Chapter 28 : Midnight Entertainment
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Voldemort frowned as the small Jack Russell raced inbetween his feet and inside the house. It ran right for the stairs and sprang up them like a jackrabbit. "What is that bloody dog doing in my house? Goyle, get the damn piece of trash and throw it out!"
"At once, my lord," Goyle said, he was a big man with a thatch of unruly graying hair, he looked like a rugby player version of the Grim Reaper in his Death Eater robes. He trod heavily on the stairs, following the sounds of high-pitched irritated barking. He found the small dog scrabbling frantically at a door and heard another series of odd barks coming from inside."Wot the 'ell is goin' on 'ere?" he muttered, slipping back into his old patterns of speech.
He opened the door and nearly fell over.
There was Bellatrix, looking as though she were having a good old time atop Lucius, who was tied to the bed in a very revealing position,his bare bottom looking as though it had been beaten with . . .Goyle's eyes fell upon the serpent headed walking stick. He whistled, his brow creasing, as the Jack Russell bounded up on the bed and started pawing frantically at Bellatrix, whining.
"Bloody hell! Who woulda though you were bent like that, Lucius?" Goyle started to snigger. "Likes it rough, do ya?"
Lucius half lifted his face from the pillow and snarled, "Bring me my wand, dammit! This isn't . . .what it looks like."
"No? Don't lie, mate. I think it's exactly wot it looks like. Hehehe!" Goyle snorted, trying to keep his mirth at bay. "I seen a few like you down in the London stews afore." He winked at Lucius. "I'll just leave you two alone, awright? Oh, and the Master's here."
Goyle bent to grab the Jack, who promptly bared little teeth and bit the big man.
"Oww! Little bitch!"
The dog ran under the bed.
"Goyle, just get me my wand!" Lucius spat.
Grinning, the other picked up Lucius' wand from his dresser and placed it next to the other man. "I'll settle with you later, you little shite!" he shook a finger at the snarling dog. Then he left, closing the door smartly behind him.
Lucius used wandless magic to levitate his wand into his hand and undo the strips that held him to the bed. He was unsure if he could walk, much less sit, but one thing he did know was that he needed to get Bellatrix off him. He had woken to a fiery pain in his backside and when he had gone to look, saw his walking stick lying across his bottom. He had managed to get his cane off himself but that in turn had driven Bellatrix crazy.
"What the hell is wrong with you, Bella?" he had screamed, cursing his son roundly in his head. Oh Draco, when I get done with you, you're going to wish you never saw the light of day, you and that Mudblood both . . .! It had taken him a few more minutes to realize that Bella had been cursed too, and then he had fallen asleep, trying to ignore the terrible throbbing pain.
After Goyle had left, he carefully got to his knees, throwing the panting pelvis-gyrating Bella off him. "Dammit, woman, will you stop? I am not interested in doing you doggy style—or any style for that matter!"
He held up a hand when Bella would have come back again. "Stay!"
She made a puppy-dog face and stayed. The small terrier came out from under the bed and started jumping up and scratching at Lucius, who was trying to put some healing salve upon his sore bum. "Get off, you mutt!" he kicked at the terrier, who started snarling and attacking his ankles. "Bloody goddamn dog! Go away, before I hex you into a grease spot!"
Bellatrix started howling then at the sight of the small dog and the din made Lucius feel as if he were locked in a kennel. "Ahhh! Shut up! Just shut up!"
The Jack Russell jumped up on the bed and whined urgently.
Lucius whirled, then hissed in pain. "So help me, dog, if you pee on my bed I will eviscerate you! It's what I feel like doing to my son right about now!" Furious and humiliated—he had not ever been beaten so badly in his life—he finished applying the salve and fixed his clothing. He supposed that he ought to be grateful it was Goyle who had seen him in such dishabille, even if he did jump to the wrong conclusion. It could have been worse—it could have been Voldemort. One thing he did know, he must never let on that he had been hoodwinked by his own son and his little Mudblood captive. That he would have never lived down.
He put on a shirt and a fresh set of robes and shoes. Bellatrix sprang down from the bed and started smelling his shoes. Lucius pushed her aside. "What did they do to you, replace your brain with that of a dog?"
The Jack Russell started jumping up and down, yipping.
Bella rolled over, waving her hands and feet in the air.
