A/N: The wait is over. Apologies for anyone who's been waiting for my long long overdue update. Here it is, the 31st installment. Enjoy!

It took Severus Snape, the master spy whom surprise had always been a rare visitor, a complete second before he could snap his jaw shut and focus his sharp gaze at Albus Dumbledore. Yet, the familiar pair of blue eyes twinkled just the same way it always had, returning the Slytherin's accusing glare with a soft knowing smile.

"Dear boy, there is no need to search my mind. I can assure you I am completely sane," chimed the Headmaster good-naturedly, "It is very simple, Severus. I will retrieve the ring from the Gaunt's shack tonight with you and dear Harry – don't interrupt me just yet; Harry's task is safe and rather simple. He just needs to bring you and the ring back to Hogwa—."

"Bring me and the ring?"

"Patience used to be one of your greatest virtues, Severus. I encourage you to hold on to it for a little longer while I finish explaining," interjected Dumbledore before he continued matter-of-factly, "I have seen Harry's memory, dear boy. But even equipped with this knowledge, I can only imagine the encompassing power the ring will have over me. To simply put, I need you there to stop me from repeating the same regrettable mistake and bring the ring back… for I will not be returning to Hogwarts."

If there had been any alarm shrieking inside Severus' mind, it was marvellously concealed for his plastered poker face, perfected decades ago, remained placid. The man assumed his nonchalant drawl. "Wonderful plan. At least this time my hands will not be dirtied by your suicidal lunacy, Albus," droned Severus caustically. "But if you just wish to be done with your life, might I suggest an accidental overdose of the Draught of the Living Dead? The last thing the Dark Lord will give you, Albus the-greatest-wizard-ever-lived Dumbledore, is a swift death. He will keep you alive just to humiliate you, to disgrace you, and to rob you off the last sparks of dignity left in your pathetic life until you beg like a dog for a merciful deat—"

"And that is precisely what I am counting him to do."

Uncharacteristically patient, the other two Gryffindors who had been holding their tongues for a long while let out a collective gasp. It was Lily who muttered in disbelief. "You have lost your mind."

Seeing the redhead instinctively reaching across to Harry, as if trying to shield him from her former Headmaster's perceived madness, Dumbledore shook his head slowly. "Miss Evans, I assure you I have no wish to die. Not just yet. I merely offer myself as a trade up… for our final battle. Lord Voldemort's stronghold is impenetrable, as you surely know. Our only hope is to lure him to our familiar ground. And judging from Harry's memory, there is no better place than Hogwarts. But do help me think, my dear girl. How can you fool somebody as cautious and cunning as Voldemort to march into an obvious trap? What are the Dark Lord's greatest flaws, besides his resentment of love?"

"…Pride? …Fear of death?" It was the Boy-Who-Lived who came up with the answer.

"Bravo, Harry. You clever boy. There is no doubt that the death of only one particular person at this moment could please Tom more than mine. The death of his prophesised conqueror. Your death, Severus."

I am so dead, thought the man striding hurriedly, dodging the incoming crowds on a grimy London footpath. He hung his head low, stuffing his hands deep in his pockets, and hid his striking face under locks of curly dark hair. If she had wanted to hex me to oblivion because of that sodding crimson gold scarf, not coming home for Regulus…and father's funerals probably warrant me a bloody Avada, brooded the frustrated Sirius Black. An uncomfortable weight called guilt crept for a tiniest moment into his heart, before he shook his head and dismissed it sharply. Get a grip, Sirius. They are the ones who disowned you. Not the other way round!

The familiar rows of windows, some broken, some dusty, all dodgy, appeared before his eyes. The outcasted Black took a deep breath as the houses began their customary shifts, making way for 12 Grimmauld Place.

Oh well, Mother, like it or not, here I come.

The collar of his crisp white shirt seemed to narrow as if it was transforming into a tightening hanging rope. Severus couldn't help adjusting that suffocating piece of garment. His long fingers brushed against that horrid scar that served as a reminder for his second lease on life… the lease that increasingly seemed to be released sooner rather than later. The man who used to welcome Death shuddered at the thought of his once dearest Grim Reaper.

