Thursday, July 14, 2011

"Harry Potter and the Children of the Night" - Part 4 (Conclusion)

In celebration of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I’m debuting a brand-new Harry Potter story throughout this week, one that pits our favorite Hogwarts characters against the creatures of Twilight.  Presented in four parts, one chapter has been going up every day this week, and today is the final installment!  Read part one by clicking here, part two here, and part three here.

Today, the story comes to its dramatic and epic conclusion with Chapter Four, in which the trio enter the final battle with the Cullens.  Both sides are unprepared, however, because each has brought some very powerful reinforcements.  It’s the final battle between good and evil!  Finish the story by reading Harry Potter and the Children of the Night – Part Four after the jump…

 Harry Potter and the Children of the Night
By Jonathan R. Lack
Based on Characters Created by J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer

Chapter Four:
Dumbledore’s Army Returns
            Ron and Harry trudged slowly through the woods; the trail had just ended, which meant they were getting very close now, and had to be on their guard.  It was early Wednesday morning, so early that the sun was just beginning to rise.
            “Are you sure about this, Harry?” asked Ron.  “We’re taking a lot of awfully big risks.”
            “Isn’t that how we’ve always done it?” Harry replied.
            Ron couldn’t disagree with that. 
            “Besides, risks are our only option at this point,” Harry reminded him.  “Edward wants to kill us, Hermione most of all.  She’s only alive because he’s using her as bait; the bigger the risks we take, the better chance we have of catching him off guard.”
            Ron nodded.  They had reached the edge of the trees – another step would bring them into the Cullen house clearing.  “Let’s do this.”
            They walked through to the other side, and found Edward, Emmett, Rosalie, Alice, and Jasper waiting for them.  “Glad you decided to show up,” Edward jeered. 
            “Remember, pretend to put up a fight,” Harry whispered to Ron.
            “What are you plotting over there?” growled Emmett.
            “Don’t let them plot.  Capture them,” Edward ordered.
            Harry raised his wand and began to mouth a spell, but before he could finish, Alice had arrived at his side with instantaneous speed and disarmed him.  Emmett had taken hold of Ron, handing his wand over to Alice, while Jasper stayed at Edward’s site.  Harry and Ron were marched towards Edward, who surveyed them with disgust. 
            Alice handed Edward their wands.  Edward studied them for a moment with curiosity.  “Strange devices, these,” he said.  “Such powerful witchcraft from such small sticks.  Not that it matters any more.”
            Without warning, he snapped the wands in half and threw them over his shoulder.  Harry and Ron began screaming in protest, but Edward, a look of irrepressible rage suddenly enveloping his face, punched Harry in the gut with incredible force.  Harry wretched on the ground; he felt a rib may have broken.  Edward moved to Ron and did the same, then threw his prisoners on the ground and allowed Jasper and Emmett to take a few kicks.    
            Just as Harry and Ron felt they could take no more, Edward ordered his brothers to stop.  “Bring them inside,” he growled.  Jasper hoisted Harry over his shoulder, while Emmett took Ron, and they all followed Edward into the house.
            They were brought into the same sitting room where they had first met the Cullens.  This time, the Cullens weren’t trying to hide their identity, so there were no shades on the windows.  Carlisle, his empty eye sockets covered with heavy sunglasses, sat in a chair in the corner, his wife Esme by his side, staring daggers at Harry and Ron.  Hermione was tied to a chair in front of the fireplace. 
            Harry and Ron were dumped onto the floor in the middle of the room.  Harry assumed they must have looked pretty horrible, since he heard Hermione shriek when she saw them.  “Ron!  Harry!  What did they do to you?”
            Ron rolled over to look at Hermione.  He had a bulging black eye and a split lip, but managed a wry smile.  “Hey honey,” he said through strained breaths.  “I’m sorry about that argument we had earlier; once we’re done with these guys, of course we can move in together.”  Edward snickered at him.
            “Ron, you idiot, that’s hardly important right now!” Hermione cried.  “Why did you walk into his trap alone?”
            “Actually, that’s a very good question,” said Edward.  “You weren’t alone yesterday, when you fought Jacob.”
            “Course we were,” replied Harry defiantly. 
            Edward motioned for his family to join him.  “You’re lying,” he said softly as the other Cullens surrounded Harry and Ron. 
Jasper sneered at Harry.  “You’re defenseless – it won’t take us long to get whatever information we want out of you, will it now?”
            Harry spat on Jasper’s foot.  Jasper kicked him in the shins.  “Where’s that big fellow, the giant man with the umbrella?  And the dorky kid with the sword?  Where’s he?”
