Harry’s Portkey landing was usually more graceful than his exit from the Floo Network, but the rough terrain on which they landed caused them all to stumble on their landing. The worst landing was made by their additional passenger, Ron Weasley, and the best by Bellatrix, who hovered a few inches above the ground. She was not slow in proclaiming her success.
“There are some advantages to having a disreputable past, are there not, Sirius?”
Black did not reply; instead, he focussed on surveying the almost total blackness that made it impossible to see more than a few feet in front of where they were standing. How he was seeing anything, Harry did not know, but Black appeared to have hidden powers or at least spells Harry was unaware of.
He took advantage of the wait and Weasley’s poor landing to address the boy whilst he still lay on the floor dazed and confused.
“Don’t move,” he hissed, “or say anything, or you will end up getting us all killed, understood?”
Weasley nodded his head, signalling his understanding.
“And don’t try anything heroic.”
Weasley nodded his head again. The look on his face made it clear that whatever had prompted him to tag along, it wasn’t to play the hero.
“Look,” Harry continued softening his tone, “this is going to get bad, very bad, so think of your own safety first, okay?
The boy nodded.
“The last thing we need is for anyone to get hurt because they had to look after you.”
No sooner had he finished than a loud bang announced the start of hostilities. The cave was filled with a blinding flash of light and the four of them were knocked to the floor by the shock wave that accompanied it.
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen. I have to thank you, I believe, Sirius, for returning my wayward wife to me. Nice to see you again, dear. We used to have such lovely times in this spot, didn’t we? Oh, perhaps you didn’t, but my friends and I did. And you always healed well, didn’t you? Your father and his associates taught me that.”
Standing on a raised platform carved out of the natural rock was a tall, well-built man accompanied by two others, both of whom were squat and ugly, and looked as if bathing was not one of the highest priorities. At his feet lay the twisted body of Dean Thomas, and suspended in the air next to him, bound and gagged with eyes full of terror, was Ginny Weasley.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me, Bellatrix dear?”
“You’re supposed to be dead!”
“You were supposed to be reformed, weren’t you?”
“She doesn’t have to introduce you, Rodolphus.”
Harry turned to Sirius. “You knew that he was alive?”
“I suspected, I have done for a while, but never had any proof.”
“And you were going to tell me when?”
“When it was the right time,” he replied matter-of-factly as if he was admitting to forgetting to mention he was going out for the evening.
“Wonderful though all this family banter is, I do believe we have some serious business to attend to, no pun intended.”
For a moment, nothing happened, and then all hell broke loose.
Harry’s first thought was that, for three people, there was an extraordinary amount of spellfire heading in their direction. And then he realised that, in addition to the three adults, there were some of the attackers from Hogwarts who appeared to have escaped from the Aurors. They wouldn’t take long to defeat, but they would distract from the important targets. And just where was Dumbledore?
As if summoned, the man in question appeared next to Harry.
“Sorry I’m late, I got held up a bit at the school.”
“Nothing too bad, I hope?”
“I need to have a word with Sirius after we sort this out. His Aurors have let more than a few of your attackers get away.”
The spells continued to rain around them, but Dumbledore stood unconcerned and, as far as Harry could work out, the man hadn’t even established a shield.
“I see some of them have made it over here as well.”
And then he was off, his wand flashing at incredible speed as he fired off volley after volley at their attackers. Harry was more circumspect; his eyes were not so much on their attackers, but on their captive. Given the gap between the two groups, and the lack of cover, he couldn’t see a way of getting over there to free her. To do so would need everyone who would try and stop him either dead or unconscious. Well, if that was the way to be, then so be it.
And so he started attacking in earnest. Bellatrix, Tonks and Sirius were more than capable of dealing with Lestrange and his two main accomplices, and so Harry focused on the Hogwarts students. Compared to him, they were unskilled, but what they lacked in finesse, they made up for in fanaticism. Their focus was on attack and not defending themselves, and that gave them the advantage. So instead of following his normal approach of forcing them onto the defensive, he, too, went on the attack.
The air was full of streaks of green light as they cast their deadly curses. He was able to sidestep all of them because, in their desperation to kill him, they failed to coordinate their attacks. One well-timed and -aimed volley would give him nowhere to hide and he would be dead.
Time to up the ante, he thought.
