Questions/Fears Concerning:

The WeasleysThey'll come in eventually, there just hasn't been a good opportunity to have Harry meet them yet. Same goes for Hermione. However, I can't promise they will have any big play in the story when they do come in. Sorry.


Part 30: Ultimatum

Harry wasn't sure what was happening but he didn't like it at all. His equilibrium was totally off and his scar was throbbing horribly, so much so that his eyes were watering. The only good thing about the whole situation was that he was now home, having just departed from Hogwarts with Dumbledore's assistance a moment before he really started feeling terrible.

"Here, Harry, just focus on staying on the couch," Nicholas advised as Dumbledore and Perenelle spoke in the background. "Hopefully this will pass quickly."

Harry doubted it would, but was too preoccupied to comment as his vision seemed to waver, the Flamels' voices and Dumbledore's fading in and out.

"When did this start?" Nicholas asked Dumbledore.

"Not long before we headed out of the Ministry," he answered.

"Dad, stop!"

Harry jumped, the shout ringing in his ears as his vision tried to refocus. It was like looking through opaque glass, but it was soon clear enough for Harry to know . . . he was seeing through Voldemort's eyes.

It was dark, and everything was misshapen and blurred. However, he could make out enough. There were three forms, one smaller than the other two. The small one was beside another, while the third was a short distance away.

"Merlin!" Perenelle's voice momentarily broke through the living nightmare, but Harry was soon swallowed up once more.

A violent flash of green blazed before vanishing to reveal a fallen form beside the smallest figure. He didn't know what had happened to the other individual, but he didn't have time to ponder that.

"Peh, mothers," Voldemort sneered.

It was then that Harry suddenly came to the disturbing realization. . . . This was a family.

:Harry!:

"Hold him!"

Hands seized him, not that he was aware as he fell back under.

"-so hard?"

Harry's breath caught as he felt Voldemort's hate surge, his full attention on the remaining form — the kid, who was, Harry thought, perhaps as young as himself.

"Avada Kedavra!"

Triumph roared across the bond as runes ignited all around the Dark Lord and fallen child. Power pulsed, and in that instant Harry knew Voldemort had regained and surpassed his former strength as energy exploded forth.

Finally, Harry surfaced, but not before he heard Voldemort give a sickening, victorious chortle, three bodies lying crumpled a short distance away.

O o O

Dumbledore reared back as Perenelle waved both him and Nicholas away from Harry. Without a word, she scooped Harry up, and the Headmaster couldn't help but be impressed by the ease in which she did so.

He wasn't quite sure what had just happened, other than the obvious fact that Harry's scar was involved. He truly wished he understood the bond better. Having just witnessed the effects on the boy, it was quite troubling to not know what exactly was happening, not to mention how to help.

He had never needed to physically restrain anyone as they just had to do with Harry to prevent him from hurting himself. As it was, Harry had managed to bang the side of his head against the hard portion of the couch's armrest on his way to the floor before any of them knew what was happening. Added to that, Coral barely managed to slither away in time to prevent injury.

Dumbledore glanced at Nicholas, not quite sure why the man hadn't simply cast something like Petrificus Totalus on Harry, but now was not the time to question him. He looked back at Perenelle.

Perenelle was gently rocking Harry, waiting for him to become aware enough to respond to her soft mutterings in his ear. Dumbledore couldn't make out her words, but it was clear Harry was benefiting from them.

Finally, Harry's eyes cracked open and his breathing calmed, if only a tiny bit.

"Harry?" Nicholas tried.

Harry closed his eyes.

"Voldemort—he . . . he killed a family. I don't know who they were. I couldn't see them all that well. Everything was really blurry," he managed.

"What happened? What did you see?" Nicholas asked.

"There were runes on the ground." Harry's voice went completely flat. "He's not sick anymore."

"Can you tell us what you remember?" Perenelle asked softly.

With that, Harry slowly nodded and told them everything he saw. Afterwards, Dumbledore asked for his memory of the vision, hoping he would be able to discern more of what had happened.

OoOoO

Narcissa smiled as she watched Draco hurry outside to fly on his broom after finishing his breakfast, seemingly without a care in the world as her thoughts wandered to less happy things. How would Draco cope if they had to leave? Would he understand? Would he hate them? Would he hate Lucius for the mistakes he had made that had brought them to this state?

