"The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was, is lost, for none now live who remember it." - The Fellowship of the Ring
The One Ring melted in a fire hotter than the hottest of forges. Slowly, the narrow band of gold sunk deeper and deeper, until the ring could last no longer. As it was unmade in that which made it, a blast of power burst outward. Magma surged upwards, turning the air molten as Mount Doom erupted.
Ash, carried by the explosion, rained on two small hobbits and buffeted the mighty Eagles flying to their salvation. It fell across the battle raging at the Black Gates, where King Aragon and the Men of Gondor and Rohan fought alongside a hobbit, elf, and dwarf. From there, ash floated on the winds, carrying the tidings of Sauron’s demise to every end of Middle Earth.
Lord Elrond did not need ash and dust to tell him that Sauron had fallen. In the peaceful valley of Imladris, there was a barely perceptible shift. Suddenly there was silence where before there had always been an unnoticeable hum.
He glanced down at his finger, to the sapphire of Vilya. It appeared that even with the One Ring in Frodo’s hands, the Dark Lord Sauron had learned something of subterfuge. He had made the faintest of connections with the Elvish rings of power prior to his demise.
Lord Elrond frowned and peered more closely at Vilya. Surely, the power that had kept Imladris safe and helped to heal countless injuries was no more. As the One Ring was destroyed, so too would all of the other rings’ powers.
Yet the sapphire glittered as strongly as before.
He stared at the ring, bringing his will to bear on it ever so slowly. The sapphire glinted and magic rose to meet him. More power still lay in wait around the border of Imladris, ready to rise if called upon.
The ring’s power remained, he mused. He had thought otherwise. It was not a bad thing to be wrong, not in this day at the end of an age. Yet perhaps this called a change of plans. Not all of the elves had wanted to leave for the distant shore; now, they might not have to.
But first – he saw a flash of dark hair, more radiant than the moon, walking in the gardens below. Lord Elrond’s mouth tightened into a grimace. First, he had to prepare for a wedding. At least he might not have to leave his daughter quite yet. With Vilya yet strong, he could remain in Middle Earth a while longer.
Outside of Middle Earth, there exists a Void.
Any color leaches out upon contact, and any living thing dies immediately. There, in the swirling shadows and aether, lurks an ancient evil. None had dared speak his name in all Ages past, and none would in those to come.
Morgoth, too, did not need ash to know that his lieutenant had fallen. He had infused his power throughout Middle Earth so that every metal, plant, and creature had a seed of corruption in its heart.
As Mount Doom exploded, he felt a wave of magic that reached through his prison in the Void. Within seconds, the magic would dissipate and the power be forever out of his grasp. Having been given up by him once, his magic was no longer as loyal as it once was.
Yet to gods, seconds can last lifetimes.
He could not reabsorb his magic, not here in the Void. But he could redirect it. In a fraction of a second, he reached out – nudging here, pinching there – until the lines between worlds blurred. The portal wavered in the catacombs of Dol Guldur. There, Sauron had collected three of the seven dwarven rings; there, he had his Ringwraiths forge a new, single ring out of the stolen three. The result was not as powerful as the One Ring; but with the One Ring destroyed, it was now the darkest piece of magic remaining.
If shadows could smile, this one would have. It was time to bring a new Dark Lord to Middle Earth.
Somewhere in a valley in the Scottish Highlands, Harry Potter fought. The waxing moon cast a pale light down over the combatants; pale and indifferent to the crimson blood that had spilled throughout the day. Everything might have seemed peaceful under that nocturnal light, but for the flashes of bright red and sickly green that still shot across the grounds of Hogwarts.
No quicker did those spells fly than at the shore of the Great Lake. Indeed, it almost seemed as if all light itself emanated from the fierce duel that raged there, and spells flew thick and fast. Two figures twisted gracefully under the moon’s impersonal visage, never seeming to mistake the next step in their deadly dance.
For Harry, the real battle raged inside his mind. He and Voldemort each fought for dominance, easily reading the intention behind the other’s next move. They had been fighting for hours, neither stumbling in their intent.
For a brief second, Voldemort hesitated. His hand seemed to rise to his temple of its own volition. Harry felt his shock at Nagini’s death and let out a vicious smile. He didn’t know who had managed to kill the snake, but he didn’t stop to analyze. In another time, in another life, perhaps he wouldn’t have aimed to kill. Instead, the killing curse flew from his lips without a second’s hesitation: “Avada Kedavra.”
The green light arced across the night sky and passed soundlessly through Voldemort’s robes. Harry felt Voldemort’s incredulous shock, his mind still entwined with that of the Dark Lord’s. Then the mind vanished, winking out of existence quicker than the stars were disappearing under the tendrils of dawn above.
He stood for several seconds, staring at the shapeless mound not twenty feet away from him. Harry sent out another tendril of Legilimency. He had dealt with enough Horcruxes to know how clever and hard-to-kill the evil wizard could be. There was nothing.
When Harry envisioned this moment, he had thought he might feel relief, satisfaction, or even regret. Yet he felt nothing. One death couldn’t negate others; the former Dark Lord could not bring back his friends.
As Harry took a step forward to fight, his foot sank through the ground. Suddenly, he was falling face-forward into a hole that had not been there a moment before. The Hogwarts battle raged on, leaving the cooling body of Voldemort and no sign of the wizard savior, Harry Potter.