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Delenda Est - Rebooted
Chapter 1: The Death of Bellatrix Lestrange
Of late, fate had not been kind to Harry Potter, even if it was keeping him alive. Fate had not been even that generous with Harry's friends. Or the Order stalwarts. Or half-bloods. Some of the latter were alive, making sure to toe the line and give proper respect to the purebloods.
Of course, one could argue that the dead ones were the lucky ones. They were at rest and did not have to sleep in caves as Harry now regularly did.
Harry had just spent the day sleeping in one of his regular caves, and it was about time for him to rise from his slumber. There was never much light in the cave. But having made the cave one of his shelters on many occasions, Harry could discern from subtle changes in the lighting that another sunset had arrived.
He was not in the mood to rise from the makeshift bed in which he had slept during the day. But the muscles in his back were demanding that he do anything but remain lying down.
Grudgingly, Harry arose. The force of habit moved him to conceal or pack his items. Soon, Harry was ready to engage in another night of what he was not quite ready to admit was merely aimless wandering. In his mind, it was more akin to spying or patrolling. To be fair, he had rescued some would-be victims. But aside from that, he was in a rut.
With a wave of one of his wands and the pop of apparition, Harry was on his way for the evening. Based on his subconscious knowledge that it was not fully dark out, Harry's instincts carried him to the Forbidden Forest, a safe distance from the Hogwarts wards. The forest was relatively safe for Harry. Death Eaters and Ministry agents rarely ventured there, and the creatures in the forest knew better than to disturb Harry.
Harry found a comfortable perch in one of the trees from where he could observe the Hogwarts grounds with a pair of omnioculars. He soon found one of the Hogwarts house teams engaging in Quidditch practice. With the ghost of a smile Harry turned a knob to zoom in on the players as he began reminiscing.
Eventually, the Quidditch practice ended. Harry remained, watching the lights and activity at the castle and remembering his good times at Hogwarts for another hour before apparating away. This time, he went to a random village in Wales and, keeping to the shadows, explored and otherwise killed time for a little while before apparating to another random location.
A few more hours and locations later, Harry found himself in a suburb that was borderline rural. He had just finished helping himself to a restaurant's leftovers when he spotted a Dark Mark hovering in the air out toward the direction of the moor. Feeling so inclined, Harry slowly began making his way toward the Dark Mark.
In his wanderings, Harry would occasionally spot a Dark Mark hovering in the sky. Curiosity would often draw him toward it. It was not too dangerous to go check on what the Death Eaters had left behind since they typically would flee the area immediately after casting the Mark. Other people would avoid the area, and the Ministry was not about to pay overtime to clean up activities the powers that be tacitly condoned.
At Dark Mark sites, Harry typically would find corpses. Though, at this point, it was rare for the corpses to be of anybody he knew. Usually, it was random Muggles. So, Harry was mildly surprised and felt a sense of dread when he discovered, as he drew near, that the site appeared to be a magical household. It was what had probably begun as a large and isolated farmhouse. Harry did not recognize the house. Though, the organization of the property reminded Harry of the Burrow.
Harry suppressed all thoughts of the Burrow and focused on checking whether it was safe for him to explore the area. There were a couple of candles burning somewhere in the house and some smoldering embers outside. The embers were probably leftover from some explosion or maybe fire spells. Aside from that, the house seemed dark and deserted.
After surveilling the area for some time and casting a handful of detection spells, Harry cautiously approached. As was typical at the more rural attack sites, the victims were outside and were dead. They looked like a middle-aged couple and what could be an older relative or unfortunate houseguest. Harry looked at the corpses only long enough to ascertain that he did not recognize them. He then moved into the house.
The front rooms and hallway of the house were in shambles. It seemed the residents had put up a good fight. There was evidence of dozens of spells having been cast back and forth. Unfortunately, the spell damage to the walls and furnishing testified that shields had deflected most of the spells that the residents had cast.
Since it was a magical household and would likely have useful items, Harry resolved to do a little harmless scavenging. He set about as if to scavenge, but stopped when he heard a faint moan.
Harry quickly stepped back toward a darker part of the room he was in and snapped into a defensive posture. Had he not previously devoted time to watching for movement and ascertaining that there was likely no danger, he would have apparated away immediately. But his instincts told him that he was alone with what sounded like a survivor of the fight.
Another moan enabled Harry to pinpoint the survivor's location on the floor across the room, half buried in the rubble of what had been a large display cabinet. Harry resisted the urge to rush over and render aid. Instead, he remained in the shadows and maintained his defensive posture.