And yes, they had been mistakes. She had always viewed them as such, but what could she have done to prevent them? Lucius had always been stubborn and unyielding. It was only now that he was beginning to consider other options, though that was due to necessity more than anything else.

She shook her head, now more than ever grateful for Severus Snape. Having a contingency plan in case anything happened gave her some peace of mind, but knowing Severus truly cared for Draco and would do everything in his power to protect him. . . . That eased her fears more than all of the back up plans ever could.

Entering her living room, she went to the fireplace. She had promised Deborah Crabbe that she would check in on them and make sure she didn't need anything and that her son and husband were recovering from the Wizard's Flu. On a more selfish note, she wanted to get a recipe from her. Deborah's cakes were legendary. It was also another reason why Markov was as . . . large as he was.

Kneeling down, she made the firecall. "Crabbes' Abode!"

Sticking her head in the flames, she had expected to find Deborah in the lounge chair not far from the fireplace, but the room was empty.

"Deborah?" she called.

She waited for a response, but received none. She frowned, knowing it wasn't too early. Besides, Deborah was an early riser. She had to be to cook the large breakfasts her 'boys' enjoyed. Perhaps she had caught the flu as well?

Narcissa decided to call for their house elf.

"Scrubby!"

-Pop-

The moment the house elf appeared, Narcissa knew something was horribly wrong. Yanking on his ears and moving back and forth, Narcissa was barely able to make out anything Scrubby was saying.

"Awful, awful! Help! Help! Masters—they, they!" His words fell into frantic, incomprehensible babbles as he suddenly began sobbing.

Narcissa didn't bother to ask or announce her intentions. She pulled out of the firecall and then flooed over.

"Scrubby, take me to Deborah!" Narcissa ordered.

Scrubby took her hand.

-Pop-

She appeared in Markov's study, which was a shock in itself. He never allowed anyone inside it, not even his wife. However, her arrival in the 'forbidden' place was instantly the furthest thing from her mind.

The room was in absolute shambles. There were burn marks on the walls, gashes in the furniture, and holes in the floor and ceiling, but all of that was barely noticed by Narcissa as she took in what was directly in front of her.

There, kneeling in front of his desk, and weeping inconsolably, was an injured Markov Crabbe with blood everywhere; however, it immediately became clear to Narcissa that not all of it was Markov's. Before him, alarmingly still, lay Deborah and Vincent.

"Markov, what happened?" Narcissa cried, hurrying forward to check on his family.

Firmly placing her fingers on their throats, she desperately hoped they were not as gone as they appeared, but her fears were confirmed.

They were dead.

"I did it. I did it. I killed them," Markov rambled between sobs, now rocking.

Narcissa's wand was instantly in her hand, but she quickly realized it was unneeded.

Markov's wand was broken, snapped in two beside Deborah's cold form.

"Kill me. Kill me. Please."

"Why did you do this?" Narcissa snarled, her despair and disbelief now morphing into outrage and indescribable disgust.

Deborah had occasionally expressed her fears concerning the man's temper, sharing with her the blind rages he would fall into, especially if intoxicated, but Narcissa never would have believed he'd ever go this far. However, the lost lives proved otherwise.

"No control. No control. I want to die. Deserve to, deserve to. Kill me, kill me. Please."

Narcissa wanted to. She really did. Seeing her friend, perhaps her best friend, lifeless on the floor beside one of her son's lifelong playmates. . . . It took everything within her being not to do as the man asked. But perhaps that was why. The man wanted to die, and she'd be damned if she did anything this monster wanted.

She called the aurors.

OoOoO

Dumbledore slowly breathed out, greatly saddened by the news he would soon have to give the rest of his staff. This kind of news was never easy to give, not to mention receive, and he had to mentally bolster himself to deliver it.

He straightened as he felt the wards alert him to Severus' approach to the door. Part of him wished he could wait to inform the man, but as he was the boy's Head of House, it would be wrong to wait any longer. He deserved to know before the rest of the staff, and certainly before the Daily Prophet informed the public.

"You called for me, Headmaster?" Severus asked once he had entered and shut the door.

"Yes, Severus. Please, have a seat."

Severus' eyes gave the slightest hint of narrowing. "What's happened?" he asked as he took the offered chair, instantly knowing this would be bad news.

Albus privately marveled at his ex-spy's intuitiveness. Well, at least he could get straight to it.

