Author's Notes: First, the thanks: all of you who have read and reviewed this story so far, you're the best! Every comment, theory, and encouragement had been wonderful. To Possum132, Maeve Morgan, Psychotic Poet, I'm Blond.James Blond., QueenThayet, Embellished, ERevel, Flashyfirebird, HarHar, ParadoxOfInfinity, The Enchanted Teakettle, Pussin Boots, amy-the-rat, KrazieChikadee, GoodQueenA, supafly09, hedwig1234,uniquegirl100, new person, nevermore evermore, DanceswithHippogriffs, Firebreathing Ghost, Litha Riddle, Optio30, StarLightStarBright567, M, ssalsa79, and Mrs. Panda Eyes, this one's for you.
I'm back! And here it is! The final chapter. It's double-length, double the silliness, double the fun, etc. As you might figure out, I've dropped clues for each of the five endings throughout the story, so pick the one you like best :-)
A great many of you will recognize one of these endings as one of the more ridiculous HP theories that's floated around out there. And for the reference: the Overlook is the name of the evil, sentient hotel in Stephen King's 'The Shining.'
Disclaimer: I do not own anything in the Harry Potter universe; JK Rowling does.
The Butler Did It
Voldemort was ready to just kill Potter already. Get it over with. Eliminate the 'one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord' and all of that. His eagerness brought him ahead of himself, and he already plotted his next moves after Potter's death. Take his Death Eaters in hand, kill Dumbledore, storm the Ministry, instate himself as leader of wizarding Britain, snatch Hermione Granger and bring her back to his headquarters, where she could see his library… Old Mr. Ollivander, languishing in Voldemort's dungeons, was going to pay again for selling to Harry Potter the one wand that could induce the Priori Incantatum effect.
His plans and malicious revenges became moot when the front door to Malfoy Manor swung open and Severus Snape stepped inside. Voldemort broke the connection to Harry's wand, and he only just kept his jaw from dropping in shock. 'You!' he said to Snape.
'I said, you are under arrest!' Snape repeated, pointing his wand first at Harry Potter, then at Voldemort. 'As we speak, the spell fog is being replaced on the Manor by a remote team of Aurors. Do not try to cast offensive spells again.'
'Oh, bugger,' said Potter.
'Expelliarmus!' Snape shouted, and Potter's wand flew into Snape's hand. Voldemort had only a second to gloat before his wand, too, whizzed away from him and into the long-fingered grasp of Snape.
Next was Ron Weasley, who made a noise of protest as his wand was taken, then Hermione who gave hers up without a fuss. Snape sneered. 'Will the crowd gathered on the balcony please make their way down here?'
Voldemort peered up into the shadowed area of the first story, noting a collection of faces who had evidently decided to watch the big duel. Parkinson, the Weasley girl, Draco Malfoy. Like sheepish students, they came down the stairs.
'You are ALL under arrest!' Snape declared. 'Narcissa, come forward please.' Voldemort whirled again as Narcissa Malfoy emerged from the dark dining room. She walked over to Snape and put her hand on his arm, but he shrugged her off. 'Now,' said Snape. 'Everyone into the drawing room.'
'What is the meaning of this, Severus?' Voldemort hissed to Snape as they walked into the lit-up drawing room. He poured danger into his voice, counting on Snape to pick up Voldemort's dark mood. It was that light, high voice he used right before casting the Cruciatus, or the Avada Kedavra. Snape would know.
'It's just that time,' Snape said. 'To find out who murdered Lucius Malfoy. The Aurors will arrive in approximately two hours. When they do, I am going to have the culprit in hand.'
'Huh,' said Voldemort. Two hours gave him plenty of time to escape…as soon as he had his wand back. But there was so much to uncover! The first order of business to Voldemort's way of thinking was to discover how and why Severus Snape was still alive. He had thought himself rid of the double-triple-quadruple agent. However, the living, breathing Snape stood next to Lucius Malfoy's body, regarding them all with the look that Voldemort imagined was reserved for out-of-line students.
Lucius's body must have been charmed by the house-elves against decay, because it retained its 'freshly dead' look even after two days. Voldemort stood behind it, keeping himself separated from the rest of the party. Snape walked back and forth in front of the fireplace, gesturing for the others to sit. When Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley sat together on the sofa, Voldemort noticed they held hands. Likewise, Pansy Parkinson situated herself next to Harry Potter, who still glared at Voldemort with the longing of a kill left unfinished.
'You wish, Potter,' Voldemort opened the mind connection for a moment, just to freak out the kid. It worked; Harry's eyes widened and he rubbed his scar, looking away.
Hermione Granger sat ramrod-straight on one of the smaller chairs, and her eyes trailed across the room to land on Voldemort. He tilted his head at her, feeling (almost) regret. He had to admit he would miss their little wordplays. The girl was a born debater, and Voldemort often found himself wishing for a worthy sparring partner amongst his Death Eaters. Snape sometimes sufficed, but after tonight Voldemort did not think he would be seeing Severus Snape again, except perhaps to kill him. Hence, the brilliance of his plan: he and Granger could write letters to one another, above and beyond their respective sides in the wizarding war. Voldemort knew how persuasive he was, especially through the written word (after all, his weapon-Horcrux had been an interactive diary!) and he knew that someday, sometime, Hermione Granger would come back to him. He was a patient man. He could wait.
'We are gathered here today because of the murder of this man, Lucius Malfoy,' said Snape, bringing the clattering of the room to a silence. 'First, I have a confession to make. I, Severus Snape, am far more than a professor of Potions. I am, in fact, Inspector Snape of the Centre for the Catching of Appalling Criminal Associates (CACA for short)! It is a top-secret Ministry division charged with the resolution of high-profile murder cases such as this one. My function here this weekend has extended beyond that of mere guest. I have been watching each and every one of you!'
