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Mudblood to Murder by acciolove
Chapter 54 : Retribution
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5


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A/N: Okay so this chapter took a while because everything in it is important. And I wanted to get it right because it has repercussions on future events. This is the last really dark chapter for a while; we’ll be getting back to a little bit lighter fare with shades of darkness as they head into the Holidays and their last semester at Hogwarts. But I think the dark stuff is important with the murder of Bertram Aubrey and Regal Shacklebolt etc. because they are coming of age in a time of war, and their generation is very much on the front lines. With that being said this chapter contains graphic violence. If you are under the age rating for this story and are reading any way (because let’s face it some people do that) I urge extreme caution before reading this chapter. So on that note… enjoy! And please review!

 


**


 

             The Shacklebolts arrived, as expected, the following morning. Regal’s parents, Reigna and Knightly, and her older and much beloved brother Kingsley, met with Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall for over an hour in the Headmaster’s office. After the meeting concluded, McGonagall escorted them to the room off the Great Hall, where they would meet first with the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and then with Peter alone.

              Daphne and Hestia were the first to enter the room, followed closely by the rest of the team. Reigna Shacklebolt opened her arms to the two girls, her daughter’s closest friends, and all three held each other as they cried together. 

              Mr. Shacklebolt stayed close by to his wife but shook the hands of each of the boys and accepted their condolences. Kingsley took a moment to also shake their hands and then spoke directly to James and Sirius.


            “I want to thank you both for everything you did for my sister. She really admired both of you,” Kingsley said in his deep baritone.

            “We really cared a lot about her,” James said sincerely.

            “Yeah,” Sirius said nodding his head in agreement. “We both wish we could have done more to protect her.”

            Kingsley shook his head. “I heard Professor Dumbledore’s account of the attack. You both saved a lot of lives with your actions on Saturday. My sister would have been proud of you. She would have wanted you to do just what you did.”

            “He’s right,” Dirk said from where he and Augustus stood beside Sirius. “You all kept people calm. You gave us direction and a way to help people. A lot more people would have died if you guys, and Lily, Alice, and Frank hadn’t done what you did.”

            “Regal would never have just gone back to Hogwarts, even if you’d told her to,” Augustus added. “She would have stayed to fight. It’s who she was.”

            “You know,” Kingsley said, “she used to worry so much about me being an Auror. It got to the point that recently I wouldn’t tell her if I was going on a mission, until I got back and could tell her I was safe, just because I knew she worried. When my parents got word that they needed to come to St. Mungo’s, they thought it was to identify me, to claim my body, not her. It should have been me. I’m the one who signed up for fighting Death Eaters; you’re all just a bunch of kids. But kids who did a damn fine job. You accomplished things that we Aurors have been unable to do, and I admire each of you so much for that.”

            The rest of the time was spent listening to the Shacklebolts share their favorite memories of Regal, and the members of the Quidditch Team doing the same. They shared laughs and tears, and by the time the meeting concluded, they all felt exhausted.

            But when James and Sirius emerged from the room off the Great Hall they did not follow the rest of the team back up to Gryffindor Common Room. Instead, they paused for a moment, to share words of encouragement with Peter who was waiting outside, to go in and have his time with Regal’s family, and then once Peter had entered the room, the two boys took a seat at one of the four tables in the Great Hall. They hadn’t talked about it ahead of time, but they both knew this was where they were supposed to be, supporting their friend. And so it wasn’t really surprising to them when a few minutes later the door to the Great Hall opened once more and Remus came and took a seat next to them.


**


            Lily, Alice, and Frank sat with the rest of Gryffindor Tower awaiting their time to go down to the Great Hall for the memorial service for Regal. She knew today would be especially hard on James. Regal’s parents had sent a request via Dumbledore that James speak at the memorial, and Lily knew he had been up most of the night working on his remarks, trying to make them perfect for Regal. And now he was with the rest of the Quidditch Team meeting with the Shacklebolts in what was sure to be an emotional encounter.

            She glanced up hopefully when the Quidditch Team returned, but she wasn’t surprised not to see him or Sirius with them. Of course they would stay behind with Peter during his time of need; she would have expected nothing less.


**


            The memorial service was not mandatory, but was open to anyone who wanted to attend it. The Great Hall had been transformed by Professor Flitwick during the mid-morning. The four long house tables had been moved out of sight and instead there were rows of chairs facing the dais that usually held the faculty table. Instead today, it held only the podium Dumbledore used at the Start of Term Feasts, and then numerous photographs of Regal laughing and smiling and waving from the pictures of her and her friends.

