As Harry had expected, the story was both top news and thoroughly infuriated Voldemort. He continued to train with the Slayer and review his preparations. Professor Giles had been accepted with some hesitation by the Order due to his own Death Eater history, but it could not be denied that he was now most definitively on the side of good.
Finally, after two weeks of skirmishes and saber rattling, the second war against Voldemort had come down to open combat outside Hogsmeade. News of the gathering of dark wizards had spurred necessary actions: the evacuation of the town, mustering of the Order, and locking the younger students in for their own protection. Several of the professors had protested letting the seventh year students fight if they wished. For those who had reached their majority, there was really nothing that could be done to stop them.
Harry’s attention was drawn from the perusal of both sides of this conflict by the voice of the young blonde stepping up beside him. "The Headmaster has asked me to make sure you reach your target."
He nodded, still looking over the gathered wizards. "So, can you point him out?" She sounded impatient and he gestured to the opposite crowd.
"Pale guy, red eyes, no mask, center of their lines."
Buffy took a good look. "Ewww."
Harry only nodded absently.
"You need to focus and stop looking for him."
The wizard turned to her. "Excuse me?"
"Giles and Grumpy-butt are with Dumbledore. Focus on what you need to do and don’t think about anything else."
"I didn’t get the chance to tell him…"
"The blonde’s voice was uncharacteristically introspective. "He knows."
Harry stared at her a moment, then nodded to himself again. She had been in this position before and certainly had the experience to know what she advised.
At some invisible sign, the two sides fell on each other with a rush of spellfire, incantations, and pained effects. When he saw a seventh year Ravenclaw fall to slices across her abdomen, he knew that Voldemort was responsible for an entire generation’s lost innocence. Then there was nothing to be done but surrender conscious thought to combat instinct. He had, at least, listened when the Slayer suggested most battles were too crowded for anything more than a short or one-handed sword. Luckily, he had used one before.
It was almost a rhythm of movement. He cast a curse to injure or maim, dodged or blocked the spells aimed at himself, kept a path clear around him with short slashing movements that flashed the name ‘Godric Gryffindor’, and occasionally pushed the Slayer out of the way of a magic she hadn’t seen. Although he was the only combatant on the filed not paired with a witch or wizard, he was probably the least concerned with his partner’s health. The fierce blonde kicked a robed arm to the side, snatched the deflected wand out of the air, and snapped it in a smooth movement. Without hesitation, the unidentified Death Eater was then used to physically block an incoming rush of green light. War meant death and it was never pretty or easy.
Repetition was the key. He screamed Latinate syllables. He slashed, lunged, got caught in the fresh meat of a recent corpse. He was pulled back, the sword now lost behind a pair of fighters. Obscenely well manicured hands turned him, pointing. There, in a clear space slightly elevated, was his target.
Harry rushed forward, Buffy falling behind as she held off the Death Eaters who pursued him. It wasn’t hard to drag forth the hatred, the desire for death and pain, or the pure willful intent. "Avada Kedavra!"
Green light flared forth from his wand, but was met in the air with the Dark Lord’s own, "Crucio!" They stared at the other as the gold line formed, met, and held their wands. More lines crept out, creating the odd bubble of the Priori Incantatum effect. Synchronized in a macabre dance, they both reached into their robes, drawing second wands with their off hands.
The Killing Curse rang out in two voices. This time the green light met and merged before becoming a silver pulse that disintegrated the backup wands. Voldemort profaned Harry’s lineage and personal habits in Parseltongue before speaking directly to him in the language of snakes.
"How did you know?"
"That you made a wand with a scale of Nagini? I’ve been watching you for years."
"Ignorant child, I will destroy you."
"I’m offended, no offers to join you first?"
"You will die, Harry Potter. Screaming for mercy, just like your Mudblood mother."
They were intent on their private battle, the beads moving along the wand connection back and forth. The outside combat began to slow as the participants saw them. It was universally acknowledged that the outcome of this duel would decide the war.
Harry stepped forward and the golden connection flared before it flexed and adapted to the altered distance. When he took another step and it happened again, Voldemort began to appear suspicious.
"What are you doing?"
