Disclaimer: I own nothing except Miss K Rochester and any other original characters not from the Harry Potter series. All characters and plot from the Harry Potter series belong to J K Rowling.
SPOILER WARNING: if you haven't read all the books by now (or seen all the films, which isn't yet possible) go and do it and then come back!
Wow, this is the last chapter! I can count on one hand the amount of written stories I've actually managed to finish in my lifetime so far, and this is certainly the longest. Thank you to everyone who has read and enjoyed it, and I hope you like the final entry!
"My Lord! What in the world have you done to her?!" cried Lucius, his patience snapping.
"Silence Lucius!" demanded Voldemort crossly. "Crucio!"
Karma watched stonily as Lucius crumpled before her. Love could indeed be transient and cruel, she observed. But she knew Lucius would love her forever, no matter what.
Voldemort led her back to his study, where they once more seated themselves on the couch. As Karma looked into Voldemort's eyes, which were alight with curiosity, she knew she was now in the most difficult and dangerous position of her entire life.
"So, Karma. It appears that you are 'in love' with me. How do you suppose I return the favour?" asked Voldemort, his voice both suspicious and mocking. "I, who am incapable of love."
Karma could barely stomach the task ahead, let alone guess its outcome. She concentrated hard on her natural, ancestral magic and shoved aside the instinctual fear that threatened to send her running for the door.
"No-one is incapable of love, my Lord," she replied, her tone soft and steady.
As Karma looked at him and said this, Voldemort experienced a strange, alien feeling. As all that he stood for and all that he'd done rejected it, the resulting conflict made him feel so wretched and sick inside that he almost gagged. Karma saw the change from inflicted to livid occur in his eyes and flinched inside. Just managing to maintain her facade, she knew she must act quickly before Voldemort could retaliate.
"Kiss me, my Lord," she said, leaning towards him.
At her words she saw Voldemort's anger change to confusion and indecision. He had lost all control of the situation, which was alien enough in itself, but now he was almost overcome with the strange feeling he had never felt before. He felt somehow weak and not himself. And the sudden softness he felt for Karma intensified a thousand fold when her lips touched his.
Karma, expecting a repeat of the rough and painful kiss she had experienced when she was first captured, was astonished when Voldemort began to kiss back. His thin lips were gentle and tentative, and it felt only too easy to encourage them with her own. When he tilted his head to deepen the kiss and she opened her mouth in acceptance, the fireworks started. She felt his left arm snake round her waist to pull her into a loving embrace as his other hand reached up to run through her hair and hold the back of her head.
She in turn took hold of his shoulders before linking her arms round his neck. A tear came to her eye, as she could feel the remaining humanity inside him reaching out to her in its longing for human affection. If only she could extract it and save it. If only she could go back in time and turn Tom Riddle away from his horrific fate. So many lives would be saved, along with his soul...
The taste of salt brought Voldemort to his senses. He snapped his head back, settling back into his usual persona. As he did so, Karma looked at his hardening eyes and realised she was shaking, with tears pouring down her face. She looked and felt truly distraught.
"What is it Karma?" asked Voldemort, his voice a harsh and deadly whisper. "What have you seen with those senses of yours?"
Karma stared dumbly, at a loss for a reply.
"My death by remorse, perhaps? Have you sensed that if I attempt such a feat I will not survive, even with your help?" he demanded angrily.
"I...I believe you are strong enough..."
With a swipe of his wand Karma was knocked to floor and sent sprawling. She heard her wand roll away and sat up gingerly. She peered up, wide-eyed at Voldemort who swept over to stand above her, wand outstretched.
"No doubt this prophecy was an invention of yours, a fabricated memory to trick me into killing myself," said Voldemort, his tone dangerously low. "You have deceived the Dark Lord, and for that you must die!"
As he raised his wand, Karma felt herself frozen in fear. Voldemort paused, his wand held ready, the words of the death curse on his lips. His feeling of triumph at the sight of Karma's terrified form beneath him was for a moment taken over and replaced by that strange softness. His wand hand lowered slightly.
"What is this weakness?" he asked, frustrated.
"It is love," replied Karma simply, equally bewildered.