            “I’m right here,” said a voice next to Jasper.  There was a sudden whooshing sound as Neville tore off the Invisibility Cloak to reveal his presence, then raised his sword and decapitated Jasper in one fell swoop. 
            The Cullens lunged for Neville, who pulled a bag of powder out of his pocket and threw it at the ground.  Suddenly, the room was blanketed in an impenetrable darkness so thick that the Cullens were immediately disoriented.  If the Cullens had been real vampires, Harry thought, Peruvian Darkness Powder would have no effect on them – they’d see just fine in the dark.  Whatever these creatures were, though, they functioned as poorly without light as anyone else; the difference was that Harry, Ron, and Neville had been ready for it. 
            Harry and Ron jumped to their feet, trying to ignore the pain all over their bodies.  Ron, who had paid close attention to where everything was placed in the room, ran to Hermione’s side and began to untie her as Neville set off a couple of decoy detonators.  The sound and flashing strobe-light effect of the detonators only further confused the Cullens.  Alice and Emmett ran into each other and fell to the ground while Edward tripped over a chair.
            “That’s everything,” Hermione whispered to Ron as he undid the last set of ropes.  “Let’s go.”  Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville bolted out of the darkness and through the front door outside.
            “Great job, Neville,” said Harry.  “They didn’t suspect it for a second.”
            “Here are your wands back,” Neville replied, pulling out Harry and Ron’s real wands from inside his robes.  The wands Edward had taken were fakes, sticks they’d found in the forest.
            “So that was all a ruse?” Hermione asked incredulously.  “That was incredibly dangerous of you!”
            “Course it was,” Ron assured her.  “But it worked, didn’t it?”
            “Ahhhhh!!” shrieked Neville as something gripping him tightly around the ankle.  “Something’s got me!”
Harry, Ron, and Hermione spun around to see Neville pulled to the ground with a thud by Jasper’s headless corpse, which had somehow followed them all the way out of the house.  Harry and Ron both screamed in terror as well, but Hermione somehow kept her composure.  She grabbed Ron’s wand, aimed for the bloody hole at the top of Jasper’s torso, and shouted “Incendio!”  The flames entered Jasper’s body and began to consume him; he was disintegrated to ashes within seconds. 
“What the hell was that, Hermione?” asked a rattled Ron as she returned his wand.  Over at the house, the Cullens had finally found their way out of the darkness and begun their advance. 
“Well, I didn’t know they could do that,” Hermione explained frantically as they began to back away towards the trees, “but before I was captured I discovered how to kill these things.  You have to break their bodies apart and burn the pieces.  Otherwise they won’t die.  I didn’t think they could survive without a head, but other than it, turns out I was right.”
“Oh,” said Ron.
“‘Oh’ what, Ron?” asked Hermione.
Ron gripped her hand tightly.  “Well, if that’s the case, we may have gone a bit overboard with our plan.”
Suddenly, there was a tremendous, deafening roar to their right, sounding from inside the forest.  Hagrid’s motorcycle tore through the trees, propelled by rockets on the back end that gushed out two massive columns of flame.  The motorcycle flew a few feet off the ground, and as Hagrid sailed over the Cullens, they were all engulfed in the motorcycle’s fire – all except for Edward, who leapt out of the way.
            Harry watched Edward jump through the air, as if in slow-motion, toward Hagrid and the motorcycle.  Edward tackled the giant, pulling him off the bike and down to the ground, where the force of Hagrid’s weight caused the surrounding earth to shake.  Without anyone to steer it, the motorcycle crashed spectacularly on the other edge of the tree line, exploding with an earsplitting bang and sending showers of flame into the foliage.
            Ignoring this, Edward turned to his family, and began to run circles around them with such incredible speed that, for a moment, he was impossible to spot. 
            “Bloody hell…” groaned Ron.  “He’s fanning the flames away.”
            Indeed, it took Edward less than thirty seconds to blow out every inch of fire consuming his family, and most of the Cullens looked as healthy as they had before Hagrid’s attack.  Only Carlisle couldn’t be saved; he had been standing closest to the trees, and taken the majority of the rocket’s fire, a fire so intense that despite his thick skin, he had burned down to ashes even before Edward started running.   
            Yet Edward didn’t spare a moment for grief; once his family was safe, he soared over to the trees and repeated the process, whooshing away the blaze in mere seconds.  He came to a stop twenty feet away from Harry and the others, staring at them with intense, unfathomable rage.
            “Was that part of the plan?” Hermione asked with an intimidated whimper.
            “No,” Harry sighed.
            Edward’s entire display had taken less than a minute – Harry and the others hadn’t even had time to collect their thoughts, let alone tear their eyes away from Edward’s incredible speed and power.  Slowly, Hagrid started to get to his feet, but Edward ran to his side and kicked him back down to the ground. 
