Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
Chapter 39 ~ The Beginning of the End
They Apparated to Little Hangleton: to Harry, it felt like the millionth time, but Hermione, Ron and Neville stared about nervously, taking in the valley around them. Harry had deliberately chosen to appear further away than usual to allow them to make a more decisive plan without interruption. Ron looked at him questioningly and Harry indicated the dense, wooded area a few feet ahead of them. Ron nodded, beckoning to Hermione and Neville to follow. They trampled through the thicket and brush, until they came to a small, clear patch, edged with rocks.
“Let’s stop here,” said Harry, dumping his satchel on the moss covered ground. The others followed suit and sat down, staring at him expectantly. Hermione gave a complicated flick of her wand, and her speciality; portable, bluebell coloured flames shot out, warming up their temporary campground.
“Let’s see the Map,”
Ron pulled the folded parchment out of his robe pocket, and smoothed it out so they could all see. The usual dots were floating around, congregated in the living room.
“No-one has moved for a couple of days,” Harry commented, looking at it with a furrowed brow, “that must mean they’re getting ready for the ritual.”
“Do you think we’re safe here?” asked Hermione anxiously, peering into the darkened woods around them.
“I think so, as long as we’re quiet, but here,” he cast the Muffliato spell around the camp, “that should stop anyone from hearing us if they get too close, and give us time to get away.”
She nodded, looking slightly happier.
“So, what’s the plan?” asked Ron eagerly.
Harry took a moment to think and squash down the sinking feeling that he hadn’t heeded Dumbledore’s words correctly. He looked at his friends, worrying that he had led them to a house full of Death Eaters’, armed with nothing but an Invisibility cloak and a bag full of schoolboy tricks. Hermione stared at him knowingly, but thankfully, remained silent.
“Well… it depends on whether they do the ritual inside or out…” he looked at Hermione.
“Outside,” she said at once, “for any ritual you need to be able to stand with the people you’re chanting with, usually holding hands or touching in some way. By the looks of that house,” she pointed at the Map, “there’s hardly room to swing a Kneazle. Plus if the moon is as important to them as we think, they’d want to be standing in its light.”
Harry nodded. “I think we wait until they begin – catch them off guard. We let them begin the ritual then make our move.”
Neville and Ron nodded bravely, but Hermione looked unconvinced. “And what exactly is our move?”
Harry tipped out the contents of his satchel, sorting through the jokes and potions as he thought.
“We need a diversion,” he finally began slowly, placing little pebbles in a circle to represent the Death Eaters’, “if we wait until they begin, we have a better chance at getting in there and taking Bellatrix out,” he flicked one pebble away, “she’s the one with the power – we need to stop her first.”
Neville and Ron nodded, but Hermione looked concerned.
“Take her out?” she echoed.
“Yeah, you know, Stun her, knock her out – whatever,” Harry studiously avoided her eyes, using the little pebbles as an excuse to keep staring at the ground. Glancing at Neville, he saw that he too was doing the same thing. Hermione frowned but didn’t push it, still too ashamed of getting the lunar dates wrong to argue much.
“Anyway,” he continued, “once she’s down, that leaves five Death Eaters and four of us. I’ll handle Lucius – he’s the worst one after Lestrange”-
-“Wait, Harry,” Hermione interrupted, “what’s the diversion?”
Harry stopped mid-sentence. “Oh yeah,” he said sheepishly, “Er… I think the Smokius potion – it worked really well last time.”
“So we chuck the potion, distract the Death Eaters with the smoke, and move in on Lestrange?” asked Ron, picking up pebbles to represent themselves, “so we should approach from different positions.” He placed the new pebbles in a circle surrounding the Death Eaters’.
Neville nodded, “Yeah, once we’ve thrown the smoke at them, they’ll all look that way to find out what’s going on. One of us should stay behind the smoke and start jinxing them,” he looked up determinedly, “I’ll do it.”
“That sounds too dangerous, Neville! What if the smoke doesn’t last long enough and they hurt you?” Hermione twisted a coil of her hair nervously.
“Well the rest of you will be on the other side – I’ll draw their fire while you get Lestrange”-
-“I dunno Neville,” said Harry frowning, “it’s a good plan, but maybe I should be the one to do that?”
Neville shook his head. “No, you need to make sure Lestrange goes down. Once she has, the rest will be easy – sort of. Besides – I can use a Disillusionment charm – they’ll hardly see me!”
Harry’s mind raced through this battle scenario. “No… the Disillusionment charm won’t hold for long – you take the Invisibility cloak – it’ll buy you a lot more time.”
He ignored the surprised gasps from Hermione and Ron and stared at Neville, who nodded firmly. Looking up, Harry was surprised to see that night had fallen.
“We can talk more in the morning – for now, everyone should rest. I’ll stay up and take the first watch.”
The others nodded, but nobody even attempted sleep. Hermione conjured sleeping bags for them all and food and drink. When Neville and Ron fell into conversation about which were the best jinxes, she edged closer to Harry, so the others couldn’t hear what she was saying:
“There’s something else we should consider,” she whispered urgently, “they may not wait until the moon has risen fully before they start the ritual,” Harry stared at her, the light from the bluebell flames reflected in her eyes, “we have no way of knowing how long a ritual like this could take. It might be a good idea to keep an eye on the Map – make sure they don’t go outside before time…”
He nodded numbly, realising that the battle could take place as soon as tomorrow. It wasn’t a pleasant thought.
“Harry…?” Harry rolled over, his eyes firmly shut.
“Harry?” Something sharp dug into his ribs as Hermione nudged him with her toe. He sat up with a start.
“Huh?” he mumbled sleepily, groping around for his glasses, “What time is it?”
“Don’t worry, it’s morning,” she said, yawning and stretching, “here, drink this.” She thrust a small glass bottle under his nose and he took it, sniffing gingerly.
“A wake-up potion, I’ve just drunk mine – it’ll take the sleepiness away – go on – it doesn’t taste of anything. Ron and Neville have had theirs already – they’ve been up for hours.”
He drank the pale yellow potion in one slug. In three seconds flat, a bright, alert feeling spread through him, all traces of sleepiness gone.
“Wow – that’s good stuff,” he commented, jumping to his feet and stretching out his tight, cold limbs. “Where are Ron and Neville?”
Hermione jerked her head on the direction of the woods. “They’ve gone to have a scout around – see if there’s anything suspicious going on. Want some breakfast?”
She waved her wand and conjured a frying pan, sausages and eggs. Harry watched for a moment as she floated it above the blue flames of the campfire and set to work cooking up breakfast for four. She kept her eyes firmly trained on what she was doing, occasionally sighing or tutting loudly. Harry, knowing that this was Hermione’s unsubtle way of letting him know she was still unhappy about the plan, ignored her and concentrated instead on the Map. The Death Eaters were all still accounted for, the Malfoys’ and Lestrange in the kitchen, and everyone else in the living room. Suddenly, the sound of breaking twigs echoed through the camp. Whipping around quickly, wand drawn, Harry turned and lowered his arm with relief: it was only Ron and Neville returning from their exploration.
“Watch where you point that thing!” exclaimed Ron good naturedly, bundling up the Invisibility cloak that they had been under and tramping to the fireside, dropping onto the mossy ground. Neville followed suit but said nothing.
“Watch the racket you’re making,” countered Harry, sitting opposite them, “that Muffliato spell must’ve worn off.” He gave a wave of his wand and recast the spell, encasing the campground so that they couldn’t be heard by outsiders. Hermione transfigured four large rocks into dinner plates and dished up breakfast.
“Cheers, Hermione,” said Ron gratefully, grabbing his plate and conjuring them all forks.
Harry took his with an incredulous expression on his face. Ron looked at him questioningly.
“What?” he asked, spearing a sausage on the end of his fork and biting half off in one go.
“Did you see anything?” Harry asked, feeling his temper begin to rise. Neville shook his head.
“Oh!” said Ron, finally comprehending, “Nope – nothing to report. All the nut jobs still in the nut house.”
Harry scowled and stabbed at his sausages. There was an awkward silence, finally broken by Hermione.
“So… what do we do now?”
Harry chewed his food slowly. He swallowed and looked at each of them.
“We lay low until sundown. We’ll take it in turns to keep watch over the Map and the perimeter of the house. Until they start the ritual, there’s nothing we can do.”
And so they did. They alternated between spying on the house and watching the Map: Ron and Neville one team, Hermione and Harry the other. Finally, at about four o’clock, the sun began to set. Harry and Hermione had just returned from their watch of the house when Ron gestured frantically to them.
“Over here, quick!”
Harry and Hermione ran the last few steps to the camp, dropping to their knees along with Neville to look at what Ron was pointing at. Wormtail had left the house and the others were congregating near the front door.
