Guess who's back!
Again, sorry for another long, long wait. It's not the end of this story, yet; the rule of Harry Potter is that things cannot be wrapped up until the end of the school year…it's just common sense. Plus, I am bound and determined to finish this, so I can finally be free of the guilt I feel about leaving it so long and I can actually focus on my other works in peace!
Also, some guest reviewer left what I consider one of the most ironic reviews ever. Whoever it was wrote "Very childishly written." All I can say is, yes, a three-word review is very childishly written.
Warning: Blood, gore, irreverent destruction of bodies, and a bit of romantic fluff thrown in.
Mama, I'm in Love with a Criminal
If Harry Potter had ever had doubts as to Voldemort's stupidity, his attack that night assuaged them permanently.
"He must have snapped," Tracey whispered to him. "His power's been threatened, now he thinks the only way to keep it is to go big."
"Kind of sad, if you think about it," said Harry, ignoring the panicked screams of the vast majority of guests.
"Well, I suppose we'd better handle this before someone gets hurt."
"Someone who doesn't deserve it, that is."
With the lights still out and people frantically trying to make for the exits which Voldemort had undoubtedly sealed, no one noticed Harry and his team put on the night-vision goggles that Hermione had purchased for them for Christmas, which they had brought along with them for a plan they had already had in the works for the ball. In truth, they had actually intended to create a blackout of their own, but it seemed that Voldemort had beaten them to the punch.
Harry smirked to himself as he zeroed in on one of their targets. The wizard was sneering, his wand at the ready and a Death Eater mask in hand, clearly waiting for Voldemort to lift the lights so he could don his mask and begin killing the guests. What the man clearly hadn't anticipated was a knife-wielding Harry Potter sneaking up on him and slicing his throat in one clean stroke. The man clutched his bleeding throat, dropping his wand and letting forth a hideous gurgling sound.
Harry stepped around him and moved on to the next Death Eater. And the next and the next, until the ballroom was streaked in gore. He paid little heed to how the rest of the team was faring, trusting that they could look after themselves. The hour mark must have run its course by the time Harry was finished, because Voldemort decided to chime in once more.
"So, you have decided to die with your Boy-Who-Lived," the high, obnoxious voice echoed through the room. "Very well. Death Eaters, kill them all and bring Potter to me."
The lights flashed back on, revealing that more than half the partygoers were lying dead or dying on the floor. From behind him, Harry heard the sound of glass shattering.
He turned and saw Neville Longbottom standing with a broken champagne bottle over the prone form of a Death Eater that Harry and his team had clearly missed. Judging from the expression on Daphne's face and her proximity to the scene, the Death Eater had tried to grab her and Neville had decided to make his objections known. Daphne wasted no time in seizing her chance and fake-fainted right into Neville's arms.
The rest of the guests stared around the room in confusion and no one seemed quite sure what to do about the sudden shift in circumstances. Tracey's mother was the first to shake off the dazed stupor that had entrapped what remained of the party.
"Well," said Mrs. Davis. "Who's for pudding?"
"What are those idiots doing?" Voldemort ranted. "I don't hear any screams."
"My lord," Lucius Malfoy said, trying to keep the nervousness from his tone. "There is a possibility that the…individual who has been causing us so many problems may have been there this evening."
"But how could he have known we'd be here, Lucius? Unless there is a spy in our ranks."
"Or, perhaps, my lord, he has been following Potter."
Voldemort pondered that for a moment. It was possible. After all, anyone who knew of or at least suspected his return would know he would take his chance to finally rid himself of Potter. And Potter was normally so well-guarded that Voldemort simply couldn't resist the chance to finally take the boy down now that he'd left himself so prone to attack. It was the one thing he couldn't pass up, especially with how the mysterious attacker had whittled away at Voldemort's forces until there were barely a handful left.
"Wait, my lord, something's happening," said Lucius. "Wait, what are they-?"
Lucius threw himself onto the ground as a barrage of corpses flew at high speed from the windows of the Davis Manor ballroom, exploding in a shower of blood, limbs, and viscera over Voldemort and what remained of his inner circle. Lucius looked up, trying to ignore the fragments of tattered flesh and bone that clung in sticky chunks to his hair, only to witness another round of bodies sailing through the air to burst upon impact.
