A/N: Food poisoning from idiotic restaurant = worship at porcelain throne = really bad fever and chills = severely weakened immune system = 6-week sinus infection = delays in writing my 30-page term paper = delays in preparing for finals = delays in writing this chapter.
Chapter 41: The Ghost of Bellatrix's Past Future
The journey to Hogwarts went quickly, especially for Professor Dumbledore, who could apparate through the Hogwarts wards, and Harry and Bellatrix, who could use Harry's phoenix-fire traveling spell. While the rest of the guests straggled into the headmaster's office, Dumbledore brought the Pensieve out from its cabinet and began explaining the intricacies of its use to Harry. Once he had covered the basics, Dumbledore moved to explaining a more advanced technique that Harry might find helpful for what he wanted to show.
"Instead of dropping each memory individually into the Pensieve, you can simply copy your entire memory and drop it in. Once we're in, you can move from memory to memory as if you were merely thinking about your memories," Dumbledore explained.
"And then you can keep the Pensieve and review each of my past actions very easily," Harry said, frowning suspiciously and eying Dumbledore. While he did want to come clean about some things, Harry did not want other people knowing too much about his past experiences or about secrets that could be crucial to the war.
"As much as I would love to examine your memories in their entirety," Dumbledore said, "I will respect your privacy. You will be able to destroy the memory copy before we leave. Or, you could keep it in a container for later—in case you ever want to show us more without having to re-copy the memories. The sensation, while harmless, is not precisely thrilling, either."
Harry shrugged. "Your suggestion seems reasonable, then." Following directions from Dumbledore, he copied his entire memory and dropped it into the Pensieve. It took several minutes, and when he was finished, everybody was standing around the Pensieve, staring at him and the Pensieve silently, anticipation etched into their faces.
"All right, let's do this," Harry said, feeling a bit awkward and escaping from the environment by sticking his head in the Pensieve. Instantly, he found himself alone in a blank, watery atmosphere until Bellatrix joined him, and then Dumbledore, Moody, the Weasleys, the Potters, and everybody else.
"Okay," Harry said, lifting up his wand and drawing everybody's attention to him with it. "I guess I'll show you the moment I departed from my original future and arrived in the past that we all have in common."
Instantaneously, the crowd found themselves in a dungeon, watching Harry interact with a very miserable, foul, and aged Bellatrix. Knowing that his wife would not be pleased to see or have other people see her alternate self, Harry glanced apologetically at Bellatrix who was staring horrified at her alternate, future self. Bellatrix met Harry's gazed and shrugged resignedly.
"Uh, I should explain that the Bellatrix I originally knew had not time travelled, was significantly older than me, and had become a Death Eater," Harry said, beginning to wish deeply that his wife could be spared this view of the future. "Although, as you might surmise from this scene, she had fallen into the Dark Lord's disfavor."
"Why isn't there sound?" one of the Weasley twins demanded as they watched the Pensieve versions of Bellatrix and Harry trade verbal barbs.
"The sound is controlled by Harry," Dumbledore said, turning to Harry and peering over his spectacles at him.
Harry shrugged. "Sorry, but I don't want to share some of the things being said in this conversation."
Those present seemed a little bit annoyed with Harry, but their curiosity drew their attention to what was going on.
"As you can see from our body language," Harry declared, "we are mostly just being rude to each other. Let me move us forward to the actual moment that I get sent to the past." The scene flashed and the group watched with morbid fascination as the former Bellatrix removed the hair ornament from the bodice of her dress. A few people gasped as Bellatrix grabbed Harry's hand and used it to force the ornament into her chest. Very soon, the group was watching as Harry interacted with teenage Bellatrix in the Black vault at Gringotts.
"You'll want to pay close attention to this," Harry said. "This is what proves that I did not do anything underhanded to inherit the Black estate. I'll even make it so that you can hear what we said to each other."
Silently, the group watched as Harry and young Bellatrix interacted for the first time and discovered that Harry had the ability to withdraw gold from the Black vault. Harry and Bellatrix then struck a bargain, which ended with both Harry and Bellatrix exiting the vault with a lot of gold for each of them.
"It looks like it is as you said to Bellatrix in that vault—you inherited the Black title while in the future," Dumbledore said as the memory paused. "Such titles pass in a way that leaves a magical mark on a person. So, it seems that you and Orion simultaneously held the Black title without Orion ever becoming aware of that fact. The magic controlling the Black fortune and title probably did not even formally recognize that any Lord Black had died when Orion passed."