For now he had a life to live. A love to last.

And everything to lose.

Dumbledore continued to explain, oblivious or simply ignoring the glares from two pairs of green eyes. "Once I am captured, Minerva shall leak the news that you, Severus, are hiding at Hogwarts, and that she and the Order, naturally being most concerned about my life over yours, are willing to trade you for me, not being sure that you are the Chosen One mentioned in the Prophecy. Blinded by his pride and driven by his fear of death, Voldemort will march our grounds, most likely brandishing my weakened limbs, displaying me as an old fool who is nothing but rotting skin and bone, powerless to even defend myself. And in that state of his false victory… we strike."

Haunting memory of Hogwarts crumpling battleground dug its feral claw deep into Harry's mind once more. Trying as he might, the boy could not shake the painful image of the once hyperactive Fred laid unmoving in the middle of grieving Weasleys. Of pallid and bloodless Remus and Tonks amongst many other cold and grey bodies.

Of the dying man in a boat house.

No doubt, everyone had begun to see senses in Dumbledore's seemingly insane scheme. But the boy who was cursed to live through the worst of wars…twice couldn't help wondering, is it worth the loss?

Sensing his message had sunk rather well with the new Trio, the white old wizard dropped the catch. "The only problem is also you, Severus. We need the trade-off to be convincing. The Dark Lord will not believe that Minerva, or anyone in the Order for that matter, can outwit and capture you, especially after you have managed to escape from him unscathed. He needs to believe that she betrays you and let him catch you off-guard. We also need an excuse to bring the Orders into Hogwarts while we let the children go home. We need an event that the Dark Lord, with his love of dramatic irony, will feel driven to mock… So, that's why I've propose we give yo—"

But the Slytherin needed no further explanation. Every syllable the older wizard uttered felt like poison, feeding into his blood that seemed to have frozen. Only two words escaped his thin pursed lips. It sounded strangled.

"The wedding…" My wedding…

"Precisely, Severus. And there, we strike. Once and for all."

Seized by a sudden surge of savage anger fuelled by bitter betrayal, the tall wizard clenched his fist tight, willing every fibre in him not to reach for his wand. With two more deep breaths, Severus Snape stood up. His deep voice brimming with fury yet as murderously frosty as a sharp ice blade. "I've warned you, Albus. But you've heeded none of my requests, as usual. I have instructed you. Yes, instructed. I am sure you are not familiar with that word, but I am, thanks to years of taking instructions like a blind dog from you. Instruction means you follow it. And I have instructed you not to involve Lily. Let alone our…matrimony. You have crossed the line, Dumbledore. And I think this is where we bid you farewell." One hand snatching Harry's elbow sharply, Severus turned to meet Lily's gaze. This time, his deep black orbs held no plea of understanding, but a commanding force.

Sighing quietly, the flaming beauty slowly got to her feet. She smiled weakly at the wise old wizard and uttered softly, "Professor, please do excuse us. It has been a tiring morning for Severus. He, Harry, and I shall think through your reques—"

Her green orbs caught the cold rage in her lover's bottomless eyes as his piercing gaze cut through her like butter. "There is nothing to think about," hissed the towering Slytherin menacingly. With an iron firm grip, he pulled and dragged the only two Gryffindors whose safety mattered to him more than any fame, fortune, …or even the future of the wizarding world to the flickering fireplace.

And for the first time since her childhood love had come back for her, that glimpse of deafening thunder taught the young redhead the difference between a brooding young man and the vicious thirty-eight-year-old warrior.


"There will be no discussion, Lily."

Pretending he had not been reading the same paragraph over and over for the past thirty silent minutes, the former Potions Master buried his head deeper into the Potions journal, wishing, for the first time since he had been freed from his loathsome professorial duty, for a pile of pathetically written essays to let off his steam and slash some furious red ink on. A useful buffer for at least another thirty minutes… of false peace.

"I just want to—"

"Silence! I said there will be no discussion!"

