AYNIL: Chapter Twenty-Six: The Fallen

Once over the bridge, the sense of urgency Harry had thought he left at Spinner’s End came back in full measure. His scar continued to throb painfully. Voldemort was in a fury unlike any before, and he was trying to force himself into Harry’s mind to ascertain their location. Harry pushed back as hard as ever. He would let Voldemort see their location, but not yet. They needed to make it to the house first.

Harry was holding very tightly to Ginny as they raced through the streets of Godric’s Hollow. His reasoning in doing so was twofold. He needed reassurance that she was still with him, that he had indeed got her away from Voldemort; the other a more practical reason. She had just endured two days of torture, and was, therefore, still a little unsteady on her feet. It was thus all the more infuriating to Harry when his scar gave a nauseatingly painful throb causing him to stumble and fall, bringing Ginny down with him.

“Damn it,” Harry cursed, getting up quickly and helping Ginny to her feet. She was trying to hide her pain, but not doing a very good job. Feeling a stab of anger at Voldemort for causing her this pain, and then at himself for increasing it, Harry muttered a quick apology. Now was not the time for anger over the situation. They needed to move on and reach their final destination, before Voldemort found out where they had Disapparated to.

Down the high street they ran, past the gingerbread-like houses, past the inn where a light was on, past the church where Lily and James Potter were buried, past more houses, feeling the sense of mounting dread all the while.

Turning down a tree-lined street, Harry’s urgency was overshadowed when he felt another pang, not of guilt this time, but longing. He was mere seconds away from facing the house that he had lived in with his parents. Apart from Hogwarts, this was the only place that he could call home. He had been happy here, Harry was certain of that. Why, on the verge of a battle to which he did not know the outcome, he had chosen to come here of all places, was as yet unknown to Harry.

Then they were there, standing outside a house that would not have been distinguishable from all the others but for the atrocities that lead to it’s vacancy. Whereas the other houses showed signs of life by the lights that shone through their windows, the vestiges of summer flower gardens, and the seasonal Halloween decorations, the house that stood before them was dark and empty. Grass peeked over the top of the fence, the garden path cracked with long weeds growing out of the cracks. The darkened windows reminded Harry horribly of the empty look of death, and over to the right, the unmistakable part of the house where Voldemort’s curse had backfired. There was a sizeable hole in the outer wall, and the roof was sagging precariously.

Tearing his eyes away from the house, Harry looked at Ginny, who was staring at it with a mixture of sadness and horror.

“Why are we here Harry?” she panted again, wincing a little as she drew a shallow breath.

Rather than answering her, he pushed open the gate (a more difficult feat than normal owing to the overgrown weeds) and helped her to the house. “Alohomora,” Harry said, pointing his wand at the lock on the front door, which gave a resounding click and swung inwards.

The minute they stepped over the threshold, Harry’s thoughts were confirmed. This was home. He knew that. He had a sudden strong feeling that everything would be OK.

“Here, lie down,” he said to Ginny, easing her onto the couch in the sitting room. “Once this is over, we’ll get you to St. Mungo’s or something.”

“Once what — “ Ginny started to ask, and then that look of horror was back on her face again. “Oh no,” she replied, struggling to sit up. “You aren’t really suggesting that I lie here while you’re off somewhere fighting Voldemort do you?” She winced again as she changed positions.

“And what exactly do you think you’re doing to do then? You’d be putting yourself into a huge amount of danger, trying to fight in this condition. Besides, you haven’t even got your wand.”

At this last point, Ginny grudgingly agreed, and slumped back on the couch a little sulkily.

A sudden noise outside made both of them jump.

“Stay here,” Harry said unnecessarily, and ran to the front door. He eased it open with his wand, just enough to determine who was coming up the front path. It was Voldemort, surely.

Unless he had swallowed some Polyjuice potion, it was not Voldemort. It was Mr. Clark, the unnaturally cheery owner of the inn Harry and the others had stayed at in August.

“Mr. Potter, wha ‘re yeh doin’ back here?” he asked, without the faintest sound of surprise. “I saw yeh runnin’ down the street, an’ I says the Thelma, there’s tha’ Potter. Wonder wha’ he’s doin’ back here.” He shot a quizzical glance at Harry waiting for an answer.

“It’s . . . er . . . sort of a long story,” Harry said hastily, glancing around at the dark street, ears strained for the sound of Apparition, or the swishing of a cloak. “Listen, I don’t want to be rude, but right now’s not the best —“

Mr. Clark, however, seemed not to need a concrete answer to his question, because he continued talking now.

“When yeh took off in August I tol’ Thelma yeh’d be back. Thought yeh’d have stayed longer then to tell yeh the truth.”

He looked around at the dilapidated house. Harry was surprised he could see. Wormtail was still alive which meant that the house should only be visible to those whom he had told. Had he told the Clark’s the secret of the Potters’ location too?

“Blimey,” gasped the elderly man, “I haven’t looked proper at this place fer years. Whoever was here really did a number, eh?”