“We must have just missed him!” hissed Harry, slamming his fist down in frustration.
“What d’you think he’s up to?” asked Neville.
“I don’t know,” said Harry, frowning at the Map, “but I think it’s time for us to go and find out.”
Hermione looked up fearfully. “Now?” she squeaked. Even as she said it, she was gathering up the potion bottles, handing out a selection to each of them.
Harry nodded. They stood up as one, dusting moss and dirt from their robes.
“Remember: Neville will go the west of the house and draw their fire. The rest of us will fan out and take the others. Leave Lestrange to me.”
They all agreed quietly and made their way towards the house, following Harry, who was in the lead. They stopped several feet short of the clearing. Ron pointed silently upwards, into the wide, sturdy branches of an enormous old tree. Harry nodded and began to climb, closely followed by Neville. Hermione came up next, helped along by Ron, who clambered up easily after her. When he felt they had gone high enough, Harry gestured for the others to stop. The height afforded them a clear view of the house, and the branches were so wide it was easy for them to sit comfortably. What they saw puzzled Harry: Wormtail was walking carefully back and forth, scavenging for what looked like long twigs. He looked to Hermione, who seemed equally baffled. She shrugged silently, and turned her attention back to Wormtail. He seemed to have collected enough and was now placing the twigs in what appeared to be a pattern. They watched for another ten minutes until the pattern became clear: Wormtail had placed the sticks in the shape of a large pentacle, its points stretching right to the edges of the house and clearing. Now he was carefully picking his way over the pattern and, seemingly satisfied, stood back to survey his handiwork.
Hermione looked at Harry, fear and determination in her eyes. “The ritual is definitely starting tonight.”
Ron and Neville looked at her with shock, but otherwise remained calm.
“Shall we get down there then?” whispered Ron, looking for all the world like he would be happy to stay right where he was forever.
Harry shook his head. “No,” he murmured back, just loud enough for them to hear, “this is a good spot to wait until they start – then we can ambush them unawares.”
Hearing more voices below, they saw that Crabbe and Goyle had joined Wormtail.
“What time do we start?” Goyle was asking, cracking his knuckles menacingly.
“When the sun has completely set. Where are those candles?”
Crabbe produced five large black candles, each as wide as a pumpkin. “Where d’you want ‘em?” he asked gruffly.
Wormtail muttered something, and Crabbe and Goyle began to levitate the giant things to the far points of the pentacle. When this was done, the candles were lit. They glowed a deep crimson, reminding Harry uncomfortably of Voldemort’s eyes. Crabbe muttered something else to Wormtail, who appeared irritated.
“Never you mind!” he snapped, straightening a few stray twigs, “Just tell Bella we are ready.”
Crabbe and Goyle slouched back into the house, returning moments later with Lestrange. Harry felt an icy anger cloak him as he watched her strut arrogantly to the centre of the pentacle. Lucius and Draco had followed her out, Lucius looking calm and controlled, Draco twitchy and nervous. Ron started visibly at the sight of his former classmate – he had not seen Draco since their sixth year at Hogwarts and the difference in his appearance was startling.
“Blimey,” he breathed, looking at Neville who sat to his right. Neville however, ignored him. His eyes were fixed upon Bellatrix Lestrange, rage and hatred seeping from his very being. Ron hastily turned his attention back to the scene below. Each Death Eater had positioned himself at one of the five points of the pentacle, just behind a giant candle. Everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and Harry guessed that all the time they had been cloistered in the Gaunt house had been spent learning exactly how the ritual should be performed. Lestrange remained proudly in the centre of this giant star, staring imperiously at each of her followers. When they were quite still she spoke:
“Loyal Death Eaters! Tonight, we begin our long-awaited journey… a journey that will restore the Dark Lord to us, his most devoted servants!”
The Death Eaters cheered at these words, causing the hair on the back of Harry’s neck to stand on end. Hermione clutched her chest with horror. Ron and Neville could only stare.
Lestrange smiled her cruel cold smile in acknowledgement. She looked up at the sky, as the last strains of blood red sunlight turned to darkness.
“It is time. Commisceo!”
As she uttered the incantation, the Death Eaters opened their arms wide, wands held in their left hands, as what could only be described as black lightning shot from their wands, connecting to the right hand of the person on their left. Harry gasped despite himself, fully expecting the blast to obliterate the Death Eaters hands, but instead, it joined them together in a ring of sparkling black jets that encased the pentacle with Lestrange in its centre. She turned slowly on the spot, watching this part of the ritual triumphantly.
“And now,” she boomed above the noise of the crackling magic, “we begin!”
With a feeling of deep dread, Harry and the others leaned forwards, watching with pounding hearts. The Death Eaters began to chant in unison:
“Excito iam nostrum ater erus!”
Again and again they spoke the words, getting louder each time.
“Hermione,” hissed Ron, “what are they saying?”
White as a sheet, Hermione turned to look at the others. After what felt like an eternity, she said:
“C-come forth t-to us, D-d-dark L-l-lord.”
“Okay – I think it’s time to go!” exclaimed Harry, beginning his descent from the relative safety of the tree. “Come on!” the others followed. Once they had reached the ground, he faced them.
“Okay – this is it,” he said urgently, “Are you ready?”
Everyone nodded shakily.
“All right then. Ron, Hermione – you go that way then spread out,” he pointed to the east side of the house, “Neville, you go the far end and I’ll stay in the middle – hopefully I can get a clear shot at Lestrange. Everyone clear?”
They all nodded again.
“Okay… good luck,” Harry and Neville remained in place as Hermione and Ron, keeping close to the edge of the woods, made their way to their positions.
Below them, the ritual was growing in intensity. The black ring was growing thicker and the red flames of the candles grew brighter. Harry turned to Neville.
“It’s time,” he whispered urgently, thrusting the Invisibility cloak into Neville’s hands, “there’s a good sized rock over there – get behind it before you throw the potion.”
“Harry – there’s something I should”-
“No time, Neville – get going!” he threw a concerned glance at the Death Eaters.
Neville nodded, a deadly calm expression on his face as he threw the cloak about his shoulders, his head the only part of his body that was visible.
Harry continued, “As soon as they start looking for the source of the smoke, we’ll open fire and I’ll get Lestrange,” their eyes met in silent agreement.
Tonight, Bellatrix Lestrange was going to die.
Harry moved swiftly to his lookout point. He glanced at the formation of Death Eaters, who were chanting with their eyes closed, the black jets of light growing steadily wider. Lestrange was still in the centre, arms raised above her head, fractured beams of black light splintering from the main circle to weave about her limbs, creating darkly sparkling rings all around her. Harry watched with horrified fascination as the black magic gradually grew into a cocoon. If they waited much longer, he doubted whether any of their spells would be able to penetrate it.
The timing for everything now resided with Neville. Harry felt his heart hammering in his chest, as though it was trying to leap out of his ribcage. When he had gone as far as he could without detection, he scrambled to hide behind a thick shrub. A startled crow that had been nestled within cawed loudly and took flight, causing Harry to jump a foot into the air. He crouched back down, suddenly hot with perspiration, panting slightly. Taking a deep steadying breath, he peered out from his hiding place, looking to the east. Luckily, he couldn’t see Ron or Hermione. He hoped that meant they had managed to find a good hiding place. He turned his attention back to the western side of the house, and the large rock that Neville should have reached by now. Without moving his eyes from the rock, he heard the chanting grow louder still, his hair crackling from the magical black beam that connected the Death Eaters hands.
Suddenly he saw it; a tiny glass bottle flew through the air, smashing just a few feet from where Crabbe was standing. Harry watched intently as a thick white smoke began to fan upwards, but even as he looked, he could tell something was wrong. The smoke wasn’t maintaining its thickness as it had done the night he had used it inside the Gaunt house. His stomach plummeted – this wasn’t how the plan was supposed to go! As soon as this thought flitted through his mind, something to his far left caught his eye. Hermione and Ron, upon seeing the smoke had leapt forwards, wands drawn. He saw expressions of horror cross both their faces, as they realised too late that the smoke diversion hadn’t worked; now it was too late for them to hide. In slow motion, Harry watched as Draco’s attention was drawn by Ron and Hermione, closely followed by Crabbe and Goyle, who stared at them open mouthed, utterly astonished to see them there. Ron stepped in front of Hermione as Harry burst through the thicket, firing jinxes left and right, but they were ineffective against the black beams still emanating from the Death Eaters’ wands. Still too shocked to react, the Death Eaters hesitated, looking to Lucius for orders. His eyes had flown open, and he surveyed Harry, then Ron and Hermione with shock. The three of them remained frozen on the spot – a voice inside Harry’s head was screaming at him to move, but all he could do was stare back at the Death Easters. Lucius recovered almost instantaneously, and screamed above the roaring sound of the force field.
