A shopping trip for Voldemort. Peter gets a prize. Hagrid domesticates an animal.
Acknowledgements - IP82, Fairy Qilan, ChuckDaTruck, Sirus009, Smeagolita and Nukular Winter really help polish this story to make it better than I possibly could alone.
Chapter 18 - For sale one Weasley twin slightly damaged
The older man looming above Remus Lupin wore a mask of pure hatred. He was approaching his sixtieth year on this planet. For the first twenty-one years he was known as Morris Collins, a pureblood of no real consequence. Morris was a shy and reserved Hufflepuff, with very little magical ability. He had been content to be a good little worker in the Ministry, hoping his hard work would elevate him to great heights in the Ministry. That all changed one moonlit nigh, whent a pack of desperate werewolves attacked the small cluster of homes where Morris Collins meticulously maintained his quaint little home. How he had screamed when one of them broke through the window and leapt into his den. The claws raked across Morris's chest drawing blood. The young inexperienced wizard hastily attempted the reductor curse at point blank range and severely injured the werewolf in front of him. The creature stumbled into him and sank her yellowing teeth into his shoulder, marking him before she died.
Like the good little drone he was, Morris reported everything to the aurors on the scene. They congratulated him on killing the she-wolf, but looked on in sadness at the messy wound on his shoulder, before portkeying him to St. Mungo's. Morris wasn't too worried. He had his job, his family and a promising relationship with a witch named Carla McKinnon.
Two months later, Morris had been fired from his low level ministry position, his family was actually paying him to stay away from them and his sweet Carla had left him for one of the Prewett boys. It was there in his small, no longer clean home, crouching naked in a cast iron cage that his family had generously given him for his use that Morris Collins ceased to exist. When the full moon rose that night, Morris Collins was no more. In his place, stood Fenrir Greyback.
Greyback had tasted the milk of human hatred and spit it back into their faces. He embraced the darkness within him. It stoked the fires of his magic, turning his faint flame into a roaring inferno. He stopped using the cage. He began making acquaintances among the criminals and the lowlifes. Carla Mckinnon Prewett's mauled body was his fifth kill or at least the fifth one that he remembered. Somewhere along the way, he sired the Lupin boy in the mid 1960's. From what little he recalled, he had been trying to kill the boy, but had been driven off by the boy's father. After the invention of the Wolfsbane potion, it was almost a spiritual revelation for Fenrir He could now control his beast and fully enjoy the killings. He loved the foul tasting potion even with its debilitating side affects. It allowed him to harness the monster within him. Most of his kind, the ones too afraid to embrace their animal, would use the potion to fight the urges. Greyback took a more practical approach using his knowledge combined with the wolf instincts to make him a ferocious monster. He would train both magically and physically for the weeks prior to his transformation adding muscle to his frame. He wore a runic charm collar to help protect him while in his true form. His ultimate goal was to become the perfect killing machine.
Ten years after he had been reborn, even his own family would not have been able to recognize him, but oh did the other werewolves of England know him. He was Alpha having killed the previous Alpha in 1966. Even the Alphas of the other packs feared Greyback. In the 1970's, he allied himself and his pack with the wizard known as Lord Voldemort. He saw a kindred spirit with a thirst for power and a hunger for domination. Things were promising until the Dark Lord fell in 1981. The pack he formed broke up. Several of the fools thought themselves to be new Alphas. Several dead fools later, Greyback was still Alpha. From time to time, he would have dealings with the wizard world. His glamours allowed him to resume life under the guise of none other than Morris Collins. He kept ties to the Dark Lord's followers, they kept him funded and his diminished pack and he assisted in some of Malfoy and Nott's more unsavory problems. Greyback had never taken the mark, but he was no less a Death Eater than any of the others. The Dark Lord understood that bearing another's mark on an Alpha was a sign of weakness.
The time between the Dark Lord's fall and his return were lean times for the pack. Caves were often homes. The generosity of the Dark Lord's inner circle was unreliable. Of course when they needed someone eliminated or something they deemed beneath them done, they would come to him with false smiles and gifts 'befitting a leader of the werewolves'. Other times, he would be treated with disdain and contempt, like 'the family member no one really wants to see.' Perhaps in seeing him, they realized how close they had come to losing their mansions and their trophy whores.
