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Fallen Angel



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Old December 25th, 2008, 4:48 am
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Re: Fallen Angel

A/N: Merry Christmas! I was threatened with pitchforks if I didn't deliver on time, and since I dislike nasty sharp weapons pointed in my direction, I've finished the next chapter.

Just a small reminder, since it’s only been mentioned once before, Louise was the name of Robert Avery’s older sister, who died near the end of the first war. That’s why she’s mentioned.

Hope you enjoy, and as a special Christmas bonus, first person to review gets a special present.

Chapter 59 – Corrupted

“KATHERINE!”

Robert stared dazedly at the scene before him, Severus’ tortured yell barely even registering in the surreal world he’d suddenly wandered into, because Katherine couldn’t be dead, she just couldn’t be. Katherine didn’t die – Fiona died, Evan died, Louise died, Regulus died, but Katherine didn’t. Love her or hate her she was always there, always.

“Expecto patronum,” he muttered, not even bothered to move his wand; it wouldn’t work. There were too many Dementors and Katherine was dead and his daughter’s screams were echoing in his head and Katherine was dead

Severus had fallen to the ground and was cradling her limp body in his arms, murmuring feverishly under his breath. Whether he was begging her to wake up or trying some spell to revive her, Robert couldn’t tell. It didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore. What was the point in fighting? They were all going to die, Katherine had just happened to be first. They should just give up now…

He shut his eyes, unable to watch his friend’s grief, and heard Bellatrix’s delighted voice.

“Did you love her, Snape?” She laughed cruelly, raising her wand and pointing it at Severus. “Do you want to die with her? Won’t that make a nice ending to the story? The tragic lovers die in each other’s arms? How very…Gryffindor.”

Robert’s eyes snapped open, glowering furiously at Bellatrix, burning rage surpassing all other emotions, but he’d barely drawn his wand when someone else broke through the crowd and stood between Severus and Bellatrix – Julian Lloyd. Bellatrix stared at him with contempt, and shook her head.

“Move out of the way, Lloyd.”

Julian’s hand moved so fast the Robert barely saw it, and Bellatrix yelled, left hand flying to her face to touch the gaping wound that had just appeared there.

“What the hell d’you think you’re doing?” she demanded, shock showing in her wide eyes.

“You killed her,” said Julian coldly, face set in hard lines. “You’re going to pay for that.”

Bellatrix lowered her hand slowly, gaze fixed on Julian and a curiously calm look in her eyes.

“You’re choosing her over me?”

“I was never yours,” said Julian, amber eyes void of any emotion.

“I looked after you,” said Bellatrix, an edge in her voice now. “You had no one and I looked out for you!”

“She’d already taught me to look after myself.”

“But she’s dead,” said Bellatrix, through gritted teeth, dark eyes sparking. “She’s dead, and you’re choosing her?”

Julian shrugged, an unhappy smile tugging on his lips. “No. She chose me. It’s not something I had any say in.” He grinned at the expression of fury on Bellatrix’s face. “Irritating, isn’t it? Knowing there are things out of your control?”

Bellatrix shot a hex at Julian, but he deflected it with a quick flick of his wand and smiled again.

“I always did wonder why she refused to call you by your proper name, but I finally figured it out. It’s because you couldn’t stop her doing it, isn’t it? Such a childish thing to do – call someone by a nickname just to annoy them, but she wasn’t allowed to do anything else to you, not with the Dark Lord around.” Julian’s mild expression switched abruptly into a scowl and his golden eyes narrowed in dislike. “Where’s your Master now, Trix?”

Bellatrix screamed and launched into a fierce duel with her young opponent, and Robert forced himself to move at last. He stumbled out of the crowd of horrified onlookers and fell to the earth next to Severus, who’d buried his head in Katherine’s dark, silky hair.

“Sev,” he said quietly, reaching out a hand to shake his friend’s shoulder. “Sev, we’ve got to move. Julian can’t hold her off for long.” Severus moaned quietly, tightening his grip on Katherine’s body, and Robert tried again, looking up at the swarming Dementors above them with fear in his eyes. “Severus? Come on, Sev, don’t do this to me. She wouldn’t want you to die too.”

“What do you care?” asked Severus furiously, his head snapping up, face drenched in tears. “This is what you wanted, right?”

Robert stared at him, unable to speak. What on earth was he going on about?

“She stopped because of you. She thought you hated her. She dropped her guard because she saw you,” hissed Severus, glowering at him.

“No…” Robert trailed off, the look on Katherine’s face just before Bella’s curse had hit replaying in his mind, the words trying to make their way past her lips. Sorry. She’d been trying to say sorry. “I didn’t…”

He looked down at Katherine’s pale face, wishing Severus’ words weren’t true. She looked so peaceful, almost as if she was asleep, but he knew she wasn’t going to wake up. She’d killed Regulus. Had he really killed her?

His hand closed tightly around his wand and stood up, turning to face Bella and Julian’s duel, intending to lend a hand, but he’d barely moved when he saw a flash of green light catch Julian in the shoulder and the younger man froze mid-spell, then toppled backwards onto the ground, an expression of acute surprise fixed on his face.

Robert stared at him for a moment, then raised his gaze to Bella’s smirking face.

“Are you next, then?” she asked, mad eyes gleaming with twisted pleasure. She flourished her wand, assuming a formal dueling pose and Robert was just about to respond when a thought occurred to him. He paused and looked down again at Julian’s body, and at the blank, staring eyes. That couldn’t be right… “Given up, have we?” asked Bella, and Robert looked back at her, trying to slow his thoughts down for long enough to think properly.

“Give up?” he repeated, staring blankly at her. “No.”

Bella sneered at him, treating him to a look of utter disdain. “You’re hardly worth fighting.”

Robert frowned a little, then smiled. “Ah yes, you would be under the illusion that I am - how did Greyback so eloquently put it? – ‘thick’.” Robert pocketed his wand and held up his hands in an apologetic manner, barely able to hear his own words above the thumping of his heart. “I’m sorry to say you were misinformed.”

“You put away your wand,” said Bella slowly, staring at him as though he’d just declared his faith in crumple-horned snorkacks.

“Yes, that would be because I know something that you don’t seem to have grasped,” said Robert, in the clear tone of voice he usually reserved for explaining to his young daughter why mummy’s moisturizing cream wasn’t good food for the neighbour’s cat.

“That you have a death wish?” asked Bella sarcastically.

“No,” said Robert, stepping back a little and trying not to think of the ridiculous odds involved in the risk he was taking, but then again, she’d never let him down before. Somewhere behind him the soft rustle of fabric on fabric made his heart skip a beat and he looked up at Bella, a dangerous grin spreading across his face. “Katherine Riddle has the luck of the devil.”

Bellatrix frowned and opened to her mouth to say something, but the words never made it out because it was at that moment that the curse hit her squarely in the middle of the chest.

Robert closed his eyes and took a deep breath in, then opened them and turned around. Bright blue eyes met his and Katherine smiled. “Nicely put.”

Robert made an inarticulate sound, and then his legs gave out. He sank to the ground next to her and reached out a hand to touch her pale face, as though to check she was really there, really alive. Severus, who’d been holding Katherine close, his eyes tightly shut, opened them and stared down at her in shock.

“Katherine?”

Katherine looked up at him and smiled. “Severus.”

“What the…? You can’t be… I don’t understand,” managed Severus, looking lost. “How did you do that?”

“We’ve got to move,” said Robert quietly. “It’s too dangerous here. Come on, into the trees.”

Severus ignored him, hands gripping onto Katherine’s arms so tightly that his knuckles were pure white. “You’re ok?”

“’Course,” grinned Katherine, reaching up a hand to stroke Severus’ cheek gently. “Don’t cry, Sev. I’m fine.”

“But she killed you!” exclaimed Severus, looking as though he wanted to shake her but not daring to. “Katherine, you were dead.”

“Move, now,” said Robert firmly, grasping Severus’ collar and hauling him to his feet. He pulled Katherine up with him, refusing to let go of her even for a second, and Robert hurriedly maneuvered them into the shelter of the dark trees, glancing behind to check they weren’t being followed.

“Katherine, what happened out there?” asked Severus again, gazing intently into her eyes as though he could will the information out of her.

“I don’t know – one minute we were dueling, then the Dementors arrived and…then Bella was threatening Robert, so I stole your wand and-” She mimed throwing a hex and smiled lopsidedly. “Where’s my wand? I couldn’t see it.”

Severus frowned, but Robert chipped in softly: “You dropped it when you fell. Won’t find it now.”

“Oh,” Katherine frowned, then shrugged. “Never mind.”

Severus cocked his head at her, a curious expression on his face. “‘Never mind’? We’re in the middle of a battle and you’ve lost your wand, and you’re saying ‘never mind’?”

“Yes. I’ve got everything I need right here,” said Katherine, smiling up at him and wrapping her arms around his neck.

“Kat, are you feeling ok?” asked Severus, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.

“Fantastic,” answered Katherine quietly, pressing her lips softly against his and pulling him closer. Severus made a half hearted attempt to push her away, then wondered why and dropped his grip on her left arm, slipping his hand round her waist instead.

“Did I miss something here?” asked Robert loudly, interrupting their kiss, and Katherine pulled back, staring at Robert with a puzzled look on her face. “When did you two…start doing that?”

Severus fought down the blood that threatened to rush to his cheeks and glanced at Katherine, only to see she was crying. “Kat…?”

“I’m sorry, Rob,” she whispered, tears sliding down her face. “I’m so sorry I lied about Regulus’ death. I should have told you, but I thought you’d hate me, and the only way to stop that would have been to tell you what he’d discovered, and I couldn’t do that to you - it’d have endangered you as well as Cass. I had to do it on my own.”

Robert leant back against the trunk of a tree and examined her closely. “Ok,” he said slowly, frowning a little. “Only, Kat, you did tell me what Regulus was up to. What the hell do you think we’ve been doing for the past year?”

Katherine opened her mouth to reply, then shut it again, looking confused. Severus glanced uncertainly at Robert, one arm still resting protectively around Katherine’s waist.

“Katherine?” prompted Robert, and she shook her head.

“I…I didn’t want you to hate me,” she repeated, though she sounded doubtful. “And I…I…I can’t remember.”

“You can’t remember?”

“There were other reasons, I’m sure there were,” said Katherine, frowning now. “You’d hate me, you’d tell everyone and… That’s not right, is it?” She shook her head and looked up at Robert with a puzzled expression on her face. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Severus smiled a little, and buried his head in Katherine’s soft hair.

“Kat, you haven’t made any sense for the past twenty years.”

Katherine gave him an unimpressed look, trying very hard not to smile. “Very funny, Sev.”

“It’s not funny, actually. It’s true,” said Robert quietly, and something in his tone made Katherine look up and pay attention. “You were messed up in school, in an incredibly complicated situation afterwards and then you went to Azkaban, where, ironically, you were probably the sanest you’ve been since you were a kid. And then you came out…” He sighed and looked apologetically up at his old friend. “We should have noticed.”

“Noticed what?” asked Katherine uneasily. “Robert, what-?”

“Sev just said it, didn’t he? You haven’t made any sense for ages, but we didn’t think that was odd because you’ve never been exactly normal, have you? Only you should have been thinking straight for the past year, Kat. None of the old reasons for being messed up apply anymore – we aren’t fighting a losing battle and everyone you care about is still as safe as they’ve ever been.”

“You think I didn’t care about Sirius?” interjected Katherine, scowling at him and holding up a hand to stop Severus from speaking. “I already told you I love you, Sev, so don’t even think about getting upset. I didn’t love him like I love you, but he was a big part of my life, ok?”

“See that is what I’m talking about!” said Robert, pointing a firm finger at her. “You’re being reasonable, Kat. You’re never reasonable! You fly off the handle and attack problems at two hundred miles an hour.”

“Robert, as delightful as your list of my imperfections is, I do have to ask one thing: what the hell is your point?” asked Katherine, arching her eyebrows and treating him to an impatient look.

“My point is that in the last two minutes you’ve gone through about seven different mood swings. Do you know why?”

“I have not,” scowled Katherine, arms crossed as she glared at him.

“And this would be anger?”

“Yes! Because you’re irritating me!”

“Katherine, what’s the most corrupted thing in England?” asked Robert quietly, dark eyes focused calmly on hers.

“What?”

“What’s the most corrupted thing in England?” repeated Robert. “It’s not a hard question, Kat. Twenty years ago you’d have answered without batting an eyelid.”

“Twenty years ago I would have said me,” said Katherine with a scowl. “But I don’t see what relevance that has to the current conversation.”

“You don’t?” asked Robert with a sour grin on his handsome face. “You were the one who told Potter they corrupted people.”

“I told Potter what corrupt people?” asked Katherine with a sigh, leaning her head on Severus’ shoulder.

“Horcruxes,” said Severus quietly, and Katherine glanced up at him, confusion etched in every feature.

“What?”

“Horcruxes corrupt people, Katherine,” said Severus softly, gazing down at her with the same look of apology in his eyes that she’d seen on Robert’s face only a few moments before. Katherine stepped away from him, tilting her head to eye him uncertainly, then looked over at Robert.

“Is this about what I said when I brought you Reg’s research? ‘Cause I wasn’t being serious, Rob – I never made a horcrux. Heaven knows my soul’s unstable enough as it is without splitting it in two.”

“It’s not your horcrux, Katherine,” said Severus gravely, reaching out turn her face towards him.

“I don’t have a horcrux!” exclaimed Katherine, knocking his hand away. “Don’t you think I would have noticed if there was a damn big chalice or something attached me? For a horcrux to affect something it’s got to be in constant proximity to the object and there’s nothing like that on me!”

“Bella hit you with Avada Kedavra, Katherine,” said Robert patiently, massaging the bridge of his nose with two long fingers. “Nothing stops AK except a life.” He dropped his hand to his side and smiled grimly at her. “You’re not dead, ergo it wasn’t your life she took.”

Katherine stared at him uncomprehendingly as Severus slid a comforting arm over her shoulder.

“Luck of the devil, Kat. All the places she could have hit and she goes for the blindingly obvious,” he said softly, placing his left hand over her heart. Katherine winced and tugged her shirt out of the way to inspect the skin in the center of her chest.

“What…?” She tore her gaze away from the black outline burned into her skin and stared beseechingly up at Severus. “You didn’t…?”

Severus shook his head and slipped a hand under Katherine’s collar, drawing out a glimmering silver chain. “I didn’t make a horcrux either, Kat. Why on earth would I want eternal life when you keep nearly dying? Think I could live without you here to make it bearable?”

Katherine said nothing, only gazed down at the gleaming pendant he’d given her so many years ago. The two snakes, previously intertwined, now hung separately, their emerald eyes split into tiny shards.

“There must have been some charm on-” she tried, but Severus shook his head, fingers curling over the broken pendant.

“I had made from scratch, Katherine. A goblin owed Lucius a favour and I wanted to get you something special. There weren’t any enchantments on it – it’s just a necklace. It was just a necklace. It was taken off you when you went to Azkaban, right? Well the next time it was seen was in Godric’s Hollow, the night after Voldemort killed the Potters. We thought he didn’t make a horcrux that night because he didn’t kill Harry, but any death will do; he must have created it when his curse rebounded. And then the necklace was lost…until you came back and tracked it down.” He sighed, watching Katherine’s intent expression. “Tell me, how long after you found the necklace again did you go to Robert for help? A month? Two? You’d been doing fine on your own up to that point, and suddenly you start thinking you can’t handle things. Do you see, Kat? Do you believe us?”

Katherine said nothing, just gazed up at him with large, blue eyes, and then smiled a little.

“You do realise I would have been happy with chocolate, right?”

“Excuse me?”

“For Christmas,” said Katherine, placing a warm hand on his cheek. “This thing must have cost you all your savings.”

