Act VI, Chapter 8: The Zodiac Runes
Riker Celestial, General of the Asmerian High Command, Ascended Being from a world long dead, was having the time of his life.
All around him starships of immense size were flinging around weaponry that put the Death Star to shame, and the Traveller flagship was by far getting the brunt of the attack. If it weren't for Darkseid trying to seize the moment, he imagined the mortals would already have been eviscerated. It would have been easier for Riker if they had been. He could have just grabbed Clara and been done with it. But, in typical New God fashion, they had stuck their noses where they weren't wanted and ruined his whole plan.
Riker currently didn't have a physical form, so to say he punched Highfather – the King of the New Gods of New Genesis – in the face would be a lie. But in terms of a battle between three abstract entities comprised of coalesced energy, power and magic, that would be the equivalent of what he did. He imagined one would hear the deafening shatter of power three quadrants away.
To the outside world, it appeared as though, in the centre of the ring of waring starships, four storms of convulsing and raging energy were colliding with one another. Or… well, actually it was three. The fourth storm, which held itself separate from the other three, was an Angel, who would not interfere unless the Accords were broken.
What passed for Riker's senses flared as Zeus struck him, cutting away a large chunk of his mass. Stupid fucking Olympians. Where was Thor… Found him.
A fifth storm – lancing with gold and red lightning – crashed into Zeus gold and white one.
'Bout time you showed up.
On your left.
Lucifer had arrived.
He appeared much like the rest of them, as a storm – red and angry in contrast to Riker himself, who would appear a shimmering blue on white. But his tempest was different from the rest of them. Lucifer was not an ascended being. Instead of rising closer to God on the spiritual plane, he had fallen towards the Destroyer. But he didn't enter the fight. He just hovered there beside the Angel – Riker thought it might be Delilah, he'd dated her once.
Riker struck, a lance of pure Source energy sheering through Highfather's form. If an Ascended Being could scream, he did it at that moment.
Then, far away, a distant rumbling echoed through the Orrery. Everyone instantly stopped moving. Every ship stopped firing; every craft froze.
Riker's glee and excitement turned to terror. The Destroyer was trying to escape. He and all the other ascended beings vanished instantly.
Claire stilled her breathing, hand flexing around the hilt of her wand. She could do this. She could do this. What was she thinking!? Of course, she couldn't do this!
Her skin was clammy, and she'd started shivering from the bitter cold of the Dementors. She'd entangled to the top of one of the trees, high above the place where the snake was suspended in its shield of magic. She had faith in her plan, if only because the Pisces rune told her it would work. She had four runes on her arm – Sagittarius, Pisces, Aries and Aquarius. Pisces as proof her plan would work, Sagittarius to get through the shield and Aries to survive the fall. They were rush jobs, so the charges wouldn't last long, but it was enough. In her hand she held a Basilisk fang. It lent her an odd sense of comfort, the reminder of home. She'd killed that Basilisk herself on a school trip to Cape York. Dangerous place that. Will had been so proud…
'Don't. Not now.'
"Expecto Patronum!" Two voices echoed through the forest, and two misty white figures burst into the clearing from different directions. As hoped, the Dementors splintered, two-thirds leaving to chase Peter and MJ. A few of the Werewolves bolted too, but not as many as she would have hoped for. She took a deep, rattling breath, and jumped.
The air was so cold it crystallised on her skin as she dove, wind whipping her hair behind her. She brandished her fang in one hand and squeezed her fist closed with the other. A tingling feeling rushed through her body, and she passed through the shield surrounding Nagini, the snake. A werewolf howled as it saw her, but the damage was done. Claire released her hand and stabbed downwards with the fang. Nagini twisted around it, fangs leaping for Claire's neck. She snapped her fist shut, and the snake sailed through her intangible body. The shield shattered, and Claire released the Sagittarius rune, slamming into the ground – Aries absorbing the impact.
She jumped to her feet just in time to dodge another lunge from the creature. The remaining Dementors all turned towards her and began floating up the crest. The werewolves hung back, though whether they did it because they were frightened of the snake, the Dementors, or just didn't see the point, she wasn't sure. Her whole body was trembling now, breath misting in the air. She fixed her gaze on Nagini, coiling along the ground, fangs bared. 'Just like any other monster hunt.'
Her wand snapped into her hand, and she pointed it to the sky.
"Lumos Solemn!" She slammed her eyes shut as the burst of pure sunlight tore through the trees, blinding the snake and the werewolves. It did nothing for the Dementors. The tried a trapping spell, but it washed off the creatures hide. Okay. Magic resistant skin. Should have guessed that. The snake struck towards her again, and Claire – Sagittarius rune exhausted – had to entangle herself away. She burst into dust, reforming outside the ring of Dementors.
