Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter . . . but I do own my $1.99 Sorting Bucket!

Important A/N (PLEASE READ): For those of you that have read Distorted Reflections, you will have seen a note about my next fic, The Sorting Hat. This is that fic. However, I realized that I'd have to have a huge-ass hat to fit all of the Harry Potter characters' names in it . . . so I bought a bucket. Hence the name, The Sorting Bucket.

To those of you who have not read said A/N, here is the basic premise. I have taken all of the characters' names from the character filter on this site and put them all in a bucket. Every other day or so, I choose two names and write a fic with those two characters as the central players. To minimize annoyance in the search for something vaguely interesting, I will place the genre and the characters' names at the start of each "chapter."

Each time I publish a new chapter, I will change the characters' names the fic can be found under as well. For example, right now it says Leanne & Bellatrix L. but it will say different names for each new "chapter" published.

Any questions/confusion – I think it's pretty self-explanatory – just PM me.

Hope you enjoy!

Characters: Leanne (Katie's friend from Half-Blood Prince) and Bellatrix Lestrange

Genre: Friendship/Angst

A/N: Possible implied femslash, but you don't need to see it like that.

A/N: Dedicated to the amazing Helena Bonham Carter whose performance as Bellatrix Lestrange helped inspire this story.

Also to crapmuffins for picking these first two names. Love you! :)

The Sorting Bucket

Insanity

"Watch out!"

Leanne watched, as if in slow motion, as a jet of threatening-looking purple light streaked toward her; barely in time, she found herself pushed to the flagstone floor. Cowering behind an overturned gargoyle, she barely registered the horrified screams emanating from the watercolor behind her – the spell's unfortunate recipient.

She had already heard so many today. What was one more to the mix?

This was insane.
". . . Leanne? Leanne, c'mon, are you listening to me?" Looking both annoyed and concerned, Katie snapped her fingers in front of her face.

"What . . . yeah – what's going on?" Perhaps because of the lateness of the hour, Leanne felt half in a dream-state, as if this were some horrible nightmare she would soon wake up from.

Or maybe she was the insane one. . . .

It made sense, she had to admit. Volunteering to fight had certainly been a breach of her usual logic – though she was in Hufflepuff, she prided herself on this Ravenclaw trait. She had planned to leave when the school had been evacuated. True, she had huddled with Neville and the rest of the DA, had cheered for Harry Potter at his triumphant return – had he really ridden a dragon? - but she couldn't, just couldn't, fight.

Not that she was a coward; she would have fought if it had been necessary. But look at them all, assembled here. And three-quarters of them Gryffindors! That was what Gryffindors were for, wasn't it? Daring, nerve, and chivalry and all that.

No one would miss her, she had consoled herself. One girl couldn't make a difference. No way would she be spotted – one plain Hufflepuff girl – in the tide of students leaving the school.

But then Katie had appeared.

"Leanne, hey!" Wading through the crowd, two older girls by her side, Katie had caught her in a tight embrace. "Great to see you. You remember Angelina and Alicia, right?"

"Yeah, of course," Leanne exclaimed, managing a half-hearted smile.

Of course she remembered Angelina and Alicia – perfect, beautiful, Quidditch-playing Angelina and Alicia. Angelina and Alicia who had been all Katie could ever talk about. Angelina and Alicia whose damned "daring, nerve, and chivalry" had stolen Katie away from her.

She had thought things would be better after they left. But no . . . she had gone and screwed even that up. Katie had been Imperiused while they were in Hogsmeade together and she hadn't even noticed. Not until it was too late, at least. . . .

"Ready to fight, then?" Angelina asked, tossing her long black braids.

The word no on the tip of her tongue, Leanne turned to Katie in a soundless appeal. Her friend grinned encouragingly and, given sudden heart, Leanne found herself saying yes almost defiantly.

Katie needed her. What if she got separated from Angelina and Alicia? What if she got hurt? No, she needed Leanne to stick by her side, stick by her for all the times she hadn't been there. . . .

And she was doing a bang-up job of it, so far.

"Have. To. Move. Come on!" Her hand on the small of Leanne's back, Katie pushed her toward their next shield – this time an abandoned pedestal.

"Where. . . ?"

"To the Astronomy Tower," Katie replied, obviously trying to hide her irritation with her slow-witted friend. "Angelina just sent me a Patronus, that's where the bulk of the fighting is. You-Know-Who's even got giants."

Swallowing an involuntary squeak of fear, Leanne wondered how she could possibly have missed something as distinctive as a Patronus – a talking one, at that.

Yes, she was definitely cracking up.