             There was one of her and Daphne and Hestia hair windswept after practice last year, all of them laughing heartily at some joke. Another showed Regal with the other fifth year girls waiting before Herbology one day, all waving their gloved hands and again laughing. There was one of her and Jackson taken on the Hogwarts’ Express a few months earlier proudly showing off their news shiny Prefect’s Badge. Another taken that same day showed Regal and Jackson posing with James and Lily. It had been such a proud moment, the two newest Gryffindor Prefects with the two Gryffindor Heads. There were several pictures of the Quidditch Team all together, laughing after practice, posing together on their brooms, and presenting the House Cup to Professor McGonagall following last year’s victory. One that had always been one of Regal’s favorites was taken after practice earlier in the school year and showed her and Hestia hoisted up on to James and Sirius’ shoulders after winning a bet and earning rides back up to the castle. But perhaps most heart wrenching were the two pictures of Peter and Regal. One taken at the Potter’s New Year’s Eve party with them all dressed up and posing together in front of the fireplace, and the second which was taken by Daphne when Peter collected Regal in the common room prior to their date in Hogsmede. The two cuddled closely together and smiled and waved, not knowing that in a few short hours their worlds would be ripped apart and Regal would be dead.

               Despite the fact that attendance was not mandatory, there was quite a crowd. In the front row, Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall sat with the Shacklebolts and Peter. Mrs. Shacklebolt had insisted that Peter sit with them, to which he gratefully accepted. She squeezed his hand tightly throughout the service and seemed to draw strength from having him there with her.

              In the row right behind them sat the Quidditch Team, accompanied by Lily, Alice, Frank, and Mary, who sat next to Daphne to support her friend. And right behind them were all the fifth year Gryffindors, with the obvious exception of Jackson. The rest of Gryffindor Tower sat in the rows immediately behind the fifth years.

             All the Hufflepuffs were in attendance as well, sitting behind the Gryffindors, accompanied by Professor Sprout, who chose to sit with her House. Lily saw that even Eavan Madley was there, despite the fact that she was still in the Hospital Wing recovering. She was helped into the Great Hall and to her seat by Aidan.

            Lily felt a huge wave of gratitude toward the Hufflepuffs. They were maligned by the rest of the school as somehow less worthy, as a catch-all House. But the truth was that when push came to shove it was the Hufflepuffs, like Aidan, Eavan, Dorcas, Katie, Donald, as well as Barclay Smith, Addison Abbott, and Quinn Cadwallader who had risen as one along with the Gryffindors to help defend Hogwarts. Certainly there were those in Ravenclaw like Terris and Marlowe, and in Slytherin, like Gentry Baddock, who had also done their part to help. But the Hufflepuffs like the Gryffindors had borne the burden most heavily and had also faced the most loss, with Dorcas also still at St. Mungo’s after being tortured.

           The Ravenclaws were also in attendance, led into the Great Hall by their prefects Terris Boot, Marlow Fawcett, Daisy Hookum, John Dawlish, and Adair Ogden. Barty Crouch Jr. was also still in the Hospital Wing following the attack on Hogsmede, and unlike Eavan was apparently not up to attending.

            But as for the fourth Hogwarts house, its’ students were few and far between. But given the suspicious circumstances regarding their role in the attack that had killed Regal, no one really wanted them there anywhere. There were, however, a couple notable exceptions. All the Slytherin third years, many of them having been rescued by Regal and Jackson, were there; as were Augustus Rookwood and his girlfriend, although that was hardly surprising seeing as they had both made it clear where they stood and had both been in Hogsmede the day of the attack.

            Rounding out those in attendance were the entire Hogwarts’ faculty and many of the residents of Hogsmede who had come to pay their respects to one of their villager’s defenders. 

            After everyone had taken their seats, Professor Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall each said a few words about Regal and the bravery she had shown in her sacrifice. And then it was time for James to speak. Lily squeezed his hand reassuringly as he rose to make his way up to the podium. She saw him swallow visibly, clearly attempting to ward off both nerves and emotion. She knew he wasn’t typically one to get nervous, but she also knew how badly he wanted to do this right—for Regal and her family.

            He took a deep breath as he stood at the podium, and then with a nod to Regal’s parents he began.

            “I want to start by thanking Mr. and Mrs. Shacklebolt for asking me to speak today, Regal meant a lot to me and I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to pay my respects to her. Professors Dumbledore and McGonagall have already spoken about how brave Regal was, how noble she was to sacrifice herself for the safety of her friends, and all of that is true. Regal was incredibly brave and incredibly noble, but today I wanted to take a moment and remember the girl that I knew so well. Because while she was brave and noble, Regal was also hilariously funny, wickedly sarcastic, a great teammate, and an even better friend.

            “I first met Regal two years ago when she tried out for the Quidditch Team. She was a third year and we only had one opening as a Beater. The spot went to Augustus because despite his small stature and only being a second year he could raise a lump the size of an melon on someone with his bludger hits, but our Captain at the time, Marlene McKinnon, was so impressed by the way Regal flew that she asked her to keep practicing with us, because she was sure she would be perfect as a replacement chaser once Marlene and Integra graduated. But as it turned out, Regal didn’t have to wait quite that long. Marlene got hurt before the final match of the season and so Regal had to play. Most people would have been terrified, and maybe she was, but you couldn’t tell. She never even batted an eye. And she earned my everlasting respect and admiration.