"Expulso Argentum!" Dozens of silver knives conjured from the air around her, exploding outwards in all directions. Then she pointed her wand at the sky. Will had taught her this spell.
"SHAZAM!" A bolt of white lightning shot from the rapidly dimming sky, colliding with her wand point. She swept the now supercharged piece of wood around her in an arc, and the silver daggers filled to the brim with magical electricity. Five of the blades hit their marks, and the werewolves struck burst into flames, dying instantly. The three remaining creatures vanished into the trees.
Claire entangled again as a Dementor grabbed her arm, its icy cold grip burning her skin. She reappeared a few metres away, then vanished again with a shriek as the snake shot at her. She dropped the Basilisk fang. She formed from dust behind a tree, trying to still her rapidly beating heart. She caught a momentary glimpse of Peter flipping through the air, kicking a werewolf headfirst into a tree and webbing him to the bark. His Patronus – a giant spider – scuttled through the air, keeping five trailing Dementors at bay.
She ducked around her tree and came face to face with one of the soul-sucking monsters. She thrust her hands forward and blasted the most powerful fire spell she could think of at it before entangling away again.
Claire reformed atop the crest, wand scanning the ground for the snake. It sat in the grass, slithering towards her. That thing had far higher sentience than it should. Her body was running solely on adrenaline now. The Aries rune had worn off, as had the Pisces rune. At least she could restore her armour. She did so, feeling the embrace of safety it provided. It did not shield her from the effects of the Dementors, but at least she wouldn't be poisoned now.
She backed up as the Dementors moved up the hill towards her. Fuck… How the hell was she going to do this? Where was the fang?
Two bursts of heat filled the air, pushing back the cold, followed by two brilliantly coloured phoenixes. One was white and gold, the other red and black. Apollo and Fawkes. Fawkes flew towards her as Claire's jaw fell open in shock. Apollo zoomed instead towards Mary Jane, who was backing up towards the hill herself, Dementors at her heels. Her Gryffin Patronus looked very weak. Fawkes threw something at her, a brown hat… with a glittering silver hilt inside.
She grabbed the metal and pulled it free just as Nagini jumped into the air. The sword sliced through the creature's neck, and it shattered to smoke, a piercing scream echoing through the evening.
The Dementors kept coming.
A roar filled the air, followed by three giant shadows descending on the clearing. Shadows she'd recognise in an instant. Dragons.
Will and Clarissa dropped from the sky, blades that shimmered like light reflecting through glass brandished in their hands. They hit the ground with heavy thumps and charged the Dementors. Will sliced through one, and Claire watched, beaming, as it split in half, wailing in pain before it faded away to nothing. The Dragons wheeled away, and Claire caught a glimpse of a redhead riding on the back of a Hungarian Horntail.
Peter and MJ were standing back to back at the foot of the bluff, wands pointed outwards. In an instant, a wall of pure white radiated outwards, blasting the Dementors into the air, screaming. The dragons swooped down again, breathing fire over the fleeing monsters.
Claire sank to her knees, dropping the sword.
"Atlantis, this is Ariel. The snake is dead. I repeat, the snake is dead. That's the last one." Then she slumped to the side and fell unconscious.
Harry and Ginny
Harry and Ginny stepped into the dream together. It was, incredibly, the first time they'd done that. Before it had always been one of them arriving before the other, or one triggering the dream and pulling the other to them. Now, as Harry and Ginny appeared on the edge of the ancient city of Atlantis, they held hands. The ocean surged, waves crashing against the metal platform. Dragons of green and red soared through the air, twisting between the silver towers. Sunlight beamed down on them, illuminating the parks and glistening off windows. Children ran through the streets, laughing and playing while adults walked the roads, coming and going with smiles and kind greetings. Oh, how it had grown in the years since they arrived. For it was here, so long ago now, that Harry and Ginny had come together for the first time. This was their place, and here, Lord Voldemort held no power over them.
In the distance, six dark patches obscured the sea. Shadow cities with angry red lights buzzing around them. Hovering above each was a convulsing black force that occasionally solidified into an image. A green-covered Diary, a ring of gold with a red stone set within, a metal locket adorned by a golden S, a cup of gold-bearing the symbol of a badger, a silver crown inlaid with sapphires, and a green snake in a sphere of white energy.
Tom Riddle fell from the sky a short distance away from the Atlantis, splashing into the churning sea. Beyond the City, dark clouds boiled in the air, and flashes of lightning crashed against the water. Riddle pulled his head above the waterline, sucking in a ragged breath. He appeared as he once did. Young, good looking and sly. But that aura of hate remained.
