A/N: Written for hp_cross_fest on LiveJournal. The challenge was: 198 "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Neville/Bellatrix. This story contains suggestions of a violent sexual encounter. Heed the rating.
The Pursuit and the Penknife
"Neville, I got your Patronus ... what - what the fuck happened here?" Harry stared at the scene before him. There was blood everywhere - the walls, the floor, drenching Neville's clothes - and in slumped in the corner was a body. Human, female, middle-aged, her clothes bloodied and her black dress ripped and torn and bunched up around her hips so that her lower half was completely bare and exposed... "Is that...?"
"Bellatrix Lestrange," Neville said. "Harry, you have to help me. I have to get rid of the-" His words caught in his throat. "I..."
Harry shook his head. "Don't tell me what happened. If you tell me I'll only have to report it."
"I wasn't authorised - except in self-defence..." Harry stared at the body for a long moment - the sheer number of wounds, the amount of blood - it went far beyond 'self-defence' and they both knew it. And if that weren't damning enough, a Muggle-style killing... It was too personal for Auror business.
"Where's the knife?" Neville looked to a far corner of the room and Harry nodded. "Scourgify it. It'll get rid of your finger-prints. Incendio your clothes..."
"You shouldn't take the case."
It was the first solid lead they'd had on Bellatrix Lestrange since she escaped during the final battle of the war. Not two months ago, Frank Longbottom had finally died. Neville had jumped at the assignment. Harry had his reservations.
"You're too close to this case. You shouldn't take it."
"You got your revenge for what happened to your parents," Neville said as he tucked the file in his briefcase. "Let me have mine."
"She's supposed to be found, arrested, put on trial, and sent back to Azkaban," Harry said. "Is that what you have planned for her?"
Neville gave Harry a long look and then headed for the lifts.
"You're in over your head, Longbottom!" Harry called after him. "Neville! Nev-"
For his seventeenth birthday, Neville Longbottom got a watch, just like every other wizard had for hundreds of years. For his sixteenth birthday, he'd gotten another common gift - a penknife of the sort often carried by young wizards, useful for opening locks and untying knots. Like the watch, it had once belonged to his father. Neville carried both with him always.
Harry had to levitate the knife over the well behind the pub and drop it in. Neville had hesitated for too long. These little links to his father were all he had left.
It occurred to him that he might come back, summon it out of the well later. When Harry was gone. He wanted to keep it. It was damning evidence, but the use it had found was almost poetic.
Chasing Bellatrix was exactly what Neville expected it to be. Catching her was not.
It was in the Hanged Man in Little Hangleton that he finally caught up with her. He sat in a dark corner booth and watched her for three hours. She smoked. Her dress had obviously once been very fine, but now was worn. There was fraying at the hems. Still, it was well tailored to her body and put her breasts on advantageous display.
She went up to a room at just past ten. He followed.
He'd intended to burst into her room, wand drawn, stun her while her guard was down. Bellatrix Lestrange never let her guard down.
The second he burst through the door, she had him pinned against the wall, her right hand at his throat and her left physically ripping his wand from his hand.
"Little Longbottom," she cooed. "What a terrible disappointment as an Auror you are."
Pursuing her was an elaborate game of cat and mouse, a chase, a tease. He wasn't naive enough to think that those rare times he caught sight of her were on anything less than her own terms. Neville realised - the trick was to wait until she slipped up. The trick was to wait until she made a mistake and then use it to trap her.
"You're a toy to her, that's all," Harry said. Neville had taken to the case with a single-minded drive that scared his colleague. "I know what it's like. She's played with me as well. When she gets bored, she'll discard you. You've let yourself become a toy."
"She'll make a mistake. Eventually. I'll be there when she does."
Harry watched him for a long moment. "You might make a mistake first. And then you'll be dead." He walked away.
His heart raced. He couldn't breathe. He felt like he was floating.
She was smaller up close than he had imagined. She'd loomed large in his mind for so much of his life. In person she was small, but strong. He clawed at her hand, trying to pull it away from his throat. Eventually she loosened her grip and he gasped.
"We've been having fun, haven't we?" she said, her hand sliding from his neck and down his chest. "Haven't we, baby boy?" She fingered the lapel of his robe. Neville's fingers twisted, like they would to wrap around his wand, but his wand wasn't there - it was on the floor, thrown out of reach. "We've been having fun and you had to go and ruin it by barging into my room. That's just rude, isn't it, baby boy... That's not playing by the rules." She ran her hands lower, pressed her body close to his, and in one dizzying moment he felt himself aware of the intensity of his hatred for this woman and the sensation of her breasts pressed against his chest. "Make it up to me?"
He could feel her hand on the fastenings of his trousers, feel her hand taking hold of him. In his mind there was a brief flash of fumblings in the greenhouse at school and Cho Chang last year after the MLE Christmas party and the feeling that he should be a little bit drunk, because he usually was when this sort of thing happened. There was usually a haze, a dullness, but this was sharp. He'd never loved the women he'd made love to - he'd never felt much of anything for them at all. He didn't love Bellatrix; he hated her; he'd never felt so much when someone touched him in his entire live.
His trousers hung loose around his hips, but he could still feel his penknife in his pocket, the weight of it resting against his thigh.