The aftermath of the attack at St. Mungo's; the news spreads quickly, in all directions. Gwen pays a visit, and Theo makes his own 'fateful' decision. Fred and George make a delivery...oh, goodie...
Bella lay prostrate on the floor at Voldemort's feet, her hands clenched in frustration. The Dark Lord paced back and forth for several minutes, and then looked down at the Witch at his feet. He felt no fear emanating from her, just impotent rage.
"I sense you feelings of...disappointment, Bella, my pet. Arise."
Bella rose, but stood with her head down. Voldemort put one long, white, bony finger under her chin and brought her face up to enable their eyes to meet.
"Tell me what happened. /Everything/, as you remember."
"We...we Apparated into the main lobby and immediately targeted the staff members. As the others started stunning the few civilians who were there, I, with Avery and Nott, went down the hall to the stairwell, stunning anyone we encountered. The door to the stairs was sealed, but easily opened, well, blasted out of our way. We ran up the stairs and the door to the Fourth floor was also sealed."
"Not unsurprisingly. Go on."
"Again, we just blasted our way through. We could see through the windows of the ward door that something had been put against the door; a feeble attempt at barricading. The three of us hit the doors with our spells at the same time, blowing them and the useless junk out of the way....but...but..."
"The ward was /empty/; the Longbottoms were /gone/, there was no Ward Matron or Healer.../nobody/..."
"I understand Avery and Nott had to physically pull you back, in order to return to the lobby and make your escape."
"Yes, Master, I showed great weakness from the shock of the situation...Mercy, Master...I couldn't believe I'd...we'd been thwarted once again. I couldn't think for a few moments."
"But you and your strike team did manage to return to me with minimal injuries."
"So, where could they have gone?"
"I don't know, Master, I don't understand..."
"Don't you, Bella? Let me explain; Dumbledore and quite possibly Anna Twigg-Jones, planned for this escape. The fact that they were so concerned with protecting the Longbottoms has just provided me with an answer to one of the riddles in this little dance we are doing with dear old Albus."
"Answer?" Bella was totally confused.
"I believe Alice Longbottom is that bitch Twigg-Jones' Secret Keeper."
"/What/!? But, Master, that's /impossible/...Alice Longbottom..."
"Is incapable? Oh, I think she's perfectly capable or at least available/, on some level; the perfect choice. Who would she tell? Would she be /capable of telling? Who would suspect /her/? I certainly didn't.../until now/. No, Bella, the Longbottom's safety was /paramount/, so this little scenario was thought through long ago; nearly a year, in fact. How.../interesting/."
"Then...someone was there with them."
"Of course. We'll hear who, soon enough, from the report of whom on the staff is missing. Then we'll know what names to add to our list."
"Yes, Master." Bella smiled wickedly.
"It was a valiant effort on your part, Bella; well planned and executed."
"Thank you, Ma...AAAAHHHHHHH!" Bella screamed and rolled on the floor.
"But you still /failed/," finished Voldemort, as he continued with the Cruciatus Curse/. "And I am /NOT pleased."
Wally swooped in through the open kitchen door and landed on the back of Anna's chair. He hooted and swiveled his head, listening to the sounds of the household. Footsteps were approaching and he turned to see Gwen come in from the hall.
"It's Wally!" she shouted back over her shoulder. "He's got a letter, too." Approaching the big owl, she reached out and scratched his head. "Hello, Wally, got something for us?"
The answering hoot was followed by the shifting of the owl's weigh so he could stick his leg out, revealing the knotted cord, holding the scroll of parchment.
"May I?" Gwen received a nod and untied the letter. "Here, Wally, have a treat."
Owl biscuit firmly clamped in his mouth, Wally took off to join his friend Oscar in the oak tree at the end of the garden.
Narcissa came into the kitchen, Lyn on her hip.
"Who's it from?" she asked, shifting her daughter, so the toddler couldn't grab the parchment.
Gwen was quickly scanning the pages, then looked up at the Cissa and smiled.
"Remus...it's to all of us, but Anna especially. I'd better take it into the parlor and read it aloud."
They walked down the hall and turned into the front parlor, which was looking more like a day nursery than an adult living space. There were teddy bears, balls, rattles and various other toys on the rug, where Anna and Severus were sitting, playing with their infant son and daughter.
"We've gotten a letter from Remus."
"And what does has our favorite werewolf have to say today, pray tell?" Anna smiled up at her.
