Chapter 18: In the Ophidians’ Den
Harry landed near Hermione, exactly on the fork of the river, behind the Malfoys’ manor. Ron joined them a few minutes later.
“You’ll stay near me”, Harry said. “We’ll walk in silence. When I have immobilized Nagini, I’ll hypnotize her. You two quietly walk round her so as to get near her coming from behind, out of her visual field, and always stay about two yards from her. Ron, you’ll place yourself about her neck, a bit lower, so that she can’t see you. Her visual field is very large, more than two hundred degrees. And Hermione, you’ll place yourself about one yard from the point of her tail. When we cut the head of a snake, its tail, by reflex will make a powerful sweeping movement, judging by her giant size, it might kill you. That’s why we should cut the head and tail at the same time. I’ll make signs to you, at three, you sever her through firmly. Give me the basket. We’ll move on slowly, in silence, I’ll try to perceive her hissing.
So, the three friends moved on, in silence, deep into the forest. A sound was heard. The three friends froze on the spot, behind a bush. Someone was coming, wearing a black hooded cloak that concealed his face. Harry waited. When the newcomer came level with the three friends, Harry waved his wand and the man was tied up from head to foot in a rope and fell onto the ground, dropping his wand near him. Harry picked it up, broke it into two and threw the pieces back to the man, and then he Petrified him into a wax statue.
After that small break, the three friends went on, penetrating further into the forest. Suddenly Harry made a sign with his hand.
“Shh! I hear Nagini. Stay behind me …” many minutes went on … then, with a sudden movement, Harry grasped Ron and Hermione with his two hands, pushed them in front of him, and returned on himself, so as to stand before his friends.
“She was behind us”, said Harry in a whisper. Hide yourselves behind the bush.
Nagini was not very far from them, but apparently she went in another direction and didn’t take any notice of them. Harry moved out from the bush, placed himself on a bare space. He put down the basket. That movement made the snake turn in the direction of the three friends. Harry freed the rabbit, which, once released, hesitated a moment then leapt sideways. The snake was on the point to rush after the rabbit, when Harry spoke in Parseltongue :
“Leave it !”
The snake, surprised, turned at once to Harry and stared at him right in his eyes. Harry had been waiting only for that, he stared back into the snake’s eyes, and the snake, as if frozen, immobilized itself. Harry moved on nearer to the snake, still fixing intensely into its eyes. Many minutes went on. Then Harry whispered to Ron and Hermione: “Go on !”
Ron and Hermione left the bush, and glided into places as they had planned. With his left hand, Harry waved: One, two, three ! And as with the same and one voice, Ron and Hermione cried out firmly:
The snake’s corpse leapt onto the air and fell down in three pieces, in a muffled sound, shaking the ground underneath the three friends. A wisp of dark smoke escaped from the snake corpse, at which. Harry pointed his wand crying firmly ‘Avada Kedavra’. The smoke broke into pieces and melted away.
“Ouff !” Ron let out with relief.
“Send your Patronus, Ron ! Up till now, everything is fine as we have planned”, Harry said taking out his locket. He gave it a small kiss, then hid it again under his shirt.
Ron’s Jack Russell darted to the glade. Some minutes later, the others joined them.
“Perhaps we should divide into three groups, to attack them on three sides”, Aberforth proposed. Your group, Mr Potter, remains in the middle. That the groups be balanced in powers, with the same numbers of old and young people.”
Harry saw Mr Weasley who was just coming near him; he wore only a shirt.
“Where’s your Misleading Cloak ?” asked Harry, astonished.
“I gave it to Ginny.”
“Ginny’s there ? I asked her to remain behind, in the school !”, Harry said, casting a round look over the groups.
“Yes, she has just joined us, at the glade”.
Ginny was among those who formed the group on the right, walking, with her head down, the cloak floating on the grass. ‘She dare not come to my group’, thought Harry, irritated.
So, they moved on, further into the forest. A sound was heard somewhere. Harry returned. Four Death Eaters materialized behind them, and at one they were surrounded by the members of the Order and the D.A. The Death Eaters placed themselves back against back to fight. Mr Weasley just lowered his head to avoid a killing curse cast by one of them when Aberforth by this gap pointed his wand at the Death Eaters and the four of them were tied up together in an Anti-Apparition curse. Then he Petrified them into statues.
“Break their wands, Neville”, said Harry who just saw Neville for the first time, since he had left the school. “Where were you ?”
“I’m in the group on your right with Ginny, Mrs Weasley and Charlie”
“Neville, take my cloak, it will protect you !” said Harry removing his cloak and giving it to Neville.
So, they went on, deeper into the forest. The trees were denser and denser; and it became darker and darker, though it was not very late yet. Then after about an hour’s walk, the trees lessened little by little and they came into the vast bare place. They were in the middle of a large glade. It was still daytime, but the sun would soon disappear.