            “The next year, I became Quidditch Captain, and Hestia joined the team to be promptly adopted by Daphne and Regal. They were inseparable. And they had each other’s backs. We all had each other’s backs. I’ve been on five quidditch teams since I made the team my second year, but I’ve never felt the way I feel about this team with any of the others. Regal, Daphne, Hestia, Dirk, Augie, Sirius, and I became more than a team, we were a family. And I can’t even begin to express how empty we feel without her here with us. It was Regal who came up with our nicknames that she insisted on using, despite several of us lodging numerous complaints on the matter. Once Regal had a nickname for you, she refused to negotiate it. Hestia was forever branded as Sparky because she reminded Regal of a happy, excited puppy,” James said with a smile at Hestia who was giggling quietly into her hand. “Sirius was Playboy for rather obvious reasons,” James said with a smirk. “I was Cappy, which I guess was short for captain, and occasionally when my pre and post-game speeches went on for what she deemed an unreasonable amount of time she lengthened it to Gabby Cappy. Dirk was Bert because she overheard Professor Binns call him that once and she decided it suited him better. Augie was christened Armadillo Pie for reasons only known to Regal as she never properly explained it to any of us, and Daphne was forever renamed Daffy.

            “Regal was one of the best people I ever knew. She had this ability to make everyone laugh and everyone smile. You couldn’t be unhappy when you were around her and I can’t really even begin to tell you how much I’m going to miss her. Thank you.”

            Following the memorial service the Shacklebolts departed Hogwarts. They took with them most of Regal’s belongings with a few exceptions. Some pictures she had of her and Peter from around Hogwarts were given to Peter. Each member of the Quidditch Team was also encouraged to pick out something of Regal’s to have as a memento. But they also took with them two special gifts that Regal’s mother would give to her daughter before she was buried. It had been decided that it wasn’t safe for a large number of Hogwarts students to leave the school so soon after the attack, so Mrs. Shacklebolt acted as courier for these final gifts. A bracelet made from pieces of the end of each member of the Quidditch team’s brooms. Using Hestia’s same size wrist as a model, they had each cut off a piece of their broomstick tail and Daphne had used red and gold thread to sew them into a bracelet. And the flower that Regal had kept by her bed from the bouquet Peter had given her. Hestia had retrieved it for Peter who had charmed it back to its original beauty, and then given it to Regal’s mother to put in the casket of the girl he loved.


**


            Alice glared at the bed hangings surrounding her as she lay in bed. It was the night of Regal’s memorial service, three days since the attack on Hogsmede, and she felt like she was going crazy. No matter what she did, whether she was awake or asleep, all she could see was Regal’s face in her last moments of life, her eyes at the moment that she died. And she just wanted it to stop.

            But did that make her selfish? She kind of felt like it did. She could hear Daphne crying right now in her own bed. She could hear Mary doing her best to comfort her best friend when no real comfort could be given. Peter could barely look anyone in the eye anymore he was so withdrawn into his own personal tormented thoughts since the attack, blaming himself for not being there to protect her. Regal’s parents and her brother had all cried today listening to the tributes to their daughter. Daphne, Peter, the Shacklebolts, and she was sure many other of Regal’s friends would have given anything to be there for Regal during her final moments, and yet Alice wished more than anything she could erase them from her memory.

            But they would not fade. It seemed as if they were burned into her very existence. Every moment she saw it. The strange combination of fear, awareness, and acceptance that had been present in Regal’s eyes as the speeding green light of instantaneous death had sped toward her; and then the moment when there was nothing. It sounded cliché to talk about the light leaving someone’s eyes, but Alice knew know exactly what the phrase meant. She and Regal’s eyes had been locked together from the moment the spell had been cast, and Alice could see the exact moment when Regal’s eyes stopped seeing anything else around them. And now she couldn’t stop seeing it: the moment when Regal had ceased to be.

            She climbed out of her bed and made her way into the bathroom off of their dormitory. She cast the strongest silencing charm in her arsenal of spells and began to scream. She screamed and cried and screamed some more. She continued on for hours, tears streaming down her face, screaming until her voice broke. Finally, having exhausted herself of emotion, she undid the spell and then crawled back into her bed, finally going to sleep.


**


            Lily awoke with a loud shriek of terror. Her heart was pounding as she tried to tell herself it had only been a dream. But it hadn’t just been a dream. It had been real just a few days before.

            She jumped as she heard a loud crash. Visions of Voldemort and Death Eaters filled her mind as she grabbed her wand and launched herself out of the bed and out her bedroom door…only to find herself sliding down her stairs and landing on top of a motionless body. She was about to scream again (who was dead at the bottom of her stairs?) when the inert figure spoke.

            “Ow,” said the voice. She breathed an audible sigh of release.

            “Bloody hell, Potter,” Lily said. “I thought you were a dead body.”

            “Well we’re even then because I thought you were getting tortured. Another nightmare?” He asked.

            “No,” she said lighting her wand tip and sliding off of him to sit beside him and allow him to sit up as well. “It was real, or at least it was once.”

            “Do you want to talk about it?”

            “Why? You were there, you know everything that happened.”

            “It might help,” he said.