It wasn’t that he had been holding back, more that he was trying to pick them off one by one. He was more powerful than they were, and he decided to use that power. He pulled out his second, shorter wand, and sent it spinning into the air above them, spells firing out like a bonfire night Catherine Wheel. He used the confusion to take down his attackers, and began to thin out their numbers very quickly.
Ron Weasley wished that, for once, he had not acted on impulse. When he’d finally come around, he’d waited and watched as the fight between Harry and the others and Bellatrix Lestrange played out in front of him. All he wanted to do was to find his sister, and it frustrated him that those who were capable of rescuing her were instead caught up fighting each other. But there was nothing he could have done to speed things up or settle matters, and so all he could do was wait. When the fighting had stopped and the talking had started, he become hopeful things would begin to happen, but that bitch Lestrange seemed more intent on playing out a role than getting on with things.
Eventually though, she had set up the Portkey and he had made his decision. Leaving Hermione slumped in the corner, he’d run towards the group as they had all touched the Portkey. At the time, he’d thought he was lucky to have made it in time to be transported with them, but now he wasn’t so sure.
He lay on the floor, not on his back, which is how he’d ended up when he’d landed, but on his front, taking advantage of what little cover there was. He’d never seen such fighting, even when he had been duped into fighting Potter. The effect of the restraints on the Boy-Who-Lived’s magic made his efforts then seen very tame, compared to tonight. It wasn’t just that so many spells were being cast, it was the speed with which it was done, and the quickness of movement to avoid so many of the return attacks.
Each fighter had a different style. Sirius went for power, Tonks for accuracy, Bellatrix seemed to employ a combination of the two, but as she was laughing as she did it, Ron couldn’t be sure. Harry had seemed to be on the defensive, but now, thankfully, he was on the attack. And the group were winning and the Hogwarts students were slowly being taken out.
The two Death Eaters who were fighting alongside Lestrange seemed to like casting the Unforgivables, but the power behind them and their accuracy was woeful. Once the fight had started in earnest, it didn’t take long for them to be taken out, and there were to be just two people left opposite them: Rodolphus Lestrange, and Ginny, who was still bound and gagged and floating in front of him like a shield.
What more could go wrong? Black asked himself as he surveyed the situation. Most of his plan had gone to pieces as the first spells were cast in anger. No one was behaving as they should have done, and the only explanation was that the spells he had cast in preparation to ensure secrecy and compliance of the lesser players had failed.
It was the sort of thing that Black hated. Hostage situations never went well, with more victims ending up dead than rescued. When you added in a deranged idiot like Rodolphus and the chances of Ginny Weasley surviving were nil. And he found, once again, to his surprise, that he was bothered by that.
Throughout his career, since leaving school, he had been very pragmatic, some would say callous, when it came to the value of other people’s lives. His aim in setting this whole thing up was to flush out the remaining Death Eaters and their supporters in Hogwarts and, with the exception of Lestrange, he had done more than that. He didn’t want any of them to survive, as by the time their lawyers got to work, things would drag on and on. There would be questions about the methods he used and the innocent lives he’d endangered by his reckless plan. And couldn’t he have saved some of the students? After all, they were only children? He could just see the court scene and the thought horrified him.
It was probable that Harry’s Weasley was connected to Rodolphus in some way, and that if he died, she would die too. And he would have to die, there was no way around it. Lestrange would never let himself be taken alive and that meant the girl would not survive. Harry would probably never forgive him, but as Harry’s opinion of him was so low anyway, he really had nothing to lose.
He studied the situation, churning solution after solution over in his mind, rejecting every approach and concluding that, before the night was out, the Weasleys were going to be two kids short.
Harry almost cheered when the two bumbling Death Eaters fell to the floor, their angry but futile attacks finally silenced. At last it was over! But looking up, he realised that was far from true.
He watched and then listened as Black tried to engage Lestrange in conversation. It was pointless, of course, the man was mad and the only question was: how many people was he thinking of taking with him when he died? Harry shuddered at the thought of Ginny not surviving. She had to survive, but how? He racked his brains, but he was either too tired or too stupid to think of a way out.
“So, Black, what are you going to offer me to let the girl go? My freedom? A pardon? Or just some waffle about let her go and we can talk?”
“We’re talking now, aren’t we?”
“No, Black, we are not. I am talking and you are listening.”
“Go ahead, I am listening.”
“That’s right, Black, you are, aren’t you?” Lestrange laughed, enjoying holding the upper hand.
