Harry took only a second to assess his surroundings when he appeared. He quickly ducked into the early evening shadow provided by one of the yew hedges and pulled the Invisibility Cloak over his head. He had neither the time nor inclination to attempt a Disillusionment Charm. He just wanted to get to the house. He didn’t care how long he had to wait but he was going to get Malfoy and Lestrange tonight, no matter the cost. Not thinking or caring about the noise he was causing, Harry ran full out under the cloak, or at least as fast as he could without it revealing his feet.
It was only when he was taking the last turn that led to the house that Harry, troubled by something, turned back and saw the metallic gate was standing open. Immediately he felt a shiver run down his spine. The Malfoy’s were hardly the type of family who left their gate open, affording the opportunity for random people to walk in. He dithered for a second, contemplating leaving and coming back with reinforcements but decided against it. Someone in his department was keeping the Death Eaters apprised of the Aurors movements. There was no way in hell that Harry was going to do anything to aid Malfoy and Lestrange to escape again.
Much slower and quieter than before he made his way to the house. Pointing his wand at the door he quietly muttered, “Alohomora” sure that such an elementary spell wouldn’t work, but the lock clicked and the door swung inward, revealing the richly decorated foyer.
Keeping his wand at the ready, Harry tiptoed into the house, closing and locking the door as he went. There was no need to give Malfoy and Lestrange advance warning of his presence. He looked around, peering in rooms, trying to find an out of the way place to wait for the two people he was going to finally bring to justice tonight. Invisible he might be, but it would be a fine thing to have someone walk into him.
Eventually Harry settled for a remarkably bare corner at the opposite end of the foyer from the front door. This offered him views of the eight other doors that led to other rooms, the staircase, and, of course, the front door.
The minutes ticked by slowly in the near complete silence; the only sound coming from the occasional cough, sigh or grunt given by the subjects of the portraits. Harry leaned back against the wall, trying to remain alert for any change in the environment, but he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about what Narcissa had said: Ginny had once again been hurt because of her relationship with him. Judging by her behaviour, even in the short time he had spent with her, Harry thought she seemed more rattled than she had at anytime after the ordeal with Voldemort. It was hardly surprising. Though her time as a prisoner in Snape’s dungeon was not a laughing matter, what she had gone through last night was certainly much more traumatizing.
He couldn’t begin to fathom her thoughts or feelings upon discovering what had happened. But this brought up another question: how had she been drugged in the first place? After everything she’d been through, Ginny was careful to avoid situations where she was at a disadvantage. The only time she was ever totally relaxed was around her family, or perhaps with someone whose magical skills were less than her own. Dudley certainly fit into this latter category.
Harry stood up straight as he thought of Dudley. Could he have been involved in this set-up somehow? It was certainly no secret that he’d desired Ginny for years, but would he go to such lengths to get her? Harry couldn’t answer that question but another troubling thought came to him. Narcissa said what happened to Ginny was indeed a set up. Was Dudley just in the right place at the right time? (Harry gritted his teeth at the thought). Or was he involved in something more complex? It had to be the former. Dudley didn’t know Malfoy and Lestrange, did he?
A bone-chilling cold came over Harry as though Dementors were approaching. He was sure Lupin was right and he had just walked into a trap. It wasn’t a secret that he didn’t always think things through before he acted. Had Narcissa been sent as a lure to get him to lose his temper and come running off here, where Malfoy and Lestrange wanted him?
Clutching the Invisibility cloak, Harry started to make his way out of the house. He had to get back to the Ministry and bring the rest of the task force come back with him.
“Not so fast, Potter.” Lucius Malfoy’s drawl was as distinct as ever. Before Harry could do so much as determine which direction the voice was coming from, a red light filled the foyer and all went black.
When he opened his eyes, Harry registered several things at the same time: his glasses were gone, he was staring at what looked like a ceiling illuminated by flickering firelight, and he was bound tightly to a cloth-covered, yet cold, stone table sitting several feet off the floor. He tried to struggle, but he was bound so tightly that only his head, fingers and feet would move; the rest of his body seemed to have gone numb. He tried to concentrate on breaking the bonds. They’d been taught how to get out of situations like this in Auror training, but, like his nonverbal spells, it was something he had always been patchy at. Now it was more important than ever. Before he was able to loosen the ropes at all he heard noises outside the room. lifted his head to see both if he was making any progress and if anyone had entered the room. The answer was no on both counts.