He surged free of the waves, floating into the air, and locked eyes with Harry and Ginny, standing proudly at the edge of the City. It was the exact place Harry had crawled from the sea after saving Sirius from the Dementors, the same place where Ginny had exorcised the nightmare of Tom Riddle from her fears.
Ginny looked magnificent. She wore the white and gold dress from the Yule Ball, though it had grown to fit her far taller and filled out frame. Flickering flames of gold danced in her red locks, and her very figure emitted a powerful white gold light to match the dress. Her eyes were afire with power.
Harry wore black robes with a faint green lining at the hem and sleeves. Across his shoulders was his Defenders Cloak, hood thrown back to expose his windblown hair. He had stubble on his chin, and his glasses had returned to his face, though he didn't need them. The Firebrand curled around his right forearm, shimmering and rippling beneath his skin. He gave off the same light that Ginny did, and his scar was gone.
Riddle snarled, then flew, black smoke trailing behind him, towards Harry, white wand appearing in his hand. Harry and Ginny raised their free hands, and the City shield rose around them, rippling and transparent. Riddle slammed his wand into the buffer and began pushing power into it. Their Occlumency trembled at the onslaught, but they didn't flinch. Riddle screamed, and before their eyes, began to transform. He grew taller, the school robes melding into the flowing black cloth worn by the Dark Lord. His pleasant-looking face became dark, twisted, and angry. Veins along his hands and head became more prominent, and his skin began to bleed white. Lord Voldemort strained against the City shield, and the people of the City grew silent. Lighting fell from the clouds, striking the shield all across Atlantis, but Harry and Ginny held strong. The Gemini Rune blazed with intensity as the Dragon Force flooded them with power, intensifying their bond to heights neither of them had thought possible. The crowd gathered around Harry and Ginny, staring at Voldemort in fright. A dozen phoenixes, each of two different colours, flew down around them, perching on shoulders and trilling a song of determination and hope.
The ocean boiled, but beneath Atlantis there was nothing but calm. Voldemort screamed defiance, and his face morphed again. His nose vanished, replaced by two snake-like slits, his skin lost what remained of its colour, and his eyes turned from brown to red. But it wasn't just Voldemort that grew. Harry and Ginny forged closer and closer together, the Dragon Force surging through Atlantis to permeate their bodies, their minds, their souls. It pulled them together, ever tighter. The Gemini Rune began to burn.
The crowd of people had swelled to thousands now, and each one wore a face. Lily and James stood proudly behind their son, staring defiance one final time. Arthur squeezed his daughters' shoulder, beaming in pride. Ron Weasley leaned against both his sister and his best friend, fighting beside them even in death. They weren't alone. Susan Bones was there, triumph in her bearing, and beside her stood Ernie MacMillan, Anthony Goldstein and the kids killed in the Department of Mysteries. Gwen swung down from a building in her Spider-Woman costume, landing on the ground and joining the crowd. The Order of the Phoenix was there, the old members, and the new, all of them lost fighting for freedom. Children and their parents, Muggleborns and half-bloods, Goblins and House-elves, their lives all snuffed by hate, gathered. Warriors and heroes, the lost and the infirm, the loved and the forgotten. They came from buildings, running down the streets, falling from the sky. They came together, gathered in the sacred city of a dead civilisation, and with every person who arrived, the glow surrounding Harry and Ginny grew brighter. On either side of the crowd.
At the very back of the group stood Albus Dumbledore and Stephen Strange. Albus watched, a twinkle in his eye and pride on his face, as his greatest dream finally came true. Stephen stared with shaking hands, wondering, at how he could have missed something so important: the magic of love.
"You have destroyed the lives of too many people, Tom Riddle!" Harry and Ginny shouted in perfect harmony. "No longer! Your links to this world have been torn away!"
One by one, the shadow cities – the Horcruxes – began to collapse. They cracked apart, swallowed by the surging ocean of life. Voldemort's attack faltered, and he flinched back as if struck. He cast his gaze towards the cities, watching in horror as each one was struck down by his own lightning. First, it was the Diary, the sound of the Basilisk screaming washing across the distance. Then the ring, its power broken by the arm of a man who'd dedicated his life to service. The Locket crushed into oblivion by a love as strong as Harry and Ginny's own. The Cup thrown into a pit of primordial energy. The Diadem swallowed by the flames of a woman who'd rebuilt herself from nothing. And the snake, slain by the sword of righteousness.
Voldemort screamed in agony. The clouds burned away, and the ocean fell still. A woman with hair that rippled from black to vibrant magenta pushed through the crowd. Jessica Jones, glowing with a brilliance of her own, came up beside Harry and Ginny and took their hands in hers. She smiled softly and whispered two words.