"I recently learned from Madam Bones that Markov Crabbe has murdered his wife and son. They were found by Narcissa earlier this morning in their home. Although the investigation is still open, it is believed Markov became intoxicated and fell into a rage sometime late last night."

Albus watched as Severus quelled a multitude of emotions threatening to show on his face. It was most unnatural, but being a former spy it was no wonder.

"Did he have anything to say?" Severus asked, his tone not quite as controlled as his expression.

"According to Amelia, the man has gone mad. In his ramblings, he admits his sin and asks to die."

Severus' jaw clenched. "May he get his wish then."

Albus understood the harsh sentiment and found part of himself silently agreeing even though he knew such feeling was unhealthy, no matter the situation.

"Did Madam Bones tell you anything else?" Severus asked. "Was there a struggle? I find it hard to believe Deborah would have allowed things to escalate so far without trying something to stop him."

Not surprised by Severus' desire to know details, he answered. "Yes. Madam Bones suspects over a dozen spells were exchanged in the office where they were found."

Severus' lips thinned, and Albus suspected the tragedy was really beginning to sink in.

"In his office?" he asked, a hint of puzzlement beneath.

"That's what Amelia told me. Why?" Dumbledore replied, now curious as to why that detail had troubled the younger wizard.

"Markov doesn't allow anyone in his office, not even his wife. Why would the fight occur there?"

"I don't know, but perhaps Amelia will discover why as she continues her investigation; though, she admitted to me that learning further details will be difficult because Markov snapped his wand."

"He snapped his own wand?" Severus asked incredulously, obviously reevaluating everything he had just been told. "Now that's getting a bit too convenient."

"From that you are suspecting a set up?" Dumbledore asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Innocent or not, I think something more is going on than him simply murdering his family in a drunken frenzy. Markov is capable of many despicable things — while sober and not — but from what you've just told me . . . my instincts are telling me that what this looks like is not what actually happened — not completely at least."

"I see. Well, we will have to trust that Madam Bones will get to the truth, no matter what it is."

"Fortunately, Madam Bones is the one capable department head of the Ministry," Severus said. "I'm confident she'll get to the truth."

Dumbledore nodded in agreement, though privately noted Arthur Weasley wasn't doing too bad of a job in his area of expertise.

"Is there anything else, Headmaster?" Severus asked after a moment.

"No, Severus; that was all I wanted to discuss, though you may like to know I have begun looking for anything concerning the family Voldemort murdered."

"Anything yet?"

"No, and as they were likely muggles, I fear we may never discover who they were."

"Has Mr. Potter recalled anything else from what he saw?"

"No. And I learned that the pensieve is of no help here."

"Too distorted?" Severus questioned.

"Completely. I admit I felt more than a bit queasy when I exited the pensieve after my failed attempt to witness Harry's vision for myself."

"Understandable," Severus said before slowly standing up.

There was nothing else to say, so Dumbledore gave him a nod of dismissal and Severus quietly left.

OoOoO

Harry entered the kitchen, having smelt the eggs and waffles all the way from his room.

"Good morning," he said, finding Nicholas at the stove and Perenelle giving a bit of bacon to the owl that had just delivered the Daily Prophet.

"Morning, Harry," Nicholas replied with a smile as he flipped an egg. "How are you feeling?"

"Better, though I wish I knew who they were," Harry answered, referring to the family he had seen Voldemort kill two nights before. Understandably, coming to terms with it was easier said than done, with or without good guardian support. "I don't like thinking that no one will ever know what happened to them."

Nicholas nodded his head in silent understanding as Harry turned to look at Perenelle, who was sitting at the table and being oddly quiet.

"Perenelle?" Harry asked, finding her staring down at that day's front page.

She looked up, the sadness in her eyes immeasurable.

"What's wrong?" Harry asked, walking up to the table as Nicholas turned to his wife in concern.

Harry's eyes fell to the table's surface and he soon found the bold words of the Prophet's front article.

Aurors Suspect Markov Crabbe in Murders of Wife and Son!

Harry's blood ran cold at the name 'Crabbe.'

Did this mean. . . ?

His eyes scanned the article beneath the brazen title and spotted what he had feared. His friend's full name — Vincent Markov Crabbe.

No. It couldn't be. It was impossible. . . .

He barely managed to stabilize himself by gripping the edge of the table before his legs turned to jelly and his head was filled with an odd rushing sound.

Nicholas was at his side in an instant while Perenelle pulled out the chair beside him.