“Yeah,” Harry responded through gritted teeth as he clapped a hand over his forehead. His scar had just given another of those painful throbs that had caused him to fall before.

Mr. Clark again did not notice this. Instead he was pushing open the gate and slowly making his way up the overgrown garden path.

“So where’s tha’ pretty redhead yeh brough’ wi’ yeh?” he asked with a kind smile.

“Inside,” Harry replied. A sudden sense of foreboding overcame him. He needed to convince the man to leave, and leave now. “Now’s not really a great time though. Perhaps we could —“

Harry never finished that sentence. At that precise moment there was a blinding flash of green light, and the innkeeper, so welcoming and helpful to Harry and his friends, fell unceremoniously to the ground, dead.

Dumbledore, it seemed, was not the only one that could make himself invisible without a cloak. Emerging from the darkness, at the gate to the house, was Lord Voldemort. His red eyes were flashing in malicious triumph.

“How very fitting, Harry, to come back to the place where everything began. How well it will serve as an example. Once you are dead this house will be, not a testament to your power, but to mine. It will henceforth be symbolic of how I, the greatest sorcerer in the world, always prevail.”

Harry wondered for the tiniest amount of time how Voldemort had discerned that they were here. But, of course, he realized, Voldemort had pushed just a little harder than Harry and had retrieved the information from his mind, the excruciating pain that had caused Harry to fall — that had to be when.

“Where is Ginevra? Is she not to join us to watch your defeat Harry?” Voldemort jeered.

Harry had been darting ceaselessly from the limp form of Mr. Clark, to the Dark Lord. An intense hatred, possibly the strongest ever in his life, was starting to well up. This was the Cedric situation all over again. This man had done nothing to Voldemort, and had been murdered simply because he was there.

“Stay the hell away from her,” Harry snarled, feeling, if possible, even angrier with this foul thing’s mention of Ginny.

Standing on the threshold of his parents’ house like a sentinel, Harry raised his wand again. He had no intentions of letting Voldemort anywhere near Ginny again. Once was enough. If he wanted to get to her, he was going to have to kill Harry. It was as simple as that.

It was unnecessary though. This was not about Ginny; it was about he, Harry, and Voldemort. It was about finishing things once and for all.

Voldemort’s face split into another of those bone-chilling grins.

“How touching Harry. How very like your father you are. Severus was right about that at least.” He looked lazily at the house. “Sixteen years ago this evening I believe. How very familiar this all seems. You are standing exactly where your father stood, if memory serves. Yes, the same ending shall come twice.”

With those worlds, Voldemort raised his wand rapidly and sent a second jet of green light at Harry, who dove off the threshold and landed in a patch of long grass. The door burst into flames. Moving the overlong blades aside, he caught sight of the Dark Lord and fired a Stunning spell, knowing full well that it would be parried.

“Harry, we are well beyond this point now. You should know that I am the superior wizard here. Give up this foolish waste of time, and I might just spare your precious Ginevra.”

Harry let out a derisive laugh. A match in power he might not be, but he knew all too well that Voldemort would not keep his word. Mistaking the reason for Harry’s laugh, Voldemort’s red eyes narrowed.

“You still doubt my powers? Perhaps a demonstration?”

Voldemort raised his wand, made a jagged swishing motion, and the overgrown grass was engulfed in flame. Harry was forced back onto the garden path, spluttering and coughing at the sudden production of smoke.

Voldemort was still standing outside the fence, his scarlet eyes glinting horribly.

Harry stepped over the body of Mr. Clark, splay-legged, facedown on the sidewalk, closing the distance between himself and Voldemort. He ducked as the Dark Lord sent another stream of green light at him. He knew that he would have to respond in kind, and very soon. But now he was facing this battle to the death, he felt woefully overmatched. He had never been able to properly work an Unforgivable Curse after all. Now hardly seemed the right time to test out his skills when he was trying to murder someone, least of all the most skilled wizard alive.

Feeling he needed to do something, rather than avoiding curses as he worked up the nerve to use the Killing Curse himself, Harry shot a disarming spell at Voldemort. Well, it had worked once . . . This too was deflected as though it were no more than a fly.

“Pitiful defensive spells will not save you Harry.” He reiterated his offer about sparing Ginny.

Harry let out another disbelieving laugh. “D’you really think that I would believe a word that you say? You can’t even be honest with yourself.” He shot another stunner at Voldemort, who again deflected it without effort. Harry didn’t care. He had a plan, and he hoped that it would work.

“You no not of what you speak,” Voldemort hissed, clearly getting rather aggravated with Harry’s useless attempts at getting to him. “You are just wasting time, trying to prolong the end of your life.”

“Am I?” Harry asked, sending an Impediment Jinx this time, which was sent reeling back towards him when Voldemort used a shield charm. “I’m not the one that’s been spouting hypocritical sentiments for decades. Nor am I the one that needed to feel so special that I had to ‘fashion myself a new name.’” Harry plucked the exact verbiage from his mind, the words the Horcrux Riddle had spoken down in the Chamber of Secrets.