“Well, Lucius chipped in a bit,” said Severus slowly. “Look, Kat, have you been listening to what we’ve been saying? That necklace is a horcrux - your father’s horcrux. It’s been poisoning you-”

Severus’ words were abruptly cut off as Katherine leant forward and kissed him fiercely on the lips. After a moment she pulled back, leaning her forehead against his and looking into his dark eyes.

“I love you, Severus. You know that, right? Corrupted, crazy, evil, whatever I am. I love you. I will always love you. No matter what.”

“I know,” said Severus quietly, trying to gauge this new, eerily calm Katherine. “I love you, too.”

Katherine smiled, then pulled away and looked at Robert. “I’m sorry I lied about Regulus’ death. We’ve been friends a long time and you deserved the truth.”

“And that would be?”

“He asked me to kill him. When Bella told me she’d been given orders to dispose of him, I went to see him right away. I don’t know if I thought I could save him or what, but he told me about the horcruxes and made me swear to bring Tom down, and then Bella arrived and it was too late…” She stopped, gazing at the earthy ground despondently. “He asked me to do it. How was I supposed to refuse him when I’ve seen how Bella kills?”

Katherine looked up and met Robert’s sad gaze. “You want forgiveness?” he asked.

“I want to know you understand.”

“I do,” said Robert quietly. “But if I say I don’t, will you stay?”

“Stay?” cut in Severus, looking suddenly alarmed. “What do you mean ‘stay’? She’s not going anywhere. Are you?” he asked, looking to Katherine for confirmation. Katherine smiled crookedly, and Severus thought he saw tears glistening in the corners of her eyes.

“Love you, Sev. Hate him more. Sorry.”

“You’re not going to- Katherine!” Severus lunged forward as Katherine vanished, and dug his hand into his pocket for his wand so he could disapparate and follow her.

“She took it,” said Robert quietly, his voice sounding loud in the clearing. Severus whirled around to face his old friend with a furious expression on his face.

“She’s gone to confront the Dark Lord.”

“Yep.”

“She’s going to get herself killed!”

“Doesn’t she always?”

“We’ve got to stop her. Come on!” Severus turned away and headed back through the trees towards the battlefield. Robert remained where he was a moment, resting his head back against the tree and gazing at the place where Katherine had disappeared, a puzzled expression on his face.

“Rob!”

“I’m coming,” said Robert softly, heading after his friend. He caught up with Severus on the fringe of the battle and gave him a wan grin. “Ever think she might not want our help this time?”

“Does she seriously think we’d give her the choice? I’m not losing her again, Rob.”

“Right then,” said Robert, summoning a wand from a nearby corpse and handing it to Severus. He grinned sourly, brown eyes dark. “Death or glory it is.”

--------------

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Last edited by Purple Banana; January 4th, 2009 at 7:20 pm.
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  #62  
Old September 10th, 2009, 6:25 pm
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
First Year
 
Joined: 4838 days
Location: Behind you
Age: 28
Posts: 48
Re: Fallen Angel

A/N: First off, a hundred thousand apologies for the loooooong wait you've had to endure for this chapter. At first I was busy, then I got ill, and then some stuff happened and I really wasn't in the right frame of mind to write, but after a lot of it's finally DONE.

Oh, and one last thing: I’m currently in the process of rewriting Carpe Diem and Fire Burns, and one element of the changes being made has cropped up here. Katherine’s muggle surname has changed from Aenigma to Archer.

Think that's everything.

Enjoy.

Chapter 60 – Death or glory

“You lose, Potter. Do you understand that?”

Harry squeezed his eyes tight and tried to block out the pain coursing through his body. He wouldn’t give in, he wouldn’t; he wasn’t dead yet.

“She betrayed you, Potter. Did you really think you could trust her?”

“She hates you,” Harry ground out through clenched teeth.

“That may be, but she’d never harm her own kin. You, on the other hand…” Harry exhaled sharply as the curse lifted and opened his eyes to meet Voldemort’s slitted gaze. “Son of a man who hated her, godson of a filthy blood traitor who caused her so much trouble…why would she ever help you? It was a trap, Potter, that’s all. A brilliantly executed trap.”

“She destroyed…she destroyed the locket,” Harry spat out, right hand frantically searching the rough grass for his wand. It had flown from his hand when Voldemort had knocked him down but it had to be close by. Accio wand, accio wand…

His hand paused as it met smooth leather and he turned his head sideways to see what he’d grabbed. It was a boot. Frowning, his gaze travelled up the black leather to a pair of faded jeans, a loose white shirt and a hollow blue eyed gaze.

“You?” he whispered, staring at Katherine’s vacant expression.

“Why do people bother?” Katherine’s voice was quiet, and could have been called calm if there had been any indication of emotion behind it.

“How did you get past the wards?” Voldemort demanded, stepping back from Harry and staring in disbelief at his daughter. Harry’s quick glance at the blurred wall of motion surrounding them confirmed this – the wards Voldemort had erected to imprison them remained in tact, and yet he’d claimed no one could get through…

“They must be broken,” said Katherine listlessly, expression not changing. Harry squinted up at her, wondering if she was even aware he was there.

They’re not broken”, hissed Voldemort, looking furious, and Harry saw Katherine’s lips curve into an unhappy smile.

“Then I must be.” Katherine lifted her head and looked at her father, blue eyes blank and lifeless. “You win. You got what you wanted. You broke me. Congratulations.”

Harry was vaguely aware of some activity outside the opaque wards - two dark shapes close up, huddled together. Were they trying to break the wards? Or reinforcing them? He didn’t know, and it was getting harder to care. They’d missed a horcrux – or if Voldemort was telling the truth, Katherine was hiding one.

Would she do that? She’d seemed genuine enough when she’d said she wanted to kill her father, and the locket…that had been pretty emphatically annihilated; she’d smashed it to pieces – if that wasn’t destroying a horcrux, he’d like to know what was.

He raised his head off the ground and tried to focus on Katherine. Whose side was she on? Remus had said they could trust her, but even he seemed doubtful sometimes. Right now Harry wasn’t sure she was even aware what she was doing; there was a glassy look in her eyes, like the one he’d seen when they’d gone after Hufflepuff’s cup and she’d seen the Inferi…

“What are you doing here?” asked Voldemort, raising his wand and pointing it at Katherine’s head. “Explain yourself.”

Katherine sighed and gazed up at the dark night sky. “You went to a Muggle school, right, Harry? They must have taught you Maths? Divide something seven times, how may pieces do you get?”

“What?” asked Harry, pushing himself up onto his elbows and frowning at her.

“Eight pieces, Harry. Eight, not seven. And if you divide something in half seven times the piece gets smaller and smaller each time.” She grinned lopsidedly, usually bright eyes oddly dull. “So if you get the seventh or eighth piece, the horcrux takes a bit longer to get a hold on it’s surroundings, the change is a bit slower, more gradual. Maybe you just think you’re going crazy again - after all, you’ve lost everything ever you cared about and there’s no point trying to get your friends back because they hate you and there’s a war on. People die in wars.”

Harry had no clue what she was going on about; she seemed to be rambling but Voldemort was rapt, words failing him as he stared at his daughter. His wand was still directed at her, but he was making no attempt to curse her, and Katherine was still grinning in that weird way.

“Not me though,” she said quietly. “I don’t die in wars. Ever wonder why that is? Kel always said it was luck, but I’m thinking…not. No one’s that lucky.” Katherine glanced down at Harry, a thoughtful expression on her face. “Except maybe you.”

“His luck’s just run out,” said Voldemort quietly, and because she had her head bent to look at him, only Harry saw Katherine wink then glance at her left foot, one eyebrow raised. Harry stared blankly back at her for a moment before she stepped over him and stood arms folded before her father. Harry rolled onto his side to look at them and it was then that he saw the wand tip protruding from the top of Katherine’s left boot.

“Not just yet,” Katherine said quietly. “I’ve had to put up with you since before he was born, and I’m not done yet.” Voldemort drew back his wand, eyes burning with rage, and Katherine laughed. “You’re not going to kill me. If you were, you would have done it by now.”

“Who said I was going to kill you? You’re the one who always said there were worst things,” hissed Voldemort, as behind Katherine Harry reached out an aching arm, eyes fixed on the polished wand just inches away from him.

“Yeah but if you want me dead so much, why d’you order everyone not to even attempt murder?” asked Katherine, and Harry paused, fingers closed around the wand tip, sure he couldn’t have heard that right. “When I came back last year you knew I wasn’t loyal to you anymore and yet you took me back. I admit, the enquiry about Cady’s ring was a nice touch – you actually had me thinking that maybe you had a heart for a while there.” Harry drew the wand out of Katherine’s boot and moved back very slowly, careful not to attract any attention with his movement. He needn’t have bothered – the whole of Voldemort’s attention was focused on his daughter. “But you never gave a toss about the ring, did you? You just saw that it wasn’t on my finger and you wanted to know what was on the chain. This chain.”

Katherine hooked a finger under the silver chain that disappeared into her shirt and smiled. “You know, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Bella’s been going a bit off the rails recently. I think she would’ve really benefitted from a little refresher course in why she shouldn’t attack the bosses’ daughter, because I’m afraid she did seem to be under the impression that it was still a matter of whether or not you could trust me...”

Katherine laughed darkly, fingers twining around the glimmering chain that hung from her neck. “I’m sorry to report that as my little stunt earlier made it abundantly clear that you can’t trust me one inch, Bella presumed all bets were off, and promptly decided to do what you never have.” She tugged sharply downwards and winced as the chain in her hand broke. “Bella’s dead.”

She held up her hand and let the broken pendant swing from her closed fist. “Now you’re mortal.”

“And you’re dead,” said Voldemort, voice seething with fury. Katherine shrugged, a meditative expression on her face.

“Yeah, but it was worth it.” She turned her head to look back at Harry and grinned, the usual sparkle in her eyes again. “Good luck, kid.”


Robert swore under his breath, fingers moving like lightening through different spells and enchantments.

“Hurry up,” pleaded Severus, trying to peer through the dark haze that surrounded Harry, Voldemort and presumably now Katherine too.

“Trying,” said Robert, face fixed in a scowl as he fought to break the wards. “These just…aren’t…shifting!” He sat back, hands clenched into fists, and took a deep breath. If he could just work out where they were cast from…

“Why have you stopped?” demanded Severus, glaring at him. Robert didn’t look up, still thinking; there had to be a weak spot somewhere, he just had to find it. “Robert! If Katherine got through, we must be able to!”

“Kat’s weird,” muttered Robert under his breath, moving his hand slowly across the wards. “When it comes to wards, normal rules don’t seem to apply to her.”

Severus glared at him, and opening his mouth to say something, but Robert held up a hand to stop his remonstrations. “I think…yes…just here…”

Severus scowled and turned his attention back to the shady figures within the wards, trying to work out what was going on. A pale figure – Katherine? – stood between the other two, but he couldn’t tell who was in control.

By his side, Robert let out a hiss of satisfaction and, just as Severus glanced down, the wards vanished. Severus’ gaze immediately flew up to the scene before him and his heart stopped; Katherine stood before the Dark Lord, whose wand arm was drawn back ready to curse, with an expression of utter calm on her face.

For a moment, Severus couldn’t move, acutely aware that the only thing stopping the Dark Lord from killing his daughter was his surprise at the sudden disappearance of the wards. Robert rose slowly to his feet, brown eyes darting nervously between the three figures in front of them. So they’d found Katherine – now what?

“You?” It was the Dark Lord who spoke, staring in outright amazement at his two followers, both of whom looked rather the worse for wear. “You broke my wards?”

Robert said nothing, feeling suddenly very exposed. Unlike Severus, he’d never been in close proximity with their Lord and Master for very long; a reputation as the organisation’s resident dunce tended to mean you were largely left alone, save for meetings, where there were always plenty of other people in attendance.

“Katherine,” said Severus quietly, breaking the silence, his dark eyes focused solely on her now. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Severus…” Katherine managed, blue eyes pleading.

“I already told you I’m not living without you anymore,” ground out Severus, almost glaring at her.

Robert inhaled sharply as he saw the Dark Lord’s look of mild confusion turn to sudden horrified realisation.

“Sev,” he murmured, unable to take his off the Dark Lord’s furious expression. “I really think-”

But Severus wasn’t listening – he was striding forward to grab Katherine’s arm, turning her to look at him. “I let Bella hurt you - I’m not letting anyone else even try, ever.”

“Ever is a long time,” said a cold voice, and the two turned their heads to see Voldemort directing his wand at Severus now. “How about: ‘until the end of your life’?” He smiled, a cruel expression on his lips, and his slitted scarlet eyes burned with rage. “I’m very disappointed in you, Severus. You could have been great, and you choose…this.”

“I choose her,” said Severus quietly, raising his chin and slipping his hand into Katherine’s.

“You choose a woman over power – glory?”

“Her,” said Severus again, black eyes filled with hatred. “Her over you. Every time.”

“I thought I taught you better, Severus,” said Voldemort with a sigh. “It would appear not.”

Robert, who had remained fixed where he was during this exchange, found his attention drawn to a familiar figure standing on the opposite side of the clearing, among the quickly forming crowd. His dark red hair was sticking up at all angles and there was a combination of blood and mud on his face and hands, but there was no mistaking James McKenzie anywhere. Right now, his old dorm mate was staring in blatant, gaping, disbelief at Katherine and Severus’ joined hands. Robert rolled his eyes as his subtle attempts to catch James’ attention failed – no help was going to be forthcoming from that quarter, apparently.

Voldemort drew back his wand once more, and Robert made to move forward, unsure what would be achieved even if he could stall the Dark Lord a little more, aside from adding one more body to the ever rising death toll, but then something so completely ridiculous happened that he stopped in his tracks.

Just as the Dark Lord was on the point of opening his mouth to curse Severus, a white object came flying out of the crowd now gathered around them, and hit him squarely in the back of the head. Robert followed the shape with his eyes as it rebounded and fell to the ground, rolling over a few times before coming a halt. It was a shoe, or to be more precise, a white, slightly tattered, trainer.

Robert stared at it, then slowly traced it’s path back to the crowd where Faye Belle stood, breathing heavily, one foot bearing the twin of the shoe now lying a few feet from him, the other a black sock embroidered with pink stars. The Dark Lord had turned, too, and was now glowering at his, apparently not-quite-as-dead-as-previously-suspected, niece. Across from Robert, James’ attention had finally been dragged away from Severus and Katherine’s intertwined hands and he was now looking on in horror as Faye stared up at her uncle, green eyes wide with fear.

James looked around desperately and his eyes met Robert’s. Robert looked quickly at Katherine, who had stepped forward, one hand outstretched towards her cousin, and made up his mind. He looked back at James and pointed to him, then to Faye, before jerking his thumb over his shoulder, his meaning clear – get Faye out of here. James nodded, face pale but determined, and slunk back into the crowd, moving silently around the circle to reach the blonde.

Robert took a deep breath, steeling himself, then yelled: “HEY TOM!”

Momentarily confused, Voldemort turned his head to stare at him, and James took the distraction to grab a startled Faye, who screamed as he looped an arm around her waist and dragged her backwards. Voldemort’s head whipped back around, only to find an already closing gap in the tightly packed crowd. Robert looked desperately towards Severus and Katherine, the latter of whom was frowning slightly at him, a whisper of a bemused smile on her lips.

Robert raised his eyebrows, wondering why his friends’ sudden decision to be noble had apparently rid them of their common sense. Katherine’s frown deepened at his expression, then as Voldemort started to turn back around she finally caught on and tugged Severus away, breaking into a run as he found his feet.

Robert cast a final glance at Potter, who was on his feet now, borrowed wand in hand, then took to his heels as well.

Cowardice it may have been, but Robert had never been particularly bothered about what other people thought of him, and right now the only thing he did care about was surviving.


It didn’t take long for Robert to find Katherine and Severus. They were on the other side of the clearing, just on the outskirts of the trees. Severus had his arm around Katherine’s shoulders and was saying something to her upturned face. Robert smiled faintly, and tried to push the thought of Cassandra out of his mind; he’d never get to see her again – never hold her like that, or watch Katy growing up.

