"You said it would work!"

"I didn't know that many of them survived!"

Back at the Burrow, everyone was collapsing wherever they could find a spot. Immense guilt was already overwhelming Harry; he had charged in too quickly. He had thought that moving as quickly as possible would catch them off guard, and especially in a place that they considered their stronghold: Grimmauld Place had been a place that the Death Eaters had been trying to get into, but that they wouldn't even if they could, due to the Order of the Phoenix's presence. It appeared also that Bellatrix Lestrange was in charge of the entire operation, which was a change. Harry had seen her obey Lucius Malfoy's orders, among others. Now she had an entirely new handle on the Death Eaters. And Harry didn't' like it.


"Luna, you okay?"

"Just fine, thanks." Luna popped right back up from where she hit the floor, smiled serenely at Harry, and then walked away, saying something about catching sight of a Blibbering Humdinger out the window. Harry shook his head, feeling a headache coming on; wasn't he a little young for migraines?

"How did they know?"

Hermione was furiously pacing already, and not happy in the slightest. "They knew we wouldn't be returning to Grimmauld Place. They knew they had it all to themselves. How did they figure we wouldn't come back and try to use it? Why did they risk it?"

"Chances are, they went straight there after the battle," Harry said quickly, "and just got settled and didn't feel like moving."

"Well, they're going to be gone now," Ron yelped, still frazzled from the incredible onslaught. "We're never gonna find them again!"

"Yes we are," Hermione said resolutely, shaking her head once. "I put a few little spells on that place, like the ones Mad-Eye set up for Snape. They'll tell us if anyone comes back to Grimmauld Place, and they'll hold whoever's there, keep them from Disapparating out of the place. In addition, I aimed a few tracking jinxes at a few of the Death Eaters, but I doubt any of them hit. But those trackers will tell us if any of them Apparate anywhere, and we'll know where they are."

"Hermione, you are truly amazing," Harry sighed, feeling a bit of guilt escape him. The mission wasn't a total failure, then. Hermione smiled slightly, and brushed a bit of dust off of her shoulder.

"Yes, well…thank you. But we still need to go back to Grimmauld Place once they're all done Apparating out, they're all starting to flee…"

"They think we're coming back with reinforcements," Harry said slowly.

"Well, we are," Hermione said dryly. "They just don't know when."

One: Nothin' wrong with me…
Two: Nothin' wrong with me…
Three: Nothin' wrong with me!

One: Somethin's got to give…
Two: Somethin's got to give…
Three: Somethin's got to give!

Let the bodies hit the floor!
Let the bodies hit the floor!
Let the bodies hit the floor!

Voldemort had holed up in the Malfoy's basement, stealing the stereo and CDs Bellatrix had brought along and turning it up as loud as the stereo would allow. He had then sat down on the floor, cross-legged, wand laid out on the floor in front of him, hands on his knees, closed his eyes, and entered his own mind. What had gone wrong? Had anything really gone wrong? No, he concluded, it was just that they had stayed too long in Grimmauld Place. Really, they should have moved sooner; they were lucky they got that much time out of the place. Now, though, the Malfoy's manor would do. For now. Where would they go after this? The Gaunt shack might work, or maybe the old Riddle house. Voldemort knew for a fact that no one would ever dare live in those places again. Maybe the old orphanage? He had heard that it was abandoned. He might also invade the Lestranges' old house.

'cuz I'm losing my sight, losing my mind,
Wish somebody would tell me I'm fine!

The song had changed now, and Voldemort felt the pulsating bass of the stereo blasting throughout the desolate basement, drowning out the creaking of the house, the dripping of leaky pipes, the skittering of mice around the walls. The shaking could be felt reverberating in his chest, travelled through the entire building and shaking it to its foundations. He could feel that, too, in the floor upon which he sat, and in the very air he breathed. Hypersensitive, nerves strung up, Voldemort felt the tension piling up as the song changed again, and became what he realized to be Bellatrix's favorite song. Who were these people, Children of Bodom? Trashed, Lost, and Strungout, that was what this song was called. That would be Bellatrix's favorite.

Why did it get to the point where I cannot do…
Nothing but try to beat something outta you?
Let me drown, way deep down below for a sleep that'll surely let go,
Until the end I raise and batter around looking at my own reflection-
Forever I shall kiss you good bye to kill my soul addiction…

That witch was an addiction, Voldemort thought ruefully. Body and soul, either or, she was vicious, and she knew how to use both mercilessly. He had vowed to her that he would allow his child to grow up with a father, but it would be loveless. Voldemort didn't know the meaning of love. He had never experienced it. Bellatrix firmly believed that she could teach him to at least care, but Voldemort wasn't sure if even that was possible. Attachment he could do. He was rather attached to Bellatrix right from the get-go, sensing her loyalty and fanaticism, but was attached really the same as caring about? Bella would argue it was.

Argh, her sister had rubbed off on him. Here he was, using that cute little nickname the two of them so often used. Next he was going to be calling Narcissa "Cissy," wasn't he? Oh, and here came the migraine…as if on cue, Voldemort's stomach let out a sickly growl, as if to say, migraine? Low blood sugar! Sighing, the dark lord's eyes slowly opened, and he began to shake himself back into the waking world. It wasn't easy; his body had been in a near-hibernating state for several hours. But, after a good ten minutes of slowly flexing his muscles and tendons and trying not to strain anything, Voldemort figured he had loosened himself up enough to stand. Picking up his wand, he flicked it once at the stereo, shutting it off abruptly and allowing the echo to bounce around a little more.

