Seventy-Six: Push of Darkness
Harry leapt to his feet, going for his wand automatically. He couldn't breathe, couldn't think
. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. It was too soon; Voldemort never attacked at this time of year!He killed your parents on Halloween,
Sirius's voice whispered in his mind, and then it was as if a dam broke and Harry could see and hear everything around him again.
The other students were standing, agitated and panicking and the younger ones cried as everyone stared at the Dark Mark reflected in the magical ceiling of the Great Hall. Their panic was a living thing, growing and writing in the air and shattering every coherent thought in Harry's head.
Voldemort was coming for the Horcruxes.
Harry stumbled forward. He had to protect the Horcruxes and didn’t know how
when a bang at the front of the room spun him around, wand at the ready.
Dumbledore loomed large at the podium, no longer an old man, but full of power and the most powerful wizard in all of Europe. He held his hands up for silence, and Harry realized that only a few seconds had passed since the Dark Mark had first risen. It felt like a lifetime.
"Quiet!" Dumbledore shouted. The screaming died down, leaving the terrified crying of young children in its wake. Harry wanted to throw up at the sound. "Everybody must remain calm!"
"Is he mental
?" Ron asked in Harry's ear, incredulous as only Ron could be and suddenly things were they way they should be with Ron at his elbow and Voldemort somewhere in front of them. Then Harry took another breath and things spun out of control again.
"The teachers will take you by House to a safe location," Dumbledore went on. No one dared look away from him. "Fifth years through seventh years will protect the younger students--"
A loud explosion blasted the castle, shattering every window in the Hall. Sharp glass rained down on students, teachers and Aurors alike. More sharp cracks filled the air. It took Harry an excruciatingly long moment to recognize the sound not as glass or stone breaking, but as the air bending for wizards Apparating. Blinking through the dust, Harry saw familiar bodies popping into existence -- Mister and Mrs. Weasley. Kingsley Shacklebolt. Charlie and Bill Weasley. Mad-Eye Moody. More and more of the Order of the Phoenix, along with new Aurors, filling the room.
Harry’s momentary relief at seeing adults who might be able to fix this
shattered when Hermione grabbed at his sleeve. "They shouldn't be able to Apparate into Hogwarts!" she shouted in his ear.
"The explosion must have brought down the wards!" Ron exclaimed on his other side.
Harry's heart dropped into his stomach. The wards were down. Hogwarts was defenseless.
Voldemort was coming for the Horcruxes.
Another explosion, deeper in the castle, sent the castle walls shuddering. Harry tore himself away from Hermione's grasp. "You heard Dumbledore, get the children out!" he shouted, unthinking as he pulled away from his best friends.
"What are you going to do?" Ginny demanded, fighting her way to Ron's side as best she could with a hysterical first year girl clinging to her robes. "Come on!"
Harry shook his head. "I-- I'm sorry!" he blurted out. With one last glance at his friends, Harry ran over shattered glass and around terrified children, hoping he was moving in the direction of the head table.
Halfway there, a hand caught Harry's robe and almost yanked him over. A small figure dug in its feet and wouldn't let go. "What do I do?"
It took Harry a moment to recognize Reece under all the dust and blood. The little werewolf was probably the only child in the hall not panicking. He was excited, and that was enough to scare Harry to the core. Reece might have been a werewolf, but he was just a child.
Harry grabbed Reece by the scruff of the neck and shook him. "You go with the Hufflepuffs like the others!" he shouted. Fear clawed at his throat. What if something happened to Reece? He'd promised to protect the boy, but he had to protect the Horcruxes too!
"I can help!" Reece protested. The boy's eyes glowed with more than excitement. His wolf shone through the human guise. "I can fight Death Eaters!"
And he would, too, and he would die the same way as Cedric Diggory, as Sirius Black, and Harry won't be able to stop it.
"You go protect the Hufflepuffs," Harry said, heart in his throat and wondering if he was sentencing the boy to death. "The others, they're just children, they may need you to protect them if a Death Eater attacks." He shoved Reece in the direction of a herd of Hufflepuffs, gathered away from the walls in the centre of the floor. "Go!"
Reece raced towards his housemates, a grin on his face and ready for anything.Eleven years old,
Harry thought dully, picking his way through screaming children and debris. He's only eleven years old and he’s not ready for this.
Up ahead, Harry could see the Head Table. Most of the teachers were already deeper in the dust of the room, leaving only a few visitors by the remains of the table. "Anita!" Harry shouted, glass crunching beneath his feet.
Jason looked up at Harry's voice. Relief passed over his face. "You look like shit," Jason said in greeting. "You pull this show for all your visitors?"
"Fuck you, Schuyler," Harry said. "What’s wrong with Anita?"
The woman's eyes were huge in her face, and she wasn't looking anywhere besides the Dark Mark, glowing obscenely against the night sky. "So much death," she murmured.
