Midnight Confessions Chapter 28 - Her Master's Voice
The respite offered by the safety of Donovan's Den under the reassuring shadow of Weasley Mountain had afforded Harry the opportunity to examine his birthday present.
Ron & Hermione's gift had been a copy of his family tree, and while his friends had struggled to master their family magic, his study had turned inward, to who he was and how he came to be.
It was only half the story of course; the magic world having no knowledge of his mother's family, only that Lily Evans was a muggleborn witch who had married into the long and distinguished line of Potter.
The Potter line had, for at least a thousand years, entwined itself with the families Weasley and Longbottom. It had been very pleasing to discover that his friends Ron and Neville were in fact not so distant cousins.
The exercise had whetted his appetite for more and Harry had, at Hugh Weasley's invitation, availed himself of the former headmaster's extensive library. This Hermione-like activity had yielded an unexpected result.
A record of the Hogwarts sortings listed a "Regulus Arcturus Black" as being sorted into Slytherin in 1972. Harry had seen the name before on a tapestry alongside the burnt out spot that had marked Harry's godfather Sirius.
"RAB" had been under their noses the whole time in a house that Harry himself owned.
They were returning to number twelve Grimwald place.
"Is that it, Harry?"
Harry reached out and picked up the locket. It had taken the better part of the morning to find, a morning punctuated by increasing frustration on all their parts. Eventually they found it in one of Kreacher's nests, as Ron liked to call them.
The locket felt heavy; heavier than it had any right to be, as if evil weighed something.
Reluctantly Harry, with a sense of looming foreboding, undid the clasp and placed the locket around his neck.
"See mistress," came the voice. "He brings mudbloods into the Black house." Harry glanced up. Kreacher was standing in the doorway flanked by two Death Eaters. "He brings Weasley blood traitors. He steals from us!"
The Death Eaters stepped forward, their masks fading away.
"Beautiful boy," came a woman's voice, "Pretty Harry Potter."
A cold chill ran down Harry's spine as he recognized both the face and the voice.
The man he recognized too, Antonin Dolohov.
Behind Harry came Ron's voice, low and guttural, "Out of my way, Harry."
"The mudblood and the traitor can die here," Dolohov said casually raising his wand.
There came a roar of anger from Ron, and Harry found himself being shoved aside.
The green bolts of the killing curse shattered prematurely against a semi-transparent wall of amber energy; a wall which raced toward the death eaters. It reached Dolohov first sending him flying. Bellatrix, with a second more to spare, disapparated.
Instinctively Harry followed her, willing himself and twisting his body through space and reappearing on a landing near the top of the house.
"Clever trick from little Weasley," came a voice.
Harry could feel a bruise forming from where he had fallen, an aching pain that demanded release.
The spell narrowly missed; sending up splinters into its intended victim.
"You've got to mean it pretty boy. I told you, it's about want."
"About wanting to hurt," Harry said, "About wanting to punish."
"Words pretty boy. Pretty words from a pretty boy…."
A surge of satisfaction flowed through Harry and a smile crossed his lips.
Bellatrix twisted in space before his eyes, and Harry followed.
In the library, shards of green splinter against the amber walls of Ron's will.
The attic: feathers and hippogriff dung.
A sneeze halts Bellatrix's flight.
The witch's body sprawls on the floor writhing.
There was an art to this. Harry could see that now; how to lengthen his vowels, twist his wand, to send her sprawling first one-way and then another.
An art too, the respite, the momentary relief, and the chase.
In the kitchen Hermione placing a binding spell on the house elf.
The cellar: dark, damp. Bellatrix in the darkness, holding her breath. Harry's lips parting... his tongue darting, tasting.
The curse is in Parseltongue. The word...long and sinewy, the smell of disturbed earth, a swish and flick to turn a scream on and off.
Above him the two-tone thud of a body falling, something soaks through carpet and floor; it tastes of metallic in the air.
Harry hisses again, the swish and flick.
A wand lunge. A satisfying hiss.
Blood dripping from above.
"Harry, where are you?"
Harry screams defiance at the silver otter and it turns and runs through him, chilling him to bone.
"Crucio!" he screams twisting all the pain and anguish of his life into the single curse.
But the reply isn't "Mercy." It never was "Mercy," it was "Master."
Bellatrix in the darkness...calling him 'Master.'
A second light in the darkness, a dog and Harry's bloodlust leaves him, too soon.
"Where is it?" he screams, "Where is it?" Desperately reaching into himself; searching, seeking to embrace the darkness within.
A silence punctuated by dripping blood.
"It's in Gringotts, Master, in your vault, like you commanded,"
An otter joins the dog.
"Master? Does Master want to punish me again? Please?"
"Please, Master, punish me."
A pity fills Harry for this sick woman, he cannot muster another curse. In the shimmering light of the two patronuses, the madness in her eyes changes, and Bellatrix Lestrange folds in on herself disappearing from Grimwald place.
Harry gathered his will and apparated upstairs.
"Harry," Hermione said grabbing his shoulders. "Harry, we've got go, there will be Aurors here soon, and Death Eaters too." But Harry couldn't tear his gaze from Dolohov.
The death eater lay on the floor, his blood pooled in a perfect circle around him, a thousand gashes covering his body.
"Sectumsempra," Harry murmured.
"Yes, Harry, 'Sectumsempra', now we have to go!"
With Ron and Hermione on either side of him Harry allowed himself to be guided out of number 12 Grimwald place and into their small car awaiting outside.
Hermione twisted the key, the engine sprang to life, and they glided into the London traffic as Harry felt rather than saw the arrival of an Auror squad.
"Dolohov…" Harry began.
"Family business, Harry," said Ron interrupting him. "That bastard killed Mum's brothers." Despite her devoted concentration to driving, Harry saw Hermione nod her head. "And he won't hurt Hermione ever again."
Hermione suddenly swerved, all around them hooters honked as she adroitly stole a newly vacated parking.
After lifting the handbrake Hermione turned. "What happened with Bellatrix, Harry?"
"She got away," Harry admitted, "But I think she told me where to look next."
There's a chapter two years and one continent abandonment in the making.
Written in Aotearoa.
In this was an incredibly difficult chapter to write.
I knew what I wanted to happen, specially with Ron and Dolohov, and I made a number of false starts from both Ron's and Hermione's perspective, until I settled on Harry POV and focused on the effect a horcrux could have on Harry. Which lead to the whole Master/mercy dynamic.