Harry glanced over at Dumbledore, but to his surprise, the man was nowhere to be seen. Come to think of it, neither was Weasley. He hoped the Head had taken the boy back to safety, but with Dumbledore you didn’t know. He hoped he would return soon, for as much as he mistrusted him, Dumbledore was a good fighter and could be relied upon to think and act with sense under pressure.
“Now,” said Lestrange, “what are we going to do with this pretty little thing?” He waved his wand and Ginny was enveloped in a warm yellow light.
“Tut, tut, Potter, a beauty like this and you’ve managed to restrain yourself? Dear me, has my wife despunked you so thoroughly that your manhood is incapable of taking your woman? It seems that I need to demonstrate how a real wizard deals with a witch!”
Before Harry could shout at him to leave her alone, Bellatrix spoke.
“And what would you know about real wizards, husband? Does a real wizard need as many potions as you did to perform? Or was it only when your brother took you to his bed that your sad excuse for an appendage could stir without assistance?”
She walked as she talked, her poise and her bearing defying the obvious pain from her injuries.
“Was it any wonder I needed assistance? Your father so ruined you that no man worth his salt would consider ploughing your corrupted furrow.”
Bellatrix kept walking.
“Your friends had no trouble, a few of them even visited me when you were away.”
“Lies! All! Lies! They were only interested in your humiliation!”
Still she walked.
“Lucius would disagree.”
“What would that fop know? He probably imagined that he was rogering that son of his.”
“I doubt it, husband, his tongue said otherwise.”
“Do not say any more and do not come a single step closer.”
“Or the boy gets to see what I am capable of.”
“You are going to kill her? I doubt that, she’s the only thing you have.”
Bellatrix took a step further.
“I said, stop!”
At that moment, Bellatrix doubled up and let out a cry of pain.
“I see my men didn’t fail me completely after all. I think you will die before I do, wife.”
Bellatrix reached inside her robes, took out a slim crystal vial and downed the potion that it contained. She wiped the last vestiges from her lips and stood slowly.
“I think I have enough left in me to see you fall, again.”
“Don’t move, Black! Stay where you are! If Potter has enough sense to stay where he is whilst his lady love is imperilled, then the least you can do is not cock it up for him.”
Harry glanced over at Black and saw that he had barely moved. However mad Lestrange was, he certainly wasn’t a fool.
“Are you ready, husband? Do you want the joy of killing me? I know how you like a pretty corpse, especially whilst it is still warm.”
She drew her wand and charged.
As soon as Dean grabbed her, Ginny realised she had never been so afraid in all her life. Why hadn’t she stayed where Harry had hidden her? Come to think of it, why hadn’t she stayed in her room instead of agreeing to meet with him? She’d loved the clothes, and the two dances they had shared were bliss, but nothing, no matter how expensive or how delightful, was worth the terror she was now experiencing.
And then it got worse.
Dean was disposed of as soon as soon as he had released her into the Carrows’s disgusting grasp. She tried to look away as his head rolled across the rough floor of the cave, but something compelled her to look. The siblings laughed as his body sunk boneless to the floor, Alecto grabbing her, eyes full of malicious intent. The smile she gave Ginny promised pleasure, but not for the younger woman.
“Pretty hair you’ve got, my love.”
Ginny shuddered as the vile woman ran her hands though Ginny’s dishevelled locks, almost purring as she did so. Suddenly, she grabbed a handful of the hair and pulled Ginny’s face towards her. The woman’s demeanour sickened her, but to her surprise, her breath was not fetid, but smelt of peppermint; almost as if she’d cleaned her teeth beforehand. Where Ginny had expected stale sweat and a general air of neglect, Alecto had applied a subtle perfume with fineness. The clothes were shabby and the teeth crooked, but this close to her captor, she appreciated one less thing to worry about.
“But not my cup of tea, but my brother…” and with that she dragged her over to Amycus by her hair.
Compared to his sister, Amycus Carrow was a different kettle of fish altogether. Smartly dressed and with a set of pearly whites, his breath stank and she was sure he hadn’t washed for a month. He grabbed Ginny from his sister, his dirt-covered right hand seizing her by the throat and lifting her slightly off the ground. As she struggled for breath, she felt his other hand rummage under her robes, trying to find a way through her underwear.
To her surprise, it was his sister that stopped him.
“Plenty of time to pluck her cherry when the other blood-traitors are dead, but I’m sure the Master will want first dibs on her pretty little quim. And even if he doesn’t, there’s them that’ll pay good gold for her maidenhood.”
