Chapter 30 : Chapter 30: The Dawn
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Lucius Malfoy stepped out of the shadows and joined his master as they made a turn down the hallway. He looked almost as bad as Luna, though rather than defiance, his newly scarred face showed nothing but anger and contempt.
“Yes, my Lord?” he asked, twisting his mouth into a smirk as he heard Luna cry out again.
“Lucius, Lucius, my old friend. How are your injuries?” Voldemort asked quietly, walking off without motioning for Lucius to follow. Malfoy hurried to stay with his Master, walking slightly behind him.
“They are healing, my Lord,” Malfoy spat. “Physically, at least. But how, how could he do this to me?”
“You mean Draco marrying the Mudblood girl?” Voldemort said. He was running his wand through his fingers, keeping his eyes on it, rather than on Lucius’ livid face.
“Yes. I don’t understand, my Lord,” Lucius said, catching up with the Dark Lord looking desperately at him, who was still toying with his wand. “Why – how could he –?”
“Because I ordered him to.”
Voldemort said it quite clearly, but Lucius seemed sure he had misheard his master.
“I don’t understand,” he said again. “You told Draco to marry a Mudblood? My Lord, she’s even one of Potter’s friends!”
“Do not be angry with Draco, I assure you Lucius, he is not any fonder of this than you are.”
Lucius Malfoy continued to watch Voldemort intently, and he spoke again.
“You see, the Granger girl, Potter, and all their friends fear for Mrs. Jacobs,” he gestured towards the room where Luna had been held captive for the last few days,
“Without the Jacobs, dissention broke out amongst their group and it is clear some sort of fight broke out. Miss Granger left the safety of Potter and his friends to seek out a different way to save Luna. She believes that by marrying Draco, she will be able to glean Luna’s whereabouts from him, or perhaps even one of us.” Voldemort took a sudden detour from the way out the front door, instead leading Lucius into a small, dark bedroom.
“But then why allow her to join us at all?” Lucius burst out angrily.
“Draco has no knowledge of the fact that we have taken up residence here, as he is ‘spending time’ with his darling fiancé.” Voldemort hissed. “I had hoped that we could simply torture Potter’s location out of her, but it appears she is not Secret-Keeper, and could not tell us regardless. However, she will serve as an excellent hostage should something happen to dear Luna. I also have, as I'm sure you noticed, dwindling resources.”
“What do you mean, my Lord?” Lucius asked. He realized how dark the room they were standing in was and drew his wand to turn on the lights. Voldemort sighed.
“Well, first of all you will notice that nearly every mission I order lately is conducted by the Lacerte. Do you know why this is, Lucius? Do you realize what has happened?
“It is because there is no one else left to send. I have only one Death Eater remaining with me, aside from Severus, who continues to be indisposed in his work at Hogwarts. Owen Stetnas is truly exceptional, though he refuses to carry my Mark…he is no Death Eater. He plots against me at every turn. He will be dealt with….”
“My Lord,” Lucius protested, completely ignoring the slights on Owen, “my son is among the most faithful of the Death Eaters! He has even consented to marrying filth on your request! Surely you most count him amongst us!”
“I am speaking of Draco Lucius. You should be proud,” Voldemort said quietly. He looked pensively at Lucius, or rather past him. “Perhaps Granger would prove useful under the Imperius Curse. Mudblood though she is, she may prove a more useful tool than you, Lucius.”
“What – what are you talking about, my Lord?” Lucius said. His voice rose to a much higher pitch than normal and he made no effort to conceal the alarm in it.
“How did you sustain these injuries, Lucius?” Voldemort asked quietly, finally looking at him and indicating the gashes marring Lucius’ regal features, and the limp with which he now walked. His voice became more and more quiet, the antipode of Malfoy’s.
“I was interrogating the girl,” he snarled, “but as you seem to have found out, she’s a rather dynamic little bitch. She mauled me for nearly two minutes before Stetnas heard. That’s likely not true anyway, he just realized he couldn’t pretend not to hear anymore…”
“Would you have done any different, Lucius?” Voldemort asked softly. “But you misunderstand. What exactly were you doing to her?”