"That is the way it worked," Bellatrix confirmed.
Sirius frowned. "Then how is it that my father's will was still executed as if nothing was out of the ordinary?"
"I sent Harry to the bank during your father's funeral," Bellatrix said. "He made up a new will and had it 'executed' so as to retain his anonymity."
"Smooth," one of the twins commented.
"Quite," Harry said, still feeling a little guilty for that underhanded ploy, though it had in fact largely been engineered, or at least inspired, by Bellatrix. And of course, no real harm had been done. "The memories I have shown you establish that I traveled through time and that I legitimately came by the Black fortune. Was there anything else you wanted to know or see? If not, I think I have shown enough."
"What about more of the alternate future?" Lily asked.
Harry shook his head. "I think I have shown you enough to prove that I came from an alternate future." He glanced at Professor Dumbledore for support. Wouldn't you agree professor?"
"I agree that you have shown us enough to establish your claim of time travel," Dumbledore conceded. "But, I was hoping you might give us more extensive glimpses of the future."
"Maybe another time," Harry shrugged. "After all, I will have my memories on hand should the occasion arise."
Dumbledore sighed. "Very well."
"But then how are we supposed to know for absolute sure that Ashworth is on our side?" Moody demanded.
"If we were not on your side, we would not be here with you," Bellatrix said.
Harry smiled. "I'll gladly show you all anything you want that has happened since my initial time travel."
Dumbledore nodded. "That would greatly appreciated. Let's start with the night Cygnus Black died."
Harry winced, thinking of what it would do to Bellatrix to see her father killed firsthand. He glanced at her and saw steely resolve in her countenance. Seeing that she seemed prepared, Harry waved his wand. Instantaneously, those in the Pensieve found themselves in Malfoy Manor as Harry, Cygnus, and Romulus enjoyed their final moments together.
Yawning, Harry trudged through his flat, carrying the big vial that contained the liquid copy of his memories. The tradeoff in escaping the meeting without showing the Order extensive portions of the future had been his promise to consider showing them more in the future. Thus, it had been necessary to preserve the memories. There also was the fact that Harry was not overly fond of the sensation he had experienced when copying so many memories in the first place.
The rest of the journey into the Pensieve had proceeded without too much incident. The Order members had demanded to scrutinize many of Harry's actions since arriving in the past. Though they were a little irritated that he had not immediately spilled everything he knew about the future to more people while still in the past, they ultimately had found little in his actions for which they could fault him.
After all, Harry had provided appropriate warnings to Orion Black and Romulus Malfoy. Harry had even kept Dumbledore in the loop with the information he actually needed to know. And, it was clear from the memories that Harry had intended to tell Dumbledore and Moody a lot more and would have done so if it were not for the second instance of time travel.
Surprisingly, Dumbledore had even deflected some of the criticisms directed toward Harry, theorizing about fate and the time balance while suggesting that greater powers may have subtly prevented Harry from having a good opportunity to change the timeline drastically.
Finding an empty cupboard in the kitchen, Harry stashed the vial of memories and locked the cupboard door so that Kreacher would not accidentally access it and so that the casual visitor to the flat would not have occasion to discover it.
Already turning his thoughts to what he would do the next day, Harry made his way down the hall to his bedroom and found that Bellatrix had changed into her night attire, slipped into bed, and fallen asleep. Being careful not to disturb her, Harry climbed into bed and killed the lights.
Bellatrix feigned sleep as Harry entered the room, slipped into bed, and shut off the lights in the bedroom. After what seemed like an hour, Bellatrix finally felt comfortable with the assumption that Harry was sound asleep. Moving slowly and quietly, she slithered out from beneath the covers of the bed and made her way to the kitchen. There, she discovered the locked cupboard. Opening it proved easy for her.
Leaving the cupboard open, Bellatrix fetched a glass and filled it with water. She placed it in the cupboard and transfigured it into a duplicate vial filled with what appeared to be Harry's memories. Satisfied that her substitute would pass a casual, visual muster, Bellatrix removed the vial with Harry's memories, locked the cupboard, and left the kitchen.
Bellatrix then proceeded upstairs to her laboratory and hid the vial. Sitting down in her chair next to one of the windows, she began composing a letter on the subject of Pensieve bowls to a well-known acquisitions agent.