The room muttered in surprise and consternation. Snape? A detective Inspector? No one could have guessed it.
'We thought you were dead,' Hermione said, sounding disappointed to find him otherwise.
'Ah, yes,' said Snape. 'The Draught of Living Death is most useful to convey that impression.'
Voldemort felt like kicking himself. Of course. He should have thought to check for potions that feigned death, especially with the Potions Master involved.
'You see,' Snape continued, 'I knew that my position had become precarious. I knew that I stood a chance of being killed myself. So, with the help of some specially-altered lemon drops I carry around for this very purpose, I ingested the potion. When all of you believed me dead, I removed myself from the equation to wait for the murderer to reveal themselves.'
Voldemort felt even worse. It should have been obvious, after Hermione became fatigued when she tasted the potion-infused lemon drop in Snape's room. He noticed the dawning on Hermione's face, and she looked like she felt the fool, as Voldemort did.
'Wait a minute,' Ron Weasley said loudly. 'Why did you think somebody wanted to murder you?'
'Who wouldn't want to murder him?' Harry Potter muttered. Voldemort heard it, as Snape must have, for the Potions Master/CACA Inspector whirled on the Potter kid.
'There were many reasons,' Snape said. He looked at each person in turn, pausing in particular on Narcissa Malfoy. Ah yes, thought Voldemort. Hermione said Narcissa burned Lucius's will last night. Narcissa must wish Snape dead above all. Echoing Voldemort's thoughts, Snape nodded. 'Yes,' he said, 'as many of you have guessed, I was the signatory on Lucius Malfoy's will. I am the last person alive who knew its true contents.'
With an interested ear, Voldemort waited to hear the revelation. This, he thought, would unveil the murderer, the prime suspect, the one with the most to gain from the death of Lucius Malfoy. Who, above all these people sharing a common hatred of the man, most wanted him dead? Who would inherit Malfoy Manor?
'The terms of the will were quite standard,' said Snape. 'As in wizard tradition, the estate passes, and always did pass, to the next of kin, in this case Mrs. Malfoy.'
Voldemort blinked in surprise. Why, then, had Narcissa felt the need to burn a will that left her as the beneficiary? Perhaps she thought the will to be evidence of her complicity in her husband's death, but the spouse was always the first suspect in a murder anyway. It just made her look more guilty.
Narcissa Malfoy gazed at Snape with tears in her eyes. She, too, seemed surprised by Snape's words, and Voldemort could not shake the feeling that there was something Snape was not telling.
'So why did you burn the will?' Ron Weasley shouted to Narcissa. Voldemort wished the boy would use his indoor voice.
Narcissa shook her head. 'It reminded me of him,' she said, tearful and grieved. 'I couldn't stand to see his name, his signature…it was silly of me, I know, but I couldn't help it. Like Snape said, there was nothing about the will that was unusual, but I couldn't bear the finality of it.' At this, she let the tears stream down her cheeks. 'I want to believe he's just sleeping!'
Voldemort narrowed his eyes. Narcissa Malfoy was lying. He knew it. The theatrics, the tears, the insistence of 'nothing unusual' in the will…there was something fishy on the air. Furthermore, the ex-Mrs. Death Eater refused to look in Voldemort's direction. Voldemort did not take well to secrets, and he would find out the truth here. A little interrogation of Narcissa Black Malfoy should do the trick.
Unfortunately, now was not the time to pursue the occult secrets of Lucius Malfoy's will. Snape again paced the room, cleared his throat, made the announcement.
Here's what happened next:
'Now,' Snape said. 'Of the murder of Lucius Malfoy, I accuse: Harry Potter!'
The whole room swung their heads to look at Harry, who crossed his arms and rocked back on his heels, chin stuck out stubbornly. 'So what if I did?' he said. 'We all wanted Malfoy dead. I did everyone a favour.'
'Harry!' Ginny Weasley said, twisting her body around to look at the boy. 'You didn't really, did you?'
'I think he did!' Voldemort interjected, in an effort to be helpful. 'He had the best motive of anyone, didn't you, Potter?'
'Lucius Malfoy was a convicted Death Eater,' Harry said. 'He should be rotting in Azkaban. I just decided to take matters into my own hands.'
'But how?' Hermione asked. 'You didn't tell any of us about this plan!'
'I was almost sorted into Slytherin,' Harry said. 'I can keep secrets, y'know.'
'I knew it!' Pansy Parkinson shrieked. 'I got paired with the murderer!'
'Yes,' Harry sighed. 'A few times there, I really did want to kill you, Pansy. But I'd rather kiss you.' He grabbed Pansy and snogged her in front of the whole room.
'Ugh,' said Voldemort, disgusted by the display of post-adolescent passion.
'Stop, stop, stop,' Hermione said. 'First off, Harry, you have some explaining to do. How did you kill Lucius? And what about Bellatrix?'
Harry gloated and pushed Pansy away. 'It was brilliant, really. One of my better ideas. You'd be proud, Hermione.'
'I'll reserve judgment on that,' she said, pursing her lips.
'Well. As you are all aware, Malfoy was a Death Eater, caught at the Ministry, where my godfather was so brutally murdered.' Harry gestured down at Malfoy's body, revenge glinting in his bright green eyes. 'The Ministry has been useless. I knew that unless I took it upon myself to bring Sirius's killers to justice, it'd never happen. 'This past summer, I've taken up lessons in Muggle street fighting. Kung-fu, to be precise. It took a great deal of discipline, and significant strength –' Harry made his hand into a chopper motion, and with a great 'whappa!' he split the coffee table in two clean pieces. 'My Asian street fight training, combined with my Quidditch reflexes, allowed me to murder Malfoy. From my cousin Dudley's dodgy arms-dealer friend, I acquired the revolver. I shot Malfoy from here,' he pointed, 'and then used the rope to swing myself across the sofa and stab Malfoy in the neck, just to be sure he was dead.'
