sixty-eight

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WITH PRACTISED EASE, REGULUS side-stepped Nagini's strike. It was not an easy feat to dodge such a well-trained beast, but he made it look effortless. Nagini's body crashed to the ground, but she was quick to recuperate.

Yells rose up from both sides of the courtyards. Very few had recognised Regulus and even less had noticed the killing intent in his eyes. Theo pushed himself down through the crowd, unsheathing his sword.

Chaos ensued.

It was betrayal on a level the Death Eaters had never experienced before. The sight of Theo, alone with only his sword, was enough to have multiple Death Eaters apparating away. It wasn't that he merely looked deadly—there was an aura to him. He hadn't even needed to express his intentions, but everyone could feel it. They were on the side of Hogwarts. Hermione's mouth dropped open in a gape.

Nagini struck again, and Regulus artfully dodged. Seeing that the attack by Nagini was not working, Voldemort pulled out his wand. Under the cover of the invisibility cloak, she slipped over towards Harry as Nagini reared back to strike for a third time.

She ducked down, pulling Harry under the invisibility cloak, right as Nagini made her move. This time, there was no need for Regulus to dodge. Theo beheaded the snake in one fell swoop, and dark blood instantly spurt across the courtyard as Nagini's body fell to the ground, twitching horribly.

As soon as Harry wrapped an arm around her shoulders, she moved to return to the edges of the courtyard. She caught the tail end of Theo giving Nagini a final strike, but Celestia wouldn't be fully convinced that the Horcrux was destroyed until she brought her own sword against it. Regulus cast a shield charm to protect himself and Theo from whatever spell Voldemort must have cast.

"How the fuck are you alive?" she hissed to Harry.

He mumbled incoherently for a moment, then said, "Dumbledore."

"Oh, Merlin, now is not the time to hallucinate." She flicked a finger against his forehead. "Hurry up and explain before—"

"Harry!" shouted Hagrid, voice somehow louder than it's ever been. "Harry—! Where's Harry?"

"Since I'm a Horcrux, it didn't kill me, or something. Narcissa—she—" An awry curse hit the ground next to them and they jumped back. "Fuck! She covered for me. Celestia, we can't just—"

"Go," she urged him, ripping off the invisibility cloak and offering it to him.

There wasn't time for him to offer thanks. The battle had started up again. He took the invisibility cloak and pushed forward towards the Great Hall, where both sides were being pushed towards. Voldemort had two giants under his employ, and they were being furiously attacked by centaurs and Thestrals alike.

Quick as a flash, she sped by, sword cutting open their heels. There and gone; no one had even realised anything had occurred until the giants collapsed to their knees. Confident that they'd soon be taken care of, she focused next on dispatching the outlying Death Eaters. Of those who hadn't fled, most were up front with Voldemort, but there were stragglers that were easy to sneak up behind and kill.

She kept flickering her gaze towards the heat of the battle. Regulus engaged in battle with Voldemort, alongside McGonagall and Kingsley. It was a true testament to his skill that Voldemort did not falter, remained barely injured, faced up against the three opponents alone. She had expected to see Theo among them, but instead saw him duelling both Corban and Hector Yaxley, and she was glad to finally see hell unleashed upon them.

Blaise shielded Pansy as the girl picked up Astoria, who seemed to be suffering a wound on her leg. Hermione crashed into them, pushed back by the force of a spell, and the three of them worked together to help get Astoria somewhere safe.

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