“Like I said, I was interrogating her, thoug –”
“But how, Lucius? I am asking you how.”
Lucius blinked. “Obviously, the Cruciatus Curse, which always brings female voices up to that sweet pitch of agony….” he trailed off, reliving some of his past exploits. Voldemort watched him, his red eyes slits.
“And Sectumsempra a few times, a couple Bone-Shattering curses, along with the standard, but never boring, physical beatings…”
“And is that all?” Voldemort asked dangerously. His red eyes found Lucius’ grey ones. They burrowed into them, ripping thoughts and memories from his servant’s mind.
Lucius hastily broke eye contact and stared up at a portrait of a Malfoy ancestor on the wall behind Voldemort. He shifted his wand in his hand uncomfortably.
“Well, she is a rather beautiful girl,” Lucius said, knowing better than to lie. “And I planned the usual routine for her….”
“Your usual routine, Lucius?” Voldemort repeated, a sudden touch of anger in his voice, “To torture helpless women then have your way with them?”
“Well, yes, my Lord,” Lucius said blankly. He was truly confused. The Dark Lord always permitted him, such a faithful Death Eater, to do as he wished with the prisoners, particularly attractive female ones.
Voldemort closed his eyes. The Dark Lord considered it a remarkable show of his self restraint that he was able to remain calm – to stop himself from eviscerating every being in the wretched house – despite the efforts of everyone around him to impede his plans. The fact that Harry Potter still lived, the way Luna Lovegood had set upon him, the way Lucius Malfoy had set upon her, all these things were detrimental to his plans. It was not a healthy thing to be detrimental to the plans of Lord Voldemort.
“Against my orders, you attempted to force yourself upon Luna Jacobs?”
“Forgive me, my Lord, but why should it matter? What would make her any different from any other blood traitor?”
Voldemort opened his eyes again and stared directly into Lucius’. His wand found its target in the moment he spoke the last words Lucius Malfoy would ever hear.
“You shall never know, Lucius. Avada Kedavra.”
Harry pulled out of Voldemort's mind and fell out of his chair. Ron and Lupin hurried to help him up.
“What did you see?” Ron asked quickly, pulling him to his feet, looking incredibly concerned. “You’re white as a ghost, what was it?”
“Luna – and Owen– and Voldemort,” he panted. “I know where she is, I know where they’re keeping Luna.”
“What?” Lupin said quickly. “Harry, what did you see?”
“Voldemort,” Harry repeated, placing a shaking hand to his forehead. “I’ve just seen him with Owen they were torturing Luna.” Ron’s hands clenched into fists. “Then he said they found one of the Seven.”
“What?” Ron copied Remus. “Which one? Did he say where?”
“He said it was the Mask, but not where it was. Voldemort’s going after it, and he left Owen behind to guard Luna. He said if we tried to go after the Mask, he’d kill Luna, but I don’t think it matters anymore.”
“What are you saying Harry, we let her die?” Ron cried in shock, taking a step back.
“No, because if we don’t hurry, he’s going to anyway!” Harry shouted back. “Luna hurt him, and now he’s angry. He’s taunting us…he purposely said where they were, he wants us to go…. he knows Owen’s waiting…And he remembers what happened the last time I saw a vision of him torturing a friend.”
“We must exercise cautious haste,” a deep voice said. Harry shook his head and looked over at the doorway. Albus Dumbledore had just entered the room, Tonks right behind him.
“Where are they, Harry?” Dumbledore asked swiftly.
“Scotland,” Harry said.”Voldemort said they were at the Malfoy's’ home in Scotland.” Even through his haze of worry and pain, Harry could sense a change in the climate. Dumbledore was here, and he was going to help – things were different now.
Lupin nodded and left the room, while Ron drew wand and looked at Dumbledore.
