Harry Potter and the Horcrux Three
Regretfully, I don't own anything. It's all Mrs. Rowling's.
This is part three of my trilogy about the adventures of Harry Potter and Daphne Pinegrew/Greengrass. I intend to make it shorter than part two (this one should be around 25-30 chapters with 6k to 9k words each) and I won't spend nearly as much space on Hogwarts and the changes the school experiences. Most of those were already mentioned in part two and I'm certain you're able to extrapolate from there. The focus of this story will be on the fate of the remaining Death Eaters (mostly Dolohov, Bellatrix and Fenrir) as well as the search for the last Horcruxes (Ring, Diadem and the newly created Wand), not to forget about Harry and his own little problem.
If you're new to my trilogy (or simply to have a reminder) have a look at chapter 49 of part two "Harry Potter and the Congregation of the Asp" for notes/summary.
A little warning: the story contains bashing of Dumbledore, Molly and Ron Weasley. Also it's not about a "Hero Harry" story but one about teamwork. Please refrain from complaining about this. You've been warned.
Special thanks go to butterfly83 who agreed to continue her beta-reading of my story.
Chapter 1: Only time will tell
Hogwarts – Charms Teacher Office – 16th of June 1996
Neville grinned softly, watching his girlfriend as she tried to shoo away the big bad tomcat. Girlfriend, he breathed happily, not only girlfriend, but fiancée too. He still couldn't believe it sometimes. He, Neville Longbottom, for a long time feared to be a squib, for years seen as a dunderhead, a clumsy fellow and a menace in the potions lab, had succeeded in snatching such a beyond wonderful fiancée.
Hermione and he were sitting in a side room of Roxanne Pinegrew's office, using the afternoon to rehearse a few fourth and fifth year lessons for their DADA exam. Roxanne was away with her family but they would see them all later. It was nice to have the opportunity to use this room. That their adored Charms professor had quite a nice library around here was certainly a bonus, especially for Hermione.
Hermione glared at the tomcat. He stared back a bit sleepy, a tad bored and mostly unimpressed. The beast even had the audacity to yawn, showing impressive teeth. He smelled of chicken and that awful sauce Balou loved so much, the sauce that always looked like a freshly disgorged bird. Paddoc always created it especially for him. There was a little stretching and bending, but no sign of him willing to leave his resting spot – right in the middle of her notes. As Hermione tried to push and heave him away, Balou played a bit of "Catch me!" with her fingers. Her fingers already had a few scratches from his impressive claws. It had been these claws that caught Petti-rat months ago. It had been those teeth that crunched Petti-rat's neck as he tried to wriggle away. Daphne loved her tomcat even more for killing the cowardly, traitorous Death Eater.
"He hates me," Hermione whined, sounding far too much like a seven-year-old to her own ears.
"He does not," Neville responded with a snigger. He patted Crookshanks who was watching the funny scene from his place on Neville's armchair rest. Since his growth spurt after the second bounding ritual, Balou was bigger, heavier and stronger than Crookshanks by far. It was still obvious which one was the alpha tomcat in this team of troublemakers and Casanovas. With Crookshanks' Kneazle senses and Balou's intellect and strength – both far above any cat Hermione ever met – they made a terrible pair to have around if they set their mind on some prank. Fred and George would be proud. Balou was also very charming around the cats living at Hogwarts. Even Mrs. Norris seemed to like him and he often reminded Hermione of Thomas O'Malley, the hero tomcat from the Aristocats.
"I can't learn like this," Hermione continued to whine. Balou was unimpressed and didn't move an inch.
"He certainly feels that you don't need it anymore, that you're only flustering yourself." Hermione had been far calmer than expected, Neville had to admit. She held true to her word from last summer and spent at least one afternoon each week with her friends doing funny and relaxing things, be it visiting a cinema or playing some game. Two times a week they went running around the lake to train their endurance and as often as the weather allowed it, they had a walk in the evening. Still, she remained Hermione and the prospect of doing her OWL made her nervous. Not that there was any doubts she would do great.
It certainly helped that her three friends were willing to learn together with her, seriously. Even Harry had changed since becoming Harry Potter-Pinegrew. It did wonders to his grades. The four friends had been allowed to do some special projects, adding bonus points to a number of subjects. These projects focussed on teamwork, with the girls concentrating on Charms and Potions, while the boys worked with Earth Magic and Ancient Runes.