            “Stay down,” Edward said in disgust.  He turned to face Harry.  “Is that all you’ve got?”
            “You can’t beat us, Edward,” Harry mocked.  “We know how to kill you now, and we’ve got our wands back.  There’s only five of you; you can’t hope to beat five of us.”
            Edward grinned.  “A fair point,” he said.  “But what if there were fifty?”
            From out of the forest, behind the house, marched dozens of pale, slender figures, all of them with long, sharp fangs and eerily discolored eyes.  Harry’s jaw dropped.  He had thought the Cullen family were the only creatures of their kind, but here were many more; he had no idea how many real vampires there were in the world, but stories of vampire encounters were so rare that he felt confident, looking at the army assembled, that there must be more fake vampires out there than real ones.  And it looked like all of them had come for the fight – from behind the house, around the sides, pouring out of the trees all around them.  There were even a few inside the Cullen house; as the creatures pulled curtains open on the upper levels, Harry saw a good twenty packed on the second floor alone.
            Hagrid stood up and joined the others; within minutes, he, Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville were surrounded.  “Allow me to introduce you,” sneered Edward, “to the Volturi.  Think of them as…vampire royalty, and, ah!  Here’s their leader now!”
            A tall, regal looking ‘vampire’ with jet black hair, red eyes, and dressed in an all-black suit walked up to Edward and shook his hand.  “This,” Edward continued, “is Aro, leader of the Volturi.”
            Another member of the Volturi, a little girl with dirty-blonde hair dressed in a black dress, approached Edward.  Aro smiled at her.  “This is Jane,” he introduced.  “She is our fiercest and most talented soldier.”
            “You don’t stand a chance against us,” said Jane with as much menace as she could muster.  It did not sound convincing.
            Ron couldn’t help himself; he burst out laughing.  Harry and Hermione stared at him in disbelief. 
            “What are you laughing at?” barked Aro.
            “I’m sorry, it’s just…” Ron laughed some more.  “It’s just…wow…really?  Really?  A little girl?  I’m sorry, kid, but nothing you say is ever going to sound threatening.  I mean, come on people.  Every single time it seems like you’re going to do something cool, you undermine it with something so hilariously stupid!  Powerful vampiric creatures?  Spooky, except…oh yeah! They SPARKLE!!!  Army of vampires?  Wow, sounds really frightening, but…wait, the leader hides behind a bloody twelve-year-old!” 
            The Volturi were not amused with Ron’s rant.  “Humans are so annoying,” Jane tried to say coldly.  Ron laughed so hard that his face grew as red as his hair.
            “Kill them!” bellowed Aro angrily.  “Start with the laughing idiot!”
            The vampires began moving in.  Edward laughed maniacally.  “So, Harry Potter,” he mocked.  “Is this what you expected when you marched into my house to save your little friend?”
            “No,” Harry answered calmly.  “Not at all.  But I guess that makes it a good thing that I brought back-up.”
            “What back-up?” spat Edward.
            Suddenly, the roof of the Cullen household burst into flames with a monstrous bang.  High in the sky flew Fred and George on broomsticks, throwing firecrackers at the house and leading the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team behind them.  There was Oliver Wood, Harry’s old Captain and Keeper, looking as fierce as he always did on game day, and behind him flew the original Chasers, Angelina Johnson, Katie Bell, and Alicia Spinnet.  Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Hagrid all began whooping and hollering, cheering the arrival of their friends.  The Volturi, taken completely off guard, had stopped moving in.
            “Look, Fred, people paler than you!” George laughed from on high.
            “Good thing, too,” grinned Fred.  “I was starting to have low self-esteem as a ghost.  But these guys make me look positively rosy!”
            “Here you go, Harry,” yelled Oliver, and he tossed a broomstick down to Harry. 
            “Thanks!” Harry yelled in reply and, grabbing the broomstick, kicked off into the air to rejoin his old team.  George threw him a bag of firecrackers.
            “What about us?!” shouted Hermione.  “Has he gone mad?”
            “No, Hermione,” Ron beamed.  “Just wait.”
            The team began flying loops around the clearing, each flyer tossing dozens of firecrackers down on the ‘vampires’ and the Cullen house.  The Volturi began to panic, rushing back into the trees in fright, as Fred and George led the vicious aerial assault.
            “Stand your ground!” cried Edward. 
            “Do what he says!” barked Aro.
            “Stand and fight you cowards!” Jane tried to scream with force.  Ron laughed until he could hardly breathe.
            But it was no use – the Gryffindor Quidditch team had already decimated much of the Cullen house, and set fire to most of the Volturi hiding inside.  The fire didn’t kill them, but it was enough to scare the creatures, and along with the rest of the Volturi, they fled to the trees, where Fred and George’s violently explosive firecrackers had a much harder time reaching them. 