He walked forward, twigs snapping beneath his feet, and Severus looked up.

“You alright?” he asked, and Robert nodded.

“Saved our skins, you did,” smiled Katherine, resting her head on Severus’ shoulder. “Thanks.”

“Don’t mention it,” shrugged Robert, leaning against a tree and closing his eyes. May as well enjoy the feeling of fresh air and freedom while he could. “You’ve saved mine enough times.”

“Well thank you anyway, because you know you didn’t have to,” said Katherine quietly, watching him closely.

“I just thought that since you two were acting so very Gryffindor, I might give it a go too,” said Robert, opening one light brown eye to gaze back at her.

“What did you think of it?” asked Severus, with a slight grin on his thin lips.

“Not much – I think I’ll stick to self-preservation, if it’s all the same to you.”

“Fair enough,” said Katherine quietly. “It’s worked well enough so far.”

Robert meet her gaze, and smiled tiredly. “End of the line, now though, huh?”

“Pretty much,” agreed Katherine, resting her head on Severus’ shoulder.

“So you gonna tell us then?” asked Robert, sinking to the ground opposite them and gazing coolly at his old friends.

“Tell you what?”

“How you got out of Azkaban,” said Robert, running a dirty hand through sweat streaked blond locks. “Either Potter or the Dark Lord is going to be dead pretty soon, so this is the last time we’re gonna be able to speak freely. I mean, it’s death or Azkaban, isn’t it, and though I’m not entirely sure which appeals to me more right now, either way we’re screwed.” He exhaled tiredly and glanced up at her from under dark lashes. “Unless you happen to have some miraculous Plan B to get us all out of here?”

Katherine shook her head, looking sombre. “Sorry – was pretty much banking on Plan A working out.”

“What was Plan A?” asked Severus, frowning down at her.

“Dying,” said Katherine shortly. “Didn’t really think I’d need an alternative this time. Number of enemies I’ve got, I was sure one of them would oblige.”

“Didn’t think of an escape for us then?” inquired Robert, and though he said it gently, there was more than a slight hint of accusation in his voice.

“Well I wasn’t about to die if you still needed protecting,” said Katherine with a sigh, rubbing the bridge of her nose as though trying to ward off a headache.

“So you thought we’d die as well,” remarked Robert, looking up at the stars with an irritated expression. “Nice to know you think about these things.”

“Rob-” started Severus quietly, but Robert looked down sharply and glared at him.

Don’t Severus. Don’t pretend you know how I’m feeling – I’ve got a wife and daughter who I’ll never see again. Cass knew what she was getting into when she married me, but Katy - she’s going to grow up without a father, and when she gets to school she’ll be surrounded by classmates who are missing parents that we killed. I’ve ruined her life – my own daughter.” He stopped, dropping his gaze and drawing in a shaky breath. He was vaguely aware that he’d been shouting, but he didn’t care; he couldn’t feel anything at that moment but the furious anger burning inside him and his own self loathing.

Suddenly there was an arm around his shoulder and he jerked his head up to see the blurred face of Katherine just inches from his own. He blinked a couple of times and her face came into focus, familiar blue eyes framed by dark lashes that seemed slightly damp.

“Ever wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t joined?” he asked, almost in a whisper.

“Sometimes,” admitted Katherine with a heavy sigh. “But we did, and unfortunately you only get one life, so I don’t make a habit of regretting things if I can help it. Who knows, maybe there’s an alternate world where Robert Avery is a core member of the Order of the Phoenix, and Katherine Riddle remained plain old Katherine Archer, and grew up to marry a nice Ravenclaw and settled down and never had any adventures.” She grinned, a little sadly, and shrugged at his sceptical expression. “I said maybe.”

“Personally, I prefer this Katherine Riddle,” said Severus, casting a glance towards the throng of people that had formed on the battlefield.

“Me too,” agreed Katherine, resting her head on Robert’s shoulder and turning her gaze up towards Severus. “Much more exciting.”

“She’s not married to a Ravenclaw in this scenario, either,” said Robert, giving Severus’ back an amused look. Severus frowned, but did not turn around; Robert grinned and nudged Katherine. “So, what one did you have in mind? If you could have another life, which Ravenclaw was it that caught your eye?”

Katherine smiled and opened her mouth to answer, but paused just before she did so, eyebrows drawing together in a frown. Robert saw her mouth something to herself, still frowning, apparently deep in thought. Severus turned around at her silence and looked questioningly down at the two of them.

“Katherine?” he ventured uncertainly, taking a hesitant step forward. Katherine looked up and stared at him for a second before breaking into a huge grin. “What?” he asked, unnerved at her sudden change in mood. “What are you so happy about?”

“I got it wrong,” she said simply, leaning back against the tree trunk behind her and looking nothing short of relieved. “Rob, have I ever told how completely brilliant you are?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” said Robert slowly, looking rather bemused. “You got what wrong, Kat?”

Katherine sat up and started to speak when the sound of approaching footsteps distracted her, and she turned to see two shadowy figures moving through the trees. Severus drew his wand but lowered it when a shaft of moonlight illuminated long blonde hair and Faye broke into a run as she saw them.

There you are,” she exclaimed, falling to the ground in front of her cousin and pulling her into a hug. “We didn’t know if you’d got away, and Jamie wouldn’t let me go back,” she explained, casting an irritated look at the ruby haired man who’d been following her, at the same time as Katherine smiled gratefully at him. “But you’re ok – you are ok, aren’t you?” she demanded, holding Katherine at arm’s length and peering at her intently.

“I’m fine,” assured Katherine, gently extracting herself from Faye’s grasp.

“Good.” Faye glanced at Robert and Severus and nodded to them. “Hello.”

Severus raised a hand in greeting, but Robert just said quietly: “Nice socks.”

Faye flushed pink and Katherine stifled another laugh. “A shoe, Faye? Seriously?” she asked, blue eyes dancing with amusement.

“I panicked, ok?” Faye said hotly, glaring at her cousin.

“And forgot your wand?” asked Severus, watching Faye with a certain amount of curiosity. “You are a witch, are you not?”

“So? Sometimes hexes just aren’t enough,” said Faye stubbornly. “Haven’t you ever been so angry you just want to hit someone over the head with the closest thing to hand? Like a book, or a plate, or a-”

“Fencepost?” offered Katherine, earning herself four very odd glances.

“You’ve hit someone over the head with a fencepost?” asked James McKenzie, staring at her in disbelief.

“I might have done,” replied Katherine, looking a little uneasy at the sudden attention.

“When?” he demanded, tilting his head to look at her, as though that might make her appear less crazy.

“Um, seventh year?” said Katherine, looking very much as though she wished she hadn’t brought it up.

“You really were mental, weren’t you,” said Robert, raising his eyebrows, not sure whether he should be amused or worried.

“Little bit,” agreed Katherine, catching his eye and smiling ruefully.

“Well some of us have more self control than that,” said Severus calmly.

“So it was another Severus Snape who gave Evan Rosier concussion, was it?” asked Katherine with an inquiring smile.

“You know, sometimes you have an inconveniently good memory,” Severus said quietly, looking darkly at her. Katherine just smiled, and shrugged.

“So, what are you going to do now?” asked Faye, brushing fine blonde hair out of her eyes and watching Katherine closely in the pale light. “And…is that a feather in your hair?”

“What?” Katherine reached up a hand and found the feather Archimedes had dropped was indeed tangled in her dark hair. She combed through it with her fingers and extracted the glossy feather easily. “Apparently yes, in answer your second question,” she said, twirling the feather in her fingers. “And – depends on who wins, in answer to the first.”

“Harry’s going to win,” said Faye firmly, and Katherine glanced up from the feather to smile at the conviction in her voice.

“In that case, I rather think I’m going back to prison,” she said gently, an odd look on her face.

“But you can’t!” exclaimed Faye, staring at her, wide eyed. “You’ve been helping Harry! They can’t send you to Azkaban after that.”

“Ah,” said Katherine quietly, sharing a quick look with Robert. “You see, the thing is we didn’t think mentioning that little bit of information would be particularly beneficial to anyone, really, so-”

“Beneficial?” repeated Faye, aghast. “It might save you from Azkaban!”

“And it might not,” said Robert calmly. “However it will damage Potter’s currently spotless reputation and seriously misrepresent us. We didn’t do it to save the wizarding world, we did it because it what was best for us.”

“You’re saying you helped defeat Voldemort just so you could go to Azkaban?” asked Faye sceptically, looking at him in frank disbelief.

“I did it so my daughter had a chance of growing up safe,” said Robert quietly. “Kat did it to protect you and Remus, and, if haven’t worked it out by now, Severus joined the Order so he could take down the man he held responsible the woman he loved’s death.” He stopped, casting a sideways glance at Katherine. “Even if she did turn out to be not quite as dead as everyone thought.” Katherine grinned ruefully, and looked up at Severus, whose dark eyes fixed on her own. “So yes, we did it for ourselves, and now we’ll take the punishment we deserve. It’s not exactly as though we’ve been saints, is it?”

“You could still run,” said Faye, in a subdued voice, though her green eyes were clouded slightly with what were probably tears.

“No, we couldn’t,” said Robert firmly. “The Aurors would find us, and in any case, I’m not putting Cass through that.”

“And Mum gave me up so I wouldn’t have to spend my life running,” added Katherine, pushing herself to her feet and going to stand next to Severus. “I’m not going anywhere.” She buried her head in Severus’ shoulder, and he put his arm around her gently.

“So that’s it? You’re just giving up?” demanded Faye, looking imploringly at Katherine’s turned back.

“Not running when we’ve got the chance is probably about the only honourable thing we can do right now,” said a soft voice, and Faye whirled around to see James McKenzie looking soberly at her. “Come to think of it, it’ll probably be one of the only honourable things I’ve ever done.”

“So you’re being stupid, too, are you?” asked Faye, glaring at him.

“Alex is dead. She was the last bit of family I had. I haven’t got anything left worth staying around for,” said James dully, shrugging. Faye looked as if she was about to hit him for a moment, then opened her mouth to yell instead, but the words had barely formed in her throat when James fell to his knees, his own mouth open in a scream, clutching desperately at his left arm.

Horrified, Faye looked to the others for help and saw immediately that all of them were in the exact same position. Robert, already sitting on the floor, was bent double over his arm, his violent swearing mercifully muffled, while Katherine and Severus had half sunk to the ground, still clutching onto each other, though both had gone very pale.

Faye stood frozen between them, unsure who to go to, and doubting she could help at all even if she did. Just as she had taken one hesitant step towards James, he stopped yelling, sagging to the ground, hand slipping away from his left forearm as he collapsed onto the cold ground. Faye stared at the tattoo emblazoned there, the black skull and snake contrasting sharply with James’ suddenly sheet white skin. The Dark Mark, and it had been burning, but did that mean Voldemort was gone, or…?

She turned and saw Katherine sitting in Severus’ arms, head resting gently against his chest as he stroked her hair.

“Katherine?”

Slowly, Katherine turned her head to focus on Faye, brushing the beginnings of tears away with her right hand.

“What happened?” asked Faye, staring at her fearfully.

“He won,” said Katherine softly, turning back to bury her head in Severus’ chest again.

“Who won? Katherine?”

Katherine said nothing, but held up one finger, pressing it to her lips and looking sideways at her cousin. Faye frowned in confusion, but stopped talking, and, in the sudden quiet, heard, in the distance, just beyond the trees that hid them from view, cheering.

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  #63  
Old March 30th, 2010, 9:03 pm
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Re: Fallen Angel

A/N: I know, I know, I haven’t updated in months but I’ve been kinda swamped with work and lack of inspiration. This was originally intended to be longer, but since it ended up quite a lengthy chapter anyway and people wanted an update, I decided to split it. Hope you like it.

Chapter 61 – Loophole

Gabriel Taylor stepped out of the lift on level nine of the Ministry of Magic, and headed towards the staircase that would take him down to level ten, readjusting his hold on the file of papers in his arms. It had taken all of his charm and skill, as well as a considerable amount of bribery, to pull together the paperwork he had clutched to his chest, and he wasn’t about let it go now.

He reached the polished oak door and pushed it open with his shoulder, ignoring the Aurors and other Ministry officials bustling past, shouting news and orders to each other. The room he’d entered was usually used as an office for one of the secretaries of the Wizengamot, but he’d slipped the wizard at the Help Desk a few galleons and received the key in return.

Now he strode over to the desk, placed the folder carefully down on it and turned to look at the room’s only other occupant. He was sitting warily in one of the plush chairs in front of the desk and eyeing Gabriel with distinct unease. Gabriel looked back with a carefully polite expression, though he cringed internally at the state of the man.

The robes he wore were spattered with mud and something darker, which Gabriel very much suspected was blood – the man had just come from a battle after all – but that wasn’t what made Gabriel hesitate before holding out his hand. It was the fact that under all the muck, the robes were still shabby – patched and frayed, the kind of clothes that any wizard with an ounce of self respect would have thrown in the fire years ago. Running his gaze over the man’s face, Gabriel saw that the robes’ owner wasn’t in much better condition himself – light brown eyes watched him shrewdly from a scarred face, topped by greying hair that he supposed must once have been sandy brown in colour.

“Gabriel Taylor,” he said briskly, as the man rose to shake the proffered hand. “And you must be Remus Lupin.”

Lupin nodded, sitting back in his chair as Gabriel sank into the one on the other side of the desk and opened the folder.

“Well you know why you’re here-” Gabriel began, pulling out papers and spreading them on the desk before him. “-and so I’m sure you’ll appreciate-” He stopped, looking up at Lupin in surprise. “What was that?”

“I said, ‘no, I don’t’,” repeated Lupin, in the same soft voice he’d used before. “I don’t know why I’m here. I was helping get the wounded to Saint Mungo’s when I received an urgent message from the Ministry demanding my immediate presence; it offered no explanation for the summons, and I really don’t see what can be so important. People are in dire need of medical attention and you’ve pulled me in here to look at…paperwork?” Lupin’s light brown eyes were angry now, and Gabriel made a slight reassessment of the man; after all, if her was friends with her…

“I’m really very sorry for interruption,” he said carefully, resting his elbows on the dark mahogany desk and placing his hands together. “But my client was painfully clear on the matter. It is of the utmost importance that this paperwork is dealt with now.”

“Your client?” asked Lupin, confusion breaking through his irritation.

“Yes, a friend of yours, I believe,” replied Gabriel, picking up a sheet of parchment and reading the name aloud, not that he needed the thick black letters to remind him – this was one client he’d never forget. “Miss Katherine Arcadia Riddle.”

“You’re Katherine’s lawyer?” asked Lupin, raising his eyebrows in surprise. He shook his head, and smiled wanly. “How much did you get for it?”

“Get for what?” asked Gabriel, momentarily disconcerted by the odd question.

“Your soul,” said Lupin grimly, relaxing back into his chair. “Is the going rate still thirty pieces of silver?”

“Oh yes, very amusing,” said Gabriel, with an insincere smile. “And no, Mr Lupin, these days thirty pieces of silver would not get you much more than preliminary consultation with me, let alone my soul, as you put it. But I am at a loss, I was given to understand that you and my client were friends?”

Lupin shrugged, rubbing a tired hand over his face. “We are, but that doesn’t change the fact that anyone who could even think about defending her now has got to be a complete *******.” He peered at Gabriel from between dirty fingers and smiled sourly. “I would say ‘no offence meant’, but I wouldn’t mean it. Besides, you and I both know it’s why she picked you.”

Gabriel smiled thinly, and examined Lupin over steepled fingers. “I think there has been a slight misunderstanding, Mr Lupin. I am not here to defend Miss Riddle – indeed, she fully intends to plead guilty, so there would be very little point – I am here to represent you.” He paused to watch this sink in, and then gave a brisk little smile and waved a hand. “In a manner of speaking, at least.”