            “I’m not sure how. With my other nightmares I could tell myself, or you could tell me, or Alice could tell me, that they weren’t real, but this was real. It happened. And it could happen again.”

            “I’m not going to let anything happen to you, Evans,” Jams said.

            “You can’t promise that, none of us can.”

            “I know, but I wish I could.”

            “He won’t forget,” Lily said. She didn’t elaborate, she didn’t have to. It was the unspoken threat hanging over all four of them.

            “No, he won’t,” James agreed.

            “How long do you think he’ll wait?”

            “He’ll have a difficult time getting at us again while we’re in school with the suspension of Hogsmede weekends and the increased security.”

            “He could have one of his Death Eaters do it for him,” Lily suggested.

            “I’d like to see Snape try, or any of them for that matter. I’d like nothing better than for them to have a go,” James said darkly. “But they won’t.”

            “How do you know?”

            “He’ll want to do it himself,” James said. “He’s egotistical like that. He’s always saved the most important kills for himself, to prove a point. He won’t like that we bested him, or at least were equal to him, in front of his Death Eaters. He’ll need to prove to them that it was a fluke, that he’s not afraid of us. But he’ll wait till we’re out of school.”

            “Happy graduation,” Lily said dryly.

            “Welcome to the big world,” James agreed.

            “You’re doing a wonderful job of reassuring me so I can go back to sleep by the way,” Lily said. “You should market your pep talks Potter.”

            “Nah, I save them just for you, Evans.”

            “I feel so special.”

            “You should because you are,” James said with a wink.

            “You’re so full of shit,” Lily said laughing.

            “You love me,” James said leaning in and kissing her hard on the lips.

            “I do not,” Lily said smiling, although her eyes clearly told a different story as she leaned in to kiss him again.

            “Liar,” he said after they had pulled apart again.

            “Maybe,” she said kissing him a final time.

            “C’mon,” he said standing and pulling her to her feet as well, “let’s go to bed.”

            “What?” she said blanching visibly.

            “Just to sleep you silly girl, maybe I can fight away the nightmares.”

            “And to think I used to think that sharing a bed with you would be the worst nightmare I ever had to worry about,” she said sarcastically as she followed him up to his bedroom. “That and a date with the giant squid, they were neck and neck there for most terrifying.”

            “Evans please,” James said with a wave of his hand, “we both know that this is what your fantasies are made of.”

            “Whatever you say, Potter,” she said climbing into bed beside him.

            “I say I love you, Evans.” She turned to look at him as he pulled her into his arms for the second time in three days.

            “I love you too, Potter.”


**


            Peter lay in his bed watching the Golden Snitch hovering above him, its wings fluttering slowly. James had lent it to him following the attack. He said it always helped him to gather his thoughts. Peter had to admit there was something oddly soothing about the soft beat of the wings, long since slowed by the years since it had been used in a quidditch game. But as for his thoughts, well, they seemed just as jumbled as ever.

            As he watched the snitch he couldn’t help but feel slightly envious of its wings. It would be nice to have wings and be able to just fly away, soar as high as you wanted. Obviously he could use a broom, but it would be nice to be unrestricted by a reliance on something else, to just have the innate ability to fly. If only he could transform into a bird instead of a rat, he would fly away from all the pain he was feeling and just soar into the sky. He could close his eyes and imagine he was flying to where Regal was, or better yet imagine that she was on her broom happily flying along beside him. He could be free.

            He knew his friends were worried about him. The fact that James had parted with the snitch was proof enough of that. He wished he could talk to them about what he was feeling, but he felt as if no one would understand. They all still had their future ahead of them, he felt like his had died with Regal.

            The future. Kingsley had said something to him about the future when he had met with Regal’s family. It was almost as if he had known that Peter felt as if his own future was inexorably linked with Regal. Kingsley had told him that just because the path he had planned on taking was closed didn’t mean there weren’t other paths. And then he had said something that had really struck Peter. He said there was no one way to live his life. He said that Peter should live his life for himself and not worry about other people’s expectations. He should be what he wanted to be and who he wanted to be. But that was the thing? Who did he want to be? What did he want to do? Well he knew the answer to the second question, even if he didn’t know the answer to the first. He wanted to survive. The reality of death had hit him hard and he would do whatever it took, right or wrong, to make sure that he and his friends survived.


**


            Tuesday morning the in the Great Hall, and in the Entry Hall, was a madhouse. Sunday and Monday travel, including apparation, in and out of Hogsmede had been impossible. The Ministry had restricted access to Aurors only in the hopes of finding some useful evidence from the attack. But Tuesday morning travel had been reopened and many parents had come immediately to remove their children from Hogwarts.

            Remus argued that while he would never consider leaving, he could see the point of view of the parents. After all, it was only three months into the school year and already one student was dead, another was missing and presumed dead, and countless others had been seriously injured.

            The Entrance Hall was filled with parents packing up their children, children saying tearful goodbyes to friends, and in one case a shouting match of epic proportions not soon to be forgotten.