Harry and Ginny, tears sliding down their faces, nodded, and Jessica pulled away. Sirius and Remus stepped up beside James, Lily and Arthur, and together, the crowd watched as Jessica Jones lifted her hands to the sky.
The City flashed to white.
Hermione, her whole body trembling in agony, finished her drawing. The stele slipped free from her hand, clanging to the ground. She slumped to the stone, and the last thing she saw before everything went dark, was the final rune. The Gemini Rune had begun to glow.
Lavender and Demelza ran through the halls of Hogwarts hand in hand. With the Grand Staircase destroyed, they had to navigate the other hallways and corridors in order to get to the Entrance Courtyard where Harry was waiting. And they had to reach him. They had between them two items of incredible value. The Deathly Hallows. Lavender had the Invisibility Cloak, Demelza had the Resurrection Stone – given to her by Danny before he'd portaled back to Atlantis with a book that belched black smoke under his arm. Over the communication network, they'd heard that Jessica and Kilgrave were both dead, and the Room of Requirement had been destroyed. Luna had taken the Elder Wand – the final Hallow – to Harry. Now it was up to them. Katie, Angelina and Alicia had broken away, distracting the Carrows, who'd tried to attack them as they moved through the fourth floor.
Lavender pulled Demelza around a corner into the Second Floor Corridor. It was a large hallway that connected the Clock Tower to the Grand Staircase just above the Great Hall. It was one of the major thoroughfares through the castle. Which was why the library had been built here.
It was a warzone. On the Clock Tower side, the American Aurors and Students held ground against a line of Death Eaters using debris from the right-side wall – which had apparently been blown inwards – as cover. The other side of the hallway was held by the Alcheringan Federal Protection Authority. The Death Eaters were effectively surrounded outside the Library entrance. The reason they were holding so well? There were five heavily armoured trolls guarding the Alcheringan side of the hallway.
"Defenders!" The voice belonged to a dark-skinned boy on the Ilvermorny side, the side Lavender and Demelza had arrived on. Demelza pushed forward, Lavender trailing behind. The armour really was helpful at making them recognisable.
"Miles! Kamala! Kitty!" Demelza called as the boy moved out of the frontlines. Lavender immediately revised her comment of 'boy. This person was a man. He was tall, with dark eyes and a dazzling smile. He was heavily muscled and carried himself a lot like Harry did – with the aura of a leader. Two girls stood beside him, one with a complexion like Parvati's and one with a typical American look about her.
"Demelza!" Kamala beamed, a smile splitting her face.
"What's the situation?" Miles asked as Demelza hugged Kamala and Kitty.
"We have cargo we need to get down to 'base," Demelza said. Miles nodded, then tapped his ear.
"T'Challa. I've got two important packages on my side. We need to clear a path."
"I'm open to suggestions."
"That suit can take a punch, right?"
Miles pushed to the front of the wall of Aurors.
"Sorry man." He pointed his wand across the divide and jerked it towards him.
"Accio T'Challa!" A figure in a black and silver suit on the Alcheringan side jerked towards the trolls, crashing into the gut of one of them, toppling it over. The other trolls immediately froze, shocked. T'Challa rolled off the creature.
"Kitty, Kamala. Get the girls to the Potters." Miles elbowed one of the MIB Agents, and they charged over the barricade together, flinging spells in all directions. A Death Eater reductor went wild, flying into the library.
"FPA! Roundup spells on three!" One of the Alcheringan men shouted in a thick Samoan accent.
Demelza, Kamala, Lavender and Kitty jumped over the barrier and edged along the wall, away from the spellfire.
Neville Longbottom and Severus Snape both rushed forward as T'Challa punched a troll in the face. He backflipped and kicked it off the side of the hallway, where it fell, crashing to the ground below.
A group of FPA soldiers pushed to the front of their line, blue lights burning at the tips of their fingers.
The girls ducked into the library as a giant blue net of lights sprang up around the Trolls.
One of the Trolls suddenly reversed directions, floating upside down. Neville cast a reductor at its head. It exploded, showering green goop all over him and Snape.
"Tighten!" The cords of the magical net became rigid and began to squeeze together. The three remaining trolls, Snape, Neville and T'Challa were all crushed together, trapped. Snape's head was stuck under the armpit of one. On the other side of the room, Miles and the MIB Agents broke through the Death Eaters lines.
The girls restrained their laughter and raced towards the Alcheringan side.