He had Lupin’s full attention now, and he sat up a little straighter, selecting a few pages from the various piles before him and placing them in front of Lupin. He saw the light brown eyes skim over the writing and look up again in confusion.

“14 Beaumont Street, Wimbledon; 56 North Avenue, Redland; 7a Faraday Street, Romford – what on earth has this got to do with Katherine?” asked Lupin blankly.

“You don’t know?” asked Gabriel in genuine surprise; Katherine had said Lupin was her oldest friend, but from what he could make out, the man didn’t seem to know very much about her.

“No, I bloody don’t,” snapped Lupin, anger returning as he looked down at the papers again. “I’ve never even heard of most of these towns - South Ockendon, Tiptree, Lynstead – wait, Lynstead?” He glanced up, frowning now. “12 Claringdon Road. That’s Katherine’s old house.”

“They’re all hers, actually,” said Gabriel, casting a quick glance at his watch and smiling briefly.

“Katherine owns eight houses?” asked Lupin, one eyebrow quirked in an expression that seemed torn between disbelief and amusement.

“My client has, over the course of her life, acquired a number of properties, yes,” said Gabriel carefully.

“When you say acquired,” began Lupin, and Gabriel held up a hand to stop him.

“My client has assured me that there is nothing to link these properties to anything untoward, her ownership of them aside. That goes for everything detailed here, in fact,” he added, waving a hand at the desk of papers. “She intends to keep all less reputable assets in her own name, but the rest you can do with as you wish.” Gabriel smiled, resting folded arms on the desk and looking expectantly at Lupin, who stared back blankly.

“As I wish?” asked Lupin, brow creased in confusion. “I’m sorry, what’s it got to do with me?”

“They’re yours,” said Gabriel simply, pulling another document from the folder before him. “Or they will be, as soon as you sign this.”

“Katherine’s giving me eight houses,” said Lupin blankly as Gabriel slid the document towards him.

“Well, not all eight,” said Gabriel, selecting another sheet of paper and skimming through it. “The one in Wimbledon she’s giving to a Mrs Ophelia Corbelle née Lloyd.”

“Right,” said Lupin, and it seemed to Gabriel that he sounded a little odd. “Just the seven houses, then.”

“Yes,” said Gabriel slowly, leaning back into the plush leather upholstery of his chair and considering Lupin. “And the rest.”

Lupin, who’d been resting his head in his hands, looked up sharply. “The rest?”

“My client has a number of assets – I haven’t been able to get a full a valuation of everything yet, but from what I’ve been told, they should fetch a considerable sum. And of course, there’s the money from her bank accounts, which currently stands at-” Gabriel hesitated, sifting through a few papers as Lupin sat staring at him in bewilderment.

“Bank accounts? She’s got more than one?” Lupin asked, then shook his head and laughed dryly. “What am I saying, of course she’s got more than one. I don’t suppose she’s bothered to pay her taxes, either, has she?”

Gabriel eyed Lupin curiously, then returned to searching through the papers. “I don’t believe the residents of Azkaban are required to pay taxes, actually,” he observed, eyes coming to rest on the figure he’d been searching for. “Two and half.”

“Two and a half?” repeated Lupin, confused. “She’s only got two and half thousand galleons left?”

“Sorry?” asked Gabriel, momentarily baffled.

“From her inheritance – her parents left her all their money when they died,” prompted Lupin.

Gabriel tilted his head slightly, giving Lupin a curious look. “I am aware of that, Mr Lupin, but I think you may have misunderstood me. Allow me to clarify – Miss Riddle’s funds currently amount to roughly two and half million galleons.”

Lupin was silent for a long moment, face frozen in an expression of mild bemusement, then he shook his head, a slight laugh in his voice. “Katherine doesn’t have that sort of money.”

“She bought you a flat in Mayfair when she was eighteen,” said Gabriel, brushing an imaginary piece of lint off his crisp robes.

“Yeah, but that was her inheritance money,” said Lupin, pushing a frustrated hand through grey streaked hair. “Like I said, she got money when her parents died – they left her everything, but there’s no way they had that much. And I know her job paid well, but she was only there for three years, and that’s…that’s just ridiculous.”

Gabriel was quiet for a moment, surveying Lupin with shrew grey eyes. “As I understand it, my client’s, shall we say ‘extracurricular activities’, attracted a certain kind of generosity from a certain kind of people.” Gabriel smiled at Lupin’s nonplussed expression, and explained: “All political movements have supporters, and sometimes those supporters who cannot only show their endorsement publicly, wish to help in other ways.”

“People gave her money?” asked Lupin, catching on. “Why?”

“Well as I said-”

“No, I mean why her,” cut in Lupin. “Why not donate straight to Voldemort?”

Gabriel arched an eyebrow, shuffling papers absently. “Because bank transfers can be traced, Mr Lupin. The Ministry may have had Miss Riddle under surveillance but they had no proof of any wrong doing. Besides, as I understand it, she was only one of the recipients of these…donations.”

“There were others?” asked Lupin, rubbing a hand over his sweat marked brow. He paused, directing a sharp look at Gabriel. “Lucius Malfoy wouldn’t be one these recipients would he?”

“I’m afraid my client didn’t mention names.”

“No, I don’t suppose she would have,” muttered Lupin. “Loyal in all the wrong ways, that woman. But look, the Ministry seized all her assets when she went to Azkaban – I know because Mad-Eye asked me if I knew what she’d done with all her money. She’d cleared it all out a week before she was arrested and they couldn’t find where it’d gone.”

Gabriel allowed himself a slight smile, and inclined his head in a nod. “That is because she knew that as soon as she was charged with anything the Ministry would take control of everything she owned, and she was somewhat reluctant to let that happen. As such, by the time Miss Riddle was arrested, the only assets which I am given to understand could be attributed to her, amounted a Gringotts account, containing thirty four galleons, five sickles and two knuts, a bedsit in Basildon and a year long subscription to the Daily Prophet.”

“And yet you say she’s got two million galleons sitting in a bank account that no one knows about?”

“Multiple bank accounts, Mr Lupin,” corrected Gabriel, gently. “You see, Miss Riddle did not like her name very much, and rarely used it. The estate which Miss Riddle wishes to entail to you comes courtesy of a Miss Bane, a Miss Babel and a Miss Moony, amongst others.”

“Miss-” began Lupin, a peculiar expression gracing his face, then he shook his head. “Right, but the Ministry – if you’re doing this in Katherine’s name, they have to realise that all this stuff her property, right?”

“They do,” agreed Gabriel, narrowing his slate coloured eyes and folding his hands on the desk in front of him. “Which is why I need a signature now, Mr Lupin, before she is charged.”

“But she’s already charged!” insisted Lupin, pushing a frustrated hand through grey streaked hair. “You don’t have to re-charge someone when they’re recaptured – you just send them back to prison.”

“In normal circumstances, yes,” said Gabriel carefully. “But you see, your friend Miss Riddle really is very clever.”

“She found a loophole, did she?” asked Lupin, arching an eyebrow in a way that made it clear that this news did not come as a surprise to him. “Well come on then, what is it?”

“She died, Mr Lupin,” said Gabriel simply. “And as the law currently stands, if someone dies and is subsequently resurrected, their criminal record is wiped clean. The record of previous crimes is kept, of course, but they cannot be held accountable for them. The legislation was originally put in place to cover humans who were made into vampires and such, as it was decided that undergoing a transformation that effectively killed the victim, meant that whatever rose up was a new life, as it were, and entitled to a fresh start. I do not suppose that the Wizengamot that sanctioned the law ever expected it to be used by someone such as your friend, but the wording is just vague enough that it can be.”

“But Katherine didn’t actually die,” said Lupin incredulously, staring at Gabriel in outright disbelief.

“Oh but she did, Mr Lupin. You yourself identified the body, as did the Minister of Magic, the arresting Auror and no less than three independent healers. She was dead, Mr Lupin - the Dementors were sure of that, and they are not easy creatures to fool.”

“Yes, but she did faked it, didn’t she?” demanded Lupin, looking at Gabriel for support, but he only shrugged.

“If she did, she did it very well.”

“Yeah well, like you said, she’s clever,” said Lupin, although it didn’t sound much like a compliment to Gabriel. He was silent for a moment, and when he met Gabriel’s gaze again, his eyes were accusing. “How long has she been planning this? I mean she must have known about this loophole before she went to Azkaban, right? That’s why she did it, isn’t it? To get immunity, start over? I mean, I know she’s going back to prison now, but that’s only because she’s admitting to crimes, right? If she didn’t, I’m betting there wouldn’t be a lot of evidence to make any charge stick.”

“No, there isn’t,” said Gabriel, not quite managing to keep the disappointment out of his voice. He’d spent a good quarter of an hour trying to persuade Katherine to let him defend her, but she’d only laughed and doubled his fee. “But like I said, she’s pleading guilty – said it was the only way.”

“The only way to what?”

“I don’t know,” shrugged Gabriel, doubting it would be entirely prudently to express his reservations over his client’s sanity. He cast an anxious glance at his watch. “We really are running out of time, Mr Lupin.”

“I don’t care. I don’t want it.”

Gabriel stared at him in outright disbelief. “Excuse me?”

“I don’t want her money. I’m not a charity case,” said Lupin stiffly through gritted teeth.

“Maybe not,” said Gabriel, his pale eyes narrowed as he watched Lupin. “But neither are you a wealthy man, Mr Lupin. You are, as I understand it, an unemployed forty year old werewolf who is currently living off the wages of his twenty five year old wife, and if you don’t agree to sign these-” Gabriel indicated the papers before him “-within the next fifteen minutes, then I can assure you that you will always be so.” He leant forward, resting his elbows on the desk and gazing at Lupin with dark grey eyes. “With respect, Mr Lupin, you cannot afford to refuse my client’s offer.”

“You can’t make me sign,” said Lupin stubbornly, crossing his arms over his chest and scowling at Gabriel, who sighed impatiently.

“No, Mr Lupin, I cannot, but if you do not sign, then no one will get anything.”

“What?” asked Lupin, suddenly confused again. “What do you mean ‘no one’?”

“Well, as important as you seem to be to my client, you are not her only concern. You see, it’s all a bit complicated.” Gabriel passed a well manicured hand over his glossy hair and eyed the papers wearily. “It’s taken a lot of work just to get all these in order, and it would take time that we simply do not have to suitably divide up the estate between my client’s various beneficiaries, and have them all sign a separate agreement, so you see-”

“She wants me to do it,” said Lupin quietly. “I take possession of everything, and then it’s divided it up later.”

“That is correct,” nodded Gabriel, glad that he’d caught on so quickly. “I have here a letter detailing the division of assets. I will of course handle the paperwork, but you must sign now.”

“She did this on purpose, didn’t she?” demanded Lupin, glaring at him now. “She knew I wouldn’t take anything from her so she decided to guilt me into it. Surely it would have been easier to hand it all over to Faye or someone? How much longer is it going to take you to rush this exchange through because of my condition?”

“Why don’t you let me worry about that, Mr Lupin? Besides, my client tells me you are the only one of her friends whom even the Minister of Magic himself could positively deny has any links with Death Eater activities.”

“Scrimgeour? I wasn’t aware that he-”

“Rufus Scrimgeour is dead,” cut in Gabriel. “His body was found on the battle field two hours ago. A temporary Minister has been elected in the meantime – a friend of yours, according to my client - a Mr Kingsley Shacklebolt.”

“Kingsley’s Minister?” asked Lupin incredulously, sinking into his seat as he registered this new information.

“For the time being at least. If he shows good leadership skills, it may be made permanent. My client seemed to think he was a good choice, though I can’t say I know much about him myself.”

“He is a good choice,” said Lupin, pushing a tired hand through his already messy hair. “He’s got a hell of job ahead of him though.”

“Indeed, but if we might get back to the matter at hand…?”

Lupin scowled down at the document in front of him, then looked up at Gabriel again, a calculating look in his eyes.

“Why didn’t she sort this out before today? She knew there was going to be a battle - why leave it till now?”

“From what she said to me, I gather that she expected to die today, and of course if she had, her estate would have been divided according to her Last Will and Testament. As things stand, she’s still alive and is currently sitting in a holding room waiting to be formally charged. As soon as that happens you lose everything, do you understand? There will be an investigation – everything will be so tied up in red tape that even if she dies in forty years time, you’ll be unlikely to get even half of her estate.”

“But surely they’ll investigate even if I do sign everything over,” said Lupin, a trace of worry in his voice, and Gabriel allowed himself a real smile this time.

“They can try, Mr Lupin,” he said softly. “But as you said, Miss Riddle didn’t hire me for my charming personality.”

Lupin looked as though he agreed with that, at least, but even as he eyed the quill that sat to his left he still looked wary.

“Is there a problem?” asked Gabriel, watching him closely. They were running out of time, and if Lupin didn’t sign before Katherine was charged, there was no hope of ever getting the other half of the exorbitant fee she’d promised him.

“Are you going to see Katherine again?” asked Lupin quietly, eyeing papers covering the table darkly. He raised his head, meeting Gabriel’s steady gaze with hard eyes.

“Yes. She wanted to be told how things went,” said Gabriel, uncertain where Lupin was going with this.

“So you can pass a message on from me?” Lupin asked, reaching for the quill and gazing at it thoughtfully.

“Certainly,” agreed Gabriel quickly, smoothly pulling the required documents from the folder and sliding them across the desk to Lupin.

“Right. Now, I want you to tell her this – and mind you use my exact words: tell her that I think James was absolutely right about her,” said Lupin, glancing through the papers he’d been handed. “She is every bit the manipulative, deceitful ***** he always said she was.” Gabriel watched curiously as Lupin signed the forms with a flourish and gave them back to him.

“Is that all?” he asked, hesitating as Lupin pushed his chair back and stood up. “That’s what you want me to tell her?”

“What else is there to say?” asked Lupin, frowning a little, seeming genuinely bemused.

“Well she has just given you rather a vast sum of money-”

“You think I should say thank you?” asked Lupin, smiling oddly at him. “What on earth would be the point of that?”

“It’s what people tend to do,” observed Gabriel, gathering up the papers carefully. “It’s generally considered good practice.”

“You think I need to tell Katherine that I’m grateful?” Lupin laughed, shaking his head and brushing greying hair from his forehead. “That woman has known me since I was five years old. There is nothing I can tell her about me that she doesn’t already know.”

Lupin turned to leave, but Gabriel hurriedly pulled a thick envelope from his folder and called him back. “Here – she wants you to have this.”

“What is it?” asked Lupin, taking the envelope uncertainly.

“It’s a copy of her Last Will and Testament, along with a letter. I think it explains things somewhat.”

Lupin laughed dryly, and cocked an eyebrow at him. “Explain things? Katherine? That’ll be the day.”

Gabriel smiled tightly, and shrugged. “Well I must be getting on. Goodbye Mr Lupin, I’ll be in touch.”

Lupin nodded, and tucked the letter inside his robes. “Goodbye Mr Taylor.”

---------------------------------

Feedback will cheer me up.



Last edited by Purple Banana; April 1st, 2010 at 9:28 pm.
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  #64  
Old December 26th, 2012, 2:57 am
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Re: Fallen Angel

A/N: I have no excuse for this delay, except to plead writer's block. Merry Christmas!

Chapter 62 – The Nature of a Soul

Dear Remus…

How many letters had started that way?

Dear Remus, you’re very rude…

Dear Remus, I met a centaur today…

Dear Remus, what was the title of our Charms essay…

Dear Remus, we’re out of milk…


From childhood letters to notes left stuck to the fridge in their flat, those words had become a fundamental part of his life and now here he was, two decades later, reading them again for the last time. He reached for the glass of firewhiskey that sat on the coffee table and took a sip, closing his eyes as the amber liquid left a trail of fire down his throat.

To be honest, he could think of a good few Dear Katherine’s he’d like to write right now, starting with ‘what the hell were you thinking’, but he knew it wouldn’t be any use.