            Soon, the clearing was all but empty, save for the Cullens, Aro, and Jane, staring down Ron and the others.  “It’s no matter!” Edward cried in anger.  “You still can’t defeat all of us!”
            The words had barely left his mouth when they heard the sound of large, flapping wings overhead.  From on high, further up then even the Quidditch team, soared a huge pack of Thestrals and Hippogriffs, including Buckbeak, each of them carrying a rider.  At the front, leading the group, was Luna Lovegood, brandishing a large sword.  From the back of her Thestral, Luna led the fleet in for a landing near Hermione and the others, and as they came in closer, Hermione started to recognize other familiar faces.  There were Hannah Abbott and Ernie Macmillan, two of their friends from Hufflepuff, and behind them soared the Ravenclaws, Terry Boot and Michael Corner.  Bringing up the rear were the Gryffindors – the Patil Twins, Pavarti and Padma, Lavender Brown, Dean Thomas, and Seamus Finnigan.  Like Luna, each and every one of them brandished a large, powerful-looking sword.
            “It’s Dumbledore’s Army!” exclaimed Neville happily. 
            “Ron!” Hermione gripped him tightly.  “Did you do all this?”
            “Well…” Ron blushed.  “Yeah, a bit…Fred and George helped; went overboard’s more like it, but good thing they did!”
            The Thestrals and Hippogriffs landed, and the riders dismounted.  The Gryffindor Quidditch team, having successfully driven the Volturi back into the woods, came in for a landing in the same spot.  Everybody began to chat – Ron, Hermione, and Neville hadn’t seen most of the DA or the Quidditch Team in years – but Harry shushed them all urgently.
            “We can talk later!” yelled Harry.  “First, we have to finish this fight!”
            “Oy, Harry, mind tellin’ us what we need the swords for?” asked Seamus. 
            “Neville will tell you in a moment,” Harry replied.
            “Harry!” Luna said enthusiastically, marching up to him with a satchel of strange objects in hand.  “I brought supplies to ward off the vampires!  There’s garlic, of course, but I also covered some stakes with the saliva of a Crumple-Horned Snorkack, which should really do some damage, and –”
            “Luna, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but these aren’t really vampires,” Harry interrupted.  “None of that stuff will work.”
            Luna looked absolutely heartbroken.  “Oh…” she said sadly.  “Well, I guess the radishes would have been better for a Blibbering Humdinger anyway…”
            Harry turned to the assembled crowd.  “We’ve got to make this quick!” he announced.  “I want the Quidditch team with me – we’re going back to the house –”
            “What’s left of it,” interjected Fred.
            “Yes, what’s left of it,” continued Harry, “to fight the Cullens and those two lead Volturi.  Stay in the air if you can – curse them with a blasting or cutting spell, then set them on fire.  But they are fast, so watch out!  Follow my lead!  Neville will be in charge of Dumbledore’s Army; you’ll go into the forest to fight the Volturi.  Hagrid, Ron, Hermione – you go with Neville.  Are we all clear?”
            Everybody nodded and Dumbledore’s Army began shuffling off into the trees; Ron and Hermione,, meanwhile, were not in agreement, and marched straight up to Harry.  “We can’t go with them,” said Hermione.  “The Cullens still have my wand.”
            “Damn…” Harry said.  “Hadn’t thought of that.  Okay, this is what we’ll do…Ron, stay with Hermione, and run up the middle pass towards the Cullens.”
            “Are you mad?” retorted Ron.  “They’ll have a clear shot at us.”
            “No they won’t,” Harry grinned.  “Trust me.”
            Harry hopped on his broom and kicked off.  Fred, George, and the rest of the team followed him.  “Up the middle!” Harry shouted.  “Use everything you have left!”
            They soared down the middle of the clearing towards the Cullens, who seemed to be discussing plans of their own.  They were rudely interrupted, however, by the shower of fire Harry and the Team rained down upon them.  Fred and George, in particular, were merciless, sending one of their trademark dragon rockets right towards Aro and Jane.  They leapt out of the way, but Rosalie Hale was not so lucky; she caught it right in the chest, and before she could move, it exploded, tearing her to pieces and sending her entire family flying in every different direction.
            “Okay, let’s go!” Ron shouted over the din as Harry and the Team looped around to take another pass.  He grabbed Hermione’s hand tightly and they ran as fast as they could, fireworks and explosives going off all around them. 
            “There she is!” Hermione yelled, pointing at Alice.  “The girl who stole my wand!”
