The gibbous moon riding higher in the cloudless sky, the stars and wash of the Milky Way visible in all their majesty within the darkness, all these shone down upon the graveyard to bear witness from their unimaginable distances.
In the instant when Harry had realised there was no way at all left to save everyone, his mind's voices had fallen away, become one, a single purpose taking up every fraction of his mind.
Harry's eyes tracked slowly across the air, until his gaze landed on the first Death Eater, the one closest to him.
"Time'ss almosst up -" hissed Voldemort.
"I do know ssecretss you would like to know," Harry hissed. He didn't look directly at the Dark Lord as he spoke. "But mosst valuable knowledge to you, I think, would be my ideass ass to how world might be desstroyed. Yet, to tell you ssuch thoughtss might lead to desstruction of world. Do not know prophecy, but if there iss prophecy, that makess it more than ussually probable that any action I take might have that effect. Or to tell you ssuch might prevent desstruction of world, ssince you do sseem motivated to avoid it. Not allowed to make ssuch a decission mysself. Would need to awaken and conssult girl-child friend. Vow requiress."
There was a long pause. The Dark Lord, floating above and behind the curve of Death Eaters with leveled wands, began to laugh as Salazar Slytherin had thought a snake would laugh, cold amusement in the form of a hiss. "Do you know how to desstroy world, then? "
"Cannot deliberately try to imagine method. You might have way for sservant to ssteal my thoughtss. Vow prohibitss. But ssusspect I could devisse method, if girl-child ssaid to try."
Harry's eyes drifted slowly to another Death Eater, and another.
More snakish laughter. "Clever. You have my complimentss for thinking of ssuch tacticss. But no."
"Know it iss annoying, but with world and your eternity at sstake, would you not -"
"Greater rissk to world in introducing ssuch complicationss, delaying your end. I will sstudy Muggle ssciencess mysself, think of all you might imagine. Now sspeak ssuch ssecretss as you may tell me, or thiss endss."
Slowly Harry's vision tracked across the graveyard in careful arcs, ignoring the Dark Lord except as a floating blackness in his peripheral vision. His mouth went on speaking with only half his attention. "Have thought of idea you might not have conssidered, teacher. Your attempt to kill me might fail in certain sspecific way desspite all your precautionss, perhapss lead into my desstroying world later. Would not ordinarily deem probable, but with prophecy at hand, may well be sso."
Voldemort went still, in the air. "How? "
"Am not obligated to tell you."
A cold anger began to seethe through the snakish reply. "Though I undersstand well your dessperation and attempted clevernesss, thiss beginss to annoy me. I will not withhold from killing you, for that iss sstill greater rissk. To fail to tell me your thought rissks desstroying world. Sspeak! "
"No. Vow doess not obligate me to any possitive action."
The Dark Lord stared down at Harry Potter, who glanced up at the angry face only briefly before his eyes went back to the next Death Eater. Some of them were shifting their stances slightly, but they stood still, and said no words as they leveled their wands. The silver skull masks could not be read.
Then the Dark Lord began to chuckle again. "Ssurvive your death, you think you might? No, child, my horcruxess are not linked to you alsso. I would know if they were. Or iss there other reasson you think you might ssurvive beyond my ways of enssuring your death? "
Harry didn't allow himself to be distracted. The repeated failures didn't matter, they only led into the next action in the chain - but he still needed a next action -
"Now sspeak a ssecret," the Dark Lord hissed, "or I -"
"Life-eaterss will purssue you alwayss, hate you alwayss, sseek you out wherever you go, if what I have jusst done wass ssuccesssful, I have caused them to be set upon you! Guardian Charm ssecret will be beyond you for long time to come, perhapss forever! Besst defensse againsst life-eaterss would die with me! "
"Thiss iss sstarting to become ssad..." the Dark Lord's voice trailed off. "Ah. I ssee. Life-eaterss resspond to expectationss. You tell me I will be hunted, I expect to be hunted, they hunt me. Ssuch iss rare, but not unheard-of. Valuable ssecret, yess. Can ssee many ussess." A cruel smile. "I sshall allow you to sselect one persson to be ssaved."
"Would tell you to die with dignity, but knowing mysself, I know it for futility. You have wassted my kindly gift jusst then by annoying me, and I retract it. Any other ssecretss? "
"Yess. Really interessting oness, too. Ssome you are unlikely to figure out on your own, not for very long time if ever. If I ssay I have told you all that do not rissk world, will you not torment any of my friendss or family? All of thiss sspeech sstarted becausse you left me no way at all to ssave everyone."
The Dark Lord stood still in the air for a long moment.
And Harry's eyes went on tracking slowly across the graveyard, as his hand remained tight upon his wand.
In the instant when Harry had realized there was no way left to save everyone -
He couldn't speak any incantation in English. But Transfiguration was wordless.
There was no material in contact with his wand's end except air, which couldn't be Transfigured. But Voldemort didn't know about partial Transfiguration, which Harry could use to Transfigure a tiny bit of the material from his wand itself.