Fitz stared at the Gateway as Luke Cage, grumbling as he lay on a stretcher surrounded by doctors, was pulled into Atlantis by the Alcheringan medical staff. Danny Rand stood over him, chuckling at his friend's treatment. Several other people, also on stretchers, were being carried in. The sheer number of people who'd been tortured by the Death Eaters made him feel sick. At least they could get the medical support they needed now. They still didn't know how many people the Death Eaters had executed already.
The elevator slid open, and Daphne and Lance stepped out.
"How are our guests?" Jemma asked from her own screen, monitoring the life signs readings and damage done to the castle. The seventh floor had collapsed in on itself. The Room of Requirement had been completely destroyed. Gryffindor tower had a giant hole in it. The Headmaster's tower had been obliterated. The roof of the Clock Tower had fallen in on itself, the second floor was missing a wall, and the Grand Staircase had almost completely collapsed.
"Grumpy," Daphne said with a smile, and Lance chuckled to himself.
"Some of them are actually crying." Fitz rolled his eyes.
Below, the Gateway shutdown.
An alarm blared through the City, and Fitz and Jemma jerked towards the Chair platform. Ginny had woken up.
The Chair slid back into the upright position, and Ginny sprang to her feet. Her face was lined with tear stains. Percy and Molly Weasley, who were sitting next to her, rose to their feet and began fretting about her.
"Not now!" She snapped. Then she turned and pushed Percy into the Chair. The light beneath the glass returned, and it slid back into place.
"Woah!" Percy exclaimed, eyes going wide. The alarm shut off.
"Ginny! What are you doing?!"
"I need to get down there." There was a hitch to her words, as if she were trying very hard to keep her voice steady.
"But I don't know how to do this!" Ginny ignored him, pushing her mother away as she stormed down the stairs towards the Gateway. Luke, noticing Ginny, pushed a blonde woman away from him and jumped to his feet. He only stumbled slightly before Danny caught him.
"Someone get me a bloody shirt!" He yelled. Ginny pulled the tall boy into a hug and whispered something in his ear. Luke went rigid. Then he balled his fists. Danny looked enraged. Ginny turned towards the Bridge.
"Fitz! Dial the Gate."
Fitz did as he was told.
Ginny, Danny and Luke stepped out of the portal and tried not to break down at the sight. Bodies were strewn across the cobblestones in all directions. Some were alive, others weren't.
Luna was pulling Hermione to the side near where Bill and Fleur lay; Fred and George – white-faced and shaking – stood over them. Okoye the Wakandan General and Psylocke were standing sentry around the outside of the circle of runes, staring at the destroyed doors to the entrance hall. Matt was sitting on the ground beside a crying Tonks. Lying on the cobbles next to them were two bodies. Sirius and Remus. Oh, when would it end? Now. If she had anything to say about it at least. Jessica… now Sirius and Remus too. How many more of her friends were dead? How many more of them could die?
Above the Black Lake, Atlantis shimmered beneath its transparent shield. A half dozen figures ran out of the castle, and the Gemini Rune thumped against Ginny's neck.
"GET READY!" Ginny screamed. Two of the people wore the Ancient armour, Lavender and Demelza – who was carrying one of the Ancient swords. Beside them ran Kamala Khan, Kitty Pryde, Neville and Claire's friend Emily. Harry and T'Challa brought up the rear of the group.
Harry felt… fuzzy. Yes, that was the best word for it. There was a ringing, not in his ears, but in his mind. The Firebrand, instead of burning, had turned ice-cold against his skin. And he had the oddest feeling that something was watching him. Somethings.
He put it down to disorientation from the attack on Voldemort's mind. When Lavender, Demelza and the others had found him, he had been kneeling on the floor of the Great Hall, crying silent tears. Oh, Jess…
Voldemort had fared little better. He had collapsed just as Harry had, groaning in pain and agony as his mind was splintered. It would not take long for the Nether Force to fill the gaps. The circle was their only hope now.
They just had to get to it first.
Five more trolls, along with most of the remaining Death Eaters, pushed out of the doors behind them. The Alcheringan forces were harrying them from behind while the remaining American Aurors secured the rest of the castle.
Harry raised his wand, intending to bring the masonry around the door down on the trolls, but before he could cast the spell, Luke and Danny, with Okoye and the remaining Wakandans, raced past him. Luke jumped with supernatural strength and punched a troll in the face. Its skull caved in, and its giant, wart covered body fell like a stone. Danny took out another, using his glowing fists to easily subdue the creature. A third troll took Okoye's spear through the eye.
Harry glanced at T'Challa, who shrugged in what Harry thought was amusement. It was kind of hard to tell through the mask.
"Harry!" Ginny grabbed his arm, pulling him down the stairs towards the courtyard. He couldn't see any of the runes on the ground. He supposed they were being hidden somehow.