            If Mr. Brown had been anticipating that Daphne would leave Hogwarts without a fight, he had been sorely mistaken. Although her three days of quiet reflection and tears had led Mary, and even Alice and Lily, to worry that the loss of Regal had extinguished Daphne’s spark, the spark was reignited by the sight of her father coming to collect her.

            “I’m not going,” Daphne said stomping her foot to add emphasis to her point.

            “Daphne, your mother and I will not allow you to be put in any further danger. Katie’s father has already arranged for your admittance to Beauxbatons, and your brother and Katie are expecting you this evening.”

            “Well you can just un-enroll me because I’m not going,” Daphne said again.

            “I’m not going to tolerate any dissent on this, Daphne. Especially not because of a boy you’re not even dating…”

            “This is not just about him,” Daphne said loudly. James grimaced in the Great Hall where they could still hear every word that was being shouted between the pair. He hated that he was still a source of contention between Daphne and her parents. “My friends are here! My life is here! I’m not going to leave them!”

            “Daphne your life is at stake. Regal was murdered for Merlin’s sake.”

            “You don’t have to tell me that,” Daphne said her voice reaching a new level of anger. “I held her body! I saw her! I’ve done nothing but cry for the past three days! But if you think that I’m just going to leave Hestia after what we’ve been through, just give up on Hogwarts after Regal died defending it, you’re wrong. I’m not going, Daddy. End of Discussion.” And with that she had given him a fierce hug before walking back up to the Gryffindor Common Room. Mr. Brown had stood shell-shocked in the Entrance Hall for a long time, before apparently recognizing a lost cause, and retreating back home.  


**


            “How are you?” Lily asked as she took her seat next to Daphne in Ancient Runes.

            “A little miffed. I didn’t need that today. I don’t know what they were thinking expecting me to leave here.”

            “They’re just worried about you.”

            “Well I still think Hogwarts is as safe as anywhere else in England. And I’m not going to France.”

            “I understand, I wouldn’t leave either,” Lily said. And then remembering something she said, “My parents once wanted me to leave as well.”

            “Really,” Daphne asked, turning to look at Lily. “I’ve never heard you mention that before.”

            “I’ve never told anyone,” Lily said. “My mother wrote to me right after I was attacked, demanding that I come home. I was furious that she could even ask that of me. I mean this is my world now, not the muggle world. I couldn’t just leave. But still it was hard to tell her ‘no’ because I knew it would disappoint her.”

            “I could see the worry in my father’s eyes when he realized I wasn’t going to come with him. And maybe I should have done what he wanted, but I could never have been okay with a decision to leave, not like this.”

            “Then I think you made the right decision,” Lily said.

            “I think you made the right one, too. You’re supposed to be in this world Lily, no matter what any bigots might do or say. You’re a better witch than they will ever be. You proved that on Saturday.”

            “Thank you, Daphne. I’m really sorry about Regal.”

            “Thank you, and thank you for keeping him safe.”

            “I can’t take credit for that,” Lily said with a small, sad smile.

            “Well, thank you all the same.”


**


 

             Another day had come and gone and still Alice could find no relief. She was beginning to doubt she would ever close her eyes without seeing the image of Regal’s dying moments emblazoned across her mind. She wanted to talk to someone. But she also didn’t. All of her friends were all still reeling from the attack in their own ways. Frank had been quieter, more sullen. Lily looked as if she was barely sleeping, and James too seemed to be developing bags under his eyes. Remus and Sirius were preoccupied with worrying over Peter, Daphne spent each night crying, and Mary was doing everything she could to help Daphne. She thought about writing to her parents or even Healer Longbottom but every time she wrote that letter in her mind it sounded stupid. Here she was a girl who had along with three other teenagers battled the greatest dark wizard ever, and she was upset by the images of a girl’s eyes. Yup she was crazy.

             But then she remembered something. There was someone else she could talk too. She looked at the clock beside her bed. It was well after one in the morning. Oh well, she thought. Professor McGonagall had said she was available to talk at ANY time.

            She put her robe on and made her way down the stairs, through the common room, and out into the corridor, waking a grumbling Fat Lady in the process. She fully expected to run into Filch, or Peeves, or Mrs. Norris, but was unencumbered as she made her way to Professor McGonagall’s office and living quarters. She took a deep breath before knocking.

            “Miss Fortescue, what on earth is it? Is someone sick?” Professor McGonagall said as she opened the door, dressed in her familiar tartan dressing gown.

            “No, Professor, everything is fine.”

            “Well then what are you doing here,” Professor McGonagall asked.

           “I needed to talk about what happened. I’m sorry it’s so late, but…”

           “Not at all,” Professor McGonagall said ushering Alice into her apartment. “I’ll just brew us a cup of tea.”

           “Thank you,” Alice said.

           “I’m not surprised that you find yourself needing to talk,” McGonagall said. “You, Frank, Lily, and James accomplished something not many grown wizards have done. I can only imagine how terrified you were.”

            “Actually that’s not what’s bothering me,” Alice said. “I was scared facing him, but I was pretty sure I was going to die so it was almost like I had nothing to lose.”