Voldemort snarled and whipped his wand towards Karma's right arm, which snapped in two places and began to turn black. She shrieked and was thrown back from the impact of the curse. She landed hard on her broken arm and screamed out again, eyes streaming in agony. She forcefully blinked away the tears and looked around. Miraculously her wand was lying only a foot or so away. She reached for it and grasped it in her left hand, only for Voldemort's foot to step down on it.
"The next time I see you, I will kill you," he said, before raising his foot and letting her go.
Karma rolled over and disapparated.
She arrived, gasping and panting, face down on a patch of wet grass. She shifted herself very carefully onto her back, wincing whenever she caught her right arm. She reluctantly examined it to see that the skin was blackened and beginning to crack. The pain of it was unbelievable, so much so that it filled her head, banishing all memory and thoughts. She acknowledged nothing of her surroundings except for the stormy sky above, before falling unconscious.
She saw Severus tending to his cauldron... and rubbing ointment on her arm. She heard him chanting...
She came to in a dark place. There was a cold, whistling wind, but she could feel the heat of a fire nearby. She sat up slowly, feeling very groggy. She looked at her arm, which had returned to normal except for a few whitish scars. There was no pain, so she guessed she was drugged.
Next she noticed Severus, who was walking in a wide circle around her, muttering incantations under his breath.
"Severus?" called Karma, croakily.
He ignored her until his spellwork was complete. He stayed standing outside the circle and turned his attention to her.
"What are you doing? Where is this? How did you find me?" asked Karma.
"I found you by the lake in the grounds of Voldemort's HQ and this is a small cave to the North of Hogsmeade," replied Severus impassively. "I was putting up a barrier around you so that you will remain undetected by Voldemort."
"Voldemort isn't looking for me this time Severus..."
"I know," he interrupted. "I looked at your memories whilst I was healing you."
"He may change his mind. Plus, the barrier will also prevent you from leaving, which removes the possibility of you running across him."
As Karma's magical senses began to reawaken, the strength and nature of the barrier became apparent.
"But, Severus, this is a cursed barrier, one that will only fade upon the death of the caster! Do you mean to die?!"
"As Dumbledore's killer, I am the new master of the Elder Wand. Voldemort will kill me once he gets his hands on it," replied Severus, emotionless.
"No! Severus don't! Stay here! Hide yourself!"
"I can't run away from this Karma. If I stay here Voldemort will find me, and through me he will find you. It is unnecessary for both of us to die."
"But...if Voldemort is defeated before..."
"If you killed him, the Unbreakable Vow would kill you."
"I don't care!" declared Karma, causing Severus to raise a sardonic eyebrow at her. "You deserve to be saved, you're the hero of this story, not me! You've helped more than anyone to bring about the Dark Lord's demise!"
"Don't forget your own part in all this, Karma. You're the one who made Voldemort reject the prophecy and ensure his own downfall."
"I will not stand by and let you walk to your doom!" protested Karma passionately.
"Yes, you will," replied Severus sternly.
She jumped to her feet and ran at Severus, hands outstretched towards him. He stood stock still, face unmoved as first her hands and then her body collided with the invisible barrier just in front of him and she was knocked back onto the floor. She leapt up and stood in front of him. She rested one hand on the barrier between them and looked pleadingly up into the unfathomable depths of his onyx eyes.
"Please, Severus...don't go," she begged tearfully.
"Goodbye, Roxanne," said Severus, his eyes swimming with emotion.
He turned and disappeared.
Karma stumbled backwards. As the realisation hit her with crushing finality that she would never see him again, she choked on her misery, her body wracked with the force of her sobs. She curled up by the fire, and eventually cried herself to sleep.
When Karma woke up, the early morning light had filled the cave. The enchanted fire was still burning and she could still feel the barrier around her. Severus was still alive. Realising this with relief, her thoughts turned to Lucius. Her stomach twisted with guilt as she remembered what Voldemort had made her do to prove her 'love' for him.
"...this is the only solution?" hissed Voldemort, clearly disgusted. "We fall in love and share remorse for my deeds together, with the possibility of death for both or either party?"
"You're right, it's ridiculous," said Karma, turning away to hide a snigger. "But, yes, that's what the prophecy is indicating."
"So then...how do we fall in love?" asked Voldemort in a taunting whisper.