            Alice was lying in the rubble of the house, but she was getting back to her feet.  Ron and Hermione were getting close now, and the Quidditch Team’s onslaught was reaching its climax, with Fred and George unleashing their most dangerous creations.  A particularly nasty explosive landed feet from Hermione; Ron pulled her close to him and dived to the ground, covering her with his body as the firework exploded in a shower of dirt and flame.  Ron’s ears were ringing, but he forced himself up, and pulled Hermione to her feet.
            “Thanks,” was all she managed to say, though Ron couldn’t hear it.  They looked ahead – the ruins of the Cullen house were only a few meters away, while the Cullens themselves were in disarray, running every which way to avoid the explosions.  Aro and Jane were nowhere to be seen. 
            Hermione spotted Alice again; she was running into the woods behind the house.  “Come on,” she said, and they dashed off in her direction.  They failed to spot Aro leap out from behind them, pouncing towards Ron with his fangs bared.
            “Ron!  Watch out!” cried Harry from above.  Putting his most intense Quidditch instincts to use, Harry dove towards Aro at top speed; as he neared, he leapt from the broom, grabbed Aro around the throat, and tackled him to the ground.  Harry’s broom shattered against the Earth as Harry yelled “Run!”  Ron and Hermione didn’t hesitate, and continued to rush off towards Alice.
            Harry slowly got to his feet; every inch of his body hurt from the fall he’d just taken, but he tried to put it out of his mind for the moment.  Aro rose as well, staring at Harry with a forceful gaze.  Suddenly, Harry felt his mind being penetrated – someone was scouring his thoughts.
            “You made a big mistake in touching me, Harry Potter,” Aro grinned.  “Now I can read your mind, every thought you’ve ever had.  Who, might I ask, is Ginny?”
            Harry took deep breaths, calmed himself, and closed his mind; a puzzled look appeared on Aro’s face.  “What are you doing?” he asked, baffled.  “You pushed me out!  Nobody can do that!”
            “A great man once taught me about guarding one’s mind,” Harry replied, standing tall. 
            “That’s impossible!” Aro barked.  “You lie!”
            “A really terrible woman once taught me ‘I must not tell lies,’” Harry continued.  “And the truth is, I even liked her more than I like you.”  Harry raised his wand.  “REDUCTO!”  A giant hole was blown open in Aro’s chest; Harry didn’t waste a second.  “Incendio!”   
            Ron and Hermione, meanwhile, were getting close; Alice, it seemed, had been injured in the explosions.  She walked through the forest with a limp, while Ron and Hermione moved unimpeded.  Finally, Alice stopped to lean against a tree, breathing heavily.
            “Slow down,” Hermione whispered as they approached.  “I’ll go in first; curse her if I’m in trouble.”
            Ron nodded.  Hermione, staying low to the ground, snuck up on Alice from behind.  Before she could get close, however, Alice spun around and lunged at Hermione, who had underestimated Alice’s perception of her surroundings.  Alice pinned Hermione against a tree, looking furious.  Ron tried to curse her, but Alice had moved out of Ron’s line of sight.  Ron began moving in.
            Hermione didn’t wait; she spotted her wand sticking out of Alice’s left pocket, reached down, and grabbed it.  Alice was too quick; she grasped the wand too, and they both became locked in a furious stalemate over the wand, each one gripping it so tightly that the other could barely move it.  Hermione mustered all her strength, bending the wand as far as she could without snapping it.  Finally, it was pointing just close enough toward Alice’s head for a spell to make contact. 
            “Sectumsempra!” Hermione bellowed.  Alice let go of the wand as every inch of her body was slashed and torn.  “Incendio!” cried Ron, arriving just in time.  Hermione pulled him in for a kiss as Alice’s body disintegrated behind them.
            “We should go find Harry,” Ron said to Hermione as they separated.  “Make sure he’s all right.”
            Hermione didn’t reply.  “Hermione?” Ron asked. “What’s –” Hermione put a finger to his lips. 
“Quiet,” she mouthed.  “Turn around.”
            Ron did as he was told, and immediately saw what had hushed Hermione.  Just a little ways away from them, walking through the forest with a hungry look on her face, was Jane, the little girl who was apparently a brilliant Volturi warrior.  Ron stifled a laugh.  She hadn’t noticed him or Hermione.
            “You go,” Hermione whispered as softly as she could.  “I’ll take care of this one.”
            Ron nodded, a sheepish grin on his face.  “Good.  I’d die laughing if I had to fight her.”
            Hermione smiled at him, and motioned for him to leave.  He walked away slowly, making no noise, while Hermione snuck up on Jane from behind.  Aro’s boasting about the girl proved to be entirely without merit; Jane had some rudimentary telepathic powers that she tried using when she saw Hermione, but Hermione was able to shut the girl out of her mind with ease.  Jane wasn’t even as fast as the other creatures, making it almost disappointingly easy for Hermione to finish her off.   