Harry lowered his head again and strained as hard as he could to get the ropes to break.
“How nice of you to rejoin the waking world, Potter,” Malfoy said. “We thought you were going to sleep through all the excitement. Here.” Harry felt his glasses as they were shoved back on his face. The room came back into view. “No reason for you to miss the show, is there?”
Harry’s only answer was to continue his vain struggle to free himself. Seeing this, Malfoy laughed.
“If you can’t even detect a simple Disillusionment charm, Potter, you have no hope of getting free of those ropes. You’ll find you’re missing one crucial item anywy.” Malfoy pulled Harry’s wand out of his pocket. He’d already assumed they had taken it and so wasn’t shocked to see it in Malfoy’s hand. Only the dumbest of criminals would leave weapons on their prisoners.
“I guess Dolores Umbridge was right: the Auror office was really desperate for people if they let you in.”
Hoping to buy time to work on getting out of this predicament, Harry laughed.
“I guess they’re not the only ones who were desperate though.” He nodded at the ropes, which felt like they had loosened ever so slightly. “I’ve been in this sort of situation before. Remember the graveyard, and how I got away then? If you plan on killing me, you should do it right away. Time is a good friend of mine.”
Malfoy smirked. “You may have been lucky in the past, Potter, but you don’t share the same connection with Bellatrix and myself that saved you from the Dark Lord. No, we’ve both been looking forward to this too long to have it over with immediately. Besides that, Bellatrix has big plans for you.”
“I don’t doubt she’s worked out some crazy plan in her deranged mind. I’m sure she’s convinced herself she can bring Voldemort back from the dead. I didn’t think you were fool enough to believe her, too. No spell can bring back the dead.”
Malfoy flinched at the sound of his former master’s name, but just as quickly he recovered and was smirking again.
“I know that, and you know that, Potter. Telling her would just spoil all the fun, even if she were to believe us. She’s wanted to get you out of her hair for years and after what you did to my son, I have no objections.”
“Really?” Harry asked, stopping the covert effort he was exerting to free himself. “Given how many of Voldemort’s plans you screwed up, I’d have thought you’d be the last person who would want to help bring him back, no matter how unlikely his actual return is.”
“Don’t you get it, Potter? It’s not about the Dark Lord — at least not for me.” He came to hover over Harry, a dangerous glint in his eye. “You murdered my son. Did you really think I was going to let that go?”
“Voldemort murdered him,” Harry said through clenched teeth. He was straining again to get out of his bindings.
“If Draco had been sensible — not seduced by your filthy little blood-traitor. and asked to find you, he wouldn’t have been.”
Harry felt a fresh wave of anger rush through him, and he tried again to struggle free of the ropes. He thought they had a little more give than before.
“It’s the only decent thing he ever did, and he knew he was probably going to die for it. Perhaps you should take a lesson from him, be proud, rather than vengeful.”
Malfoy withdrew his wand from his pocket and pointed it in Harry’s face. The smooth quality of his voice disappeared as he began to speak again.
“It is an insult for a wizard of Draco’s ilk to prostrate himself for a blood-traitor and a half-blood.” He paused, the tip of his wand shaking a little. Harry stared back defiantly, willing Lucius Malfoy to do something. After a minute he looked away, stowing his wand in his pocket. “But it makes no difference now. We have you, and we’re going to right this horrible wrong.”
“You could have done that years ago,” Harry said. “Why go through all this trouble?”
“I’ve already told you, Potter. Bellatrix wanted you dead for killing the Dark Lord. But more than that — she wanted you to suffer as you’ve made us all suffer.
“You were hard to get at that first year after He fell. We tried, believe me. We had to work much harder to avoid the Ministry in those days, but it all turned out well. Bellatrix discovered necromancy, we met up with Dolores Umbridge who told us about an easy source of information in the Auror office, this is where we learned of the work done by the department of mysteries: a most interesting find.”
Lucius walked around the stone table, twisting his wand between his two hands. Harry wondered why he was being so forthcoming. If Malfoy and Lestrange were apprehended, the crimes being boasted about would be added to their sentences. But they either didn’t expect to be caught or were relying too heavily on Voldemort’s impossible return. The thought didn’t comfort Harry at all.
