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Rising From The Ashes

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They were crammed in a back corner, the three of them, bunched together in the midst of a crowd of people that hated them. And yet at that moment, no one was paying them any attention at all. All eyes were riveted on the boy and what had once been a man, slowly circling one another in the middle of the Great Hall, wands in their hands, but words were the weapon of the moment...

"...Severus Snape was never the true master of the Elder Wand," Harry Potter said, his voice ringing in the anxious silence of the room. "He never defeated Dumbledore."

"He killed ---" the Dark Lord began, his red eyes narrowed.

"Aren't you listening? Snape never beat Dumbledore! Dumbledore's death was planned between them! Dumbledore intended to die undefeated, the wand's last true master! If all had gone as planned, the wand's power would have died with him, because it had never been won from him!"

"But then, Potter, Dumbledore as good as gave me the wand!" Voldemort said with a malicious sneer. "I stole the wand from its master's tomb!"

Draco shuddered. He'd taken the wand from Dumbledore's dead hand? Sweet Circe...

"I removed it against its last master's wishes! Its power is mine!"

"You still don't get it, Riddle, do you?" Potter said with scorn, and Draco could only stare. No one dared speak to the Dark Lord that way, no one. And yet, Potter didn't even look frightened. He was a battered and bloody mess: his hair was tangled and ragged, hanging past his shoulders, and there was blood on his face and neck and arms. But his sinewy body was upright and he faced the man who'd murdered his parents with more disdain than rage. Draco found himself with a grudging respect for the man's sheer audacity.

"Possessing the wand isn't enough!" Potter went on. "Holding it, using it, doesn't make it really yours. Didn't you listen to Ollivander? The wand chooses the wizard.... The Elder Wand recognized a new master before Dumbledore died, someone who never even laid a hand on it. The new master removed the wand from Dumbledore against his will, never realizing exactly what he had done, or that the world's most dangerous wand had given him its allegiance..."

A sound like rushing water filled Draco's head as he watched Voldemort try to grasp what Potter was saying. Potter's words echoed in his head. "The new master removed the wand from Dumbledore against his will, never realizing exactly what he had done, or that the world's most dangerous wand had given him its allegiance..."

"Oh, God," Draco thought, his hands beginning to shake violently. "Oh, God..."

"The true master of the Elder Wand," Potter said, his voice ringing, "was Draco Malfoy!"

Even as Voldemort was trying to absorb what Potter was saying, Draco felt a hand clamp down hard around his wrist, and he looked up into his father's eyes. They were wide and shocked and filled with... triumph? Draco shook his head slightly, willing his father to understand. He might have been master of the wand briefly, but he'd been disarmed, himself. Disarmed by...

He turned back to stare at Potter just in time to see Potter brandishing his hawthorn wand.

"So, it all comes down to this, doesn't it?" Potter said, his voice deep, filling even the furthest corners of the cavernous room. "Does the wand in your hand know its last master was Disarmed? Because if it does.... I am the true master of the Elder Wand."

At that moment, the enchanted sky above suddenly lit with the vivid palette of dawn, washing both of the combatants' faces: Voldemort's deathly white, narrowed eyes red and filled with hate, Potter's, pale and battered but filled with fierce determination. They faced one another like warriors of old, arms extended, wands in their hands.

And then they were yelling at the same time, and spells burst from both wands, the Elder Wand and Draco's hawthorn, and collided in an explosion of light and sound. The Deathstick flipped from Voldemort's bloodless white hand, end over end across the dawn-bright ceiling, straight into Potter's grip, and the spell that Voldemort had screamed rebounded on him, striking him full in the chest. He went down without so much as a whimper.

There was a suspended moment of utter silence, and then the hall erupted in screams and cries, and hundreds of people were rushing Potter, nearly everyone, in fact, but the three Malfoys, who remained in their corner, pressed against the wall.

Draco's father turned his head then and looked at his son, his eyes filled with both awe, and disappointment. 'Good God', that look seemed to say; Draco had had all of the power in the world, and the way to save them all, and he'd never known it. And as Draco stared back, the only thing he could think was that this time, he'd done more than merely let his father down. This time, he'd cost them all their lives...