It took Voldemort twice as long as he might have anticipated to convince his Death Eaters that Harry Potter was now a member of their ranks. First there was actually showing them, then there was shooting a series of curses in their direction when someone dared to question if he was sure about this. After a few random shots that took down the limbs of the surrounding trees, no one else argued, and a few scouts went to gather those who were on patrol farther out in the woods. Their strategy would be changing quite dramatically now.
“So how should we end this then?” Harry asked, indicating the besieged Hogwarts castle behind them.
Voldemort seemed to be plotting, or rather he seemed to already have a plot in mind but was unsure of whether or not to execute it.
“You may be very helpful in ending this quickly,” he mused. They were away from the rest of the Deatheaters now. Only Nagini overheard their conversation, and she relished in it.
“Do you know why it is, Potter, that one cannot Disapparate in or out of Hogwarts?”
“No,” Harry admitted. “I know the house elves can do it, but humans can’t. I assumed it was a charm or something.”
“Or something is quite the understatement. It is a charm, but a very powerful one. It can only be broken by an extremely powerful wizards, presumably the headmaster of Hogwarts, and even then, the location of where the charm has been cast is a closely guarded secret. Even I do not know its location, and were I able to Disapparate into the school to look for, it would hardly be of any concern, now would it?”
Harry could vaguely see where this line of thinking was going.
“But you think I could find out where it is?” he asked. Voldemort sighed.
“Even under torture, few of the Hogwarts teachers have relayed any kind of useful information to me. I think they would be much easier to question if you were the one doing it.”
“My pleasure,” Harry assured him. He thought he heard Voldemort muttering something of perhaps having killed Snape off too soon, and decided it best not to mention anything about it.
Harry approached the Hogwarts castle limping slightly. His face was smeared with mud and his sleeves were torn. A few cuts and bruises dotted his face and hands. It had to look good, after all. With the Death Eaters having fallen back, the wizards guarding the gates immediately opened them and allowed him passage. He coughed a bit before speaking as a small crowd gathered around him, happy to see he was safe.
“Where were you?” he heard someone asking. Ginny maybe?
“No, now, give the boy some air,” someone else said. It sounded vaguely like Slughorn. He coughed again.
“Professor McGonagall…” he gasped out. “Where is she? I need to speak with her right away.”
A bit of murmuring from the crowd and a few people towards the back began shuffling around. Harry squinted pretending to be just barely conscious. In a few moments, the head of his former house was standing next to him, pulling him aside and the crowd around them began to disperse, turning back to treating the wounded an burying the dead. After all, few minutes remained until Voldemort had promised to restart the battle.
“What is it?” Professor McGonagall was asking. “We couldn’t find you anywhere… Goodness, but we were worried about you…”
“Professor,” Harry gasped. “Listen, I know where it is. The thing Dumbledore wanted me to find.”
She seemed a bit taken back, but gathered herself quickly. “Have you then? Well, that’s excellent.” An awkward pause. “Where is it then?” she asked.
“That’s the problem,” Harry said. “I know… I know it’s the room that holds the castle’s charms – you know, the ones that prevent disappearing in and out of Hogwarts? But I don’t know where that room is. Please, Professor, you’ve got to help me…” McGonagall’s eyes had grown suddenly stern.
“Harry, only the headmaster and a few professors know where that room is, and we are all sworn to secrecy on it. I’m not sure how you found out it existed, but…”
“Dumbledore told me,” Harry said, which seemed to be a good explanation for just about anything irrational he tried to do. “Dumbledore told me to look for it. Once I find it, we can defeat Volde… you-know-who, professor. Please, you’ve got to tell me where it is!” He was becoming so dramatic he feared he may be overdoing it. The pained look in McGonagall’s eyes told him he had not reached that point just yet.
“I…” she said hesitantly, looking around. She looked desperately around as if the walls would tell her what to do.
“I…. very well, then, I will show you where it is. However, you are not to see how we get there or how we return. Agreed?” Harry thought for a moment. His plan will still work, even with those conditionals enforced.
“Agreed he said.
The professor did a marvelous misdirection spell on Harry before they started in the direction of the secret room. Everything was completely black, and though he continued to walk forward, it felt to him as if he was always going in a straight line, though me knew they must be turning corners and going up and down a number of steps, for they walked for several minutes. Finally, they came to a stop, and for a for moments, Harry stood in the darkness, seeing nothing, feeling nothing. Then in one smooth motion, the veil of obscurity of dropped and Harry found himself standing in a small tight room, not much larger than his so-called bedroom at the Durselreys. A number of sparking balls lines the wall, looking much like a set of Christmas lights. The glow from them was soft peaceful, but incredibly strong and annoying. These were the charms he would have to break. But not him. He wasn’t strong enough for it. Only one person he knew of was…
“Well, Potter?” McGonagall asked, “Do you see what you were looking for?”
Harry did not answer. His mind was retreating, allowing another one to take over, one that could actually cast the powerful spell needed to break the charms in the tiny room. He felt his hand grab for his wand, his voice shout out a spell he did not know.
McGonagall screamed. All at once, the lights in the room shattered, sending what would have been shards of glass to the floor, only the shards disappeared before they hit the stone tiles. Around him, he could sense the Death Eaters Apparating into the castle in huge numbers. The fighting would stop quickly.
“No!” McGonagall cried, or at least she would have if Voldemort didn’t immediately knock her unconscious.