“We hadn’t thought of plotting anything until we learned that you were assigned to Yaxley’s old case. We had already been working on a derivation of the potion that resurrected the Dark Lord before. When we learned that the task force was getting desperate for a lead on us, and had started looking into the cases of the missing Muggle-borns we had taken, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to tie you in as well. A two-for-one, if you will. Yaxley was never anything more than a pawn — we could afford to sacrifice him — and so we did. It was all a part of the plan to get you onto the task force where we had a greater influence.”
Harry, who was making some progress with the ropes, stopped and looked at Malfoy, not believing what he was hearing. Even if they had a mole in the Auror office, they couldn’t have that much influence.
Malfoy threw back his head and laughed.
“You didn’t really think you were that great an Auror to get in of your own volition, did you? Finding all those leads falling into your lap didn’t make you even the least suspicious? We made it so that you got here. Now, now, we can’t have that, can we?” Malfoy pointed his wand at the ropes and they tightened, undoing all of Harry’s hard work. Lucius looked into the hall.
“I don’t know what’s keeping Bellatrix, but it gives me the opportunity to finish enlightening you on how you got here. I know I shouldn’t bother, because you’ll be dead and we’ll be long gone before your Auror friends ever get through our barriers.”
“They might surprise you.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It took them this long to figure out that we’ve been staying here at the manor for years. But enough of this, let’s talk about the Mudbloods. It was always going to be them once Bella discovered the idea of the resurrection potion. Why waste perfectly good magical blood when they were around? We didn’t intend on using those close to you at first. That decision came after you were assigned to the task force and after we had already taken Finch-Fletchley.”
“Why?” Harry asked, once more temporarily giving up the struggle. The fact Malfoy was volunteering this information was beginning to disturb him more than it should. It likely meant that they were confident he wasn’t going to get out of here in a state to relay any of it. His inability to get out of the ropes that bound him added to his worry that they might not be overconfident this time.
“Why? Surely you would have worked that out for yourself.” Malfoy paused again and shook his head, laughing to himself. “What am I saying? You’re the Auror who doesn’t know how to Disillusion yourself. The Finch-Fletchley boy was taken because he was there —a convenient subject for Bellatrix’s potion. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, I wanted to let you know that those photos of the Mudblood Creevey — we figured you would like to know how we disposed of our subjects once we were done with them.
“That was a fruitful night. Our source told us about your scar and Bellatrix fine-tuned our plan. We didn’t just want to get you then, she realized that we needed you. What better way to get you here than to make you aware that we were targetting your Mudblood friends? We were worried that you might not work it out on your own though, and so we decided to do one additional thing — well, I suppose we’d already had that in place, but it became much more integral to our plan — we needed to include your blood traitor. And believe me we had a more than willing participant to help us with that aspect of our plan.”
“Who?” Harry asked furiously, trying again to break the ropes with no success.
“No, no, no, Potter,” Malfoy said, waving his finger in Harry’s face. “You won’t get any answers with a tone like that.
“We were surprised you worked out our plan with the bodies of the Mudbloods. Of course you walked right into the trap though, so thank you for that. Since we’re putting everything on the table now, you might want to know we brought so many Death Eaters with us because we planned to take you and Granger both that night. You were getting a little too close to figuring out our plan for comfort. Moody was a fortunate byproduct of that night. When Granger got off that lucky stunner and hit me, Bellatrix decided to cut her losses. Moody and the house-elf were enough for the night, she said. That’s why she packed up and left. We hadn’t quite broken you yet anyway. She redoubled her efforts with the Weasley girl. Tell me something, Potter.” Malfoy leaned down so their eyes were on a level, a malicious smile on his face. “ — did it upset you to see her with the Mudblood?”
Harry could feel his heart rate increase as he strained against his bonds again, with no effect except increasing his anger. Malfoy smiled at Harry’s reaction and regained his full height.
“I believe Bellatrix is coming.”
Harry froze for a second. He could indeed hear the click of approaching footsteps. He also heard a tinkling like glass bottles tapping against each other. He thought he heard a soft cackling that reminded him very much of Bellatrix. At once he started struggling again.
Bellatrix made her way into the room, carrying five phials of a sickly yellow substance that Harry recognized at once as the same they’d collected from Justin’s desk just after he disappeared. A small cauldron floated along in front of her. When she saw Harry bound to the table a large, sickening smile, appeared on her face. Setting her phials and cauldron on a nearby table she extracted a long knife with a wavy blade. It gleamed in the firelight.