Her brother scowled, but he withdrew his hand and lowered her to the ground. He kept a tight grip on Ginny’s throat as his sister bound her.
And all the while Ginny was thinking: Where was Harry? Surely a man as powerful as he would have no problem following Thomas? If not him, then surely Dumbledore or Black would be.
“So, this is the Potter boy’s bit of skirt?”
She found herself being lifted from the ground and away from the Carrows. At first she was pleased to be taken from them, but when she laid eyes upon the man who had spoken, her heart dropped. Alecto Carrow was full of lust and would have undoubtedly used and abused her as he let loose every deviant desire in his tiny mind. However, as much as that scared her, the look in the eyes of the man who was now holding her in the air, just a few feet away from him, spoke of a greater evil than she had ever thought possible.
“Rodolphus Lestrange at your service, Miss Weasley.”
He waved his wand, causing her to slowly rotate. As she did, another spell caused her robe to be lifted up, revealing the expensive underwear that Harry had provided. The only thing she had to be thankful for was that for all its lace, it was not revealing. She heard Amycus crying out with pleasure and shouting out what he would do to her if allowed. She tensed her body as she waited for the inevitable pair of hands that would soon be pulling her knickers down. It never came, instead, her robe began to lower itself and Amycus let out a shriek and his sister a cackling laugh.
“I’ve warned you, Amycus, a pureblood such as Miss Weasley is to be treated with respect. She is not some Mudblood trollop to be passed around as after-dinner entertainment.”
He stopped her rotating, but still kept her hovering before him.
“My apologies, Miss Weasley, for the lack of decorum shown to you; Amycus is pure of blood, but it would appear that his betters did not research the bloodlines of his parents with sufficient diligence to avoid the regrettable degeneration.”
For all his apparent kindness, there was nothing but malice in his eyes, and she knew it would be unlikely if she lived to see the sun rise again. She wanted to ask — no, demand — what he thought he was doing and that he should let her go, but she was so terrified, she couldn’t open her mouth to speak. She tried, but the best she could do was mumble incoherently, and she hated herself for it.
“I expect that you are trying to summon the courage to demand your freedom, so let me save you the bother by confirming what an intelligent girl like you already knows.
“You are the bait in the trap, and I am awaiting your esteemed Mr Potter, his doggerel of a godfather and the Mudblood-lover Dumbledore. As an added bonus, I believe that my wife, if she can bring herself to stop straddling the Boy-Who-Lived, will be joining us too.”
He chuckled as his last remark registered on her face.
“Not that he’s aware of their coupling, other than some very wet dreams.”
As the truth of what he was saying sunk in, Lestrange continued.
“Not that it matters, as they will die, every one of them, including you, I’m sorry to say, my dear Miss Weasley. Still, I expect you will find that preferable to what the Carrows have planned for you. I should warn you, it’s not Amycus that you need to fear.” His laughter turned her blood to ice and began to wonder whether it was worth staying alive if that was to be her fate. And that would simplify matters for Harry, too. But not yet, battle had yet to be joined and she would bide her time.
Plans were not worth the paper they were written on, thought Rodolphus, as he surveyed the bodies of those who had fought alongside him. He hadn’t expected too much from those from the school, but he thought that his former house would have put up a better showing than this. He had to hand it to Black; even with the crystals messing with this plans, the man had worked hard enough before the final showdown to swing the odds in his favour. Still, tonight was not about being triumphant, but about revenge. Picking away in the background whilst skulking in the shadows had got him nowhere, at least until Black had so kindly arranged for Potter to attend Hogwarts, a situation that had improved further when they had arranged to bind his powers in the process.
But despite the very public defeat of the boy, he had not been able to press home his advantage. His wife was partly to blame for that, but so was Black. He man had been able to operate with impunity within the school with so much freedom that it caused him to wonder if Dumbledore had been the one to sanction it.
And so here he was with only the girl and his little surprise to cope with the powers that were now arrayed against him. Still, that should be more than enough.
A few days ago, Harry would have despaired to see Bella charge in like that, but as the scale of her betrayal had become clear, all he could think of was that he was better off without her. Given the wounds she had received in the earlier fight, he was surprised she could still even walk, let alone run. But run she did, and he needed to take advantage of the opportunity that her charge presented. He glanced over at the others and was pleased to see that Weasley was either with Dumbledore or staying hidden, but Tonks was down. Black was still standing and, after a quick nod in his direction, Harry began to work his way towards Lestrange and freedom for Ginny.