“Crabbe, Goyle! After them! Draco – get Potter!”
At the sound of his yells, Wormtail’s eyes opened, and he too stared in disbelief, faltering for a moment in his chanting.
“Wormtail! Don’t stop the ritual!” in a fury, he turned on his son, who, along with Crabbe and Goyle, was still rooted to the spot, “Now, Draco!”
His final shout shook Harry out of his stupor. He dove to his right and quickly rolled behind the thicket, praying that Ron and Hermione had thought to do the same thing. Peering through the branches of the bush, he saw that Draco was on the run, coming right towards him, brandishing his wand. Harry leapt out and cried,
But although he had surprised Draco by darting out, he wasn’t fast enough – Draco blocked the immobilising spell with a Shield charm, but it still allowed Harry a few precious seconds to sprint in the direction he thought Hermione and Ron had taken. He shot another hex over his shoulder, at the same time as leaping out of the way of a Stunner sent by Draco.
“Petrificus Totalus!” screamed Harry, hitting Draco in the arm and causing him to drop to the ground.
Harry swore with frustration – although the hit had slowed Draco down, it had not knocked him out. Just ahead, Ron was duelling with Goyle, yelling at Hermione to hurry up and throw the potion. Harry wanted to hex Goyle from behind, but he was still too far away. Hermione finally found the bottle she had been looking for and threw it squarely at Goyle. It smashed against his chest and he paused for a moment, looking down in confusion. For a second, nothing happened. Goyle raised his wand once more, an evil grin on his face, then suddenly, both hands flew to his throat as he began to choke, his eyes bulging with shock, face rapidly turning bright red. He gasped for air as Harry, Ron and Hermione stared with shocked revulsion. It seemed to go on forever, until finally, painfully, he slid to the ground, completely still. Hermione stumbled forwards, wand held loosely in her hand, until she had reached his dead body, momentarily forgetting the danger they were in.
“Oh my God,” she gasped, staring down at Goyle’s lifeless form in horror. She turned to face Ron, “What have I done?”
Behind her, Crabbe ran towards them, wand pointed directly at them.
“Hermione!” screamed Ron, “Watch out!” but he was too late; she was hit squarely in the back by a curse. Ron stared in terror as she fell to the ground with a muffled thud. “Nooooo!” he shouted, sprinting to her side.
“Ron – behind you!” yelled Harry, turning just in time to see that Draco had recovered and was up and after him again. He screamed, “Protego!” just in time to deflect Draco’s curse, but Ron turned around too late to deflect the jinx fired by Crabbe. He roared in pain as a Stunning spell hit him in the chest. He collapsed next to Hermione as Crabbe cackled in triumph.
“Sectumsempra!” came a yell from the west of the house. It was Neville, anger blazing from his eyes, wand pointed at Crabbe.
Crabbe stopped in mid run, a furious scream escaping from his mouth as he fell backwards, blood spurting out of the zigzag slashes that had appeared across his chest. Harry was still duelling with Draco at lightning speed, desperately trying to see if Hermione and Ron were okay. Please be alive, he thought fervently, as he ducked another jinx. Behind them, the ceremony continued, the black circle now maintained by just Lucius and Wormtail – Lestrange, oblivious to the battle that raged around her, still in the centre.
“Oh dear, Potter!” shouted Draco with maniac glee, “Looks like your beloved Mudblood is dead! Boo hoo! The Weasel doesn’t look too good either!” He and Harry faced off, wands held high.
“Oh yeah?” said Harry, with deadly venom, “it’s not looking too good for you right now, either.” He was trying to keep the ritual in view, but it was impossible. He still had to get to Lestrange, but right now, he was more concerned about Hermione and Ron.
“Grow up, Potter! The Dark Lord’s coming back! Your little army is dead! You’ve got nothing!”
“Don’t be so sure of that, Malfoy,” said Neville, who had stolen up behind him, his wand now pointed at Draco’s neck.
“Longbottom?” sneered Draco, though Harry thought he saw a glimmer of fear in his eyes, “Oh, please! I’m not supposed to be scared of you, am I? Better run along home before Auntie Bella finishes you off, just like your mummy and daddy!” Neville dug his wand deep into Draco’s neck. “Or should I say, like your dear, dead old granny?” Neville dug his wand in deeper still, causing Draco to flinch.
Harry raised his wand to fire, when suddenly, he realised how quiet it had become.
“Expelliarmus!” Harry’s wand flew out of his hand.
“Now, now Potter, I must insist you play nicely with my son.” The cold voice came from behind. Slowly, Harry and Neville turned around, though Neville did not lower his wand from Draco’s neck.
Lucius Malfoy stood in front of them, wand pointing directly at Harry’s heart. Behind him, Harry could see Wormtail helping Lestrange back into the house. He barely had time to register that at least they had managed to stop the ritual, when Lucius spoke again:
“Now,” he began silkily, “lower your wand, boy,” Neville did not move. Harry was desperate to see what had become of Ron and Hermione, but knew it would be unwise to move. Lucius sighed, “I grow tired … you have already disrupted our ritual, but do not fear! We still have time to begin again, though I see you have diminished my ranks. No matter,” he nodded to someone behind them, “Now, Wormtail!”
The last thing Harry and Neville heard was, “Stupefy!” before everything went black.
Harry came to suddenly. His vision was blurry, and for a moment, he could not remember where he was. Blood dripped slowly from his nose and lip - he tried to move but a searing pain shot through his body. He tried again, slowly this time and discovered that his hands were bound behind his back and his ankles tied tightly together. A foul, disgusting rag gagged his mouth and he was forced to take slow, deep breaths to prevent himself from vomiting. He blinked rapidly, trying to see where he was. He recognised the tiny, filthy kitchen: he was inside the Gaunt house. He shifted his weight carefully and felt something heavy slump against him. Turning his head gingerly, he saw that Neville too was tied up, gagged and seemingly unconscious, back-to-back with Harry.
“Neville,” he mumbled as best he could through the gag, “Neville? Are you okay?”
Neville gave no reply. Eyes darting around, Harry wondered where Ron and Hermione were. Squashing down the rising panic that they might be dead, he strained his ears to listen for signs of Lestrange and the other Death Eaters’. He heard muffled voices coming from the living room, but could only make out snatches of what sounded like an argument.
“I say we just kill them and continue with the ritual at the next lunar cycle!” Harry recognised Lucius Malfoy’s voice.
“Let me be the one to do it, father!” came Draco’s eager voice.
“Silence, Draco. Bella, listen: Crabbe and Goyle are dead – I see no way of re-starting the ceremony now with just three of us”-
-“How did they even know?” Wormtail was asking nervously, “what if the Ministry are on their way as we speak?”
“Potter’s far too arrogant to involve the Ministry! If they were going to help they would have been here by now…”
“Enough!” said Lestrange, “We will kill them, but I want a little fun first…”
Lucius retorted angrily, but it seemed that Lestrange had won the fight for now.
She swept suddenly into the kitchen, black jets of magic still surrounding her, though not as powerfully as before. She surveyed Harry with a mixture of hatred and scorn. Draco, Lucius and Wormtail followed in her wake.
“So… little Harry Potter found out about big, bad Bella’s plan! How did you do it, little rat?”
Harry stared at her with pure loathing, straining against his bindings, wishing she would untie him so he could fight her one-on-one. Lestrange smiled cruelly at him, producing her wand from the sleeve of her robe.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to tell me,” she said idly, tracing the wand tip over her palm, “because Bella can make you tell her anyway! Crucio!”
Harry screamed as searing pain ripped through his body. Just as it seemed it would never stop, the curse was suddenly lifted.
Lucius and Draco smirked while Wormtail twitched nervously in the corner.
“Anything to say now, Potty, dear?”
Choking slightly on the gag, Harry lifted his chin shakily to stare at her defiantly.
Lestrange gave a mock sigh of displeasure. “Oh dear! Draco!” she barked suddenly, “why don’t you go and fetch the dead bodies of ickle Harry’s friends, so we can remind him why he should be a good little boy?”
“Gladly,” he smirked, strutting slowly to the front door, pausing first to kick Harry, then the unconscious Neville viciously in the stomach. Winded, Harry tried desperately not to choke on his gag, its putrid taste making him feel faint. Lestrange chuckled, but Lucius looked annoyed.
“Bella, really – we do not have time for these games – question Potter all you want but we must hurry – for all we know the authorities are on the way!”
Lestrange waved a dismissive hand. “Yes, yes Lucius, but don’t deny me my fun!”
With an annoyed hiss, Lucius swept across the small kitchen and pointed his wand at Neville. “Perhaps this piece of filth will talk more readily? Enervate!”