Draco eyed Severus Snape suspiciously as the two of them and Narcissa Malfoy attempted to blend in with the Muggles as they sat in a Muggle restaurant near Privet Drive. Draco wondered whether his aunt Bellatrix would approve of Snape coming to one of his visits with his mother.
Mostly, though, he worried that his mother might be trying to find a way to get him out of Bellatrix's custody. As much as he would have liked the freedom to leave Surrey and even England, Draco doubted that anybody could safely transport him beyond whatever spell Bellatrix was using to hold him prisoner. He had already made a few tentative attempts and had resolved never to try again. Shoving the thought aside, Draco attempted to focus on the conversation at hand.
"Severus and I have developed an . . . understanding," Narcissa informed Draco nervously. "Now that your father is dead, it is time for me to move on with my life."
Miraculously, Draco was able to prevent his face from blanching. "Do you mean that you're planning to get married?"
"Not until the war is over," Narcissa hedged. "It would not be ideal if the Dark Lord discovered that we have deep feelings for each other. But, Severus and I wanted you know."
Draco arched an eyebrow. He was not particularly interested in learning anything more about his mother's social life, but he was interested in the implications of her actions. "So . . . you believe that the Dark Lord is going to lose the war."
Narcissa nodded, but did not meet her son's eyes. "Your newly discovered uncle has proved his prowess on the battlefield. Even the Dark Lord's actions suggest that some part of him fears what Harry Black might do to him."
Snape gave Narcissa a warning glance.
Narcissa noted Snape's glance. "And of course, your aunt has been making strides of late in her political career."
An awkward silence followed. Draco did not want to comment on his mother's new relationship, and Narcissa did not really have anything to say.
Snape finally spoke up. "How often do you see your aunt, Draco?"
"I am curious," Snape said.
"Not often," Draco said. "She seems to have delegated my care to her new secretary. Why are you interested?"
"I would like to get a better feel for what your aunt has in mind," Snape said. "Bellatrix has been using you as leverage to get your mother to help her access many of the families known to sympathize or perhaps directly support the Death Eaters—especially those with Wizengamot seats."
"Sounds tiresome," Draco commented. Politics had never particularly interested him—particularly when he had no direct involvement.
"It is very concerning," Snape said. "If I am reading your aunt's actions correctly, she is beginning to broker a political deal that will result in her very soon becoming Minister of Magic."
"And how would that be bad thing?" Draco questioned. "Maybe she could pardon you two."
"That's precisely the problem," Snape said. "How else do you think she will get votes from your mother's connections? She will not find very many votes among Prewitt's crowd."
"Whatever," Draco said, rolling his eyes.
"We need you to keep you ears open," Snape said. "I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass on anything you learn about your aunt's plans or intentions to me."
"I'll think about it, but don't get your hopes up. It isn't as if Bellatrix is likely to host cocktail parties on Privet Drive," Draco said as he glanced at his watch. "It's time for me to get to work, so you will have to excuse me."
It was late in the afternoon when Draco and the young teens he employed completed their last yard for the day. After dropping the last of his employees off at home, Draco drove his new Ford Ranger toward #2 Privet Drive. Upon pulling into the driveway, he was surprised to find Sidra Potter standing on the doorstep.
He turned off the engine, checked his hair in the rearview mirror, and casually hopped out of the truck. Seeing that Sidra was coming down from the porch, Draco leaned against the truck. "Come to supervise me?" he asked, a hint of smile appearing on his lips.
Sidra seemed nonplussed by Draco's question. "Your aunt wants me to inspect the house she asked you to work on a while back."
"Well . . . hop in," Draco said, gesturing to the truck.
Sidra obliged, Draco did likewise, and the pair were on their way. En route, Draco explained that up until Sidra had purchased the truck for Draco with Bellatrix's charge card, he had not really had a good way to get to the house and thus had done relatively little work on it. When they arrived, Draco showed Sidra around.
"So, basically you have done nothing," Sidra concluded after inspecting the premises.
"I don't even know how to do most of the stuff she put on the list," Draco complained irritably, kicking a stack of building supplies that Bellatrix had apparently had delivered.
Sidra rolled her eyes. "Maybe you should have tried to learn."
"As if I can just learn how to do Muggle stuff," Draco shot back.
