smile, then held out Potter’s wand. “I do hope you remember how to duel, Potter. I should hate to force you like last time to proper behavior. Really.”

Potter attempted to produce a sneer and nodded jerkily, reaching out to snatch the wand away and finger it meaningfully. “Shall we?” he said with admirable bravado.

“By all means.”

They moved to the center of the room, paced off, turned and bowed, and then it began. What followed was a duel characterized by coincidence after coincidence, most all of the luck favoring Potter. Anyone watching him would have known he was an excellent flyer given the way he moved and how his reflexes saved him time and time again from being hit.

Potter did not waste his time on higher level spells. He stuck to what he knew best, trying to incapacitate Voldemort for even a split second so he could cast something deadly, yet legal. Voldemort, for his part, was very careful to not allow Priori Incantatem to interfere. He also cast to incapacitate, presumably with a mind to kill once his victim was helpless and knew it. That is not to say he refrained from using dark magic; indeed he did, but none of it was designed to kill. Maiming, however, was certainly an option.

And then, seeing that his foe was weakening, tiring, Voldemort made a fatal mistake.