Black watched Harry make his move, but he had decided to stay put. He fired a few spells at Lestrange, not to attack, but to gain information. Thankfully, the man was too busy with his wife to pay attention to them as they did their job. A stream of information and images streamed into Black’s mind as the spells returned, and the whole of Lestrange’s plan became clear.
This is bad, very bad.
They had to go, the girl would die and so would Bellatrix, but he and Harry would live. Harry would blame him, but he would get over it. Come to think of it, he wouldn’t, because Harry would stay and die trying to free her. He wouldn’t put it past him even trying to save Bella.
You are a mad bastard, Harry!
And with that, he, too, started towards Lestrange, hoping that he would be in time.
Ginny watched with horror as the spellfire began to fly, knowing that Lestrange was pinning his hopes of survival on her effectiveness as a shield.
Bellatrix was running in her direction, wand blazing, a bright blue glow surrounding her body. Her eyes bulged and flecks of spittle flicked from her mouth as she cast. She was using her wand and casting with her spare hand in a show of power that outweighed anything Ginny had ever seen.
With the violence that Bellatrix was casting, sooner or later, Ginny knew she would be hit, and she braced herself as an arc of lime green light headed towards her. She couldn’t move, and Lestrange was now also occupied with spells from Black and, unlike earlier, he didn’t move her out of harm’s way. So this was it, she thought as her world slowed to a snail’s pace as the spell closed in on her. She braced for impact, she didn’t know why, it wouldn’t do any good. Thoughts, images, emotions flashed through her mind as she eked out the last few seconds of her existence. She closed her eyes and whispered:
Lestrange was good, Black had to admit that. Bellatrix, mad as she was, was a powerful which, and when focused, she was deadly. He also knew that, as much as she wanted to kill her husband, she wanted to see Ginny Weasley dead as well. The information he had gleaned showed him there was indeed a link between Lestrange and the girl, which meant that until it was broken, she would die when he did. Part of him admired the intricacy of the spell work, but the biggest part of him cursed the man for being such an evil bastard. The only way he knew of severing the link required both parties to be alive but unconscious, something that looked highly unlikely the way that Bellatrix was attacking him. He started casting his spells, hoping to knock the man out, and because of the link, knock Ginny out too. The question was, would either of them survive long enough for his spells take effect.
He fired his first barrage and then ducked, casting a shield as he did so, as fire was returned. Lestrange didn’t seem to have any problem in fighting both his wife and her cousin, and protecting Ginny. But to his horror, he saw — whilst he was defending himself against the spells fired at him — Bellatrix had taken the opportunity to finish off Ginny.
He cursed as the lime green burst of light flew from Bellatrix’s wand towards the girl. He was too late to knock Bellatrix over, and he wasn’t sure whether, in the overall scheme of things, he wanted to do that at this stage, but was he too late to protect Ginny? He didn’t know, but he would try. He flicked his wrist, screamed the incantation, put all his physical and magical power into it, and then watched as the pale blue light flew from his wand. It was a race, blue against green, life against death. The blue was flying straight and true, whilst the green was arcing upwards before beginning its descent. The blue would win. The girl would live. He would be able to look Harry in the eye. He had saved her!
And then the green began to fall faster and faster, so quickening its pace that the blue seemed to almost stand still. He saw the girl’s eyes widen and then, consigned to her fate, close her eyes and whisper someone’s name.
“Damn you, Bellatrix!”
Harry saw it all. The green and the blue. The rise and the fall. The acceleration and the slowing. He saw the fear in her eyes, followed by the look of resignation as she closed them. She whispered something, too quiet for him to hear, but he fancied that it was his name that she said, his name on her lips as she took her last breath.
He would kill them both, with his bare hands if he had to. Husband-and-wife? There wouldn’t be enough remains to identify the bodies by the time he’d finished. Bellatrix would die first. The bitch had used them all, especially him, since an early age, but she would suffer; she would beg him to kill her!
Lestrange would fare no better. Who knew what horrors he had inflicted on his victims? And Harry did not want to think what the sick bastard and his cronies had done to Ginny before he had arrived. And where was the all-powerful Albus-sodding-Dumbledore? The greatest wizard of the age had almost as much to answer for as the Lestranges. And as for Black…
He looked away. He didn’t want the last image he had of her to be her death. He wanted to remember the dances they had shared just a few scant hours ago. How beautiful she looked, how powerful she was now that the contract had fully unwound. He wanted her, more than he had ever wanted anything else before, and it pleased him that she wasn’t his to take because of the stupidity of one of her ancestors; rather, it was up to her to choose whether she wanted Harry in her life.