“So glad you could join us, Potter,” she said, setting the knife down and coming over to where Malfoy was standing. Her smile vanished and was replaced by a hungry, salacious expression. Slowly she reached out her left hand and touched Harry’s scar. Sickened by her touch he did the only thing he could: he turned his head.
Without a word she backed away and Harry at last felt it was safe to look at her. She was caressing her left forearm tenderly, wearing the same look as when she touched Harry’s scar. It was only as she removed her hand that he saw she’d been touching her Dark Mark.
Bellatrix turned her attention to the contents on the table. She uncorked each of the five phials and poured them, with some difficulty, into the cauldron where they fizzed and sent a huge mushroom cloud of yellow smoke into the air, where it hovered. She stirred the contents until the cloud slowly returned to the cauldron. Bellatrix watched the potion carefully for five minutes, continually caressing her Dark Mark, often turning to look at Harry, but she didn’t try to touch him again, for which he was extremely relieved.
When the potion was gurgling with a steady and sickening regularity, Bellatrix picked up the knife again. Placing her arm over the cauldron she ran the knife over her Dark Mark, creating a long and deep cut. Blood dripped freely from the wound, turning the shimmers from the potion a deep red. Only after she looked on the verge of passing out did Bellatrix run her wand over the cut, healing it, but leaving an angry red scar. She touched it, her face alit with ecstasy. Then she turned to Harry, knife in hand.
“You are going to help us — help me — resurrect the Dark Lord, Potter. With the fear of his most ardent opposers – Mudbloods, the blood of a most loyal servant, and a good bit of his powers from you . . . the Dark Lord will rise again and this time he will be undefeated.”
“You’re crazy,” Harry said. “First of all, nothing you do will bring back Voldemort. He’s dead. I destroyed all of his Horcruxes — the only reason he was able to return last time. That’s why all his powers drained from me when I killed him five years ago.”
“Magic always leaves traces,” she answered at once, running the surface of the knife over his forehead. “This will work. You’ll be dead and the Dark Lord will be back; undefeatable.” The desirous gleam in her eye was back.
Bellatrix raised the knife and brought it down in one swift motion. Harry saw the blade come down as if in slow motion and knew that he was surely dead if he didn’t move that instant. He tried one last time to move to the left. The tip of the knife nicked his scar and tilted away as Harry toppled off the table. He had broken free from his bonds without aid of a wand but he had no hope of escaping without it or his Invisibility Cloak, which was sitting on a table in the opposite corner of the room.
Harry tried to stand, but failed because he couldn’t quite feel his limbs. An even more pressing problem was upon him though. The door, which stood to his left, was too far for him to run to without being stunned.
“Come now, Harry Potter, we are not going to play this game,” Bellatrix said. Harry could hear her coming around the table. “You cannot escape this house, even if you had a wand.”
He was sure he could hear Malfoy join her. Harry did the only thing he could think of. He scrambled to the foot of the table, hoping he’d be able to grab his cloak, or get round the other side and out the door somehow. At the very least he needed to hold them off until the rest of the task force arrived. Hopefully they would stay together and not decide to approach from separate sides.
When he was halfway around the opposite side of the table, Harry decided to make a run for it. He stood a little straighter, but before he even had a chance to run he saw they were both standing mere feet from the door. Both Malfoy and Bellatrix had their wands pointed at him and as soon as his head appeared over the top of the cloth-covered table Malfoy fired a stunning spell. Harry ducked it.
He was just wondering if he stood a chance of bowling one of them over and escaping that way when help came from the most unlikely source.
“Expelliarmus,” a male voice shouted from the doorway. Malfoy’s wand flew out of his hand. With a quick lunge, Harry caught it and seized what would probably be his only opportunity to disarm Bellatrix. He had her wand only because she hadn’t expected the arrival. Harry was sure that it was one of his fellow Aurors, but it was Dudley.
“Expelliarmus,” Harry called at once, and caught Dudley’s wand as well. He might have just miraculously disarmed a Death Eater, but that didn’t make Harry trust him any more.
“Accio wand,” he said, and his own wand flew out of Malfoy’s pocket.
Now he had the upper hand, Harry wasn’t sure what to do. He’d come here for a specific purpose — to rid the world once and for all of these two murderers . . . he had all of their wands, it would be easy enough to do . . .