"Hell, woman, if you think I'm rubbing your belly, you're insane!" Lucius coughed. "Next thing you know, you'll be trying to lift your leg on me." A look of utter horror passed over his face as Bellatrix suddenly got to her feet. "Bella, don't you dare! I am not a damn tree and besides, you're a girl and girls don't mark territory, that's a guy thing . . ." He backed away from the curly-haired witch who was panting after him like a . . .well, the only analogy that came to mind was a bitch in heat.
Flaming hell, what if she's really . . .oh, no! No! I am NOT dealing with this! He spun and yanked open the door, sticking his head out to call for Goyle.
Bellatrix shot forward and slammed into the backs of his knees, knocking him off his feet as she raced for freedom down the hallway.
Lucius landed upon his stinging buttocks and let out a very un-Malfoy-like yell of pain. Oooh, Draco, you little bastard!
The terrier gave a high-pitched yip of anger and tore off after the galloping Bellatrix.
Lucius swore and scrambled to his feet, heading towards the hall. He had to catch the two and figure out how to undo the curse before they ran into Voldemort. Unfortunately, he found he was too sore to move quickly and he couldn't catch up to either of them.
Goyle was coming up the stairs at that moment in response to Lucius' bellow, wondering just what his friend needed him for now? Maybe to take a picture? Hiding a smirk, he started up the stairs.
Bellatrix hurtled down the stairs on all fours and her eyes glowed with a strange light. Before Goyle could move, she was on him, wrapped round his leg doing the nasty.
Goyle's eyes bugged out. "Oi, girlie! Holy shite! I don't go in for that sorta thing. Now go play somewhere else! 'ey?" He reached down and grabbed the excited Bellatrix by the nape of her neck, since what she had on didn't provide enough fabric to get a grip on, and yanked her off and shoved her down the stairs.
The Jack Russell breezed past him as well, yapping like a demon. Goyle went to kick it, but the little dog ducked.
Lucius limped down the stairs, swearing. "Damn it all, Greg! Why didn't you stop her—them?
"Oh, never mind! Where did they go?"
"Down the hall."
Lucius hurried as much as he could.
After shaking herself off, Bellatrix sniffed at the myriad scents in the hallway. One scent in particular both attracted and repelled her, but the attraction won out. She tore off, following the compelling scent to a partially opened door and shoving it open.
She hesitated in the doorway for about five seconds.
Inside, Voldemort was accepting a snifter of brandy from Crabbe, while two of his other followers, Dolohov and Avery, lounged in brocaded recliners in front of a roaring fire. They were happily discussing the fun they had just had raiding a Muggle train station and creating terror and chaos.
All heads turned when they heard the door open and Bellatrix let out an eager whine.
Voldemort stared. "Bella, what is the meaning of this?"
Bellatrix's eyes lit up. The enticing scent was coming from him! Her beloved . . .her mate . . .had she ears they would have been pricked.
"Bellatrix, stop!" shouted Lucius.
The Jack Russell pursuing Bellatrix halted.
But the dog in Bellatrix's body did not.
Voldemort was unprepared to have his most loyal if psychotic worshipper tackle him to the ground. He fell with a thud that shook the room and the brandy sloshed everywhere, including onto those watching, but they hardly noticed the drenching, they were too focused on what Bella was doing to their master.
She had climbed on top of him and was quite emphatically trying to hump him while licking his face.
Voldemort was squirming and gasping. "Bella, stop! This isn't the time! Woman, get control of yourself!"
But his words only seemed to excite her more.
By then Lucius and Goyle had arrived in the doorway and stood gaping in shock and horror.
But as their lord commenced trying to get Bellatrix off him, it suddenly seemed horribly funny.
They began to snicker and Avery whispered, "I always knew she was his bitch!"
"Ooo-wee! This is better than watching the show down at Harts and Hinds!" brayed Crabbe.
Soon even Lucius was chuckling and Goyle was practically having heart failure from trying to contain his guffaws.
Finally, Voldemort got the upper hand and pinned Bellatrix down. "What in the name of Set is wrong with you?" His red eyes glared at her furiously, filled with anger and humiliation.
"My lord, I can explain—" began Lucius, greatly daring.
Voldemort stood up, looking very put out and his face had turned an ominous reddish color. "Lucius . . .how good of you to join us."
"I . . .apologize for the delay, Master, but well, you see . . .Bellatrix has had a small . . .accident . . ."