“At least I gave you freedom, even if I helped cause your death. Forgive me, Ginny…”
A shout rent the air: “Kreacher!”
Lestrange spun around, ignoring the spells heading towards his captive. Behind him was a tall, elegant woman with a staff in her right hand raised up towards the ceiling with her other hand extended out towards him.
There was a loud crack and the house-elf appeared momentarily in front of Ginny, releasing a many-faceted crystal as he did so. With an even louder crack, he disappeared, leaving the activated crystal to do its work.
Lestrange turned as quickly as he could, but he couldn’t stop the crystal’s workings. Both the blue and green coloured streams of light were sucked into the crystal, which then exploded into thousands of pieces and floated to the floor like so much confetti.
Now he didn’t know where to turn; he had enemies to the front and to the back of him. The three in front of him he knew were powerful, but the woman behind was unknown, and therefore she was the most dangerous, and she needed to be eliminated. He knew that he couldn’t keep the Weasley girl alive and fight for long enough to draw everybody close enough to him to finish everything. With a flick of his wand, he cut the connection to them and she crashed to the floor and didn’t move.
Before he could even think of what spell the cast, he was hit from behind with such force that every protective charm on his robes and the embedded crystals that anchored them, failed. The intricate rune-based patterns in the weave of the cloth caught fire and he was racked with pain.
His wife took advantage and he was hit by spell after spell. None of them were deadly, all of them were abominable. She would kill him, but not before she had destroyed his sanity and made every cell in his body wish for death.
The follow-up volley never came. Two bursts of angry red spellfire hit Bellatrix, extinguishing the blue glow that surrounded her, and she fell to the floor with a cry. He fired at her, rage powering the Unforgivable. Her body shook violently, but no sound came from her lips. She was dead and he was glad.
His arms shot into the air, his wand falling to the floor. “I surrender! I give myself up! See, I’ve dropped my wand.”
The foot-long piece of wood, that had been the cause of misery for so many, clattered on the stone floor and rolled away from him until it was stopped by the unconscious body of Ginny Weasley.
Black and Potter stopped, looked at each other, and then with a nod, Black started walking slowly towards him.
“Keep the hands up, Lestrange. Don’t move, do you hear me? No movement at all. Do not reach for anything, do so, and you are dead.”
“Understood, Black, I won’t do anything.”
Lestrange waited as Black slowly, cautiously, made his way towards him. Black stopped briefly to nudge Bellatrix with his foot, but she made no sound, and so he left her where she was. He did the same with the girl, but in answer to the nudge of his foot, she emitted a weak but audible groan.
Soon Black was standing in front of him. Step one completed.
“I’m going to enjoy this,” said Black with a sneer.
Not as much as I am, thought Lestrange.
“Bring your hands down slowly,” Black ordered.
“No, I won’t. Potter, I surrender only to Potter.”
“No, you won’t, you surrender to me and me alone. Anything else is resisting arrest and, given what has gone on tonight and your history, no one will question why you failed to survive.”
“Potter, only Potter!”
“I told you,” replied Black with a snarl, “if you want to live to see your trial, it’s me or no one. I will count to three and if your hands are not by your sides, I will do it as I put you into your coffin.”
“Let me do it,” shouted Potter. “It would be my great pleasure to put this bastard away.”
Lestrange smiled, inwardly of course. To the outside world he wore the weary and resigned look of a man who had fought and lost. He kept his expression thus as Potter made his way towards them. It was a pity that Dumbledore wasn’t with them. He was sure he would be able to bait the old Mudblood lover into arguing with Black over his treatment. He would have the three of them, fighting over who and how they would arrest him. And then he would kill them.
Come on, Potter, just a few more steps. He allowed some of his smile to leak onto his face, but only so much as to fool the righteous idiot that he was relieved to be arrested by the great Harry Potter and not the tainted and oft-criticised Sirius Black.
“Thank you, Potter. Lower my arms now, slowly, yes?”
Potter nodded, his wand drawn in readiness for any tricks.