"He's dead. Vince is dead," he whispered, collapsing into the provided chair.

Being centuries old, Nicholas and Perenelle remained silent but by his side, knowing that there were times one could provide no words of comfort or condolence, and that sometimes the best thing to do was be silent.

OoOoO

Severus stepped into the Malfoys' living room that was shrouded in darkness, the only light coming from the cooling embers in the fireplace.

"We're alone," Lucius stated from a leather lounge chair. "Narcissa is with Draco. She is understandably still quite shaken."

"And Draco?" Severus asked.

"Upset." Lucius' face remained in the shadows, but Severus could make out a deep frown.

"And you?"

Lucius slowly exhaled. "Conflicted."

"You sense something off about it all," Severus stated, not revealing his own reservations.

Lucius nodded. "Which is why I didn't tell Draco any specifics. I'm going to wait until the investigation is over; so for now, all Draco knows is that one of his lifelong friends is dead. I've gone as far as to keep the Daily Prophets out of his sight."

"It's probably for the best," Severus agreed, recalling that morning's paper.

He really should have seen that coming. The Daily Prophet obviously didn't understand the need to complete an investigation and liked publicizing suspicions as fact. He wanted to kick himself. He should have suggested to Albus to forewarn the Flamels so Harry wouldn't get blindsided — as he likely had.

Severus fought back a sigh and refocused, as there was nothing for it now.

"When was the last time you saw Markov?" Lucius asked after a long moment.

"About a week ago, and I didn't notice anything suspicious or of concern," Severus answered.

"As did I." Lucius lifted his face, for the first time that night meeting Severus' eyes. "Severus, I cannot. . . ." He trailed off, his eyes growing even darker than the space surrounding him. "I cannot fight off a disturbing thought, try as I might. Do you believe the Dark Lord may be involved?"

"What makes you suspect he is?"

Lucius' jaw clenched. "Father's intuition."

"What does Narcissa think?"

"She feels Markov is responsible. Deborah had confided in her about a few . . . incidences. And I must admit, even without that knowledge, I believe, if drunk enough, Markov is capable of . . . what's happened."

"Then why the doubt?"

"It's a nagging feeling . . . though, perhaps it's just a feeling with no ounce of truth." Lucius' hand gripped the edge of his armrest. "Perhaps I can't stomach the thought of a father murdering his family — of butchering them. . . ."

"Or, perhaps you are right," Severus whispered, before returning to his normal volume. "I'll keep you informed of anything Dumbledore learns from Madam Bones."

"Thank you."

OoOoO

Sometimes Madam Bones hated her job. Well, it was probably more accurate to say she rarely liked her job.

Cases involving children were always the most difficult, and this one was turning out to be especially so. She had not known the Crabbes personally, but she had seen them around at Ministry events and the like. She had also seen their son a few times with them and knew he was the same age as her niece, Susan. And now he was gone, lying in the morgue with a tarp over his small form.

It was all beyond heartrending and made her want to leave work early to hug her niece and never let go.

But she had a job to do and she was going to do it. She'd be damned if she was going to let some Ministry moron screw this case up and fail to bring the person (or persons) responsible to justice. She would get to the truth and go through all the evidence just to be sure they had the right man. She wanted to do this right, not only so she would be able to sleep at night, but to ensure Vincent and his mother would be able to rest in peace.

Madam Bones frowned, thinking about the evidence they had gathered so far.

From the obliterated office, they had identified the use of several spells, including diffindos, reductos, incendios, and expulsos. There had clearly been more, but it was impossible to know for sure what they had been, especially as Markov had snapped his wand and Deborah's wand had been destroyed. They had found remnants of it on a burned portion of the carpet, and by the burn on Deborah's hand, it was easy to see what had happened.

However, there was something troubling Bones. For a wizard to snap his own wand was unheard of. It was practically blasphemy against one's very magic. Though, if he truly hated what he had done, he just might have done it.

Bones closed her eyes, unable to shake the image of Markov when she had first entered the house with the other aurors.

He was undeniably a broken man and out of his mind.

Stepping over a fallen chair, Bones exited Markov's office and made her way to Vince's room. Perhaps there would be something in there to shed some light on why Vince had been involved.

The house had been searched, of course, but that was more to ensure there were no other suspects on the property than to look for clues of what had happened.

She entered the child's room, silently passing Kingsley in the hall.