"Bella and a gang of Death Eaters attacked St. Mungo's this morning."
"WHAT!" Severus turned, shocked, to stare at Gwen.
Anna put a hand on his arm, reassuringly, but she hadn't taken her eyes off of Gwen.
"Alice and Frank?"
"Safe and sound; your plan worked perfectly."
"Thank God." Anna fell back on the rug, hand on her forehead.
"Plan? What plan?" Narcissa asked, sitting down and lowering Lyn to the rug, handing her a stuffed dragon to play with.
"Yes, what plan?" echoed Severus, turning to his wife and raising his eyebrow.
"The night we were married, Albus and I went to St. Mungo's to make Alice my Secret Keeper. We also made a Portkey and left it on their nightstand. Artemus Pye had a memory charm applied, that lifted when the Death Eaters showed up and he got Frank and Alice out of there to a safe house that Albus has had set up for over a year."
"Not just Frank and Alice," interrupted Gwen, still going through the letter. "Says here, Penelope Clearwater was trapped in the ward with them and went along, taking care of Alice while Artemus handled Frank. They're all fine and settled, although they could use some food, soon, as the emergency stores aren't that extensive." She looked up and smiled, "I'll make a run this afternoon."
"Good, and take Dobby to help, just in case."
"Why would Bella take such a risk as to make an attack at St. Mungo's?" Severus wondered aloud, tuning to look at Cissa and then Anna.
"Unfinished business, if I know my dear Sister," said Cissa, then she shrugged. "Demented bitch."
"Cissa!" Anna chided, but grinned wickedly at her friend.
"I think it goes deeper than that," added Severus. "They were trying to bring home the point that they can attack anywhere; that nobody is safe."
"You're probably right about that, dear," Anna agreed.
"So where are they now? The Longbottoms, I mean," asked Severus as he picked up 'Ellie' as he had started calling his daughter, to avoid confusion with his Mother's name. She smiled and batted at his cheeks, giggling and looking around at the adults.
"Converted 'abandoned warehouse/factory' in Sheffield; totally outfitted as a hospital and triage center, and safe house. It used to belong to Christopher's brother, who sold it to him when he emigrated to Australia years ago." Anna explained.
"Warded and unplottable, I'm assuming. So they can stay put for the time being without worrying Longbo...Neville and his Gran?" Severus guessed.
"Yes, but I don't think they'll be staying there too long. We'll wait and see what kind of ruckus this raises first."
"Where were you going to have them live, if Augusta is at Hogwarts?" Narcissa inquired, gently extracting Noel from Lyn's grasp and tossing the fur ball to Severus. He put it on top of his head to keep it out of Ellie's reach, much to Cissa's amusement.
"We'll bring them here, and put them in to west wing guestrooms. I think being in a normal household setting like this will do wonders for them and I can work with them again, too." Anna sat up and swung Chris into the air, making the baby boy laugh and kick his legs.
"Well, first you have to define 'normal'," injected Eileen Snape, as she drifted into the room and settled on the side chair by the fireplace. "But come to think of it, those two were declared legally insane, so, actually, they'll fit right in, don't you agree?"
Lyn clapped her hands and laughed, followed by the adults, who agreed wholeheartedly; right bunch of nutters, all of them.
"That settles it then; I'll get started on a shopping list," declared Gwen, as she headed for the desk in the corner.
"Mr. Longbottom," called the Headmaster. "A word, please?"
Neville nodded and turned to the other Gryffindors, who were wending their way into the Great Hall for dinner.
"Be right there, ok?"
Walking over to where Dumbledore was standing with his Gran, Neville couldn't tell, from the rather grim expressions on their faces, if he was in trouble or he was about to hear bad news. It didn't look good, either way.
"There was an attack at St. Mungo's today."
Neville felt his stomach drop but the Headmaster quickly held up his hand.
"Your parents are safe and well, thanks to the quick actions of Artemus Pye and Penelope Clearwater. But, it will be, no doubt, front page news in the Daily Prophet tomorrow morning. Expect to hear and read all sorts of speculation as to the motive for the attack and also where your parents are at the moment."
"It was Bella Lestrange, wasn't it?"
"Yes. She led a half dozen Death Eaters. They did manage to escape."
"Where are Mum and Dad?"
"In a safe location, have no fear. Anna and Gwen made the arrangements months ago, in case of emergencies and as a gathering spot for scattered members of the Order, should the need arise."