The "Hermione/Daphne animal care product line" would hit the market on the 1st of July, distributed by Agatha Pinegrew and her partners and offering things like Hedwig's leather loop complete with warming charm, feather light spell and protection runes. Kingsley Shacklebolt, on the other hand, had accepted a number of "instant earth wall rune stones" from Harry and Neville for field-testing among some of his trusted Aurors. The wall Neville had created at the big battle had impressed him enough – him and most Aurors, many of them believing that the boy had saved quite a few of their comrades' lives with that spell.
While Daphne and Hermione already got scores above the 120% mark in Charms and Potions, the Board of Governors was still debating how to score Neville's highly unusual kind of magic – not that it was of any special interest to him. He only needed an EE in Charms and Potions – both had been unimaginable two years ago, but were easily within reach at present – and an O in Herbology. With his OWL in that subject already finished months ago, he was sitting his sixth year Herbology exam this week.
"But what if Professor Moody asks me about Grindylows?"
The ex-Auror had taken over the DADA classes after Narcissa Malfoy's disappearance. However, it was only for the rest of the school year. It was still unknown who would teach next year. So far, Moody had been far less paranoid and tense than expected, perhaps a repercussion of Voldemort being beaten two months ago.
"You'll do fine," Neville declared with determination as he walked towards her. "None of us will be able to beat Harry in the practical and Moody won't get a seizure should you actually miss a single question.
"Professor Moody," Hermione automatically mumbled, while Neville lifted Balou and her notes without any problems, his muscles playing under the tight tee. Neville smirked as he noticed Hermione's stare and slightly open mouth – the mouth with the very kissable lips. She blushed as she realized her staring.
"See anything you like?" Neville asked huskily as he leant towards her. He put his arms around her and lifted her from her cosy chair, his breath steady until he crashed his lips on hers. Hermione liked his newly found confidence even more than his well-toned chest and shoulders. She certainly didn't complain about the kissing.
I'll continue learning later. Neville deepened the kiss, his tongue begging entrance at her soft lips. Far later, she moaned softly.
Interlude – The Burrow
Another teenager was working on his OWL preparations as well. Only this one didn't have any friend around to support him. There simply wasn't any friend left, not after the stunt he pulled at Valentine's Day. Even his siblings mostly despised him. Ronald Weasley was a poor boy, unjustly treated by fate. This was at least his own opinion, an opinion only shared by his mother.
The good side of it? There wasn't any distraction, too. No twins pulling pranks on him, no Percy blabbering about his all-important work, no Charlie catching his attention with wild-exciting Dragon stories. He had time for learning and Joseph Hardigan's presence was all he needed to actually use the time well. This and the praise he received from his mother after getting an EE in his "Care for magical Creatures" exam. It had given him a new confidence, a confidence his teacher Hardigan hoped to use in the Charms exam as well. Transfiguration had been horrible, Potions barely been an A. He didn't expect to get any better at DADA the next day, but there was still History. Ron would have laughed a year ago into anybody's face mentioning that he would ever actually like that class, but Hardigan was nothing like sleep-inducing Binns.
I'll make Mum proud, Ron thought grimly. I'll show them all that I don't need that Granger-bitch. I'm a Prewitt. I can stand on my own feet.
Ron didn't remember when he started thinking of himself as "Ron Prewitt". His mother was always careful to hide the letters she exchanged with his Dad and their lawyers but Ron wasn't stupid. He knew that divorce was a very real option. His Mum was still trying to convince his Dad that they could be together again. Ron didn't believe it anymore, and more importantly he wasn't certain if he wanted them to get back together. He liked to live with his mother only. Sometimes he missed Charlie and Bill but certainly not the rest of the pack, especially not the "we use Ron as a practice target" twins and even less his bitch of a sister.
It was her fault completely. She'll pay for that.
"Continue," Hardigan demanded. Ron wordlessly complied. Revenge had to wait a little more.
"Tell me where he is, Potter." The dark man hissed. Antonin Dolohov looked beyond furious as he pressed the tip of his wand against Daphne's throat. His dark cloak was torn, the cracked silver mask lying on the ground. There was however no doubt about his ability to go through with his threats. A few other Death Eaters were surrounding them, most of them hidden behind their masks but one proud to show his face. Fenrir Greyback was snarling at Harry, ready to jump him and tear him apart.