After looking around at the other three people in the room, Bellatrix cackled loudly. Harry wasn’t the only one who was sure she’d finally gone completely mad.
“Look at this, Lucius, the betrayer has betrayed us. I told you we should have bound him; these Mudbloods can’t be trusted. Come in, come in.” She grabbed Dudley by the arm and pulled him into the room. He didn’t protest but he didn’t look happy either. “I think — since we’re educating Potter on how he came to be here — we need to enlighten him on the role this Mudblood played. Don’t you think?”
“Certainly. Should you tell, or should I?” Malfoy asked, some of his infamous arrogance returning. “He almost went the way of the others, you know, until I recognized him as your cousin, Potter. We were already working on a way to get to you, and here was our ready-made key. He was most willing to cooperate, weren’t you?” He turned to look at Dudley. “He doesn’t have the stubborn streak you do. He was quite happy to work out a trade: you for your girlfriend.”
Malfoy stopped again and watched Harry closely. In contrast, Dudley was trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible, cowering against the door.
He’d been wondering this very thing while he’d been waiting for Malfoy and Lestrange so Harry wasn’t as shocked as he might have been. He was feeling more ashamed that he hadn’t caught onto this earlier. Dudley never had the slightest interest in improving their relationship before he showed up on Harry’s doorstep, asking for a place to stay. It now made sense though, why he had seemed so certain that Harry would say yes. Malfoy and Lestrange had probably told Dudley that Harry would agree if he said he had nowhere else to go.
Then there were those odd disappearances at night. Those now made sense as well. Dudley hadn’t been dividing his time evenly between Keelie, Brenna and Privet Drive; he’d been spending time with Malfoy and Lestrange. He’d been working as their spy — twice he’d been into Harry’s papers — once the day after he’d arrived and another time that Harry had blamed on Hedwig.
There were many things that Harry had to talk to Dudley about, it seemed, but that was going to have to wait for later . . . if there was a later.
“You played right into our hands by agreeing to take him in,” Malfoy said, confirming Harry’s thought. “And in many ways the way it happened worked out to our benefit. The way Weasley insisted that you give in helped plant the seed of doubt that got you to believe she would take up with your cousin, didn’t it? Who knew that the boy who lived wasn’t living the happily ever after everyone thought he was.
“Not that it was all fun and games for us. This one — “ Malfoy pointed at Dudley “ — is the biggest dolt I’ve ever seen. Crabbe and Goyle are geniuses compared to him.”
Dudley bristled but said nothing. In fact, he seemed to cower even more.
“He was hopeless as a spy. Twice he tried going through your papers and found out less than we knew ourselves from our source in the Auror office. He was good for a few things though. He certainly kept you from spending too much time focused on that case. He did his job in getting you to think he was spending all his time with those two stupid Muggle girls, or at that repulsive Muggle hovel.”
Harry glanced at Dudley. To hear it told in such a way made him even angrier that he’d actually believed that he and his cousin might ever have a normal relationship. How Dudley had ever managed to make him believe that he cared about Privet Drive and his parents was making Harry grit his teeth.
“Where’s he been, then?” he challenged.
“Here, of course,” Malfoy said with a little chuckle. “He needed to get a better at magic to achieve what we wanted him to. We did have to teach him how to conjure the Dark Mark.”
“What?” Harry asked loudly. Of all the things he’d expected to hear, this was not one of them. He was so surprised that he very nearly dropped the wands. Malfoy and Lestrange both laughed.
“Who would expect the cousin of the great Harry Potter to do such a thing?” Bellatrix asked. “It was genius. We were in and out of the Ministry before anyone was the wiser, thanks to our little helper.”
Harry raised all four wands and pointed them at the three people standing before him but he was even more uncertain.
“There must be something in your genes that makes your entire family weak,” Malfoy said with a sneer on his face when he saw Harry’s uncertainty. “Even your moronic cousin tried to back out of our deal, didn’t you, Dursley?”
“I — I — I- I d-did,” Dudley answered meekly, looking at Harry pleadingly. This attempt to elicit sympathy from him made Harry want to jinx Dudley on sight. After everything he’d done it was impossible to believe he had the nerve.
“Weak and ungrateful,” Malfoy continued. “Weren’t you just meeting with us to complain about how imperfect your night with Ginevra Weasley was?”