"She really is a remarkable individual, our Anna," agreed Augusta Longbottom.
Neville smiled and nodded, thinking back to the rip-roaring shouting match Anna and Gran had engaged in, not so many years ago. How circumstances had changed.
"Well, I think I'll go share the news with everyone, so they'll not be shocked when the Prophet arrives tomorrow morning."
"Splendid idea. Let's go in for dinner, shall we?."
"Right, Professor. Okay, Gran?" he asked, as he gave her a kiss.
"I'm fine, young man, don't you worry about me," she gave him a hug and patted his cheek before taking Dumbledore's arm and walking to the staff table. Neville grinned and then joined his friends.
A white van slowed, turning down an alleyway, then through tall gates and into a garage, to stop next to an ambulance, as the gates and big door silently closed behind the vehicles. Gwen got out and came around to open the side door. Grabbing two bags, she watched as Dobby levitated two boxes out of the van and over to the entrance to the main building. Artemus Pye was holding the door open for them.
"Hi, Artemus," Gwen greeted the Healer, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
"Gwen, it's good to see you. Here, give me one of those," he added, as he took a shopping bag from her.
"How are they?"
"Just fine...really. But wait until you see." He shook his head.
"Alice has discovered the telly."
"Seriously and specifically...the 'Teletubbies'."
Penelope looked up from where she was sitting with Frank Longbottom, helping him do some arm motion exercises and smiled when she saw Gwen. Putting Frank's arm down, she patted him reassuringly on the shoulder and rose to greet the visitors.
"Gwen! How are you?"
"Penelope! Long time no see!" Gwen gave the tall girl a hug and held her at arm's length. "I'm sorry you got caught up in all of this, but it looks to have been for the best, don't you agree?"
"Oh, yes, I'll probably get extra credit for this when I get back to training and I'm more than willing to help out any way I can."
"Plus, Alice and Frank know Penelope, so that's a special bonus," added Artemus, as he directed Dobby where to put the groceries.
"Where is Alice?" Gwen looked around.
"In the bedroom, watching the telly," replied Artemus, pointing.
"THIS I have to see."
Gwen walked over to a door on the far side of the room and peeked in. Alice Longbottom was seated on a chair in front of the television set, gazing at the screen with a smile on her face, bopping her head in time with the music. The bright colors and dancing figures were obviously fascinating to her.
"Again, again," she said softly, clapping her hands.
"Whoa!" Gwen gasped. Turning, she walked back to Artemus and Penelope. "Alice is talking!"
"Yes, we've heard her. She doesn't react to any other shows. In fact, she hasn't watched any other programs, but when the Teletubbies came on, she became glued to that set."
"Anna will be thrilled. And it's given me an idea."
Draco looked up from the parchment on which he was writing an essay, to see Theo Nott standing there with a letter in his hand, a worried, perplexed scowl on his face.
'That expression looks vaguely familiar,' thought Draco. 'Wonder what's happened?'
"Ah...well, I've got a question, if you don't mind me interrupting." Theo shuffled his feet, looking down at the pieces of parchment clutched in his hand. "I'm not sure how to take this or what to do."
"Whoa...flashback," muttered Draco.
"Never mind...sit down, Theo, I need to take a break, anyhow," replied Draco with a smile, pushing his homework assignment away. "I hate writing essays, so you're doing me a favor." Leaning back in his chair, he waited to hear what was happening.
"I just got this owl from my Mother; seems Father and your Aunt Bella were involved in that raid on St. Mungo's yesterday...and came up empty handed." Theo waved the letter, frowning, shaking his head. "What the hell were they thinking...they could have been caught...or killed."
"What....or rather WHO did Voldemort send them after?"
"Longbottom's parents...but they were gone. Apparently your Aunt Bella went ballistic and Father and," Theo checked the letter, "Avery had to physically pull her out of the ward and force her to retreat."
"Oh, I bet THAT was lots of fun," Draco smiled.
Theo looked at him and nodded his agreement, smiling crookedly.
"Yeah, better him than me...or you. Anyway, Mother says Father was 'punished' for yet another failed mission and won't be going anywhere for a while."
"Very brave of her to write to you, considering...but, your point for relaying all of your family news would be?" Draco asked quietly, after Theo had stared at the letter in silence for a few moments, and then tossed it on the table.