After as much as half an hour and many more pitiful moans from across the room, he made his way over and gingerly cleared the rubble, only to discover that the survivor was Bellatrix Lestrange. Harry's mind quickly categorized this development as a trap, albeit one with opportunity.
In less than a second, Harry grabbed Bellatrix's wrist and apparated away. He then apparated from location to location in one continuous blur before coming to a rest on the edge of a small and secluded beach, which was bathed in moonlight. Bellatrix, who had begun the journey in a horizontal position, arrived in a similar position and landed on the ground with a painful sounding thud, causing her to whimper and let out a deep moan.
With more time to analyze the situation, Harry soon realized that Bellatrix was probably not faking injury. In fact, she appeared to be in critical condition. There was a fair amount of bleeding from superficial cuts and gashes. Harry surmised this was the result of someone banishing her with force into the display cabinet. But it appeared to Harry that she was in worse condition than her superficial injuries justified. Spell damage was the likely cause. Maybe one of the residents had landed a hit on her.
Well, what do I do now? Harry wondered. Still feeling a bit wary, Harry proceeded to search for any sign of Bellatrix having a wand. However, all he could find was a fancy hair ornament concealed in the bodice of her dress.
The ornament was a long, black rod tapered on one end into a relatively dull point. There was ornamentation at the top. It was not a wand and did not seem dangerous. Despite it looking innocuous, Harry decided he may as well pocket it. As an avid horcrux hunter, Harry knew that even harmless objects could be dangerous.
"Where is your wand? " Harry demanded.
Bellatrix answered with a long and low moan.
"Tell me," Harry insisted, nudging her none too gently.
"T-t-t-they took it with them," Bellatrix slurred before breaking into a mixture of agonized moans and sobs.
Surprised, Harry sat back and contemplated this development. It was not uncommon for the Death Eaters to scavenge wands from the dead and even their fallen comrades. And it was not uncommon for the Death Eaters to occasionally leave one of their own to succumb to their injuries. But this was Bellatrix Lestrange, who had long been one of Lord Voldemort's most loyal and powerful lieutenants. And she was not even dead yet. On the other hand, Harry was realizing that it had been some time since he had come across Bellatrix in a fight. On the other hand, there had been few battles with Death Eaters over the past year or so.
Harry concluded that Bellatrix was in no condition to enlighten him. He also knew that there was a lack of options for dealing with her short of dropping her off at St. Mungo's to be revived and returned to the Death Eater ranks. These things considered, Harry opted to take her with him to one of his several hiding places where she could be a prisoner and where he could decide what to do next.
Picturing one of the cave hideouts that he had already half-heartedly decided to abandon and was therefore not worried about being compromised, Harry grabbed Bellatrix's arm and apparated again.
Deep down, Harry was wrestling with an urge to strangle Bellatrix or lash out at her irrationally. But he was endeavoring to behave with some logic and find a strategy or advantage. Surely she could be of some use to him, whether as a hostage or source of information. Probably the latter, seeing as the Death Eaters had willingly abandoned her and taken her wand. He still did not understand how or why that had happened.
As Bellatrix moaned and whimpered, Harry set her up on a makeshift bed on the ground and applied a few cleaning and basic healing charms that cleared up her bleeding. He finished by dosing her with a couple of potions that would help her feel better and sleep. Soon, she stopped moaning and sank into what looked like a semi-relaxing slumber. Despite Harry's efforts, her breath did not sound good, and her skin had an unhealthy pallor.
With Bellatrix slumbering, Harry relaxed slightly and took his time to cast some charms and wards around the cave that would ensure that Bellatrix stayed a prisoner. He also cast alarm wards to alert him to any activity.
Satisfied with his precautions, Harry apparated to the Forbidden Forest. Instead of watching Hogwarts, he stalked back and forth, occasionally kicking trees and rocks as he let himself fume over Bellatrix and everything she represented as well as the quandary her being in his hands now presented.
Unbidden, memories of Sirius dying at Bellatrix's hand surfaced in Harry's mind. Other memories of Bellatrix's involvement in Death Eater encounters also enraged Harry. A large part of him wanted to lash out and kill her as if she was a rabid dog or a cockroach. Her death would help avenge not only Sirius, but also those of the Order who had fallen. It would be satisfying.