Greyback continued to exist on the fringes of society until the Dark Lord's return. He made contact through Augustus Rookwood instead of Malfoy or Nott. Rookwood was more appreciative of his kind. Pity he did not have the wealth of the other families. He was much less smug than the others, but perhaps it was that very fact that made Rookwood more acceptable than others. True, werewolves suffer from their obvious metal poisonings, but others suffer from the poison of gold running through their veins. A person like Malfoy would wither and die with no gold. His idea of roughing it was a cell in Azkaban. He knew than nothing less. A person like Malfoy would be the weak link of a pack.
So, it was with Rookwood at his side that Greyback once again prostrated himself in front of Lord Voldemort. It was like spring had finally arrived after a long and desolate winter. He was ordered to return his pack to its former glory. For the last year he had recruited the strong and the cunning, turning his pack of survivalists into a fighting force waiting to be unleashed.
These thoughts crossed his mind as he continued the relentless beating of Remus Lupin. The offending smell of urine flooded his enhanced senses, infuriating Fenrir. This was one of his more comfortable safe houses. It would take forever to get the smell out.
"Is that all you got? I'm disappointed in you!" Remus Lupin heard the voice growl while a steel toe boot slammed into his stomach for a second time. He doubted there were apparition wards, but from the pounding in his head he knew that apparition was not an option. He was bleeding internally and his right foot was pointed in the wrong direction as he struggled to protect his vital organs from the physical beating.
"Did you think I wouldn't find out about Foster and Jensen's deaths? I figured you were behind it! Did you actually believe that you could catch me off guard? The 'light side's pet werewolf'! Hah! Do they give you fresh bedding? Do they scratch you behind the ear to see if your paws will thump on the ground? Maybe if you are good enough they might let you get a job again? You disgust me Lupin! Killing you own kind! You know what happens to traitors, dontcha? I brought you into our world and now it falls to me to remove you from it!" The boot kicked this time into Remus' right knee cap and triggered a scream of agony from the injured wizard.
"So scared you have pissed all over yourself. What would your friends say now?" Fenrir said eyeing the dagger in his hands, the same one Lupin nearly used to end his life. The tiny drips of silver shimmering on the blade. "Any last words before I deliver vengeance of the Alpha?"
Greyback raised the dagger for its final strike when a section of the wall exploded. A thundering mass of human flesh slammed into him, knocking him across the room. Greyback lost his grip on his wand, but held on to the dagger. He scrambled to his feet and stared into the eyes of Rubeus Hagrid brandishing an axe gleaming in some places, bloodstained in others. Greyback was no small man, but the half-giant towered above him.
Hagrid leapt forward bringing the axe down in a forceful slash that splintered the floorboards. Fenrir barely rolled to the side. Fenrir immediately closed the slashed with the dagger and opened a jagged wound on Hagrid's arm. It was enough to make the larger man loose his grip on the axe. Seizing his advantage, Greyback closed the distance stabbing Hagrid repeatedly in a relentless onslaught. For a brief shining moment, Greyback thought that his ferocity would carry him through to victory. That illusion shattered along with his jaw when Hagrid's put his full weight into his counterpunch. If Fenrir Greyback had a moment to clearly see the situation, he would have been impressed by his adversary's strength and power. Hagrid grabbed him and slammed him into the wall. If the half-breed would only just let him go, he would apparate away to safety. Unfortunately, Hagrid had no such intention as he punished the leader of the werewolves making what few injuries Lupin had managed to inflict seem like mere love taps.
With a primal roar Greyback was lifted into the air and smashed down onto the kitchen table. How he managed to stay conscious Greyback would never know. One of his fingers gouged at the halfbreed's eyes evoking a howl of pain as the massive man staggered back. He was free. The room was spinning and pain wracked his body. He had to focus and clear his mind if he was going to apparate to safety. That's all he needed. He would be safe in just a moment.
Fenir Greyback's moment of clarity came only after the massive silver axe with the force of a raging monster behind it ripped through his midsection; shattering his spine and cutting him and the table he lay on in two.
Hagrid looked around as he dripped blood onto the floor. He retrieved Harry's knife and took a moment to claim his prize, before working his way back to the battered form of Remus Lupin.
"I told yah to wait for me Remus. You're a mess." He said. Hagrid looked around a found Greyback's wand. He used it to lift the wounded werewolf onto a bearskin rug. He reached into his pants pockets to retrieve the portkey. "Hang in there Lupin, Poppy will get you fixed up in no time."