Had Severus, the bravest wizard ever lived, been brave enough to look at his witch, he would have seen the rapid transformation from concern to shock…to rage written clearly on her beautiful face. Unfortunately, the strong-willed Slytherin knew fully well Lily's pleading gaze was the only thing in the world that could break his rock solid resolution.

So he had not dared to look.

And so she shouted. "For Merlin's sake, Severus! I am not your sodding student! Don't you dare order me about like I am some rotting first-year!" Blood pumped madly through Lily's veins, shooting to her fair cheeks, putting her flaming hair to shame. Just before the hot-headed witch could slam the door to their living quarter shut, she turned to cast one last scathing look at her husband-to-be whose large nose was still buried deep in the same page.

She knew he was determined, to the point of being totally pigheaded, to shield her from any possible danger. She knew he had not been a man with many words when it comes to expressing…emotions, positive ones, that was. She knew everything for she knew him.

And that riled her up even more. He, of all people, should know me as well.

Grunting in frustration, Lily took a deep breath and sighed loudly. "It takes two to make a couple, Sev. Once you realize it's a dialogue, not a monologue, you know where to find me."

Then, the redhead closed the door.

The clock kept on ticking as Severus' black eyes kept on re-reading the same paragraph over and over. No doubt, the man who had survived, albeit barely, two wars playing a double agent could be anything but a fool. He knew he had made a mistake with his biting snap. He knew, with great comfort – something the secluded spy had experienced only lately— that he could open that door anytime and the woman he loved would be there for him, accepting his crunching embrace as an unspoken apology.

But what kept him glued to the spot was the nightmare to come afterwards.

For once in his life, the ingenious serpentine Prince was at lost of what his next moves in this chess game of life and death would be. One move to take the black king, and save all others. But the same move put three pieces in the line of sacrifice. Three pieces… three lives that he could never afford to lose.

The exhausted figure did not know how long he had sat pondering, weighing the fate of the entire wizarding world against the love that enchained his heart immobile… until a soft clink woke him from his reverie. The pair of weary eyes looked up, and found a familiar round-rimmed glassed that used to shoot daggers through his heart, but now gave him some… dare I say peace?

The face behind the glasses gave the best attempt not to look nervous, but it was anything but. Guardedly, as if he was about to drop a potentially explosive ingredient into an unknown potion, Harry Potter placed a teacup in front of Severus Snape.

"Tea, Professor?"

"Tea is ready, my love."

"One moment, Narcissa."

Sifting through rows and rows of priceless heirlooms, Lucius Malfoy paced along narrow passages in his dungeon. His mind reeling back to many items his Master had entrusted him to keep safe. I've seen the rat's memory. I know they're looking for something precious to Him… But what? Nothing here seems important enough…

Not important enough to buy Narcissa and Draco's safety.

Defeated, the blonde wizard trudged the stony steps leading him back up to the light where the sunlit aroma of Narcissa's Ceylon silver tips filled the air. A scone oozed with clotted cream and fine strawberry jam was placed in front of the once proud Slytherin who sat mechanically down, still lost in thoughts.

"…was horrible, actually. Dearest Aunt Walburga was so distraught she has practically refused to eat or sleep for a year now. And that waste of a son Sirius did not even bother to show up for the memorial… Lucius… Are you still here, darling?"

"I'm sorry, Narcissa. I was just… thinking," replied the regal man as he placed his hand on top of his wife's and caressed it gently. "I take it that the one-year memorial for Orion and Regulus did not go so well this morning?"

Smiling softly at her pensive husband, the former Black repeated her story once more. "No, it didn't. You should have seen Aunt Walburga. She had always been fashionably thin, but that was emaciated. Everyone was there except… her own family. Well, Sirius was never really one of us, but still… he should, at least, show his repulsive face at his own father and his own brother's memorial! It pains me to see her clinging onto Regulus' Locket as if… his soul is still in there. She even told me it speaks to her. I think she edging on mad—Lucius? Lucius!"