'What about the poison in Malfoy's tea?' Snape barked, dissatisfied with the turn of events that allowed Harry Potter to become a kung-fu master.
Harry smirked. 'That was courtesy of my inherited house-elf, Kreacher.' He snapped his fingers, and a wizened little elf appeared, hunched over and looking rebellious. 'He didn't like doing it, but it was under my orders. But that was nothing compared to my next murder,' he said.
'Bella,' Voldemort hissed, wishing for all the world that he had his wand back from Snape.
'That's right,' Harry said, and Ron Weasley next to him smiled in approval. 'Bellatrix Lestrange. The murderess of my godfather.' He turned down to Kreacher. 'Kreacher, you'd better leave the room for this.'
Kreacher disappeared in a snap, a crackle, and a pop.
'You see, I knew that Bellatrix would never go without a fight. With me off guarding Pansy Parkinson, I couldn't get away to murder Mrs. Lestrange. So, I told Kreacher that Bellatrix was really a blood-traitor under the influence of Polyjuice Potion.' Harry laughed hysterically at himself. 'Kreacher went to the other elves of Malfoy Manor, and together they murdered who they thought was a mudblood named Sam.'
Who's Sam? wondered Voldemort.
'It allowed me to have an alibi, and gave Bellatrix the death she deserved.' Harry grinned, nodding at everyone, expecting praise.
'What about the poison in my cactus juice?' Narcissa demanded. 'Was that your doing too, you little brat?'
'Naw,' said Harry. 'I don't know what that was, Mrs. Malfoy. You ought to check the expiration date on it, or something.' He laughed again. 'So you all have me to thank! Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange are dead, thanks to me! Two less Death Eaters in the world!'
'I vote we make him an Auror now,' contributed Ron Weasley.
'You murdered my father!' Draco Malfoy growled.
'Anyone care for a spot of brandy?' asked Dumbledore, who meandered into the room chewing on an orange rind.
That's not what happened. Here's what really happened:
'Now,' Snape said, 'of the murder of Lucius Malfoy, I accuse: Malfoy Manor!'
'Huh?' said Draco.
'But, Professor Snape, how can a house kill someone?' Hermione asked, looking at the Potions Master/ CACA Inspector as though he had gone crazy.
'Snape, I think you'd better explain yourself,' Voldemort warned. 'We don't have time for absurdities.'
'Let the Manor explain!' Snape shouted.
Total silence greeted the declaration. The clock tick-tocked away in the corner, people shifted in their chairs, the curtains and doors and walls were quiet. Deep breaths of silence, in and out, as the party waited for something; they knew not what. Harry Potter coughed. Narcissa Malfoy cleared her throat, looking at Snape with something akin to sympathy of insanity. Still, the house was quiet.
'AT LAST I TAKE MY REVENGE!' a voice boomed from nowhere. Voldemort looked about wildly, trying to ascertain the source, but there was no one else in the room.
'EVERY ONE OF YOU WILL DIE TONIGHT! I WILL NOT REST UNTIL IT HAPPENS!'
'What the bloody hell -- ?' Ron Weasley said.
'Harry, I'm scared,' Pansy Parkinson said, grabbing the front of Potter's shirt.
'Draco,' said Ginny Weasley, 'is there something wrong with your house?'
Voldemort closed his eyes, trying to feel out this latest threat. Now that he noticed it, there was more magic here than the sum of the wizards present, or the normal charms and enchantments on wizarding homes. He heard a deep breathing, and felt like he was being watched. It's the house, he thought. It's alive. It explained the way the Manor moved and changed, the way it anticipated the needs of its guests, the way it held secrets. Except now, Voldemort knew, the house was in a very bad mood.
'Oh my gosh,' Hermione said, 'it's like the Overlook!'
'Oh, NO!' Harry said, his eyes widening as he looked about in horror.
'What's the Overlook?' Narcissa asked, eyes skittering across her drawing room as though she had never seen it before.
'It's an evil hotel that thinks for itself, with its own murderous mind,' explained Hermione. 'It was written about by a Muggle.'
Voldemort made a mental note to ask her who the Muggle author was. He might enjoy a book about an evil hotel.
'Narcissa,' said Snape, 'I think only you can communicate with the house. With the current circumstances of…Lucius's will…ownership has passed to you.'
'Oh, Severus!' Narcissa grasped Snape's hand, and Voldemort rolled his eyes at the display. 'Um…house?' she called tentatively.
'MRS. MALFOY,' said the deep, rasping, disembodied voice. 'I CLAIM CREDIT FOR THE MURDER OF YOUR HUSBAND.'
'But why?' Narcissa cried. 'What did he do to make his own house turn on him?'
'THE DÉCOR,' said Malfoy Manor. 'THERE IS A DISTRESSING AMOUNT OF GILT.'
'You murdered Lucius Malfoy over a difference in aesthetic taste?' Snape asked, looking puzzled. 'I thought for sure that he had insulted your greatness in some way.'
'YOU MALFOYS SCREAM OF NEW MONEY!' the house boomed. 'THE BROCADE! THE SILVER-THREAD TAPESTRIES! THE MARBLE! AND MOST OF ALL, THE HEAVY GOLD OVER-THE-TOP GILT CANDLESTICKS!'
Voldemort realised that the candlestick at the scene of the murder, lying on the floor, must have been a clue. But really, how could he have predicted the passionate temper of a house?