"Tell me where you've hidden my Lord," Dolohov demanded to know. "Or your girlfriend will experience an amount of pain unimaginable to you."
"Don't you dare to hurt her," Harry thundered. It was all he could do being bound with his wand taken away. His friends were on the ground in front of him, Neville torn apart by the vicious Werewolf, Hermione bleeding to death after getting hit by a Sectumsempra Curse.
"You have nothing to demand, Potter," Dolohov snarled. "Answer my question or watch her die." He smirked viciously. "Crucio!"
Her screams broke his heart.
"No," Harry mumbled, restless in his slumber. "Leave her alone."
"Harry," someone started to shake him. "Wake up, it's only a dream."
"Leave her," Harry mumbled, slowly leaving his dream behind, yet not realizing where he was. "Daphne…" He opened his eyes and saw the most beautiful sight: Daphne, healthy, unbound and without pain. "DAPHNE!"
Before she had a chance to react, Daphne felt herself dragged onto Harry's lap. He started to kiss her like mad, his face glued to hers, his arms holding to her like he was drowning and needed her to survive. Harry completely ignored the concerned look of Roxanne Pinegrew and the amused smile of his godfather Sirius. Only Daphne was important.
"Was it that dream again?" Roxanne asked him softly after allowing him a few minutes of silence to pull himself together. Harry nodded, his attempt to show a convincing smile failing utterly. It hadn't been the first time he dreamed about Daphne being tortured or his friends being killed by one or more of the remaining Death Eaters. The exact content of the dreams changed, but the mood and intent was always the same. He feared that it would stay like this until they solved the Tom Riddle problem permanently.
Harry sighed, hugging Daphne against his chest again. Why can't Amelia and the Aurors be successful in their search? At least the school year would be at an end in a few days and with the summer break he would be able to do something about the matter himself, at last. He hadn't spoken with Roxanne about his intent to participate in the hunt, but assumed that she already knew. Roxanne was a clever and insightful woman. To be realistic: she probably knew about his wish before him.
Roxanne patted his arm before she left the kids alone and wandered over to the rest of the group. They had met in Carmen's house for a quiet Sunday afternoon between the two OWL exam weeks. Half done, another half to go, Harry and his friends could use a few hours off, especially Daphne who was nearly as bad about studying as Hermione. Neville and Hermione would join them in an hour at most, with some of their friends. Roxanne loved the development of her daughters having friends among all four houses.
Padma Patil had been a friend of Daphne and Hermione for nearly two years now. Her sister Parvati had joined the club only this year, with their mother Shanta slowly becoming surprisingly close to Roxanne. Aside from her thankfulness for the help regarding her daughters, Shanta had accepted Roxanne's help in getting more integrated into the British Pureblood society, something that had been denied to her in the past because of her Indian background. Shanta had still that annoying "exotic blob" feeling at the tea parties but slowly the other ladies got used to her presence.
Another Ravenclaw would join them, too. Roxanne smiled as she thought about Luna and her equally colourful father Xenophilius. Both were certainly funny and entertaining guests at every party, with Luna showing a shocking insightfulness and emotional depth every now and then. Harry loved the little girl like a younger sister, as did his three friends. They were incredible protective of her and Roxanne pitied any boy who dared to date her – or any girl, as she wasn't too certain about Luna's … propensities. I have to ask Hermione about Luna's current love life sometime.
From Hufflepuff there would be Hannah Abbott and Susan Bones. Regretfully her Aunt Amelia had too much on her plate this afternoon to be there. She really had hoped to tease Amelia about her beau… err… her secretary. Roxanne smiled thinking about the rumours regarding the (not) couple. Susan had proved to be an honest and brave student, a real Hufflepuff like Neville and Niles Chentz, the other boy that had been invited to attend their little party. Unlike his aunt Caren, who continued to teach Physics and Astronomy at Hogwarts, he was less inclined to spending time studying sciences and more interested in his girlfriend Megan Jones at the moment. They're a cute couple. Roxanne hadn't forgotten how good a friend Niles had been to Neville after his resorting or that Megan had tried to help Daphne against Dolores Umbridge, even getting hurt in the process.
