Harry smiled as he arrived at the castle he had last seen three and a half months ago just before he had been sent to Azkaban. He looked to where Cole and Prue stood looking at the nearby walls where the magical paintings were all shouting out their hellos in amazement. He had missed this place. The castle felt more like home than anywhere else he had ever been.
"Welcome to Hogwarts," he said to them. "Welcome to my home," he added as Fleur, Susan and Hermione just smiled and began looking around noticing Alexander, Lilith, Sirius and Dumbledore coming towards them, all of them were smiling. Fleur could feel through the bond the connection Harry felt to the ancient castle and how he really meant that he saw this place as his home.
"We did it, the castle is ours," Sirius yelled feeling better than he had since he had escaped Azkaban and more confident they could actually defeat Voldemort and his army.
"Status?" Harry inquired, wondering if the fight for the castle had gone smoothly.
"All of the mini Death Eaters we know of have been captured and transported out of the castle to Saint Mungo's as we planned," Dumbledore answered with a twinkle in his eye at being back at his beloved Hogwarts once more. "However it is possible there are others amongst the student population," he warned.
"Don't worry about that Professor, once Alice and the others return from locking the ministry building down we are going to convene the whole school and make them do a magical oath,” Harry informed them all in a tone which told them he meant it. “If they don't want to give it, they will be forced to leave the castle," Harry added. "And before you say anything, we can't afford for there to be a spy in here with us," he stated at the look on the old man’s face which clearly told him he did not agree with this. Harry had expected some arguments from Dumbledore on this, but he was ready for anything he might say.
"Sadly I’m forced at agree with you Harry. I just wish it wasn’t necessary," Dumbledore said as he remembered what his belief in people had already cost them and Harry in particular. While it hurt to not try and step in and give someone a chance he knew at this stage they dared not risk everything.
"I know, me either," Harry sighed before getting back to business. "What about those ministry teachers?" he asked.
"We sent them to the hospital as well," Xander replied. "We don't really have the people to take care of prisoners," he added with a shrug. "Did you see Umbridge at the ministry?" he asked, hoping the fowl woman had not escaped somehow. "She escaped and we all assumed she went there," he added, noticing Harry's darkening look and the concerned look the three girls shared between themselves.
"She cast a crucio on Alice and I sent two cutting curses at her and one of them made her fall down the stairs she was on," Harry replied in a toneless voice still refusing to feel guilty about Umbridge’s death. "She broke her neck in the fall," he added, but again refused to feel sorry for it when he considered everything she had done to other people.
"What about Fudge?" Xander inquired not even bothering to ask how he felt about it having gone through the same thing when he had taken a life. When Harry was ready to talk he knew the young man would seek someone out to talk about it. He wouldn’t force him to do so and he noted the others knew better than to try that either.
"He's under arrest until this is over. Then he will be tried by the people for his crimes and with the ministry locked down no one can get him out," Hermione answered as Harry began to walk away obviously wanting some space. "A house elf will feed him so he doesn't starve and the elf will have orders not to let him out," she added, not liking using an elf but knowing no one else could be spared right now there wasn’t much choice.
"Is he going to be alright?" Prue asked as she watched her new friend walk off. She was concerned by the level of stress Harry had already been under when they arrived. Being sent to a hellish prison and now having taken a life could be pushing him to the breaking point.
"He will be. He is not upset about what happened to Umbridge, but the closer we get to the final battle the more nervous he is going to get," Fleur answered as she monitored Harry’s emotions through the bond. "Taking Fudge down has lifted a huge weight off of him, but the main one still remains and he knows it is going to take everything he has to win," she stated with a sad smile.
They looked up as Amelia, Moody, Alice and Remus arrived by portkey, all looking quite pleased with themselves. Alice quickly looked around and noticed Harry was missing.
"Where is Harry?" she asked quite concerned about his wellbeing after killing Umbridge in his attempt to protect her.
"He needs some space and I would guess he's gone to the room of requirement so he's not disturbed for a bit," Hermione answered. "He'll want to talk to someone in a bit, I know he will, so let him come to you," she advised to which Alice nodded.