'I GIVE THE HOUSE-ELVES THEIR ORDERS,' said Malfoy Manor. 'I TOLD THEM TO BLOW THE LIGHTS. TO SHOOT MALFOY. I ORDERED THE POISON IN THE TEA. I CONJURED THE KNIFE THAT ISSUED FORTH FROM THE WALL, TO KILL LUCIUS MALFOY. I LEFT NO STONE UNTURNED.'
'I'll say,' Hermione muttered.
'What about Bellatrix?' Voldemort called. 'You had better explain that one! She had nothing to do with the gilt décor!'
'BELLATRIX!' and the house let out a disturbing guffaw. 'I HAD MY EYE ON HER SINCE SHE WAS FIVE YEARS OLD! DO YOU KNOW WHAT SHE DID? DO YOU KNOW?'
'No, I don't know,' said Voldemort. 'Why don't you tell us?'
'THE VANDAL! ON THE PRICELESS WOOD PANELLING IN THE SECOND-STORY BATHROOM! ETCHED FOREVER ARE THE WORDS 'BELLA WAS HERE'!'
Draco Malfoy stood up, looking outraged. 'You killed somebody over a bit of graffiti?'
'The Manor must have ordered the house-elves to kill Bellatrix, as well,' said Hermione, giving Voldemort a significant look. He recalled their conversation with Heffy the house-elf in the kitchens; the elf had said the 'house gives the orders.' Oh, dear.
'What about me?' Narcissa screeched. 'You tried to kill me, too, didn't you, House?'
'YOU'RE SHAGGING A MUDBLOOD!' the Manor boomed.
'That's Half-Blood Prince to you,' Snape said. 'And I am a CACA Inspector. Better than you'll ever be.'
'Professor Snape is a mudblood?' Pansy asked.
'Professor Snape is shagging my mother?' Draco
'That's beside the point,' said Snape. 'I hereby place the house under – erm – house arrest. And I suggest we all get out of here before it kills us. I'm outta here!' And in a whirl of robes, Snape made a dash for the door, fast as a jackrabbit. Malfoy Manor growled. Then there was pandemonium.
Here's what REALLY happened:
'Now,' said Snape, 'For the murder of Lucius Malfoy, I accuse: The Women!' He pointed his finger first at Narcissa, then Hermione, Ginny, Pansy.
'What?' Narcissa drew back, offended. 'How dare you accuse me of murdering my husband!'
Voldemort thought Narcissa perfectly capable of killing her husband. It had been his private conclusion, in fact. But the other suspects surprised him. Ginny Weasley? Pansy Parkinson? And Hermione? It was impossible that the girl had kept such a secret from him, in all their wanderings together over the past two days. He was an expert Legilimens, and he had not detected guilt or deception in Hermione Granger…unless she had mastered Occlumency far beyond what he imagined.
'You didn't act alone, did you, Narcissa?' Snape said. 'I think it was the lot of you!'
'You're just bitter because I tossed you out of my bedroom!' Narcissa shot back. 'You think that just because you're good between the sheets, it means that – '
'La-la-la-la I'm not listening!' Draco Malfoy put his hands over his ears and started to hum.
'Maybe we should tell the truth,' Ginny chirped. 'After all, what are they going to do about it?'
'Yeah!' said Pansy. 'I want everybody to know that I'm not just some clinging little flower who needs to be protected.' She spared a dirty look at Harry Potter.
Hermione sighed. 'I was hoping we might get away with it, actually.'
Voldemort stared at the brown-haired girl. She had deceived him! He had thought her susceptible to his persuasions, capable of turning to his service, but all the while she had led him on a wild goose chase to 'solve the mystery.' She'd probably tossed out red herrings galore, and looking back Voldemort realised how the girl had made a tiny suggestion here, a little comment there, that put his mind toward Narcissa and Snape as the guilty parties, and Bellatrix as a suicide. Outrageous.
'Ladies,' said Ginny. She stood up and held out her arms in a manner much like a chicken. Pansy, Hermione, and a reluctant Narcissa also stood, and in a circle they arranged themselves. They flapped their arms up and down, and to the utter mystification of the men present, they began to chant:
'Fee Fie Fo Fum! Fee Fie Fo Fum! We are the girls with beauty aplomb! We sisters vow our loyalty now; we are a sorority, a group of fun and verity! Bonded with vodka, gin, and rum, Fee Fie Fo Fum!' Then the women let out a series of hoots and bizarre noises, culminating in a group handclasp in the centre of the circle.
'What the bloody hell -- ?' Ron Weasley said.
'Ah, the Fee Fie Fo Fum Sorority!' Dumbledore said, wandering into the room and chomping on some piece of candy. 'Still alive and well, I see.'
'Headmaster! Where have you been?' Harry asked, blinking in bewilderment behind his glasses.
'The Fee Fie Fo Fum Sorority!' Snape said. 'And the murderesses of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange!'
'Yep,' said Ginny. 'We're proud to admit it.'
'Maybe you are,' Narcissa grumped.
'Cissy, you agreed to the plan,' said Hermione. 'During our chapter vote, remember?'
'You new pledges are impossible!' Narcissa cried. 'No discipline! No sense of respect for your elders! When I heard you were the new recruits this year, I was happy for you. But our sorority never murdered anyone before you three came along.'
'It was all Hermione's idea,' Pansy said, backing away from the circle.
'Hey, Parkinson, it's not too late for the Head Girl to take points from Slytherin House,' Hermione threatened. 'Besides, Ginny came up with the plan to sneak one of her dad's Muggle weapons into the hunting party.'