Slowly, keeping eye contact with Potter all the time, he lowered his arms. He was in no rush, he wanted to savour this moment. The hardest thing was not grabbing the necklace too soon, but stopping himself from laughing in the smug bugger’s face. As his hands came down level with his chest, he allowed them to brush the front of his robes until his little finger touched it. He stopped moving his hands. He waited a second and then turned the Black.
“You lose,” he said simply. He watched the look of horror on Black’s face and, as he grabbed the pendant beneath his robes, he allowed the fullness of his smile to show.
Edith thought that men were such fools. If they weren’t needed to propagate the human race, women would have disposed of them long ago. All of Sirius’s elaborate planning, all of his arrogance, had led to this. Instead of playing his games, he should have exposed the Lestranges as soon as he became aware of them rather than let everyone suffer as he had. Why she loved him, she had no idea. At first he was just a good shag, a better-than-average lay. She enjoyed it, she enjoyed him, and soon she found herself looking forward to spending time with him in the morning, rather than leaving as soon as they had exhausted each other.
She had watched with concern at the way he had manipulated Harry and ignored his cousin’s strange behaviour. Tonks, too, was no stranger to his manipulations, all of which appeared to be solely for the enjoyment that he got out of it. But something had changed, of that she was sure, for if she wasn’t, she would have left him to his own devices months ago. It was almost as if his heart wasn’t in it anymore, and that he was behaving like this because it was expected of him. And with his change of heart, he had begun to get sloppy, and that was when she had begun to pay more attention to his plots and schemes.
She was far stronger than he believed, more than any of them had imagined. It wasn’t that she was all-powerful, she was just more circumspect, preferring to use subtlety rather than power. That was always more satisfying in the long run, especially as most preferred to be out-fought rather than out-,thought. And the girl deserved it, as did Harry. The Lestranges only deserved death, and this was one time when she was prepared to sacrifice subtlety for expediency.
She watched as Harry approached the Lestrange, and then as he lowered his hands. It was wrong, all wrong, why couldn’t they see it? Lestrange stopped, turned to the father of her child and a look of horror came over Sirius’s face.
The fighting was finally over and Ginny succumbed to the fatigue that she had been battling. Her body was full of pain, but she didn’t care. She was alive, she could be mended, and if she couldn’t, then she was past caring. Harry had survived and that made her happy. She half-listened to the conversation and became aware of Harry’s approach. She wondered why they didn’t just get on with arresting the man; there was no show or fanfare that was needed; Stun him, bind him and put him on trial. And then she could sleep, sleep until the pain went.
Talking stopped. There was something wrong. She wanted to shout out, but she couldn’t. She needed to stand, to warn Harry, to save him, but she couldn’t move. She managed to force one eye open and waited for the world to come into focus. On the rocky cavern floor was a wand. She could tell from the carvings on it that no sane person would be using it. It had to belong to either of the Lestranges. She uncurled a finger and then another, willing the hand to move on the arm as well. She could just grab the wand and cast a spell, any spell, even that stupid one they learnt with feathers in her first year. Something, anything.
There was a shout, a scream, a flash of blazing white light, and then she knew no more.
Kreacher felt free, not set free in disgrace, given clothes and sent away to die in shame, but free to be the house-elf he had always wanted. There were very few Masters and Mistresses who truly understood his people, but Mistress Edith was one. She had asked, and he had agreed to help free the Black family, his family, from the taint of the centuries.
As he held the crystal, he knew its power and was amazed that she trusted him with it. But she did. And Kreacher was faithful, Kreacher was fast, and the tormentor of his once beloved Miss Bella was as stupid as any wizard he had known. Kreacher was powerful, too, and the crystal burst into life as he’d appeared. To the stupid wizards it appeared to be nothing more than a flash of light and a lot of broken crystal, but Kreacher knew, yes he knew.
“You are idiots, both of you. I’m sorry to lump you in with Sirius, Harry, but you should know better. Do not waste your time with men like him. Do not talk to them, do not fall for their schemes. You are both lucky to be alive.”
Harry looked up from the floor pain; shot through his body as he attempted to move. He could hear groaning from Black; he appeared to be in a worse state than Harry.
“Ginny, is she…?”
“Albus has taken her to St Mungo’s. Should be in a few days, most of it is precautionary, but she’ll be fine, physically at least.”
“Who are you? I thought…”
“… that I was Sirius’s bit on the side? Never underestimate people, Harry, even if they appear to be on your side.”
“And are you?”
“Yes, Harry, I believe I am.” And with that she allowed the hand that wasn’t holding her staff to slowly rub her stomach.