The sound of their wrought iron chair hitting the grandiose marble floor still reverberated through their vast patio, but the man who had been seated there was gone. Forgetting his haughty demeanour, the pureblood royalty ran hurriedly towards the dungeon once more.

Soul… Yes, his soul! His soul could be in there. That's why they want it! That's why it's so precious! Well, it's a long shot, but it's worth a try.

The smell of bergamot and a tinge of citrus filled the room with its calming effect. Ten minutes have passed, and the room was still silent, save for the sound of their teacups clinking onto the saucers. The two men sat opposite each other: one reclining slightly on the leather armchair, the other perched, shifting awkwardly, at the edge of the sofa.

"The answer is no, boy, if you must know," Severus broke the silence. His dark eyes trained on Harry who had been staring into his teacup as if he had been possessed by Trelawney, reading his cursed fate on the blackened leaves.

"Then I am not the only one who hasn't learned much from our seven years together, Professor." The Boy-Who-Lived-To-Contradict-Snape steeled his nerves and willed himself to look up and meet his former archenemy's penetrating gaze. Swallowing hard, Harry continued, "I know you mean well. At least, I know now. But, sir, have you ever succeeded in protecting a Gryffindor by locking her up, asking her to sit and watch her loved ones die for her, and pray that she remains… obedient?"

Pinching the bridge of his large nose in frustration, the half-blood Potions Master hissed, "What would you have me do, boy? Letting her run into an obvious trap? Letting her… die?" …and leave me alone with a world robbed of its meaning… again?

"No, sir. I'm sure she would very much like to live. But you've lived the life robbed of the people you love… somewhat on your account… before. Do you want her to suffer the same fate as yours for as long as she lives?" The boy's comment struck home… and it struck hard. The old Harry would have missed the streaks of anger, pain, and guilt flashing in a split second in Severus' dark bottomless eyes, but the seventeen-year-old-boy had turned into a man. The man who had learned to look with his heart. So he continued, "At least, let her choose for herself. You of all people should know the importance of choice."

Scoffing bitterly, Dumbledore's former pawn raised his eyebrow and looked at Harry challengingly, "And I suppose this is where you'd say there is no point in trying to… detain you as well?"

"Last time I check, only a professor can dish out detention, sir. Too bad, you're no longer one," The Gryffindor boy smiled. For a fleeting moment, his green eyes, weathered beyond his age, held a tiniest spark of that eleven-year-old boy who had managed to outwit the Great Bat of the Dungeon.

That spark did not go amiss the wizard's sharp observation. Amazed by the lack of his usual urge to hex the boy for his audacity to the next week, Severus leaned back onto his chair and signed, dejectedly, "I guess not. Merlin, boy, have you inhaled Aging Potions directly into your brain? Since when have you possessed such an un-Gryffindor ability to… grow up?"

"Walking to my own death rather puts a lot of things into perspective, sir," replied Harry matter-of-factly. The sign of nervousness, if it had been somewhat lessened, was now erased from his face, leaving only a genuine sense of… camaraderie. "And I guess you also literally whacked a lot of nonsense out of my head with that godawful thick Potions book of yours," added the boy good-naturedly as he touched his head, remembering the spot subjected to such assault in what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Thinking aback, there was nothing Harry would not give to be able to feel that his professor's unfair punishment was the crime of the century, the end of the world so to speak. But real cruel life had decided to creep up on him faster than a fleeting snitch. "We're all in this together, sir. In the end, everybody dies. In their bed all alone at old age. In their lover's arms. Or… at war," muttered the boy wistfully. Reaching over, the young Gryffindor who had been forced to grow up too soon placed his now firm hand onto Severus' wrist. His boyish expression vanished. "But if you'd allow me my opinion, I think the how and why matter much more than the when."

At first, he thought he had entered the wrong house.

The hallway once dim yet menacingly majestic now held only the forlorn air of neglect and mourn. It had been close to four years since Sirius had left the 12 Grimmauld Place for good, but it seemed as if the house had aged a thousand years of grief.

Wand pointed forward, ready to protect himself… or strike if need be, the Black's long lost outcast inched closer into the place he used to call home.