Harry took a step forward, half-raising the wands, still unsure of what he was going to do. He had to make up his mind soon, but . . .
“I’m so sorry,” Dudley said, sounding genuinely apologetic. “I didn’t think we would start getting along . . . I would take it all back — all of it — if I could, but —“
“Too late,” Bellatrix said from behind Harry. Before he could turn around she had wrapped her arm around his neck. She was surprisingly strong and though he struggled, it was no use. Harry still had the wands and tried to perform a nonverbal spell but with no luck. He felt a cold metal pressed hard against his neck and knew that Bellatrix had her knife positioned so that if he moved he’d slit his own throat.
“Interesting family dynamic,” Malfoy said smugly, coming forward and taking the wands from Harry. He handed Bellatrix her wand, pocketed Harry and Dudley’s and then pointed his wand and said “Petrificus Totalus.”
Harry instantly felt his limbs snap together and he couldn’t move.
“Enough of this. Those Aurors are going to break through our wards eventually,” Bellatrix said. “I want the ritual of resurrection completed.” She had Lucius remove the spell so she could pull Harry’s head back. Looking him in the eye she said, “thank you, Potter, for your contribution.”
Bellatrix raised the knife and brought it down, cutting into Harry’s scar until she hit bone. Unable to help himself, Harry screamed in pain. He kicked out and connected with Malfoy’s knee.
“Ooomphf.” He fell backwards. Harry used that move to struggle free of Bellatrix’s grasp. He lunged forward, intent on getting a wand again and saw his own fall out of Malfoy’s pocket. He grabbed it and rolled over on his back just in time to block Bellatrix’s stunner. He quickly bound Malfoy before taking the effort to get to his feet. He wanted Bellatrix’s wand from her again.
“Give it up, Potter,” she said as they circled the stone table, throwing spells at each other with every opportunity. “I have told you before that you are no match for me. Protego.”
Harry dived behind the table and immediately cast another disarming spell. It miraculously worked again. Bellatrix’s wand hit the opposite wall. She turned to get it.
“Don’t move,” Harry said, standing up. He summoned the three wands, pocketed them then he pointed is own wand at Bellatrix and had her back up so she was standing right next to the still bound Malfoy.
Now they were at his mercy he could do what he came here to do. He could prevent them from ever hurting Ginny, or Hermione, or anyone else again.
Harry raised his wand to perform the curse he’d done only once before, staring at the mocking expressions on the two Death Eater’s faces. He thought of Ginny and what she’d been through, the pile of bodies they’d left without care for their victim’s families, about Mad-Eye Moody, and Hyde, not to mention the innumerable nameless victims. He formed the words in his mind and prepared to shoot the curse.
All of a sudden he was seeing fire and smoke everywhere, he was staring into the wide scarlet eyes set into a skull-white, serpentine face. A flash of green light connected with Voldemort and then all Harry could feel was pain, months and months of pain.
He stumbled back, hitting the stone table, again trying to push painful memories from his mind. Bellatrix and Lucius laughed.
“Shut up,” Harry said, through clenched teeth. They, however, did not stop at all. They continued laughing.
“You have not changed, Harry Potter. You were too weak to kill me when you were fifteen, and you are too weak to kill me now,” Bellatrix replied.
“I said shut up.” Harry raised his wand to eye level, but he squeezed his eyes shut, trying to clear the memories of killing Voldemort. This momentary weakness was taken advantage of as Bellatrix was upon him, reclaiming the wands yet again. Harry put up no resistance, feeling almost as though he again under the full body bind curse. Bellatrix removed the ropes around Malfoy and he was at once on his feet.
“This ends now, Harry Potter,” she said, approaching Harry, wand in one hand, knife in the other.
“Avada Kedavra,” Malfoy shouted, pointing his wand at Harry who didn’t move an inch.
At that precise moment a jet of red light hit Malfoy in the back and he toppled forward, his spell hitting the stone table, cracking it inches from Harry’s hand.
Five figures emerged as Disillusionment charms lifted: the task force had at last broken through the barriers Malfoy and Lestrange had put up. Seeing them brought a certain sense of relief onto Harry. He summoned the strength to crawl to the other side of the thick table and sat there, leaning back against it, covering his bleeding scar and again berating himself for being lured into a trap.
