Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, the gag gift shop owned by twin brothers Fred and George Weasley, is normally a jovial place. Today, however, the atmosphere is somber here in the Rebellion's somewhat unlikely secret headquarters. Six artifacts lie scattered on the smooth tile floor near the back of the shop, the darkness with which they're imbued filling the air with cold and gloom, despite the pleasant May evening outside. Twenty-two young witches and wizards, along with a couple new allies found during their recent adventures, gather around these objects, which lie inert yet potent and dangerous.

And of these twenty-two, none feel the collective malice of the Horcruxes as keenly as Harry Potter, the scar on whose forehead is now pulsing and writhing like something alive, a searing pain in his skull such as he has never felt in his head before.

Another wizard, a boy--no, a young man--takes out a gleaming ancient sword. It's been only hours since Neville Longbottom used this blade, forged by goblins and once wielded by Godric Gryffindor himself, to slay the great snake and personal pet of Lord Voldemort, Nagini. The serpent's headless corpse rests in the center of the pile in front of the former Tributes, but five Horcruxes remain there, potent and active: a black leather-bound diary, a ring mounted with a gleaming black jewel, a golden locket sealed tightly shut, a bejeweled silver crown, and an elegant gold cup adorned with twin ornate handles.

Neville looks the objects over, then turns his attention to the crowd gathered behind him. "We've got to destroy them," he tells them without preamble. "All of them. But I can't do it alone," he adds, a pained expression on his face as he glances back toward the dead snake.

The de facto co-leader of Neville's Rebellion against Voldemort, Luna Lovegood, nods. "It's simple really. Each Horcrux holds its own kind of power, like a symbol." Her wide eyes take in the entire gathering, almost lazily so. "So whoever feels most strongly the call to face an inner darkness, they should be the one to destroy a Horcrux."

The students shift uncomfortably, trading silent glances for a while, before Ginny Weasley suddenly steps forward. "I'll go first." Taking the sword from Neville, she glares at the dark colored book. "I have something of a history with Tom Riddle's diary. If it's all the same to you, I'd like to be shot of it." Her eyes meet Harry's, who is both her inspiration and something... more, and who gives her an encouraging nod. Then holding the blade aloft, she hears whispers, enticing whispers of companionship, promising her every desire, all that she could ever need. Pitiless, however, she drives the sword downward into the diary, piercing cloth, pages, and finally cloth again until it dents the cold, hard floor underneath. A terrible spirit of dread feels unleashed on them all for the blink of an eye before it's just as suddenly gone, and everyone releases the breath they now find they've been collectively holding. She puts the sword down and returns to the group, as ink spills out like blood from between the diary's pages.

As one, both Katie Bell and Draco Malfoy step out next. When they lock eyes and immediately look down toward the locket, it's no real surprise to either that they've happened to come together like this. It was, after all, another type of necklace upon which Draco had placed a deadly curse that had inadvertently landed Katie in the hospital for months and nearly killed her. For her, this is an opportunity to face down her demons of inadequacy, powerlessness, and perceived failures. For him, this is an opportunity to atone for past wrongs, to prove to the others that despite his personal history, he belongs in the fight against the Dark Lord.

Nodding toward the sword, Draco moves to the necklace piece as Katie silently picks up the weapon and advances forward. He whispers a few snatches of Parseltongue that he's had occasion to overhear growing up amongst so many Death Eaters in Malfoy Manor. The locket immediately flings open, and Draco struggles to hold on to it as Katie is nearly blown backward by the full force of Tom Riddle's malignant spirit, her hair whipping around her face in eerily similar fashion to that fateful day in Hogsmeade. She straightens herself and continues forward, her eyes wide with... fear? determination? madness? ...as she struggles against the words of reproach and bitter loathing hammering away at her inner spirit from the awakened Horcrux.

For one terrifying moment, Draco fears that she will use this opportunity to exact revenge for the curse that he'd put on her more than a year ago, but at the last second Katie brings the blade down not on Draco but on the locket, shattering it to pieces and silencing the voices of self-doubt forever. The two are breathing heavily now and face each other after the ordeal is over; she grins encouragingly at him while he wears an abashed smirk on this face. Katie helps Draco back to his feet, and together they blend back in with the crowd.