The glamours covering Lord Voldemort's face were impressive. His normally pale face and mostly non-existent nose were replaced with a healthy looking face of a man in his early forties. A fake hairpiece covered his head with false brown hair. It was an odd feeling having hair again. All in all, Voldemort looked like a normal everyday wizard going about his normal business as dusk approached in the Wizarding community. He walked the streets of Diagon Alley casually as he stretched his legs. Secret headquarters were nice, but what is the point of being the most powerful wizard in the world if, he could not get out and be among the people occasionally. He toyed with the notion of removing his glamours and appearing in his true form. With Peter away in Sweden and his other various minions occupied in their tasks, Voldemort had actually assigned himself this mission.
He approached his target, Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes. There was a sign telling people not to worry about him, but worry about 'you-know-poo'. Voldemort was amazed that this pair of fools would actually open a store, permanently fixing themselves to a single location. They were either foolishly brave or thought so very little of him. Either way they would pay dearly. None of his current hostages would be of enough value to Dumbledore and Potter to exchange for Penelope. One of these two would suffice. As he approached he sized up the wards protecting the shop. They were fairly impressive, but still one can only ward a public store so well if you actually wanted to have customers come in to your shop. The more potent wards would also have to wait until the shop closed for the day, which wouldn't be for another ten minutes.
He grasped the handle only to have it turn into a tongue and lick his hand. It was disgusting, but original. He squeezed the tongue and yanked the door open. A voice announced the words 'fresh meat' as he walked into the store. The store was full of nonsensical items such as biting teakettles, fireworks, and even a few muggle items that he recognized from his years living among them. He wiped the saliva off of his hand while he briefly entertained the effect of a dozen 'whoopee' cushions at his next meeting, before discarding the notion.
He pauses to look at a display of garments enchanted with a basic shield spell, nothing in the league of body armor, but probably appealing and affordable to the masses.
"Some of our best sellers. Even the ministry is looking at a procurement contract." One of the Weasley twins approached him. There were a few shoppers finishing their purchases.
"You would be surprised at the number of people who can't cast a basic shield correctly."
"Actually, I see it all the time." Voldemort responded thinking of all the people he has killed in his lifetime.
"If you are interested, we're on back order right now. These are just the display models. It's hard to keep them stocked right now. If you want to make a deposit, we'll have the next batch ready in three days."
"Looks like you have a rather prosperous business so far. I haven't been in Zonko's in several years, but it looks like you have a competitive inventory." Voldemort was not above complimenting the wizard. If it wasn't for their family loyalties and his current requirements he wouldn't even bother with them.
"They haven't had any real competition in a long time other than Gambol and Japes. Their product lines are stagnant. It's been over three years since they introduced anything new and even then it was just some rebranded French products that they import from the continent."
"Stagnation is the bane of industry and government. Change is good. Competition promotes innovation." Voldemort said and realized that he wasn't as successful at tuning Peter out as he had thought.
Fred Weasley, as he introduced himself was very helpful. He demonstrated a few of the fake wands that turned into various ridiculous items and showed him some of the newer products. Voldemort noticed the pride in the young wizards voice as told the story behind the creation of 'you-know-poo'. Apparently, it was the fourth formula that really added the kick to the product. The first three variations just didn't cut it.
"And here is our latest product, the Instant Predict-a-Death Crystal Ball, for all the kiddies who need some inspiration with their divination homework. I'll demonstrate it for you." Fred said touching the ball.
A voice boomed out, "Fred Weasley will die a horrible death when mistaking Acromantula venom for Milkweed extract during a potion making accident!"
"Would you like to try it?"
"No, perhaps some other time." Lord Voldemort took a moment to wonder if it would shout his name or if the detecting spell on the toy would be blocked by his Occulmency.
"Well, I hate to sound like I am trying to hurry you up, but we have a small celebration planned for our friends this evening." Fred gestured to the counter where his twin and another male stood with three young witches.
"What is the occasion?"
"Both Alicia and the lovely Angelina have both just signed their professional quidditch contracts."
"My congratulations. Which team will you be playing for?"
The other twin chimed in, "Lee if you would the introductions."
The black boy grabbed his wand like a microphone. "Now starting for the Falmouth Falcons in the number two chaser position, the Ebony goddess of flight, she-who-shall-score with the quaffle and according to Fred without the quaffle as well - Angelina Johnson!" The black girl smiled and then chucked a random item off of the shelves behind her at the announcer.