"I don't know what to do, Draco. My Father is assuming I'm going to come home for Spring Break and then not come back to Hogwarts, but go with him to be marked by the Dark Lord and become a Death Eater. He keeps going on about how Vincent and Gregory are carrying on with their 'duties' in their fathers' absence and that he wants me to be 'by his side' when Voldemort goes after Harry Potter."
"I see...and you're not thrilled with the idea, I take it?"
"Hell, no. The more I think about it, the more my mind is screaming 'ME?!?NOT BLOODY LIKELY!!' And it's really confusing, after all these years of hearing how great it's going to be, when the Dark Lord takes over and kills Potter and ...well, you know."
"Yeah, I do, Theo; been there, done that. Look, I can't tell you what to do, but what do you say we go talk it over with the Headmaster? He helped me when everything happened with my Father and then when Mother went into hiding. You're reacting remarkably like I did when I got her letter."
"Really. And I know it's a shock, but you're of age, too, Theo, so you can make your own decisions."
"I wonder if I can just stay here/, like you did and /not go home at Spring Break?"
"I don't know; we'll have to ask. And, it's not like your Father can show up and drag you home; he'd be arrested on sight. Now your Mother/.../she might come and cry and carry on, to try and get you to come home, but let's worry about that when the time comes. Right now, I think we should go talk to Dumbledore."
"Yeah, of course he will. He does care, you know." Draco reassured Theo. "Hey, do any of the others know about this letter?"
"No. I was outside, having a smoke..."
"Shut up, Malfoy...I'd just been taking a walk with Silvia..."
"Bit of a snog?"
"A bit.../anyway/, she had gone to the library and I was just standing there when the owl found me and I came straight here to find you."
"What do you think the others will say?" Draco asked, as the two boys started up the stairs, heading for the Headmaster's office.
"Well, truthfully, Blaise and I have been talking a bit and he's not too keen on going to join the Death Eaters, either. His Dad's not one; he's a 'sympathizer' but quietly, as he's more concerned with keeping his business running smoothly, than getting killed fighting Aurors. The girls, Silvia and Daphne I mean, well, they're just plain scared; for their parents and for us guys, what with being of age and having this hanging over our heads when we go home. Except for you, of course, you're stuck here at school."
"Well, not totally stuck," replied Draco, thinking back to his trip to London with Harry and 'Uncle Albus', to go shopping with Hermione, the previous summer.
"Yeah. I'll tell you about it sometime."
"Anyway, Millie and Tracey are more concerned with maybe getting to see Gregory and Vincent over the holiday. They're not interested in anything that isn't to do with the Dark Lord. No sympathy there."
"I know, they haven't spoken, voluntarily, to me since the attack, back in October."
They had reached the gargoyle guarding the entrance to the Headmaster's office.
"Is that the last of them?" Katie asked, sealing the box and attaching the 'Weasley's/ Wizarding Wheezes/' label.
"That's the lot!" Fred tossed the clipboard on the counter and putting his arms around Katie gave her a quick kiss. "Time for a break."
"No, there is not time for a break; you have to get these to Hogwarts before class tomorrow, which means a trip up there /this evening/." She wiggled out of his embrace. "Ship first, snog later." She patted his cheek and headed into the office.
"Slave driver, that's what you are, Katie Bell!" he yelled after her.
"And you love it, too," her reply drifted back to him, making Fred smile as he levitated the last box over to the pile waiting by the fireplace.
He and George planned on delivering this next part of the defense arsenal to the D.A. personally. They were very proud of the adaptations they'd made to their shield cloaks, especially fitted into the D.A.'s defense strategy. Vests, spell shielding vests; like the bullet proof ones they'd learned about in the Muggle movies they been going to see at Anna's urging. She'd been right, /again/; all sorts of ideas and thus adaptations for Magical defense 'products' had been discovered in those crazy Muggle stories Anna had suggested they watch and also take note of...VERY interesting and informative, Muggle movies.
The 'utility' belts had been already delivered and passed out, with two of the three types of ammo and they were being used during practice sessions. The third kind of ammo, a modification of the wax balls, were trickier; they would have to think of a way to get them to Hogwarts, besides the regular delivery methods. They were a 'bit' on the touchy side...well, downright explosive/, come to that. Fred frowned, thinking, then shook his head. He and George would have to owl Anna and get her input...after all, it /was her and Flitwick's idea, but she had the devious mind bend to think of an answer to this little 'problem'. Fred stopped frowning and a wicked grin lit up his face in anticipation of her 'solution'.