Last but not least a few Slytherins would be there. Draco had been in the house for the whole day, rarely leaving Astoria's side but apparently slowly opening to Sirius. He would be spending the next few weeks with his uncle as there was still no sign from his mother – and his aunt. He turned sixteen a week ago and would be forced to keep the name Malfoy for another year. Only after turning seventeen and receiving his inheritance, would he be able to change his name to Black – something he wanted to do before he married Astoria. Not that this marriage would happen within the next four years, as Astoria wanted to complete her education before becoming a house wife. Roxanne snickered at the thought of Astoria turning into "Molly Weasley two", spending her whole time with children and household. Draco is a good boy – now. He'll allow her dreams and hopes to come true.
Four other Slytherins would be there as well. Tracey Davis and Blaise Zabini were still working on patching up their relationship. He still had to tread very carefuly and Roxanne hoped to further their romance with allowing them some time together in this neutral location. Millicent Bulstrode had accepted the invitation as well as Pansy Parkinson. Both had their own problems with their families. Millie would go home to her mother – her father now residing in Azkaban – but the CCU, the Children Care Unit, would still keep an eye on her.
Pansy at least had apparently been able to convince her parents that the victory meant they had to leave behind their official neutral stance and their unofficial bigot prejudices in order to behave "lighter". Roxanne actually liked the girl with the pug nose and the acid tongue. She had shown temper, loyalty and wit this year, three things she hadn't expected from the little pureblood princess. This and her open declaration of having no romantic interest in Draco anymore had smoothed the ground towards the Pinegrew family at large. It had certainly helped too that Harry had been thankful for Pansy standing up for Luna, Ginny and Gabrielle Delacour more than once last year, something she shared with Millie.
The Delacours would be some of the few foreign guests today. Roxanne had invited Michel Ulven from the MET – overjoyed to meet "Harry and friends" in a private setting – as well as the Greek Healer Jannis. Both Daphne and Hermione loved him and especially Daphne had become a pen pal to the young man, exchanging letters about details in the healing treatments of house-elves.
"Thank you for your invitation, Harry," a deep voice rumbled, announcing another important guest: Lady Ironsides, Chief Accountant of Gringotts Britain. The elderly, gruff Goblin had obviously taken a liking to Harry as she had done to his mother before. There had been a constant exchange of ideas and plans regarding the Lily Evans Trust, the Werewolf Supporting System and other ideas in Harry's overall plan to change the magical world of Britain forever. He and his friends will really put their stamp on our society, Roxanne was certain. And Lady Ironsides will make certain that they'll stay realistic and don't go overboard financially in their plans – and in Gringotts' good graces.
Too bad that Ana has to be in Toledo today, Roxanne sighed. Her Cousin had returned to her day-to-day duties after Voldemort's defeat. While she still worked behind closed doors to track down Madam Guille, she couldn't stay in Britain any longer. At least Carmen Sanchez was still living in Hogsmeade, partially as liaison officer between the Spanish and the British DMLE, and partially for more romantic reasons. Sirius and Carmen were still a bit shy about their relationship but Roxanne hoped that this would change soon. The spirited Spanish Auror was obviously in love with the black-haired playboy and Sirius apparently slowly realized that it was time to settle down and that he could choose much worse than the Spanish beauty.
Romance everywhere, Roxanne sighed feeling a bit old with all those couples around. Perhaps…
Agatha used the spell wordlessly to get an advantage, but as expected Augusta successfully beat the spell with a fast swish of her wand. The elderly lady countered with a triplet of stunners staggering Agatha despite her strong shield.
"You're getting stronger every day, Augusta," Agatha noted while retaliating with two 'Daphne-distractors' before landing a grazing hit with a low powered cutting curse. Augusta growled, angry about falling to the distractions. Agatha smiled as she thought of her grand-daughter teaching her those spells. They belonged to a broad range of spells invented by Daphne to support her in duels. Knowing that she couldn't match many adult enemies in pure power – already Hermione surpassed her, Harry even more and Neville… Neville was a calibre of his own – she used low powered, mostly more funny than hurting and more often than not embarrassing spells – to distract enemies before landing an incredible aimed single hit to take them out.