She knew better than to try and force someone to talk through things like that, she and Frank both had taken lives in the first war and neither had wanted to talk about it later. When they had tried to force the issue it had caused one of the few serious arguments between them, and right now the last thing Harry needed was an argument or more stress.
"Well then I suspect we better lock down the school until we are ready to invite Voldemort here," Dumbledore said gaining the attention of the others who nodded and began to break into groups.
Voldemort looked up as Lucius all but ran into the gathering looking very worried. Every Death Eater in attendance watched as he came to a stop and began to try and speak before dropping to his knees in pain as the dark lord hit him with a powerful ‘Crucio’ for his disrespect that dropped him to the floor screaming him. After several minutes Voldemort finally released the spell, Lucius stopped screaming and slowly began to push himself back to his knees.
"Do not forget your place Lucius. Now what is it you want to say?" Voldemort warned him with a dangerous glare before asking what was wrong.
"Yes my lord," Lucius gasped in agony. "My lord Potter has toppled the government and retaken Hogwarts," he reported, knowing this news was not going to down well. "My son and nearly every other junior member of our organization was sent to Saint Mungo's," he added, knowing this wasn’t going to go down well.
"How did this happen?" Voldemort asked in a dangerous tone which chilled every one of his followers.
"He somehow got the people on his side, so far I haven’t been able to find out how," Lucius replied, knowing he was close to be killed for his latest failure "It is possible with all the information that was leaked about Fudge's corrupt dealings and his crackdowns on the people they were just ripe for Potter to convince them to help him," he speculated.
Voldemort closed his eyes and tried desperately to open to the link to the boy so he could find out how he had managed to do this, but as before there was no response. He felt a terrible rage begin to burn inside him as he realized his plans were beginning to fall apart mostly because of the stupidity of his followers and the luck of Harry Potter.
"I want you to find out how he managed this," he finally ordered. "I then want you to find out how many of our junior members are still at Hogwarts and once that is done I want it made clear that they are to capture Potter and bring him here, no matter what it takes. Is that understood?" he added with narrowed eyes. “Even if it means sacrificing themselves, I want Potter before more within an hour or when I next see them they will all die by my hand, is that clear?” he warned.
"Yes my lord at once," Lucius responded nodding in understanding as did most of the other Death Eaters who quickly scattered to get out of the room before Voldemort lost his temper including Lucius.
Voldemort watched them go and growled in hate as he thought over what he had just learned. Damn Potter and damn that old man Dumbledore who of course must have helped. He had to start planning an attack soon before Potter could turn his attention to trying to get any help from the other magical races.
He knew all of his junior Death Eaters at Hogwarts who had been in Slytherin house would have been found, but he doubted they knew about his followers in the other houses. As usual most people always suspected those in the snake house and that was just the way he liked it because that allowed his other followers to operate without being watched to closely and were more useful for spying.
Cassandra was quite pleased to see the successful operations and was even more pleased to see Hogwarts back in the right hands. These had both been huge steps in finally being ready to fight Voldemort and his army. Alexander and Harry had been very good in their roles as leaders and it would do them both well for the future to know they had what it takes to be a leader because they had to know their roads wouldn’t end with Voldemort or Radrik.
No, neither was stupid enough to believe their journeys would truly end there. Another would just start as with all people. Still the more confidence they had in their abilities the better the chances for any future adventures would be.
"They both did well," Tanith said, breaking her train of thought. "Granted I think Harry could have reacted without killing Umbridge, but still he led a very successful operation," he mused.
"Harry did not intend to kill Umbridge Tanith," Cassandra shot back a little annoyed with how that had sounded. "I wasn’t surprised by his fast reaction to Alice having been cursed," she added. "Umbridge didn’t cast a stunning spell or some other useless spell, but the same curse that put Alice and her husband in the hospital for fifthteen years," she reminded him. "She got what she deserved and had she survived the war she would be standing alongside Fudge in been judged by the people and considering what she has done to children as well as other people I wouldn’t be surprised if she was given the death sentence," she finished.