He smiled and moved closed, the two opponents now barely feet apart. "Surely you’re not worried, Tom?"
Another step. "After all, you’re going to kill me."
A last step, a foot and half of force separating their wand tips with the beads quivering in the center under the pressure. "But you forgot, Tom. You already did."
He released the inner demon, face morphing as his eyes went flat murky yellow. Voldemort scowled, the expression twisting his flat scaly face. Harry moved, preternatural reflexes and strength dominating his foe. He dragged his enemy to him with his left hand. Their wands touched and flared as the dome flashed solid gold.
"As I drain your life, you will fade and your soul stand for judgement. Animus Censura Caelestis."
Harry forced the spell across the wand’s touching connection, embedding the words directly into the core of the Dark Lord’s power. Striking, his teeth sank into the pale neck. Voldemort struggled, but his time was well and truly over.
The combat had ceased when the dome flared solid gold. There was an odd, expectant silence. When it faded with the barest whisper of power, the combatants looked to see the fate of their world. Harry was turned away from them, but even at a distance the young man was covered in vivid, liquid, red. He released the body clutched to him and it fell to the ground with a slight noise. Bending, there was the echoing snap of wood before he dropped the two wand pieces on the corpse.
"Latot Ni Noit Curtsed"
Eerie blue light consumed the last remains of the Dark Lord and the magic danced over the victor as well, wiping him clean of blood.
Harry turned to face them and the odd silence broke. Screaming outrage, a black-cloaked figure ripped free of his mask. As a sudden gust blew long white-blond hair, a shouted "Incendio!" hit the savior. Faster than any, except those who knew his altered nature, could expect, the spell wrought its fury. The Man Who Defeated Voldemort dissolved into a puff of dust.
When his wand dropped uselessly to the ground, the faint sound was masked by a roar of incensed fury. Before anyone would react, Snape had paced the few short yards to Lucius Malfoy and snapped his neck. In the odd tension as the Potions Master began to step towards Harry’s fallen wand, the Headmaster’s voice echoed, "Surrender." Their remaining foes began to lay down arms, the warriors of light taking them into custody in a daze.
Harry had heard a yell, then the excruciating pain overtook him. His eyes snapped closed and as he opened his mouth to scream, the pain disappeared. Confused, he opened his eyes to see a white marble room in the Grecian style. Turning, he stumbled slightly.
Watching him, flanking a pearly basin that reminded him of a large pensieve, were two very odd people. A man and woman, their pale gold skin was veined with blue and purple and their garments were simple. The combat still pulsing through his system, he demanded, "Who are you?"
Their replies were calm and oddly detached.
"He questions us."
"They always question, they are human."
"Do we answer?"
"We are the Powers."
As Dumbledore began to direct the mop-up, Giles stepped away to approach his friend. "Severus?"
The face that turned to him was cold and hard, a stone mask. Giles looked from the Gryffindor’s wand gripped by white knuckles to the despair-filled eyes. "Severus."
The words he’d been about to add were halted as the piece of holly snapped under the increasing pressure.
"Who or what are you?" Harry went for his wand, but found himself unarmed. "Where am I? How did you bring me here?"
The woman turned to the basin, but the man addressed him. "The prophecy was opposed."
"Prophecy? The one about me?"
"The First has waged war on the balance and corrupted the outcome."
He stepped towards the man, his demand sounding increasingly like a plea. "What are you talking about?"
When Snape stepped towards him, Giles instinctively moved back. The voice that met his ears was ragged with suppressed emotion.
"Would you grant me that which I once denied you?"
The confusion showed on Giles face before drunken memories surfaced of him after Buffy died stopping Glorificus… Of him pleading for Snape to have mercy and kill him.
"The balance must be restored."
When the man turned from him to look into the basin, Harry moved forward. His curiosity was satisfied when the woman touched the surface.
It rippled. Then, with no small amount of shock, he watched his victory and subsequent death.
"I’m dead. Really dead?"
The eyes shifted focus and Giles wasn’t quick enough to stop the Potions Master before he strode past. The long pace ate up the distance to his quarry.
The blonde looked up, having gotten the sword finally unstuck from between ribs. When she met his gaze, her head was rocked to the side with the strength of the backhanded blow he delivered. She was highly pissed when she asked him, "What the fuck is your problem?"