"You're sstalling," the Dark Lord said. "Jusst to delay death? Or with other purposse? "
Harry said nothing, his other work slowing as his mind sought a continuation of the conversation that would work even against the Dark Lord's will -
"Sspeak and tell me purposse, or thiss endss now and your friendss suffer for lifetimess! "
"Lower Muggle weapon and do not point wand in my direction," Harry hissed, putting as much cold danger as he could into the snake's voice. "Sspeak no commandss to sservantss. I do posssesss capabilitiess of which you are ignorant. Can usse one ssuch capacity to causse huge explossion almosst insstantly, without sspeaking incantation. Sslay your new body, all sservantss, Sstone sscattered to who knowss where."
At his current level of practice Harry could Transfigure one cubic millimeter as fast as he could apply his will and magic.
One cubic millimeter of antimatter.
It wasn't a world-ending threat.
Voldemort could have been carved from stone. "You bluff, ssomehow."
"Not bluffing. Sspeaking in ssnaketalk, I tell you, I can do it almosst insstantly, before any sspell can be casst at me, I think. You know very little of sscience ass yet. Power I would command iss sstronger than processs that fuelss sstarss."
"Vow will sstop you," hissed Voldemort. "You cannot rissk world. Take no risskss, none, with clever ideass! "
"Would not rissk world. I esstimated ssize of explossion, nowhere near that large."
"You do NOT know, fool! Cannot be SURE! "Voldemort's hiss was climbing higher.
"I am reassonably certain. Vow will not sstop me."
There was an increasing fury in Voldemort's expression, and yet his hiss carried a tinge of fear. "I sshall wreak pain beyond imagining on all you care for -"
"Sshut up. I dissregard all ssuch threatss now, as theory of gamess ssayss I sshould. Only reasson you make threatss iss that you expect me to resspond." That, too, Harry had truly understood in the last extremity. "Offer me ssomething I want, teacher. For your new body, for your continued holding of Sstone, for livess of your sservantss."
Harry's mouth was running on automatic, his real attention elsewhere.
Beneath the moonlight glints a tiny fragment of silver, a fraction of a line...
From a tiny spot on the end of Harry's wand, a cubic millimeter of anchor, stretched out a thin line of Transfigured spider-silk. It would have broken at once, if tested; it would have gone unremarked, if any had noticed its glint. Less than a tenth of a millimeter in cross-section, the tiny shape represented by the extended line of spider-silk was something Harry could Transfigure swiftly, ten centimeters of length to a cubic millimeter of total volume; and Harry could Transfigure a cubic millimeter in a fraction of a second. He was forcing the Transfiguration outward, extending it through the air as fast as he could without risking the transformation.
The tracing line of spider-silk looped around a Death Eater's hood at neck level, returned to the pattern of threads.
Voldemort's face was now impassive. "You musst not leave here alive. Ssenssible people called good would alsso agree, thiss I tell you in ssnake'ss sspeech. But all your friendss I will treat kindly and protect under my reign, if you agree to die now ass good persson sshould."
The last Death Eater was looped. The pattern of spider-silk was complete. The web had been drawn with loops around all the Death Eater's necks. The ends of those loops had been anchored to a central circle; and that central circle in turn had three threads stretching across its center. The entire pattern still touching the anchor-line stretching out of Harry's wand.
Over the next seconds, those near-invisible threads of reflected moonlight turned black.
Filaments narrower, stronger, and sharper than steel wire; braided carbon nanotubes, each individual tube all a single molecule.
Harry hissed, "Want you to alsso promisse to treat nationss kindly under your rule. Will not accept lesss."
Voldemort hovered still in the air, snake-face showing a dawning fury.
The last two threads stretched out from the dark pattern, black theads already in the form of nanotubes. They moved lightly through the air toward the Dark Lord himself, toward the sleeve just above Voldemort's left hand that held the gun, toward the sleeve above the right hand that held the yew wand, threads placed high at first to give them time to drift slowly downward through the air. The threads looped around, went over themselves, tied slippable knots. Began to tighten, coming closer to the sleeve, as Harry Transfigured them shorter -
Harry felt the tickle of Voldmort's power beginning to touch his own in the back of his mind; at the same time the Dark Lord's eyes widened, his mouth opened.
And Harry Transfigured the black threads stretching across the black pattern's center to a quarter their previous size, shrinking the circle, yanking hard on everything attached, tightening loops.
(Black robes, falling.)
Harry wasn't looking there, he didn't see the falling masks, the blood, in the back of his mind he felt some explosions of magic like he'd felt when Hermione died but he ignored them, Harry's eyes only saw the Dark Lord's hands and wand and gun dropping downward, and then Harry's wand was rising, pointing -
Harry screamed, "STUPORFY! "
The red bolt the color of the Stunning Hex winged toward Voldemort, blazing across the graveyard almost faster than the eye could see.
Without any hesitation despite his wounds the Dark Lord jerked down and right through the air.
And the red bolt from Professor Flitwick's secret Swerving Stunner turned in midair and slammed into Voldemort.
The pain that flashed through Harry's scar was searing, it made him cry out and a red haze appear across his vision, despite everything Harry dropped his wand in pain and sheer fatigue.
As Harry let go of his wand, the pain began to clear -
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