The boy ducked it with practiced ease and continued, "And our next budding star, joining the Chudley Cannons as the number one reserve chaser, but seeing how badly they play she'll be starting by mid-season. I give you the Dive Bombing Dominatrix, a woman who will prove that beauty can be found even in the hideous Canon Orange - Alicia Spinnet." Alicia now joined Angelina in hurling items at Lee. One of the items was a stuffed bear with a padded beater bat. It animated when it hit the cash register and was now attempting to strike the announcer with its weapon. A second prank had hit the boy and his hair was changing colors. Fred was laughing and identified it as the 'four second hair coloring kit', which featured a new hair color every four seconds for the next hour.
Voldemort remembered the boy as the school quidditch announcer from his time lurking in Quirrell's mind. He chuckled recalling the staff meetings after the matches and watching the Heads of Gryffindor and Slytherin argue about his announcing. "You both must be very talented."
"Thanks! I think Lee is a bit off though, it's the seeker and the weak beaters that are holding the Canons back. Their chasers are good, so I'll have to work if I want to break into the starting lineup. Who do you support?"
"I haven't really followed quidditch in a long time, but I plan on attending some games in the future. I had hoped to attend the last world cup, but obstacles kept getting in my way." Ironically, one of the last games he attended featured most of the people in this room playing. He was focused on killing Potter at the time, but what little he remembered was entertaining.
"At least you missed the Death Eaters then." The blonde girl said shivering slightly.
"Yes, I suppose I did." He answered ruefully. It was slightly distasteful that he was about to ruin their little celebration. He had hoped to come in and take one or both of them and leave, but it apparently was not to be.
"Well if I could show you the door sir, we'll be happy to have you back tomorrow or any other business day."
"Actually, I do have need of something in this store." He said pulling his wand out. "I need both of you Weasleys to come with me and no one else will have to suffer."
"You're a Death Eater!" The other twin screamed from behind the counter. Voldemort stunned Fred and pointed his wand at the five people. The black boy went for his wand only to get hit by the killing curse. The blonde and the other twin also pulled their wands. He easily reflected the girl's stunner and the boy's cutting hex back at them. The girl dropped like a sack of potatoes and George Weasley lurched forward onto the counter spurting blood from his neck caused by his reflected cutting curse. The final two girls stood in open-mouthed horror unable to move from the shock.
He stepped forward to the counter and moved the head. It was already too late for the wizard. The wound was too deep - killed by his own spell. He was dead already, but his body just hadn't realized that. In an almost absurd coincidence, the 'beater bear' continued to swat the head of the now dead Lee Jordan, whose hair was still changing colors. The whole time Voldemort kept his wand trained on the two remaining girls.
"I assume you know Potter." The black girl managed to nod. The other one was in near hysterics. He stunned her. You can't hold a conversation with hysterical women. It was difficult enough to hold one with one in the room.
"Tell him I have this one. If he wants him back, we can arrange for a trade. I will send the details." He summoned the previously stunned girls wand and envernated her. He watched as she came to and stared at him in horror. "What is your name?"
"Katie Bell, you murdering bastard!" He noticed the black girl was attempting to calm her down.
"You have good reflexes and a fast wand draw. I could use a few more people with your skills."
"I'll never be a Death Eater and serve your sick fucking master! I kill you! You bastard! Angelina, let me go!" She was practically foaming at the mouth. Angelina was restraining her.
"Let her go miss." Voldemort said. The girl had spirit and she was correct she would never be a Death Eater or anything else.
"No, Katie. He'll kill you."
"Here is your wand little girl." He hissed as he tossed it onto the counter. He let the glamours fall away from his face. "I am the sick master girl!" She shrank back realizing that he wasn't just some run of the mill Death Eater. "Yes that's it. I see your fear, but you already said you wouldn't serve me and you have drawn your wand against me. So pickup your wand like a good girl and prepare to die."
She trembled in fear. Angelina wasn't doing much better.
"Stay there and die or take your wand and die, it doesn't matter to me. Your death was assured the moment you insulted me." The girl grabbed her wand and threw her best curse. He blocked it and killed her. He tilted his head sideways as he watched the killing curse quench the light in her eyes.
"A pity, she had some potential." He said looking at Angelina.
"She was my friend!"
"When she drew her wand, she became my enemy."
"Are you going to kill me now?"
"Why would I do that? I want you to deliver a message to Potter and Dumbledore that if they want this one back, they'll give me what I want."