Sidra threw up her hands in exasperation and made her way back to the truck out front.
Draco followed. "What do you expect me to do?"
"Maybe you should hire Muggles who know how to do renovations," Sidra said.
"But then I would have to pay them," Draco complained.
"Well, duh," Sidra said. "I thought you had that figured out with your stupid lawn mowing business. You get the job, you hire the work out, and then you charge enough to cover their costs and give you a little bit money for what you actually did.
Considering the situation, Draco remained silent for a minute as he and Sidra climbed into his truck.
Eventually, he had worked out a solution. "Maybe you could talk to my aunt and tell her that if she advances me some money, I could hire out a lot of the work and then turn a profit. And then, you could come back with that charge card . . . and supervise me."
Sidra arched an eyebrow at him. "Don't get your hopes up too high, Malfoy."
"What?" Draco protested innocently. "My aunt can afford it. Surely she wants the money to be rolling in sooner than later."
"You know what I was talking about," Sidra shot back.
With Sidra having long-gone for the day and her last visitor of the day having departed, Bellatrix closed the doors to her personal office to prevent any disturbance—not that she expected one. Sidra was not likely to find a reason to come into work before morning. And fortunately, Harry was already in the DMLE offices helping Amelia Bones plan out a number of raids to be conducted through the night, so he would have little occasion to wonder why his wife was spending the entire night at the office.
Confident that she was alone, she opened one of her desk drawers and retrieved her recently bought Pensieve. Wasting no time, Bellatrix produced the vial that contained a copy of all of Harry's memories and poured it into the Pensieve. She paused a moment to watch the swirls and ripples move across the surface, took a deep breath, and plunged in.
Astoria Greengrass knew that her parents were unlikely to approve of the glittery, green nail polish she was applying to her toenails, but she was sure they would not notice so long as she avoided going barefoot around them. Capping the nail polish bottle, Astoria returned it to her bedside table and began blowing on her toenails to help the polish dry faster. Satisfied that the polish was well on its way toward being dry, Astoria reclined on the bed and was considering the possibility of picking up a book to read when a dull thump reverberated through the manor.
Astoria's mother shrieked loudly. "The wards are gone!"
"Apparate out!" Astoria's father yelled.
Knowing that she was not yet capable of apparating, Astoria allowed her curiosity to lead her to one of the bedroom windows where she could look down onto the manor's rear terrace. It was dark, but it did not take Astoria long to spot a pair of witches in Auror uniforms waiting near the backdoor, ostensibly to prevent anybody from escaping.
"Oh, Merlin!" Astoria's mother wailed. "They've erected anti-Apparition wards!"
Having already concluded that escape was both futile, and at least in her case, unneeded, Astoria backed away from the window and made her way toward her bedroom door just as Daphne opened it and rushed in.
"We have to hide!" Daphne said, a twitch in her eye betraying the terror she was feeling.
"It's the Aurors," Astoria breathed as Daphne's demeanor finally broke the dam of logic that had held her emotions in check. "You haven't done anything illegal have you?"
"Well, no," Daphne said as she looked around wildly. "But we have a lot of Death Eater friends."
"There's nowhere good in here to hide," Astoria said.
"Come on!" Daphne grabbed Astoria's hand and led her toward the main staircase.
Heading toward the main staircase seemed illogical to Astoria, but by the time she had formulated an alternative route to a good hiding place, the sisters were at the staircase. And, before Astoria could make any of her suggestions, the front entrance doors to the manor swung open to admit half a dozen Aurors.
"Don't move!" one of the Aurors shouted as the Greengrass sisters found several wands pointed at them.
"Search the house for the parents and any possible guests," another commanding voice shouted while one of the Aurors advanced toward Daphne and Astoria.
In a few short moments, Daphne and Astoria had been escorted down the stairs, where, to the great embarrassment of the sisters, the Aurors determined that they had no wands on them. After several tense moments passed, the Aurors responsible for searching the house yelled that they had Mr. and Mrs. Greengrass in custody and that nobody else and no traps had been found.
This message was relayed out the door to the Aurors standing guard to prevent escapes. As the Aurors rearranged their deployment throughout the property to reflect the change of circumstances, the Aurors who had been searching the house escorted the Greengrass parents to the front entrance hall where they were held under guard with their daughters.