"No, really?" sneered the Dark Lord, brushing his robes and grimacing at several wet patches. "I never would have guessed." His eyes glowed and the rest of the Death Eaters stopped laughing and began shaking in their boots.
Even Bella whined and cringed.
"If you would allow me, my lord—" Lucius said humbly.
"Don't lift your wand, Malfoy!" snapped Voldemort. "I already know what's wrong with her. She's had her brain swapped with a dog's brain!" He pointed his wand at the fawning Bellatrix and spoke a single word.
A yellow light shot out and connected the human and the Jack Russell cringing inbetween Lucius' feet.
When it died, Bellatrix took a deep breath and crawled to Voldemort and grabbed him about the knees. "Master . . .ohh . . .Master . . .!" She rubbed up against his robe, practically drooling all over him.
"Get off me, Bellatrix!" growled the other.
"Master . . .forgive me . . .I was . . .not myself . . . "
"I'll say you weren't!" jeered Goyle.
Voldemort seethed. He was tempted to Crucio the woman kneeling before him, but then he patted her head instead. "There now, my dear . . ." He glared at Lucius. "And just how did this unfortunate accident occur?"
"Ahh . . .we were doing a little . . .experiment . . .my lord . . ." Lucius answered, turning red.
Crabbe winked and nudged Avery. "Oh, sure. They were . . .experimenting . . ."
"Is that wot you call it now, Malfoy?" Goyle sniggered.
"Uh huh . . .right . . .'twas all in fun . . ." Dolohov giggled behind his hand.
Voldemort cast Lucius a look of revulsion. He never would have guessed such perversion lurked behind Lucius' polished cold-as-ice exterior. "Bloody sick aristos!" he muttered so softly that only the dog heard him. "Even I never stooped that low!"
Lucius felt his face heat to scalding. "My lord, I . . .it's not what you're thinking . . ."
"Do not presume to tell me how I think, Malfoy!" snapped Voldemort. He shook Bellatrix off of his leg and helped her to rise. "Have a seat, darling. And some brandy to settle yourself." He placed her in the chair next to him and snapped his fingers and a glass of brandy floated into her hand.
She gulped it down and Voldemort seated himself in his thick throne-like recliner.
Lucius stepped forward, kicking the Jack Russell as he did so.
The dog yelped.
Bellatrix's lip curled and she drew her wand.
A green bolt shot out and the next instant the dog was motionless on the floor. "Stupid mutt." She gently blew on her smoking wand tip.
"Temper, temper, Bella," tisked the Dark Lord. But he wasn't truly angry.
"My lord, forgive my tardiness. I have a special entertainment planned for you this evening. I know how much you enjoy contests between magical creatures . . ."
Voldemort leaned forward in his chair. "This had better be good, Lucius."
As soon as they had left the Riddle estate behind and run a few yards deeper into the forest, following an ancient track, Amicus halted and lowered his horn. He tapped the ground three times and suddenly a shining silvery pathway opened beneath his hooves. Hermione gasped as he trotted out onto it without hesitation. Moon Fire followed and so did Jasmine, for both of them knew what this was and had travelled the moonpaths before.
"What is this? Some kind of new spell?" Draco asked, trying unsuccessfully to halt the Arabian.
"Don't be afraid, it's how I got here before. It's a moonpath," Harry explained.
"A moonpath?" Draco repeated. "You mean this is one of the Paths of the Moon? But I thought only initiates could conjure one, and then only when the moon was full!"
"I guess they make exceptions for unicorns." Harry shrugged. "And aren't you an initiate, Malfoy?"
"Me? Well, not yet. I'm an acolyte. You're only an initiate, like Professor Snape, if you've undergone one of Her trials and She gives you a special gift. He has, though I don't know what it was. You can tell when you look at his aura with Sorcerer's Sight though."
"Oh," Harry said, though he wasn't sure what Sorcerer's Sight was, but he didn't want to seem ignorant in front of the other wizard.
Hermione had no problem asking questions, however. "What's Sorcerer's Sight?"
"It's using your magical senses like a Third Eye to perceive charms and enchantments on objects or auras about animals and people. You mean to tell me you've read half the library and you didn't know that, Granger?" Draco sounded smug.
Hermione shook her head. "Maybe it's so commonplace that most wizards don't bother writing it down. Does everyone have it?"