"You're a killer."
"Yes, I kill those that stand in my way. It's a natural talent. You and your friend there didn't draw your wands. Therefore, you don't have to die, today. Somewhere along the way people have gotten the idiotic impression that I want to kill everyone. Who would be left to rule, if I kill everyone? Deliver my message and when it comes time for you to make a choice, I suggest you choose not to stand in my way." He said before he stunned her.
He levitated the stunned form of Fred Weasley. He would need to walk out of the store before he cleared the Anti-apparition wards. Pausing for a moment he lowered his mental shields and placed his hand on the crystal ball.
"Lord Voldemort will die because of a plot by the House Elves!" The voice cried out. He let a thin smile cross his lips at the ridiculous statement as he floated his hostage out the door beyond the wards. He triggered the Dark Mark and apparated both himself and Fred Weasley away in front of a few stunned shoppers who had suddenly spotted the Dark Lord standing in their midst.
The Weasley family clock now resided in the Ravenclaw common room next to the window. Ravenclaw tower had a very nice view of the setting sun. Terry Boot and his girlfriend Mandy Brocklehurst were taking full advantage of the fact that the others were in the dining hall for a bit of good old fashioned snogging. Both seemed ready to take their relationship to the next level, when the clock chimed loudly interrupting them. They watched one of the hands fall off and onto the carpet. A second one, rotated from 'Mortal Peril' to 'Lost'.
"So technically you would be my great, great, great grand uncle." Neville Longbottom said as he looked around the spartan quarters assigned to Darius Longbottom.
"I see. You friend Harry speaks well of you. I regret that we have not met beforehand." The vampire answered still fairly certain of what would have transpired had he suddenly arrived at the gates of the manor and announced his presence. The boy had an eager to please puppy dog look on his face.
"Is it true that you are going to be teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts this year?"
"The headmaster has asked me to teach. I may be more suited to teach potions. I have more practical experience in recent times in that field. He is finalizing his plans and when he does, he has promised to tell me which course I will be instructing."
Neville took that in. This probably meant that Snape was finally going to achieve his dream of teaching Defense, but Potions might finally be tolerable. "Potions! Really? That would be brilliant!"
"Indeed. So, tell me about yourself and Hogwarts. It has been over eighty years since I have been in Britain. What classes do you like? I have heard from Wulf about this conflict, but I would like to hear it from your perspective."
Coedus sat back and listen to Neville talk about his fascination with Herbology, Hogwarts and the war. It wasn't particularly interesting, but it passed the time. Time being something Coedus had in abundance. He had at times worked in various apothecaries throughout Europe to make ends meet. Several of the shops he worked at preferred his nocturnal habits that allowed him to work late into the evening. He was by no stretch of the imagination a potion's master, but he was competent and capable. He would prefer to teach Defense. He would also prefer to have his magic back and feel his heart beat again, but the world has shown a certain indifference to his wants.
He casually asked questions while Neville spoke. The boy seemed reluctant to speak of Potter's adventures as the recent traitorous plot had emphasized the importance of being circumspect in one's tales. Coedus did not pressure him for answers that he did not wish to give. He would learn these things in due time. The boy lacked any male influence in his life. He was meek and reserved. Coedus could change that.
"So do you intend on dating this Luna girl you speak of." He almost enjoyed Neville's discomfort.
"Well I hope so. I am still trying to figure out how to ask her."
"Neville, part of succeeding in both magic and life is visualizing your success. You don't sound like a person who is convinced that he is going to be successful. Life will not provide for you unless you make it. There is a cemetery full of our dead kin that will testify to that fact. You must become more confident in your abilities. I will help you to realize your potential. Would you like that?"
"Very much so sir." Neville answered wide-eyed.
"Now that you are here and able to perform magic within the confines of the castle, I would like to see your offensive and defensive capabilities. If I do end up teaching Defense, I would like to see what caliber of talent I have to work with. Let's go to a classroom."
"Actually, would you like to go to the Room of Requirement?" Neville offered.
"I had heard some of you mention this room, but I do not recall this from my days here."
"Well, it was a secret room, but the secret's pretty much out in the open now. The room is utterly brilliant. All you have to do is think what you want and it provides it. Need a dueling arena? Done. Study area? You bet!"
"Indoor quidditch stadium?" Coedus asked more interested in the room's limitations than actually having an indoor stadium, although it did have a certain appeal.