           “If that’s not what’s bothering you what is?”

           “I saw when Regal died. And I don’t just mean I saw her fall to the ground or saw the curse hit her or whatever. We were looking at each other when she died. I saw the acceptance in her eyes and I saw it in her eyes when she died. And now I can’t stop seeing it.”

            “I see,” the Professor said. “I can only imagine what a burden that is for you, Alice. And I wish there was something I could do to make that go away, but I’m afraid short of a memory spell which I won’t do, there’s nothing I can do to get rid of that image.”

           “I figured,” Alice said going to rise.

            “Wait,” Professor McGonagall said. “That does not mean that there’s not something that can be done to work through this.”

           “Like what,” Alice asked.

           “You see what you saw as a bad thing, and understandably so, but what if you could use it to help someone else.”

            “How could what I saw help someone?”

            “On Sunday I sat for a long time in this office and talked with Regal’s parents. More than anything else, the thing they most wanted to know was if Regal was scared or in pain when she died. You can give them those answers. And maybe by helping them to find peace, you will find peace yourself.”


**


            Barty Crouch Jr. was being released from the Hospital Wing today. Madame Pomfrey had told him numerous times to count his blessings as he was just so luck that none of those curses that had produced so many deep lacerations on his body had hit major arteries, even though some had come close. Little did she know, luck had nothing to do with it. He had been very careful and patient when slicing himself open not to do any lasting damage, but still make it severe enough to be believable. And it had done his job. He had avoided the attack, but was still being hailed as a hero just like all the other injured. His mother had wept over his bedside and even his father had seemed pleased, if only because it had given him a good human interest piece in the Daily Prophet that had garnered him sympathy from the public.

            As he sat there in bed, waiting for Madame Pomfrey to come and release him, he noticed a note on his bedside table. It hadn’t been there before so where had it come from? He snatched it up quickly, tearing it open.

            Mr. Crouch,

       Glad to hear you are on the mend from your terrible “injuries.” You’re cleverness and intelligence has been noted. Meet me at the place where you had your final meeting with Bertram Aubrey tomorrow night at 7. Come alone or everyone will find out exactly what happened to Aubrey and where to find him.

            Barty felt as if his heart was beating a thousand beats a minute. How was this possible? No one had known about him killing that stupid idiot. And how could this person know that his injuries were fake? And just who was this person and what did they want from him?


**


            Gentry Baddock sat in her bedroom at her desk flipping through her Transfiguration textbook. It was Friday. It had been six days since the attack, five since she had left Hogwarts. Her first batch of assignments which the teachers had sent her by owl on Monday were due by the coming Monday. This Transfiguration essay was the last thing she had to complete. And she would be done with it if only she could find a specific quote she remembered reading that she wanted to use to support her claim in the conclusion.

            “What are you doing?” her little brother Kenton asked in a sing-song voice. She smiled a warm smile at him. It was weird being back home full time, but she loved being home with her little brother. He was ten years old, and very frail. He had been born so premature that magic had just barely been enough to save him. He was still very small for his age, looking more like a tall seven year old than a ten year old. His parents were hopeful that he would be able to attend Hogwarts next year, but Gentry had always worried about him getting teased for his small stature. If she was unable to return next year, which seemed unlikely as Voldemort was unlikely to be stopped in half a year, then her brother would be forced to board the train alone, something his older sister was not sure she could stand. The creases that appeared on her mother’s forehead every time her little brother mentioned something about Hogwarts told her that she wasn’t the only one who was having such doubts.

            “I’m working on homework. Do you want to see?” She asked sweetly.

            “Yeah,” he nodded his head excitedly. Climbing atop her lap to look at the book, something he was still small enough to do. “Will I be able to do all this one day?”

            “Of course you will,” she said ruffling his hair affectionately.

            “I can’t wait till I get to learn to do magic. Then I can be a hero like you,” he said with awe in his voice.

            “I’m not a hero, Kenton. I just tried to help the best I could.”

            “But were you scared?”

            “Of course I was,” she said nodding her head vigorously.

            “But you did it anyway. That makes you a hero.”

            “You’re silly, but I love you.”

            “I love you too,” he said getting up off her lap and heading back to the door. “Mom said to tell you to be wrapping up in the next few minutes because dinner would be ready soon.”

            “Okay, I’ll be down in a few minutes.”

            He disappeared down the stairs and she continued her hunt through the chapter to find the quote. She heard a crash down the stairs and raised her head, but heard nothing more. She wasn’t too concerned. Her brother sometimes got over excited trying to help set the table and plates crashing to the ground were a semi-regular occurrence.

            “There it is!” She exclaimed to herself.

            She marked the page and starred the quote so she would be able to find it again after dinner. She made her way down the stairs and turned into the dining room, expecting to find her family already sitting down to dinner, but the room was empty. Even more surprising was that even though she had heard a crash she attributed to plates, there were no places set on the table. She listened for the sound of bustle in the kitchen, but she heard nothing. In fact, she had heard nothing since the crash. A feeling of foreboding was building in her stomach. She reached into her pocket and extracted her wand. She eased around the corner into the kitchen but it too was empty.