But Harry worried that killing a prisoner was not an ethical thing to do. And a more logical or ambitious part of Harry was suggesting that Bellatrix was an advantage to be exploited. Harry's conscience was also twinging a bit about not seeking better medical aid for Bellatrix. But he shoved that concern aside without too much effort.
There simply was no medical aid to be had for Bellatrix short of returning her to St. Mungo's where the Death Eaters would be able to recover her and transform her back into a killing and torturing machine. Or maybe they would kill her themselves. After all, they had already abandoned her to probable death.
Other options were not feasible, either. Harry had long avoided asking even the so-called Order of the Phoenix for help or even letting them know his whereabouts or plans. The original members were gone. Traitors had crept into the ranks. At this point, considering their attitudes and policies, Harry viewed all of them as traitors. He took a break from fuming about Bellatrix to rant and rave in his mind about the Order, Voldemort, Bellatrix, and everything else that had gone wrong recently or even in the distant past.
Harry continued stalking around the forest in a silent tirade as he came to the conclusion he should nurse Bellatrix as long as possible and try to hatch a plan to exploit any advantage she could offer him.
Harry returned to the cave feeling resolved and even slightly cheerful about having a new angle or strategy for him to employ against Voldemort. But his hopes were dashed. Bellatrix's skin was now a hue of gray that Harry knew portended death. She was awake and watching him from behind dull, violet eyes. There was no way that this once vibrant witch was going to do anything, let alone make it to see another day. Sitting next to her on the ground, Harry let out a sigh as conflicting emotions warred inside of him.
"Already giving up on your next plan to bring down the Dark Lord, Potter?" Bellatrix said, her words voice barely above a whisper.
"Maybe I'm getting ready to kill you," Harry bit out.
"You would have killed me already if you had no use for me," Bellatrix whispered. "But it is too late for whatever you are hoping to do, Potter. Go ahead and strike me down. I will not hold it against you."
"I could have you healed," Harry said nonchalantly, though the rational part of him had already concluded it was impossible.
"You already healed my injuries from the raid. Nothing else can be healed, as I have already come to accept. Anyway, you are too late. He won. You lost. You need to accept that" Bellatrix whispered haltingly.
"I can kill him," Harry growled.
"Then I will have won."
Bellatrix attempted a chuckle, but instead found herself coughing. It took her several minutes to recover. Finally, she responded. "Won? Won what?"
"He will be dead," Harry explained. "Everything can go back to normal." Already, he was feeling naive. He and his late friends had spent so much time focusing on the fight against Voldemort that Harry had not given much thought to life after the war. And of course, part of him had doubted he would survive.
"His death would change nothing," Bellatrix explained to Harry laboriously. "Like when you defeated him as a baby. Society did not change. The Ministry did not change. There were no meaningful reforms. But it is now worse, already. Your friends and allies are dead. The remainders are purebloods or wish they were purebloods. The Ministry has no legitimacy. It will be the puppet of whoever fills the Dark Lord's void."
"Maybe I can fill the void," Harry suggested.
Bellatrix looked at Harry speculatively from behind her dull, violet eyes. "To do that, you must seize power and hold it until society reforms. Not easy. The old ways of the old families die hard. The Ministry is … insular. Hard to get a foothold in their world."
"Then what do you suggest I do?" Harry lashed out angrily. He instantly felt humiliated. He was now asking a Death Eater, who was on her deathbed, for advice. He did not need to be embarrassed, though. She had not heard.
Bellatrix was gasping for breath now. "Money, power, lust, entitlement, pureblood politics … ," she mumbled as she drifted into a state of unconsciousness.
By the time Bellatrix regained consciousness, Harry had fetched some more restorative and healing potions from one of his caches. Without talking, Harry began dosing her with some of them. Bellatrix did not seem eager to partake. Yet, inexplicably, she opted to humor Harry. Her pallor remained gray. The potions did very little to help Bellatrix, aside from lending her some energy and easing her discomfort.
"Where is he?" Harry asked, trying to avoid a repeat of the discussion from earlier.
"Do not bother," Bellatrix whispered. "The horcruxes are hidden. You tipped your hand too early. Very poorly done."
"I can still incapacitate him," Harry pushed. "Just like when I was a baby."
"I told you that is not enough. And it is too late."
"Why are you so rational?" Harry demanded, suddenly feeling resentment over Bellatrix's entire demeanor. She was supposed to be a monster. But she was acting almost normal. She was acting as if she was smarter and saner than he was. She was lecturing him.
Bellatrix smiled wanly and closed her eyes. "Because I am free.