"I have to agree. She had numerous crimes to her name Tanith," Jonas said to his fellow power. "Once the people learned what kind of woman she really was they would have wanted her dead, this way she has gotten off easy," he continued. "And I agree with Cassandra that it wasn’t Harry's intent to kill Umbridge when he fired his spells at her, but to stop the assault on Alice, a woman he is beginning to trust and grow close to as it should be considering she is his godmother," he went on.
Tanith couldn’t help but acknowledge these points and he had to remind himself once again this was a war they were in and deaths were to be expected.
"You are correct, I once again forgot just what it is they are involved in," he said with a shake of his head. "And I agree Harry didn’t intend to kill her just to wound," he added.
"In war Tanith, nothing is certain," their lord finally spoke up. "No plan goes without a hitch, no one comes out of it without being changed in some way," he reminded them all. "Harry isn’t in this for revenge. If he had another option he wouldn’t even kill those who are against him, but he knows they will not rest until he and every one of his friends are dead and so he does what he has to ensure their safety," he continued. "Umbridge chose her path long ago and she never felt remorse for her actions and her last act was to try and cause pain on another human being. Harry acted to protect his godmother and sadly for him his actions caused her death, but Harry knows that had she lived and escaped she would hurt someone else just because she likes hurting others, so he doesn’t feel the pain of having caused her death," he explained. "Before this is over all of them will have most likely been forced to take a life, but they do this to protect as have others all the way through time and will do in the future as long as our war continues to wage," he stated.
The others could only nod, knowing their lord was correct in everything he had said. Many of the wars fought on Earth were due to the war between the higher powers and the lower powers and wouldn’t end until there was finally a winner. In the silence that followed they turned back to the viewing pool and watched as Neville was called to the headmaster’s office.
Harry, Alice, Frank and Augusta looked up as Neville entered the headmaster's office looking slightly nervous. He gave his grandmother a quick hug, but he didn’t recognize his parents as they were still wearing the glamours they had put on.
"Neville it's good to see you again," Harry said with a smile at his friend, wishing just for a moment their roles for this were reversed before he shook it off. "I hear you've led the D.A very well in my absence," he added.
"No one else wanted the job and as I was part of the group you chose to take to headquarters to train it was decided by Luna and Hannah I should lead," Neville said in reply feeling proud Harry though he had done a good job.
"Neville I've asked you here because just before I launched these attacks I led another mission to Saint Mungo's to try and heal your parents," Harry finally said after a few moments of silence, shocking Neville. He didn’t really know how to get into this subject and thus just blurted out the first thing that came to mind, obviously not the best approach he thought, but he pressed on. "Leo and his friends are whitelighters and they have the ability to heal and so I asked them to try. Neville they were successful," he added with a smile, even as he fought his own emotions and ignoring the wishful thinking someone could do this for him.
"What?" Neville asked completely shocked before turning to his grandmother and the two strangers who smiled at him as they put their wands to their faces and canceled their glamours.
Neville's face took on a very shocked expression almost unable to believe his parents were standing in front of him before he began crying as he was swept into a hug by his mother and joined a second later by his father. He would recognize them anywhere, he couldn’t fathom how Harry had pulled this off and nor did he understand exactly how they had been healed. All he cared about right then was his parents were with him once more.
"I'll leave you to get to know each other," Harry said in a pained voice that wasn’t missed by Alice and she also didn’t miss the longing look on her godson's face before he left the office, but for now she had to focus on her son and see what kind of person he had become in their absence.
Harry found Sirius and Remus waiting for him near the entrance to the headmaster's office. "How did it go Harry?" Remus inquired, both he and Sirius noticed the look on Harry's face before he schooled his features to show a more focused look.
"Better than expected, I guess we won't see them for a bit," Harry replied, battling his longing to see his own parents and knowing it wasn’t possible. "Come on we better go and see if there are any other Death Eaters in this school," he said as he led them towards the Great Hall.
"Are you alright Harry?" Sirius asked his godson, knowing that must have been hard on him and reminded him of what he had lost.