            Neville, meanwhile, had led Dumbledore’s Army into the trees to fight the Volturi; including Neville, they had eleven people, along with Hagrid, Buckbeak, three Hippogriffs, and seven Thestrals.  Neville had organized them in ranks, preparing for the coming fight, while the scattered Volturi had collected themselves as well.  They now squared off, a few dozen meters apart, in the heart of the forest. 
            Neville faced his troops.  “There’s quite a few more of them than us,” Neville said.  “That’s alright.  We can manage them.  You’ve all brought swords, but keep your wands at the ready too – you’ll need both.  Behead or wound the creatures with the blades, and burn the bodies with your wands.  But be careful – they’re fast and powerful, so don’t be caught off guard.”
            Everybody nodded, bracing themselves for battle.  Neville turned to Hagrid.  “I want you to lead the Hippogriffs and Thestrals.”
            “We’ll tear ‘em all apart!” Hagrid cried.  “Won’t we Beaky?”
            “Alright…” Neville began.  “Let’s move out.”
            Dumbledore’s Army marched forward, and the Volturi moved in to match them.  They stopped a few dozen feet apart.  A large ‘vampire’ who seemed to be leading the group stepped up to face Neville. 
            “Just surrender!” the creature hissed.  “We’ll make it painless!”
            Neville ignored him.  “Who are you lot fighting for, anyway?  I’m confused, you all look the same to me.”
            The ‘vampire’ scowled.  “I guess you could say we’re on Edward’s team.”
            “Yeah?” Neville grinned.  “Well we’re with Team Dumbledore.  CHARGE!!!”
            Taking the creature off guard, Neville beheaded him, and Dumbledore’s Army charged forth.  The two forces collided with a deafening din of sound: vampires rushing, swords clashing, spells firing.  Hagrid shot blasts from his umbrella in every direction, while the Thestrals and Hippogriffs tore every ‘vampire’ they came into contact with limb from limb. 
Dumbledore’s Army soon discovered a strategy.  Pavarti, Padma, Lavender, and Michael made the first strafing run, firing disarming and blasting spells as they went.  These didn’t always hit, but they distracted or slowed down the creatures long enough for lead swordsman Dean, Seamus, Hannah, and Neville to swoop in and slice apart the ‘vampires’ left and right.  Finally, Terry, Ernie, and Luna brought up the rear, burning the bodies and clearing the battlefield.  Hagrid, the Hippogriffs, and the Thestrals were less predictable, but equally effective at tearing apart the Volturi force, and more than a few times, one of the winged creatures would swoop in to save a witch or wizard just in the nick of time. 
Back at the ruins of the Cullen house, the Gryffindor Quidditch Team had run out of fireworks, and began resorting to more creative methods to take out the remaining Cullens.
Esme Cullen happened to be one of the fastest, and after a few tries from various members of the team, it was clear she would never be hit with a spell in a one-on-one fight.  Alicia, Katie, and Angelina took it upon themselves to take her down.  They had always been a flawless, seemingly telepathic unit as Chasers, and they applied the same level of coordination to fight Esme Cullen.   First, Alicia allowed Esme to find and chase her; Alicia stayed low to the ground, pretending to be vulnerable, and allowed Esme to catch up to her broom.  Just as Esme was about to attack, Katie dove towards her from the heavens, nearly colliding with Alicia’s broom.  Esme skidded to a stop while Alicia and Katie started flying circles around her, and from on high, Angelina shot a deadly curse Esme’s way.  Esme was hit in the small of the back, and fell to her knees in shock; Katie and Alicia took care of the rest. 
            Fred, George, and Oliver, meanwhile, had discovered that these ‘vampires’ became just as unsettled as humans did when a ghost flew through them.  George and Oliver mounted their brooms on opposite side of the clearing, waiting to move, while Fred drove Emmett out into the open.
            “Get off me!” Emmett cried with a shiver.  “Get off me!”
            Fred was flying loops through Emmett, sending what felt like buckets of icy cold water cascading within him.  With Emmett properly distracted, George and Oliver took off, flying towards Emmett with every ounce of speed they could muster.  Once they were going fast enough, George and Oliver each stood up on their brooms, lit them on fire with their wands, and jumped off just in time for the brooms to sail right through Emmett, impaling him from both sides and sending the fire surging through his body.
            A few dozen feet from this, Ron found Harry lying on the ground, hurt.  “Harry, what happened?”  Ron exclaimed as he dropped to his knees to prop Harry up.
            “I killed Aro, but tackling him from mid-air wasn’t a good idea,” he explained with a cough. 
            “Is anything broken?” asked Ron.