Despite Harry attempting to continue the conversation, Bellatrix did not respond. It seemed like she may have lost consciousness. But Harry harbored a suspicion that she was choosing to ignore him. Eventually, Harry concluded he should get some sleep.
After what seemed like hours of trying to fall asleep, Harry was on the verge of succumbing to his exhaustion when Bellatrix's faint voice cut through the darkness.
"Tell me, Potter, would you conquer?"
"What do you mean?" Harry asked, bolting up into a sitting position.
"Could you conquer?"
"I can kill him." Harry insisted. "I just need the right strategy."
"Do you have to kill him in order to conquer?"
"Yes, of course! Why are you asking?"
Bellatrix did not answer. From the slight change in the sound of her breathing, Harry surmised she had lapsed into unconsciousness.
Annoyed, Harry returned to his fitful attempts to fall asleep. But an hour later, Bellatrix whispered eerily again.
"Will you conquer?"
"I already told you that I will kill him. At this point, what else am I supposed to do?"
"You have to conquer to win," Bellatrix explained, her voice slurring, as if she was drunk. "Otherwise, it is pointless to kill him. You could even conquer and not kill him."
"I think killing him would help," Harry insisted.
"Help what? Your friends and allies are dead. All who remain do not care enough to change anything. He won. It is too late to kill him."
Harry brooded for a while, but then realized Bellatrix had something of a point, even if she seemed a little confused about how things were.
"Okay, fine. I kill him and conquer and force everyone to treat half-bloods and those with non-magical parents with respect. And then there are the magical creatures."
"It is too late for that," Bellatrix responded.
"Then what is the point of our conversation?" Harry growled.
"I was just wondering what you would do," Bellatrix said, her words slurring. It seemed that this extended round of discussion had exhausted her. "Too late," she mumbled. "Too late." Again, she slipped into unconsciousness.
She did not regain consciousness until Harry decided it was time to dose her with another round of potions and had begun offering them to her. Again, she humored him by imbibing the proffered potions. And again, the potions restored some energy but did nothing to improve her overall condition. Indeed, she appeared noticeably worse than before.
"T-t-tell me, Harry," she whispered haltingly. "A-are you a c-conqueror or just a k-killer? Or worse, a bum?"
"I understand your point about conquering," Harry said. "But at this point, killing is all that can be done. At least I will have avenged my friends."
"But if you c-conquered," stuttered Bellatrix. "I c-could b-be your lieutenant instead of his. You c-could c-c-c-onquer. I would help."
"I suppose so," Harry agreed, sensing from her sudden slip into irrationality that Bellatrix was nearing the end. At this point, the only thing left to do was to humor her and avoid unduly distressing her.
"P-please, c-can I have my hairpiece back?" Bellatrix begged. "It w-was my heirloom. I carried it with me all these years. All I have left."
Faintly surprised that Bellatrix had noticed its absence, Harry decided that she was in no condition or mood to harm him. So, he produced the hairpin from his robes, placed it in one of her hands, and helped to clasp her clammy fingers around it. "There you go," Harry said.
Her arm and hand trembling, Bellatrix brought it up to her lips and kissed it with reverence as if it was some holy artifact. A ghost of a smile appeared on her face. Feeling mixed feelings about Bellatrix's almost cheerful descent into the realm of death, Harry sat back to watch Bellatrix die with a hair ornament pressed to her lips.
Harry was caught off guard when Bellatrix clenched her jaw and rolled toward him with lightning-like speed, her hand with the hairpiece raised in the air. Before Harry could react, Bellatrix stabbed the pointy end of the hairpin into Harry's shoulder.
Then, even quicker than she had struck in the first place, Bellatrix let go of the hairpiece and rolled away from Harry. For Harry, time-slowed. As Bellatrix rolled away, he thought he could hear her insides snapping and cracking. She came to a rest on her side, facing Harry, who had tensed up, but had not moved from his sitting position on the ground. From the expression on her face, Harry could tell that Bellatrix was in agony.
Sensing that the stab wound was not serious and would be easily healed, Harry ignored it and focused on Bellatrix's face, locking eyes with her after briefly noting that blood was oozing from her mouth. The light was rapidly fading from her dull, violet eyes.
With great effort, Bellatrix said her last words. "Conquer. And be kind to me." With that, she was gone.
Harry began to feel dizzy. It seemed like the room was spinning. Harry closed his eyes. A chill passed through his body, and in that instant, the illness passed. When he opened his eyes, everything was different.