Jess… Sirius and Remus…
I know. But we can't… not now. They sacrificed themselves to give us time. We're damn well going to see this through.
An ear-shattering cry echoed through the air, and a fleet of Dragons swooped up over the cliffs. Flying around them were two phoenixes.
"I've got reinforcements – Moody, Flitwick and the Europeans. Where do you want them?" Shuri asked over the coms.
"In Atlantis," Harry replied, "They can't do anything now. Start evacuating the remaining ground personnel. If this thing goes nuclear, I want as many people safe behind that shield as possible.
Charlie Weasley jumped off the back of the Horntail – which immediately took off and flew away – with Peter. From the back of a Sea Dragon came Clarissa and Mary Jane. And then, sliding down from another Sea Dragon, were Will and Claire. A weight lifted from Harry's shoulders, and the Gemini Rune began to hum. Ginny breathed an audible sigh of relief.
Luke and Danny tag-teamed the last troll as the Wakandan tribesmen made short work of the few Death Eaters.
Harry turned to Lavender and Demelza – who had finally extinguished her not-lightsabre.
"Do you have them?" he asked. They each withdrew an object from their suits and offered them to him. The Invisibility Cloak: entrusted to Lavender when Umbridge was still in control of the school. The Resurrection Stone: retrieved from Dumbledore's study. With shaking hands, he took them both. Instantly, the fuzziness became slightly worse. He ignored it. He didn't have time right now.
Matt pushed through the crowd. In his hand was a wand. Harry tried to look Matt in the eyes, but his suit – which he'd transformed to totally black and red – blocked all view of his friend's face.
"Let's kill this son of a bitch," Matt said, voice quivering.
Harry threw the cloak around his shoulders, pocketed the stone, and grabbed the wand. The world seemed to tremble. For a moment, Harry could see thousands of people both in the courtyard and hovering around it in the air. People of all different colours, shapes, hues and forms. Standing at the very edge of the circle, in front of all the others, was a figure clothed all in black, with skin as pale as snow. She wore a deep black hood and carried a scythe. On either side of her stood another figure. On the left was a man wearing metallic blue armour, but the thing Harry noticed was his eyes. They were like wells, shimmering with blue energy that seemed to sink into oblivion. On the right was a woman in a dress of pure white, wings of rippling energy emerging from her back.
Harry blinked, and the vision faded. He stumbled backwards, and Ginny caught him. The Firebrand continued to blister, freezing against his arm.
"Are you okay?" She asked, pushing as much love as she could through their bond. He swallowed and nodded. The fuzziness was gone, but they were still there if he looked out the corner of his eye. Ascended Beings. Clara's people. They were waiting. Watching to see what Harry was about to do.
We've got an audience.
A scream of anguish echoed through Hogwarts, and as the sun inched ever closer to the horizon, bathing both Atlantis and the castle in golden light, the Firebrand turned scolding hot once more. Harry took a deep breath.
"Get everyone ready. It's time." Ginny pulled Harry into a searing kiss. It lasted nowhere near long enough for Harry's liking. Then she pulled away and led the others to the sides of the courtyard.
Voldemort emerged from the shattered castle doors wreathed in darkness, black eyes pulling light from around him.
"You think it matters that you destroyed my soul anchors Potter!"
His voice had warped somehow. Taken on a deepness that made Harry's skin crawl. How much of his psyche had the Nether Force replaced?
"Drones!" Harry yelled, his helmet forming around him. Pinpricks of golden light shot out from the City, zooming towards them.
Harry, Elder Wand gripped tightly in his hand, cloak shimmering around him, began to step backwards. He glanced behind him and saw that everyone remaining in the courtyard had hunkered down at the edges, hiding in the debris. The Drones shot out of the sky, but Voldemort just absorbed each one with his cloud of darkness.
"I am a GOD now! I have defeated even Death!"
Harry very much doubted that, seeing as how he was pretty sure the Grim Reaper was standing over his shoulder.
"And now… now I am going to rid myself of you once and for all!"
Harry's foot moved over a carving in the stone. Voldemort began to float after his retreating form.
"Yes, yes… We've all heard it before Tom. You give your speech, you try to kill me, then you fail. It's becoming repetitive." Harry continued to retreat, Elder Wand in his left hand, Holly Wand in his right.
"Not this time!" Voldemort's hand snapped up, and the Ancient Armour around Harry's body melted. It turned to liquid and fell from his body like sludge. He stumbled backwards, quickly scrambling out of the pool of liquid metal. His heart hammered in his chest, hands clamming. Okay. Main advantage gone. Really not good. At least he'd worn a shirt and pants beneath the armour?
Voldemort raised his other hand – this one with his bone-white wand held in a firm grip. Harry stepped back one more time, and his foot touched another imprint in the stone.