           That left the living room, the only room downstairs with direct access from the street. Her heart was pounding so loud in her chest that she felt sure anyone in the house could hear it. She nudged the door to the living room open with her foot, holding her wand out firmly in front of her. At this moment she wished fervently she had actually fought in the battle on Saturday and had some real world experience, instead of just Defense Against the Dark Arts.

           As soon as she stepped into the living room she saw them. Her parents and younger brother were all in chairs with their hands and feet bound, their mouths gagged. The family house elf, Gidget, who had been almost a nanny to her and her brother, was dead on the floor. A foot print was clearly visible on her face where someone had clearly stepped on her.

           She turned quickly to find their attackers. Her heart plummeted. One or two Death Eaters she might have been able to miraculously handle, but there were easily a dozen of them, all with their wands trained directly on her.

           “Let my family go,” she said as clearly as she could, trying to keep her voice from shaking. “I’m the one you have a problem with, they didn’t do anything.”

            “Aw, how sweet,” one of the Death Eaters said, stepping forward. She removed her hood and mask. It was Bellatrix Black. She was feared even among Slytherins, for her specialties were well known. “You want us to just take you, spare them, is that it dearie?”

             “Yes,” she said.

              “If you wanted to sacrifice yourself you should have just died on Saturday. But you sold yourself out to the other side. Ran and tattled to Dumbledore. And now you need to be punished.”

            “Then punish me but leave them alone. They have nothing to do with any of this.”

             “Drop your wand then,” Bellatrix said, nodding to the wand in her hand. “If you cooperate then I see no reason why we can’t honor your request.” She dropped her wand immediately. She would do whatever necessary to protect her family.

             “Bind her” Bellatrix said to one of the Death Eaters behind her. She felt herself being forced into a chair that had apparently been summoned out of thin air. Ropes bounded her tightly against the back of the chair and also wrapped around her arms and feet.

             “Now that we’re all cozy, where were we?” Bellatrix said. The other Death Eaters were surrounding the room. Their purpose seemed to have been served, with the family no overpowered. It was clearly Bellatrix who was running this show.

             “You were going to let my family go,” Gentry said.

            “’Ah, yes, but the thing is you betrayed your House and the purity of your blood when you ran to Dumbledore, you had to have learned that behavior somewhere. After all, you’re only a little girl. Surely your parents must have taught you to disrespect the Dark Lord.”

             “No, no, they didn’t,” Gentry said shaking her head desperately.

             “You, Baddock,” Bellatrix said, turning to Gentry’s father, “Did you encourage your daughter to be so subversive? Did you teach her to put the lives of mudbloods over the good of wizard kind?” She waved her wand and the gag in Gentry’s father’s mouth disappeared.

              “No, no I didn’t,” Mr. Baddock said, his voice shaking with fear. “But I’m proud of her. She did what was necessary to save the lives of her fellow students and I love her.”

               “I see,” Bellatrix said. “Let’s see how proud of her you are now,” she said darkly. “Crucio!”

               “No! Leave him alone please!” Gentry yelled. Her please intermixed with her father’s tortured shrieks. She could see the tears running down the faces of her mother, the terror in her beloved baby brother’s eyes. She knew both were mirrored on her own face.

               It went on forever, or at least it seemed to. Bellatrix stopped several times to ask her father if he was still proud of his daughter. Each time he answered in the affirmative and the torture began again.

              Gentry screamed and pleaded. After three times she stopped pleading with the Death Eaters and instead pleaded with her father.

               “It’s okay Daddy, you can tell them you’re not proud of me. I understand. This is all my fault.”

               Her father meekly turned his head to look at his daughter. Some of the blood vessels had burst in his eye due to his own screaming and thrashing. Bruises were already beginning to form on his face and arms. “I am proud of you Gentry. This isn’t your fault and I won’t deny you.”

               And so it continued on. Finally after what seemed like hours but in reality was only around 30 minutes, Bellatrix relented. Her victim was sprawled on the floor, not moving and barely breathing.

             “Avada Kedavra!” She shouted pointing her wand at the innate figure of Gentry Baddock’s father. He was dead and Gentry felt a huge part of herself die with her.

              “So, let’s see, what about you Mummy? Are you proud of your little muggle-loving brat?”

                “You can burn in hell,” her mother said defiantly. Bellatrix said nothing, only smiled at her next victim.

                And so it happened again. Bellatrix Black tortured her mother for minutes and minutes on end. She stopped several times to ask her if she was still proud of her daughter, each time her mother declared her love for both her children and the madness went on. And then she too was dead.

                And then what Gentry had been dreading from the moment she walked into the room, Bellatrix turned to look at Kenton. He looked even smaller now, tied to chair, terrified after having watched both his parents brutally murdered.

              “How about you little baby? Are you proud of your big sister?” She asked in a mocking, baby tone.