            “I don’t know,” he replied.  “Maybe.  But it’s not that bad; Hermione can still heal me up when this all over.”
            “It’s pretty much over now,” Ron said as he helped Harry to his feet.  “I think they’re all gone, except for –”
            “ME!” shouted the voice of Edward Cullen.  Ron and Harry spun around on the spot to see Edward running at them full speed, his face nearly unrecognizable for the seething look of anger it wore. 
            They had no time to react – Edward grabbed them both by the throat, lifted them up, and continued to run, pushing them through the trees and bramble roughly as he ran.  Harry had never travelled so fast in his life, except, perhaps, on a broom.  Edward was only running for a few seconds, but when he came to a stop in another, much smaller clearing, they were at least a mile away. 
            Edward slammed Harry and Ron down on the ground.  Harry could feel bruises covering his neck, and he’d been cut all over by tree branches.  Wincing, he glanced at Ron, who didn’t look much better. 
            “Why couldn’t you just leave us alone?!” roared Edward with a kick to Ron’s midriff.  “We weren’t hurting you.  She never hurt you.”
            “The world will be better without you in it,” Harry grimaced as he pushed himself up on his knees.  “That’s all the reason I need.”
            “Shut up!” bellowed Edward, kicking him back down to the ground. 
            Ron fished his wand out of his back pocket.  “Reduc-”
            Edward reached Ron before the word was out of his mouth; another kick stopped Ron’s spell. 
            “Sectumsempra!” Harry shouted, but Edward leapt out of the way without even looking in Harry’s direction; the spell hit a tree instead.
            “Diffindo!” Ron cried, but this time, Edward disappeared out of the clearing altogether.
            Harry and Ron got to their feet, wincing, frantically looking about for any sign of him.  Suddenly, Edward dashed out of the trees, hoisted Ron up with just one arm, and tossed him out into the forest.
            “RON!” Harry yelled, falling to his knees in anguish as Ron disappeared from view.  He hoped against hope that Ron had survived being thrown, but he knew that, given Edward’s strength, it was a long shot.   
            “One down,” Edward grinned.  “One to go.”
            Harry didn’t try to resist.  He was alone.  Edward was too fast and too strong.  It was useless.
            “HOOT!  HOOT!  HOOT!”
            Harry and Edward both looked up towards the sky to see Pigwidgeon, wearing the nastiest look Harry had ever seen on an owl’s face, flying towards Edward with every bit of strength the little owl could muster.  Hooting wildly, he clawed at Edward’s back, then pecked ferociously at his neck, pulling out a large chunk of flesh before Edward punched the owl away.  Pigwidgeon fell to the ground with a feeble hoot, then lay silent.
            Edward felt the wound on the back of his neck, then, wincing, returned to Harry, rage still consuming his eyes.  But Harry was looking at something else, something in the forest.  It was Ron, crawling out of the woods toward Edward!  Ron’s face was bruised, his body bloody, but by some miracle, he had survived!
            Harry tried to conceal his emotions.  Edward lifted Harry up by the scruff of his shirt, holding him in midair and surveying his face with fury.  “This is for Bella,” Edward said.
            “And this is for vampire baseball,” Ron muttered, standing right behind Edward.  Ron shoved his wand into the wound Pigwidgeon had created, shouted “DIFFINDO MAXIMA!” and Edward’s head blew into a million tiny pieces, cracks in his skin running all down his torso.  Harry took aim.  “INCENDIO!”
            Harry fell to the ground with a thud as the hand holding him disintegrated; next to him, Ron collapsed from exhaustion.  Breathing heavily, Harry twisted his neck to look at Pigwidgeon, who still lay silent on the ground.  Harry reached out a hand – the owl was still breathing; he’d just been knocked out.  They had all survived.
            Ron slowly pushed himself to his feet; Harry followed his lead.  “I guess we should be heading back,” said Harry.  “They’ll be looking for us.”
            “Let’s take our time,” winced Ron.  “Blimey Harry, I can’t believe we’re alive.”
            Harry turned to him.  “Ron, listen, I’m sorry I’ve been ignoring you lately.  Fighting these…these…”
            “Ruddy poser bastards,” Ron suggested.
            “Yeah, them,” Harry continued with a grin.  “It’s made me realize, I don’t want my whole life to be a battle.  If I only get to see my best friends while we’re fighting for our lives, then I don’t even want to be an Auror.”
            “Oh, don’t worry about it Harry,” Ron waved him off.  “I hate it when things start to change, and I don’t what to do with myself.  I’m afraid I’ll do something wrong, and then…I don’t know.  I might end up –”
            “Getting tossed around by a bunch of ruddy poser bastards?” Harry suggested. 