Behind his eyelids Harry could see a flash of colour and therefore knew that Bellatrix wasn’t going to go quiet, but he paid no attention to it. Whatever would happen would happen, he was done with this case.
The improbability of her presence was what caused him to open his eyes. Unless he was starting to see things, Ginny was definitely there, crouching before him. Harry reached out and touched her face, just to be sure, noting the worried expression she was wearing.
“What happened?” she asked, her eyes moving up to his scar. Instead of answering, Harry pulled her to him.
“I’m sorry, Gin,” he said, unsure of what he was apologizing for.
“Sssh,” she replied. “We’ll talk about it later.”
They sat like that for a time, until a large scuffle started. Both Harry and Ginny peered over the table. Kingsley and Tougas had been unsuccessful in their attempts to stun Bellatrix, but they had finally got hold of her and were leading her out of the room; she was not going quietly. Mere seconds after Harry and Ginny began observing the scene, Bellatrix lunged at someone they couldn’t see. Kingsley and Tougas immediately restrained her and continued pulling her.
“Wht the hurry?” Bellatrix asked, another of her crazy cackles reverberating around the room. “Don’t you want to make sure you get all the guilty parties? Your leak is standing right before you.” The other people in the room stilled and silence fell.
“I — I’m not,” Briony said. “I swear I’m not.” Tougas and Kingsley shifted enough that Harry could see Briony and the frantic look on her face.
“Oh you most certainly are, though I guess it’s hardly surprising you don’t remember. The Confundus charm has a tendency to do that, with only the mildest of side-effects of disorientation and forgetfulness after repeated use.
“But I assure you that Miss. Wright was as useful to us as her aunt said she would be. We got to her quite easy and it is thanks to her we got all our information on what the Unspeakables got up to, your pitiful attempts to find Lucius and I, information on Harry Potter, and of course —“ Bellatrix twisted around to smirk at Harry “ — how he took the news that the blood traitor had betrayed him.”
“No, I — I couldn’t have,” Briony said, weakly, not looking at anyone.
“You lying bitch.” Tougas, with a look of unfettered fury in his eyes, pushed his wand tip into Bellatrix’s throat. She didn’t flinch. Her smile increased.
“What? Your Miss. Wright not as perfect as you thought she was, Tougas?”
As Bellatrix taunted Tougas, Kingsley was telling him to remove his wand. Tougas did nothing of the sort, instead pressing his wand harder into her throat, his face turning from an angry red to a furious purple.
“Tougas,” Kingsley barked, taking his hand off Bellatrix’s arm for only a second to slap Tougas’s hand away. Ever resourceful, she grabbed Tougas’s wand and Disapparated before they could get a good grip on her again.
The silence remained for another few seconds as everyone processed what had happened.
“I thought you cast the Anti-Disapparition jinx,” Kingsley thundered, pointing his wand at Tougas’s face.
“I thought I had,” Tougas admitted, looking the most shocked of all of them, not meeting Kingsley’s gaze.
“This is why you double check. Take this one and get back to the Ministry.” Kingsley touched the stunned form of Malfoy with his toe. “Can I trust that you’re not going to do anything stupid with him, like leave him with his wand?”
“Good. Get going. Once you have him locked up I want you to wait for me. You and I, Tougas, need to have a long chat.”
Supporting a floating, stunned Malfoy with his own wand, Tougas left. Kingsley turned to Briony, speaking more gently.
“You, Miss. Wright, I’d also like to await my return at the Ministry. Kitson, accompany her, will you?”
They disappeared as well, Kitson leading a sobbing Briony out of the room.
“If there’s no objection,” Lupin spoke up, making Harry realize for the first time that he was there. “I’m going to take Mr. Dursley to Grimmauld Place.”
There was none.
“Right. The rest of you, search this place. I want you to gather any evidence you can. Also, though I’m sure she’s long gone, look for Lestrange.” As Schultz, Brazill and Dawlish left, Kingsley at last turned to Harry and Ginny, a frown on his face.
“Stupid thing to do, Potter, running off on your own like that. It could have been a set up.”
Kingsley’s frown deepened. He looked Harry over once.
“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Potter, but I’ll wait until you’re less likely to bleed to death. See me tomorrow.” He turned away and began examining the contents of the cauldron.
Unsure what to do, Harry stood there for a full thirty seconds before Ginny took his hand.
“Let’s get the hell out of here.”