"Err, I don't know if anyone has done that before. Sounds pretty big. The only downside is that you can't take anything out of the room. It disappears. Ron told me once that Demelza and Natalie had turned it into a pool and were coming out wearing bathrobes and they kinda just disappeared right in front of him leaving the two of them starkers."
"Interesting. Very well then Neville, show me this room that will attempt to mold itself to my imagination."
Coedus followed his relative through the hallways as he wondered what he could do with such a room at his disposal. The possibilities intrigued him
The hair on the left side of his head was burnt and the skin around it blistered by the heat of the fire spell that had almost blinded him. He had cuts and bruises on his body, some still oozed blood when he walked. Still, he would show no weakness. It was beneath him and his new image. Peter walked proud and upright into the central chamber. Over his right shoulder was the stunned body of Luna Lovegood charmed to be weightless. He approached the table, stopping to bend to one knee and bow before his master. Standing, he brought his prize to his master. The eyes of several inner circle members were on him as he laid the girl on the table.
"Well done, Peter. I take it there was some resistance."
"The father was nothing. He is dead, but this one fought well. She is quick and agile. I sent the two recruits that accompanied me to the mediwizard already."
"Take her to the cells and then go see someone in the infirmary."
"Yes master." Peter said picking up the body. He turned to walk away, but stopped looking in the eyes of Lucius Malfoy. "What is it Malfoy?"
"Just wondering how badly, the little girl beat you?"
"You wouldn't want to face her Malfoy. Considering the list of people who have recently handed you your ass includes a house elf named Dobby." Peter retorted. "It was the highlight of my time as a rat listening to Harry Potter tell that story. Plus you couldn't handle Narcissa. What makes you think you could handle her?"
Malfoy moved his hand towards his cane containing his wand, but Peter shifted the body on his shoulder to reveal his wand was already in his hand. "Do you wish to add a rat to that list as well?"
Peter smiled as Malfoy returned his hand to the table and continued on his way chuckling in a raspy voice as he left the chamber. Master was pleased with him. His position in the Organizational Chart was secure. One of his precious books had several chapters on dealing with political office bullies. They have been invaluable in dealing with the Malfoys and McNairs of the world. A nice leisurely walk carried him to the dungeons. A pair of Death Eaters sitting at the desk looked up as he approached.
"Special guest of the master. Not to be touched without his permission." Peter answered.
"Cell one is empty."
He walked past the cells and heard a familiar voice, "Bloody hell, Luna! You bastards!" Peter stopped and turned. The boy in front of him looked none the worse for wear. He must also be a protected prisoner. Peter recognized the red hair.
"Is this Gred or Forge?"
"Fred. How do you know me?"
"I lived at the burrow for almost twelve years."
"Pettigrew!" Fred Weasley hissed.
"In the flesh. Well except for the hand. Good to see you again Fred. How are things?"
"How the hell do you think they are? I'm in here!"
"Rather snappish of you, young man. I've been away for the past few days. Just let me deposit Ms. Lovegood here and I can come back and catch up."
"What makes you think I want to talk to you?"
"Well you're the one who started this conversation. I figured you might be bored. One of the things I missed after I left your family was all the unusual gossip. I hear Bill is getting along with that French girl? Do you think they'll be getting married? I was just teasing Lucius about his ex running off with Charlie - any news from them? I heard you and George opened the joke shop you've been dreaming of all this time. I've got some good prank ideas if you are interested. Some of the old Marauder stuff and some new stuff I've come up with over the years."
Fred stared at the short and plump Death Eater for a moment, not believing his ears. "I don't want to talk to you! Leave me alone!" Fred screamed. He couldn't comprehend that the Death Eater was talking to him like they were old friends.
"Fine, I'll come back when you are more reasonable." Peter said walking towards the designated cell.
It was the next day and word had spread of the tragedy at Fred and George's shop. Alicia was home with her parents and not taking things well, but her brother the auror brought Angelina to Hogwarts after taking her statement. Fawkes retrieved Harry from his house and brought him and Susan to Hogwarts for the day. Harry asked Angelina to provide the memory of the fight. At first she was shocked that he would want to see it, but then he explained that he is attempting to learn how to fight him by studying how Voldemort fights. She agreed, glad to be rid of the painful clarity of the memory. The distraught young woman was sent on her way and Auror Spinnet was given a message to give to the minister, who wished to know what exactly the Dark Lord was requesting. Harry and Dumbledore both viewed the memory from start to finish. Harry was troubled at watching more of his friends perish at Voldemort's hands. George had been like a brother. Lee had been a good friend and a constant source of entertainment. Katie was a pretty girl who had helped him out so much his first year on the Gryffindor quidditch team.