However, her statement had been justified: since her return, Augusta was stronger than ever and gained strength with every passing week. In addition she now knew a number of spells Agatha had never seen her use before. It was after one of their training sessions, that Augusta had explained the change.
"It's Argyle," she said, her eyes getting that faraway look as she thought about her late husband. "He was with me the whole time. He left a part of him in my heart, and some of his memories in my mind. I can remember now quite a few of the spells he had learned in his youth and his presence… I think it's strengthening me. I can't really explain it, Agatha. Perhaps it's simply the thought of someone watching over me. Whatever it is, it gives me strength."
Augusta was still no match to Dumbledore regarding power or knowledge. Even Neville and Harry wouldn't be for a few more years – not on their own at least. In a decade at most it would be different. A decade would also be the time they would need to halfway compensate for all the knowledge and experience Albus had gathered in his long life – a decade of training with Daphne and Hermione. Perhaps a tad less, Agatha grinned, thinking about the spells the girls had used to defeat very strong Death Eaters in the recent past. Both were quite imaginative in their battle style.
However, Augusta didn't actually have to match him, at least not in raw power. She needed a broad range of spells, yes. For this matter she had started to train with Agatha as soon as she felt fit enough. There had been sessions with Remus, Sirius and especially Severus too and Brychan had arranged a number of duels with Aurors from all four countries: England, Denmark, Spain and France. The most extraordinary fight had been between Augusta and Spiritualist Nowles however. Nel, despite the Greek being foremost a healer, knew an incredible number of archaic and rare spells; the fact that they were cast in Greek, Arabic or even more foreign languages certainly helped to gain surprise.
Power, Agatha mused gravely. I simply don't know how much power she'll need. It all depends on which 'Charges of Sorrow' she wants to claim and if any of them would be wrong.
The 'Trial of Grievance' was a very old and equally rarely used tradition. Truthfully Agatha was quite certain that it hadn't been successfully used in her lifetime. Hermione would know; she smiled thinly. It was meant as a path to extract retribution if someone had been wronged by a magically stronger opponent. Both opponents had to accept the trial – something that usually stopped it from happening in the first place. This at least wasn't a problem as the Court at the first hearing had already declared that Augusta had the right to demand it. Denying this right now would only get Albus into Azkaban and destroy the paltry leftovers of his former glory.
Then there was the list of 'Sorrows'. The accuser had to explain which wrongs he and those under his care had endured by the hand of the accused. Everything that happened to Neville would fall under this verdict as well as what Albus had done to Frank and Alice, with Alice belonging to House Longbottom for nearly twenty years now. They had a good guess of what Albus had done to them but there were a few more points which would be less clear. Each rightful accusation would stand in favour of the accuser, while every wrong accusation would double in favour of the accused. The overall balance and rightfulness of the accusations would strengthen – or lessen – the power scale for the fight. With careful planning – and a little luck – Augusta would be able to compensate for Albus' staggering power scale. This left the question of spell knowledge and creativity.
"Let's continue, Augusta. We have another hour until we have to depart for Roxanne's little party."
Augusta nodded curtly and got ready.
I'll get you, Albus. Enjoy your last weeks in this part of hell.
Ministry of Magic – Office of Amelia Bones
"The Ministry of Egypt is trying to help with our search, but their relations to the countries of Central Africa are still strained. I don't expect much progress on that front," Brychan Camwy sighed.
Amelia Bones simply nodded. She hadn't expected any better news. The Ministry of Egypt had only agreed to help because the French Minister pleaded them to, as the French Minister was kept in higher regards than his British counterpart in that part of the world. Madam Guille, Voldemort's vampiric ally, had however chosen well. Most central African states had a Ministry only by name; some of them not even that. What they shared was a deep-seated streak of independence and an equally ingrained suspicion towards the former colonial states.
It's understandable, Amelia sighed, but it doesn't make it easier to search for Guille and the Horcrux.
"We fared better with our hunt for Dolohov," Kingsley Shacklebolt took over. His promotion to Head Auror had been a surprise to most people outside of the DMLE, but not for the other Aurors, especially the senior ones close to the situation. There had been hints about Scrimgeour – his predecessor – supporting Voldemort, hints but no proof. It had been obvious that he was close to a number of Death Eaters and more than once openly admitted opinions about other races and Muggleborns that made Amelia's skin crawl. In the end it had been a conversation behind closed doors, between Scrimgeour, Amelia and Minister Fudge, that convinced the man to leave.