As the clock over the fireplace chimed the half hour he let his eyes drift back to the letter in his hand and raised the glass to his lips once more.

Dear Remus…

XXX

Nymphadora Lupin tumbled out of the fireplace in her flat and cast an anxious glance around the room, eyes quickly coming to rest on the dejected looking figure on the sofa.

“Remus?” she asked, hurrying over to her husband and sinking down to the floor in front of him. “Remus, are you ok? I’ve been looking all over for you. Kingsley said you’d been called down to Level Ten but by the time I got there you’d gone. What happened? Was it the guys from the Control of Magic Creatures department? They can’t arrest you for fighting – I won’t let them.”

Bleary eyes lifted to look at her and Remus blinked, then shook his head. “No, it wasn’t them. I’m not in trouble.”

Warm relief flooded through Tonks, but the downcast expression remained on her husband’s face. She hesitated, but when it became apparent no further explanation was forthcoming asked gently: “So what was it then? Who wanted to see you?”

“A slippery young man named Gabriel Taylor,” said Remus heavily, pushing dishevelled hair out of his eyes. “Katherine’s lawyer.”

Tonks frowned at the mention of the name and placed a soft hand over his calloused one. “What did he want?”

“Well to cut a long story short, to make me executor of her Will,” said Remus, adding quickly at Tonks’ look of confusion: “No, she’s not dead, but it’s not like she’ll be needing the money anymore.”

“You spoke to her?” asked Tonks, eyebrows raised in surprise. She’d heard of Taylor’s talents, but she would have thought that even he’d have trouble getting a civilian in to see prisoners at this point.

“No, she wrote me a letter,” Remus explained with a sigh, gesturing to the table behind her. “Her attempt to explain things.”

Tonks was silent, words of comfort failing her. What could she say? However much Remus had tried to explain his relationship with Katherine, she had trouble separating the loyal friend in his stories from the Death Eater with a category five warning rating stamped across her file in bold red ink.

“Aren’t you going to ask?”

The question caught Tonks off guard and she looked up at Remus in surprise. “Ask what?”

“What she left me,” said Remus, an expression that Tonks couldn’t quite place showing on his face. “In the Will.”

“What did she leave you?” asked Tonks obligingly, pulling herself up to sit next to him and wondering if the flicker in her husband’s eyes was amusement. In answer, Remus picked up a thick scroll of parchment from the table and handed it to her. Tonks unrolled it and stared blankly at the page of figures. “What’s this?”

“A rough estimate of her total worth,” said Remus, summoning another glass from the kitchen and pouring out a liberal amount of firewhiskey. “It’s got to be divided up, of course. There’s some money for Faye and the daughter of the Averys, some jewellery for an old school friend and an order for a frankly enormous bouquet of forget-me-nots for Mad Eye, which I’m sure he’ll love, but by my calculations, she’s left me about two thirds of it. Drink?” he asked, holding out the whiskey with a wry smile playing around his lips.

Tonks took the glass slowly and skimmed over the numbers again, frown increasing the further down the page she read.

“I don’t understand,” she said quietly. “Where did this come from?”

“Investments,” said Remus, downing his own drink and topping up the glass once more. “And some not so reputable investors. The majority of the funds in the bank are her own though,” he added quickly, seeing her expression. “From what I can make out, she used her wages to buy shares in a few lucrative muggle companies and got a very good team of accountants to keep things going while she was in Azkaban. They made her a small fortune and got an exorbitant fee for their services, I’m sure.”

“But the other stuff? The houses?”

Remus gave another shrug. “I don’t think she bought all of them herself, if that’s what you’re asking, but it’s her name on the deeds. All the same, I think it’d probably be best to sell them. Some of the money will go to her friends and the rest… I don’t know – give it to charity. What do you think?”

Tonks nodded vaguely and in an effort to stop the world spinning around her, took a large swig of the amber whiskey in the glass. It didn’t help.

“It’s a lot to take in, I know,” said Remus gently, but Tonks shook her head.

“It’s not that – well, it is partly – but I was just wondering…why? What was she planning on doing with it? You don’t amass that kind of money without some serious forethought, but she must have known she’d never be able to spend it. Bringing down You-Know-Who was always going to end in death or prison, so what use was the money to her?” She looked at Remus questioningly but he only smiled.

“Knowing her, she was probably planning on making a run for it. It wouldn’t be too hard – collect the money, change her face and disappear.”

“Then why didn’t she?” pressed Tonks, her eyebrows drawn together in a frown.

“I don’t know - she changed her mind. Maybe she was tired of running – everyone has to slow down sometime.” He sighed at Tonks’ unconvinced expression and asked patiently: “You don’t think so?”

“No,” said Tonks, gazing into her glass meditatively. “I don’t. People like her only have two gears – manic and dead.” She paused, then said: “A bit like Sirius, I suppose.”

“Yes,” agreed Remus softly. “It’s why they got together. And why they fought.”

“They did that a lot?”

Remus chuckled softly. “I think the best word to describe their relationship would be tempestuous. Both very clever, rather unhappy and extremely reckless.”

“And yet she took the time to plan for the future,” said Tonks quietly, her dark brown eyes staring at the fire, expression lost in thought.

“I thought you didn’t think she was going to have a use for the money?”

“She didn’t.”

“Then-”

“It wasn’t for her.”

Remus stared at her for a moment and then he realised what his wife was implying and laughed; he couldn’t help it. “Me? ‘Dora, this is more than most people can spend in a lifetime: I could buy everything I’ve ever wanted since I was a child and still have a fortune left over. What do you suppose she intended me do with a few million galleons?

Tonks took a sip of her whiskey and shrugged, her lips slowly curling into a smile that was very reminiscent of her late cousin. “Anything you want.”

XXX

Robert Avery lay on the rough wooden bunk that served as both seat and bed in the cramped room, and stared at the grey stone ceiling above him. He had no way of telling how long he’d been in there - after the battle they’d all been rounded up and shipped off to the nearest holding cells. He’d ended up in the Ministry of Magic, in one of the few cells used for containing prisoners awaiting trial, and apart from a brief consultation with a ministry appointed lawyer, hadn’t seen a soul since, with the exception of his cell mate.

He shifted position on the bench in a vain attempt to make himself more comfortable, and decided it was time to broach the subject that had been playing on his mind for the past few hours. With a sigh he twisted his head round to look at the room’s other occupant, who was sitting propped up against the opposite wall, dozing, and asked: “Unstable?”

Dark blue eyes opened slowly and Katherine frowned at him sleepily.

“What?”

“Unstable,” he repeated, sitting up and leaning forward to meet his friend’s gaze. “When we were in the forest talking about horcruxes, you said your soul was unstable.”

Katherine shrugged her shoulders and yawned. “So?”

Robert rested his arms on his knees and scowled at her. “Odd choice of words, don’t you think? Corrupted, yes - damaged, fine - but unstable? Why did you say that?”

Katherine put a hand over her mouth to stifle a second yawn and allowed her eyes to drift shut again. “I say a lot of things.”

“You haven’t told the Aurors that Bellatrix Lestrange isn’t dead,” said Robert evenly, allowing himself an expression of grim satisfaction as she looked sharply up at him, eyes narrowed. He’d thought that might get her attention. “No need to look so surprised – you didn’t exactly make much of an effort to conceal what you were doing. Severus may have been too busy crying over your supposedly dead body to notice, but I know Inopia when I see it.”

There was a pause as Katherine considered him, then she frowned and said softly: “So what?”

Robert’s light eyebrows rose a fraction. “So what? So she’s still alive, Katherine. Don’t you think someone’s going to notice?”

Katherine appeared to give this some consideration, then said slowly: “With the amount of bodies on that field, I doubt it. Everyone knows she’s a Death Eater – they’re not going to be trying too hard to find any signs of life, are they? I expect they’ll assign someone to deal with the dead Death Eaters. Do you think she’ll be buried in the Black vault or the Lestrange? I never was sure how that worked.”

She looked up at him with questioning eyes and Robert shook his head in despair. “You’re really going to let them bury her alive?” he asked, scrutinising her carefully.

“Why not? Don’t tell me you’re feeling sorry for her? This is the woman who tortured two Aurors into insanity for fun. Oh, I know her little band of psychopaths wanted to find out what had happened to the Dark Lord,” Katherine said quickly, waving away his attempted interjection. “But honestly, how long do think it took for them to realise they didn’t have any information? One hour? Two? I’ve seen weaker people than the Longbottoms recover from that, and they had a newborn son to live for. How long could you hold on for Katie and Cass?”

Robert scowled at her, choosing to ignore the question. Did she seriously expect him to believe she was punishing Bella for the Longbottom’s insanity? It was true that Frank had been in their year at school but he was willing to bet a week’s wages that Katherine could count the number of times she’d spoken to the man on one hand.

In fact, despite the enmity that had always lurked beneath the surface of Katherine and Bella’s relationship, he very much doubted the latter would be in her current predicament if she hadn’t foolish enough to murder the last heir of the House of Black.

“This isn’t about Sirius,” said Katherine quietly, disturbing Robert’s musings. “It was written all over your face,” she explained with a wry smile on seeing his expression of surprise. “And yes, ok, it is partially about him, and about Remus and all the other people she hurt, but mostly, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let her get a quick death while I live out the rest of my days in Azkaban.”

“But no one knows how long Inopia lasts for,” pointed out Robert, frowning at her. “She might live for another hundred years – and what happens if it wears off? Are you willing to risk…” He trailed off in the face of Katherine’s amused expression. “You do know how long it lasts, don’t you?”

“Eight and a half years,” said his friend, with a somewhat inappropriate grin. “Most people go insane within the year, though, and I suspect it’ll be even quicker for her – she always was a few pumpkins short of a pasty. Regarding what happens physically, the spell is holding her body in stasis so when it degrades…well, I’ve never witnessed a body suddenly realising it’s been deprived of air, water and nutrients for eight years but I don’t imagine it will be pretty.”

Robert stared at her blankly, trying unsuccessfully to banish the image that was now presenting itself in his mind.

“Remind me again how old you were when you invented this curse?” he asked, resting his head in his hands and deciding that Bella was definitely not alone in the insanity department.

“I was in a bad place,” she shrugged. “Have you never felt trapped inside your own head?”

“And you wanted to make other people feel like that?”

“Some people deserve it. Bella doesn’t have a conscience – put her in Azkaban and she’ll live the rest of her life reminiscing about the good old days and tormenting the guards. This way, she has no choice but to reflect on her sins.” Katherine eyed him steadily and said calmly: “Besides, if I’d have killed her, how would she have known I’d won?”

“Some victory,” said Robert gloomily.

“You think so? The Dark Lord is dead. Your wife and daughter are safe. Nicola is safe. You, me and Severus are alive. We saw the end of the war, Robert. Look me in the eye and tell me you thought that would happen.”

“I knew you would. You always survive - you’re like a cockroach,” said Robert sardonically and Katherine pulled a face.

“Charming. I think I’ll stick with Remus’ theory of nine lives, if it’s all the same to you.”

“So which one are you on now?” Robert asked, raising a curious eyebrow.

“Oh, I lost track years ago. The seventh? Possibly the eighth.” There was a slight pause as she frowned. “Probably the ninth, actually. If you count Azkaban.” Katherine glanced up at him with a wry smile that faded as she caught his expression. “What?”

“Well, about that…” Robert leant back against the wall and surveyed her steadily. “I was just wondering what you would define as death.”

“An absence of life?” replied Katherine, treating him to a look of utter bemusement.

“Life being your soul?” persisted Robert, noting with satisfaction the way Katherine’s eyes narrowed ever so slightly at his words.

“If you like.”

“Only I’ve been thinking: a Dementor’s kiss extricates a person’s soul, doesn’t it? And the victim doesn’t die, they just…exist. Not really alive, but not dead either. But maybe Dementors aren’t really all powerful – there must be something left behind that even they can’t take.” Robert looked to Katherine for confirmation and met a cold blue stare in return. Yes, he definitely had her attention now.

“But if you could completely remove someone’s soul,” he continued, matching Katherine’s gaze with a determined look of his own. “Not kill them, but place their soul outside of their body, like you do with horcruxes, except the soul is in one piece – what would happen to their body? The Dark Lord’s soul survived when his body was destroyed at the end of the first war. Can a body survive without a soul?”

“The substantial number of skeletons and decomposing carcasses in the world would seem to point to ‘no’,” said Katherine dryly, but Robert shook his head.

“That’s different – when someone dies, their soul moves on to…whatever comes next. In this case, the soul is still connected to the body – it’s just absent. For all intents and purposes, the body is dead – but the person it belongs to is not. All they need to do is restore the soul to the body, and voila: one miraculous return from the dead.” Robert paused and smiled at his friend who had kept a carefully impassive expression throughout his theorising. “There’s just one problem in this scenario, really: it’s impossible to separate your soul from your body while you’re alive. The link between the two is just too strong: the amount of effort it takes to create a horcrux is proof enough of that. For someone to pull their entire soul out of their body, that connection would have to be seriously damaged. I mean, the Dark Lord didn’t manage to harm his, even with all his horcruxes, so what on earth could a person do that would mess their soul up that badly?”

Katherine sighed and rested her forehead against the heel of her hand with an air of tired resignation. “How many times do I have to tell you I didn’t try to make a horcrux before you’ll believe me? For heaven’s sake, I didn’t even know they existed before I saw Regulus’ notes.”

“Your soul is unstable,” said Robert, leaning forward with narrowed eyes. “You didn’t say that as some flippant remark, you said it because it was true – and it makes sense. It’s the reason you can walk through wards as though they were nothing more than cobwebs – they’re supposed to keep any human out but you don’t register. The thing that separates humans from animals is their souls, so there’s clearly something wrong with yours. And changing your shape at will? If you were a metamorphmagus, you would have been able to do it from birth and you couldn’t – it only started in fifth year. The soul gives the body its form – when the Dark Lord removed parts of his he changed physically because the soul’s hold on his form lessened. The link between your body and soul is so broken you can change into an animal just by thinking about it, so don’t tell me you didn’t do anything to it.”

Katherine was quiet for a moment, and then said in a voice of barely concealed irritation. “You know how when kids are messed up everyone blames the parents?”

“Yes,” said Robert uncertainly, not sure he understood where she was going with this.

“Blame my parents,” said Katherine, raising her head to look him in the eye and smiling grimly. “Did you know there’s a division in the Department of Mysteries dedicated to unravelling the secrets of life? They’ve never gotten very far, but there is one thing that they are certain of: new life can only be created from the union of two souls. Now if Potter is to believed, my charming father made his first horcrux when he was sixteen years old and I wasn’t born for another five years. By that time I’d guess it wasn’t so much the meeting of two souls as one and a sixteenth. In the circumstances, I suppose I should be thankful I exist at all.” She sighed and gave him a tired look. “Satisfied?”

“You were fine before fifth year,” said Robert quietly, watching her carefully.

“Yes,” said Katherine heavily. “But when your soul is clinging to your body by the skin of its teeth, it’s probably not a good idea to go around committing acts that tear it to pieces. No amount of remorse can heal the damage that does.”

They were both quiet for a moment, then Robert ventured: “Well I suppose that explains the whole…fifth year thing.”

Katherine smiled weakly at him. “You mean me nearly losing my mind?”

“I was trying to be diplomatic but yes.” Robert smiled at Katherine’s laugh, then asked quietly: “Why did you never say anything?”

“Because at the time I didn’t know what the hell was going on,” said Katherine. “Even after I’d read Regulus’ notes it took me a while to piece things together. I knew I could change my appearance but I didn’t connect that with Tom’s horcruxes until I did my own research and found out about the theory of forms. After that it was just a matter of experimenting – seeing just how much I could do.”

“You could have said something after you broke out of Azkaban.”

Katherine laughed again and grinned at him with a hint of her old mischief. “And give away the secret behind my biggest tricks? Explanations make the miraculous into the mundane, Robert. The only reason I’ve survived as long as I have is because I can do seemingly impossible things and it scares the hell out of people.”