               “YOU COMPLETE BITCH! YOU LEAVE MY LITTLE BROTHER ALONE!” Gentry snarled. A white hot flame slapped across her face and she bit back a scream at the pain.

                “Manners, dearie, I am a guest after all,” Bellatrix said with a sadistic grin.

               “I am proud of my big sister. She’s the best big sister. And she protected other kids from mean people like you,” Kenton spoke up.

               His screams pierced Gentry to her very core. She sobbed along with him, tried to comfort him. She told him he would be with their parents soon and that she would be there not long after. She told him repeatedly how much she loved him. And then he too was dead.

              “Come along now,” Bellatrix said to the other Death Eaters, “We’ve done what we were ordered to do.”

“What?” Gentry said, panic setting in on her. “No! You can’t leave! You have to kill me too! Please! Please kill me too!” She said sobbing as they exited her house, leaving her alone with the dead bodies of her family, still bound to the chair.

She screamed. She screamed for help. She screamed for death. She screamed. But no one came. Not the neighbors, and not the Aurors. She couldn’t understand it. Even if they hadn’t been able to hear her scream, by now the Dark Mark had to be glistening for all to see over her house. Someone had to have seen it.

“No one can hear you,” the cold voice said disdainfully. She looked up. She supposed she should feel fear at the sight of the snake-like face, the cold mirthless red eyes. But all she felt was relief. She would die by the end of this encounter. Her waiting was just another part of her punishment. And she would welcome death. But she would not beg for it. Not again. Not from him. She would not give him, the man, the monster, responsible for her family’s deaths, for the death of Regal, and so many others, that satisfaction. She would be brave like her brother thought she was. And if she could make him mad, and provoke him into killing her faster, well that was all the better.

“It must be a slow night,” Gentry said not breaking eye contact, even though those red eyes freaked her out to no end, “for you to bother with personally killing a fifteen year old kid.”

“Don’t be so modest,” he said almost civilly. “You undermined months of planning and preparation. You are very important to me.”

“Or maybe you’re just feeling a little self-conscious? After all, you were bested by four seventeen year olds, so maybe you figured you’d better stick to the underage, not fully trained?”

For the first time that night she felt what it was like to be tortured by the Cruciatus Curse, but it was over just moments later.

“I would have killed those impertinent and pesky little nuisances if it hadn’t been for the old fool showing up. And he wouldn’t have even known I was there if it weren’t for you.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure if I were you,” she said. “I don’t know Frank and Alice that well, but you underestimate Lily Evans and James Potter at your own peril.”

“Three blood traitors and a mudblood are no match for me,” he said dismissively. “And rest assured, they’ll get what’s coming to them, but for now, I’m more interested in you.”

“Why me?”

“You’re a Slytherin. A Slytherin Prefect, much like I once was. Why would you betray your House to protect mudbloods and blood traitors?”

“Because as a school prefect my duty wasn’t just to my house it was to the whole school. And I wasn’t going to let kids, innocent children, from any house die if I could do something to stop it.”

“So in short, like Dumbledore, you were motivated by that idiotic notion of ‘love’.”

“I suppose I was,” she said.

“And do you regret it? Seeing what your decision has caused you and your family?” He said motioning to the dead bodies surrounding them.

“After seeing what you and your monsters are capable of, I’ve never been more certain I made the decision.”

“So be it,” he said. “Avada Kedavra!”

Gentry Baddock, age 15, a few months younger than her fellow fifth year Prefect Regal Shacklebolt, fell to the ground with the same dull thud as Regal had only six days previous. They were both dead because they had put the safety of others above that of their own selves.

And Voldemort couldn’t help but laugh as he made his way back out into the night. What a fool the silly little girl had been! Refusing even at the moment of her death to beg for mercy, to apologize for her error; and to think she had almost single-handedly ruined his plan. But she was right about one thing, she could not take full credit for that. Four more teenagers had spited him on that day, and rest assured they would pay as well.


**


 

A/N: Okay so after reading that last bit I hope you understand why this took so long. I couldn’t write more than a little bit of that at a time. As I said, everything in this chapter has huge ramifications and I bet you might even be able to make some predictions about what those ramifications might be. I’d love to hear your theories!

A couple additional things… The Hufflepuffs! I’ve been asked a couple of times why I seem to favor them over say the Ravenclaws and give them a more starring role in the battle and such. My answer is that personally I’m more of a Ravenclaw (I knew my Pottermore sorting was accurate because I can be really brainy and nerdy especially about History) BUT with the MAJOR exception of Luna (and maybe Cho but who really likes her anyway? NOT ME! TEAM GINNY!) Harry interacts a lot more with the Hufflepuffs and they generally have his back and are LOYAL to Harry and Dumbledore. After all, its Ernie MacMillan who demands that older students be allowed to stay and fight in DH. And don’t forget about Hannah Abbott, Susan Bones, and Justin Finch-Fletchley (who admittedly had a problem with Harry in CoS but you’d be scared if the kid seemed to be setting a snake on you too). So I stand by my love of the Hufflepuffs! And really isn’t it about time they got some credit?

 


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