The room was as she would imagine most twelve year old boy rooms to be. There were Slytherin and Hogwarts memorabilia on the walls and on his desk, which had a stack of school books on the corner and a few sheets of parchment sprawled across its surface. The bed wasn't made and there were a few articles of clothing on the floor.

She approached the desk and couldn't help but feel her heart constrict.

There were letters, and one was half finished, no doubt written by Vincent in reply to the one beside it. It was to Draco Malfoy, talking about the gifts he was hoping to receive that Christmas only a few days away.

Suddenly, she heard weeping and she quickly knelt down toward the sound to find the Crabbe's house elf under the desk, hugging a green and silver scarf—presumably Vincent's.

Of course, she recalled Narcissa mentioning that the house elf had taken her to the Crabbes, but until now she hadn't seen it, so had been unable to question it. It only had to respond to its family, after all.

"Hello," she said gently, not wanting to frighten the little guy off.

He was startled, but remained where he was as he continued crying. The pillow sheet he was wearing was absolutely soaked.

"My name is Madam Bones, what is your name?" she asked.

He looked up with a sniffle. "Scrubby."

"Do you know who I am, Scrubby?"

He nodded. "You's the head madam of the aurors."

"That's right, and right now, I need your help."

Scrubby grew still, tears still on his face. "What's Madam Bones want with Scrubby?"

"I need to know what happened, so I can make sure justice is done. I want to make sure Mrs. Crabbe and her son can rest in peace. Please, do you know what happened?"

Scrubby choked back a sob. "They's dead." He then collapsed into wails.

"Shh, Scrubby, please, I know it's hard, but for your family, tell me what happened before Narcissa came."

Somehow, Scrubby collected himself, his face moving from despair to fury.

"They's hurted Master! They's—they's brought Master and family and then cursed everything!"

"From the beginning, Scrubby. Tell me from when they arrived. Where were you when they came?" Bones kept her voice calm despite her pounding heart. She just might get to the truth!

"Scrubby was dusting in Master's office when I's heard them in the hall. Nasty, nasty people! Then they's came into Master's office, and they's be dragging Master, Mistress, and Young Master with them! Scrubby thought Scrubby's family was all dead, but Master wasn't. Master was asleep. They's made him so, Scrubby thinks. Then they's hurt Master and Scrubby heard the nasty tall man say 'Let's make this look convincing. Bella, have fun.' Evil-evil woman! She's then cursed Mistress and Young Master more, then snapped Master's wand!" Scrubby bellowed.

"Who were these nasty people? Do you know their names?" Bones asked, already having latched onto 'Bella' possibly being Bellatrix Lestrange.

"Scrubby only knows the evil woman was called 'Bella', and the two men were brothers. The tall one said 'Alright, brother, that's enough.'"

"Would you be able to recognize them if I showed you pictures?"

"Scrubby thinks so."

"Very good. Scrubby, did they know you were there?"

"No. Master ordered Scrubby to always remain silent, invisible, and out of the way whenever I's in his office. So Scrubby was when they's came until they's left."

"I see. Is there anything else you remember that you think might help me?"

Scrubby nodded, his eyes growing murderous. "When's they's leaving Master's office, evil woman said, 'Thank you for your contribution to the Dark Lord. I'm sure he appreciates it.' Then they's laughed!"

Madam Bones forced herself to appear completely at ease, immediately concluding this was a lot bigger than she had initially thought. If the Dark Lord was involved. . . .

"Thank you, Scrubby. You bring honor to your family. If you need help, don't hesitate to come to me. I'll come back later with some photos, if that's alright?"

Scrubby nodded, before quietly grieving once more.

With that, she slowly stood and left the room.

OoOoO

Narcissa forced herself to be calm as she went further into Knockturn Alley and entered a filthy shop, dusting a few snowflakes from her shoulder. She couldn't believe Christmas was the next day. Going to the secure back room, she steeled herself for whatever she was about to learn.

Earlier that day, Severus had informed Lucius of what Madam Bones had revealed to Dumbledore (and thus to him). Voldemort was somehow involved in the deaths of Deborah and Vincent and Death Eaters had set Markov up. What was worse was that her sister was suspected to have partaken in the latter.

It was horrifying to consider what this meant, assuming it was true.

Why had the Dark Lord done this? Had he killed them himself? Why did he want the blame to fall on Markov? Had Markov angered the Dark Lord somehow?