"I will be Sirius, I will be," Harry responded, surprising them both that he had given an honest answer instead of his standard 'I'm fine'.
They entered the Great Hall to find it full. Harry paused as he began to feel uneasy and he stopped walking followed a second later by his two companions.
"What's wrong Harry?" Remus whispered, noting the slight tightening of Harry’s eyes as he looked around the hall.
"I don't know, but I feel uneasy," Harry replied, looking around at the faces of his fellow students before noticing Ron's face near Terry Boot, Michael Corner, Zacharias Smith and Cormac McLaggen and felt a hard shiver run down his spine, something was very wrong here as he looked from McLaggen to Smith and noted their faces were looking at him in anger which they quickly tried to cover up. "Watch those four," he ordered as he began to walk to the front of the hall once again.
As he passed the Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff tables Smith, McLaggen and Corner pulled out their wands and began firing spells at him, Remus and Sirius. Harry fell as he was hit in the leg with what must have been a bone crushing hex as it felt as if his left leg had been broken. Sirius was hit with a stunner, but Remus managed to get a shield up and fire back, hitting McLaggen in the face with his own stunner.
Harry managed to ignore the pain from his leg as he noticed Corner crawling towards him with something in his other hand as he shot off spells with his wand. He knew it had to be a portkey and he had a very good idea where it would take him. Focusing on the situation he launched spell after spell at Corner as the rest of the hall finally seemed to wake up from their shock at the attack and began to help even as seven more students began to attack them. Corner was finally taken down from behind by a very angry Ginny Weasley and Harry knew why, she had dated him before he had been forced out of Hogwarts by Umbridge's takeover.
She knelt next to him as Fleur and Susan joined her at his side as the fight began to die down. He looked around and noticed Sirius was once again awake and firing spells at Ron and Terry who were both glassy eyed and obviously under the imperious curse. Finally they fell to the floor as the twins, Fred and George, managed to sneak up behind them and take them down with stunners. Silence settled over the hall as everyone watched as those who had attacked them were bound in ropes and port keyed out of the school as the others had been.
"Harry, are you okay?" Ginny asked as Hermione joined them looking very annoyed as she looked down at Ron, who was slowly coming around, looking very confused at what had happened.
“What just happened?” Ron asked as he shook his head which felt like someone had stomped on it. “And how did I end up on the floor?” he asked a second later.
“Yeah I second that?” Terry joined in as he too came to.
“I think you both got put under the imperious curse by McLaggen, Corner and Smith. They were Death Eaters,” Ginny answered as she knelt next to her brother to make sure he was ok.
“What, how can that be?” Ron asked in shock.
“He can have followers in any house Ron, you know that,” Ginny shot back. “Remember Peter Pettigrew was in Gryffindor as well and look what he did,” she reminded him, missing the way Harry’s eyes darkened at the mention of the traitor who had cost him his parents. Sirius growled at the mention of his former friend, while Remus just gripped his wand tighter and wished he had the traitor in front of him right now.
“Sorry Harry,” Terry apologized as he was helped up by Dean Thomas. “I guess I let my guard down.
“Yeah me too,” Ron added as he stood as well with a little help from Ginny.
“Don’t worry about it either of you,” Harry responded. “It wasn’t your fault,” he added. "Better get me to the hospital wing, my leg is broken," he replied as he leaned back against the floor as the pain grew worse. "Headmaster, please make sure no one leaves this hall before they give their magical binding oath that they aren’t working against us," he ordered as Sirius used his wand to make him float.
"Of course," Dumbledore answered seeing again how right Harry had been to demand such a thing as he watched Sirius float his godson to the hospital wing, followed by the four girls and Madam Pomfrey.
He turned back to the hall and began to explain a little about what was going on before telling them that if they didn’t make the oath they would be forced to leave the school until the war was over. As one the remaining students and teachers gave their magical oaths that they were not working against them. After his monitoring spell indicated that really everyone in the hall had made the oath Dumbledore was satisfied. He clapped his hand and a feast arrived and he sat down and watched as everyone took seats and began to eat. He noticed Ron and Terry were both looking very angry at what they had been forced to do.
