Lord Potter sat absently stroking his goatee, staring into the fire. "I expected he'd come."
Hermione Granger, his most trusted Death Eater, bounced giddily from one foot to the other. "We have the Mudblood LeStrange! Why not use her? Let him know we have her." Hermione glanced at the form of the young raven-haired witch, now tied to a tree just on the edge of the firelight. Bellatrix steeled herself, trying to keep the fear off her face as she struggled to loosen the ropes that bound her fast.
Lupin's head snapped around at Hermione's suggestion. "My Lord! You promised her to me," he pleaded. "I want her now!"
"And you shall have her in good time, my faithful servant," Lord Potter replied. "But not quite yet."
Bellatrix blanched; she'd only barely managed to escape the werewolf's vile clutches when she, Tom and Lucius had been prisoners in the dungeons of the Burrow, three weeks before. To be tossed to him now as a reward filled her with dread.
Ron Weasley, battered and bloodied from his most recent punishment at the hands of the Dark Lord, sat nervously, wiping the blood from his red goatee. "He will come, my Lord," Ron said nervously.
Slowly, Lord Potter turned his horrible glare on the redhead. "Still offering me advice, Ronald?" He eyed him with contempt. "You had best be right…this time."
The ice in the Dark Lord's voice unnerved him; Ron shuddered.
Lord Potter stared back into the fire, its flames casting a demonic pall over his already diabolically feline features. All fell quiet once again as they waited anxiously to see if Tom would actually surrender himself.
Not forty minutes earlier, the Dark Lord sent an ultimatum to the defenders of Hogwarts, calling his forces back from the brink of victory: "Hear me! You have fought valiantly, but your defenses are breached and your defeat is certain. Why continue this carnage, this hopeless fight for an outlaw that has done nothing but bring you pain? If the boy Riddle will but face me, I will spare your lives. I will show you mercy. However, if you continue to defy me and shelter this coward, I will loose all of my vengeance upon you. I will join this fight and no one will be left alive by daybreak. You have one hour."
The minutes had drawn out like a blade, slowly and painfully and yet, there was no sign of The Boy Who Lived. Tom Riddle remained as frustratingly elusive as he had for the previous nine months, while Lord Potter's Death Eaters scoured the countryside to find him and his friends. But the hordes of dark wizards failed in their quest. And worse yet, the insufferable boy had unearthed Potter's secret. Gryffindor's locket had been destroyed and Slytherin's sword had been stolen. The Dark Lord shook his head in frustration at the thought. Of all of his Horcruxes, only his familiar, the lion Felix, remained.
The Death Eaters surrounding the fire looked on, pensively, afraid to meet the Dark Lord's eyes. With each passing minute, they grew more nervous, sensing Lord Potter's frustration. It was at times like these that he was the most dangerous.
At long last the stillness of the night was broken by the sound of Apparation. Three forms appeared before the Dark Lord. Two of them, Bill Weasley and Hagrid, immediately went to their knees before him, the third, a red-haired witch, sauntered seductively to him, ignoring the looks of envy that Hermione cast her way.
"My Lord." The red-head slid into his arms, running her hands along his chin.
"Lady Ginevra," Potter replied impatiently, "there is no time for this. Do you have Riddle?"
Slowly she backed away, the hurt evident on her face. "I live only to serve! But, no. We don't have the boy."
Hermione smiled wickedly at the admission. "Failure again, Ginny? I've managed to find the Mudblood," Hermione gestured to the bound Bellatrix, "and you come only with empty promises?"
Ginny cast a fiery glare at her rival. "You may have brought a foe, but I bring a traitor!" With a flourish of her wand a small redheaded boy appeared at her feet. Bloodied and beaten, his eyes betrayed the fear coursing through his veins.
The Dark Lord clapped his hands together in wicked delight. "Percy!" His terrible laugh caused the bats in the tree overhead to flutter and screech off into the night. Then, Lord Potter raised his hands, signaling to Bill and Hagrid that they should rise.
Percy began to splutter, "D-dread Lord, I sought to r-rejoin you…I was wrong. P-please…"
But his plea was cut off by a vicious kick from his eldest brother. "Silence, you dog! You stood against the family! Attacked the bridesmaids at my wedding. The audacity of exploding them with Expulso
curses! And worse. You dared to side with the Order against Lord Potter!"
Hagrid advanced on the disgraced Weasley. "Not fit fer a clean death. Lord, lemme give 'em to me brother."
Percy's look of abject horror spurred laughter from the surrounding Death Eaters, which was abruptly broken by a resounding shout:
"NO!" Slowly, Molly Weasley emerged into the firelight. "Lord Potter, this traitorous scab is mine. I will finish him." The hate in her eyes was overwhelming.
"Molly!" Arthur was crestfallen, but a stern look from his wife silenced him.
"Very well," the Dark Lord hissed. "Hagrid, you will accompany Lady Weasley. You may have what's left of him to give to Grawp."
This spurred more laughter from the gathered Death Eaters as the trio trudged off into the woods, Percy's pleas fading into the distance.
Once again all fell silent as the minutes drew out awaiting the hour to expire. The recent distractions slowly faded and Potter once again fell into a silent brood, a brood that only Ginevra had the courage to interrupt.
"He may not come," she said evenly.
Lord Potter broke his gaze into the fire and met her eyes, eyes that were devoid of life, much as his own. "I was certain he would…I fear I was mistaken."
At that moment, a wizard, more boy than man, appeared in the firelight, a lightning-bolt scar evident on his forehead. "You weren't."
A collective gasp issued from the surrounding Death Eaters, broken only by Bellatrix's shrill cry: "Tom, no!" But Hermione silenced her with a flick of her wand.
"Tom Riddle," Lord Potter spat, "The Boy Who Lived."
Riddle steeled himself, unable to speak.
Potter cocked his head at the boy, like a lion sizing up his prey. Then he leveled the Elder Wand at the young wizard. "Avada Kedavra!"
AN: I have shamelessly stolen the title for this tale from the Star Trek, TOS, episode #33 of the same name, written by Jerome Bixby, first airing on 10/6/67. As much as I'm sure JKR would prefer to distance herself from this AU version of DH, the portions summarized here come from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by JKR, Scholastic Press, p. 703 (2007).