"She's been like this since the explosion," Jason said. "And Elsa's pulling a goddamned Emily Rose off in the corner."
Harry's head whipped around to see the small witch standing in place, eyes closed and rocking back and forth on her feet.
As Harry watched, Elsa went deathly still for a moment. When she opened her eyes, her pupils were larger than possible, black eyes gleaming against her pale face.
She turned those dark eyes on Harry, and Harry wanted to get the fuck away
from the bad, bad witch, and Elsa was suddenly in front of him, moving faster than was allowed by a human being.
Her hands dug into his robe, fingernails scraping against his skin. "Time to run, time to play," Elsa said in a voice that was overlain with someone else
. "Bad men come on broken feet, snickety snack, the lash that broke the phoenix's back!"
"What the fuck is wrong with her?" Jason demanded.
Elsa shoved Harry away, sending him careening into the wall. "Voldemort's coming," she said, taunting in her normal voice. "Can you stop him?"
"What are you going to do?" Harry asked, righting himself.
Elsa smiled, showing all her teeth. They were particularly sharp in the light of the Dark Mark. "Christoff has given me permission to do whatever I want." She spun on one heel and skipped into the mess of the Great Hall, wand in one hand and hair streaming out behind her as she went.
"That girl is fucking terrifying," Jason muttered. He slapped Anita lightly on the cheek. "Anita, you need to get the hell back here, now!"
Another explosion rocked the Hall, so close that the fireball shot into the night sky and briefly illuminated the Hall through the magic ceiling. Jason involuntarily ducked, but the roof only shuddered under the debris.
"Let me try," Harry said. He needed Anita to stop Voldemort. He wasn't sure how, or what made him so sure, but all he knew was that Voldemort was after the Horcruxes and Harry would need the Necromancer at his side for this. He put his hand on Anita's cheek. She was so cold. "Anita?"
Anita’s gaze slid to Harry. She blinked and slowly withdrew. "What's going on?" she asked, voice shaky.
Harry almost shouted in relief. "Voldemort and Death Eaters are attacking the castle and we have to go protect the Horcruxes," Harry said in a rush. "Come on, let’s go."
"Hey, wait!" Jason interrupted. "You can't go running off!"
"If Voldemort's coming for the Horcruxes, he's coming for me!" Harry went on. "Anyone who goes with me is going to be in danger!"
"So you want Anita with you?" Jason demanded.
Anita stepped between them before Harry could respond. "Jason, I'm not defenceless," she snapped. "I'm armed and Harry's got a wand and if there are little evil soul bits out there, then who better than an animator to deal with them?"
Jason looked from Harry to Anita, then back again. "I'm coming with you," he declared. "Let's go."
"Jason--" Harry began.
"No!" Jason interrupted, growing more frantic with every passing minute. "I might be non-magical and all this bullshit, but I'm a werewolf and I can take care of myself!"
"I know," Anita said. She put her open hand on his chest. "But there are other people who need protecting more than me or Harry."
"Jason, listen to me." Anita balled up her hand in Jason's shirt. "This castle is full of defenceless little children. Go help them. We'll be okay."
Anita cut him off with a sudden kiss. Before Jason had a chance to react, Anita pulled away again. "Go," she said, voice shaking. "Go be a hero. We'll be fine."
Jason looked at Harry, a question in his eyes that Harry didn't understand. Then Jason looked back at Anita, gave her a short nod, and whirled, bounding over the glass and broken wood to catch up with a group of adults trying to herd the Ravenclaws out of the big doors. Harry couldn't see Luna's blonde hair in the crowd, and he hoped desperately she was at the front of the pack. She had to be okay.
"Do you have a plan?" Anita demanded under the din of the Slytherins trying to push past the Ravenclaws.
"Voldemort's going to go for the Horcruxes," Harry said, pulling Anita towards the side door. "We have to get there first and stop him."
"How do you plan to do that?" Anita demanded. "Can't you just do that disappearing trick the others used?"
Hysterical laughter bubbled up in Harry's throat. "I didn’t learn how to Apparate," he said as they ran down the stone corridor. "Lessons start next month."
Another blast rocked the castle. Harry almost lost his footing before Anita hauled him upright. "So how do we get there?"
Harry stopped in a doorway and pulled out the small box holding the portkey. "I hold on to this and when it goes off, I get down to the cavern where the Horcruxes are. Just hold my hand."
Anita looked at the pebble, then at Harry. "When does it go off?" she demanded.
"I'm not sure," Harry said as he tipped the pebble into his hand. "Once every half hour, but I'm not sure when that is." He pitched the box into a corner and slid the pebble into his pocket. "Until then, maybe we can help."
Anita backed away from Harry. "Are you completely insane? What kind of stupid plan is this? Why doesn't Dumbledore protect the fucking Horcruxes and we get out of here with the rest of the school?"