Harry raised his own wand.
"Expelliarmus!" Voldemort's spell crashed into Harry's, transforming into a beam of golden light connecting both tips. The Resurrection Stone, sitting in his pocket, began to heat.
There was no contest this time. As soon as the golden bead formed in the middle of the thread connecting the two brother wands, it began to speed towards Harry's wand. He gave it no time to reach him. He snapped the beam apart and fired another spell – this time from the Elder Wand.
This was his plan. His one in a million plan. The Elder Wand supposedly couldn't be beaten, but he doubted it had gone up against the Nether Force before, and he wasn't in the mood to test its limits while facing his imminent demise. Undoubtedly no spell Harry fired, even with the Nether Force, would have any effect. Harry had seen Voldemort shrug off a reductor like it was nothing in the Ministry fight, and according to what Will and Clarissa had told him, they'd gone toe to toe with a fully powered Voldemort and barely dented him. No. Nothing Harry had in his arsenal could hurt Voldemort while he was using the Nether Force. But a summoning charm? Just like the judges at the Triwizard Tournament, it was so ridiculous and straightforward an idea it was utterly unthinkable.
Say what you would about him, but Harry learned from his mistakes. Thank you, Peter Parker.
The golden beam shattered, spraying flakes of magical power through the air as it broke back into the disarming spell and the Killing Curse. The summoner, overpowered by the Elder Wand, caught Voldemort by surprise, and he jerked forward just slightly. It wasn't much. But it was enough to pull him inside the circle and to put him in the path of Harry's disarming spell. Harry didn't see if the charm had any effect, he was too busy pulling the Invisibility Cloak around him. He didn't know why he did it, it was just a gut feeling that came to him in the moment. The Killing Curse hit the cloak, and the fabric absorbed the blast of green light.
Around him, the spectres of the dead began to appear alongside the shapes of the Ascended. Harry let the cloak fall back, and he grinned as a look of realisation crossed Voldemort's face.
Harry, grinning, planted hands on hips.
"Master of Death, motherfucker. NOW!"
Ginny grabbed the lightsabre from Demelza's hand and called to T'Challa. Time to kick some ass. They bolted from their cover beside an overturned column and sprinted at Voldemort's exposed back. T'Challa, by virtue of his enhanced speed and strength, outpaced Ginny. He bounded forward, then leapt a good five feet into the air, Vibranium claws extending from his fingers.
People rushed from the edges of the courtyard in a mixture of screams and cries – all with Wands drawn. Voldemort spun on them, and T'Challa slammed into his back. Voldemort howled as the Vibranium claws sliced into his neck, before tossing T'Challa aside like a rag doll.
Harry raised his foot and slammed it down at his feet.
"GEMINI!" The rune blazed with light, and Ginny ignited Demelza's blade. She couldn't jump anywhere near as high as T'Challa, but she could still reach Voldemort with a well-placed Ascendio. She shot up into the air.
"CANCER!" Will had reached one of the runes. As soon as he said the word, the symbol at his feet began to glow, the same as Harry's did. Ginny's blow landed on Voldemort's side, and he wheezed as the plasma blade sliced at skin. Ginny fell, heart jack-knifing in her chest, and shot a cushioning charm at the ground.
"ACQUARIUS!" Matt screamed, and his rune lit up, blazing light forth into the sunset.
Danny was in the air before Ginny's blow landed. As her blade sliced at Voldemort's side, drawing his attention, Danny's supercharged fist slammed into the Dark Lord's head. The recoil shot both of them away from one another. Voldemort further inside the circle, Danny back into the crowd. He landed atop Tonks and Lavender.
"LEO!" Betsy stood proudly on her glyph, torn Gringotts robes flaring behind her.
All of it happened in about five seconds.
Voldemort screamed in fury, thrusting his hands to the side. Bolts of purple lightning shot in all directions. But Luna was there. She thrust her hands out in front of her, and a wall of shimmering light manifested around Voldemort like a dome, absorbing the blasts. A wave of sickly green energy rolled from his body – a wave of Killing Curse energy. It too struck Luna's barrier.
"ARIES!" Danny called, reaching the closest empty rune.
Voldemort cried out in anguish, pointing his wand straight at the ground. The stonework within the dome turned completely black then vanished to fumes… revealing the underside of the dome beneath the ground.
"TAURUS!" Luke shouted at the same time Bill Weasley, supported by Fleur and Charlie, cried out, "VIRGO!" The wind began to pick up, churning around the sphere of energy. Voldemort turned into a storm of darkness, lashing out with lances of darkness in all directions. The shield began to tremble.
"I can't hold it much longer!"