Aha, thought Voldemort. Somewhere deep in his mind he remembered the elder Arthur Weasley as a lover of all things Muggle.
'Can I tell them how we did it? Can I?' Ginny jumped up and down, her red hair bouncing in its ponytail.
'Oh, all right,' said Pansy.
'Yes!' Ginny grinned. 'As Hermione said, it was my idea to use Dad's Muggle gun. Had to take it to a shop to get it working, but Hermione took care of that. Narcissa ordered the house-elves to turn off the lights at exactly a quarter to nine in the evening, and to add the poison to Malfoy's tea. Hermione brewed the box jellyfish toxin.'
Hermione smiled with pride at this, and Snape gawped at her. By now, Voldemort knew Hermione Granger was very capable of brewing such a complex poison, but it appeared Snape had underestimated the girl as so many others before him. 'That's correct,' Hermione said. 'My contribution was in planning and support.'
'Then you are an accomplice to murder!' Snape accused.
'Then,' Ginny continued, 'Pansy and I took care of the rest during the thirty-second interval of darkness. I fired the gun. Bellatrix drove the knife into Lucius Malfoy's neck. And Cissy was meant to knock him over the head by swinging the candlestick, and Pansy to strangle him, but I think they chickened out.'
'We're Slytherins, not Gryffindors,' Pansy said with a huff. 'Besides, he was obviously dead already. I was afraid of killing the wrong person in the darkness.'
'How thoughtful of you,' said Dumbledore, bobbing his head.
'Finally, we took revenge on Lucius Malfoy,' said Ginny, and her eyes sparkled with fever. 'For the horrible thing he did to me in my first year! For being a Death Eater! For treating one of our sistren with disdain and coldness!' She gestured toward Narcissa. 'Lucius Malfoy crossed the Fee Fie Fo Fum Sorority for the last time.'
Voldemort was floored. Women could not be trusted, that much was clear. These mere girls had plotted and carried out a calculated, brutal murder right under his flat nose. He decided there and then to initiate more females into the ranks of the Death Eaters, which reminded him of his recent loss. 'What of Bellatrix?' Voldemort's high voice rang through the room. 'Turned on one of your own, did you?'
Pansy smirked. 'It was a crime of passion,' she said. 'It all started in our last meeting.'
'Bellatrix insisted on taking down the minutes,' said Ginny.
'She has really sloppy handwriting,' Hermione frowned in disapproval.
'Anyway, there was an argument over whose handwriting was the neatest, hers or Hermione's,' said Pansy. 'Bellatrix threatened to break our vows of secrecy and send the handwriting samples to a penmanship judge in Wales.'
'We couldn't allow that,' said Ginny.
'So, we had Narcissa order the house-elves to murder her,' said Hermione. 'They gave Bella a sample of her favourite chocolate fudge brownies that contained a sleeping potion, when we all separated after dinner. When she was subdued, they hung her from the ceiling.'
Harry Potter and Ron Weasley stared at their friend as though they did not know her. Ron, especially, glowered at Hermione, then turned to his sister Ginny. 'I forbid you to be a part of this sorority thing!' he declared.
'Oh, can it, Ron!' Ginny snapped.
'It doesn't matter,' said Snape. 'They are all under arrest! They've confessed to murder, conspiracy to murder, accessory to murder…'
'Hiawatha!' Ginny screeched, interrupting Snape's list.
'Hoi, hoi, hoi!' the other three women shouted. They charged like a pack of crazy birds. They tackled Snape to the ground. Snape went flying in the tangled melee of arms and nails and hair, blonde and red and black and brown. Dust flew and screams and shouts filled the air. Before anyone could prevent it, the women of the Fee Fie Fo Fum Sorority had possession of the wands, and Narcissa shot a quick 'Silencio' at Snape. His mouth moved in protest, but no sound came forth.
It was this sudden turn in fortune that made up Voldemort's mind for him. He would take advantage of this situation. 'I've decided to form a new division of my Death Eater army,' he announced. 'It will be comprised entirely of females. They will have utter freedom to do as they will, answering only to me. And each will have an expense account.'
Hermione smiled at him.
No, no, no. Never mind. Here's what happened:
'Now,' said Snape, 'For the murder of Lucius Malfoy, I accuse: the house-elf Dobby!'
'Dobby?' Pansy Parkinson said. 'That old house-elf of yours, Draco?'
'I hate that stupid elf,' said Draco.
Harry Potter smirked and crossed his arms after giving Ron Weasley a high-five. Hermione's face shone with pride and gloating.
'Yes, Dobby the house-elf,' said Snape. 'The former servant of Lucius Malfoy, currently in the employ of Albus Dumbledore and Hogwarts School. I accuse Dobby of orchestrating the violence of this weekend, under the banner of the newly-militant group ASPEW, or the Armed Society for the Protection of Elvish Welfare. Oh, and Miss Granger, you're under arrest as well, for founding a terrorist group.'
'Hey!' said Hermione. 'I'm not the only one here who's founded a terrorist group.' She glanced over at Voldemort.
'Yes, well, tonight we are concerned with the house-elves,' said Snape.
'Where is Dobby?' Harry wondered aloud.
With a 'pop', the house-elf in question appeared. Voldemort stared. Dobby wore a stack of about thirty knit hats, an equal number of mismatched socks on his feet, and a criss-cross belt of what looked like shotgun shells. He brandished a sharp poker stick in one hand and a shield in the other. His hairy, pointy ears stuck out from the hats, and each ear was pierced with gold gangster-like hoop earrings. The elf wore a bright red t-shirt with a silkscreen picture of a bearded man, beneath which was the word 'Che.' Voldemort had never seen a militant house-elf before, and after this he did not want to repeat the experience.