"Because Dumbledore's got bigger things to worry about!" Harry grabbed Anita's hand and yanked her along. "There's Voldemort and Death Eaters and whatever is exploding--"
"Like magical bombs?" Anita said sarcastically, and more of the puzzle pieces fell into place.
"The bomb from St. Louis!" Harry came to a sudden halt, narrowly missing a hole in the floor. "There's been more than one explosion, maybe there's more than one bomb!"
"What kind of a madman tries to blow up a school full of children?" Anita asked, but Harry didn’t know what to say.
They emerged from the hallway into another, this one larger and full of debris. At the far end, Bill Weasley and a woman in Auror robes were clearing a path in the rubble for the too-young Ravenclaws behind them. Harry pointed his wand at the floor and concentrated in pushing the debris to the sides of the corridor. Finally, the path was clear, and Anita and Harry stood back to let the Auror lead the frightened children down the hall.
Bill was at the back of the pack, a child with a bleeding leg carried on his back. He paused by Harry. "Where are Ron and Ginny?" he demanded.
"With the Gryffindors," Harry said, hoping he wasn’t wrong.
Something in Bill's face eased. "You all right then?"
"I've got it sorted," Harry lied. He would have said more, but Bill just clapped Harry on the shoulder and ran after the Ravenclaws, the child bouncing on his back.
Harry watched them go, Anita's hand slippery in his sweaty grasp. The sound of someone calling his name brought him back around.
It was Neville, covered in dust and blood. He ran up to Harry, panting hard. "Is You-Know-Who coming for the Horcruxes?" he demanded.
"I think so," Harry said. Anita squeezed his hand hard.
"Right." Neville looked down at his drawn wand. Harry didn't even have a chance to process before Neville thrust his wand at Harry. "Stop him," Neville said with more vehemence than Harry had ever heard from him before. "This is one of the Horcruxes, right? You take this and you stop him!"
Harry caught up the wand automatically, fingers wrapping around both his and Neville’s wands while his mind refused to work. Neville took a step back, looking levelly at Harry. He seemed to grow taller and older at the same time.
"Stop him!" Neville said again, then he ran back down the hall into the melee, wandless and defenceless and braver than anyone Harry had ever known.
His mind finally caught up with the happenings. "No, Neville, come back!" he shouted, trying to go after him, but Anita held him in place. "Neville
"He's made a choice," Anita said, pulling Harry in the opposite direction.
"But he can't do magic without a wand!" Harry protested. "If he goes up against the Death Eaters now he's going to die!"
"He knows that." Anita's voice caught in her throat. "Which means we have to stop Voldemort now."
"But..." Harry stumbled on a hunk of stone. "How do we stop him?"
"I wish I knew," Anita muttered. They came abreast with a row of shattered windows, and Harry looked out on to a scene of hellish destruction.
The east side of the castle was demolished. The stone walls had been reduced to rubble. Fires spotted in the wreckage, illuminating the scene. Harry turned his gaze away from the wrecked castle, then wished he hadn't.
Death Eaters and monsters beyond description were pouring over the wreckage and into the defenceless castle. Anyone who might have fought them off was still inside, trying to get the children to safety. The Death Eaters had no opposition.
Harry's gaze moved further into the woods. The Dark Mark hovering over a spot on the lawn too close to Hagrid's cottage it's dark, I'm wrong, I have to be wrong
cast a sickly glow on motionless spots of white, row after row hiding in the trees, overseeing the destruction.
"What is that?" Harry asked, pointing at the spots of white.
Anita made a choking noise in her throat. "Death," she gasped out. "Can't you feel it?"
Harry blinked against the darkness. "Did Voldemort kill all those people?" he asked, unable to believe that many people had died, then one of the spots of white resolved itself into a face and looked
at Harry. He jumped back.
"They're all dead," Anita said again, wrapping her free arm around her stomach. "And they're waiting."
Anita's hand tightened painfully around his. "What, like zombies?" Harry demanded. There had to be over a hundred faces out there, watching. Waiting.
"Not zombies," Anita said. "They have to be Inferii." She drew in a panting breath. "God, can't you feel them?"
Anything Harry might had said was interrupted by the huge blue fireball headed at the castle. Harry ran, pulling Anita with him. They made it around a bend in the wall just as the hallway behind them exploded in flames.
"Let's deal with the Horcruxes and then we'll tackle the undead army!" Harry shouted with more conviction than he felt, running faster. "Not a problem!"
Then they rounded another bend in the hall and there was a minotaur chasing a child, and the minotaur roared and flashed its teeth and dove for the child and Anita pulled out her gun and fired point-blank into the creature's face and Harry aimed both his and Neville's wands and shouted something, and the minotaur flew backwards into a wall, dead before it hit the stone, and a hook in the belly grabbed onto Harry and pulled him whirling backwards into darkness and all Harry could hear was Anita screaming in his ear.