Almost immediately, Voldemort was caught in the sounds of an argument. It sounded like Bellatrix and Narcissa shrieking at each other.

"I will not have my house overrun by…by…!"

"It isn't your decision, Narcissa! The dark lord makes these decisions, and if you want to keep your life, I suggest you abide by them!"

"The dark lord wants this house as a headquarters, which I can accept. The term 'headquarters,' however, should not imply that every Death Eater lives here!"

"And they won't! But they will be here, and the dark lord might crash in the living room every now and then, so suck it up and deal with it!"

Voldemort was suddenly struck with the urge to scrape a cheese grater against his forehead or bang his head against the wall instead of deal with Bellatrix and Narcissa and their hormones. Knowing Bellatrix's pregnancy so far, she would be angry for another fifteen minutes, then break down in tears for a good twenty, and then get depressed and mope for an hour or so, and then make dinner and feel better. Despite the predictability of it all, though, there was still the process itself to fight out. Voldemort had found that emotional stress often exhausted the body physically; more than once had Narcissa complained about her period being delayed because of stress.

"How dare you?" the blonde in question shrieked. There was a sharp bang, and another shriek: then, Bellatrix screamed out a random hex, one that Voldemort doubted even she knew she had uttered, and there was more unintelligible screaming. Voldemort considered Apparating straight into the kitchen and just leaving the girls to fight it out: it would save probably everyone a lot of trouble.

Then, with a pang, Voldemort remembered that he wanted Bellatrix to sit out battles. He was sacrificing a lot for her and her damned baby; if it all went to waste because of an argument with her own sister, Voldemort might just kill Bellatrix herself. Resigning himself to being the household peacekeeper, Voldemort ascended the stairs in a flow of black mist, shoved open the door at the top of stairs, and entered the fray.

Lucius had his arms around Narcissa's middle, holding her back. On the contrary, Bellatrix had four Death Eaters holding her back, and they were struggling as it was. Bellatrix was hexing the brains out of anyone who came within even grazing range of her wand, and was angrily screaming at Narcissa while, with the other half of her mind, she cursed anyone within sight. Voldemort had to admire her multitasking: that was some incredible skill, to be cursing everyone with wand and word both. Still, marvel as he would like to at her skill, Voldemort had to split up the argument, lest Bellatrix inadvertently harm herself or her unborn child.


The entire room fell still instantly at Voldemort's words. Bellatrix triumphantly wrenched herself free of the restraining arms of her comrades. She raised her wand, a fresh jinx on her lips, but then paused when she saw everyone staring towards the same spot in the room, with the same horrified, petrified, mortified look on their face. Bellatrix's manic grin started to fade as she saw this; then, she slowly turned to look at the newcomer, realization dawning on her face.

"Bellatrix and Narcissa, you may stay. The rest of you are dismissed."

Lucius Malfoy threw everyone else behind him in his race for the door. Voldemort waited until everyone had piled out of the room, and even onto different floors, to turn back around and address the shaking Narcissa and abashed-looking Bellatrix.

"Who started it?"

Each witch simultaneously pointed to the other. Voldemort sighed exaggeratedly, rolled his eyes, and swept in a large, swift, floating circle around the woman. "What was the argument about?"

Bellatrix didn't seem too afraid to speak; Narcissa, on the other hand, opened and closed her mouth a few times, like she was a fish out of water, and said nothing. Bellatrix was really doing all of the talking. "We were disputing who had the authority in this house," Bellatrix said slowly. "I was trying to explain to Narcissa that while the Death Eaters and yourself, my lord, were in the house, I felt I had authority as-forgive my boldness-your right hand. But I was trying to communicate as well, which Narcissa would not hear of, that I would accept her authority in other matters, because this is her house, and that won't change when it is not being used as a headquarters."

Voldemort nodded slowly, pacing around and glowering at Narcissa. "Is this true?" he hissed. Narcissa didn't have to look up to know that he was addressing her. When she tried to speak, it came out a terrified squeak, so instead, she hastily nodded.

"We are both stressed and tired, my lord, and it simply got out of hand," Bellatrix said softly. "I implore your forgiveness not only for myself, but for my sister. If I may, I would like her to accompany me to brew some potions to aid in the pain and cramps."

Voldemort remained stationary for a minute, simply glaring at the two sisters and contemplating what to do. He didn't want them to simply walk away from it, to get away with it: but Bellatrix had taken responsibility for the both of them, and he wasn't punishing her, because of the baby that he had already sacrificed so much for…oh, what the hell. He was tired of dealing with them, had a headache, his ears were ringing, and he was hungry. He and already scared Narcissa enough to piss herself, it probably wasn't going to do much more to punish either one of them. Finally, Voldemort simply pointed at Narcissa and said, "You're lucky Bellatrix is such a good sister." Then, he spun in a circle, angrily exploding into black smoke. Narcissa almost fainted when she saw him leave; Bellatrix caught her sister, who was going weak at the knees, and hurriedly dragged her from the room.

"Quickly, quickly, Cissy, before he changes his mind…"