"Death maintains balance."
"Your death has disrupted the balance."
His brain was working overtime to keep up as Harry recalled every bit of origin theory and tried to understand where he was currently.
"I wasn’t supposed to die?"
His question seemed to spark another of those odd detached exchanges that didn’t really include him until the end.
"It was not time."
"Time is a precious gift."
"Death was her gift."
"Life is your gift."
The Potions Master had no reply for the Slayer, but hit her again. The blow knocked her head in the other direction and she knew she’d have matching bruises for a few days.
Furious, she punched. The strike tossed him back several feet and knocked him on his ass. The blonde barely registered Giles’ bellow of "Buffy, no!"
"Life is my gift?"
Harry was distracted from the perplexing situation when the woman touched the surface again. The scene sped up, shifting.
When he saw the current events, sound now active with a slightly tinny quality, his worried yell echoed in the bare room.
The Slayer paused out of respect for her Watcher. That intentional hesitation was all Snape needed to draw his wand. Aimed at the Slayer, he smirked, but the spirit wasn’t behind the expression.
"What is this?"
"What’s going on?"
"Why won’t you answer me?"
"Do you really think you can hit me with anything?"
The Potions Master reconsidered and shifted his aim. "Considerate of you to warn me. Here’s your option, Professor Summers. Kill me, or I kill him."
Giles halted in shock under the focus of his friend’s wand.
Buffy’s shocked yell of "What?" caused them to start drawing heavy attention.
"Please, stop this!!"
"Don’t let this happen!"
"Bring him here, please!"
"It is a simply choice, Professor."
Giles made a movement, but was halted by Snape casting a body bind on him. The Arcanum never budged his gaze from the blonde.
"He is corporeal."
"He cannot enter here."
"She’ll kill him!"
The blonde stepped closer, but the Potions Master didn’t move away. "I’m just supposed to kill you?"
When she raised her hand with a broken wand improvised as a stake and approached closer, the gaze never faltered. Buffy was conflicted, but in an odd way she understood. As she drew her arm back, something flickered in the black eyes and she could barely hear his final words.
Harry’s scream was pained as he watched his lover disappear into dust.
"It is done."
"The balance begins to return."
He’d hunched in on himself at the emotional pain but glared at the pair.
"Fuck your balance! I loved him!"
The voice from behind him was a chocolate and whiskey surprise. "As I do you, brat."
Harry turned, his face as confused as the Potions Master’s. "Severus?"
The golden pair conversed, taking little notice of the mortals moving to embrace.
"The balance is regained."
Dumbledore freed Giles from the hex as Remus moved to the troubled Slayer. He was himself concerned, as he had failed Harry in the only recent request the young man had made of him. The Watcher turned to the Headmaster, not truly knowing what to say. The blonde was not as restrained.
"I couldn’t let him hurt you, Giles."
Lupin tried to protest, "He wouldn’t…"
Giles interrupted him, "He would have."
Their pain, beginning to mutate into grief at the loss of two great wizards, was split in twain by phoenix song magnified over the field. In a fold of purple light, two bodies appeared on the ground wrapped in a tight hug. Not disturbing the younger man murmuring into his chest, the Potions Master looked up to meet dumbfounded stares.
"I despise melodrama." It was both a warning, and a commentary on his own previous behavior. Giles gave a short bark of laughter at the dry tones.
Remus tilted his head, trying to understand what he was hearing. "Two heartbeats?"
Harry finally dragged his head up, meeting the eyes of the Slayer. "Life is my gift."
She snorted in wry amusement. "Goody, we’re a matched set."
AN: My beta told me I copped out with the ending… I don’t seem to care, these characters get enough grief in the books, I say let them have their happy endings in my fics…
It’s always, for me, like watching one of my kids grow up when I’ve finished a story. And, for the first time, I find myself finished without knowing what I will write next… As a result, I’m soliciting opinions. If you care, feel free to tell me. I’m pondering a sequel to The Lost Son, a general Snarry, or a DarkLord!Harry fic next.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed this story as I was writing it and helped me keep my enthusiasm up! You’re all greatly appreciated!