"Will you provide your memories of fighting him?" Harry asked
"I will. We have crossed wands a total of four times including the battle at the ministry." Dumbledore answered.
"I'll need every advantage I can get. Right now the only advantage I can see is that he doesn't really take me seriously. While he is showboating and grandstanding, I am going to kill him if I can."
"He has a vast array of spells at his disposal." Dumbledore cautioned.
"True, but he is bound to favor some over the others. My intention is to master spells that work best against the spells he favors. Is Professor Flitwick in the castle?"
"He is due back from his vacation next Friday. You would like his assistance?"
"Yes. He was a professional duelist and his take on how Riddle fights will be useful. I hope he will help me develop a strategy for fighting him. He may even know some of the obscure spells I saw him use at Azkaban."
"I will arrange for you to speak with him. If he decides to assist you, it will be his choice. He gave up dueling after an unfortunate death during a match. Filius has even turned down repeated requests to teach Defense. You will need to convince him to help you."
"Are there any others who have memories that I could use?"
"None that I know of. Igor might have fought alongside of him, but he has been missing for two months and I fear the worst has happened to Drumstang's headmaster. I will check Alastor's personal effects. They have been left to me. He also possessed a pensieve and perhaps he also had a collection similar to the one you are creating."
Dumbledore looked up for a moment. "Professor Snape is coming up the stairs." Harry wondered how he had known. There were rumors that the castle told him things, but that was mostly due to all the portraits reporting various happenings to the headmaster.
"Welcome Severus. What brings you here?"
"The Dark Lord has tasked me with negotiating an exchange of prisoners. He demands Penelope be released. In exchange, Potter may have either the surviving Weasley twin or the Lovegood girl, whomever he decides to save? Neither have been tortured as of yet, but the one he does not choose will suffer. I have been assured of this." Severus said savoring the look of defeat crossing both of their faces. His master was a true genius of psychological torture forcing Potter to decide which of his friends would be saved and which would not.
"How long have we been given to reach a decision?" Dumbledore asked.
"I am to return in twenty four hours time for your answer. The prisoners will be safe until then."
"Very well return to him Severus."
Harry bit his tongue not to say anything to Snape as his cloak billowed out of the room. He fought to control his hands as they trembled. Harry knew he hated the man, but for the first time he wanted to cause him pain. As soon as the door closed behind Snape, Harry drew his wand and cast a privacy charm.
"How can you continue trusting him?" Harry screamed.
"I do not."
"Harry, I am not blind to what he is doing. I am reasonably certain he has made his choice to side with Tom. If not, he will be making it soon."
"How about a rescue?"
"Improbable. His headquarters is unplotable and Severus does not know or is not willing to share who the secret keeper is."
"Capture someone else? Convince the Minister to give us a couple of Death Eaters?"
"On such short notice, I don't think so. The Minister would not want to set a dangerous precedent of negotiating for hostage release."
"I don't want to have to choose between Fred and Luna. That's sick!"
"At the moment, I do not see any other options."
Two minutes of silence pass before either says anything. "What if we give him something more valuable?"
Dumbledore's eyes narrowed. "Just what do you have in mind, Harry? If you plan on trading yourself, don't even entertain the idea."
"Good evening, Mr. Malfoy." Marcus Flint said looking up from his desk. The glory of being a Death Eater had slightly worn off seeing how all he had been doing since the initiation raid was guarding prisoners with two of the other newly initiated Death Eaters. Most recently, his job was tuning out the screams from the young women that Lucius Malfoy brutalized on a regular basis. 'No wonder his wife left him' the young death eater thought on several occasions.
"Yes, Marcus is it? I came to offer you a bit of a break. I want to interrogate one of the prisoners and would like not to be disturbed for the next three hours."
"Understood sir. The prisoners in cells one, four, five and six enjoy the Master's protection. The others you may do with as you please."
Lucius watched the young man get up to leave. "Oh, Marcus? Obliviate." Lucius blanked the previous five seconds from the young man's mind. It was such an insignificant change that even the Master would have difficulties detecting.