"Who is in command, here?" Mr. Greengrass demanded angrily, doing his level best to maintain every ounce of dignity he could muster.
"Define 'command,'" responded Amelia Bones as she walked into Greengrass Manor.
"Whose idea was it to raid us?" Mr. Greengrass retorted, obliquely responding to Amelia's request.
"The credit for that belongs to me, I suppose," came another voice, belonging to another person that had just entered the manor.
Astoria's eyes widened as she recognized Harry Black. She had seen his picture in the newspaper and in Witch Weekly. The teen magazine had made him out to the a stylish, sexy pop culture icon, but he was now wearing imposing, black and purple battle robes and holding his wand ready for action. Even more chilling to Astoria was the wand he was not holding but that everybody knew he possessed.
"Lord Black, the Minister will hear of this!" Mr. Greengrass hissed, preparing to draw on every whit of political capital he possessed.
"So will the Daily Prophet's readers," Harry said, his lips quirking with amusement as his blazing green eyes swept across the room, cataloging everything present before settling on the members of the Greengrass family.
Mr. Greengrass did not seem to appreciate the humor. "Nobody here is a Death Eater," he insisted. "It is true that we hold to our pureblood beliefs and traditions, but we have not broken the law. This is an attempt to harass us and score you points with the public. It will not be tolerated in the Wizengamot or even by Minister Prewitt. You have no call to bother law-abiding subjects."
Harry shrugged. "Were you all innocent, I am confident I would face severe repercussions. As it is, one of you is not innocent. I regret to be the bearer of this news, Mr. Greengrass, though I do hope for your sake that you have been ignorant of what I am about to tell you."
"Nobody here is a Death Eater," Mr. Greengrass insisted.
Harry raised his wand arm and shot a spell at Astoria's mother. "We have information that your wife has been participating in some extracurricular activities." The spell that had emitted from Harry's wand floated toward and enveloped Mrs. Greengrass, numbing her senses and abilities completely. A wave of Harry's wand summoned her to drift slowly in the air toward him where Amelia promptly grabbed her arm, pushed the sleeve, and revealed the Dark Mark.
Astoria's heart sank as Daphne audibly gasped. It was one thing to vaguely believe that the Death Eaters might ultimately be right in their views, if not in their more extreme actions, but it was quite another to learn that someone in your family was involved personally.
Mr. Greengrass made a strangled sound in his throat.
"We're arresting your wife on suspicion of committing the sort of crimes Death Eaters are wont to commit," Amelia announced. "We will not level formal charges until we have ascertained what crimes she has personally committed. Incidentally, Mr. Greengrass, we will also be detaining you until we've cleared you of committing any Death Eater crimes."
"Surely you don't have any information that I've been involved with the Death Eaters," Mr. Greengrass said hollowly.
"We don't," Amelia admitted, "but your intimate connection with a known Death Eater makes you subject to our inquiries."
"That doesn't seem fair," Astoria said, finding her voice.
"Welcome to the war, missy. The Death Eaters' victims didn't find anything fair, either," Amelia said, gesturing to some of the Aurors to restrain Mr. and Mrs. Greengrass and prepare them to be portkeyed to the Ministry holding cells.
"What about Astoria and I?" Daphne asked.
"That's up to Mr. Black," Amelia said. "He and the Aurors are going to search your house for Dark artifacts. If no further problems are discovered, you are old enough to live alone with your sister." She then turned her attention away from the Greengrass daughters and issued a number of instructions to the Aurors before using the Portkey to depart with her prisoners, leaving Harry and most of the Aurors standing the entrance hall with Daphne and Astoria.
Astoria and Daphne stared at Harry, who was looking at them with a calculating gaze on his face.
"Where do you want to begin your search, Mr. Black?" Daphne said, trying to put on a brave face.
Harry smiled. "Let's start with the lowest level of the manor and work our way up. And, I am afraid that it will be necessary for you to remain with us while we search."
"It would be good if you asked them to send away the house elves," an Auror suggested to Harry.
Harry nodded approvingly. "Yes, be so good as to summon your house elves and instruct them to stay away from the house for a few hours."
Daphne did as requested with regard to the house elves, and the two sisters then proceeded with Harry and the Aurors to search the entire house. The Aurors proved to be quick, efficient, and even polite enough to return everything inspected to its proper place. Ultimately, for the Greengrass sisters, it proved to be a painless experience with the exception of having to present every last item of their clothing to the Aurors for diagnostic spells.