Harry could feel Neville shudder, then sit up, still leaning against his back. He coughed through his gag, staring at Lestrange and Malfoy. Harry could feel the fear and fury radiating from him, as Neville realised where they were.
“How lovely!” exclaimed Lestrange in a sickeningly sweet voice, “a Longbottom! Why, you’re the last of your line now, aren’t you dear?”
Neville struggled furiously to stand and fight but it was futile: they were bound too tightly to move. Harry tried to catch Neville’s hands and signal to him to work his way out, and he felt Neville grasp his hand back in understanding. With as little movement as possible, the two of them began to twist and wriggle their hands, trying to free their wrists of the rope that was knotted so tightly.
“Why so quiet you two?” asked Lestrange, advancing on them slowly, an excited smile lighting up her misshapen face. They stared up at her – if looks could kill she would have died on the spot. Harry braced himself, knowing what was coming next, but there was no way to warn Neville before-
Neville’s agonised screams were louder than Harry’s. This time, Lestrange let the curse burn through them for twice as long, cackling wildly at the sound of their suffering. When she finally lifted her wand, Harry was afraid for a moment that Neville had passed out again. Suddenly, he felt Neville grasp his hands – he was still conscious.
She knelt down beside them, her stench overwhelming them both. “Now ickle ones… unless you want to feel that pain again, you had better start talking. How did you know we were here?”
Still Harry and Neville remained silent, staring at her defiantly. She sighed and straightened up. “Lucius – what’s taking Draco so long? I want these two to see what happens to filthy blood traitors and Mudbloods when they go interfering where they’re not wanted…”
Lucius frowned and drew his wand, exiting quickly to find his son. Now just Lestrange and Wormtail were left. Wormtail was cowering slightly, as though such torture did not agree with him.
“You know,” Lestrange was saying now, as she moved idly around the kitchen, the black sparks slowly diminishing from her limbs, “I think this might just work out for the best! I mean, here we are, preparing to bring the Dark Lord back with no welcome home gift, when you appear!” she grinned insanely at Wormtail, who returned her smile weakly, “now what could be a better gift than Harry Potter’s head on a silver platter!” she laughed wildly and conjured a large silver serving platter with a wave of her wand. “I think I’ll keep Longbottom to play with for a while though…”
Harry and Neville increased their attempt to free themselves. Their wrists were sore and bloody, but Harry could feel his own rope loosening. Gritting his teeth against the pain, he struggled until at last, one hand came free. Next, he tried to help Neville undo his rope, while Lestrange called for Wormtail to bring her a goblet of wine.
“I think it only fitting that we drink to the Dark Lord’s return, don’t you?”
Behind him, Harry felt Neville grow perfectly still, his struggles to free himself apparently forgotten. Harry tried to prod him, but Neville ignored him. Bewildered, Harry sat still, frantic with worry about Hermione and Ron – where were Draco and Lucius? Did the delay mean that Ron and Hermione were okay, or that they were finishing the job? With a start, Harry realised Neville was trying to talk to Lestrange. She peered down at them in surprise.
“Wormtail – remove his gag – let’s hear what this, the last of the Longbottom’s has to say.”
Wormtail thrust a large goblet of wine into her hands, and crouched down. In one swift movement, he had torn through Neville’s gag with his silver hand. Neville spat on the floor, then stared up at Lestrange.
“Enjoy your time while it lasts!” he hissed in a voice quite unlike his own, much to Harry’s amazement. He knew they had made a pact to finish Lestrange off, but how could Neville possibly think they were getting out of this one?
Evidently, Lestrange was surprised too, for her eyes widened momentarily. Neville continued before she could respond:
“We are going to cause you so much pain you will beg for death,” his face was balled up in anger. Harry continued to work at the ropes around Neville’s wrists, concealing a small gasp as he felt them give slightly.
“Well, well Longbottom – it looks like you’re going the way of your parents – though I must say they took a lot more before they cracked.” She raised her goblet to them. “To the Dark Lord! And, the much anticipated end of Harry Potter and his new best friend!”
She downed the wine in one large gulp and surveyed them majestically. Slowly, her expression changed and a look of terror spread across her awful features. Harry froze and watched her, too shocked to think about freeing Neville’s hands. Wormtail rushed to Lestrange’s side as she sank to the floor.
“Bella? Bella? What is it?”
Out of the corner of his mouth, Neville hissed, “Get Wormtail!”
Spurred on by this bizarre turn of events, Harry tore the gag from his mouth and lunged at Wormtail, sinking a satisfying punch into his jaw. Before Wormtail could defend himself, Harry had wrested his wand from his hand.
“Petrificus Totalus!” Wormtail’s limbs snapped together and stiff as a board, he fell face first to the dirty stone floor.
Harry hastily untied Neville’s hands as they watched Lestrange sobbing in pain. What was going on? Neville stood up shakily and stared down at her.
“Can’t taste the Hellfire potion mixed in with your wine, can you Bella?” he asked as she gasped for breath. Her eyes bulged with fury and even as they watched, steam emanated from her mouth and ears.
Harry gasped, “You spiked the wine with Hellfire potion?”
Neville nodded numbly, the colour draining rapidly from his round face as he continued to stare at Lestrange, the throes of death becoming more violent as her body convulsed.
“But-but how? When?” Harry stared at him incredulously.
“It’s a long story…” He turned back to Lestrange coldly. “Don’t mind that pain – it’s just your internal organs melting – it’ll be over soon.”
Lestrange screamed. “You! You filthy – I will – Crucio – Crucio! Avada Kedavra!” but the curse was ineffective. She writhed about in pure agony, unable to speak.
Harry felt a cold calm steal over him. “How does it feel, Lestrange?”
She screamed again. Harry and Neville flinched but did nothing to help her.
“Lucius…” she called weakly, barely audible.
Neville knelt down beside her and held her face so she was forced to look at him. “Now, as you take your final breath, remember this: this is for Alice and Frank Longbottom,” he looked at Harry who added,
“And Sirius Black.” Lestrange gave them one last incensed glare as she finally slumped to the floor.
He straightened up and stared at Harry, looking like he was about to vomit. He felt the same way. Neville gripped Harry’s shoulder and Harry took his elbow, supporting him, not breaking eye contact. Finally, Neville spoke:
“Well… it’s over.”
Harry nodded. They had done it – Lestrange was dead. She had finally paid for all the innocent lives she had ripped from the world. He felt numb.
“Come on – the Malfoys’ are still out there,” he whispered urgently.
Neville nodded. “Do you know where our wands went?”
Harry’s eyes darted about the kitchen. He shook his head. His gaze strayed to Wormtail, who, in his frozen state had been watching the whole thing with horror in his eyes. He dropped to his knees and began to search the pockets of Wormtail’s robes. Finally, his hand closed around the two wands.
“Here,” he threw Neville’s wand and they made their way stealthily to the front door.
“What happened to Ron and Hermione?” asked Neville anxiously, still very shaken by what they had just done.
“I-I don’t know…”
Harry paused in the doorway of the Gaunt house, turning to look back at Wormtail’s frozen body.
“We’d better time him up – if the jinx wears off he’ll escape. He’s good at that.”
Neville nodded, and between them, they bound Wormtail tightly with the rope that had been around their own ankles and wrists. Wormtail blinked at them, terror in his eyes.
“Don’t worry, we won’t use the potion on you,” Neville said, grimacing slightly as he pulled the ropes tighter.
“That’s right,” said Harry, eyeing Wormtail with contemptuous loathing as he bound his wrists, “we wouldn’t want to deny you the chance of going to Azkaban for the rest of your life, would we?”
“No,” said Neville grimly, “we wouldn’t. But you should keep in mind that if you do try and escape, we’ll have no choice but to force-feed you Hellfire potion, understand?”
Wormtail stared at them mutely, but the apprehension in his eyes was clear: he wasn’t going anywhere.
“Right – let’s go.”
They stood up and hurried back to the front door. Outside, it was pitch black; the only light came from the fat, black candles that continued to glow a deep, ominous red. Harry had one sentence running through his mind like a mantra: please let them be alive, please let them be alive, please let them be alive… As long as he kept saying those words…
The night was deathly still.
Neville whispered, “Shall we light our wands?”
“No… not yet,” he peered into the darkness, trying to ascertain where Ron and Hermione might be, “Malfoy could be waiting for us…”
Neville nodded and they edged forwards carefully, taking the direction they had last seen Ron and Hermione follow. Harry felt a rush of frustration – it was too dark to make out what lay ahead. He was about to give in and light his wand when inspiration hit: he still had some Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes stuff in his pockets! Motioning to Neville, he dropped to the ground near one of the black candles and emptied out his pockets. Neville did the same. By the flickering red light, they saw that they still had a couple of Dungbombs, one bottle of Hermione’s exploding potion and -
-“Extendable Ears!” breathed Harry excitedly, hurriedly untangling the putty coloured strings, “Here,” he held one out to Neville, and inserted the other into his own ear. They watched the strings wiggle away, too far for them to be able to see, and suddenly, they heard a cold, callous voice:
“It’s over – Potter and Longbottom are dead, and you will be too if you don’t release him.”