“You could have told me,” said Robert, the words coming out slightly sharper than he’d intended.

Katherine smiled at him sadly. “Yes, but would you have had nearly as much faith in me if I had?”

“It would have shown a little mutual trust,” said Robert, frowning at her in exasperation.

“I do trust you. I just don’t always tell you everything. Besides, in my defence you never really pressed the issue,” she said with a shrug and Robert’s frown turned into a scowl.

“You always changed the subject whenever I tried. You’re a master at dodging questions.”

“Well we’re probably going to be sitting here for some time,” said Katherine with a sigh. “Ask away.”

“Fine. How did you get out of Azkaban?”

An expression somewhere between pity and annoyance flickered across Katherine’s face at the question and she said softly: “It won’t help us this time.”

“Why not?”

“Because this time I didn’t have a chance to hide a wand about my person,” said Katherine, running her fingers through her hair with a slight air of embarrassment.

Robert frowned, not sure he understood. “You smuggled a wand into Azkaban? How? They do…searches, don’t they?”

Katherine laughed at his uncomfortable expression and hitched up the hem on the left leg of her jeans. Robert opened his mouth to ask what she was doing when the surface of the smooth skin rippled to reveal a pale seven inch scar running along the inside of her calf.

“Being able to change your appearance comes in handy sometimes,” said Katherine. “I’d collected a couple of extra wands over the years, so when I knew I was going to be arrested I thought it would be a good idea to take one with me.”

“But how did you… you know.”

“Get it out?” Katherine pushed her jeans down again and held up a hand now adorned with a set of vicious looking talons. “Are you ok? You look like you’re going to be sick.”

Robert shook his head, trying for the second time that night to rid his brain of unwanted images, and swallowed hard. “So you destroyed the wall and walked out of there?” he asked, in a desperate attempt to move the conversation on quickly.

“No, I just apparated out. Like you said, wards don’t pose much of a problem for me and I wanted some time to try and find horcruxes without the Dark Lord wondering where I was. I went back last year to break down the wall.”

“You went back?”

Katherine laughed, seeming genuinely amused. “How else was I supposed to get your attention? If I’d have shown up on your doorstep without staging a break out you would have thought one of two things: a) that the Ministry was trying trick you into incriminating yourself with a rather poorly thought out scheme or b) you were hallucinating. On the other hand, making an incredible return from the dead, breaking out of Azkaban and then turning up in the middle of a Death Eater meeting with the unconscious body of a former classmate is pretty much typical behaviour from me in your eyes.”

“So how long were you actually in there?” asked Robert, resting his head in his hands as he tried to comprehend the convoluted machinations of his friend’s mind.

“Sixteen years.”

“And your soul?” He looked up and fixed her with a stubborn gaze.

“About two,” she admitted with a wry smile.

“You followed the Dark Lord?” he asked and she nodded.

“I didn’t believe the rumours going round that he’d been killed but then Bella was brought in and I realised it must be true. After that it was just a matter of listening out for any clues as to where he might have gone and then-”

“You shuffled off your mortal coil?”

“I sought out Archimedes,” said Katherine, giving him an amused look. “It was the natural place to go – we already shared a soul link. He was my eyes and ears for fourteen years, on and off. Things got a little trickier when the Dark Lord returned to England, and I had to stop completely when he made himself a body. Fully restored there’s no way he wouldn’t have noticed someone following him so I left Azkaban, looked for horcruxes for a while and then sought you out.”

“Yes,” said Robert, a slight frown creasing his forehead. “You never did say why you decided on me. Severus would have helped you in a heartbeat but you actively avoided him.”

“I figured you’d appreciate the chance for a little redemption,” said Katherine gently, giving him a small smile. “Plus, you were, let’s face it, up the proverbial creek without a paddle and bringing down our Lord and Master was your only way out.”

“It could have got me killed,” added Robert, feeling his friend wasn’t treating this with the gravity it deserved.

“You weren’t though, were you?” said Katherine lightly. Robert scowled at her but it only made her grin wider. “I wouldn’t have let anything happen to you. Apart from anything else, Cass would never have forgiven me. Besides, it’s not like you weren’t playing a double game before I came along. If anything, having me on side was safer: I’ve been doing it longer.”

“What are you talking about?”

“A little bird told me that you fed misinformation about the Hall of Prophecy to the Dark Lord. Got into quite a lot of trouble over it, too. You set his plans back a good few months. Accident, was it?”

Robert narrowed his eyes, surveying his companion critically. “I thought you stopped watching the Dark Lord after he got his body back.”

“I stopped following him,” said Katherine. “But it’s always good to keep up-to-date with things and, well, let’s just say that certain houses aren’t as impregnable as their owners think.”

“Malfoy Manor?” he guessed, and Katherine smiled.

“Amongst others.”

“So all those times you claimed to have no knowledge of recent events…?”

“You would have asked too many questions. It was bad enough that I let slip about seeing what happened in the graveyard. You would have just been confused if I appeared to know everything.”

“So you just lied instead?” asked Robert, rolling his eyes heavenward.

“I lie all the time. If you haven’t worked that out by now, there’s no hope for you.”

“I don’t suppose you’re lying about not having an elaborate escape planned?” queried Robert, raising his eyebrows and Katherine shook her head, the smile fading from her lips.

“Sorry. Like I said, I expected to be dead by now: it seemed a little pointless to plan beyond that.”

Robert sighed and, searching for a change of subject, asked: “What about Severus?”

Katherine frowned, playing absently with a lock of black hair. “Well I don’t imagine he’ll be in Azkaban with us for very long. He was in the Order right from the start and I told Remus what really happened between him and Dumbledore, so Kingsley should vouch for him. After that, I don’t know – I think he’s had enough of teaching, but with talents like his he’s bound to find something worthwhile to do.”

“That wasn’t what I meant,” said Robert seriously. “From what I saw earlier, you two had finally got your act together, and now he’s never going to see you again.”

Katherine shrugged, regarding him with dark eyes. “He understands.”

“Really? He spent twenty years waiting for you, then you finally tell him how you feel only to disappear from his life within twenty four hours. You honestly think he’s ok with that?”

Katherine smiled sadly. “I didn’t say he was happy about it, but whatever else Severus may be, he is practical. I can’t avoid Azkaban, but he can. What use would he be to anyone in prison? He still has a chance to make something of his life and I wouldn’t begrudge him that for the world.”

“But…you love him and now you’re giving him up without a fight.”

“What else can I do? It's entirely my own fault - I wasted too much time,” said Katherine heavily. “When we were in school I kept away because I knew I’d only put him in danger. He believed in everything that the Dark Lord was saying and I couldn’t risk him finding out that not only did I not believe in it, I was working to sabotage things as much as I could. It would have put him in an impossible situation. After Azkaban, there didn’t seem much point in doing anything. I thought I was going to get myself killed and I’d hurt him enough already without putting him through that.”

“So what changed?”

Katherine smiled faintly, resting her head against the wall and closing her eyes. “Someone told me to risk being happy.”

Robert had just opened his mouth to ask who she meant when there was the sound of a key turning in the lock and the door swung open to reveal two grim faced Aurors.

“Time to go?” asked Katherine, eyeing the heavy handcuffs the taller of the two men was holding.

“You’re being transferred to a secure unit,” replied the man with the handcuffs.

“Scared I might disappear on you?” she grinned, shooting an amused glance at Robert.

“Are you going to come quietly?” asked the second man and Katherine shrugged.

“Do I have much choice?” she inquired, stretching her arms above her head and yawning. She got to her feet slowly and looked at Robert again, smiling sadly. “Guess this is it.”

“I suppose so. It’s been…memorable,” said Robert wryly, standing up and holding out his hand. “Ave atque vale, mi amice.”

Katherine laughed softly and took his hand in hers for the last time, a faint smile still playing on her lips. “Au revoir.”

XXX




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Last edited by Purple Banana; December 26th, 2012 at 4:19 am.
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  #65  
Old September 25th, 2014, 2:01 am
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Joined: 4838 days
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Age: 28
Posts: 48
Re: Fallen Angel

Author’s Note: Yes, it has been a very, very long time. I’m very, very sorry for the absence and so very, very grateful to those of you have stayed with this story and pestered me to update. If it helps at all, you haven’t been waiting as nearly as long as Robert has…


Chapter 63 – The Promise

The last vestiges of sunlight glimmered down onto cold black stones. The dark ocean heaved and swelled, waves breaking relentlessly against the high rocky walls that barred their path, and in the East Wing of Azkaban, a man stood at his cell door, staring through the bars at a woman he never thought he’d see again.

“You look older.”

The woman frowned, torchlight casting flickering shadows across a lined face.

“Did you hear anything I just said?” she asked, peering into the darkness of his cell.

Even though the Ministry had dismissed the Dementors years ago, something of their presence still lingered in the dank corridors and the constant howl of the wind and one way or another, the old adage still held: Azkaban got to everyone in the end. Perhaps even the indomitable Robert Avery had succumbed at last.

“You never look older.” He tilted his head slightly and it seemed to her that there was a clouded look in those light brown eyes.

“What are you talking about?” she asked impatiently. This was not how this was supposed to go. Thirteen years she’d waited for this moment, and now instead of fear and apologies, she got meaningless babble. She would have settled for anger, defiance even, but there was nothing but resignation in his stance.

“You’re going to die tonight, Mr Avery. Don’t you have anything to say?” she demanded, pushing her face close to the small grill so that she was almost nose to nose with him. “Don’t you care?”

“It’s usually Katy,” Robert replied blankly, his eyes retaining their slightly vacant look despite the frown creasing his forehead.

“What is?” she asked, exasperated. Katy was his daughter, she remembered, but she didn’t know what she had to do with anything.

“The person you kill.” He blinked, then shook his head. “Why do you look older?”

“It’s been more than thirteen years since we last met,” she snapped, drawing away from the bars and pulling a golden pocket watch out of her robes: less than two minutes to go. “People age. You don’t look the picture of youth yourself.”

“But you’re always the same.” Robert drew pale, thin hands over his face, his voice dropping to a hush. “Always.”

Muriel gave up, turning her back on him and looking down the corridor at the rows of black steel doors. There were other occupants behind them, all sleeping soundly in the dark. Soon, that’s all they’d ever be able to do.

She scowled to herself, snapping the watch shut and stowing it away. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

She’d been so hopeful all those years ago. After the Defeat of the Dark Lord, when the old corrupt government officials had been ousted and a new regime had taken its place, she’d thought things would change.

The followers of the Dark Lord had been rounded up, put on trial and sentenced, as they should, and the country had rejoiced, putting the past behind them and beginning a new era with the promise of peace and harmony for all.

Unfortunately, the Wizengamot had taken this new spirit of charitable goodwill too far. They had become weak. As the years went by, the inmates of Azakan had appealed, and they had been shown leniency. Instead of being left to rot, they struck deals and were given early release and referrals to other, less severe prisons. Some of them were even allowed to see their families.

It wasn’t right. It wasn’t just. Why should they be able to see the people they loved, when they’d taken everything from her?

Skip forward thirteen years and the only people left in Azkaban were the worst of the worst: those who had murdered, tortured and destroyed without conscience or regret, and who knew how long it would be until they were released?

She wasn’t going to let that happen.

She had a plan.

She checked her watch again – one minute left.

Tonight, she was going to make history, and if Robert Avery was too far gone to appreciate her victory, what did it matter really? Soon he would be dead, and she would be with her sister at last.

It was ironic really, that the man who had killed her sister had given her the idea for his own demise. She’d thought that her chance to exact revenge on him would end when he was sent to Azkaban, but as it happened, fate had worked in her favour. In trying to reach him, she had met his friend, and in Katherine, she had found the answer to her prayers.

Reading her case history had been an education. The woman had a talent for destruction - whether it was people, relationships or buildings, she always found the chink in the armour, the one weak point that she could exploit. Her imprisonment in Azkaban had been no exception, and in the Ministry’s frantic rush to figure out how she’d escaped, no one had asked the more pressing question of how it had happened at all.

How was it that Azkaban – supposedly the most indomitable, impregnable and invulnerable prison in the world, a true testament to old magics and the might of the Ministry – had failed to stop first Sirius Black and then Katherine Riddle escaping, closely followed by a large number of Death Eaters.

The truth, Muriel had realized, was that for all its walls and wards, Azkaban’s strength ultimately relied on its guards - they were the weak link in the chain. The Dementors’ shortcomings had allowed both Sirius and Katherine to slip past them and their true nature had made them easy prey for the Dark Lord when the time came, bribed away with promises of a bigger and better hunting ground to explore.

The Ministry had attempted to rectify this oversight at end of the war, banishing the creatures from the prison and replacing them with human counterparts. However, while a commendable step in the right direction, the problem remained the same. Humans were just as, if not more, susceptible to manipulation and the right person, given enough time and a gift for words, could take advantage of that.

She had to admit that the fresh memory of the war and the desperation of the Ministry for people willing to spend extended periods of time in the middle of the North Sea had made things easier. Guards were always needed and a few select recommendations from a hard working employee such as herself had had the added bonus of saving the Ministry recruiters some expensive advertising campaigns and getting her some likeminded new collagues.

Over the years, the number of people sympathetic to her way of thinking had grown, exacerbated by the Ministry’s apparently infinite capacity to forgive those who had tried to tear the wizarding community apart, and after that it was just a matter of directing their discontent into a course of action.

She had told them that Azkaban had been home to the scum of humanity for too long, that it was time to cleanse it and, in time, they had agreed. Something had to be done, and they were the ones to do it. If Azkaban’s strength truly lay in its guards, the guards must be the ones to bring it down.

She paused for a moment in her musings, aware of someone watching her, and looked up into the light brown eyes of Robert Avery. There were dark circles under his eyes, but the clouded look was gone, and for the first time that night saw a glimpse of the man she remembered.

“You’re dead,” he said, voice low. “Dead people don’t age. I wouldn’t imagine you older.”

Imagine? The knut dropped, and a slow smile spread across Muriel’s face. Now she understood.

“She never told you what happened that night, did she? Your friend. The great and terrible Katherine Riddle.” She stepped closer, eyes locked with his. “I got away.”

Robert said nothing, just stood there, staring at her in silence.

“I bet you thought you’d escaped too?” she continued, giving him a feigned look of sympathy. “But I found you in the end, and this time it’s not a nightmare, Mr Avery. It’s real. You’re going to burn.”

“No.”

Muriel frowned; maybe he hadn’t come back to reality after all.

“No?”

“She promised,” said Robert, dirty blond hair falling across his face as he gripped the bars with almost skeletal hands.

“That I was dead?”

It was sad really, Muriel thought as she watched him, the beliefs people clung onto. If only he knew what had become of his mighty protector. Thirteen years in the bowels of Azkaban, watched twenty four hours a day by an ever changing shift of guards, and she was just a hollow shell of what she had been.

Muriel hadn’t seen her herself, of course – she’d been very careful to stay away from both Katherine and Robert up until now. Although she knew there was very little risk that they could do anything to harm her plans, even if they could somehow find someone to listen to them, she didn’t like taking chances.

Besides, she remembered those blue eyes. You didn’t take chances with eyes like that, even if their owner was chained up in a cell protected by wards that would rival Gringotts’.

“She promised,” Robert repeated, his eyes squeezed shut. “No plan B.”

Muriel narrowed her eyes, fighting a sudden surge of unease. Plan B? What was he talking about?

‘No plan B’,” he muttered again, slamming a fist into the iron door of his cell. The metallic clang it sent reverberating down the corridor almost drowned out the faint chiming beginning from the watch in Muriel’s pocket.

One. Two. Three.

Her misgivings vanished with the sound and she smiled and pulled it out, flipping it open as the chimes continued.

Midnight. It was nearly time.

‘Nothing I can do this time.’

She looked up as Robert spoke again, and met a look so cold with fury that she instinctively took a step back.

‘I expected to be dead.’

