Dean Thomas watched as first Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger and finally Ginny Weasley left the Great Hall. This was the moment he had been waiting for and he felt none of the nervousness that had robbed him of so many nights’ sleep in recent weeks. Gone too was the fear of failure. His life couldn’t get any worse than it already was and if he was killed in the fight that was sure to follow, then at least he wouldn’t be around to see the revenge that was sure to be enacted upon his family. His fingers were twitching to hold his wand, but he knew he must wait until he had passed through the doors and into the Entrance Hall.
Approaching the doors, he slowed, and eased one of them open slowly and glanced at the fight taking place in the corridor. Ron Weasley and Harry Potter were fighting, or rather Ron was fighting and Potter was merely playing with him. Standing there at a safe distance imploring them both with increasing desperation to stop what they were doing, was Ginny Weasley. How different this term would have been, had different his life would have been, had she not rebuffed his advances. She would have been his reward for loyal service and if he had delivered her then his exploitation by Bellatrix would have been over. A small voice told him that once someone like Bellatrix got their hands into him he would never truly be free, and that was probably true, but he reasoned he could put up with a lot more with Ginny Weasley in his bed than without. Reaching slowly inside his robes, he pulled out his wand and went to join the fight.
It had been a slow journey through the school and, much to her annoyance, she had still not mastered how to walk in this shorter, wider body. She had stopped every few minutes and stretched, trying to come to terms with a different centre of gravity and her general locomotive skills in this unfamiliar form. But her efforts had been in vain and she felt clumsy and awkward and not the least bit equipped to fight against her enemies. Her efforts had given her a grudging admiration of her half-breed niece’s abilities to change her form and still fight. It made her wonder whether the girl’s clumsiness was because her own form was so unfamiliar or that the persona presented to the outside world wasn’t her natural form at all.
She had grown more cautious as she had drawn closer to the site of the Ball, knowing it was here her wastrel of a cousin had planned his ambush. Well, there would be an ambush, but it wouldn’t be him who sprang it.
As she drew nearer, she could hear the tell-tell sounds of spellfire as the prelude to the main even had begun. The fight in progress should have been over now given that Harry, her Harry, was fighting two lesser mortals. Ron Weasley was nothing more than a pawn to be sacrificed, and some would say he was less worthy than that. Dean Thomas possessed a pleasing face and an even more pleasing appendage, but beyond that he, too, was nothing more than garden waste to be thrown on the fire. Perhaps Harry was having pity on them, perhaps he was trying to impress the Weasley girl who screeched at the three of them, begging them to stop. Perhaps, given that she was sure that this had been staged by Black, this wasn’t what it seemed.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted movement in one of the dim corners were once had stood several suits of armour. No! It couldn’t be! Shifting in the shadows was the girl who was the cause of all this nonsense. But the girl was…
She looked at the fight and then the girl in the shadows and then she smiled. It wasn’t a nice smile, rather the sort of smile that told her victims she had them right where she wanted them. So, they had found someone to play the part of the one who had dared to claim her Harry as her own. Probably the tartan terror who walked around as if she had the Quidditch Cup shoved up her arse. Should she take the opportunity to do away with the girl, or take advantage of the three idiots whilst they were caught up in their charade? She sent a Stunner towards Ginny and turned towards the fight. If Andromeda’s whelp was due to play the part of the ginger goddess, then what would their reaction be if she appeared miraculously from her sick bed? Deciding her best approach was surprise and confusion, she ran towards the fight shouting.
The two fighters looked up as she approached their fight, continuing — after a fashion — as they struggled to make sense of what was going on.
“It was Bellatrix, she cursed me! Edith called my mum and she was able to free me!”
Harry wasn’t sure which he noticed first; the spell the obviously fake Tonks had fired at his Ginny or the real Tonks as Ginny returning fire. Whilst he was thinking about it, his opponent fired a volley of spells at him. With limited time to react, he dropped to his knees and raised his shield. As he did so, the shield shook as the fake Tonks battered it with a series of powerful spells. In between defending himself and returning fire, he managed to catch a glimpse of the wand that doppelganger was wielding.
Harry stood, better to return fire, when he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye. At first glance he thought that Ron Weasley had somehow shaken off the spell that was supposed to keep him out of trouble and then, to his horror, he realised that it was Ginny. Didn’t Bellatrix fire at a Stunner at her? Why was she still standing?
He barely had time to react before Bellatrix, too, noticed Ginny had wandered into danger. Hoping he was in time, he sent two spells at Ginny; one pushed her to the floor, the other covered her with a shield. It wasn’t his strongest, but it was enough to keep her safe, but barely.
He wanted to pull Ginny towards him to protect her, but Bellatrix renewed her attack on him, and he couldn’t spare any of his attention to protect her. He could see that she had struggled to her feet and had drawn her own wand. For one stupid moment, he was proud of her, inwardly congratulating her on having the guts to join such exalted company in combat. In the next he was bemoaning her stupidity as Dean Thomas hit her with a Stunner. Running over to her, Dean grabbed hold of Ginny’s arm and pulled a Portkey from his pocket.