"Yes, you just have to be trained in how to use it," Draco replied.
I'll ask Severus to teach me . . .and Hermione, Harry thought. "Come on, let's move. The moonpath won't last forever." He nudged Moon Fire into a canter and the others followed.
As before, Harry delighted in the swift ride, especially since he was now riding Moon Fire once again. He felt overwhelmed with gratitude and joy to have his mentor back, and he thanked Selene profusely for returning Severus to him. He wound his hands in the thick silken mane and gloried in the wind in his face and the feel of the big stallion beneath him, running with a consummate powerful grace Harry was sure was unmatched by any other horse in the world. He leaned closer to the stallion's neck and whispered, "Fly, Moon Fire, fly!"
Moon Fire flicked an ear back and increased his stride. He was thrilled to be out of that awful place and free to run and not trapped within four walls or his own mind anymore. He could not quite remember what had happened after he had gone to rescue Hermione, it still was fuzzy, but he suspected he had been the victim of a miscast Memory Charm by someone. And since that was not a spell the Death Eaters favored, he had to assume it had been cast by an Auror. Humph! Director Bones really needs to brush up on her trainees' aim. Then he shrugged and considered it enough of a miracle that he had survived being captured by the Death Eaters. He made a mental note to thank Andromeda for helping to fix his injured leg and Draco also. But for right now, he wanted to run for the sheer joy of it, and so he did, his hooves chiming musically upon the shining pathway.
Hermione had never felt so exhilarated in her life. Riding the unicorn was like nothing she could have imagined. Even in her wildest dreams, she had never dreamed you could go so fast upon a landbound animal, and the unicorn's strides were so smooth she felt as if she were floating on air and not speeding along on the back of a horse. The unicorn had a fresh scent about him, almost like thyme and clear water. His hooves rang upon the pathway like silver bells and she couldn't help laughing with delight. She felt a soothing aura flow through her, making all the terrible things she had endured muffled in a blanket of serenity and peace, so that the memories were not as cutting and sharp. It was something she had thought she could never feel again, having lost her innocence and trust in the world and her fellow wizards the night her home and parents were attacked by Death Eaters.
She cupped the silver pendant in her hand and felt it warm to her touch. When she looked down at it, she saw it was glowing. How strange. It's never done that before. Maybe it's because of the unicorn?
She breathed in the cleansing scent of the unicorn and reveled in the fact that she had escaped her captors and taken a bit of revenge upon that evil hag Bellatrix. Just the thought of that awful witch barking and drooling like a dog made her smile. What goes around comes around.
Draco was relieved that they had all gotten away without having to endure any longterm painful curses and without spilling blood on the ground. He patted Jasmine on the neck and told her she was a wonderful girl. She was one of the best horses his aunt had ever trained and she was proving her mettle now by keeping up with the likes of Moon Fire and the unicorn.
Thinking about Andromeda made him recall his father's ultimatum. He sighed and figured he had to tell his mother what had happened and maybe she would finally divorce his father and move to the Black family chateau in France as she had always sworn she would when he was a small boy. He knew she had been as miserable as he had since marrying the ultra-controlling old-fashioned Lucius Malfoy. But for right now, he supposed he would be all right moving in with Andromeda. Over half of his things were there now anyhow. He had always preferred his summers at Andromeda's school than staying at Malfoy Manor, even if he'd had his every whim catered to by the house elves, he had never had anyone else to talk to and had to make sure he behaved with proper decorum at all times, being under Lucius' eagle eye.
Now that I'm free of him, I can finally start to live, he thought happily, and he urged Jasmine faster. I hope you're enjoying my parting gift to you, Father!
After about an hour of travelling, Amicus took them out of the moonpath and backinto Sherwood Forest. It took but a single drawing of breath for the three to slip from the silvery path and onto the dirt track that had been made long before by various grazing animals, such as deer.
"Hey!" Draco exclaimed, startled by the sudden shift in terrain. "What happened?"
"Nothing. It was probably time to get off the path," Harry said. Sure enough, as he looked up, the moon was waning.
The three continued to ride for several more minutes. Harry looked about and thought the trail looked somewhat familiar and he wondered if he were near the spot where he had almost succumbed to the dryad. Then he wondered where Titania had gotten to. She had been with Amicus last he had seen her. She tended to vanish like the wind, and he wondered if all the fae were so flighty. Maybe she only preferred to speak with him, since she always disappeared whenever anyone else showed up.