While Daphne looked to ensure that the Aurors returned everything to its proper place, Astoria thoughtfully observed Harry Black. Through reading the newspaper and assorted magazines she had familiarized herself with his story. She had found the story intriguing as it slowly unfolded through the Ghost of Ashworth incidents and developed into the situation where he now seemed to wield considerable political and magical power.
Tonight, Astoria's interest was not strictly academic, though. Harry's germane manner throughout the arrest of her parents and the search of the house had suggested to Astoria the possibility that she might be able to talk to him about her parents' situation—or rather plead for mercy. She just needed the right moment—it would not be ideal to beg in front of the Aurors.
Eventually, the last diagnostic spell had been cast on the items and architecture in the attic of the manor. The attic had been messier than the rest of the house, so Daphne took the opportunity to have the Aurors rearrange things a little instead of putting them back the way they were. At first, the Aurors were resistant to the extra work, but Harry had pointed out that it would not be an unreasonable inconvenience.
"I think that concludes my business here," Harry said, nodding politely to Daphne and Astoria. He glanced at the Aurors. "Make your way back to the Ministry together when you finish here."
"Got another target?" one of the Aurors asked, sounding hopeful.
"I think so," Harry said as he turned and left the attic. "At least, if Captain Bones and I can take care of the paperwork for Mr. and Mrs. Greengrass quick enough."
Seeing her chance, to talk to Harry in private, Astoria swiftly followed Harry down the stairs and caught up with him as he was making his way down the main staircase in the entrance hall.
"Mr. Black!" Astoria called.
"Yes?" Harry said, turning and looking at her.
Astoria suddenly felt embarrassed and could not quite meet Harry's eyes. "How . . . much trouble is my mother in?"
"I do not know for sure," Harry said. "It depends on what she did."
"You don't even know what she did, but you're arresting her?" Astoria said, beginning to feel a little bit angry.
Harry sighed, but still sounded patient when he spoke. "We know with absolute certainty that she is a marked Death Eater. Once we discover what she did, we will figure out how much trouble she is in."
"How long will that take?" Astoria asked.
"It's out of my hands, now," Harry said, even beginning to sound sympathetic. "I am sure it won't take more than a few days."
Astoria could not see a way out of that box, but she clung to the next best thing. "And my father? You don't know that he's a Death Eater, so he will be released quickly, right?"
Harry looked at Astoria silently.
"Right?" Astoria repeated, as a sense of dread washed over her.
"Prior to our visit tonight, there was no sign that your father was a Death Eater . . . ," Harry hedged.
"But, he referred to me as 'Lord Black' when we spoke to each other. It is something I have found to be indicative as we have been conducting these raids," Harry said.
Astoria was at a loss for words. She was now facing the possibility of having both her parents in Azkaban. It also did not help that Harry did not make a whole lot of sense.
"But you are Lord Black," Astoria retorted. "Does that make me a Death Eater, now that I've said it?"
Harry smiled. "Your father would have been brought back to the Ministry for questioning, regardless of how he had addressed me, Ms. Greengrass. I am only making a prediction of what Captain Bones will discover as a result of interrogating him."
"I think Captain Bones will find that he's innocent of any wrongdoing," Astoria declared.
"Then, I will hope that you are right," Harry said, trying to give her a friendly smile. He turned to leave, but Astoria was not yet done with him.
"Why don't you attack the Dark Lord?" Astoria demanded. "He's the real enemy. None of the Death Eaters would dare move against the Ministry without him."
Harry stopped, turned, and then looked at Astoria. "That's something I have thought about extensively, Ms. Greengrass. I fear though, that the Dark Lord is more a symptom than the true problem. I need to cure the illness in addition to extinguishing the symptoms."
"So, to cure the problem you intend to go around punishing people?" Astoria demanded.
Harry shrugged. "To be frank, I've never thought overly much about the punishment aspect. What I have done tonight is prevent your mother, and possibly your father, from doing further harm to the rest of our society. At minimum, they will have to make restitution to those they wronged. After that, I hope they can be . . . rehabilitated."
"So, you'll be fair?" Astoria said, demanding a very vague sort of concession more than asking a question.