The heavy wooden door creaked open, letting in sliver of light into the darkened room.

With her back to the intruder, Lily needed not look back to see the tall figure leaning against the frame. The redhead let out a long sigh. "Ready to talk now?"

There was no answer. Only his hurried footsteps that rushed to her. His arms that pulled her back into a bone-crushing embrace. His face that buried in her fiery hair.

And his lips that gave all the burning answers she needed, and none.

Pulling away for breath, her green eyes met his deep black counterpart and lingered there for a long while. Finally assured that she found what she had been looking for, the witch cupped her lover's stern face in her palms and shook him gently, muttering softly against his thin lips, "Oh, you big snarky oaf."

Only then, he allowed himself to return a fraction of her radiant smile.

If anyone had been listening, it would have been difficult to hear three small cracks amidst the thundering sky in the vast field adjacent to the Malfoy's Manor. But since no one had, it could be said that James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Peter Pettigrew's apparitions had successfully gone unnoticed.

Casting Disillusionment Charms immediately onto one of his best friends and a once friend, Remus pulled James and dragged Peter who had been chained by his wrist to the nearest tall bush. "Let's recap the plan once more. Peter you will transform into a rat from here and place this double portkey inside the dungeon. Once you deem the place safe, you will activate the portkey from your end. Dumbledore charmed ours to glow when you do so. We go in. We grab the diary. Then we leave. Is that clear?"

Pettigrew spat his bitter answer, "No. We will get my mother too. Otherwise, it all ends here."

"Take a good look at yourself, Wormtail," barked James Potter angrily, "a man with his wrist chained doesn't have much choice, if you ask me!"

"That's enough, James," chastised Remus. The werewolf knew that the trustworthiness of the man with his wrist chained was actually the only thing that could make or break this crucial mission. "Peter, from this point on, to be honest, I no longer have any leverage against you. You will be unchained. You will be set free. Free from us. Free from this duty… this mission. But before you go, please think for a moment of that invisible chain that binds you even tighter. The chain of love you have for your mother. The chain of vengeance against the man who took the person you loved most away from you. There is nothing that could stop you from running away, only these chains, Peter. They will never set you free unless you do what needs to be done."

Knowing fully well those words Remus had uttered were what needed to be said with or without the man's true intention, Peter was glad he was disillusioned for a prickling heat was threatening to fall from the corner of his eyes. The rat scoffed, brushing his tears that were now mixed with droplets of rain away, "I see that you've been taking lessons from Dumbledore, Remus. Untie me, if you please. Let's be done with this madness."

His heart pounding madly, the werewolf tried his best to keep his voice calm, "Just one more thing, Peter." His feet took him to the direction where two footmarks can be seen imprinted onto a seemingly empty grass field. Remus finally reached out, and placed his hand onto the stubby man's invisible shoulder. "I trust you. Be safe, my friend."

And with that, he released the bind.

The big footprints morphed into four tiny little spots that sped hurriedly and disappeared into the sea of tall grassland. Pulling out his Invisibility Cloak, James Potter wrapped the cloth around the two of them and sighed, "You think this will work?"

"Now, we just have to wait and see, don't we, James?"

An angry red hex missed him by a hair's breadth. Swiftly turning to his attacker hidden in the dark shadow of the door to a pitch black living room, Sirius Black barked a spell right out without thinking. "Stupefy!"

It hit the target. And it hit hard for the figure cried out and stumbled forward into the lit corridor.

It might be the emaciated state of that figure. It might be the way her mournful eyes caught his and shone sparks of surprise… and hope, before it grew dull with the spell.

Or it might just be that she was, after all, his mother.

For whatever reason, Sirius' long legs dashed on their own accord as he caught her withering frame into his arms, shouting, "Mother!" He could barely recognize the face cradled in his arms. The face once was eerily beautiful now held nothing but sagging skin and bones. Gone was the contemptuous proud sneer. Gone was the haughty demeanour. Gone was the mother he knew, replaced by some hopeless old woman who looked exactly like the scarecrow of a witch in a Muggle's tale. He thought he should feel satisfied. He thought he should be happy that she had gotten what she deserved; but somehow, the voice in him found its way up, and it bellowed, "Kreacher! Get your old rotting arse in here this bloody second! You hear me? Get down here now!"