Harry and Neville exchanged a perplexed look when –
-“Oh yeah? I don’t think so Malfoy!”
It was Ron! Harry sank to the ground in relief: Ron was alive! But what about Hermione? He had no idea what kind of spell Crabbe had hit her with – was she okay? His mantra now changed to: please let Hermione be alive, please let Hermione be alive, please let Hermione be alive, please…
Keeping the earpieces in, Harry and Neville began to move stealthily towards the sound of the voices, grateful that the darkness cloaked their movements. Lucius was talking again:
“Really Weasley, you are pathetic. Aren’t you embarrassed to be Harry Potter’s lap dog? Although… I don’t know if you could even call yourself that anymore – I fear Longbottom has replaced you! You Weasleys’ are all the same: one treacherous disappointment after another – running about with Muggle filth”-
A third, panicked voice broke in –
-“ Father, please!”
Harry and Neville paused, looking at each other in the darkness. Neville frowned, a confused expression on his face, but Harry thought he understood:
“Ron must have Draco!” he hissed. Lucius confirmed it for them:
“Silence, Draco! You know, Weasley, perhaps I don’t care if you kill Draco after all – he has proved most disappointing as a son.”
They heard Draco let out a sob.
“You’re scum, d’you know that?” Ron was saying furiously, “You’d let your own son die?”
Harry and Neville were finally close enough to see the outlines of the three figures. Ron had Draco in a chokehold, wand pointed directly at his throat – Lucius stood with his wand drawn, aimed at Ron’s face. There was no sign of Hermione, but Harry reasoned to himself that if she were hiding, it would be too dark to see… please let her be alive…
“He is weak – I blame the school system; he’s been associating with Mudbloods for far too long. I’m finding this rather boring now,” Lucius was saying, insolently, “my dear sister-in-law has killed your friends and now I will kill you”-
He raised his wand and screamed “Avada Kedavra”-
“Protego!” yelled Harry and Neville in unison, knocking Lucius clean off his feet with two beams of red light.
Ron stared at them, an expression of relief and joy spreading rapidly across his face.
“You’re alive!” he croaked, tightening his grip on Draco’s neck as he struggled to escape.
Harry and Neville didn’t have time to respond. In a flash, Lucius was back on his feet.
“Imperio!” he hissed malevolently. Harry blocked the spell easily, as Neville ducked and ran to Ron’s side.
“Are you okay?” he gasped, conjuring ropes to tie Draco with, while Harry and Lucius duelled fiercely. Beams of light were flying faster than Ron or Neville could make out and together, they dragged Draco, kicking and yelling, down to the ground and took cover.
“Father! Father!” screamed Draco. Ron tore off the cuff of his torn robes and stuffed it into Draco’s mouth, muffling his cries.
“Shut up, Draco!” came Lucius’s incensed reply as he dodged Harry’s attack and turned on his son.
“Come on!” Ron yelled to Neville, scrambling to his feet, wand at the ready.
Neville followed suit, “But where’s Hermione? Is she okay?” he panted, looking around frantically.
But he didn’t finish what he was saying. Suddenly, something white flashed over the entire clearing, illuminating everything, so dazzling it blinded them all for a moment. Blinking furiously, Harry recovered, wand still pointed at Lucius. Ron and Neville stood either side of him rubbing their eyes, while on the ground, Draco, bound and now gagged, yelped with surprise, desperately pushing with his legs to try and move to the nearby cover of some rocks. Lucius - the fight momentarily forgotten - stared up into the sky, looking for the source of the light. A voice, an eerie, unearthly voice whispered through the clearing, making Harry’s hair stand on end.
“What the hell was that?” asked Ron, his voice hoarse. He moved closer to Harry, trembling so much that Neville had to reach out a hand to steady him. Before Harry could say anything, the voice echoed again.
Draco’s struggling ceased and Lucius’s arm dropped to his side, his wand held slackly in his hand. His mouth fell open as a slim figure glided towards them, appearing from the darkened woods.
“N-no! It-it c-can’t be!” gasped Lucius in disbelief, feet rooted to the spot, “Narcissa?”
The spectre floated closer still, causing Harry, Ron and Neville to take a giant step backwards, wands raised. It came to a stop a few feet from them. Harry thought he might pass out – what else could possibly happen tonight? he wondered madly. Before them stood Narcissa Malfoy: a transparent, greyish Narcissa Malfoy, her hair and robes fluttering out behind her although the night was still.
On the ground, Draco spat the torn cloth from his mouth. “Mother?” he exclaimed, squirming into a kneeling position.
“Draco,” she turned her wide, dead eyes upon him, “my son, my only son – what has become of you?” though her mouth moved, her ghostly voice seemed to come from all around them.
“Mother – we’re bringing the Dark Lord back!” his voice cracked. He sounded like a child desperate for his mother’s approval. Harry felt a flicker of pity for his old enemy until a throb of pain shot across his stomach from the vicious kick Draco had dealt him earlier… Still, he could not help but feel some sympathy for him.
“And you, Lucius, my husband, you have turned your hand against our only son, flesh of my flesh, blood of your blood…” the sadness in her voice seemed to fill Harry up until he thought he would burst. He knew they should use this time to find Hermione (he still didn’t know what had become of her, everything was moving so fast) but this incredible scene had them all transfixed.
“Where’s Hermione?” he whispered urgently in Ron’s ear.
“Hidden – but we need to get her out of here!”
“Is she alive?” breathed Neville under his breath.
“Yes, but she’s in bad shape – we have to get her to St. Mungo’s!”
Lucius was talking to Narcissa:
“You-you’re not real! This is an illusion, created by Potter!” he roared with fury, reminding Harry irresistibly for a moment of his Uncle Vernon.
“Lucius, Lucius…” she sighed, raising a hand and reaching out to him. Harry wasn’t sure if it was just a breeze, but he could have sworn that the trees in the woods sighed with her. He began to edge away slowly, grabbing Ron and Neville by an arm each.
“Let’s get out of here,” he hissed. Lucius and Draco were too mesmerised by the apparition of Narcissa to pay them any mind. Once they had backed out of the circle of bright, white light they broke into a sprint, Ron leading the way, past the black candles and the slumped, dead bodies of Crabbe and Goyle, to the large rock that had been Neville’s hiding place. They skidded to a halt: there was no-one there.
“Where is she?” cried Harry, fear racing through him.
Ron smiled faintly and knelt down. With a flourish, he pulled back the Invisibility cloak to reveal Hermione, lying unconscious on the ground, but very much alive.
With a slightly crazed laugh, Harry dropped to his knees by Hermione’s side. He placed a finger on her neck, checking for her pulse: it was faint but definitely there. As gently as possible, he helped Ron to lift her up.
“Get her to St. Mungo’s – me and Neville will go back for Wormtail”-
-“No way, Harry! You can’t hang around here – it’s too dangerous! Let’s all go – now!” he was looking at Harry as though he were insane.
“I can’t let Wormtail escape again, Ron! I have to go back for him!”
“And what about Lucius? He’s probably untied Draco by now – if they see you they’ll kill you!” he grimaced slightly as he hitched Hermione a little higher against his chest.
“Ron, you’re wasting time – get her to the hospital!” said Neville angrily, “We’ll be fine – we got this far!”
Ron looked down at Hermione’s pale face, then back at his friends. “But”-
-“Just go! And ask for Healer Smethington – hopefully he won’t ask too many questions.”
They watched Ron and Hermione disappear with a loud pop, then turned to face each other.
“Do you think we should try and get the Malfoys’ too?” asked Neville, his face barely visible in the darkness.
Harry peered around the rock; he could not see Lucius or Draco and the faint light Narcissa had cast was dwindling rapidly. Ducking back down, he shook his head.
“We’ll have to let the Auror Squad deal with them – it’s too risky to try and get them and Wormtail. I think we should just make a run for it. I’ll grab him and Apparate him to the Ministry.”
Neville shook his head, “No, I’ll take him – you should go and be with Hermione.”
After a moment’s hesitation, Harry agreed. “All right. Ready to run?”
They sprinted across the clearing, running blindly for the large dark shape of the Gaunt house. Slamming through the front door, they discovered Wormtail, still tightly bound, the freezing spell still in place. Unceremoniously, Harry hauled him to his feet and together, they bundled him out of the house. Neville grabbed him roughly by the scruff of his neck and looked at Harry.
“What about this place?” he asked, indicating the house with a jerk of his head.
Harry smiled grimly and produced a small bottle from his pocket: Hermione’s exploding potion.