He urged Moon Fire into an easy canter, since trotting any length of time always made his backside ache, he hadn't quite mastered that gait yet. The forest by moonlight was beautiful, he had to admit, cobalt and midnight blue shadows dappled the path and the moonlight outlined everything with a silvery luminescence. Harry rode easily upon Moon Fire, trusting the big stallion to get him safely home.
They had just passed the clearing where Harry had spent the night with Jack guarding him and it was then that they heard the branches rustle and a trilling laugh ring out. Moon Fire jerked up his head and snorted, but did not slow. Harry could just hear him thinking—pesky dryad!
Amicus paused briefly and whickered, then cantered past the tree with a flick of his tail.
But Jasmine halted as a slender young woman stepped into her path. She smiled winsomely up at Draco, who stared at her in astonishment. "Hello, pretty boy."
Draco swallowed. "Uh . . .hi." He blinked, a part of him was warning him that this was no ordinary girl, but a magical being, and he had to keep his wits about him. But that part was slowly being submerged by the glamour Danae was weaving about him, one strand at a time. "You live around here?"
Danae nodded. "Yes, this is my home. Going somewhere?" She approached and twined her arm about Jasmine's neck, looking up at Draco and fluttering her impossibly long lashes. "My name is Danae." She breathed her name as if it were some deep dark secret.
Draco felt the scent of ambergris and lily of the valley intoxicate him, flowing through his nostrils in a dizzying rush. And then he looked into her eyes—her beautiful eyes that were the color of spring leaves newly budded and tilted exotically and he found himself smiling invitingly. "Mine's Draco." He dropped Jasmine's reins and started to dismount, he wanted to be closer to her, wanted to take her in his arms and kiss those pouty lips and run his hands through her fiery hair.
"Draco . . .like the dragon constellation in the sky?" she purred, her voice throbbing with unrestrained passion. "Every dragon needs a beautiful maiden, no? I could be that one."
"Really? I'd like that." His feet touched the ground and he took her in his arms.
There came the sound of a throat being cleared and Draco froze guiltily. He cautiously looked over his shoulder and discovered a large man-like creature standing there. He reminded Draco vaguely of a walking tree and with a flash of recognition he recalled the old legends that said the Green Man still roamed the wilder parts of Britain.
The Green Man was frowning and Draco quickly stepped away from Danae, assuming the glare was meant for him. "Sorry, my lord. I meant no offense."
"Offense? I was offering to make you my mate!" Danae said petulantly. "Jack, leave! This is none of your business!"
"I beg to differ, lass. The Lady told me to come here. He's not meant for ye either, bright spark."
Danae stamped her foot and pouted. "You always ruin all my fun, you stick-in-the-mud! 'Twas only in fun. He would have enjoyed it."
"Aye, but what about after, when you left him for your tree or another pretty face? A mortal's broken heart's not so easily mended, lass. So best to not meddle in the first place."
The dryad snorted. "Always such a dour raincloud, Jack! Do you not remember what it was like to be young and in love?"
To Draco's shock, the great being nodded. "Aye. I remember love's sweet fire. And how it burns hot and quick. But it never lasts, not near long enough. And in the end I am left with naught but memories and a longing that shall never be fulfilled."
"Dryads mate for life, like trees."
"Only till their human mate dies." The Green Man said. "Let the boy go, he's one of the Lady's, and you know full well that Her acolytes you may not have, unless She gives her blessing."
"She promised to send me a mate. How do you know it's not him?"
"Because I would not have been sent to tell you otherwise," answered Jack simply.
The dryad huffed and stepped away. "Fine! But I don't want to wait a century for him, so tell Her that I would appreciate it if She would hurry and send him to me." She spun on her heel and stomped back into a huge oak tree, merging seamlessly with it a second later.
Draco coughed and blinked, the last of the glamour fading. "Huh? What just happened? There was a girl . . . a beautiful girl . . ."
"Not a girl, but a dryad," Jack corrected.
"A dryad! Oh, Selene's Grace!" Draco swore, rubbing his eyes.
He moved to remount Jasmine, his face flushed at what had nearly occurred. He had forgotten that dryads still dwelled in Sherwood. "Thank you, my lord."