"Hey, George, get a move on, we've got a delivery to make!" shouted Fred.
"Come in!" Albus Dumbledore called, after hearing the knock on his office door. "Ah, Mr. Malfoy and Mr. Nott; do come in, won't you?"
"Could we have a few minutes of your time, Headmaster? Theo has come to me with a bit of a dilemma and I told him we should come and ask your opinion."
Draco had walked in, followed by Theo, who was looking around, astonished; he'd never been in the Headmaster's office before.
"And what seems to be the problem?"
"He's gotten a letter from his Mother, and he's trying to decide what to do."
"Well, have a seat, you two and let's hear what Mrs. Nott had to say, shall we?"
The Floo Connection to Hogwarts flared up with Fred and George Weasley, juggling a pile of boxes, emerging into Dumbledore's office.
Looking around, they saw the Headmaster seated at his desk, talking to Draco Malfoy and Theo Nott.
"Sorry, sir, are we interrupting anything?" Fred put down his boxes and brushes the soot from his sleeves.
"Not at all, gentlemen, not at all; we were just discussing Mr. Nott's decision to help defend the school," explained Albus.
"Oh, well, that's..."stammered Fred.
"Surprising?" ventured George.
"A bit, I admit, considering my Father's an active Death Eater," agreed Theo, with a crooked grin.
"So, that makes two Slytherins re-writing our House history," Draco added. "I seem to have started a new trend."
"Don't forget your Mum; that makes three." Theo said.
"And maybe Blaise, Daphne and Silvia; an even half dozen." Draco counted on his fingers, smiling.
"Whoa! Are you serious?" Fred walked over and leaned against the Headmaster's desk, arms crossed.
"Yeah, why the sudden change of heart?" George joined his brother, frowning.
"I warned you there would be questions about your motives, Mr. Nott." The headmaster beamed at the boys. "You will encounter more suspicion, but, not unexpected, as I said."
"Yes, sir." Theo nodded, then turned to Fred and George. "Well, it's like this; I'm not keen on getting killed, especially for some insane Wizard's agenda. And, if I'm going to be caught up in a Wizarding was, I'd rather fight for my reasons, not V...Vol...Voldemort's," he spat out. "I've been watching Draco and thinking about all this for almost a year now and as it looks like now I have to chose, then you lot can count me in. Like the Sorting Hat said, we'll have to decide and fight for ourselves and Hogwarts."
There was silence for a second, and then Fred turned to George.
"Good job we made extras of everything."
"Right. Theo, we'll have you kitted out and show you how everything works."
"You believe me? Just like that?" asked Theo, astonished.
"Sure, for a couple of reasons..." George nodded.
"Professor Dumbledore could tell if you were lying or under an 'Imperious' curse," explained Fred.
"Really?" Theo looked at the Headmaster, who smiled and winked.
"You're a Slytherin; so, the fact that you've taken almost a year to observe and process all that you've seen and heard is not surprising," declared George.
"You wouldn't commit yourself to either side without thinking it through, thoroughly,' added Fred.
"But," continued George, "there must have been one thing that made you decide, once and for all..."
"To take your stand and choose who to stand with. Right?" asked Fred.
Theo nodded and took a deep breath.
"You're right; my Father has made it clear that I'm going with him to be marked and join the Death Eaters when I go home over Spring Break."
"And I wasn't coming back to school, either. This is my way of saying no."
"Oh, he'll get the message, alright," said Draco, with a shake of his head. " Voldemort will probably have something to say about it, too."
"Yeah, well, Father didn't take my feelings or future plans into consideration...he's on his own."
"Now that's a Slytherin talking!" observed Fred.
"Well said, though, Theo," agreed George.
"Actually, this has been quite a hard decision on Mr. Nott's part, but it's one he can be proud of," Dumbledore added.
" 'Self preservation is a strong instinct.' " Draco grinned.
"Indeed, Mr. Malfoy," chuckled Albus, before turning to the Weasley twins. "Which brings us back to your timely arrival. What, pray tell, have you brought with you?"
"New equipment for the D.A."
"Very well. If each of you takes a box, we could deliver your newest products to the D.A. meeting, that I believe will be starting shortly." The Headmaster rose to lead the way.
"Come on, Theo," said Draco, as he rose from his chair. "Grab a box and follow me; time to join the D.A."