"That was close," Jonas said with a shake of his head. "Had Harry been captured the whole thing would have been for nothing," he added.
"True, but Harry wasn’t captured. He knew something was wrong he felt it and was helped by Hogwarts herself," their lord said. "Not that he realized she was helping him, so few of them know the castle has sentience anymore and that she is alive through the magic of the founders," he added with a smile. "But Harry will learn this fact very soon because for this fight I’m sure Hogwarts will gift him the use of the sword he pulled from the sorting hat in his second year," he told the others.
"The sword of Godric Gryffindor, my lord?" Tanith inquired with a surprised expression.
"Yes, nearly every wizard is taught how to use a sword and Harry has been trained to fight with a sword by Alexander and his friends," their lord replied. "Voldemort himself also knows how to use a sword and I believe it is possible they will rely on such things as they both know when it comes to their wands neither can truly win without evoking priori incantatem and seeing as Voldemort has lost to Harry twice in such circumstances I wouldn’t be surprised to see him resort to a sword thinking he would be better trained than Harry is," he added thoughtfully.
"I agree my lord," Cassandra spoke up. "Voldemort wouldn’t suspect Harry to have been trained in such a way," she added. "Still I am sure Harry will be shocked when the castle makes her presence known to him," she said with a smile which was shared by the others before they focused once more on the viewing pool.
Xander walked out of the castle followed by Crow, Wilson, Blake, Moody, Frank, Tonks, Shacklebolt and Alucard. They were going to set up the traps for the coming fight. The large field was good enough for a pitched battle Alucard told them as they got to work, knowing it would take some time. Xander looked back to the castle knowing at this moment the Goblins, Veela, Vampires, Werewolves and the witches and wizards who had volunteered to help them and given their magical oath were now arriving and setting up their camps.
They were so close now to the fight and Xander was beginning to feel the same as Harry as they both knew they would be two of the main leaders of this fight. Intense training was now taking place within the castle and would continue until tomorrow when Harry, with the help of the charmed ones, would send a message through astral projection to Voldemort, baiting him to come and fight them. He closed his eyes and gave a silent prayer they would come through this without losing too many of their forces before getting back to work.
Inside the castle Harry was speaking with Ragnok and Aria about strategy for the coming fight. He was interested in their idea of hiding a flanking force in the Forbidden Forest which would attack once the battle had begun. He was also thinking of visiting the Centaurs in an hour or two and see if he could convince them to aid them as well, before dismissing the idea because he knew from his past meetings with them they held very little regard for any witch or wizard bar Firenze.
As soon as the traps were set and the next day dawned he would send a message to Voldemort through astral projection thanks to the Halliwell sisters’ powers and goad him into bringing his army to Hogwarts and attacking. Then Dobby and his fellow house elves would lock them in with the anti-traveling wards they had secured in a raid led by Moody and Shacklebolt.
(Riddle Manor next day)
Voldemort looked up, his Death Eaters gathered in his chamber to report on what they had found out. He frowned as Lucius, McNair, Rudolphus, and Snape came forward very nervously.
"Well, what have you found out?" he growled out, quickly getting annoyed with their nervous shifting. "Report," he finally ordered a few moments later when they didn’t answer.
"My lord it seems Potter performed a magical oath to convince the people of your return," Snape said with a sneer. "They know now the truth and he has gotten the better of Fudge who hasn’t been seen since the ministry fell. It is in lockdown at the moment and no one can get in," he continued. "Hogwarts is also in a lockdown. There is no way inside that in know off that is not covered by the castle's defenses," he reported.
Before anyone else could speak or Voldemort could reply a person seemed to appear in front of the dark lord, a person Voldemort recognized without question. He pulled his wand and cast the killing curse, but it went straight through the figure and hit one of his minions instead.
"That wasn't very nice Tom," Harry said with a smile which he knew would annoy Voldemort, which was of course part of the plan. "I come to visit you and you try and kill me. Where are your manners?" he asked his smile widening.
