Chapter Six: That Inconvenient Prophesy
Quidditch was all Harry could think about in the days following his discussion with the Headmaster. Quidditch and Blaise's mouth. The second week of March found him high over the pitch, floating next to the Slytherin—who had played Seeker since Malfoy's disappearance from the school two games ago—and pretending not to talk to her as he scanned the air for the Golden Snitch.
"Don't look so worried, Harry. We've plenty of time to chat, you know."
"Don't sound so confident, Blaise. I'm going to catch the Snitch."
"No, you're not. . . . How's your head?"
"Quiet, except for me, that is."
"Do you know why Malfoy's left?"
"I've heard rumors."
"The same ones I've heard."
"I doubt that."
Blaise flew a little away from him, under him, scanning the air and then returning to her previous position. "You get to talk to more people than I do, don't you?"
"No one knows anything," Harry said, thinking, Does she know about the Order? and then ducking as a bludger came flying toward him.
"Most of the Slytherins, us, think that his father called him away because an attack on the school is coming."
"That's what we, the Gryffindors, think, as well. . . . Where is it?"
"The Golden Snitch?" Blaise asked, her voice deceptively sweet.
"I've been holding it ever since your rather spectacular fake-out dive, Harry."
"I caught it with my robe—no one saw."
He turned to look at her, incredulity overspreading his features. "Then why didn't you—"
"What? And miss a perfectly good chance to talk to you privately?"
She does like me, Harry thought, feeling a wave of masculine pride rush through him. "Wow. That's pretty slick, Miss Zabini."
"Thank you, Mr. Potter," she replied, smiling prettily. "Look, I . . . I've been really worried about you, and . . . matters in general. It's going to happen soon, Harry, and I'm scared."
"Me, too," he admitted.
Suddenly, Lee Jordan's voice boomed out, "The announcer urges the Gryffindor Seeker to move his arse, already!"
"Shit. Um, you'd best pretend to catch it, now."
"Right. Owlery after dinner?"
Gryffindor lost one hundred fifty-eight points behind Slytherin, but Harry couldn't be arsed to care.
"Snape's gone," Ron informed him that night at dinner.
"Gone. Left during his last class today."
"He received an owl and tore out of the classroom," Hermione added.
Madame Rosmerta. "Wow. I wonder . . . ."
"What?" Ginny asked, for once sitting with her own house.
Hermione furrowed her brow and said, "You know, we probably shouldn't be speculating about this here."
Harry was grateful to his friend for thinking she understood everything, ate quickly, and then went back to the dorm to retrieve his broom.
"Why'd you have that?" Blaise asked, as he entered the Owlery.
"You know about Snape and . . . ."
"Mrs. Snape? Yes. It came up."
"Right. You talk to him."
"It's not that difficult to do, you know."
"If you're a Slytherin."
"Do you think she's having the baby?"
"Yep. Wanna go see?"
"We'll get expelled!"
"Nope. I'll be invisible," Harry said, unfurling his invisibility cloak with a flourish, "and you'll be an owl."
As he followed Blaise to Hogsmeade, Harry was grateful that she could not fly in her Animagus form during matches. They hovered above the Broomsticks until Blaise found the right window and hooted at him, and then he joined the girl in hovering outside of it.
With his sleeves rolled up and not wearing any robes or even a jacket, the Potions master, the boy decided, looked positively indecent as he leaned over Rosmerta lying in her bed. A medi-witch hovered on her other side, and bathed the publican's face with a flannel.
"Wow, she's having a hard time of it, isn't she? I, um, I think maybe we shouldn't be staring in like this. I mean, it's private, isn't it?"
Blaise hooted at him, but did not move from her position on the end of Harry's broom handle.
The muffled sound of an argument between Snape and the medi-witch filtered through the window, and then the wizard stormed out of the room, returning again in short order to lay a kiss on his wife's forehead before leaving again.
"Um, Blaise?" Harry whispered, beginning to feel uncomfortable as the medi-witch moved Rosmerta's covers up over her knees. "I . . . I can't watch this, really. I'm going back."