"LIBRA!" Clarissa called. Ginny rolled to her feet, surging past a dozen people pointy wands in shaking grips as Mary Jane slammed her foot down on another symbol.
The sphere transformed from white to gold, Luna sagged to the ground, and Voldemort screamed.
"What is this!?"
Everyone rushing around, wands at the ready, froze. That wasn't Voldemort's voice.
The Dark Lord resolidified, turning his attention straight at Harry. There was something in his eyes. Something… beyond just Voldemort. The black seemed to swirl amongst itself.
"Release me. now."
"PISCES!" It was Hermione's voice, though Harry couldn't see her. The sky above them began to boil, shifting from gold to flaming red. The ground began to tremble, but Voldemort's power remained fixed inside the sphere. Dumbledore's final plan. Used on their own, each Zodiac Rune granted a single power. Used together, those powers mixed with each other, twisting and combining to create a powerful energy field. An energy field that, as Lily Potter had proved, could be used to separate matter and energy into a different dimension. Voldemort knew it too.
Ginny, panting heavily, stood on the directly opposite side of the circle from Harry, her symbol blazing with power. All twelve wizards around the outside of the dome rose from the ground, floating up into the air. The runes – and the sphere - rose with them. The courtyard below them fell silent as people stopped running and started staring in awe.
Together, each of the twelve people raised their right hands in sync, and together, they closed their fists.
Voldemort, realising the horror of what was about to happen, stared at Harry – a look that could only be described as fear crossing his face. Behind Harry, Atlantis glowed.
The Dark Lord screamed as the Nether Force was yanked from his body, tearing free from his physical form in a moment. One second Voldemort was wreathed in awesome darkness and power, the next – as the sound of a horrible screech echoed through the sphere – a second figure made of liquid blackness hovered next to the pale, naked form of Tom Riddle. He had reverted back to his original body, save the red eyes.
"If I am to die," both forms snarled, one in Riddle's voice, one in the other, horrifying voice, "then you're coming with me!" He grabbed at the power as the inky form began to dissipate. Riddle brushed its hand.
"NO!" The sphere exploded, casting all twelve Defenders back to the stone below. They crashed to the ground on all sides of the crater, and Harry immediately rolled to his feet. On the other side of the circle, Ginny did the same. Tom Riddle's body hit the cobbles with a muted thud.
The black form remained in the air for a second, before collapsing in on itself with a crunch.
Gravity lurched around them, and Harry was pulled from his feet, sucked towards the tiny pinprick of darkness.
"I Will Have You All," said the echoing malevolent voice.
"Ginny!" Harry screamed both aloud and across their mental bridge.
It hadn't worked. Why hadn't it worked?! That was their only plan!
"Not While I Still Draw Breath!" Harry froze in mid-air, and the wind and the howling and the screaming all seemed to silence. Ginny, hurtling not a few metres away from him, had also frozen. Everything was trapped. All except one person.
"Return to your Dark Domain, Destroyer. You have no Power Here!"
Wreathed in a halo of white fire so bright you couldn't look directly at her, Luna Lovegood launched herself from the ground, flying straight for the pinpoint of darkness. As she reached it, gliding with the grace of an angel, she clasped the cluster of evil between her hands and ripped it apart.
A shockwave blasted everything back into motion as the terrible pull vanished. Harry grabbed Ginny, pulling her to his chest. Then they hit the ground.
"Ow," Ginny groaned, the Gemini Rune beating in time with their heartbeats.
Harry opened his eyes, pulling himself upright. He and Ginny had landed on the edge of the courtyard. Directly above them, floating majestically in the final rays of light, was the silver city of their dreams, Dragons and Phoenixes flying between its holy towers. The sky had returned to gold.
Ginny sat up, moaning in pain, but Harry could tell she wasn't really injured, thanks to the Gemini Rune. She sidled up to him and leaned against his chest.
A second later, Hermione, head bloody and hair a mess, sat down beside them. Danny slid in beside her, and Luke hit the ground with a thud. On Harry's other side, Luna, looking no different than usual, sat down with Peter, Claire and MJ.
"Hogwarts? This is Atlantis. Please respond. General, did it work?"
Harry gripped the Elder wand in his hand, and for a moment, the faded image of the Ascended Beings returned to him. The man in the metallic armour stood before him, side by side with Death, and the Angel. Harry withdrew the Resurrection Stone from his pocket and undid the cloak, before placing both them and the wand on the ground in front of him. The man and the Angel both nodded respectfully to him. Death bowed, before scooping up the items, and vanishing.
Harry's vision returned to normal, and he began to run his fingers through Ginny's hair.
"Atlantis, this is Harry. It's over."