"'Twas nothing. She's a little impatient and pushy is all and sometimes forgets her place, which is why I be here to remind her." Jack's eyes twinkled. "Off with you now, lad. And when you see him, tell Harry Jack sends his greetings and to walk always with the moon."
Draco promised he would, then he kicked Jasmine into a full gallop. He had been lucky to escape the dryad's enchantment once. He caught up with his companions after ten minutes.
"Hey, where were you?" asked Hermione.
"I, uh, ran into an old friend of Harry's." Draco hedged, shifting uncomfortably in his saddle.
"An old friend?" Harry turned his head to look at Draco. "Who? Titania?"
"No, he was a Forest Lord. He said to tell you that Jack sends his greetings and to walk always with the moon."
"You saw Jack?" Harry exclaimed. "The Green Man? He helped me my first night here and also with the dryad that almost . . .well . . ."
"You too?" Draco blurted. Then he went beet red.
Harry gave an embarrassed chuckle. "Danae, right? Yeah, what I thought. She's a real maneater."
Hermione was looking from one to the other in puzzlement. "I don't understand. Who's Danae?"
"A dryad," Harry said. Then he added awkwardly. "And she . . .it's complicated . . . don't worry about it." He urged Moon Fire into a gallop. "Come on, we're almost home."
Draco nodded, not wishing to discuss husband-hunting dryads either and he too sent Jasmine into a gallop.
Amicus paced them easily, amusement shimmering in his wise eyes. They were very near Severus' home now and the unicorn quickened his stride.
The following night:
Voldemort applauded as the match between the bugbear and the manticore ended with the bugbear tearing off the manticore's wings and eating them. At first he had been inclined to punish Lucius for being so foolish as to risk the mental health of his most loyal and devoted follower like that. Voldemort enjoyed Bella's slavish devotion, and always looked forward to coming back to Riddle Manor if she were in residence, which she most often was. Bellatrix treated him as though he were a god, and that stroked his vanity to bursting. And last night hadn't been bad either, once Bella had gotten her mind back, she had proved a most . . .interesting and motivated bedmate.
He reached over and caressed her cheek, she was sitting in the velvet draped imperial purple box Lucius had set up just for him, complete with purple velvet cushioned benches with heavily padded backs. Lucius' house elf was kept busy running back and forth with refreshments for all, though the others were all sitting one tier lower to watch the Beast Match, as Lucius had dubbed the competitions.
Voldemort thought Lucius very clever for having thought of it, which was yet another reason why he withheld cursing his favorite Slytherin. He felt like an emperor, seated up high and watching the brutal yet exciting fight to the death between various magical creatures. "Hmm, my dear. What would you think if I took some Muggles and paired them off with a wyvern or something?"
"Why, darling, that's a brilliant idea!" Bellatrix cooed, snuggling up to him. Though she was not a dog any longer, she still discovered that she had urges to lick her master every now and again and bark at squirrels. "We could make wagers on how long it will take a Muggle to die."
"Yes, another brilliant idea." Voldemort smiled. "What's next?"
"The best part, my lord!" Bella was practically jumping up and down. "We have obtained a leshae—a flying tiger from the wilds of India—and Lucius managed to get hold of a stallion—a wild stallion Marked by Selene."
Voldemort, who had been lazing along the seat back, sat up straight. "Lucius has gotten an animal that is one of her Chosen?"
"Yes. He picked it up somewhere and now it can fight the tiger and we'll get to watch it!" Bella bounced up and down. "I'll bet you ten Galleons the stallion only last five minutes."
"Only five? I've heard these Marked animals are pretty tough. Fifteen says the stallion lasts seven."
They shook hands.
Below, Lucius was hauling upon the chain twisted about the stallion's mouth as hard as he could. "Come on, you worthless nag! Get your arse out there and give us a good fight! You're going to die anyway, might as well go out like a warrior!"
The black horse reared and pawed the air frantically, shrilling in fear as the smell of tiger hit his nostrils.
Angrily, Lucius cracked the long whip and tapped the horse with it on the rump.
The stallion came down and practically bolted into the arena, where he began racing about in a panic. Lucius had healed his leg and ribs just before bringing him to the arena, and now all he wanted to do was escape. But the walls were too high to jump over, even if he had dared to do so.