The Animagus followed him dutifully, but swooped low as they approached the Shrieking Shack and flew into the building.
"Okay," Harry said, following her.
Blaise was herself again when he shut the door.
"You are a gentleman," she said, laughing.
"Yeah, well, I just couldn't—"
"Shut up and kiss me, Harry."
"Oh. Oh, sure," he said, steeling his mind against any unwanted visitors.
This time, no voice interrupted his osculatory efforts, and before he knew it, he and Blaise had tumbled to the floor and were kissing frantically.
"You feel so good," he said, running his hands up under Blaise's jumper.
"So do you," she replied, moving her hips into his.
"Sorry about that. I just—"
"Don't apologize for how you feel, Harry. I like it. I want you, too."
"That's terribly charming," a voice said from the shadows.
"What? Who's there?" Harry said starting, noting that Blaise's wand was already in her hand before turning and looking into the darkness.
Peter Pettigrew emerged from it, his wand raised. "I didn't expect you, either of you, but now that you're here . . . ."
Harry reached for his wand, found it missing, and wandlessly cast, "Petrificus Totalus!" but the spell hit the wall as Pettigrew shrank into his Animagus form.
Without a word, Blaise took her owl form and swooped after the scurrying rat, seizing it in her talons.
"Don't kill him!" Harry yelled, as the rat began to twist and stretch.
The owl opened its beak and bit down on the creature's neck, severing it from its body with a snap. Its head and body hit the floor with a squelching sound and then Pettigrew's decapitated form appeared—his head, Harry knew, was somewhere, but it had rolled away, and he did not want to look for it.
"Oh, God! Blaise—Blaise?" he called, as the Animagus flew out of one of the broken, poorly boarded windows. "Blaise!" he yelled, throwing open the door and rushing out into the night.
But the girl was gone.
"Shit!" the boy yelled. Oh, God. Pettigrew.
He was not sorry the wizard was dead, but he had no idea how to explain what had happened.
I can't tell anyone that Blaise is an Animagus. I can't tell them that we were spying on Snape—no one's supposed to know about Rosmerta. He knew that Dumbledore would know, and that he could probably be trusted with Blaise's secret. But . . . but how can I explain what we were doing here? And where did she go? he asked himself, reentering the shack. "It doesn't make her a murderer," he said to the corpse.
That is precisely what it does make her, boy, Voldemort's voice said in his head. And a decisive one, at that. I'm impressed with your girlfriend.
"Temper, Potter. Really, there are better places to arrange an assignation—more private ones, at that. Trust you to know how to treat a young lady."
Every muscle in Harry's body tensed at the spoken sound of the Dark Lord's voice. "Wh—where are you?" he demanded, attempting to keep his own steady and looking around.
There was no one there.
The sound of laughter, thick with phlegm or blood, rose from the floor, and Harry looked down in horror to see Peter Pettigrew's disembodied head speaking to him.
"My loyal servants," the head told him, as it slid across the floor toward the body, "do not die, Potter."
"Apparently not," the head said, beginning to reattach itself to the body. "You have no talent in that direction, do you?"
This isn't happening. It's not. It can't be happening.
"Oh, it's happening, and now, boy. Can't you hear it?" the body said, rising from the floor and shambling toward him.
Harry backed away as Pettigrew's lifeless eyes focused on him, his dead body raising its arms. In the distance, he heard what sounded like an explosion. "What's happening?"
"What's happening is that a little boy is being frightened out of his wits by a simple display of my power, power that he is too weak to seek for himself, while his world ends," the corpse said, before an unnatural laugh forced its way out of the thing's lungs.
Another explosion sounded, and Harry thought he saw something flicker in Pettigrew's eyes. "Y—you're not alive, but you're not dead, either, are you?" he said, darting out of the semi-animated corpse's way as it lunged at him. "You don't want this, do you, Peter?" he said, hoping to rouse whatever was left of the wizard's mind by using his first name. "Peter Pettigrew, you don't want this!"
"K—kill you, Harry."