Professional differences in opinions about how to lead the Auror corps; had been the official explanation of his retirement. He was now often seen with other department heads, apparently looking for a job acceptable to his high expectations and set of skills. Amelia had been happy to get rid of him this way, especially without the spectacle of a high-profile investigation. The last months had been difficult enough. It had been months of sweeping the house. The 'blue book' – the notebook of Lucius Malfoy with notes about all briberies of the past fifteen years – had become the single most feared object at the Ministry. More than one Ministry official had voluntarily left his job, featuring personal or health reasons, rather than being submitted to a close scrutiny.
Now she had a trustworthy second – officially and unofficially – and Cornelius again proved having changed. She still had to have an eye on him because of his tendency to choose the easy way and procrastinate, especially with the unpopular decisions, but overall he was doing his job far better than anybody had hoped and expected – anybody other than Harry. Harry had been the one who wanted to give him a chance, at the beginning with a carrot and stick policy – luring with popularity and threatening with blackmail material – but more and more relying on Fudge's sense of survival and his newfound confidence as well as his excitement for being seen as the 'honest working politician actually caring for his population'.
"The Ministries of Bulgaria and Romania are still procrastinating in their cooperation, but we got some assistance through private channels." Amelia nodded. She knew what Kingsley was speaking about. Charlie Weasley, who had many contacts around Eastern Europe through his work at the Dragon Reserve, and Viktor Krum, famous Quidditch player and Casanova, had offered their help in gaining contacts under the radar of the respective Ministries. "We are now able to track a number of his thugs and even a few of his higher echelons, especially Avery who apparently is in charge of the security."
"Leave him alone for now," Amelia ordered. "We don't want to warn him prematurely."
"Understood," Kingsley nodded. "We're doing a bit of a ruckus right now in Poland, pretending that we're falling for his feint voyage there."
"Good," Amelia nodded slowly. "Be careful. We can't…" She sighed.
"We can't mess this up, I know," Kingsley continued surprisingly softly. He knew how difficult the past months had been for her; months that most people of Britain spent in party mode.
"Alright, enough of this," Amelia shooed them out. "Get back to work."
Everybody left apart from Brychan Camwy. The thirty something man watched Amelia with concern in his eyes. On days like these she looked her real age. She could really use a month or three of holidays. Amelia responded his look with a fake smile but he shook his head.
"Don't do that," he admonished her. "You don't have to pretend, not around me."
"Okay," she simply nodded with a low sigh and dropped her fake smile.
"Are we still appointed?" He asked, fearing that she would change her mind.
Amelia looked him in the eye, pondering the question far longer than he wished her to do. "Don't," he told her again. "Don't hide behind your age again."
It had been a point of heated discussion more than once these weeks. Amelia was more than a decade his senior, a thing uncommon but not unheard of in the magical society. Certainly it was nothing that disturbed Brychan. He always thought a sharp mind and tongue to be far sexier than anything else. Amelia certainly had both in quantity.
"They'll whisper about us."
"Let them whisper," he growled back. "They whispered from the start. What changes now?"
"They would be right about the rumours."
Brychan smiled mischievously. "It's only envy."
"Oh yes," Amelia could refrain from rolling her eyes. "I can already hear them, snickering about the elderly lady and her young Latin lover."
Brychan grinned. Despite his Wales heritage, many society women still only saw his long stay in Italia when speaking about him. The rumours about his conquests while working there – most but not all false or exaggerated – had never been silenced for long. "They'll adore me for taming the sexy Tigress." Cougar, that's what Americans called a woman like her. He always liked the pronoun.
"Taming," Amelia raised a single eyebrow, her mood better now. "Careful, this Tigress has claws."
"I never assumed otherwise," Brychan grinned before blowing a kiss on her knuckles.
Kingsley softly closed the door of Brychan's office behind him. The black, bald man had waited for him outside of Amelia's office and followed him without a word. Brychan felt somewhat tense around him. Kingsley was a man he deeply respected and from the look of his face the Auror wasn't a happy man right now.
"You know I adore her, don't you?" Kingsley started surprisingly softly.