Fighting back the vomit rising at the back of his throat at the grisly sight and ungodly smells of the scattered remains of his former comrades, Lucius Malfoy glanced over at his master. Only to realize that the Dark Lord had not ducked in time for the first assault and had been in too much shock at the sheer audacity of the people inside the manor to realize he needed to duck for the second strike.
Voldemort flicked his eyes open, glowing a furious red within a mess of blood, brains, bowels, and bile.
"Lucius," Voldemort drawled, as pieces of God only knew what dripped nauseously to the ground.
"Yes, my lord."
"Kindly explain why you did not warn your master to duck."
Lucius was saved from answering by the timely arrival of the aurors. He knew he would still be subjected to a rage-fueled round of crucios from his master, but at least he had a brief reprieve from it.
"I suppose that's one way to take out the rubbish," said Harry as he and the others watched Mr. Davis send the last of the bodies out the window with a well-aimed banishing charm.
"Dad's always had pretty good aim," said Tracey, taking a sip of punch.
"Oh, look," said Luna. "The aurors are arriving. Should we offer them some pudding and punch?"
"We've all got our story straight, right?" said Hermione.
"Let's see," said Sally-Anne. "You and Luna were shielding the younger guests. I was taking refuge under one of the tables. Daphne…" She glanced over to where Daphne was still leaning on Neville, who, oblivious to the fact that she was still faking, was trying to comfort her. "Daphne was being manhandled by one of the Death Eaters and was saved by Neville."
"And Harry and Tracey were off in a closet making out," said Luna.
"Luna!" Tracey exclaimed as she and Harry both blushed vividly.
When the dust finally cleared and the aurors began interviewing the survivors of the attack, the team was ready with their stories. They had remained calm, found safe cover, and waited for the adults to regain control of the situation. After all, they were just a frightened group of Hogwarts students and weren't allowed to use magic outside of school. In fact, the hero of the day was Neville Longbottom, who fearlessly saved Daphne Greengrass from a Death Eater assault.
"Mr. Potter," Madam Bones said evenly as she questioned Harry. "Forgive me, but I find it hard to believe that you had no hand in the defense of the people here tonight."
"I really have nothing else to say on the matter, Madam Bones," Harry answered calmly. He realized later that he was perhaps a little too calm for a teenager who'd witnessed a mass slaughter. "Only that someone took Voldemort's attack as an opportunity to get rid of some of his grunts and to finally get the Ministry to wake up and accept what I told you all last year."
Madam Bones stared him down, but Harry did not give any indication that he knew more than he'd already told her.
"Mr. Potter, I wish to ask you, not just as a Ministry official, but as a former colleague and friend of your mother," she said, her features softening slightly. "If you know anything about what happened here, or about what has happened at Hogwarts or the recent attacks on Death Eaters, please tell me. I understand that the Ministry has not played fairly with you recently and you have every right to be angry, but I promise you that I will do what I can to see justice done. I am not saying I think you are involved in these vigilante attacks, only that if you are aware of anything or anyone connected to them, I would like you to tell me. Vigilante justice seldom ends well, and, no matter our personal feelings, this needs to be handled according to the law."
"Even if you have the means to know for certain if someone is innocent or guilty and refuse to use it?" Harry said, trying to keep the irritation out of his voice. The simple fact that she was denying an accusation against him was an accusation in and of itself. "These people were allowed to walk free all these years after willingly taking Voldemort's brand, while my godfather Sirius Black was thrown into Azkaban without even the courtesy of a trial."
Ignoring her surprise at his mention of Sirius, Harry continued.
"Surely the Ministry has access to things like Veritaserum. If the late Professor Snape could threaten to use it on students like me, I find it unlikely that the Ministry can't simply pour a few drops down a suspect's throat, ship the guilty off to Azkaban, and never allow an innocent person to suffer again. No, what's happening now is every bit the Ministry's fault as it is the vigilante's. You lot created this mess when you didn't use the resources at your disposal."
Harry knew his tone was far from respectful, but he was not going to be emotionally blackmailed into giving up his game. He'd already gone so far past the point of no return that even thinking of turning back or making a confession was as likely an option as politely asking Voldemort to kindly go fuck off and never bother anyone again. But, then again, Madam Bones wasn't his enemy and she clearly was trying her best to bring peace to the magical world. And the fact was that Harry had left a huge mess for her to clean up, both literally and figuratively, and it couldn't be easy for her to have to deal with the absolute shit-show that the Ministry as a whole had caused through their collective incompetence.