Narcissa didn't know, but she needed to find out, which was what had brought her to Knockturn Alley.

There was only one person she could learn the truth from without raising dangerous suspicion.

Her sister.

"Ah, Cissy. Long time," a voice said from the corner.

"Hello, sister."

"You don't seem too happy to see me, little sister, even though you arranged this little meeting."

"I haven't seen you in a long time, and I'm honestly not in the best of moods at the moment, Bellatrix, so I apologize for not being more cordial."

"Aww, a bit depressed I see, and I suppose it's related to the Crabbes? So sad. For a father to turn against his family. . . . And you found them. It must have been quite a shock."

"Yes. Deborah was a dear friend, and her son was a friend of Draco's," Narcissa said, taking a seat on the barrel against the dark wall.

Bellatrix nodded understandingly, though Narcissa wondered why she even bothered. Her sister was never sympathetic and she certainly wasn't now.

Narcissa fought back a sigh before taking out a small wrapped gift from her coat. "Happy Christmas, Bella."

"Oh, why thank you, Cissy," she said, not sounding all that thankful as she took the offered gift. Her next words only confirmed her lack of Christmas cheer. "Well, why have you called me here? As sweet as it would be, I doubt it's because you wanted to give your big sister an early Christmas gift."

Narcissa locked eyes with her deranged sibling and chose her words carefully.

"As always, you are right, and as much as I wish we were still as close as we had been, we aren't; however, we are still sisters, still family," she said.

"What's your point?"

"I want the truth."

"The truth about what?"

"About the Crabbes. I want to know if Markov is truly guilty. As much as I despise the man, I want to know if he is actually responsible for what he's accused of."

"Why do you think I would know, Cissy? I am not an auror; I have not investigated the scene."

"If Markov is actually innocent, I can only think of one reason why this has happened."

Bella raised an eyebrow. "And that would be?"

"Markov displeased the Dark Lord."

Narcissa hadn't known what to expect, but the reaction she got from her sister alarmed her.

"HAHAAHAAHHAAHAHAAHAAA!" Laughing hysterically, Bellatrix could barely get enough air. "You—you think—" she laughed some more, tears coming out of her eyes. "You think Markov displeased the Dark Lord?" She didn't wait for Narcissa to respond as she continued. "The Dark Lord is pleased by him, perhaps even grateful. If I had a son, I would have gladly handed him over to the Dark Lord."

Narcissa couldn't stop the sick feeling rising up in her stomach. Did this mean. . . ?

"It's such a shame Markov made things difficult though. Oh, I have no doubt he would have been greatly rewarded if he had been more cooperative."

"What do you mean?" Narcissa asked.

Sufficiently worked up, Bellatrix didn't bother considering her next words—just as Narcissa had hoped, though she would later wish she had remained ignorant. "Once Markov learned what was being required of him, he resisted, but he should have known better. We, Death Eaters, are his. The moment we accept the dark mark, we accept the great bequest and honor of serving him. There is no greater honor!"

"What was being required of him?" Narcissa quietly asked, afraid she already knew the answer . . . and she did.

"Why, his son, of course," Bella answered, as if it was obvious and perfectly acceptable.

"His son?"

"Oh, Cissy, Vincent was given such a grand task—to restore the Dark Lord's strength, and he has! Isn't it wonderful?"

Narcissa wanted to throw up. "Yes, exceedingly so," she managed as she stood, forcing a sincere looking smile. "Thank you, Bella, for telling me. It's excellent news. I must share it with Lucius, he will be thrilled."

She then left without another word.

OoOoO

It was finally Christmas, though Severus frankly didn't feel in the mood to celebrate anything, possibly ever again.

He was in the Headmaster's office for the second time that day. The first had been that morning and had involved him sharing what he had just learned from Lucius — the horrifying truth that the Crabbes, specifically Vincent, had been used to restore Voldemort to his former strength. What made the news worse was the realization that Harry had not simply seen an unknown family suffer (which was horrible enough) but had seen his friend's.

Dumbledore took the information as well as could be expected and told Madam Bones as soon as he was able that Voldemort had done the horrendous act of using Vincent to restore himself. Thus, Bones now had the motive for the murders.

After that, the Headmaster also informed Nicholas Flamel of everything so he could prepare and act as he saw fit.

"You're worried," Severus observed as he sat down. "Of course, I think you'd be a fool not to be."