Brychan nodded. It was no secret that many of the Aurors had similar feelings towards Amelia, seeing her as a big sister, Aunt or respectable niece in case of the older ones. There had been an immense uproar last year when Voldemort attacked her home; even today Towers and Brinks, the pair of Aurors successfully defending her against overwhelming odds, got free drinks every now and then.
"Are the rumours true?"
Brychan didn't have to ask which rumours. Hadn't he spoken about them with Amelia only minutes ago? He only hadn't expected Kingsley to be of the gossip type. However, he deserved the truth. "Not really, not completely," he admitted with a sigh. For a moment he pinched his nose. "However, I'm working on that part." He smiled weakly and tried to look as honest as possible.
"Why?" Kingsley asked hoarsely.
"I like her, I really do," Brychan answered in kind. "She's tough, has a sharp mind and is a woman of upstanding morals. She's everything I always wanted to find in a woman. It doesn't hurt that she's sexy as hell, especially in her full fury mode."
Kingsley scowled at him. He didn't need to hear about the sexy side of his boss. "You really mean it? She isn't only a conquest, a notch in…"
"Don't finish that sentence, Kingsley," Bry stopped him cold. "We're friends, but simply don't."
"Good," Kingsley's sure face actually softened and turned into a smile.
"You… you agree?" Brychan wondered.
"She deserves happiness," Kingsley simply stated. "I think you could make her happy." He turned towards the door but stopped. "Don't mess this this up, Bry."
"I mean it," Kingsley repeated with a deep growl right from his chest. "Don't mess this up. If you hurt her, I'll hurt you. And after I'm through with you, Tonks would bury the remains."
"I won't," Bry simply repeated. Apparently Kingsley believed him and left again. Only then did Bry allowed himself to smile. Should I have told him that I got a similar 'Talk' already from none other than Susan Bones? Nah, he shook his head. It won't do any good to his self-confidence to hear that his little threats had nothing on Susan's glare and growl. Merlin, is the girl frightening. It supposedly lies in the family.
Interlude – Somewhere far away
With a start she woke up, sitting bolt upright in her bed, sweat on her skin and her hair damp against her head and shoulders.
I had this dream again, she mused darkly. It got more intensive with every week. Should I tell her?
She shook her head, deciding against it. Once she had hinted at her dreams, but Narcissa had been… what had she been? Frightened? Concerned? In any case, she had dropped the matter and never again spoken about it. For days Narcissa had watched her, while attempting to appear unconcerned. When the dream returned, she hadn't mentioned it. The dreams were disturbing. Blood and pain were a constant in them.
She left her bed and wandered into the kitchen. Creating a hot milk with honey the Muggle way, something she found somehow relaxing, she drank it slowly, enjoying the taste and its calming effect. The night was warm, the sky clear with stars shining. No moon was visible, as this night was a New Moon. As she imagined a full moon, a disturbing picture of a terrifying Werewolf got into the mix. She shook her head. She knew that Werewolf somehow, but how?
She turned around to see her sister watching over her. She wore a thin dressing gown over her nightie but her feet were bare. Her sister enjoyed the feeling of wood under her feet, she knew. It was warm enough here to do this, far warmer than back at… she frowned. Warmer than where?
"Everything alright?" Narcissa repeated.
She nodded and tried a smile. Luckily it was dark enough to have her smile be convincible. "I'm fine. Only somehow had the munchies for hot milk and honey. Do you want some?"
"That would be lovely."
And so they spent the night, with hot milk, honey and thoughts about weird dreams.
Thousands of miles away, another human was also awake and unable to get a good night's sleep. The reasons, however, were far different. Albus Dumbledore had at last been successful in 'freeing' his bed-chamber from disturbances – mostly from appearances of his ancestor Roderick Dumbledore. The man had calmed down some over the last two months but was still complaining from time to time. He now often spent the day discussing Albus' life, deeds and misdeeds with other paintings. And he apparently found a new way to embarrass him: Roderick started to share stories with the guarding Aurors, about his childhood and sex life. Most of them were untrue but it didn't stop the Aurors from believing them; believing and retelling. Albus found more than one of those stories in the newspaper the next day.
I never expected my family to betray me, Albus grumbled.