Then, a sight caught his eyes. The amber locket hung loose from her wrinkled neck. Regulus' locket. Right. I stunned my own mother, and now I'm stealing from her unconscious self. Oh well, Hades, here I come. Grabbing the locket tight, the Black's now only heir snatched the piece of that cursed jewels from his mother's neck. The doomed locket that got his brother killed; robbed his father of his "only" heir and his will to live; and was slowly driving his mother mad with grieve and loneliness.

The locket that murdered his whole… family.

Before Sirius could venture deeper into the memory lane, the sight of his hated house elf appearing at the corner of his eyes woke him from his reverie. Hurriedly stuffing the horrid item into his vest pocket, the outcast Black stood up and attempted to make for the door. Yet, tried as he might, Kreacher's tearful wails did not go deaf on his ears. The tales of how his mistress' son had failed her since birth. How he had betrayed her in his youth.

How he had abandoned her at the time she needed him most.

Despite his head screaming on the top of his lungs that it had not been his fault; that it had been his mother who had disowned him for the most stupidest reason one could think of, half way to the door leading out of the gloomy hallway of the house he hated with all his heart, the Black's only Gryffindor son turned back to the elf, and barked;

"Find me a quill and a parchment. And leave us! Now!"

"…You really meant it?"


"That you trust him? After all he's done?"

The rain kept on pouring, but the two Marauders sat in silence, eyes trained onto the majestic Manor disguised almost completely by the curtains of cold droplets. One dark brown pair filled with doubt, the other with conviction. Remus sighed, feeling the herculean weight of the whole mission resting on his thin shaking shoulder… and Peter's. "I don't know what you think he had done to you in that memory you've seen, James. But trust me, at this moment; a friend who's willing to give him a second chance is all he needs and more," muttered the werewolf, trying his best to hide the nerves he felt before he added softly, almost to himself, "And I guess we owe him that."

Yet, before James could voice his vehement protest that they, the proud Marauders, owed the filthy betrayer nothing, the rugged ordinary pebble that had been resting on Remus' palm slowly glowed blue. Two pairs of brown eyes met in surprise, alarm, and assurance… then vanished into thin air;

…And re-emerged again as their bodies laid flat on a stony floor.

A small squeaking noise caught their attention. There it was. The rat.

With its tail crushed under an impeccable dragonhide shoe. The best kind that money could buy. For the richest of the rich. The noblest of the noble.

The sole owner of the Malfoy's vast fortune.

Bolts of electric shock shot through James and Remus' spines as if they were hit by the vicious lightning that sliced through the lethal sky outside. But just as the duo braced themselves for what doom to come, realization struck them.

Lucius Malfoy was still oblivious to their arrival.

Thanks to the raging thunder, the sound of their entrance was masked as were their bodies hidden under the Invisibility Cloak. The blonde Death Eater's frosty voice seemed to slice through the thick dampy dungeon air and went straight to the Marauders' pounding hearts, "Tsk tsk tsk… look what I've found. A big fat rat. Nagini will be most pleased."

The rat only squealed louder.

Picking the fat rodent by its tail with clear distaste, the proud Malfoy lifted the poor creature up to face his murderous glare, and sneered, "Oh, but this is interesting! I have not come across many rats with… bald spots. Dear oh dear, could this be…"

With a silence Homorphus, the blue light shot from Lucius' wand hit the shivering rat in its full brutal force. Another silver rope sprung out instantaneously and bound the figure slowly returning to its equally pathetic human form.

Like a snake seizing its hapless prey, the Slytherin leapt and knelt down next to the white-faced Pettigrew. Eyeing tears, sweat, and snot covering the rat's panic-stricken face, Lucius clamped his death grip onto the excuse of a man's throat and hissed gleefully, "Welcome back, Wormtail…"

As the gripping numbness of fear subsided, the weary werewolf was the first to regain his senses. Poking his best friend, gesturing him to the rat's direction, Remus whispered ever so softly. His voice laden with heavy weight of looming catastrophe, "See that?"