“I think it’s time we make sure no-one tries to use this house as a hideout again,” he threw the bottle inside, slamming the door shut quickly after it. Seconds later, they heard the explosion and through a small, filthy window, saw flames rapidly spreading across the living room floor.
“You’d better get going,” said Harry, wand at the ready in case Lucius tried to attack again.
Neville nodded, and with a crack, he and Wormtail Disapparated. Harry stood before the burning house, staring numbly as the flames consumed everything in sight. It wasn’t until the heat from the fire started to singe the edge of his robes that he stepped away. After casting one final glance over the house, he turned on the spot and disappeared.
Several hours later, Harry awoke with a start. It was still dark outside and he was in a bed in St. Mungo’s. In another bed to his right, Hermione slept soundly, having been revived by numerous charms, then put to sleep by a heavy potion so she could rest. Opposite him, in two more narrow beds, lay Ron and Neville. Healer Smethington had arranged for them to share a room as they had protested violently at being separated. Ron was snoring lightly, but Neville lay quietly, staring up at the ceiling, his eyes glistening with tears that were illuminated by the light of the lamp that sat on his bedside table.
“Neville?” Harry whispered, mindful of waking the others, struggling to sit up.
Hastily, Neville brushed a tear away and sat up too. “Yeah?” he whispered back.
“Are you okay?”
Neville nodded. “Yeah… I was just thinking about – about everything. I still can’t believe what we did…”
“You don’t regret it, do you?” asked Harry anxiously, wincing slightly – he was still sore from all the hits he had taken that night.
“No!” gasped Neville, “I – I’m glad we did it! I just can’t quite believe it, can you?”
Harry pondered these words before answering. “Well… as things go, I have to say it was a pretty normal evening for me…”
Neville gave a watery chuckle. Ron stirred and sat up slowly, rubbing his eyes.
“Normal?” he asked, looking at Harry then Neville incredulously, “I’ve seen giant talking spiders, teachers turn into werewolves, my pet rat turn into one of the most wanted Death Eaters in the country, time turned backwards and I’ve destroyed a whole Ministry department, but I have never seen anything as weird as the ghost of Narcissa Malfoy come back to tell her family off! This was definitely not a normal night!”
Harry grinned at him, suddenly feeling insanely happy. His thoughts strayed to Ginny. The one thing he had done before allowing anyone at the hospital to tend to him was send her an owl. He had been too exhausted to write much more than a reassurance that they were all okay, but he knew it would be enough for now.
“So, how exactly did you get the Hellfire potion into her wine?” Ron was asking Neville now.
“Yeah, I’d like to know that too!” said Harry, stuffing some more pillows behind his head so he could see him better.
Neville took a deep breath before answering:
“That day, when I went looking for Wormtail… the day Gran died… I-I caught up with Wormtail – he was shopping for food supplies. I saw him going for some wine, but he dropped something and leaned down to pick it up. As he did, I switched the bottles – Hermione taught me the charm to use in the shop, it only takes a second – and before I knew it, I had the real wine in my hand, and he was taking the poison. I meant to tell you, but when I got home, you were there, waiting to tell me about Gran…”
“But why didn’t you say anything yesterday, while we were making our plans?”
Neville turned his gaze upon Harry. “Because I didn’t know if it had even worked properly – I’ve never tried the charm without Hermione before – I didn’t want to get your hopes up – and I’d already made such a mess with the first lot of Hellfire potion…” he glanced at Ron guiltily, “Anyway! Never mind that – what happened with you and Draco?”
Ron stretched widely and settled in. Harry smiled inwardly – it looked like Ron was getting ready to tell a good tale…
“Well, I had just come to, right, and it was pitch black – I could hardly see anything, you know? Then suddenly, I realised Hermione was unconscious next to me! I couldn’t bring her round and I didn’t want to leave ‘cos I didn’t know what had happened to you two, so I hid her under the cloak and was about to go into the house when I saw Draco coming! I thought to myself – ‘what’s he up to?’ so I dived back onto the ground and pretended I was still out cold. I waited until he was really close, then I hit him with a Confundus spell,” Ron brandished an invisible wand, “then I got him like this,” he put his arm around the neck of the invisible Draco, “and said ‘don’t move or you’ll be sorry!’ He didn’t know what had hit him, but when it wore off, he started mouthing off, you know, the usual Malfoy rubbish, and before I knew it, his dad turns up! I really think me and Draco would have been goner’s if you two hadn’t shown up – old Lucius really didn’t care if his own son lived or died!” he shook his head to himself. Having always been part of a loving and secure family, Ron had absolutely no comprehension of what it might be like to have relatives who didn’t care about you.
“And what about Narcissa Malfoy’s ghost, eh?” he continued excitedly, “I mean – what was that all about?”
They proceeded to debate the how’s and why’s of Narcissa’s phantom, when Hermione woke up.
“What time is it?” she asked blearily, blinking slowly at them.
Ron glanced at his watch, “Six o’clock in the morning. How are you feeling?”
She stared at her hands for a long moment. When she finally looked up, her eyes were swimming with tears, “I’m okay,” she whispered with a loud sniff.
“What’s the matter?” asked a bewildered Ron, jumping off his bed with a small wince and squashing up next to her and wrapping his arms around her.
She broke into quiet sobs. Harry and Neville moved to perch at the foot of her bed, as she haltingly explained:
“I-I killed him! I threw one of my potions at him – and I k-killed him!”
“But Hermione, you had no choice,” said Harry softly, “if you hadn’t, he would’ve killed you and Ron.”
She bowed her head, her face obscured by a curtain of bushy hair. “I know, but-but we went to school with his son! I k-killed Gregory Goyle’s father!”
There was nothing they could say to console her. Ron kept her tightly enclosed in his arms, and Harry and Ron took a hand each and held on until her sobs subsided. She looked up, her face all tearstained and blotchy and Ron kissed her on the cheek.
“Come on, Hermione,” he wheedled gently, “we’re all alive! It’s a miracle! We fought some of the toughest Death Eaters’ around and we’re still here to tell the tale!” Harry and Neville nodded their agreement.
Hermione gave them a small smile and blew her nose. “You’re right,” she said, a little more brightly, “you’re right! So,” she said, looking at them curiously, “what happened after I was knocked out?”
Harry, Ron and Neville exchanged a tired look. Together they said:
“We’ll tell you later!”
Although they hadn’t intended to tell anyone anything about what had taken place in Little Hangleton, Neville’s appearance at the Ministry with Peter Pettigrew in tow had obviously raised some questions and it wasn’t long before people were demanding answers. As Neville had gone directly to St. Mungo’s after leaving Wormtail in the custody of an Auror, he had been easy to track down.
At eleven o’clock that morning, a very bewildered Mr. Weasley came to see them. He entered their room and slowly took in the obvious signs that they had all been involved in some sort of fight, while Harry, Ron and Hermione stared back at him guiltily. Neville just looked at him blankly, too tired to care. Taking a seat, Mr. Weasley spent a few moments shuffling through a sheaf of parchment, blowing his nose, and clearing his throat. The silence was beginning to make Ron twitchy, but Harry shot him a warning look: stay calm.
“Well…” Mr. Weasley began mildly, pursing his lips and looking at each of them in turn, “well now… Would someone mind telling me how it is that you, without any assistance from the Ministry, managed to capture and deliver Peter Pettigrew to us? Or, perhaps someone could explain why the four of you are in hospital, looking worse for wear to say the very least, or perhaps, why after being advised to by young Neville here, a search of a small village called Little Hangleton led to us finding and arresting a very confused, very disturbed Draco Malfoy, not to mention the discovery of two dead bodies of other known Death Eaters’?”
Even though they had been preparing their answer since six o’clock that morning, Harry still didn’t think their excuse would stand up to Mr. Weasley’s investigation. Still, they had all agreed:
“Well,” he said, in much the same tone as Mr. Weasley, “we went camping and stumbled across a bunch of Death Eaters’. There wasn’t time to go for help, so we fought them – we managed to capture Pettigrew and tie Draco up, but things got a little out of hand with Crabbe and Goyle, and Lucius Malfoy got away…”
To his credit, Mr. Weasley did not, as he could have done, point out that in addition to the dead bodies, they had also found evidence of a ritual, an old house burned to the ground and several smashed potion bottles, indicating that what had gone on was quite obviously not an accidental, unplanned attack. He simply smiled at them and nodded, swallowing a sarcastic retort.
“I see. I thought that was probably what had happened. And I suppose you understand that you will all be called upon to give evidence at Pettigrew and Draco’s trials?”
They all nodded innocently, though Ron’s face had gone a bit green.