"What do you want Potter?" Voldemort asked with a glare. "Why have you come before me?" he asked a second later.
"I’m here to challenge you and your so called army to come to Hogwarts and fight us," Harry answered. "Unless of course you're afraid of an under aged wizard and a prophecy which was given by a fraud?" he asked as he turned to look at the assembled Death Eaters. "Snape you will pay for my parents death I promise you that," he growled upon seeing the former potions professor.
"Arrogant child," Snape sneered in response. "You are delusional if you believe you can best the dark lord," he added. “Were it not for my Master’s orders I would gladly send you straight to hell to join your bitch of a mother and blood traitor father,” he spat.
"I don't really care anymore I just want this over with one way or the other," Harry said, facing Voldemort again but wishing he could curse Snape right there and then. "You say you are the heir or Slytherin, correct?" he asked.
"That is so Potter. What of it?" he asked, wondering where the boy was going with his question.
"Then know this, I’m the heir of Gryffindor. I found out after returning to Hogwarts," Harry told him with a cocky smirk. "This puts a new edge to our fight Tom, so now it comes down to which vision of Hogwarts will survive, Salazar's or Godric's," he continued knowing by the look of the dark lord's face he was very successful in angering him, even though he was lying though his teeth about been the heir of Gryffindor.
"And what proof do you have of this Potter?" Voldemort asked a little skeptical of this claim even as he worried he might be true.
"This," Harry said as he lifted a sword into view and Voldemort's eyes narrowed as he saw it was the legendary sword of Godric Gryffindor itself an artifact that he had long searched for. "Now are you and your so boys up to a fight or are you all really the cowards we believe you are?" he asked.
"Lucius assemble my army we march on Hogwarts at noon," Voldemort ordered incensed by the boy's attitude as well as making sure he didn’t look like he was unsure what to do next.
"But my lord," Lucius tried to object before being sent to the floor with a powerful cutting curse to his leg.
"Do not question me. Get my army prepared to march," he hissed. "As for you boy I accept your challenge and I will take great pleasure in finally killing you and all those who follow you, no matter how small that number is," he added, not believing for an instant that anyone would have joined the Order and the ones that the First wanted killed.
Snape and the other Death Eaters quickly ran off to rally the dark lord's allies for the coming battle, leaving Voldemort to stare at the image of Potter.
"This fight will end only one way Tom with my death or your own, I don't care which I just want this to end," Harry said in an honest voice.
"And so it will Harry, so it will," Voldemort promised before leaving the chamber to prepare for the battle to come, again not believing for an instant that the boy or any of his friends had found a way to counter the spell which kept him from truly being killed.
Harry breathed deeply as he felt the spell which had sent his astral projection to Voldemort end and he looked around with a smile at those who were standing in the hall with him.
"Well, did it work?" Xander inquired.
"It did, he and his army will be here at noon or as close to it as possible," Harry replied.
"He may turn up early so we better make sure we don't get caught by surprise," Moody growled.
"Good point, set up watches for the next four hours Amelia," Harry said after realizing Moody was correct, Voldemort might try and get the jump on them.
"Get everyone prepared for the fight. We need as many potions as we can use before Voldemort turns up," Xander ordered to the assembled group.
They all nodded and quickly broke up to begin the preparations for the coming fight. Xander joined Harry at the great doors to the school and watched as the sun continued to climb as the day truly began. Harry placed his sword tip first into the ground and knelt next to it and began to pray. Xander joined him a few seconds later and soon after that nearly everyone else, no matter who they were, joined them praying to whatever power they believed in for the right to claim victory.
Cassandra smiled as she felt the prayers of Alexander and Tara run through her as did her lord who felt them as well. The battle was soon to begin and then they would find out how this war would end.
"Stay safe Alexander and hold the line," she whispered.
Xander smiled as he heard Cassandra's voice in his head and noticed Tara was smiling as well. He stood up, joined by the others who were all looking at him and Harry.
"Hold the line," he cried, raising his sword into the air.
His cry was taken up first by Harry and then by the entire force they had assembled as they allowed their belief in their cause to fill them and make them believe they could win.