He was speaking at random, hoping to get in a chance to throw his own final curse at Voldemort. He kept glancing at the inert form of Mr. Clark, as though his death would give Harry the strength to become a killer.

“You, Harry Potter, haven’t the nerve or the skill befitting it,” Voldemort stated. He still spoke as though he did not care what Harry said, but the pain in Harry’s scar told him that the Dark Lord was, at the very least, irked at the way Harry phrased it.

“Nor the insecurity to need it, Riddle.” Harry responded. His scar gave another sickening throb and he knew that he had angered Voldemort once more. He was running out of time to act, soon, very soon, he would not be able to avoid the spell. He needed to act before he couldn’t.

Another round of Killing Curses were aimed at Harry, who was thankful for his own reflexes as he dodged every one of them, missing the last by mere fractions of an inch.

“You foolish boy, daring to use that name.” Voldemort’s voice, until now very cold and calm, increased a few decibels, as Harry’s scar pulsed again. The Dark Lord was livid now.

“I do, yes,” Harry responded, barely able to keep his eyes open through the pain and the smoke from the fire that was consuming the front yard.

The smoke was becoming increasingly dense. Were it not for the near continuous stream of green coming from the direction of the gate, Harry would not have known where to aim his own spells. Feeling a fresh wave of anger as he trod on Mr. Clark’s limp hand, hearing breaking bones, Harry pointed his wand and readied himself to use the curse. But as was common in the last few months, something distracted both wizards from their cat and mouse game.

The flames, fuelled by the unkempt lawn, had started licking the house. They reached the window to the room where Harry had left Ginny. It was the breaking of glass that turned their attention away from their battle.

Harry felt a sickening, gut-wrenching horror. Ginny! He had to get her. After everything they had been though, he was not going to let her die like this. He was not going to let her die at all.

Keeping his wand pointed in the direction where Voldemort was still firing off curses with alarming regularity, Harry hurried up the smoky path toward the door.

As he should have expected things weren’t to be that easy.

One of the trees had caught fire. As Harry moved nearer the door a firey branch, nearly as thick as the tree trunk fell, blocking his path. He could and would have climbed it, but for the fire. He couldn’t chance turning his wand away from Voldemort to put out the fire that stood between him and the house.

Seeing, or more likely sensing, Harry’s panic, Voldemort laughed, and sent another barrage of curses at Harry.

As the twelfth flash of green light narrowly missed him, Harry saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Over the flames and smoke, he could see Ginny cautiously making her way out of the door. He groaned audibly. What was she playing at, coming out here? She might inadvertently get hit with one of the curses, or Voldemort would target her directly. Harry made to communicate this to her, but next second, she was raising her arm and casting the very same spell she had used to wake Ron with back at the Burrow. She was dousing the fire with water.

Where had she got a wand?

As unlucky curse thirteen missed Harry’s head by inches, Ginny put out the fire between herself and Harry, and made her way down to meet him. Before he could ask her what she was doing his attention was again wholly focused on the Dark Lord, who was reaching a level of anger as yet unattained.

“You can’t avoid me forever, Harry Potter!” he shrieked.

The smoke had now cleared enough for Harry to see the gleaming white of Voldemort’s snakelike face, and the blazing anger in those usually pitiless red eyes. Looking into those eyes caused another painful pang in Harry’s scar, but suddenly, as though he could perform Legilimency, he realized something. Voldemort’s wand was raised, and he was going to disarm Harry, nonverbally.

Ignoring, for present, the fact that he had once again seen into Voldemort’s mind, Harry pushed Ginny behind him, raised his wand and prepared his own counter spell. He would try nonverbally too, but as those types of spells had never been his strong suit, he was ready to say the incantation as well.

As Voldemort’s wand made the very familiar motion to send a disarming spell, Harry both thought and murmured ‘Protego.’

Miraculously, in his heightened and uncontrolled state of fury, Voldemort did not notice or seem to expect Harry’s action. His wand flew out of his hand, and into the flames that were now taller than either Harry or Voldemort.

“What —“ the Dark Lord’s eyes were wide with shock, his nostril slits flared. The expression on his inhuman face was much the same as it had been that night in the graveyard when his wand and Harry’s had connected.

Harry seized his opportunity. He might not get another.

Thinking of every horrible thing that Voldemort had ever done, both to himself and others, Harry allowed that anger to fill him up and then uttered the words he had never wanted to say, but knew he must.

“Avada Kedavra.”

Wandless, fear etched over the entirety of his face, Voldemort tried to extricate himself from the path of rushing death, but was not quick enough. Harry stood there, in a dimension where time seemed to be running at one tenth it’s normal speed, and watched as those haunting red eyes widened in horror. A blood-curdling scream rent the still night air of Godric’s Hollow. The jet of green light hit Voldemort square in the chest. Two bodies fell, and moved no more.

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