"With all due respect, Madam Bones," said Harry, feeling some of his anger recede. "I appreciate your sincerity on this matter. You're one of the few honest people in the Ministry from what I've seen. But I really cannot tell you anything more than I have. And I am genuinely sorry for that."
"I am sorry too, Mr. Potter," Madam Bones replied. "And I, likewise, appreciate you being straightforward with me. There are a number of changes coming to the Ministry, I can promise you that."
Left unspoken was the question of how many more murders needed to take place before those changes could happen.
"One more thing, Mr. Potter," said Madam Bones. "I believe you mentioned something about Sirius Black being innocent."
It was not how Harry pictured ringing in the new year, but, overall, it was a very satisfactory evening.
Death Eaters were dead, Voldemort got a good stomping and was now well and truly proven to have returned, Amelia Bones had listened to Harry about Sirius and had promised to get the process started to clear his name, and Harry had managed to avoid stepping on Tracey's feet when they had their dance.
"I'd still like another, if that's all right with you," Tracey said. "You're not the best dancer, Harry, but you're far from the worst."
"We don't have any music, though, now that the band's gone home," said Harry. "Plus, the ballroom's still being inspected by the aurors."
"We don't need any of that. Come with me."
She led Harry out to a patio overlooking the snow-blanketed gardens of Davis Manor. The patio, itself, was strangely warm, though, and Tracey explained there was a rune array that regulated the temperature so they could enjoy the fresh air no matter the season. The snowflakes danced along the wind that barely reached them, dancing soft and faint across the magical climate control like the soft caress of a lover. Tracey stepped back into the house for a brief moment and returned with what appeared to be a very modern-looking portable radio.
"Mum likes to tweak muggle appliances to work around magic," said Tracey.
Harry supposed that Arthur Weasley couldn't be the only person in the magical world who liked to skirt the laws on mixing magic with modern technology, but he had yet to find another who did until now. Tracey turned on the radio and fiddled with the dials until she reached a channel playing holiday tunes. She set it down on a nearby patio table and approached Harry with a very determined smile.
"Now, I recall something about another dance," she said.
Harry took her hand and, giving her a smirk of his own, led her into a twirl before resting his other hand on her waist. Tracey pressed close to Harry and laughed when he sent her into another little spin, and then daringly tried a dip that very nearly ended with Tracey dumped on her arse. Still, she continued to smile and laugh. Then the giddy tune changed into the more sedate notes of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and Tracey clung tight to Harry, resting her head on his shoulder as they moved in a slow, steady circle.
"This is the happiest I've been in a long time," Tracey said, her voice soft. "And I'm glad that you're with me, Harry."
"Even though I brought Voldemort down on your home and family?" Harry said.
"We were never going to stand with him, so it would only have been a matter of time. And I knew you wouldn't let anything happen to us if you could help it." She held him a little tighter. "You make me feel safe. No, not just safe. Strong. Since you killed Malfoy, I've felt like I can be strong. That I don't have to spend my life being the victim of anyone's abuse. That it's possible to fight back. Thank you for that, Harry."
"No one should ever have to be afraid, Tracey," said Harry. "I just did what I felt was right. And I'm just happy to know that I was able to make a difference, that I could put an end to such horrible things and make the guilty feel some small fraction of what they inflicted on others." He paused their dance and looked into her warm, bright eyes. "And, out of everything I've seen or done, this is the happiest I've been in a long time, too."
At that time of year, it was normal for a couple to share a kiss under the mistletoe. But Harry and Tracey didn't need such an excuse to prompt them to act on what they felt. As they looked intently into each other's eyes, Harry leaned close and gently asked, "May I?" and Tracey nodded, smiled, and closed her eyes as they both drew closer and closer. Until, at last, their lips met.
They'd already kissed before, of course. Tracey had kissed him right before they left for Christmas holiday after he'd gleefully butchered Snape. But that had been short and sudden, and this was slow, deep, and filled with the emotions that Harry and Tracey had been keeping bottled up for a long while now. Harry moved one hand up behind Tracey's head, to lightly touch her soft, brown hair, and Tracey pulled him in closer and held him flush against her as the snowflakes continued to dance around them