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Chapter Nine: Defense, Vengeance, and Murder

"Get up, boy!"

"Master Moody. What is it?" Blaise asked, blinking from the light of the other man's wand.

"Death Eaters in Hogsmeade. I need every hand."

"Has Ree returned?"

It had been almost a full week since the witch had gone missing, though Blaise thought that perhaps Professor Dumbledore might know where she was.

"No. Be quick about it, boy! People are dying."

And so people were, but not all of them the inhabitants of the village.

Rosmerta sunk back into the shadows near the gate before the yard of the Three Broomsticks and waited. The bodies of four masked figures smoldering from the inside out littered the ground in her vicinity.

When the large knot of hooded cowards had appeared in the street in front of her establishment and attempted to burn it, they had received a nasty shock, for Rosmerta had, over the years, treated every building in the town with a strong repulsion potion.

My village will not burn. Not again.

The alarm had been raised, and those who could not fight had hidden, while those who could had begun to hunt. The publican retracted her dripping claws a bit, stanching the flow of corrosive venom from them.

Come to me, young ones. I have something for you.

Severus knew that he would not be needed near the Three Broomsticks, but the hospice at the other end of Hogsmeade would be fairly unprotected. As his spying activities had been greatly curtailed on the occasion of Lucius' death because many who that man had kept in check were suspicious of the Potions master's loyalties, it was now permissible for him to fight openly for the Order; and fight he would, despite Albus' protestations that he should keep a low profile.

The time for caution is past.

The determined wizard apparated from just over the boundary of the school grounds into the thick of an ugly fight between Remus Lupin and several Death Eaters.

Poor planning on your part, he thought, keeping well away from the werewolf.

He was not certain if he was referring to himself or the Death Eaters. It was a relief to see that the latest version of the Wolfsbane potion was proving efficacious. Lupin appeared to be in total control of his actions. Still, he did not wish to test that observation.

Ill and aged wizards and witches peered affrightedly from the windows of the hospice, some of them casting spells to harry the attackers who were focused on Lupin. Severus helped them by stupefying several wizards close to him. A still-moving body was thrown in his direction, and Severus caught it in his left hand and snapped its neck effortlessly while stunning another warlock with his wand hand.

"Traitor!" shrieked a voice well-known to him from over his shoulder.

It was too late to turn around and deflect whatever spell Bellatrix intended to cast.

I did not even see it coming, Snape thought in detached irritation.

Death did not find him.

Instead, the Potions master heard the wet sound of a throat being ripped out. He turned in time to see that the hound standing over Lestrange was slick with blood and gore. It--Black--emitted a noise from his throat that was part growl, part ripping parts, but primeval in its level of communication: You're dead. I'm eating--grrrarghshphlick.

Good dog.

The Widow Malfoy had been planning on spending her day much differently; however, when the message had arrived from Zoroastrid requesting she see and counsel a young friend of hers about the wisdom of marrying Blaise when it seemed that Draco had also proposed, Narcissa could not resist.

Finally, an opportunity to be alone with Potter.

It had taken some . . . persuasion to make Goyle leave her, but he had done so.

He always did enjoy the kill, the woman thought, arranging herself on a silken sofa in her private chambers.

She was going to savor every moment of this latest experience.

"Madame, your guest has arrived."

"Send her up and lock the door on your way out. I won't be needing you again for several hours."

And then Harry was there, standing before her in blood-colored silk, but apparently otherwise unadorned and unarmed.

Thank you, Salazar.

"Mrs. Malfoy, it was good of you to agree to see me."

"Don't be shy, my dear. Sit--please."

Harry sat a little too closely to Mrs. Malfoy on the couch. "I don't believe we've had occasion to see each other since the last affair at the Ministry."

"Yes, when Arthur Weasley took up the arduous task of . . . putting things to rights."


"What is it, dear?"

"I was only thinking about how much the loss of Mr. Malfoy must have affected you."

The other woman's pert pink mouth unfurled into a slow smile. She allowed one arm to fall gracefully onto the girl's shoulders and gave her a reassuring squeeze. "I believe you were . . . fond of my husband, Ree."

"Yes, and I believe you know that Draco gave me to him," Harry said, shifting against Draco's "mother" to look her in the eye. "Didn't he, Luscious?"

Mrs. Malfoy grinned a grin that had never been her own. Well, if the girl suspects . . . . "You impudent little bitch," she said, pure pleasure ringing in her tone, "how did you guess?"

With that, "Narcissa" shimmered, stretched, and changed into the arrogant and triumphant figure of Lucius Malfoy.

"Severus' stupidity."

"Enlighten me."

"He described you as having been bled dry when he arrived, but I had only felt Draco's pain moments before he would have seen your body, so I knew that you had done something clever."

"And it has been gnawing away at you, has it?"


"Well, I did promise you more sophisticated fare when you visited, and I am a . . . man of my word."

"That is excellent because I am a woman of mine."

"An unfortunate lack with which I will never reproach you when you are on your knees."

Harry extended her arms. "Come to me. I've waited too long for this."

Lucius narrowed his eyes slightly. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

"Oh, you're quite right." Harry said, sinking to the floor and shoved her arms out to her sides, her left one sliding under the sofa.

Lucius gave a deep-throated chuckle. "I appreciate your enthusiasm, though I see you need to be reminded as to form." He began to undress. "Stand again, girl. Stand, and let me see that body without all the lovely silk."

Harry obeyed him, though she did not drop her dress to the floor. She raked her eyes harshly over the form of the man before her.

Lucius did not care for her expression, but decided to be patient with her. After all, his son's little . . . experiment had not occurred above a week ago. He could afford to break the girl in slowly. Now that the Dark Lord no longer paid him any heed, he had all the time for which a man--or a woman--could ask.

"Do not be coy, Cleo. I have been waiting for this a long time, as well."

"As you say." Harry dropped her gown, stepped back, and raised her wand in one fluid movement. "Stupefy!" she cried.

The look on Malfoy's face was most gratifying.

His visage retained the shocked expression, even thirteen hours later when the Aurors arrived to find that his head had been detached from his body.

Somewhere near the far end of Hogsmeade, Hermione Granger lay cold and stiff on top of the bloody body of the man she loved. A pregnant witch hovered over her, trying to convince her to come into the relative safety of her home, but had no success in persuading the younger woman to move.

"I'll look it up, Ron. I'll look it up. There has to be a book. I know that there's a book. I'll figure out a way to fix you. You'll be okay, I promise. Oh, please, please--there has to be a book . . . ."

It was in this state that Albus Dumbledore found the children. He knew that he did not have much time.


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