“Well good! I’ve spoken to Healer Smethington, and he assures me that you’re all okay,” his confident demeanour wavered slightly as concern for them all clouded his eyes, “so that concludes my official, Ministry business.” He carefully tucked his papers into his robe pocket. Once this was done, he looked up at them with an incredibly sad expression on his face.
“Now, as someone who feels like a father to each and every one of you,” he looked at them in turn, making them squirm with guilt, “I have to say, I have absolutely no idea what took place last night, and a part of me doesn’t want to know, but if you think for one second that I buy your out-and-out lie that you ‘stumbled’ across five of the most vicious Death Eaters’ left on the planet by accident, you are sorely mistaken. Now I know that the four of you are responsible for defeating You-Know-Who, so you probably feel like you’re untouchable,” he raised a finger and jabbed it to emphasize his point, “but if you ever lie like this to your family again, you will be in big trouble, do you understand?”
Nobody spoke. Mr. Weasley rose to leave, but paused in the doorway and quietly said:
“I’m very proud of all of you.” For just a second, Harry was sure he had seen Mr. Weasley’s lips twitch into the smallest of smiles, before being hastily replaced by his stern, official face.
“One more thing,” he added, looking at Neville his expression softening, “you’ll be pleased to know that Shacklebolt and Tonks apprehended Amycus Carrow in France last night. He’s being transported to Azkaban as we speak.”
Neville stared at him for a long time. “Thank you,” he whispered quietly. Mr. Weasley gave him a nod.
“Oh, and Harry,” he withdrew a letter from another pocket and handed it to him, “I thought you might like this back. If it fell into the wrong hands, people might not believe that you were…camping.”
As the door closed behind him, Harry looked down at the letter in his hands. It was the note he had sent to Shacklebolt, requesting his help. Smiling grimly, he set the parchment alight with his wand tip, and watched it curl up and disappear.
Ron let out a loud sigh of relief.
“So that’s it then!” he exclaimed, running both hands through his hair, “it’s all over…”
Harry looked at him and smiled. “Yeah, it’s all over…”
Of course, it wasn’t completely over: two weeks later, they were called on to give their testimony, first at Draco Malfoy’s trial then a few days later, Peter Pettigrew’s. Draco, for his crime of being a Death Eater, conspiring, aiding and abetting to kill Albus Dumbledore and being a fugitive for the following two years, was sentenced to life in Azkaban prison. The Ministry had offered to lighten his sentence in exchange for the whereabouts of his father, Lucius Malfoy, but he either would not or could not help them.
Peter Pettigrew, for the crime of killing twelve innocent Muggles, indirectly causing the deaths of Lily and James Potter, being a known Death Eater and fugitive and aiding and abetting the return of Lord Voldemort, was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences. As the judge pronounced his ruling, he also added, “Your crimes are so abhorrent that it makes me yearn for the days when the Dementors ruled Azkaban – then your sentence would simply be the Kiss. Unfortunately, I am unable to hand down such a punishment. Therefore, I hope that you rot in jail, reflecting on your heinous crimes until the day you die.” The watching crowd roared their approval, jeering violently as Wormtail was led from the court, sobbing like a child. Harry had taken Mr. Weasley aside and informed him that Wormtail was also an unregistered Animagus, capable of transforming into a rat, and therefore highly likely to attempt to escape. Mr. Weasley had nodded grimly and assured Harry that they would take adequate precautions.
Through some unspoken agreement, none of the people involved in the night of the full moon in Little Hangleton, whether good or bad, ever breathed a word of Bellatrix Lestrange’s part in all this. Harry knew that the wider wizarding community thought her long dead and had seen no reason to disabuse them of their position – what would be the point, other than to draw even more unwanted press attention to himself and his friends, who were once again being hailed as hero’s for their capture of Pettigrew? Mr. Weasley had quietly handed Harry and the others a big surprise at the close of the Pettigrew trial: an enormous sack of gold.
“What’s this?” stammered Harry, staggering slightly under its weight.
“Well, the Ministry have had a reward out on Pettigrew for two years now – this is for the four of you to split: five thousand Galleons!”
They had been unable to more than gape at Mr. Weasley, who had walked away smiling.
A week after these trials had concluded, they were due in court again, though this time as spectators for the judgement of Amycus Carrow. The morning of the trial dawned dull and sluggish, and freezing cold sleet rained from the sky, turning everything dismally, depressingly grey.
Harry awoke to find Ron, Neville and Hermione already sitting at the breakfast table.
“Morning,” he said quietly, sitting down and allowing Dobby to place a bowl of porridge in front of him.
“Morning,” they replied sombrely. Hermione was reading the Daily Prophet while Neville and Ron picked at their food.
“Oh no!” she exclaimed, slamming her paper down.
“What is it?”
“Dolores Umbridge! She’s back at the Ministry! I thought Scrimgeour sent her to Azkaban?”
Harry, though irritated, merely shrugged. “So Scrimgeour lied – what’s new?”
“Aren’t you angry?” asked Neville, looking surprised.
“I dunno. I always thought she’d been sent to prison for effect,” he shrugged again, “it’s election time soon though, isn’t it? That sort of thing won’t help Scrimgeour stay in power.”
“Yeah, Dad said Kingsley Shacklebolt is running for Minister this year,” Ron said, finishing the last of his porridge.
“Really?” said Harry thoughtfully, “well he’s got my vote.”
Hermione glanced at the kitchen clock. “We’d better get ready,” she said hastily, “We’re due there in an hour.” They pushed back their chairs and went to change into solemn looking black robes.
Thirty minutes later they were being ushered down a corridor of the Ministry of Magic. The renovations on the building were finally complete; everything had been returned to its former glory. Neville, Ron and Hermione gaped up at the giant statue of Dumbledore in the lobby.
“My goodness…” commented Hermione faintly, staring up into his marble eyes.
“It’s, er… big isn’t it…” said Ron lamely.
Mr. Weasley met them and hurried them down a wide, lamp lit corridor, showing them into yet another courtroom. Glancing around, Harry saw several familiar faces in the crowd; Tom from the Leaky Cauldron, Florean Fortescue, Mirabelle Emerald, whom he had purchased Ginny’s ring from, and several other shopkeepers whose names he did not know. He supposed that they had all been there at that New Years party when Mrs. Longbottom had been killed. To everyone’s surprise, Emily, Tonks’s cousin, was sitting next to Lupin in the spectator’s arena, in the special section reserved for the family of the victim. She gave them a shy wave as they picked their way through the benches towards her.
“E-Emily!” stammered Neville as she stood to greet them, “what, er – what are you doing here?”
She blushed, and said, “Hi Neville, hi everyone – I hope you don’t mind, but Tonks told me about the hearing, and I just wanted to show my support – you know – for my cousin – a-and you, of course…”
“Oh! Wow – that’s really nice of you – you didn’t have to…” Neville and Emily smiled nervously at each other, until Hermione cleared her throat and suggested that they all sit down. Ron and Harry exchanged knowing smirks, each earning a quick pinch from Hermione who shook her head warningly at them.
“Leave it …” she said dangerously.
Before they could retort, Rufus Scrimgeour and several Ministry flunkies entered the court and took their seats. Scrimgeour nodded to a guard who left, and returned with Carrow, manacled with heavy iron chains. His hair was filthy and matted and he wore faded grey robes. He was escorted up to a chair on a round stone dais in the centre of the room and pushed into it roughly, the guards adding more chains to his legs and neck. When he was quite secure, a court administrator read out the charges.
"Amycus Carrow, you stand charged with wilfully choosing the life of a Death Eater, deliberately evading arrest by order of the Ministry of Magic, and the murder of Mrs. Augusta Longbottom on December the thirty-first of last year. How do you plead?”
Carrow, who had so far shown no emotion whatsoever, shrugged one shoulder. “Guilty,” he muttered, staring at his shackled hands.
Glancing down, Harry saw that Neville’s hands were balled into fists so tight his knucklebones were visible through his skin and he was trembling with anger. He watched as Emily reached out hesitantly and placed her hand carefully on Neville’s. Neville looked up in surprise, staring at Emily who gave him a comforting smile. Harry was even more surprised when Neville unclenched his fist slowly and linked fingers with her. They did not make eye contact again, but held hands tightly throughout the rest of the trial.
One by one, the guests who had been at the party gave evidence. They all said the same thing; they had been enjoying a party to celebrate a successful New Year thanks to the defeat of Lord Voldemort when Carrow and the still unknown accomplice had burst in and begun firing hexes at people. Several wizards and witches, including Mrs. Longbottom, had bravely tried to fight them off, when she had been hit by the Avada Kedavra curse. The two Death Eaters had then used the ensuing distraction to steal several hundred Galleons from Tom’s cash register, and escaped. Next, the Ministry Auror’s, Tonks and Shacklebolt, plus two others Harry did not know, recounted how they had tracked down and eventually apprehended Carrow in France, though he still refused to reveal the identity of his co-conspirator. After consulting with the other wizards of the jury, Scrimgeour thanked everyone for their testimony and turned his lion-like gaze upon Carrow.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?”