Dobby the elf laughed shrilly. 'Revenge is mine!' he shrieked in a thin, raspy voice. 'The Malfoy family has paid for its ill treatment of house-elves!'
'Now, Dobby,' said Hermione, kneeling down in front of the house-elf. 'Violence is not the answer.'
'I did not used to think so,' said Dobby. 'But then in the Headmaster's office, I found a book. It is called 'the Communist Manifesto.''
'Oh, for heaven's sake,' said Voldemort.
'It explained to me about worker's rights,' Dobby continued. 'I saw that revolution was needed! This weekend is only the beginning! Soon, house-elves across the nation will stage their revolt!'
Pansy whimpered and grasped Harry's hand. 'I'd better tell my parents,' she said.
'Does this mean no more meals at Hogwarts?' Ron Weasley asked aloud.
'Way to go, Dobby!' Harry said.
'Silence!' said Snape. 'This house-elf is under arrest. There will be no more such incidents. Dobby is the leader of ASPEW, and as such I will cut off the head of the snake, so to speak. He is in custody. The other house-elves are lost without Dobby; I assure you all that we are safe.'
Narcissa ran to Snape and put her arms around his waist. 'Oh, Severus,' she murmured. 'Thank goodness you've caught the murderer.'
'He hasn't done any such thing,' Voldemort snarked from his corner. 'Dobby just appeared on command. Suspicious, if you ask me.' He rocked back and crossed his arms, self-satisfied. Across the room, Hermione nodded in agreement.
'Dobby,' Snape said. 'Confess your crimes.'
'Gladly!' said Dobby. 'For they are not crimes. They are defensive moves in an age-old war!' The elf tittered, then calmed himself down. 'I chose Malfoy Manor as the first example of house-elf power. It was my chance to get back at the evil Lucius Malfoy. I contacted my former fellows here, and I plotted the murders. Everyone who was ever mean to house-elves would die this weekend! We started with Lucius, with redundancy plans worked in to make sure he was killed.'
Voldemort was disconcerted to hear a house-elf use a word like 'redundancy.'
'Then,' said Dobby, 'Bellatrix Lestrange was next. She used to torture us when she was a little girl! She poked us with hot fire pokers! She hit us and kicked us! So we ganged up on her and hung her from the ceiling.'
It was no surprise that the sadistic Bellatrix had tortured house-elves as a child. It was one of the things Voldemort had loved most about her. But the action caught up with her, and to die in such a sneaky way! If it had not been sacrilege, he might consider that the mascot of Slytherin House should be a house-elf.
'Narcissa Malfoy, too, never gave us respect,' said Dobby.
Narcissa made a noise of protest, but Snape shushed her.
'We house-elves made certain that her cactus juice was toxic,' said Dobby. 'Then we locked the store-room with the bezoars. Unfortunately,' he sighed, 'that murder did not go all the way. But none of you are safe, even now!'
Voldemort regarded the little creature without fear, but he could not shake a creeping intuition that there was more up this house-elf's sleeve.
'Draco Malfoy! Pansy Parkinson! All the pure-bloods who've oppressed us for centuries! Prepare to die!' Dobby screamed. 'Hi-ya!'
'You are under arrest, Dobby!' Snape repeated in a loud, commanding voice.
'Not so fast,' Dobby giggled. He snapped his thin fingers, and Voldemort expected the elf to Disapparate. But instead, the sound of popcorn filled the air as house-elf after house-elf appeared in the room, each armed with iron pokers. They held their weapons in the air, a forest of sharp blades interspersed around the room.
Pansy let out a shriek and jumped into Harry's arms. From the sofa, Ginny Weasley stood protectively in front of Draco, who wrapped his arms about her waist. The room was dead silent, for the shock was great: armed house-elves, menacing their wizard masters. It was unheard of. With a quick flick of his hand, Voldemort gestured for Hermione to come to his side, which she did.
'What is going on here?' Snape bellowed, breaking the tense silence.
'I had no problem securing the loyalty of the Malfoy elves,' said Dobby, gloating. 'You see, they were most angry upon hearing the new terms of Lucius Malfoy's will. They felt betrayed! No house-elf would ever want to work for the new master of Malfoy Manor.'
'Hey!' said Narcissa, looking offended.
'Not you,' Dobby said. 'But you already know that, Mrs. Malfoy. You burned the will that left Malfoy Manor to the Dark Lord.'
'What?' Voldemort whispered.
'Why, you little --!' Narcissa threw herself toward Dobby, hands extended like claws, but Snape grabbed her by the arms and restrained her.
So that explained Narcissa and Snape's combined lies, Voldemort realized. Lucius Malfoy had proven himself loyal in death, and he, Voldemort, was the new owner of the Manor. If Voldemort had known of Lucius's will, he would have made sure the slippery Death Eater had died sooner. As it was…
'But we house-elves declare ourselves the owners of the Manor!' Dobby shouted, and the other house-elves let out incoherent cries of agreement. They shook their spears up and down. Next to Voldemort, Hermione stepped behind him a fraction, letting him guard her from the evil elves.
'Hup, hup, hup!' the elves chanted. 'Hup, hup, hup! ASPEW! ASPEW! ASPEW!' They bared their teeth, they stomped their feet, looking like a vicious band of pygmy cannibals. They advanced on the humans.
'Kill!' said Dobby. 'Kill!'
From the hallway, Dumbledore popped his head into the room. His eyes widened as he took one look, then he left.
The last thing Voldemort saw was a dozen spear points aimed at him. The last thing he heard were female screams, male shouts, house-elf chants. Then everything went dark.
Now for the Real Ending:
'Now,' said Snape, 'For the murder of Lucius Malfoy, I accuse: Albus Dumbledore.'