Peter Pettigrew had never been bold and daring like his friends Sirius, James, and Remus. He had bargained with the Sorting Hat to put him in Gryffindor, since it was a family tradition, and he wished to be like his parents, who had been delighted that their timid child apparently had bravery somewhere within him. A hidden bravery. But the bravest thing Peter had ever done was betray his friends to the Dark Lord and then spend the next twelve years as a familiar. After he had been exposed, he had spent the next year hiding in the Dark Lord's shadow.
He had thought himself safe here, but he had been proven woefully wrong. Trapped in the form of his enemy, unable to make his allies see that he was not Moon Fire, Peter had no choice but to fight the death that was being turned loose upon him. If he could.
The winged tiger was being released now, he could hear its harsh breathing as it padded up the ramp and into the arena from the cage it had been kept in. The tiger was a gleaming white with striking black stripes and its cobalt wings were folded at half mast. It emerged from the chute with a roar, and half spread its wings at the sight of the stallion.
The horse had backed up until it was against the opposite side of the arena, eyes rolling. It was plainly petrified and the watching Death Eaters and Voldemort cheered to see such terror. It was palpable, and they fed upon it like a vampire does blood.
"Tiger! Tiger! Get him!"
"Make horsemeat outta him, tiger!"
"Rip him apart!"
"Come on, horse, show some fight!" encouraged Lucius, making sure the arena doors were sealed before climbing back into the stadium. He was puzzled, the horse had seemed perfectly willing before to kill him, but then, he was not a tiger.
The horse reared and lashed out at the circling tiger, screaming in fear. Get away! Get away! Oh, please, Selene have mercy!
The tiger circled, licking its lips. Its blue eyes were fixed unerringly on the prey before it, and the fear-scent only served to whet its appetite even further. It had been kept barely fed for days and now this was a feast. The leshae crouched, several lengths away, wings spreading.
Then it sprang.
The black stallion rose to meet it and kicked out hard with its forefeet, landing a lucky blow on the tiger's chest.
The winged tiger soared away, snarling in pain and rage.
The spectators cheered.
"Kill him! Kill him!" Bella screamed, her face a mask of hate and eagerness.
The tiger circled and then dove upon its prey from above.
Peter screamed and bolted, trying to outrun the big cat. Help me, Selene! Help me! I don't want to die.
You don't have a choice, wicked child! A silvery voice reproved inside his head. Now you call upon me to save you, after you have harmed one of my Chosen and would have sacrificed him to such as this? Insincerity wins no bargains, nor shall I make one with you now. But this much I shall grant—your death will be swift and perhaps in twenty years you may be reborn again and learn humility and not treachery.
No! Please save me! Please! Peter begged, but the voice was gone.
He looked up, breathing harshly, his muscles burning, and saw the flying tiger hovering over him. It circled rapidly, then dove, claws extended and teeth bared.
The stallion froze.
The leshae slammed into the stallion with terrific force, claws digging deep and teeth biting down to sever the spine. In minutes the stallion lay limply in the tiger's grasp and it roared in triumph.
The watchers cheered and clapped madly.
Voldemort turned to Bellatrix. "Pay up, my dear."
Bella gave him a seductive grin. "You want it in cash or some . . .other way?"
"Any way you wish to settle it, Bella."
The tiger began to feed hungrily, hunched over his prey, ignoring the bystanders. The meat was a little tough and stringy, but it was food and the winged cat did not mind.
Lucius allowed it to consume nearly the whole of the stallion before trying to get it back in its box. But the leshae refused to be driven into the chute and kept flying into the air. Swearing, Lucius tried to Stun it, but the white tiger was immune to that charm, and it ignored him.
Irritated by Lucius' interference, the winged tiger stretched its wings and pumped them hard.
Lucius watched in horror as the winged tiger promptly flew off into the sunset, apparently it had had enough of this captivity. Helpless, Lucius could do nothing but watch it soar away, leaving behind part of a carcass. Then, as he watched in grotesque fascination, the carcass shimmered and became . . .a man's arm and hand. And the hand was missing a finger.
Lucius now had the answer as to where Pettigrew had disappeared to. He quickly waved his wand and the arm transformed back into the stallion's front foreleg. No need to let Voldemort know what had occurred just yet. He just hoped that his Master was in a good mood so he might forgive the fact that the tiger had escaped.
I hope you all liked this one . . .I was in a weird frame of mind when I wrote it.
The next few chapters will focus mainly on Severus, Harry, and Hermione as they bond and heal from their ordeal.
Thanks everyone for reading!
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