However, hadn't his own brother betrayed him too? Aberforth still wasn't willing to accept his letters and had openly distanced himself from Albus in an interview. He only had a handful of supporters left. And now the day of Augusta Longbottom getting her stupid revenge was getting closer. He knew about her training – with none less than that Pinegrew snake, I should have expected it – and her plans to invoke the Trial of Grievance. Like Agatha he knew the details, the benefits and dangers of choosing this path to extract revenge. Unfortunately all charges were true. Yes, he had his reasons to make those decisions, reasons that would pardon him in the face of history. Magic however didn't ask for reasons and explanations. He had wronged her and magic would take Augusta's side, there was no doubt.
I have to write to Harry, Albus decided. He has to see reason. It's more important to stop Tom in a permanent way than performing this little bit of 'justice'. He sighed deeply. Harry has to understand that he has to die to bring Tom down without any chance of ever returning. He'll need me for that moment. A boy can't stand alone in the face of such a harsh decision. And someone has to be there to bring Tom down after he turns mortal once again. I just have to be at his side.
Albus grabbed an empty piece of parchment and started to write a letter to Harry. He has to stop this trial nonsense. There are more important things to consider than the revenge of an old hag.
Somewhere in the Far East
I hate children.
I hate Muggles.
And most of all I hate Muggle children.
He seethed with helpless rage, rage that burned in his mind and soul. It would burn in his heart too if he had any. However, he didn't. Where flesh had been, there was only stone now. For weeks if not months he had been imprisoned like this, unable to lift a finger, unable to roll his eyes or glare at the little devils making fun of him.
Two tiny girls were standing in front of him, giggling, whispering, and pointing towards him. There was only a thin rope separating them from him. One of the girls looked around, probably looking for her parents. The adults were a dozen paces away, a group of those narrow eyes around a guide with a silly colourful Hawaiian shirt. Each of the adults wore a yellow tee with a name on them. He had seen more of those tourist groups over the last weeks than he ever thought possible to exist. Oh, how he hated them.
The little girl bowed and wriggled through under the rope. Looking left and right, the eyes wide and smile on her lips, her hand came nearer. The tip of her finger touched him. Germs, I've got Muggle germs on me now, he fumed. Oh, how would he love to be able to move, to rip her apart for her audacity.
The girl started as a woman called her. He grinned. Or at least he would have grinned if his stony lips allowed it. You'll get your trashing now, little beast, disgusting creature. However instead of spanking the girl, the woman scolded her, only to fetch a handkerchief from her handbag. She started to clean the girl's fingers, the message being clean: don't touch the dirty stone statue.
Dirty, I give you dirty, he wanted to scream.
In helpless agony he watched the mother and daughter walk away. A last time the girl turned around and waved him farewell.
I hate children.
I hate Muggles.
And most of all I hate Muggle children.
A surge of pure hate raced through his heart, awakening him from his slumber. Pictures were in his mind, pictures of faceless people watching him, mocking him and throwing insults in his face. How dared they? He would kill them for their impudence.
His eyes open now, he needed a few moments to remember where he was; to remember who he was. Antonin Dolohov, he tried to nod. I'm Antonin Dolohov, leader of the…
He flinched. Something was wrong. He tried again to nod, to move his head to the side. Hate was replaced by animalistic fear. He couldn't move his head. Why can't I…
He trembled. He tried to move his hands, his feet, anything. Nothing happened. Faceless heads appeared again, mocking him, cursing him. He wanted to cry, to yell. He was barely able to control his emotions, this mix of burning rage and terrifying fear. The emotions allowed him to cast a Reducto, wordless and wandless, draining but still strong. It shot straight through the faces and hit the ceiling of his bed-chamber. Outside a pair of feet started to run towards the door. Seconds later the door burst open and the Death Eater on duty raced into his room, wand drawn.
Only now, from one second to the other, he was able to move again. A thick layer of sweat was covering him, pure cold sweat. "Everything is alright," he explained, his voice so hoarse that he had to repeat it. Antonin needed a few minutes to convince the man that he was really alright and leave him again. Only then had he time to think about what happened to him. Never before had he experienced something like this.
It was like being petrified, he mused darkly. But how? And why? Was it an attack? Some kind of message?
He didn't understand the incident, not one bit. He only knew that he had to think about it.
I have to find an explanation, and soon. Before it happens again.