He wasn't sure why Albus had requested his presence, though Severus suspected he just wanted to talk to someone who knew what was going on. Or at least that was what he hoped. He didn't want to hear any more news, as it would probably be bad.

"Nicholas told me he would tell Harry tomorrow."

Severus didn't have to ask what Nicholas would share. He raised an eyebrow. "Would you prefer him not to?"

"It's not something I would want any child to ever learn. To know he had seen his friend's last moments. . . ."

"Would you rather Master Flamel keep it from him then?"

"Yes, at least for a time. Harry is too young to bear this, and to learn of it over the holidays. . . ?"

"He'll learn the truth eventually, and I frankly feel it's best for him to face it now," Severus said bluntly, forcing himself to squash back the memories of his former-future.

There had been too many instances where things would have been different if Harry had known things . . . been told the truth. . . . Part of Severus believed it had cost them the war.

"This knowledge is dangerous."

"So is ignorance," Severus countered.

"It may cost Harry what little of his innocence and childhood he has left," Albus said sadly.

"It cannot be helped, and it is better than being blindsided by it later."

"Yes, you are right, of course. I only hope Nicholas and Perenelle know what they're doing," he said after a long moment.

"Potter's in good hands. If anyone can guide him through this, it'll be them."

Dumbledore gave a soft, reluctant smile. "Yes, they do have centuries of experience."

OoOoO

It suddenly felt as if Dudley had just slugged his stomach, as if someone had replaced his guts with cement and the very air around him had been replaced with lead.

He had seen Vince die.

He had seen Voldemort strike down one of his friends.

Why did this happen? Why had it been Vince? Couldn't there have been something someone could have done?

Perenelle was gently hugging him, and though he took comfort in it, all he could think about was what he had seen.

Mrs. Crabbe fighting, fighting desperately to save her son, but all she had received for her efforts was death — in which her son soon followed.

At that, Harry couldn't help but think about his own mother.

Had she been that helpless? Standing in Voldemort's way only for him to swat her down like a bug?

Harry frowned.

How had he, a mere infant, lived? Why hadn't he died like Vince had?

Their situations had been identical, right?

As odd as it sounded, Harry had never seriously thought about how and why he had survived that Halloween night. Everyone treated it as a mystery and he had never bothered to question it beyond that.

What made him so special? What had actually made him 'The-Boy-Who-Lived'?

He refused to believe it had been something he had done. He had only been a baby and would not have understood the danger he had been in.

So, had it been his mother? Had his mother done something before she had died? Had she found a way to counter the killing curse and placed it on his person? If so, why hadn't she saved herself? Had she not had time?

Harry had proved the Cruciatus could be blocked, so it stood to reason the killing curse could be as well, especially if one considered the fact that he had survived it. It was only a matter of discovering how, then, perhaps, he would be able to make the spell obsolete. If he could make a protection against it, as he had with crucio, maybe he would be able to share it. Maybe he could make everyone, especially those he cared about, immune.

He knew it would take a great deal of time and work. Likely more time and effort than it was taking him to place the crucio protection on himself, but if there was a chance of preventing what had befallen Vince and his family from happening again, he would do it.

Harry would later admit the hunt for this ultimate protection became an unwavering obsession.

OoOoO

Draco heaved in a deep sigh.

The funeral was going to take place the following day, and was going to be small and closed to the public. But that was far from Draco's mind.

His father had gone to 'clarify some things with family allies,' as they were now all 'faced with an ultimatum,' whatever that meant. Draco and his mother weren't sure when he'd be back, but just having learned Voldemort was responsible for his friend's death, Draco wanted his father to return as soon as possible.

OoOoO

Voldemort grinned from the seat of his throne. He felt invigorated, empowered, and, perhaps even . . . divinely endowed. He had never felt this powerful before, and he wanted more.

If one child could do this to him, what would another do? Another three, or five? And what if they were more gifted and powerful than the Crabbe boy?

What if he had the child who had nearly taken it all from him all those years ago? Surely there would be no better sacrifice?

Oh, what magnificence! Perfection!

He would feel the rush of unparalleled energy and life surge into him again. A high above everything he had ever experienced, and what was more, when he had quenched his thirst. . . .

He would no doubt be a god among men.


Next part, Contingency, is under construction.

A/N: Long wait again, I know, sorry. Thanks again for all of the reviews and your patience. ^^