Harry spread his hands reassuringly. "I will do everything in my power to be fair to Death Eater and non-Death Eater alike, Ms. Greengrass. If you feel that the Ministry is treating your parents unfairly, you have my permission to approach me about the matter. If it is in my power to do anything, I will do it. If it is not, we can go have a chat with my wife."
"Good," Astoria said.
"The Aurors will restore your wards, though I think you will have little to fear from the Death Eaters," Harry said by way of farewell as he exited the Manor and left Astoria alone in the entranceway of her family's manor.
Navigating Harry's unfamiliar memories in the Pensieve proved difficult for Bellatrix. It was easy to call up memories of which she had been a part because she knew they existed. But, those were not the memories Bellatrix wanted to see. After some fumbling around, Bellatrix eventually concluded that she could find her way to memories by thinking of specific places or people—at least most of the time. The figurative index of Harry's memory did not always take note of the place or every person appearing in each memory.
The topic of Hogwarts and the Dursleys proved to be strong talismans, though the memories associated with the latter topic seemed rather jumbled and intermixed. Bellatrix supposed that Harry tried to avoid thinking about his childhood. She did not blame him, and avoided those memories. Harry's memories of Hogwarts, on the other hand, proved to be quite distinctive, and Bellatrix dedicated several hours to observing some of Harry's exploits at Hogwarts and reveling in his greater achievements.
Naturally, she watched Harry rescue Ginny Weasley in the Chamber of Secrets, having previously speculated to herself how Harry had approached the Chamber the first time around. Harry's Quidditch games also proved somewhat diverting, though Bellatrix herself had never found herself excessively fond of the game. For Bellatrix, it was the Triwizard Tournament that intrigued her the most—or rather, the events surrounding it. She found herself watching and laughing hysterically as Harry muddled his way through the disaster that was his experience at the Yule Ball.
Oh, Rodolphus, you never held so much as a candle to him, Bellatrix smirked to herself as she watched for the second time in a row Harry complete the Triwizard Tournament and escape from Voldemort. The conclusion of that memory marked the end of Bellatrix's interest in Harry's school achievements.
Feeling no small amount of trepidation, Bellatrix then decided that she should call up Harry's memories of her future self. It would be good to know more about us, Bellatrix told herself. The image of her future counterpart sitting in that dungeon before Harry had traveled to the past still haunted her. She did not want to see more of herself, but she needed to understand.
She closed her eyes and focused intently on herself. When she opened her eyes, she found herself in a memory that she had lived in herself. Closing her eyes again, she redirected her focus to imagine herself, but instead focused more on the image of the Bellatrix Harry had showed the order prior to him time travel to the past.
She opened her eyes and found herself at the edge of the forest outside of Hogsmeade. Spellfire and flames from thatched roofs eerily lit the night sky. Harry and a number of Order members were standing there, fighting the battle from afar.
"Mask your spells, you fools!" Alastor Moody shouted to Harry and the young Order recruits. "If you don't, all those Death Eaters will be up here before we realize it and we won't be able to do anything more."
"It would at least draw them away from the village," Harry grumbled as he rapidly conducted a magical core focusing exercise the aged ex-Auror had taught him in a private lesson. After successfully focusing his core for a number of practice spells, Harry had instantly realized that it was the most effective way to duel and use magic in general, but it slowed Harry down. Moody had assured him that he would eventually do it subconsciously, and that for now, Harry would just have to focus on doing it when he could and skip it if he was in an actual duel.
"Perhaps one day you'll be the one giving commands," Moody told Harry gruffly, "but for tonight, you'll just have to follow my strategy."
Harry made no response, but finished focusing his core and letting lose with a spell that would neutralize the flames on the roofs of Hogsmeade without making it immediately apparent to the Death Eaters that somebody had interfered to prevent damage.
"See what he did?" Moody snapped at the other fighters positioned at the edge of the forest. "Keep doing that. Now, Potter and I have got to move on."
Harry grabbed his broom and mounted just in time to zoom after Moody.
"All right, Potter," Moody growled, "see what you can do to target the bigger groups with those big spells I taught you. Then, get the bloody hell away before you strike again."
"I'm not stupid," Harry said as he zoomed down toward the town, carefully avoiding any light that would make him visible.
The Order members in the town and villagers had apparently been apprised of Moody's strategy, for they had fought in such a way as to force the Death Eaters to retreat into circular formations, thus making it easy for Harry to incapacitate or injure them en masse with his large, powerful spells. Feeling a particularly vicious stab of anger, Harry swooped from the sky and shouted an exploding spell at one of the circular Death Eater formations. The ground exploded, throwing Death Eaters in every direction, knocking many unconscious and even killing one or two.