Maybe she could just go back. They couldn't be that far from the Room and all she was doing was slowing Katie down. But no – now Katie was pushing her forward again, shooting spells over her shoulder as they ran. A body fell behind them but Leanne didn't turn to see who it was.

That sound, too, had become commonplace by now.

Screams and shouted spells grew louder as they drew toward the tower's winding staircase. Difficult though it was to distinguish one from the other, a high-pitched giggling rose above the din. It chilled Leanne to the core

Clambering over chunks of plaster, Katie was forced to stop her breakneck pace to beckon impatiently to her frozen friend. Oblivious to that high-pitched cackle, she was eager to join in the fray.

All the time, though, that horrible laughter grew louder and louder. And Leanne was scared, so scared, she just wanted to go home. Dear Merlin, did she want to go home. . . .

"Leanne, come. . . ."

That was when it happened.

Looking back, Leanne wasn't sure how she did it. She had never been athletic and there were at least six feet separating her and Katie. All she knew was that one second she was standing there, too petrified to move, the next she was pushing Katie to the floor, just missing a jet of green light.

It was insane that she'd done it.

But she didn't have time to analyze her behavior now. Katie, though still alive, had been knocked unconscious by the fall. Leanne wasn't sure how hard she'd hit her . . . but again, no time to think. Wand held in a hand that was barely shaking, Leanne rose to face their attacker, the catalyst of that cackle.

She had the look of a woman who had once been a great beauty but had degenerated into something barely human. Long, black hair tumbled down her back in total disarray while, behind her curls, a pair of dark eyes danced. Not with joy, though. No, to Leanne they looked to belong more to a wild animal than a woman – as if Leanne were the mouse and she the cat.

This then, must be Bellatrix Lestrange.

"You . . . you. . . ." She wasn't sure what she was going to say – call her by name, perhaps? Identifying something granted less power to it. Insult her? Call her a bitch? What would that do against a woman like this? Leanne was sure she already knew.

Leanne had, of course, heard the stories. She had tortured Neville Longbottom's parents into insanity in the First War, she had killed countless innocents – magical and Muggle alike. Nevertheless, she had found herself unable to believe that any human being could be so depraved. Maybe it was just her Hufflepuff naivete coming out in her, but she had thought every human being – You-Know-Who she saw as subhuman – had to have at least a bit of good in them.

Not this woman, though. The Prophet, in referring to her as "The Dark Lord's Queen," had been right on the money.

This woman, just like You-Know-Who himself, was insane.

"You . . . you. . . . What am I, honey? Am I . . . am I mean? Did I make you cwy?" she mocked, crooning as if to an infant or a pet.

"D-don't you touch me," Leanne stuttered, poking her Leanne poked her shaking wand threateningly at the empty air; she wasn't sure what she was going to do with it. Her mind had gone totally blank.

"I'm not that mean, honey. I just wanna pway. How about we play a wittle game, hmm?"

Another cackle, the sounds seemed almost out of her control now.

Maybe she could make a run for it . . . no, she couldn't leave Katie lying there, this woman would murder her. Could she piggyback her, maybe? She wasn't too large, she could probably do it . . . she could just sling Katie's arm over her back and. . . .

Bellatrix, stumbling over discarded rocks, noticed her movement. "Oh, no you don't, honey! For this game, it's just you . . . and . . . ! Cru -"

"Tarantallegra!"

In that dream-state again, Leanne watched the spell die in Bellatrix's throat, the Unforgivable replaced by still another giggle as her limbs shot out of control in a bizarre sort of dance. It was only as one foot struck a chip of rock, twisting unnaturally, only as she tumbled to the ground, that her peals of laughter became a hoarse scream.

As if the sound had served as an alarm, Leanne suddenly jolted into action. Pulling a slowly-stirring Katie to her feet, she half-pushed, half-carried her down the hall, away from the tower.

"Leanne, what. . . ?" Muzzily, Katie turned to her, showing the scar on one side of her scalp.

"Move, just move." Half-expecting Bellatrix to come charging after them, Leanne and Katie stumbled, as if contestants in a three-legged race, down the corridor. Leanne breathed a sigh of relief as they rounded a corner with neither a limping step or laughter at their backs. Perhaps Bellatrix had been knocked out, as well. Leanne supposed she'd gotten lucky on that count, she hadn't expected the spell to have that effect.

No, she hadn't expected the spell to have any effect. She hadn't expected that she would be able to even cast a spell. In her entire repertoire of spells, she had no idea where that particular jinx – a childish one, taught to her by an elder student in her first year – had come from.

It was insane.

But, if that were the case, maybe they all were insane.

Insane to go and fight what may well be a losing battle.

Insane to fight for what you believe in.

Maybe, she thought, insanity was just another word for faith.

. . .

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