Karma's eyes widened. A prophecy was a prophecy after all, but she was still surprised he was taking it seriously. She rearranged her features and turned to face him. Here goes...
"Well, my Lord, I am already in love with you," she told him, with difficulty.
Voldemort merely laughed. Karma had to admit she had sounded ridiculous.
"It's true!" she insisted desperately. "Test me any way you like."
Voldemort responded to this challenge with a cruel, mischievous smile that made Karma feel a lot less brave than when she had said it. He stepped towards her and she immediately guessed what was coming. As his face neared hers she stood firm and braced herself.
"God, I've got to pretend to enjoy it," she thought as he bent down to kiss her.
Before their lips could touch, however, Karma was blasted backwards and her back collided against the stone wall with a sickening crunch. Instead of sliding down the wall, her body rose in puppet-like fashion to stand back up. Voldemort watched curiously as Karma's head raised itself to look at him. He drew his wand when he saw her eyes, which appeared to be burning with black flames. This was obviously the work of Richard's curse.
Karma raised her wand and began speaking the killing curse, but was cut off by Voldemort, who used the same whip-like wand motion as before to stop the curse. Karma's eyes returned to normal, and she stumbled back to lean against the wall. She was out of it for a few minutes before her eyes began to focus on Voldemort.
"If Richard's magic sees me as a threat then maybe you are telling the truth," said Voldemort, sounding slightly amused. "Come here, I have another test for you."
Karma stepped groggily forward and took his arm, whereupon he transported them back to her room. Severus was still there, and as they came in the door he was just finished closing up his bag of ingredients. Karma discreetly tapped her temple. Severus saw the signal and quickly looked into her mind at what had happened. Voldemort stepped forward.
"Severus, please leave us, and fetch Lucius," he ordered.
With one last glance at his case, Severus gave a small smile and swept out of the room.
End of flashback...
Karma sighed, she had a lot to tell Lucius when she found him. At least she didn't have to worry about the curse anymore, now that Voldemort had broken it.
Later in the day, after many failed attempts to break free, Karma slumped down in front of the fire. She stared into the dancing flames, grateful for every second of their warmth and life. The flames suddenly blew violently sideways, as if caught in a gale. Karma moved her body to block the gale, knowing full well that there was no wind in the cave. The flames grew smaller and flickered feebly. Silent tears made tracks down Karma's face. She sheltered the fire with her palms and blew gently on it, as if keeping the fire alive would save Severus. The fire decreased to a single flame, which became a spark, which died. The single, thin line of smoke was cut off, rose and dispersed into the air. Karma felt the barrier fail.
Karma's palms balled into fists, she stood slowly and disapparated from the cave.
The battle at Hogwarts was over. Lucius had ensured that Draco was alright and Narcissa had taken him home. Lucius had told them he would stay a bit longer and join them later. He was now heading toward the Forbidden Forest at a leisurely pace, worrying about what had become of Karma.
Karma arrived at the walls of Hogwarts with a twinge of nostalgia taken over at once by concern. The castle itself was damaged and the building and the surrounding area reeked of death and, worst of all, young blood spilt. She peered through a window of the great hall and looked with dismay upon the mourning scene.
A sudden fear that Lucius' body could also be lying in there caused her to pelt round the side of the building towards the front doors. Luckily, as she was coming up to the corner she caught a flash of white-blond hair through the deepening twilight as Lucius disappeared into the forest below. She ran joyfully down the hill, lighting her wand as she went, before crashing into the undergrowth.
"Lucius! Lucius!" she called, gleefully.
She saw his wand light change direction. She squinted as he shined it at her face.
"Karma? Is that really you?" asked Lucius as he headed towards her, his voice rising with excitement.
"Yes!" she replied, rushing forward to meet him.
She saw one flash of his relieved and grinning face before she was gathered up into a tight bear hug. Lucius put her down and examined her face again. Her eyes were bloodshot and puffy, her skin was even paler than usual and the dark, circular bruising left by the cursed pearl necklace had not improved.
"You look awful Karma," he observed, and then guided her over to sit on an old, fallen tree trunk. "Talk. Now."