"No!" he yelled, jumping away from the body. "No, Peter. I saved you. You can't kill me!"
The thing's legs stopped moving and its arms dropped.
Nice try, Mr. Potter, but it won't work. He is my creature, not yours. They are all my creatures, even Snape's whelp yet to be born.
"NO!" Harry screamed, throwing a burst of magic—uncontrolled but focused—at the confused, half-living thing that was Peter Pettigrew.
The body burst into ashes and a cloud rose in the room, knocking Harry back.
Oh, very well done, indeed, boy—but it won't save you. It will avail you nothing. I have come, and there will be none to defeat me, Lord Voldemort said in his mind.
Without thinking about it, Harry dropped his every mental defense against the Dark Lord and reached out through their metaphysical bond to find him. He felt the wizard shrink from his search, but he had him. "I know where you are!" he exclaimed, triumphant, for he thought he could feel the other wizard's fear.
And I, you, Voldemort said, as a burning pain caused sparks of color to fly behind Harry's suddenly squeezed eyelids. How kind of you to let me in.
None of Professor Dumbledore's training had prepared Harry for what was happening to him. He felt as if water were pouring into his body as if he were a cup, but he knew it was the Dark Lord's magic, his essence, and he felt his consciousness begin to contract into the farthest corner of his being. No, no, no! he silently screamed, pushing back. But there were only two directions in which he could travel—within and under, or out and in. Harry chose escape, lest he be buried, and in the time it took to blink his own eyes one last time, he was looking out of unfamiliar ones in the place in which he had discovered Voldemort.
A ring of hooded and masked figures stared back at him.
Fuck! I'm in his body! Harry realized, astonished and terrified. He raised a hand, and the Death Eaters shrank back. Do something. Do anything! Harry told himself, glancing down to see that he was standing in some sort of ring of power. Oh, God—they were planning on this! "Damn it! It's not working!" he yelled in frustration, trying not to react at hearing Voldemort's voice speak his words.
"My lord," a feminine voice said deferentially, "you must give it time. The brat is weak. You will have him!"
"Bellatrix Lestrange," you murderous bi—"you . . . you have served me well."
"Thank you, my Lord Voldemort."
"Pettigrew is lost to us. The boy is nothing. I do not require his body or his magic to win this day," Harry said, calling upon every B movie he had ever seen to provide inspiration for how he felt Voldemort would speak to his minions.
"Of course not, my lord."
Oh, thank God that worked, Harry thought, realizing that he was trapped in the circle. I need them to leave so that I can escape. "And I grow tired of waiting!"
An unfamiliar male Death Eater, his voice muffled by the mask he wore, protested, "But, Lord Vol—"
"Crucio!" Harry cast, his fear giving him all the will he needed to work the spell. "Dare you interrupt your lord?"
"No, my lord!" a chorus of voices rang out. "Never!"
"The attack has begun. Let us finish it. To the castle!"
"Lead the way!" Bellatrix called out, over the screams of the one Harry had bespelled.
"Finite Incantatum!" he cast, and then said, "all of you know your parts in this. Go. I shall sweep behind you and . . . and savor your efforts! None shall defeat us! All will fall before us! GO!" he shrieked, and was surprised to see the Death Eaters stream out of the clearing of the Forbidden Forest toward Hogwarts—lining themselves up neatly in the process.
They never had a chance to repel the Death Curse he cast next.
As the Death Eaters fell to the ground, Harry saw a great auburn-feathered owl testing the boundary of the magical barrier.
"No! Blaise—it's Harry! It's me, Blaise. Stop!" he cried, as the power protecting him lashed out at her.
The owl rose and circled him.
"I swear! It's me—you caught the Golden Snitch so that we could talk—you always wear your uncle's torc! It's Harry, Blaise! Voldemort took my body!"
The owl swooped toward the ground, and suddenly Blaise was standing there, staring at him in horror. "Harry? Oh, Harry!"
"Blaise? I, um, I don't know how to get out of this . . . circle, and I've got to get to the castle."