“Nooooooo!” Harry bellowed as the pair of them disappeared from sight, but he had no time to go looking for them because Bellatrix had moved on from using spells of great power, to those of pinpoint deadly accuracy.
Suddenly, the corridor was full of students, mainly but not exclusively from Slytherin, unleashing a volley of deadly spellfire in the direction of Harry, Sirius and Tonks. Bellatrix could see that the attack had little or no effect on her opponents, and she had to wonder just why she and her unknown adversary had wasted so much time, effort and Galleons in recruiting such imbeciles. It was tempting to leave the trio and turn her ire on the idiots whose stupidity had thwarted so many of her plans, but her momentary lapse of concentration allowed one of the three to get through her shield and her leg took the brunt of the attack. She hissed in pain and deflected a series of spells that were flung at her in her weakened state. After another defensive flurry, she managed to raise a shield and cast a quick Healing Spell on her leg. It did little to repair the leg, but it would enable her to carry on.
The fight continued and she wondered who would fall first: her, the trio or schoolchildren. Or perhaps her unknown rival, but it was too early in proceedings for him to reveal himself. Perhaps she should have followed the Mudblood when he left, but there would be time to follow on once she had removed the current inconveniences.
The man of mystery did not appear. Instead, camouflage wards, which had been cast on the walls around them, disappeared, revealing twenty Aurors. They made short work of the students, Stunning first and asking questions later. They bound them, attached Portkeys around their necks and sent them to Ministry holding cells.
Now, thought Bellatrix, is a good time to leave.
Slowly, she began to back away from the fight, but her cousin and his allies were not prepared to let her get away so easily, and they attacked again with greater ferocity. It was now clear that before they had been battling to subdue her, but now they were fighting to defeat her by any and every means possible.
Once all the students had been dealt with, the Aurors joined the fight proper and she knew that she was beaten. She kept up her shield, but stopped firing spells at her attackers. She reached inside her robe and felt for the vial that was her last chance and was relieved to discover it was still there. The Aurors realised very quickly she was not fighting, only defending, and stopped fighting, content to maintain a watching brief. The family she had betrayed was less keen to call a halt to proceedings, and carried on with renewed vigour. Eventually, once she was backed up against the wall and on her knees, her cousin, too, called a halt.
“Why Bellatrix?” Sirius shouted, “Why?”
Why was the idiot asking why? Hadn’t he planned all this to draw her out into the open? She didn’t know how long he had known her true colours, but she was sure that it was at least since Harry had come back from school, if not earlier. Was this some ploy to get her to confess all in front of Harry? She glanced over at him, hoping to see disappointment and perhaps the hint of possible redemption in his eyes, but all she saw was anger and the desire for revenge.
“We gave you everything, Bellatrix,” continued Sirius, “believed in you when no one else would. When the world still wanted to see Bellatrix Lestrange, Death Eater and Handmaiden of the Dark Lord, we saw a broken and wounded woman in need of redemption and forgiveness. And this is how you repay us?”
“Yes,” she spat, turning her attention from Harry towards Sirius, “this is how I repay you, Sirius Black. Repay you for a lifetime of pity, for a lifetime of suspicion and distrust. You did not welcome me back into the bosom of my family, you merely tolerated me. But I will have my revenge. Harry is mine, not hers, and it will be him, Sirius Black, that becomes the head of this family.”
“And just how will that happen? You’re surrounded, you’re defeated, you’re nobody. Is this how you want to die, in a blaze of glory, infamous to the end?”
She said nothing, content to let her anger build, along with her magic, until she finally unleashed both, determined to silence her cousin forever. She never saw what happened to him as every other wand was turned upon her and she crumpled to the floor in agony. She heard footsteps across the flagstones and then she saw his face bending over her. Harry, her Harry. He knelt next to her and lifted her head off the ground, cradling it in his arms, misery engulfing him. She smiled bleakly, happy that even at the end he was there for her, and that he loved her after all she’d put in through.
“Where is she, Bellatrix? Where has that bastard Thomas taken her?”
She was shocked, was all his concern for that silly little girl? Did he really not care for her? She had given him so much and taken very little in return. Perhaps there was hope, perhaps there was still hope that he would see reason. The girl wouldn’t survive the evening, she knew that, but if it made him happy, she would help. And she would be there to hold him as he wept for her, to provide comfort and to be with him for the rest of their lives.
“I’m sorry, Harry, I truly am. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.”
“Where is she!? What. Has. He. Done with her?”
“I don’t know, truly I don’t. You must believe me. I don’t know who he’s working for. He was working for me, but now, who knows?”
A new face loomed over her. It was Sirius.
“He’s working for your husband.”
“But he’s dead,” the two of them said in unison.
“I saw the body, we burnt the body. This can’t be!” She began to cough and blood crimsoned her lips.
“We saw what he wanted us to see.”
Harry lowered her to the floor. Standing, he turned on Sirius, demanding answers.
“Just how long have you known this, Black? How long have you been leading us all through this merry dance?”
“It doesn’t matter how long I have known.”
“Of course it matters, you bastard,” Harry shouted as he grabbed Black by the throat and shook him. “He’s got Ginny!”
“Harry, Harry,” she croaked trying to draw his attention away from Sirius.