Karma smiled and tapped her wand. The light from the tip detached itself and became an orb, which floated up to hover above their heads. Lucius did the same, and his orb floated up to hover near Karma's.
"What happened with Voldemort?" asked Lucius.
"Nothing," replied Karma, causing Lucius to raise his eyebrow. "I scared him off."
"Seriously, Karma," he insisted, his tone slightly strained.
She could see in his face that this had been eating away at him. She felt guilty.
"Oh, Lucius!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him. "I'm so sorry I had to do that to you, but I had to! You see..."
Night had fallen, and the forest was alive with noises by the time Karma had explained everything.
"I just can't believe I almost made the Dark Lord fall in love with me. No wonder I've got you firmly under my spell!" said Karma.
"But you cannot resist my charms either," taunted Lucius, voice low.
He leaned in as if to kiss her, then pulled away as a thought occurred to him, causing Karma to pout in disappointment.
"But what about the veritaserum? How did you foil it?" asked Lucius.
"I didn't. Severus must have switched it with water beforehand."
"So it seems he wasn't such a slimeball after all," commented Lucius.
"I never thought I'd hear you say that," laughed Karma.
Her head drooped and she sighed sadly.
"You still have me, Karma," said Lucius, raising her chin with his hand.
Karma looked up at his face. He seemed intensely worried about something.
"Did you love him?"
"He...he was my friend," answered Karma, voice breaking.
She impatiently wiped the tears away. Lucius put his arm over her shoulder. She had cried over Severus enough. And Lucius was here with her, with no Dark Lord to come between them.
"It's all over now Lucius. You've got me all to yourself."
He grinned and hauled her onto his lap.
"Does that mean you'll marry me this time?" he asked, his velvety voice hopeful as he pulled a ring box out of a pocket in his robes.
She sniffed and cuddled up to him, grinning as he opened the box to reveal the same ring he first proposed to her with. It had lost none of its sparkle and she was just as thrilled to see it as before.
"Ask me properly, and I'll consider it," she teased.
He shook his head and sat her down on the log, himself turning to kneel down in front of her, holding the ring out towards her.
"Karma Rochester, will you, in the knowledge that I am a divorced man, consent to be my wife?"
"Yes, Lucius Malfoy, I will," replied Karma.
She offered Lucius her left hand and he slid the ring on her ring finger. Karma stood up suddenly, Lucius followed. She ripped the ring off with agitated movements and threw it to the ground.
"Whatever's the matter?!" asked Lucius.
Karma raised her head and Lucius recoiled as he saw her burning eyes. Lucius raised his hands to hold her shoulders and was pushed aside. He snatched up the ring before turning to face Karma.
"Richard!" he growled, drawing out his wand.
Lucius' wand went flying. Karma raised her wand again. Lucius smoothed out the anger from his face with difficulty, and then stepped forward with confidence.
"You can't kill me, Karma," he spoke, soothingly.
He stepped closer.
Karma huddled over and began to shake. She stumbled backwards until she hit a tree, which she began to slide down, crumpling towards the floor.
Lucius grabbed her by the arms and pulled her up. He held her head with both hands and forced her to look at him.
"I love you, Karma!"
He kissed her possessively. Karma thrashed and the curse pushed him away, and he pushed back, forcing Karma back against the tree. Karma became still. Her eyes closed.
"I'm not going to let you go, Karma," said Lucius, voice shaking. "Not now."
He kissed her again, this time softly. He pulled away, the soft wand light showing him Karma's pale, motionless face. Tears threatened to fall as he gently shook her limp body.
After a few eternal seconds, the scar around her neck vanished, and her body sagged as if a weight had been lifted. Her face became peaceful.
Lucius was frozen in place. His breath blew clouds over Karma's face. She was not dead. He would not check her pulse. There was no need. Absolutely no need.
He shook her slightly again. Her head lolled forward under his chin. He hastily caught it and lifted it back up to reveal Karma grinning, eyes wide open.
"Did I have you worried?" she asked, and giggled.
Her giggling was cut off as Lucius kissed her with intense relief and passion.
"Oh, Karma," he growled. "I really could kill you sometimes! Get this ring on right now!"
Ta-da! Please review and tell me if you liked this one! Oh, and tell me whether or not you'd be interested in a prequel!