The girl moved toward him and smudged the chalk of the magical circle with one foot. The barrier Harry had felt but not seen dispersed, and he rushed forward to embrace Blaise.
"No!" she exclaimed, leaping back. "Oh, oh, Harry—I'm sorry, but—"
"Yeah, I wouldn't want to hug me, either," he said ruefully. "Come on, we've got—"
"You can't, Harry, not like that—they kill you!"
"Well, I can't stay here. Hogwarts is under attack!"
"I am not!"
"No, I mean, his people will think you are. You could . . . um, you could give them orders—the Death Eaters, I mean."
"I . . . I guess I could. Did you see—"
"There are Death Eaters in Hogsmeade, and Dementors, too. I didn't fly toward the castle."
"Dementors?" Harry asked, panic infusing his tone. "Shit! Blaise, Voldemort's still Voldemort even though he's in my body. He'll have control of them now, won't he?"
"Th—that's likely. Oh, Harry, Professor Snape!"
A feeling of dread rolled through the boy's body. He looked at the bodies lying dead and wondered if one of them might be Snape. "Blaise . . . ."
The Slytherin seemed to understand, and without a word began ripping masks off of corpses, but when her hand actually touched the flesh of one of the bodies, something truly awful and unexpected happened: it began to move.
"Ah!" Blaise yelled. "It's . . . it's—"
"I think it's the torc," Harry said calmly, though he had no idea how he could remain so.
The corpse struggled to its feet and appeared to wait.
"I . . . I think it wants an order, Blaise."
"That's . . . disgusting."
"You," Harry said, addressing the animated body. "You, um, sit down!"
"Oh, you're wearing the torc. You have to tell it to do something."
"How do you know—"
"Blaise! Do it. We don't have a lot of time."
The Death Eater sat.
"Good. That's good. Look, touch the rest of them. We can use them to fight Voldemort—me," Harry said, feeling desperate.
Blaise immediately began touching the other bodies, but said, "You're you, Harry, not the thing that has your body."
Yeah, but I might be stuck with this body, and you won't touch it, the boy thought, before chastising himself for being selfish in the middle of a war. "Right. Lead them back to the Shrieking Shack. We've got to try and stop Voldemort before he gets to the castle."
"We should try and find Professor Snape if we can. Someone should know what's happened," Blaise said, touching each body in turn. "Sit!" she ordered the reanimated corpses.
"Right. What now?"
"We'll head toward Hogsmeade first and find Snape, and then I'll go after Voldemort," Harry said, sounding more decisive than he felt. This is really happening. No time—I have to—
"How do you know what to do?" Blaise asked, ordering the Death Eaters to rise and follow them as she and Harry rushed down the path.
It took longer than Harry wished to skirt the edge of the Forbidden Forest and find the path into Hogsmeade, not least because there were several groups of dangerous creatures to fight through, and the centaurs to consider.
A huge female centaur leading a herd her kind, all looking savage, all bloodied, attempted to stop their progress. "Halt, vile creature!" she directed at Harry.
"He's not the Dark Lord!" Blaise called. "He's Harry Potter in Voldemort's body!"
"Order the Death Eaters face down," Harry said quickly, raising his hands. I don't want to hurt them, he thought, but I can't let them stop me. Think!
Before he could decide what to do, the Death Eaters dropped to the ground, and the lead centaur ordered her herd to stop moving forward. "What's this? Some sort of wizard's trick?"
"It's no trick—I've taken Voldemort's body, and he has mine. I'm trying to get to him. I have to stop him before he reaches Hogwarts!"
"How is this pos—"
"There isn't time to tell you! Please, let us pass."
"I wouldn't be with him if he were Voldemort. Please, listen to Harry!"
The centaur leader appeared to consider their requests, and then said, "Destroy these vermin as a sign you are who you say you are."
Harry protested. "But—"
"I don't know how to," Blaise said. "I touched them after Harry did kill them, and because of this," she said, holding up her torc, "they . . . they sort of came back."
"I know nothing of such matters, but if you will not destroy them, we will destroy you."
"Drop the torc, Blaise," Harry urged. "That may work."