Lucius watched as the dumbfounded idiot left the room never knowing that his mind had been tampered with. He cast a locking charm on the door and headed towards the first cell. The little blonde girl in there looked quite a bit like Narcissa when he first met her, so young and pretty. Since the traitorous bitch was not here to pay, this one would have to do. She was the rat's little trophy - Peter's great achievement of the week. All the more reason to do what he is planning. Since being freed from Azkaban, it had been one disappointment after another in Lucius Malfoy's life. He needed this. He craved this. He would not be denied this.
Luna Lovegood looked up. Her pretty face marred by tears and bruises. Her father and mother were waiting for her on the other side and from the look on Lucius Malfoy's face they would not be waiting very long.
"Anything to say, you little piece of worthless trash?" He glared at her while running his wand lecherously across her cheek. He had a hungry look in his eyes.
"Why is the sky blue?" She answered with her large blue-grey eyes.
"What?" Those who knew her would not have been surprised at her style of question.
"Well the muggles have their answer, but I have never heard a good answer from the magical world. It makes me wonder if magic is the answer for everything?" She answered simply.
Lucius Malfoy did not know why the sky was blue, nor did he really care. There were many things Lucius did not know, but violence rape and torture he knew all too well. He turned and cast a silencing charm. It was not normal procedure to use the silencing charm in the cells. The screams of terror did wonders for loosening the other prisoner's tongues. However, Lucius had something other than the normal procedure on his mind as he leered at the girl.
'Those bastards have Luna.' It was the only thought on Neville's mind. The greasy bastard had made sure to mention it to Mrs. Weasley loudly enough for some of the students to hear. He also mentioned that they were only going to trade for Fred or Luna and that Harry would have to choose. Looking around he saw the look of despair on Ginny's face as she dealt with the knowledge that her words had resulted in Luna's capture. There was a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. Harry would choose Fred. He knew it. Everyone knew it. The few Ravenclaws there seemed relatively unaffected by the idea that Luna would suffer. They were probably the same people who like to make fun of her and enjoyed hiding her things.
He wanted to hit something or better yet someone. It wasn't fair! She deserved better than this! He saw Harry walking down the hallway from the headmaster's office. Neville realized his angry wandering had carried him in this direction for a purpose.
Harry's eyes acknowledged him and he nodded curtly.
"Harry, I just heard." Neville's voice had a touch of desperation to it. "I know nobody else is going to say it, but please choose Luna."
"I can't talk about this right now Nev. I don't want to choose between either of them." Harry said angrily.
"Please you have to save her!"
"Neville, I understand, but I can't talk about it right now. The headmaster is going over our options and I need to find Susan and go back to headquarters."
Neville watched him go not really caring for anyone else's anguish but his own. Walking away, Neville continued making his way to the exit from the castle to the greenhouse. Professor Sprout does most of her work before breakfast, so the greenhouses were quiet and peaceful in the evenings. On a few occasions, especially the weekends, he encountered couples sneaking in a snog amongst the greenery. He had heard many versions of the phrase 'Get the hell out of here, Longbottom!' some much more colorful than others.
Even when he was at home, he liked to work in the gardens. There was a quiet serenity to working with the flora. He traced his love of plants back to his early life when his Gran was at a loss what to do with a preconscious little boy, so the stern woman put him to work weeding the gardens. It was the first time she ever told him that he had done something right that Neville remembered. She actually had smiled at him! It was the one thing his Gran would consistently praise him for, though she was always on him about how the weeds can easily get out of control if you let them go.
Neville liked to equate life to a greenhouse. There were the good plants and the ones that were simply weeds, taking everything and giving nothing back in return. While he pondered he picked away at the small weeds that were trying to take hold around a medicinal bloom used in skele-gro. It was important to take care of the little weeds before they took hold. He worked smoothly and efficiently through several planting boxes.
'It's a shame life isn't more like a greenhouse.' He thought to himself trying to keep his mind off thoughts of his friend. Grabbing a pair of pruning shears he set about removing some of the dead foliage to make a bigger healthier plant. Professor Sprout would be pleased.
Author's notes - As you can see this is an infrequent update while I study. Studying is going well for those that care. I plan to take the test in the first week of July. See my discussion thread on Darklordpotter(dot)net for the full version of the Author's notes. Not a long chapter, but rather brutal for the heroes and villains. Is it just me, or does the twins opening up a shop in the Alley during a war where there family is a prominent combatant strike you as a very ill-advised move? Jim