This did not surprise Voldemort in the least. He knew it, he just knew it; everyone's favorite Headmaster was a murderer. He giggled aloud, causing looks of consternation to be thrown his way, but he was too delighted to care.
'Professor Dumbledore would never murder anyone!' Harry Potter declared, and Voldemort rolled his eyes. 'And if he did, there was a good reason for it! MALFOY WAS A DEATH EATER! Have you all forgotten? And BELLATRIX --!'
'Harry, keep your voice down, for heaven's sake,' Hermione said. 'I want to hear this.'
'Albus Dumbledore,' said Snape. 'I am convinced he is the guilty party. In fact, I have reason to believe he orchestrated this entire weekend. The extent of his motives, I have yet to discover, but it stands to reason that the deaths of Lucius Malfoy and Bellatrix Lestrange were not the only murders planned for this party.' Snape gazed at each person with a significant, dark stare. 'There were to be more.'
'Gee, I wonder who,' said Harry, glaring at Voldemort.
'He would never have succeeded in killing me,' Voldemort scoffed. 'I have more friends than he does.' He sounded like a child saying it, but it was true. Voldemort was very popular.
'But why?' Ginny Weasley asked. 'Why involve all of us?'
'Maybe he needed a cover for his activities,' Pansy suggested. 'That's what I would do.'
Everyone looked at her. 'What? It's not like I did. I'm just saying.'
'It makes sense,' said Hermione. 'Perhaps Dumbledore wanted blame to be spread across everyone. But that doesn't seem like something he would do…'
'The noble Gryffindors aren't so noble,' crowed Narcissa. Hermione shot her a dirty look.
'Where is Professor Dumbledore, anyway?' Harry wondered aloud. Next to him, Ron Weasley shuffled toward the door, a fact that was not lost on Voldemort. Come to think of it, there was such a startling resemblance between the Weasley boy's eyes and those of Dumbledore – bright blue, twinkling, humorous, ridiculous. Voldemort was contemplating the reasons for it when Snape shouted 'Aha!'
Every person jumped. Draco Malfoy shouted out, 'You murdered my father!'
And Dumbledore stepped into the room.
'Hello,' the Headmaster said happily. 'I found some butterscotch toffees. They're very good! Does anyone want some?' He held out a purple bag stuffed with sweets, looking for all the world like Santa Claus.
'Don't be ridiculous,' said Voldemort. 'No one wants your stupid candies.'
'You never did like sweets, Tom. I feel sorry for you. You're missing out.'
'Ugh,' said Voldemort.
'You know, sweets aren't really good for the teeth,' added Hermione. 'All that sugar.'
'Thank you,' said Voldemort, mollified. He shared a look of agreement with Miss Granger. She smiled in his direction and then refocused on the Dumbledore-Snape showdown that looked to be brewing from the latter's end.
Snape's eyebrows twitched as he looked at the Headmaster. 'Dumbledore,' he growled, 'did you not hear me? You are under arrest!'
'Oh, that,' Dumbledore waved a hand. 'Don't blame me.'
Ron Weasley, in a surprise move, made a break for it. He ran for the door like a bull charging a matador, ramming past Narcissa who squeaked with surprise, heedless of the standing cries and shouts from the room. 'Ron!' Ginny exclaimed. 'What are you doing!'
'Someone stop him!' Draco shouted.
Snape leapt forward, snarling, grabbed Ron by the collar. They went down in tumbled heap on the floor. 'What is the meaning of this, Mr. Weasley?'
'Urp,' said Ron, muffled.
'Oh, I am sorry,' said Dumbledore.
Ron rubbed his bum gingerly as he stood up next to the Headmaster. It was then that Voldemort saw it: they were the same height. Same eyes. Same build. And when young, Dumbledore had that crazy auburn hair…
Dumbledore spoke. 'I think we'd better –'
'—confess,' finished Ron. 'Good.'
'In collusion!' Hermione exclaimed. 'Oh, Ron, how could you?'
'Collusion, Miss Granger?' said Ron. 'Not quite.'
'You see,' Dumbledore continued, 'how can you be in collusion with yourself?'
'There was one grand strategist of this weekend,' said Ron.
'And he,' said Dumbledore,
'Is me,' said Ron.
'What the hell?' Draco said.
The whole room descended into silence after that, each person trying to match up the revelations, no one quite believing what they'd heard. Pansy had a puzzled wrinkle between her eyes, giving her the look of a confused bulldog; Harry stared at Dumbledore and Ron with wide goggled green eyes behind his glasses. Ginny tilted her head at them, her mouth slightly agape, and on the sofa next to her Draco gripped her hand like death and worked his jaw in tension.
Hermione glanced at Voldemort, wanting him to read her thoughts, and Voldemort saw the questions floating between her eyes: who was Ron? Who was Dumbledore?
'I beg you, confess your crimes!' Snape declared. 'Let the whole room know your guilt.'
'If you can call it guilt,' said Dumbledore. 'You see, time is a marvelous thing. It's like putty, flexible and bendy. It can be moulded into shape, fun shapes, giraffes and dinosaurs and –'
Voldemort tuned out as the Headmaster expounded on the magical properties of time. This was not news to him. Then Ron spoke up.
'Therefore,' said Ron, 'it came to my attention some years ago that I am, in fact, Professor Dumbledore.'
'And I remember it well,' said Dumbledore. 'I was Ron Weasley.'
'That's impossible,' Harry spluttered. 'Not possible. How can the two of you exist side-by-side?'
'The clues were there for you, Harry,' said Dumbledore. 'Did you not recognize the watch I – er, Ron – received for my birthday? The clock with stars and planets?'
'Oh,' said Harry. 'Huh?'