She did as he bid her, and the Death Eaters appeared to . . . deflate. As soon as this occurred, the herd rushed the bodies to trample them, and Blaise snatched up her torc and followed Harry away from the destruction of the bodies.
"Wh—what . . . will we . . . do now?" she asked, running so quickly it was difficult to speak.
"I . . . don't know, but . . . but you should probably . . . hide."
"Where?" she demanded, stopping. "Harry, wait!"
"What?" he asked, turning to look over his shoulder at her.
"Why are we running when we can Apparate?"
"Good question. Right, come here."
Clutching each other, Harry Disapparated them both to the stables of the Three Broomsticks. No one but horses greeted them, horses and the sounds of battle—and a powerful, chilling cold. Blaise leapt away from him at once.
"That'll be the Dementors, then," Harry said, shivering. "How'd he get them here so fast?"
"Doesn't matter," Blaise replied, climbing up into the hayloft to look out. "Harry, they've surrounded the tavern. I . . . I think I could fly into it through the chimney—or a window—I have to try!"
"Wait! Blaise? Blaise!" he called, climbing up after her with some difficulty; he was not used to having such long limbs, or being so tall.
He saw Blaise in owl form flying like a shot toward Rosmerta's window, and then beat against it with her talons. He also saw a Dementor floating toward her.
"Expecto Patronum!" he cast without thinking as the window opened to admit her and the Dementor turned on him.
Suddenly, there were several more of the eerie beings clustered in front of the stables. Harry called upon his Patronus repeatedly, levitating himself—he had no idea how—out of the window and after the creatures. A Death Eater rushed toward him on a broomstick, and Harry waved a hand at him calling forth a burst of air that knocked the rider from his perch and sent him crashing to the ground.
"Potter!" he heard Snape call to him.
"Professor—look out!" Harry yelled, throwing a killing curse at the Death Eater that had just rounded the building and was raising a wand at the man.
The person dropped, and Harry willed himself into the open window, coming to land unsteadily on his feet before Snape.
"What the hell happened?"
"I don't know, but he's in my body—in the Shrieking Shack—and I've got to stop him!"
"If you go outside wearing that, the Aurors will try to destroy you."
"What other choice do I have? No one knows, Sir."
"Albus knows, or he will, soon. Blaise is fire-calling the castle."
"I can't wait, Professor."
"Potter, what is it that you propose to do?"
"You're asking me? I—look, can you and the others defend this place? I don't have any time to talk. If I can get to the castle—"
"Severus!" Albus Dumbledore said, his head appearing in the fire. "Is Harry with you?"
"Yes, Albus. The Dark Lord has—"
"Taken his body. Yes, I know. Lucius Malfoy appears to be leading the attack on the castle, and—"
"What? But he's—"
"Not in Azkaban, Harry. Oh, oh, dear. Harry," the man said as he saw the boy. "You must find your body—and Voldemort—at once. I've explained to Shacklebolt what has occurred. He is issuing orders not to attack 'you', but I think it likely that Malfoy is aware of the switch, so any attempt by you to play the Dark Lord's part at Hogwarts would be unsuccessful. Find Voldemort Harry. Find him and stop him," the Headmaster ordered before his head disappeared.
"Thanks," both Harry and Snape said as one.
"Well," Harry remarked, "that was helpful."
Blaise opened the door and walked in. "Harry, I've got to get to the castle. Professor Dumbledore wants me to help Longbottom bespell my Dragon Fire Ficus to surround Hogwarts. He says that the Dementors can't stand its heat."
"Blaise, I—be careful."
Her body began to transform. "You, too, Harry. Get your body back, you hear? I won't—"
Whatever the Slytherin had been about to say was lost in a flurry of hooting as she flew toward the window. Snape opened it with a flick of his wand, and then she was gone.
"I expect," the wizard said, "that Miss Zabini will not . . . have you in that form. There is as good of an inducement to battle as ever I've heard. Good luck, Potter."
"You, too, Sir," Harry said, wondering if Voldemort's cheeks were as red as he felt.