Carrow shrugged insolently.
“Very well. Amycus Carrow, we hereby find you guilty as charged on all counts, and sentence you to life imprisonment in Azkaban.” As Carrow was led away, the crowd hissed at him, and some even shouted threats. The court administrator rapped his gavel smartly and attempted to dismiss people from the courtroom, but nobody paid him the slightest bit of attention. When Carrow and his guards finally made it to the exit, the huge oak doors swung open magically, closing quickly behind them. Several of the spectators turned their attention to Neville and Harry, offering condolences to Neville and pumping Harry for information about the capture of Pettigrew, but before they could even attempt to respond, Mr. Weasley, Tonks and Lupin had ushered them from the court. They waited in a small anteroom just off the main courtroom until the crowds had died down. After twenty minutes, Lupin popped his head into the hallway.
“Okay, the coast is clear.”
They exited the anteroom and made their way to the magical phone box. It was too small to accommodate everyone, so they took it in turns; Lupin, Mr. Weasley and Tonks, followed by Hermione, Ron and Emily. Harry and Neville hung back for a moment. They watched as the lift carried their friends up to street level.
“D’you remember the days when six of us could fit in that lift at the same time?” asked Neville with a small smile, referring to their fifth year when they’d rushed off to the Department of Mysteries.
“The good old days,” said Harry with a sigh.
“Things haven’t really changed that much, have they?”
Harry contemplated his friend for a moment, “No, not really.” After a long pause, Harry asked, “so… are you relieved that the trial’s over?” the phone box had descended again and they stepped inside.
Neville didn’t reply for the longest time, allowing the phone box to reach ground level before he answered.
“Well, it’s an ending…”
Harry pulled open the glass door. The sleet had stopped and bright sunshine shone down on the Muggle street. Hermione, Ron and Emily were a little way ahead. Harry and Neville followed.
“But what about Lucius Malfoy?” asked Neville, brow furrowing with worry.
Harry sighed. “I dunno. Hopefully the Ministry will catch up with him…” even as he spoke he knew it was highly unlikely. He stopped suddenly, and looked at Neville.
“There will always be evil in this world,” he said, squinting against the bright sunlight, “now we need to get on with our lives.” He looked at Emily, who, along with Hermione and Ron, had stopped and were waiting for them to catch up. “Aren’t you curious to see what might happen next?”
A grin spread slowly across Neville’s face. He glanced at Emily, who smiled back at him. “Yeah…” he said thoughtfully, “I suppose I am…”
And turning their backs on the Ministry of Magic, they hurried towards their friends.
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Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
~ Epilogue ~
In the year that followed their defeat of Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry, Ron, Hermione and Neville kept quietly to themselves. They were most comfortable in each other’s company, and had developed a special bond that outsiders could not really understand. The exception of course was Ginny, who was the only living soul outside of the foursome who knew every detail of that disturbing night. Luna Lovegood remained a close friend and Lupin, Tonks and the Weasleys’ were family, but there was a noticeable closeness between these four old friends. It soon became clear to Harry that being freed from his grandmother, no matter how painful it had been, had paved the way for Neville to become a man, and although he still had the same sweet, round face, his eyes had lost that innocent, sometimes naïve look, replaced instead by a wisdom that belied his young years. He was confident and self-assured, and when the day came that Harry decided to tell him the entire story behind the prophecy, Neville had listened calmly:
“… So you see, in a way, we both had the power to defeat Voldemort – me the first time and you the second – by stopping Lestrange, you stopped him…”
A few weeks later, they were enjoying breakfast together, when Dobby delivered the Daily Prophet. As usual, Hermione read out sections of interest, faltering over one item in particular:
“It says here that Amycus Carrow died mysteriously in Azkaban prison last night – the Ministry have no comment on how it happened, but an unofficial source claims that a bottle of wine was sent to Carrow the night before, which is thought to have contained poison…” she trailed off and looked around the table. No-one spoke for the longest time.
“Well,” she had said finally, “they really ought to be more careful about what they let in, don’t you think? Pass the butter please, Neville.”
The butter was passed and Amycus Carrow was never mentioned by any of them again.
Neville remained at Grimmauld Place for a year, and in that time, Emily Tonks became his girlfriend and then his fiancée. Together, they continued to run his shop in Diagon Alley, and he and Hermione helped Emily learn all she could about magical plants. It was hard to find a happier couple anywhere.
Hermione, still frustrated with the lot of house elves, determinedly pursued SPEW. After several attempts to raise money through campaigning however, she was nearly ready to throw in the towel. After quiet discussion one night, Harry, Ron and Neville came to her rescue: they sat her down and each donated their share of the Pettigrew reward to help her get started. She had burst into tears and smothered each of them with hugs and kisses, until they begged for mercy. She used the money to rent tiny premises on Diagon Alley and hired Winky to be her secretary. SPEW offered advice on employment, living conditions, pensions and healthcare to all house elves. Though the tiny SPEW offices drew amused looks from many older witches and wizards, it wasn’t long before timid elves were stopping by, encouraged by the sight of Winky sitting at the front desk, to ask for help with one thing or another. Not many wanted freedom, but there were other issues that could be addressed. Dobby was her number one spokes-elf, and together, they would visit large groups of elves, bringing awareness and support wherever they could.
She and Ron continued to bicker their way through their relationship, though it was quite plain to see that they were very much in love. Ron became the proud manager of Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes: Hogsmeade branch, and would often come home with purple hair, horns and other magical injuries from his forays into inventing his own joke products. His best invention so far was the Tentacular Spectacular, a fine green powder that caused the recipient to sprout tentacles that could last anywhere from a few hours to a week, depending on how much powder was used. It soon became the best-selling product they had. Fred and George were surprised but pleased with Ron’s unexpected flair for inventing, and under his watchful eye, the Hogsmeade shop flourished, fast becoming the favourite hangout for all the Hogwarts students.
Ginny, having done extremely well in her NEWT exams, (Professor McGonagall attributed this to the lack of Harry at school) chose to pursue her quiet ambition of becoming an Auror. As she entered the two-year training program, Rufus Scrimgeour was voted out of his position as Minister by a landslide, making way for Kingsley Shacklebolt to become the new and very popular Minister for Magic.
Harry also took and passed his NEWT exams that summer, gaining an Outstanding grade in Defence Against the Dark Arts and Charms, and, thanks to Neville’s help, an Exceeding in Herbology. He also achieved Exceeding in Potions, much to his surprise, as well as Transfiguration. He attributed his high marks to the fact that he had received individual tutoring from several of the Hogwarts Professors, and a great deal of help from Hermione and Lupin. Having gained the marks necessary for Auror training, the Ministry wrote to him, offering him a full scholarship, “in light of his services to wizard-kind”. He found it quite easy to write back and politely decline. He knew there was no way he could work for the Ministry after all that had happened, and only felt the tiniest pang of regret as he sent Hedwig off with his letter of reply. To his great surprise, he received another letter only a few days later. It was delivered by an enormous tawny owl, which sat and stared at him with unblinking yellow eyes before taking off with a hoot. Ginny, who was staying for the summer holidays watched with anticipation as Harry unfurled the scroll. It read:
I am delighted to inform you that you have been selected to tryout for this year’s England Quidditch team. As you may be aware, the Quidditch World Cup will take place in Ireland early next year. All applicants should send confirmation of attendance no later than the 31st of August.
Looking forward to seeing you there,
Department for Magical Sports & Games
Ministry of Magic
Harry had gaped at the letter until Ginny had tugged it from his hands. With a yelp of delight, she bounced around the kitchen, dancing a little jig with Dobby, while Harry stood rooted to the spot; he could not believe it! He had sent his reply back immediately and thrown himself into his training. In addition to gaining the position of Seeker on the England team, he also secured a place for himself on a brand new league team, the London Lightning Bolts. Together with his team mates, Harry helped secure his home squad a place in the top five, and dedicated himself to reaching the number one spot. It was still early days – he had plenty of time. He and Ginny discussed the large diamond ring he had promised her. She told him that she didn’t require such an extravagant gesture to prove their feelings. What with Auror preparation and Quidditch training, they decided that for now, they had everything they needed.
They continued to live at number twelve Grimmauld Place, and all in all, it was a very good year.
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Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
Re: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
The end! Hope everyone enjoyed the story! If you want head over to the feedback page and post your thoughts. I haven't talked to anyone about this in about five years so I'd love to know what people think now.
Feedback: Harry Potter and the Hellfire Potion
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Hornbeam & Dragon Heartstring, 11 1/2 in, Slightly Springy
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