In Chapter 36, it’s the showdown we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s go!
It’s pure chaos, but mostly it’s heartbreaking. Harry refuses to believe that Sirius is gone. It doesn’t make sense. All Sirius did was fall through an archway. There were other people there, so why didn’t Sirius just pop back out? Harry doesn’t even notice the spells and fighting happening around him. All he can do is fight Lupin, who is desperately trying to hold him back.
But some part of him realized, even as he fought to break free from Lupin, that Sirius had never kept him waiting before . . . Sirius had risked everything, always, to see Harry, to help him . . . If Sirius was not reappearing out of that archway when Harry was yelling for him as though his life depended on it, the only possible explanation was that he could not come back . . . That he really was . . .
I just, I can’t . . . Harry doesn’t deserve this. Sirius doesn’t deserve it either. They were going to be a family together, just as soon as they could get Sirius’s name cleared. Sirius was the closest thing Harry had to a parent figure. It’s not fair.
Dumbledore has gotten the situation mostly under control, although Bellatrix is still fighting, this time against Kingsley. Neville comes up to Harry and asks if Sirius was Harry’s friend. He also tells Lupin that the others are back in the other room, injured but okay. At that moment, Bellatrix fires off a spell that hits Kingsley, sending him to the ground, and takes off running. It’s as if Harry sees red. He jumps up and takes off after her. Lupin can’t even stop him.
He chases her through the room with the brains, past Ginny, Luna, Ron and Hermione. He makes it to the spinning room and asks it for the way out (which it gives him – I guess you just needed to ask?). He gets to the elevators and rides it up to the Atrium, where he finally sees Bellatrix heading for the telephone box to go back into the Muggle world. And because she’s sick and twisted, she turns and attacks. He is barely able to dodge out of the way.
“Come out, come out, little Harry!” she called in her mock-baby voice, which echoed off the polished wooden floors. “What did you come after me for, then? I thought you were here to avenge my dead cousin!”
“I am!” shouted Harry, and a score of ghostly Harrys seemed to chorus I am! I am! I am! all around the room.
“Aaaaaah . . . did you love him, little baby Potter?”
Hatred rose in Harry such as he had never known before. He flung himself out from behind the fountain and bellowed, “Crucio!”
It’s the first time that Harry had ever cast an Unforgivable, and he chooses the torture curse. It doesn’t quite work. Oh, it hurts her and knocks her down, but it doesn’t incapacitate her like it did with Neville. Bellatrix mocks him some more, telling him that he has to really mean it, to revel in causing pain and suffering. Which of course, is nothing like Harry at all. He is the exact opposite of someone like Bellatrix. She fires off spells at him, which he is able to dodge and deflect, all the while telling him to give her the prophesy. He tells her that it’s gone.
At that moment, Harry feels his scar light up with pain and he knows that ol’ Voldy is furious. The Dark Lord just found out that the prophesy is gone. He’s not going to get it. Harry starts laughing and Bellatrix starts panicking. The last thing she wants is to feel Voldemort’s wrath. She starts trying to summon the prophesy, which doesn’t work, and yells out to Voldemort, begging him not to punish her for her failure. Harry yells at her again, his scar hurting more and more, that it doesn’t matter what she yells, since Voldemort can’t hear her.
“Can’t I, Potter?” said a high, cold voice.
Yikes! Don’t sneak up on a person like that, dude! Voldemort is there, in the flesh, his wand pointed at Harry. He knows Harry is telling the truth about the prophesy and he is not particularly happy about it. He blames the incompetence of the Death Eaters for failing him, which sends Bellatrix groveling at his feet, begging forgiveness. She tries to warn him, but Voldemort is too focused on Harry, too ready to finally complete the spell that he had tried to cast so long ago. Harry is too shocked to even react.
Right before the Avada Kedavra streaks across the room, one of the golden statues from the fountain jumps off its platform and covers Harry like a shield. What on earth has happened? Dumbledore, that’s what! As the chapter title says, “the only one he ever feared.” What happens next is an absolutely epic wizard battle. The other statues join in the fray, the first one pushing Harry further away from the action to protect him. Bellatrix is pinned down by another statue, and as such, out of the fight. It’s just Voldemort and Dumbledore.
At one point, Voldemort taunts Dumbledore that he doesn’t seem to want to kill him. Dumbledore responds that there are much worse things than death, but Voldemort doesn’t see it that way. As we learn in later books, Voldemort is terrified of death, so much so that he has gone to extremes to try and thwart death.
“There is nothing worse than death, Dumbledore!” snarled Voldemort.
“You are quite wrong,” said Dumbledore, still closing in upon Voldemort and speaking as lightly as though they were discussing the matter over drinks. Harry felt scared to see him walking along, undefended, shieldless. He wanted to cry out a warning, but his headless guard kept shunting him backward toward the wall, blocking his every attempt to get out from behind it. “Indeed, your failure to understand that there are things much worse than death has always been your greatest weakness –“
More spells are cast, deflected by other statues. One spell shoots out like a whip and wraps Voldemort up in it, after which Voldemort turns it into a giant snake and then disappears. There’s fire. There’s water. There’s Fawkes, who swallows a spell whole. Then Voldemort disappears. Then things get really, really scary.
Harry is trying to get out from behind the statute when his scar explodes in pain. He can barely see through it. He is trapped inside another creature, or another creature is trapped in him, and uses Harry’s mouth to speak. It’s Voldemort, inside Harry, possessing him and taunting Dumbledore to kill him. Doing so would surely kill Harry, and both wizards know this. Deep down, Harry wishes for death just to make it stop. It wouldn’t be so bad . . . he’d be with Sirius again.
These emotions swell within him and the creature slowly relinquishes its hold before disappearing completely. Harry shivers on the ground as Dumbledore kneels beside him to see if he is okay. There isn’t much time to really process what just happened because the Atrium is now full of people. One of those people? Fudge. The Minister himself.
“He was there!” shouted a scarlet-robed man with a ponytail, who was pointing at a pile of golden rubble on the other side of the hall, where Bellatrix had lain trapped moments before. “I saw him, Mr. Fudge, I swear it, it was You-Know-Who, he grabbed a woman and Disapparated!”
“I know, Willliamson, I know, I saw him too!” gibbered Fudge, who was wearing pajamas under his pinstriped cloak and was gasping as though he had just run miles. “Merlin’s beard — here — here! — in the Ministry of Magic! — great heavens above — it doesn’t seem possible — my word — how can this be?”
Oh no. No way. You don’t get to ignore warnings and basically try to take over Dumbledore’s entire livelihood and then act SURPRISED that Voldemort is back, you useless idiot.
Dumbledore calmly tells him that the escaped Death Eaters are downstairs. He also lays it out that he has been telling the truth this whole time and that it is time for Fudge to get over himself. He also says he will give a full report of what all happened once he gets Harry back to Hogwarts. And he’s not done either — Dumbledore has a full list of demands. Umbridge is to be removed from Hogwarts. Hagrid is to be allowed to return. Most of all, Fudge will not comment on the illegal Portkey that Dumbledore just created to send Harry back to school.
Harry reaches for the Portkey. He is so completely drained, he doesn’t even care what happens next. Dumbledore says he will see him shortly right before the Portkey activates and Harry disappears.
See you next time for Chapter 37!