It seemed to her that the words had a slight mocking tone, as though he was quoting someone.

Muriel shook her head, willing her suddenly trembling hands to be still. This was her night. She’d planned this and every chime brought it closer. This was her victory. On the stroke of midnight her people would act, and there would be nothing that anyone could do to stop it.

Not the Ministry. Not Robert Avery. Not even Katherine Riddle.

Six.

It was her night.

Seven.

So why did it feel as if the rug was being pulled from underneath her feet?

Eight.

Robert’s gaze was still locked on her, but once again those light eyes looked as though they weren’t quite seeing her, as though they were looking through her.

Ten.

Or, she thought with a shiver, behind her.

Eleven.

“You promised,” said Robert quietly.

Twelve.

She never felt the breath on the back of her neck as the final chime died away.

There wasn’t time.

There was only the organic sound of muscle and bone twisting in ways they were never supposed to, and then the world went black for Muriel Shaft.

In a dark cell in the East Wing of Azkaban, Robert Avery glared at the figure in the shadows.

Her dark hair was almost down to her elbows and hung in matted strands around a face so pale he could just make out the thin blue veins beneath.

“You promised me,” he said again. “You swore you didn’t have a plan.”

Cracked lips curled into a half smile, and when she spoke, it was in a hushed, rasping voice.

“I lied.”

xxx

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  #66  
Old January 1st, 2015, 3:07 pm
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Joined: 4838 days
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Age: 28
Posts: 48
Re: Fallen Angel

Chapter 64 – Deus ex Machina

Robert Avery awoke from dreams of smoke and fire to the blackness of his closed eyes.

Maybe if he didn't open them, he could hold on. Maybe he could pretend it had really happened. Maybe he could pretend it hadn't.

But the world has a way of making itself known, and even with his eyes shut, he could tell something was different. The ground beneath his back was soft and yielding, and the only sound he could hear was his own quiet breathing. He didn't know how long it had been since he'd heard silence.

Maybe this was a dream. He had been dreaming, he knew. Muriel Shaft had been there, so it had to be a dream, but… but she'd been old. She'd been real.

She'd told him that she was going to burn down Azkaban and everyone in it. She'd told him he was going to die. She hadn't seemed to realise that that had happened a long time ago.

And then Muriel was gone and the shadows held a pair of burning blue eyes in a dead face.

He remembered running, and blistering heat, and smoke clogging his tired lungs, and fire burning through unused muscles, and still there had been running.

A hand was interlocked with his, bony fingers digging into his skin as he was dragged through narrow corridors and tumbling rock and the echoing screams of the abandoned.

And then, suddenly, there had been wind and stars and fire reflected in dark blue eyes as something was shoved between his teeth, and then falling and darkness and nothing.

There wasn't nothing now.

With an effort, he opened his eyes.

He was on a bed in a small room, the walls made of polished wood scored with dark lines and twisted knots. Aside from a lamp on a table next to him, the room was bare.

Someone had changed his clothes. His clumsy fingers picked at the soft grey t-shirt and trousers that didn't hide how thin he had become. A hand raised to his head revealed uneven stubble that was all that remained of his tangled mess of hair. Probably for the best. He was sure there was been more than lice living in there.

He sat up slowly, trying to get his bearings. Either his balance was way off, or the floor was tilting underneath him. He swung his legs out of bed and stood up carefully.

Definitely the floor.

Boat?

There were two doors leading out of the room. Slowly, on legs that felt like they were made of lead, he made his way to the nearest one and pulled it open.

What lay beyond was not an exit, but something, to a man who has spent over a decade in Azkaban, infinitely more exciting.

He tugged off his clothes and stepped into the shower, turning it on full and leaning against the wall as pounding hot water poured over him.

Slowly, as heat seeped back into his bones and the grime of the years was soaked away, his brain began to shift into gear. Katherine had once teased that he was so sharp he could cut himself; that being the case, he was most decidedly blunt now.

She'd lied to him and he'd believed her. He wasn't sure who he was angrier at.

By the time the water had started to turn lukewarm, he knew it was her.

He shut off the shower and got dressed slowly before trying the second door. It opened into a softly lit walkway with two more doors leading off it and a short flight of steps at the end. He headed for them and found himself stepping into a warm cabin.

There were narrow windows set high on the wall, but thick curtains had been pulled across them and they gave no indication of what lay beyond. Directly ahead was another set of steps that led up to a hatch and presumably the deck, but he had no immediate interest in exploring outside.

Charts and papers covered a sideboard and bottles clinked softly in the racks along one wall. The other wall had a table set into it, the edges raised to stop anything placed there sliding onto the floor with every swell of the waves, and sitting at it, carefully winding a bandage around her wrist, was Katherine.

She looked up as he stood there and for the first time he really took stock of her altered appearance. The shadows of the Azkaban torches had greatly exaggerated her gaunt features but even in this warmly lit room she wasn't much improved.

The blue eyes were as dark and alive as ever, but they were underlined with circles the colour of bruises and her sallow skin and hollow cheeks reminded him uncomfortably of the skulls his uncle Jeremiah had kept atop his writing desk in the study.

He found his gaze drawn to her wrists; as far as he knew, it had never been thought necessary to chain up the inmates of Azkaban before, but clearly things had changed. Katherine Riddle had escaped once before; someone must have decided to make sure she couldn't reach a hidden wand this time.

Not that it appeared to have made much difference in the end.

It occurred to him now, watching her return to tying up the bandage, that someone who could hide an existing scar could just as easily make a nonexistent scar appear.

A decade too late, he realised what should have been obvious: the Ministry had been listening. What other reason would there have been for putting Katherine Riddle in a cell with one of her old friends and leaving her unattended? He'd thought it had been an oversight – they'd corrected it soon enough, after all – right after she'd explained how she'd originally escaped and told him she couldn't get him out this time.

"You never had a wand in Azkaban, did you."

Katherine didn't answer him, but it hadn't really been a question. Instead she tucked the end of the bandage away neatly and looked up at him again, her cracked lips curving into the hint of a smile.

How hard would it be for a girl as stubborn as Katherine, a girl who could pull her soul from her body and change her appearance, to move herself somewhere else through sheer force of will? After all, wasn't that what apparation was in the end? She was simply doing it without the spell.

He moved over to the bench and slid in opposite her, watching in silence as she started to unravel the bandage on her other wrist. He looked away at the sight of the raw skin beneath, but she didn't even wince as she applied luminous orange ointment from a jar on the table.

"How long?" he asked eventually, as put applied a fresh bandage over the acrid smelling salve.

"How long what?" She asked. Her voice wasn't as rasping at it had been in Azkaban, but it was soft and low. In fact, as she relaxed back into the plush cushioning of the bench and met his gaze, he thought she looked quieter than he'd ever seen her. The wicked grins and impatient energy were absent, leaving stillness and calm in their place.

"Don't play games with me," he said wearily. "Not now."

She said nothing for a while, surveying him with what could only be described as a calculating look, then shrugged.

"How long have you been asleep? About 18 hours. How long were we in Azkaban? Thirteen years, two months and five days. How long did I have a plan to get us out? Approximately thirty four years."

It took a moment for Robert's tired brain to perform that calculation, but when he did, he frowned.

"You would have been seventeen."

"I was. The Daily Prophet ran an article on some guy who'd murdered his wife and they said he was being sent to Azkaban. I didn't know what it was, so I asked Severus. Didn't take long to work out it was where I was headed." She frowned at the memory, spinning the ointment jar absently so that it rattled loudly against the polished wood of the table.

"And then you and Regulus and Severus started making equally bad decisions and I knew I was going to have to save your arses too." She looked up at him, a ghost of a smile on her face. "Except it turned out Regulus had other ideas and Severus, well, he knew how to play the game better than I thought."

Robert had wondered when the subject of Severus was going to be brought up. Despite the more pressing questions clamouring for answers in his head, he found himself asking: "Did the guards tell you about him?"

Katherine stared blankly at him for a moment, her dark brows drawing together in confusion, then something changed in her expression and she looked down at her hands.

"They told you he was dead?" she asked.

"No - Katy did. She wrote to me. He used to visit her and Cass all the time, but it seems there was some sort of accident in his lab and…" He trailed off, not willing to say the words, even now. "It happened last year."

"Because Severus was such a careless potions master?" asked Katherine and there was a curious note in her voice that made Robert frown. Not quite guilt, but certainly not grief either.

He looked down at the jar of ointment in Katherine's hands, then at the steps leading up to the deck and crossed his arms over his chest, casting his eyes heavenwards. Definitely not the sharpest object in the drawer anymore.

"He's not dead, is he?"

"Needed someone to sail the boat," said Katherine, her dark eyes looking at him with a shade more pity than he thought necessary. "Would have looked a little suspicious – one of our close friends disappearing just days before Azkaban is burnt down. We had to make sure no one could suspect he was involved."

"So you got him to fake his death? Is that your answer to everything?" Robert demanded, scowling at her now as his initial anger flooded back in a rush. "Or is it just telling people that someone is dead?"

Katherine's expression switched abruptly from pity to guarded at his words, and she sat back against the dark green leather.

"Cassandra and Katy were never in any danger."

"You couldn't have known that," said Robert, his voice trembling with a mixture of pain and blinding fury. "You let Muriel walk around free for thirteen years. She could have done anything."

"I've had someone protecting them," Katherine replied, not quite meeting his eyes.

"Who?"

"An old friend." She looked up through dark lashes, expression serious. "They were safe, I swear. You honestly think I'd let anything happen to them?"

Robert glared at her, his hands curled so tightly into fists that his roughly cut nails dug into the flesh of his palm and left a row of small red crescent marks.

"I don't know, Katherine. I thought I knew you, but clearly I don't. That woman tortured my daughter and you let her go. You said you'd been planning this break out since we were kids, but Muriel only turned up a few months before Azkaban so how the **** does that work?"

"Plans can change," said Katherine softly. "I needed someone who could lead a rebellion within Azkaban – I had a couple of potential people lined up, but then I met her. She'd managed to persuade two guys to help her kidnap and hurt a little girl – she was the best candidate by a mile."

"You saw her use the cruciatus curse on Katy and your first thought was 'this women could be useful'?" yelled Robert, slamming his hands on the table and standing up so that his face towered about hers.

Katherine made no effort to move, just tilted her head up to meet his furious gaze and said calmly: "Not my first thought, no, but I might remind you that you didn't kill her when I gave you the chance. I figured she was fair game after that."

Robert stared at her, barely able to hear anything over the raging in his head. Katherine had shown her capacity for singleminded behaviour at eighteen when she'd started systematically picking apart Evan Rosier's life, but he hadn't realised just how far she could go.

"You told me you'd taken care of her," he managed, pushing away the images of Muriel and his daughter that had haunted his dreams for years. "She tortured my little girl."

"You think I don't remember that?" asked Katherine sharply, scowling at him now. "You think I was going to let that go? People don't get to hurt my friends twice. I needed her, Rob, but that didn't mean she wasn't going to burn. Now you're here and safe and she's ashes on the breeze."

"As I should be too," he growled, furious at her inability to understand what she'd done. "What's the point of being alive without my family, Katherine? I chose Azkaban for them – so that they wouldn't have to live a life on the run, always wondering if the next knock on the door would be the Ministry catching up with us. What am I supposed to do now? However clever you think you've been, there are going to be people at the Ministry who suspect you're behind this and they are going to be watching my family like hawks.

"You can waltz off into the sunset with Severus and disappear and they will never find you, but I can't go back to Cassandra and Katy. Even if I changed my face, any new person in their lives is going to be under suspicion. We can never be a family again without risking everything I went Azkaban to avoid. I won't do that to them, do you understand?" His voice was breaking now and tears burnt hot trails down his thin face, but he glared at her through the blur. "If you think I would, you don't know me at all."

Katherine leant forward so that her face was inches from his, the lamp above them making her dark eyes gleam like sapphires.

"Robert, I just orchestrated the destruction of the oldest and most well guarded wizarding prison in the world and you honestly think I can't find a way to reunite you with your family without the Ministry finding out? I think you've forgotten who you're talking to."

"Remind me then," he challenged, staring her down. In answer, she reached one hand down, pulled up a box from the seat beside her and pushed it towards him. He looked down at the black marble casing and frowned.

"What's this?"

"Your deus ex machina," she answered, sitting back in her seat and watching him with folded arms. Robert eyed her uneasily, then flipped the metal clasp up and lifted the lid. Inside, polished glass gilt with gold caught the lamplight and scattered dancing spots of light across the ceiling.

"This isn't…" He stopped as Katherine arched one questioning eyebrow. "You can't have…" he tried again, and again trailed off. He closed the box and dropped his head into suddenly trembling hands. The fury that had got him this far had dissipated and sudden his world felt wildly out of balance. "This is insane. The risk…"

"Aren't they worth it?"

The question caught him off guard and he looked up at Katherine through his fingers. She propped an elbow up on the back of the bench and leant her head on her raised hand, gazing at him thoughtfully.

"You know Remus once said that the primary difference between his Gryffindor friends and me was whereas they'd die for him, I'd kill for him. It wasn't supposed to be a compliment but I can't help thinking that it's a far greater sacrifice to give up your soul for someone than your life." She sighed, running a hand over her face and looking at his tiredly. "You and I have spent the vast majority of our lives tearing our souls to pieces trying to keep the ones we loved safe. It didn't always work, but we tried and in the end we survived. Now it's time to live."

Robert dropped his hands and gazed at her hopelessly, not because he didn't want her to be right – he wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything in his entire life, but because there was a huge, insurmountable obstacle in the way.

"It'll never work," he said softly.

Katherine looked back at him, and then, very slowly, her lips curled into a grin and he saw a shadow of the rebellious teenager she had once been showing on her lined face.

"Well that's the beauty of the thing, Robert," she said quietly, leaning forward conspiratorially. "It already has."


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  #67  
Old April 6th, 2015, 12:32 am
Purple Banana  Female.gif Purple Banana is offline
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Joined: 4838 days
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Age: 28
Posts: 48
Re: Fallen Angel

Chapter 65 – One Last Trick

Katherine Avery sat silently in the car, watching the streetlights flash past on the quiet road. After a little while, she stole a glance to her left at the man in the driver's seat and plucked up the courage to ask the question that had been playing on her mind since he'd picked her up.

"Are you going to tell Mum?"

Jorge waited until they'd pulled to a stop at a red light before he turned to look at her. There was no judgement in his dark eyes – there never was. It was why she'd called him tonight instead of her mother.

Jorge Velazquez was the most unshockable person she'd ever met. Not many wizards were willing to extend the hand of friendship to the family of a convicted Death Eater, but Jorge was one of them.

She and her mother had moved to America when she was six years old, fleeing the fallout from her father's arrest following the second and final fall of Voldemort. Jorge had been the first person they'd met, appearing on their doorstep with a homemade lasagne and a bottle of wine to greet his new neighbours, and had been a welcome friend ever since.

Katy had spent countless hours at his house as a child, while her mother was out at work. Jorge worked from home as a writer for an obscure magical theory journal and years of travel and research had made his house a treasure trove for an inquisitive little girl, with a seemingly never ending supply of books, magical artefacts and rare artworks. Even when she'd grown older and no longer had need of a babysitter, he was always a useful source of information for essays.

"I can come in with you while you tell your mother, if you like," Jorge said now, interrupting her thoughts. "Explain what happened?"

"She's going to kill me," said Katy, leaning her head back against the headrest and pushing long blonde hair away from her face.

"She's not going to be thrilled," said Jorge, giving her a sympathetic smile. "But I don't think she'd go so far as to murder her only daughter for sneaking out to a party."

Katy threw him a look that said he didn't really know her mother and sank down into her seat as the light turned green. The party had been a mistake, she realised that now, but Danny had specifically asked her to go and she hadn't been able to turn him down.

As it turned out, that was exactly what he had been counting on. Katy looked down at the knuckles of her right hand, which were still a little red, and made a mental note to say thank you to Aunt Nicola for her tips on avoiding unwanted advances next time she saw her.