            “Exactly,” Ron laughed.  “But,” he continued, surveying his wounds, “I think I can safely say I’m over that now…can’t get much worse than this, can it?”
            Harry shook his head.  “I forgot to ask you before, but you’ll be my best man, right?”
            “Damn, I completely forgot,” said Ron in surprise.  “You’re proposing to Ginny today!  Of course I’ll be your best man.  It’ll be easy, I figure; between Hermione, Ginny, and my Mum, the whole wedding will be planned before we know it.”
            Harry grinned, and as he bent down to pick up Pigwidgeon, Hermione entered the clearing, surveying both of them with a horrified look on her face. 
            A look of steely resolve took over Ron’s face.  He nodded to himself, then turned to Harry.  “Sorry about this, mate, but I’m going to have to steal some of your thunder,” he said.
            “Ron, what –” Harry began, but before the words were out of his mouth, Ron and Hermione had begun kissing passionately.  Harry began twiddling his thumbs, waiting for them to finish and wondering what on earth Ron had meant by “stealing his thunder.”  As they kissed, other people started showing up in the clearing; Fred, George, the rest of the Quidditch team, Neville, Hagrid, and all of Dumbledore’s Army.  They had all come looking for Harry and Ron.
            “Hermione, there’s something I need to say to you,” said Ron as they finally pulled apart.
            “You already said you’d move in this morning,” she replied with a smile.  “You were being tortured and everything, but I’m still holding you to that.”
            “No, that’s not it,” said Ron, and he got down on one knee.  Harry’s eyes widened in shock; next to him, Neville gasped, Pavarti and Lavender squealed, and Fred and George said “Bloody hell” in unison.
            “Hermione, will you marry me?” asked Ron.  Hermione looked more surprised than everyone else, and was silent for a full minute.  Harry wondered if she could even process what Ron had just asked.
            “Ron, are you mental?” she finally said.  Ron looked crestfallen.  “Did that vampire give you a concussion?”
            “He wasn’t really a vampire,” Ron reminded her.  “And I’m not mental.  I don’t want to be holding us back any longer.  I meant it – will you marry me?”
            Hermione hesitated for a few more seconds.  “Of course,” she said breathlessly.  The clearing erupted in a din of cheering; George shot sparks from the end of his wand, while Fred flew loops in the air.  Harry turned to Hagrid and saw that, through his thick, tangled beard, he was sobbing. 
            “I’m sorry,” Hagrid said, blowing his nose in his overcoat.  “I’m jus’ so happy for em!”
            The group headed back to the other, larger clearing, where the first order of business was to heal the injured, mainly Harry and Ron.  Luckily, Padma Patil had recently completed years of training to become a licensed healer, and had them feeling rejuvenated in minutes.  Next came the celebrations; Fred used his incorporeal powers to travel to Hogwarts, and came back just minutes later with at least twenty house elves in tow, led by an eager Kreacher, all of them ready to cater the festivities.  They had the party right there on the battlefield; Hermione and Ron were beset with so many congratulations that Harry didn’t even get the chance to talk to them.
            Eventually, Harry checked his watch.  It was two in the afternoon, and he’d have to be leaving soon to make it to Ireland in time.  He glanced over at Ron and Hermione, who were both captured in one of Hagrid’s bone-crushing hugs.  Harry smiled.  They would be fine without him for now.  Harry snuck off into the trees to disapparate.
            Just as he was about to leave, someone tapped him on the shoulder.  He wheeled around to see Ron and Hermione, both red in the face and panting; he assumed they had just escaped Hagrid’s hug. 
            “Oh, hi,” said Harry.  He was unsure of what to say.  “Congratulations, by the way.”
            “Thanks,” beamed Hermione.  “Where are you off to, then?”
            “Ireland,” he replied. 
            “Great!” Ron exclaimed.  “I can’t wait to see Ireland again!”
            “What?” Harry was confused.  “You’re not coming with me, are you?
            “Of course we are,” Hermione answered.  “We’re sticking together today.”
            “Don’t worry about me,” Harry continued.  “I’ll be fine – you two enjoy your party.  I’ll be back soon enough.”
            “Oh, come off it,” said Ron.  “Fred and George will keep everyone entertained; they won’t even know we’ve gone missing.”
            “You were there for our engagement Harry,” elaborated Hermione.  “It’s only right that we should be there for yours.”
            Harry beamed at them; he would never be able to explain how much Ron and Hermione meant to him, but as they smiled back, he knew they were both thinking the same thing.  There are some things you can’t share without strengthening a friendship, and destroying an army of obnoxious fake vampires is one of them.
            They grasped each other’s hands firmly and, with one last, happy look at the ruins of the Cullen house, disapparated. 

The End
Come Back Tomorrow for my Review of
“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2”

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