'Don't forget the eyes,' said Ron. 'Windows to the soul.' And indeed his eyes were Dumbledore's to the life.
'We like lemon-drops,' said Dumbledore.
'We are matchless and equals at the game of chess,' said Ron. 'And boy, do we hate the Dark Arts. Always have, always will.'
'So,' said Dumbledore, 'I made a pact with myself. My function in life was to be rid of Dark wizards! In every form! As Ron Weasley, I time-travelled at the age of thirty-six, back through the years, to undo the effects of the Dark Arts. I began with Grindelwald. Ever since, I have traversed the earth, doing away with evil. For this weekend, I cast a Confundus Charm on Mrs. Malfoy – I am sorry about that, Mrs. Malfoy, by the way – but it was necessary in the overarching plan. I planted the idea of having a hunting party. I knew that Lucius Malfoy would be done away with; it was a stroke of luck to find Bellatrix too, and of course our nemesis Voldemort. But that's Harry's job to kill him, and also a tale for another day.'
Voldemort almost objected to this, but he was too interested in the new turn of events to speak up.
'Ron.' Hermione turned to her friend, arms crossed like a stern schoolteacher, lips pressed together. 'For goodness' sake. What is all this about? You're not really the Headmaster, are you?'
Ron Weasley shrugged. 'Sorry,' he said. 'I didn't know it myself, until I – Dumbledore – my future self decided to tell me. Really, it makes sense. We kind of share a brain, you know.'
'So that's why you always knew where Dumbledore was!' Harry burst. 'And, Headmaster, er, Ron, er, whatever. You did this whole thing?'
'Treachery!' Narcissa shrieked, pointing her finger at Dumbledore. 'You tricked me! You murdered my husband!'
Dumbledore said, 'Come, now, Mrs. Malfoy. Don't pretend to be too sorry about Lucius's death.'
'Enough interruptions!' Snape interjected. 'Albus Dumbledore is under arrest. As, I suppose, is Ron Weasley.' He said this with particular relish. 'Though I find it hard to believe that Mr. Weasley could be one and the same as the Headmaster; his mind lacks brilliancy.'
'An illusion of ignorance, Severus, it was all an illusion,' said Ron.
'Ron! He's a Professor,' admonished Hermione in protest at the familiar use of Snape's first name.
'We are happy to take responsibility for the murders of Bellatrix Lestrange and Lucius Malfoy,' said Dumbledore. He folded his hands in a gesture of ceremony across his chest. 'This is our mission, and we chose to accept it whole-heartedly.'
'Ron, what will Mum and Dad say?' Ginny despaired. 'You've been in cahoots with your older self and you've gone around committing murders!'
'And dispensing lemon-drops,' said Ron. 'That's part of it, too.'
'Lemon-drops,' Voldemort and Harry muttered together. They looked at one another, startled, then each turned away with arms crossed. But despite the distasteful sharing of Harry Potter's thoughts, Voldemort was happy. What an overthrow! Albus Dumbledore in Azkaban for murder! His good mood threatened to bubble over into maniacal laughter. As a young man he'd learned the skill of maniacal laughter from a Dark Wizard in the south of Germany and taken his lessons to heart.
But to interrupt the Dark Lord's glee, the great booming doorbell of Malfoy Manor rang. Then it rang again. No one moved.
'The Aurors have arrived,' Snape said with a satisfied air. 'Dumbledore-Weasley, put your hands up.'
Dumbledore, with his same barmy smile on his face, obliged. So did Ron Weasley. But then with a flick of Weasley's wrist, a dark powder flew out, cascaded down, hit the floor. Voldemort recognized it at once: Peruvian Darkness Powder. He'd ordered it by the crates from that store, Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. And for the second time that weekend, the drawing room was plunged into false darkness, filled with the sounds of a scuffle.
Several feminine screams. Voldemort heard Ginny say, 'Draco, behave yourself!' and then giggle. Narcissa called out Snape's name as though searching.
'Bye-bye, suckers!' Ron called through the blackness.
'Get off me!' Snape shouted. 'He's got their wands! Stop him! You're under arrest, Dumbledore, I swear I'll find you!'
Voldemort let his intuition guide him toward Snape. He found the Potions Master/ CACA Inspector in the middle of the dark cloud, knowing it by reaching out with his hands to grab a head of greasy hair that could only belong to Snape. 'Give me my wand,' he hissed in his most menacing voice.
'Fine,' Snape hissed back. He must have been too angry at Dumbledore-Weasley to care about Voldemort's escape.
Wand in hand, Voldemort took a moment to enjoy the chaos. Yes, he'd lost his best Death Eater this weekend. But there were compensations. The choking black fog began to clear. Hermione Granger stood with her hands gripping the back of a chair, determined not to move until it was all over. Draco and Ginny were draped in a suggestive embrace on the sofa and sprung apart when they noticed the light returning. Harry stood, looking bewildered, as did Pansy next to him. Narcissa, who was beautiful and serene aside from a smudge of black soot on her cheek, sat in icy stillness in an armchair.
Ron Weasley and Albus Dumbledore were gone from the room.
'Well,' said Snape, coughing a little. 'They've escaped. Apparated, most likely. But it's not the end!' He shook his fist in anger. 'They're deep in CACA now!'
After that, no one knew what to say. In the wake of his outburst even Snape seemed at a loss, settling for a flush of anger on his pale cheeks.
Then Hermione spoke up. 'So it was Dumbledore,' she said wonderingly. 'And Ron. The murder is solved.' And the room was quiet and at peace with itself for the first time all weekend.
Voldemort made the declaration that had rested on the edge of his mind for several minutes now. In the triumph of knowledge he cleared his throat and made the announcement.