"I think I broke his nose. Am I going to get in trouble?"

Jorge made a noise somewhere between a laugh and snort of disgust.

"I very much doubt he's going to tell anyone he got punched in the face by a girl," said Jorge as they turned into their street. "And if he does, you tell them the reason why. Honestly, I'm just glad you're ok and, when she calms down, your mother will be too."

"When being the key word," murmured Katy sourly. She looked out of the window at the familiar whitewashed walls of her house and sighed. This was going to be worse than the tattoo argument, she was sure of it.

On the morning of her eighteenth birthday, she'd skipped school and gone to a tattoo parlour. She looked down at her inner wrist now, where the small star and moon design – the closest interpretation of her parents' names she could think of – stood out against her pale skin.

She'd never seen her mother so angry. For Cassandra Avery, tattoos were an unwelcome reminder of the brand that had controlled her husband's life and Katy had been grounded, unfairly in her opinion, for a full month.

A warm hand closed over hers and squeezed reassuringly, and she met Jorge's sympathetic gaze. "Let's get this over with then."

He looked slightly worried, and Katy wondered if he was thinking of the tattoo debacle as well. His own arms were a canvas of intricate designs and her mother had, not entirely incorrectly, blamed him for inspiring her daughter.

Katy knew something was wrong from the moment she pushed open the door.

There were voices coming from the kitchen at the end of the hall, but her mother rarely had visitors, especially not this late. She dropped her keys on the side table and walked the short six steps to the kitchen door, pushing it open with a boldness borne up by fear.

"….if you do see them – or anyone acting suspiciously – you need to tell us immediately," a man in dark robes was saying to her mother.

Katy didn't recognise his face, but the uniform was unmistakable and if a representative of the British Ministry of Magic was standing in her kitchen at eleven in the evening, it could only mean one thing.

"What's happened?" She had meant the question to sound calm and grown up, but it came out as a squeak.

Her mother's head turned sharply to look at her; Katy had told her she'd be studying in her room, so the dress and heels, not to mention the presence of Jorge, were clearly raising some questions. The fact that her mother didn't immediately voice these questions did not ease the knot of fear coiling in her stomach.

"I'm Auror Molloy. Are you Katherine?" asked the Ministry official. Katy nodded, her gaze still locked with her mother's. "And you are?" asked Molloy. This was presumably directed at Jorge, for he answered softly:

"Jorge Velazquez. I'm a friend of the family. Is something wrong?"

Molloy consulted a notebook, flipping back a few pages, then asked: "You live next door?"

"What's happened?" repeated Katy, as Jorge gave him a curt nod. She curled her hands into fists in an effort to stop them shaking and felt her nails cutting little crescents into the soft flesh of her palms.

Molloy paused to write something in his notepad, then tucked it into a pocket and looked up at her. There was no emotion in his ash coloured eyes, but that didn't mean much. She hadn't met an Auror yet who had any sympathy to spare for the family of a convicted Death Eater.

"There has been a fire," said Molloy, and although his words were calm, Katy felt the bile rise in the back of her throat. "We're still establishing the cause, but it looks like-"

"Which wing?" she managed to ask, cutting across his words. "Dad's in East. Where was the fire?"

Judging by the look of displeasure on his face, Molloy was clearly not used to being interrupted, but it was her mother who answered.

"It's gone, Katy."

Katy heard the words, but couldn't make any sense of them. Gone? What had gone? The fire?

She looked to her mother and for the first time took in her expression.

Katy got the impression that many people thought her mother was weak. To an outsider, it must have seemed like Robert Avery's quiet wife had fled after his trial, ashamed and cowardly, but Katy knew the truth.

Underneath her demure exterior, Cassandra Avery was made of steel. She'd spent years caring for her husband, waiting up for hours while he carried out the Dark Lord's orders, patching up his physical injuries as best she could and holding him until he was strong enough to bear the emotional ones.

After his imprisonment, she'd moved continents, away from all her friends and family, in order to give her daughter the chance of a childhood free from accusing glares and snide comments. She'd got a job, looked after Katy and built a new life, and she'd made it look easy.

Except Katy knew it hadn't been and as much as her mother tried to hide it, Katy had realised over the years that Azkaban had taken more than her father from her; part of Cassandra Avery was there with him.

Now she looked at her mother and saw cracks in the usually implacable armour; her green eyes had a curiously empty expression, there were faint tear tracks on her pale cheeks and her hands were trembling.

It's gone, Katy.

Katy looked back at the Molloy's tight expression and finally understood her mother's words. 'It' wasn't the fire. 'It' was Azkaban.

"Dad...?" The word was half choked and was all she could manage of the question she wanted to ask: that maybe, in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary, there was a chance that her father had been able to get out.

The tears that welled up in her mother's eyes were all the answer she needed, and she felt her knees give way as Molloy began talking again. She couldn't hear a word: her ears were humming and the world was spinning and then there were strong arms supporting her, guiding her to a chair and a low voice talking softly in her ear.

"It's ok, I'm here. It'll be alright, I promise."

But the voice was wrong, because nothing could ever be alright again.

She thought of her desk upstairs, with the latest letter to her father lying on it, waiting to be finished. His last one had arrived just two days ago and now she would never get another. A correspondence that had started at the age of seven was over – she'd never enjoy another of his stories, never discover another secret of his past, never read another 'I love you more than anything else in the world, Katy.'

A steaming mug of hot chocolate appeared in front of her and gentle hands wrapped her fingers around it. Dazedly she took a sip and the thick, sweet liquid went some way to bringing her back to the world. Molloy had gone, though Katy hadn't seen him leave.

Her mother was stroking her hair and she leant into the caress, wondering how long this blessed feeling of numbness was going to last.

"Do you think it hurt?" she asked, in a voice that sounded distant and unfamiliar. She'd accidentally picked up a hot poker when she was small and had cried for an hour, even after her mother had applied Sinclair's Patented Burn Cream.

"From what I've heard, Fiendfyre makes quick work of anything in its path," said her mother softly. "It wouldn't have been for long."

"It was Fiendfyre?" asked Katy, raising her head to gaze up at her mother, who nodded gravely. "Then it was deliberate."

"Yes – Molloy was careful not to say so, but it must have been the guards."

"Was that who he was saying to watch out for?" Katy asked, fear beginning to curl in thin tendrils around her heart. "Are they coming after us?"

"No – the fire spread too quickly. No one would have got out. You're safe, honey."

"Then who is 'them'?" asked Katy, raising a hand to stop her mother's caresses. "When we came in, he was telling you to watch out for anyone suspicious."

"It's nothing," said her mother smoothly, and Katy might have believed her, if it wasn't for the fact that she couldn't meet her gaze. Katy looked at Jorge, who'd taken the third seat at the table and was looking fixedly into his black coffee.

"What's going on?" she asked deliberately, unable to stop the sudden rush of hope welling up inside her. If Molloy hadn't been referring to the guards, there was only one other thing he could have meant, and Molloy had said they. "They think it was Katherine, don't they? They think she started the fire and got Dad out?"

Her mother's expression was stony and her tone icy as she replied: "The Ministry of Magic is desperate to shift the blame for their own negligence – they'll say anything to absolve themselves of responsibility. Katherine has been under around the clock surveillance since she stepped foot into that prison – there is simply no way she could have done this. I'm sorry, honey, but it's just impossible."

"Impossible is just another way to say 'I don't know'," said Katy. It was a stupid thing to say – a line from an old fairy story - but desperation made her reach for something, anything, that would mean that this wasn't happening. All the same, she didn't expect her mother to go still and look at her with a combination of confusion and unease.

"Who told you that?"

"It's what the imp says," she explained weakly, blanching slightly at the sharpness in her mother's tone. "In those old European fairy stories."

"Oh," said her mother, with what Katy couldn't help feeling was a distinct note of relief. Cassandra Avery looked down into her steaming mug of tea and a faint, unexpected, smile of nostalgia crept across her tired features.

"Dad used to read them to me," pressed Katy, watching her mother closely. She hadn't mentioned the imp tales since her father's imprisonment. They'd once been her bedtime story of choice, but it was always her father that read them to her, and it hadn't seemed right to ask her mother, so the stories had vanished with him. "There was royal court who lived in harmony and then one day the imp turned up and started causing havoc."

"I remember," Cassandra murmured, taking a sip of chamomile tea.

"But?" Katy knew there was a 'but'; she see it in the way her mother avoided her gaze and hear it in the words she'd left unsaid. Cassandra looked up over the top of her mug with a thoughtful expression.

"But they weren't fairy stories."

"What were they then?"

"I suppose you could call them the misadventures of our youth," said Cassandra, setting the mug down and reaching out to push a lock of golden hair away from Katy's bewildered face. "Your father was the jester - always playing the fool, and I was the queen because, among other things, that made you a princess. I imagine you can guess who the imp was."

Katy could and the realisation sent adrenaline racing through her veins hotter and faster than fiendfyre. Imps were notoriously tricky creatures and the one in her father's stories had always had an answer for everything and taken a wicked delight in never telling anyone what it was.

Katy's eyes slowly slid away from her mother's face and were drawn inexorably towards Jorge, who was still sitting quietly at the table. His tanned fingers were curled around his cup of coffee, but he hadn't taken so much as a sip and she could see the tensed muscles in his arms.

If you couldn't take a risk when you were out of options, when could you? Katherine Avery took a leaf out of the imp's book and threw caution to the wind:

"Where's my dad?"

Jorge's dark eyes locked with hers and her heart skipped a beat. He knew.

"Katy..." There was pity in her mother's voice but Katy cut across her, her eyes never leaving Jorge's face.

"They're on his tattoos."

"Who are?" asked her mother, sounding utterly perplexed. In the circumstances, Katy couldn't blame her. Cassandra Avery hated tattoos, but Katy, who had never seen the Dark Mark flare on her father's skin, had no such objections and she'd spent hours examining Jorge's inkings.

"The imp and the jester and the queen," said Katy, searching Jorge's face for any sign of confusion at her words and finding none. "The troll and the courtesan. The bat and the knight. All of them."

She heard her mother's sharp intake of breath, and then: "Where?"

In answer, Jorge raised his left arm from the table, twisting his wrist inwards so that the tangle of brambles sprawling across his outer forearm were clearly visible.

Katy dropped her gaze to seek out creatures hiding amongst the thorns and felt a shiver run down her spine as she found them. Just below the face of Jorge's watch sat the imp, perched on a thick stem with a grin on its face and marionette paddles in its hands. The strings fell down in a cascade and the ever luckless troll bellowed a few branches below, hopelessly ensnared in the pale threads.

Her eyes moved along the rose stems and found the other characters: playing cards snagged on thorns depicted the Queen of Hearts and a Joker; a courtesan lounged on the petals of a rose; brambles encircled a chess set's black knight and, always the hardest to find amongst the leaves, a bat darted unharmed through the barbs, wings spread wide.

"Katy, I want you to go to Samantha's."

Katy tore gaze away from the inked designs to stare at her mother and was shocked to see that Cassandra Avery had her wand out and was pointing it directly at Jorge's heart.

"Mum?"

"Go," said her mother again, her green eyes fixed on Jorge with a look of fury that Katy had never seen before.

"I'm not going to hurt her," said Jorge, breaking his silence at last. "I would never hurt her, Cass, you know that."

"Oh?" There was acid dripping from the word. "No one outside of our old house ever heard those stories. How long have you been spying on us?"

"Mum, it's Jorge," said Katy quietly. "He wouldn't-"

"I told you to leave, Katherine," said Cassandra sharply, in a voice that brooked no argument.

"But he knows!" pressed Katy. If Jorge had planned on hurting them, he'd had years in which to do it. Right now, she was far more concerned with finding out what had happened to her father than the possibility that Jorge was an enemy. "Where is he?"

Jorge's dark eyes slid from Cassandra's wand to Katy and he considered her for a long moment.

"You may not like the answer."

"Is he alive?" asked Katy. Despite her mother's reaction, she just couldn't convince herself that Jorge was harbouring malicious intentions. Truth be told, he seemed more nervous than threatening. That in itself should have set off alarm bells, but desperation had driven all other thoughts from her mind.

"Yes."

The softly spoken word made the tears well up in her eyes again.

"Where is he?" she asked urgently, leaning across the table towards him, searching his dark eyes for the answer she craved.

"Where the Ministry will never find him."

Was that a reassurance or a threat? Cassandra seemed to be thinking along the same lines, because she asked acidicly:

"You claim to know Robert and yet you've never thought to mention this fact in thirteen years? What's changed?"

Jorge pulled a small card from his shirt pocket and held it between two fingers, flipping it so they could see the British Ministry of Magic insignia embossed in gold across its front.

"When I was showing Auror Molloy to the door, he gave me his card. Told me to contact him if I should see anyone suspicious hanging around."

"So?"

"So Katherine was right," said Jorge simply. "There is one place they'll never look."

Katy stared at Jorge in bewilderment, finding herself, not for the first time that evening, unable to make sense of what was being said. When had she said that? She looked to her mother to see if she was just as confused, but Cassandra Avery wasn't looking at her. Her wand was still out and pointed at Jorge, but the hand that held it trembled and the knuckles had turned white. Her face had a frozen, stunned expression and as Katy watched, she saw silent tears spill from leaf green eyes.

"Cass?" Jorge's voice was low, and almost pleading.

"This is a trick," said Cassandra faintly, staring at him as though he was the only person that existed in the world.

"Yes," said Jorge softly. "One last trick, to pay for all."

"But you can't… This is impossible." In all of her eighteen years, Katy had never seen her mother look as lost as she did at that moment.

"Not impossible," said Jorge slowly, the faintest trace of a smile on his lips. "Just monumentally difficult to accomplish."

Katy was about to ask for someone to explain what was going on when her mother's armour finally fell away. Her wand dropped to the table with a clatter and she sank into her chair, shaking with sobs. Jorge was out of his seat in an instant, kneeling on the floor before her and cradling her trembling hands in his.

"How?" Katy thought the word had probably been intended as a demand but it sounded like a plea.

"Remember how Gus could never understand why Katherine was wasting her time working in the Hall of Prophecy? Well turns out she didn't choose it for the career opportunities," said Jorge, his dark eyes gazing up into her mother's light one. "She chose it for the walk to work. She chose it because when she was sixteen she made a joke about wanting to revisit the past and one of her friends looked up from her copy of Witch Weekly and said: 'It's not impossible – my brother works in the Department of Mysteries and he gave me a tour. There're these devices called Time Turners…'"

He broke off as Cassandra sobbed harder and pulled her into his arms in one smooth motion. "I never wanted to lie, Cass, I swear, but I made a promise and you don't break your word to a woman who just massacred over two hundred people to save your skin. Especially not when she's offering you the one thing you want most in the world and never thought you could have."

He looked up then, over Cassandra's shoulder, and met Katy's stunned stare.

For the second time that night, her world started spinning and at the center of it was Jorge's face. Jorge, who had been at every birthday, never missed a school concert, helped with homework assignments and who had listened to her occasional rants about her mother with a faint smile. Jorge, who had become such a fundamental part of her life that tonight, when she'd needed help, it was his number that she'd dialed into her phone.

Her vision blurred into a kaleidoscope of colours, but this time it wasn't grief that made her blink back the tears pricking at her eyes.

She had never met Katherine Riddle and the only letter she'd ever written to her had been returned unopened. The Ministry was prepared to allow Robert Avery access to the outside world, but Katherine was deemed far too much of a risk. It wasn't until now that she fully understood why, and yet, in the end, all the precautions and security measures had made no difference. No one had ever been able to stop the imp doing something that she wanted to do, and for once, the stories held up to the hype.

She managed a small smile through her tears and the relief spread over Jorge's face like a sunrise.

"I've missed you, Dad."

-----------------------

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Last edited by Purple Banana; April 6th, 2015 at 12:36 am.
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