Harry continued this pattern until the battle had descended into complete chaos as the Death Eater lines broke and the defenders took the opportunity to harry the Death Eaters. Normal wizards and witches would have retreated in the face of such a disaster, but the Death Eaters feared punishment from Voldemort. On the other side, the villagers and Order members were eager to do what they could to reduce the number of living Death Eaters.
Unfortunately for Harry, his pondering over the matter caused him to miss a spell that hit threw him from his broom. Landing with a dull thud on a Hogsmeade street, Harry groaned as he thought of what Moody would say when he found that Harry had allowed himself to get caught in the middle of a battlefield. The sound of giggling spurred Harry to scramble to his feet faster than he otherwise might have.
"Did little Potter fall off his broom?" Bellatrix Lestrange asked.
"Lestrange!" Harry snarled, unleashing several rapid-fire spells.
Bellatrix blocked them deftly. "Still angry at me, I see."
"Avada kedavra!" Harry screamed. Green light exploded from his wand.
Bellatrix dodged the Killing Curse, allowing it crash into and obliterate a lamppost.
"Yes, keep on doing that, you'll save us the trouble of killing everybody in the vicinity," Bellatrix mocked.
Harry cursed and sent flurry after flurry of spells toward her, trying to think of spells he could use that would not damage the entire area and endanger the innocents around him. Despite Harry's best efforts, Bellatrix was able to block or dodge nearly every spell, though she was unable to get any of her own off. All in all, the duel was a draw.
Eventually, the rest of the battle seemed to have turned in favor of the Hogsmeade defenders, for several Order members joined in Harry's duel. Seeing that she was outnumbered, Bellatrix activated a portkey and fled from the village.
Methodically, Bellatrix proceeded to watch nearly every duel she and Harry had engaged in against each other during what she and Harry now referred to as the Lost War. The carnage occurring around each of these duels, or at least around the duels fought during big battles like the first she had seen, sickened her. But, she was able to observe the duels between her counterpart and Harry with a somewhat detached attitude. After all, it was no strange thing for her and Harry to duel—they had practiced with each other frequently since coming to the alternate future.
There was one thing that stood out to Bellatrix and concerned her, though. Harry always approached her alternate self with an extreme amount of anger and venom in his demeanor. As she reflected back to the first time she had pushed Harry into practic" dueling with her in the past, Bellatrix remembered that the same venom had still been there for that duel—he had, in fact, done his level best to kill her. Admittedly, it had been more of a reflex on Harry's part than an actual desire to kill one of his students, but the reflex was evidence of just how deeply Harry's hatred of Bellatrix's future self stretched.
Curiosity got the best of Bellatrix. She wanted to know why Harry had harbored such ill will toward her. She closed her eyes and focused on the feeling she had seen on Harry's face—the anger, hatred, bitterness, and venom. Instead of a face or a place, she focused as best she could on the feeling.
The sound of spellfire and shouting indicated that she had successfully summoned a memory. Bellatrix opened her eyes just in time to watch herself murder Sirius Black via a spell that sent him plunging through a dangerous-looking archway. She spun as Harry's memory of himself shouted angrily. And then, with a terrible sinking feeling in her stomach, Bellatrix watched Harry chase the alternate Bellatrix to the atrium where he attempted to use the Cruciatus curse against her.
"Oh, Merlin," Bellatrix breathed as she shut her eyes and forced herself out of the Pensieve, gasping as her head came up. She backed away and leaned against the wall of her private office as her mind raced to find a way to differentiate herself from her future self. The shock proved too much for her to cope with, though. She was soon kneeling on the floor behind her desk and retching into her waste bin.
Once the physical sickness passed, Bellatrix, still on her knees, fumbled to open one of her desk drawers. Blindly, she groped around in the drawer until her hand closed on the cool, glass surface of a bottle of premium firewhiskey. Bottle in hand, she sat down on the floor and slumped against the wall. Not bothering with a glass, she uncorked the bottle and took a long draw. Gulping the firewhiskey down and somehow keeping herself from choking on the liquid fire, Bellatrix clutched the bottle and stared at her desk blankly before bringing the bottle back up to her lips.