‘It’s their Head Quarters here’ Harry thought. ‘ Yet there are no houses, no shacks, where are they living ?’
The grass on the ground was withered as if it had been trampled every day and couldn’t grow. Harry saw on the edge of the glade, where some tufts of grass succeeded in surviving, there were one square hole … two square holes … They were not holes made by the animals.
“Look out ! They are in the underground, we are surrounded !” Harry cried out.
“Place yourselves with your backs toward the centre !” urged Aberforth.
No sooner Alberforth had finished his sentence than dozens of Death Eaters materialized in front of them. Harry, Ron and Hermione were facing to Lestrange and the brother and sister Death Eaters. Beside Hermione was Mr Weasley. Beside Ron was Luna and Bill. Harry fought but cast quick looks around from time to time in search for Voldemort. He would not give him time to kill the others.
The curses were heard from everywhere. It was difficult to say who cast what. The battle had lasted for about one hours when it became fiercer and fiercer, for the killing curse was heard cast by the Death Eaters from everywhere, ‘They are losing the battle and are desperate’ Harry thought. Near Harry, Ron and Hermione just shouted out the ‘Sectumsempra’ curse to ward off the ‘Avada Kedavra’ cast by the brother and sister Death Eaters who at once collapsed onto the ground, slashed, bathed in their blood.
Suddenly a high pitched voice was heard:
“ Ha ! Ha ! Ha ! Our friend Harry Potter comes to visit me, in the very den of Ophidians, the snake order … Yes, because I’m the king of snakes. My ancestor is SALAZAAAR SLYTHERIINN.”
At once, Lestrange who was fighting against Harry, stepped aside, letting appear from far away Voldemort who walked straight towards Harry. ‘He just got out from one of those snake holes’ Harry thought.
“Let’s see ! What would our young friend show us as power against the Dark Lord. He will not cast a Patronus against me”, he said raising his voice mockingly. “It’s all he knows”, he went on laughing mirthlessly.
Then without losing time, he cried:
Hermione jumped in front of Harry, without Harry being able to stop her, and received right in the heart the killing curse. Hermione‘s sacrifice gave Harry a nanosecond in advance in his curse of Anti-Apparition. And Voldemort was nailed to the ground, tied up from head to foot in a solid rope. In his rage and despair, Harry cast straight away, staring right through Voldemort’s eyes:
Within a second, Voldemort’s face was crisped with pain, but at once he succeeded in controlling himself:
“No Unforgivable Curse from our dear baby Potter !” Voldemort sniggered in his high-pitched voice from the ground where he was lying, clearly trying to throw off the suffocating rope.
“Oh yes, Riddle !”
Suddenly, hardly Harry had finished his sentence, Voldemort’s body leapt onto the air like a fish out of water and fell down onto the ground in a pond of his own blood.
Harry dropped on his feet, took Hermione in his arms and wept silently.
“Harry !” the panic-stricken voice of Mr Weasley was heard beside Harry.
Snape who was behind the brother Death Eater, cast a hatred look at Harry, but pointed his wand straight at Mr Weasley, shouting :
“Avada Kedavra !”
Then he grasped Draco’s arm who was behind him, and Disapparated with him after blowing a whistle.
All the Death Eaters, who were still standing, Disapparated in the second that followed.
“Ron !” Harry put a hand on his friend’s shoulder, who just dropped on Mr Weasley’s corpse.
All this happened very quickly, like in a flash.
Harry got up, with Hermione in his arms, his face dazed. Then he cast a round look over the battlefield, and disappeared in a whirlwind.
Far away, very far away from there, in the centre of London, Mr and Mrs Granger were in their living room. They remained silent, looking concerned as if they were fearing the arrival of a grave, a very grave piece of news.
Suddenly, an adolescent materialized in front of them. He knelt down, keeping his head down. He was holding in his arms the corpse of their daughter.
“Please, I’m Harry Potter. You don’t know me. But everything is my own fault. Hermione sacrificed herself to save me.”
Mrs Granger let out a sob. Mr Granger got up, went to Harry, helped him up, and took Hermione’s body to place it on the sofa. Harry and Mrs Granger followed him and knelt down beside Hermione’s body. Mrs Granger wept silently, putting out her hand on Hermione’s forehead, wiping away some locks of hair to clear off the face of her daughter. Harry, with his face in Hermione’s hand, remained dumb struck in his pain. Mr Granger sat down near Harry, then tenderly placed a hand on Harry’s shoulder :
“My dear boy, Hermione told us by a small letter this morning of what might happen to her this evening. She confessed that she loved you, that it was you she loved. She expressly asked us to let her live her love, her passion, her life, and never put on you the responsibility of whatever might happen to her this evening. She has made her choice. We have lost a daughter, but now we have a son. Cry, my boy ! Pour out your pain, but it’s no fault of yours.”
“I dared not tell her that I loved her, when I kissed her this afternoon”.
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