Next, showing that Gryffindor's sword is meant not just to be wielded by those in his own House, Cho Chang steps forward and picks up the blade, her eyes on the diadem, crown jewel of her own Ravenclaw House. Her struggles the opposite of Katie's, she wrestles with a superiority complex, the temptation to control situations, and a propensity to overlook terrible character flaws if it suits her own purposes (the most disastrous example of which was the whole Marietta Edgecombe incident during the days of Dumbledore's Army).

Approaching the crown, she is shown a flash of images, as alluring as they are terrifying: After bloodshed too swift and manifold to count or fully process, she at last sees herself standing over the corpses of her fellow Tributes and students, and the Dark Lord himself placing the diadem on her head, beckoning her to rule with him forever. Jolted out of her stupor, she then grips the hilt of Gryffindor's sword in both hands, and thrusts downward, slicing the precious diadem neatly in half, each piece oozing a black, bloody substance. "I think," she mutters almost absentmindedly, "there are some fates worse than death."

At once, the now vampire-like being once known as Cedric Diggory, these days known to some by another name, steps forward, but Cho waves him off. "I'm fine, Cedric," she assures him, "But thank you."

Cedric smiles at her. "And I never doubted you, Cho." His eyes turn toward the glittering onyx ring. "No, I've come to do my part." As she passes the sword to him, he gets a kind of dreamy look in his topaz colored eyes. "The lure of eternal life is one that is enticing to all. If the rumors are true and this ring contains none other than the Resurrection Stone..." his voice trails off, and his face shows a trace of humor as he gazes out upon his assembled comrades and friends. "Then obviously it's up to the one undead person in the group to deal with it, isn't it?" Then with a sudden ferocity that those who've only known him as Cedric are stunned to see, the vampire performs a one-handed slash of superhuman speed and power, and the sound of the Horcrux's death throes are like a thunderclap within the shop itself, shrieking and then falling silent just as swiftly. The others give him a slightly wide berth as he returns to the group with Cho, leaving the sword clanging on the floor.

"So that leaves just the one then," Luna says brightly, as if this were a particularly interesting game of pass the parcel. The rest of the group looks toward the cup of Helga Hufflepuff.

"And I guess," comes the somewhat tremulous voice of Hannah Abbott, "it's up to the last remaining Hufflepuff in the group to take care of it, isn't it?" Taking the encouraging nods and smiles from both Luna and Neville as her cue, she shuffles forward and bends down to pick up the sword of Gryffindor--it's a lot heavier than she thought it'd be.

Grasping the ruby studded hilt with both hands, the feel of its hilt foreign to hands accustomed to Herbology, she creeps slowly up toward the golden cup as if it were a living thing, her hands and legs literally trembling now. The dark presence surrounding the cup becomes thicker the closer she approaches, until it almost feels like a physical barrier between her and her target. The weight of the sword and of her burden causes her to sag until she's practically dragging the blade against the floor. Now only inches from the cup, Hannah collapses onto one knee, tears of despair and futility beginning to stream down her face, the sword slack in her grip. She catches Neville in motion from the corner of her eye, but she shakes her head, waving him off. She's determined to do this herself. Hannah then grits her teeth with a second effort, pulling the sword high overhead with all the remaining physical strength left to her, now openly sobbing from the exertion, and brings the weapon crashing down on the cup, splitting it open, sending both handles flying in opposite directions.

The sword clatters noisily to the floor, as Parvati Patil moves in to catch Hannah in mid-collapse. The latter looks back at the others, the tears still apparent on her face, sniffles, and forces a small laugh. "That..." Hannah begins, "that was a lot harder than it looked!" She staggers to her feet, thanks Parvati, and immediately gives herself over to Neville's embrace as he rushes in to enfold her in his arms.

In their wake, six previously dangerous objects of the foulest dark magic lie in a useless heap, never to disturb a living soul again--nor to house that most broken of souls, Lord Voldemort.

Only now is the war's end possible...

Click here to continue on to the Prologue of Endgame!