There it was, the old ordinary-looking Diary… clutched tightly in Lucius Malfoy's hand.

Without one more word, as if they could read each other's mind, the two Marauders reached for their wands. "No time like now, eh? Mate?" James' whisper, albeit nervous, laced with a subtle mischievous grin as if they were about to sneak out to Hogsmead, not to snatch one of the most crucial items from one of the most cruel Death Eaters. Its familiarity had a sudden calming effect, intended or not, on the werewolf who could force a smile, albeit fleetingly.

And on a count of three, two jets of Stupefy, seemingly shot out of nowhere, raced towards the blonde wizard, and hit him flat on his chest.

The tall figure collapsed onto the ground.

"Get the Diary! Peter! Now!" The sound of Remus' yell reverberated through the thick stony wall, waking the now freed pallid Pettigrew from his petrified state. Clamouring to his feet, the rat hurriedly snatched the leather-bound book from Lucius unconscious body and sped towards the waiting Gryffindors. Thunder struck madly as the murderous sky let out its angry mighty roar, piercing through every stone in the Manor. James' shout was almost drowned amidst the chaos, "Come on, Peter! Let's get out of here!" His iron firm grip clamped onto the rat's wrist as Remus pointed his wand at the pebble portkey.

Yet, as the blue glow began to pulse, something struck the rat mightily.

"No…" Peter whispered. Then, with an almighty force, he shook himself free from James' overpowering hold.

"What the hell are you doing! Get back here! We're activating the portkey now!" roared James furiously; hands snatching at the rat's retreating form... to no avail.

Clutching the wretched book tight onto his chest as if he was holding it ransom, the chubby shaken forever sidekick bellowed, "No, my mum! I'll get my mum and kill this bastard first!"

"There is no time! The portkey is activated. Give us the Diary, Peter," coaxed Remus, yet his voice was betrayed of its nervous edge. He added desperately, "We'll come back for her. It's more important we get the book back now."

But the werewolf's empty promise fell onto deaf ears for the rat-like man had stepped back away from the two persons he used to call friend. "No, you lied. You never wanted to help me!" cried Peter angrily. "Doesn't matter! I can do it on my own!" The chubby figure sped towards Lucius unmoving form as the blue flame began to swirl itself around the two maddened Marauders. Sweating profusely, Peter Pettigrew gripped his wands so tight his knuckles turned white, yet its shaken tip betrayed the man's crumpling nerves. Wiping anguished sweat and tears off his face, the rat bellowed, "Avada—"

Sadly, the pitiful creature did not get to finish its most unforgivable curse, barked with all the hatred bursting from its rotting heart.

For Lucius Malfoy had finished it for him.

Observed by only two pairs of vanishing brown eyes and a pale cold grey, green jet of light hit Peter Pettigrew's pathetic form as it dropped dead like an ugly marionette cut off its strings, extinguished forever from its attempt to redeem itself, to avenge the woman it loved, to prove itself worthy;

To be… consequential.

A single tear dropped from its brown blank beady eyes. Then, it moved no more.

Standing up slowly, Lucius Malfoy dusted himself and picked the Diary up from the dead man's limp limbs. With a flick of his wand, red flames engulfed the lost Gryffindor's body, before it evaporated;

Leaving only an empty space, once occupied by an insignificant nobody.

Another inconsequential death… of an unimportant soul.

A/N: Hope it's worth the wait! I know it starts to become cruel and dark, but isn't that why we love HP so much? It's no children's tale :)
What do you think will happen now that Lucius still has the Diary? What do you think he'll do with it?

Although I can't promise I'll update new chapters as regularly as before, I can assure you that I will not abandon the story! Only a few more to go :) Reviews help speeding things up considerably! Please, pretty please, whoever's waiting for my update, let me know what you think! :D