She could help, she wanted to help. She couldn’t die seeing hatred in his eyes, she wanted to see his love. She was struggling to sit up, doing her best to ignore the pain as she propped herself up on her elbows.
“There’s… there’s a cave… he used to take me there… to meet his brother and his friends for an evening’s… entertainment. He took others there… others whom he was disappointed in… they never returned.”
“Can you show us? Can you show me? Can you take me there?”
She closed her eyes, grimacing as a spasm of pain swept through her body. She nodded slowly. “Yes, I can.”
Sirius turned to the Aurors, who were keeping a discrete distance from the conversation.
“We are finished here, you can return to the Ministry and begin dealing with those you’ve already arrested.”
“What about her?” the chief Auror asked, pointing at Bellatrix.
“I’ll deal with her. I don’t think she will survive the evening anyway. Let’s give her the opportunity to show some genuine remorse and earn herself some genuine redemption.” His tone made it clear he did not expect any arguments and the man clearly knew better than to argue.
“Of course, sir. Will get back right away. Our reports will be on your desk for review first thing tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Williams. I appreciate all you have done this evening, and I will make sure my report makes that clear.”
The man all but saluted before turning to the others and organising their return to the Ministry.
As those around her talked, her hand fumbled inside her robes once more, desperate to ensure that her final act had not been taken from her. She let out a wheezing sigh of relief as her hand once more felt the vial. The outside was wet, but not from the potion leaking, but from her blood. So be it, she thought as she withdrew her now bloodied hand, so be it.
Harry didn’t help Bellatrix to her feet. His emotions were all over the place and he couldn’t trust himself not to harm her. Worst of all, he knew, distasteful although it was, they needed her. Without her, Ginny was unlikely to see another day.
He had almost come to terms with the manipulation and lies from his godfather, but he had always seen Bellatrix as someone different. Someone who had looked into the eyes of Lord Voldemort and realised there had to be a better way. Someone who had shown genuine remorse for what they had condoned and abetted, and chosen to follow a different path. Were all her actions lies and deceit? Was there nothing that was genuine? He had felt loved and that was something he had clung to all his childhood. When it all got too much for the him to bear, it was to her arms he had run, and it was her reassuring voice that had calmed him down. How many times had she wiped away his tears and stayed with him until he’d fallen asleep? Was that all for show? Was there nothing in his life that wasn’t a lie?
He turned towards Tonks, who was still in Ginny’s form, wishing that the real Ginny was there. He was suddenly struck by how much her life had been one of lies and betrayal as well. And he had been part of that. How did she not despise him after all that he had put her through? What little time he had spent with her this evening had filled him with hope. The look in her eyes told him that she understood, at least in part, why he had acted like he did. They were, it appeared, kindred spirits and the more and more he thought about it, the more they had in common.
Perhaps there was a future for them after all.
He looked back at Bellatrix. She was finally being helped to her feet by three Aurors. They were none too gentle and Harry could see her wince in pain as she struggled to her feet. No one objected to her treatment. She would be dead if they didn’t need her. From the look in her eye, she knew that.
He turned to Tonks.
“You don’t need to be Ginny any longer.”
“Oh, yes, sorry.”
Perhaps there might be a moment at some point in the fight to come when Tonks’s ability to shift back to Ginny would come in useful, but until then, it would just add to the confusion. He could tell the difference between the two of them. Tonks was good, but she still walked like Tonks rather than Ginny. He wondered how he knew that?
“Are you ready to go?” Sirius asked his disgraced cousin.
She nodded and managed a very feeble “yes,” before another spasm of pain washed over her.
“She doesn’t look it,” commented Harry. She didn’t look like she would survive a trip to St Mungo’s, let alone the Apparition required to get them to this hidden location. And if she was the only one who knew, how was she going to get them all there?
He watched as she straightened herself, wiping the blood from her mouth and rearranging her clothes as if that were the most important thing to her. Perhaps it was. As a woman who had, above all things, prized her beauty, it seemed fitting she would seek to ensure in her last moments that nobody could accuse her of not looking her best.
“And how do we get there?” asked Sirius, voicing the same concerns as Harry.
“I do still have a few tricks up my sleeve,” she said with a weak smile. She bent down and picked up a shoe that had been lost by its owner in the recent fight. She drew the shoelace from the shoe and taking her wand she whispered, “Portus.” She turned and looked at the three of them, holding the lace out in front of her as she did so.
“One last hurrah, eh? Gather round, children, and Auntie Bella will take you for one last ride.” As she said this, she turned to Harry and winked at him. The effect was undermined by another spasm of pain that wracked her body, but her meaning was clear.
Reluctantly, Harry walked forward and took hold of the shoelace. He didn’t bother to respond to her taunt, keeping his eyes fixed firmly on Tonks and Sirius as they joined him. Sirius turned to Bellatrix and nodded.
“And think, this heart, all evil shed away?” Bellatrix laughed. It was an unnerving laugh, reminding Harry how she had once been one of Voldemort’s most trusted lieutenants. Had she ever been anything different?
Just as her wand touched the shoelace, a fifth hand touched the Portkey and they were gone.