“So, what do we do?” he asked, looking horrified. “We don’t know where the Mask is, and if we go to save Luna… Harry, you know we’re no match for Owen Stetnas.” He finished his sentence miserably, shutting his eyes tight in a fruitless attempt to hide himself from the world crashing down around him.
“Ron,” Dumbledore said clearly, “please go back to your safehouse and bring your other friends here. Tell them to use their connections to find the Mask.” Ron looked at Dumbledore, obviously torn.
“Michael didn’t want them to know about Luna,” he began very nervously.
“And they will not,” Dumbledore said. “We will allow them ascertain Lord Voldemort’s next move for us. They will not be involved with Luna.” Ron nodded, relieved his ideals wouldn’t put him at odds with the old Headmaster. “Can you Apparate to America again?” Ron nodded again and vanished.
“What are we going to do?” Harry asked Dumbledore. Remus reentered the room.
“Where is she, Remus?” Albus asked Lupin.
Harry, Tonks, and Dumbledore all looked at Lupin, who sighed. “He only said they were in Scotland, Harry?” Lupin asked. “He didn’t say anywhere in specific?”
“No, just that it was the Malfoy's’” Harry said angrily, “can we not find it?”
“The problem is that the Malfoy's have two homes in Scotland,” Lupin said gravely. “We don’t know which of them to raid, which is what he wants.”
“Voldemort’s trying to divide our strength,” Tonks said. Harry noticed her hair had been continuously reddening as the situation unfolded itself. “He’s confident, but not stupid. He knows neither of you are just students anymore – he won't underestimate us.”
Harry closed his eyes to think, but Jeff saved him the trouble.
“Regardless of the risk, we need to split up. Sarah and I will go to the Somerset and try to save the Mask from Voldemort.” Harry quickly opened his eyes back up at stared at Jeff, who stood beside Ron, showing no signs of animosity from their fight. In fact, Harry thought he had never seen Jeff look so worried about anything before. Even Sarah, who always made an effort to appear aloof of concern looked troubled.
“Somerset?” Harry repeated. “That’s where the Mask is?” Jeff shrugged.
“That’s what STRIKE says. Curious how they keep figuring these things out right at the same time Voldemort does…doesn’t matter though. It’s at the Glastonbury Tor. Sarah and I can handle that. There’s two places to hit in Scotland?” He turned his attention to Dumbledore, who had in turn been observing him silently. “Professor, you know war and you know Voldemort.” Dumbledore said nothing, but continued to look at him through his spectacles. Jeff looked a little uncomfortable at this. “I think you should go with Harry and Ron to search for Luna.”
“I thank you for considering my qualifications, but I will have to disagree with your strategy,” Dumbledore replied. He drew his wand. “I will go with you to Somerset to face the Dark Lord. Harry and Mr. Weasley can search one location for Luna while Remus and Nymphadora attend to the other.”
Jeff frowned. “Sir…you haven't dealt with Owen Stetnas like we have. He may not be Voldemort, but he’s almost as dangerous – maybe more so, because the way he fights and acts I don't think he cares whether he lives or dies.” He glanced over at Harry. “I don't mean any offense Harry, but if you and Ron run into him…hell, I wouldn’t want to face him down alone. He almost took out Michael and Luna once.”
Harry certainly did not take offense to Jeff’s assessment. He had often been irritated with the way the Order and Dumbledore had treated him, never quite letting him in on everything, always allowing him around only with stipulations. But this…Harry was not unwilling to go after Owen Stetnas, but he was also not fearless.
“I do not need to face the man to evaluate his abilities,” Dumbledore said somewhat shortly. “I assure you I know exactly what I ask of Harry and Ronald. I would prefer to see to both pressing matters myself, but we live in an imperfect world where difficult decisions must be made. I am making a very well educated guess you will need my help more than Harry will.”
Jeff looked stunned by Dumbledore’s frank statement. Harry wasn’t sure how to feel – he certainly appreciated the vote of confidence from Dumbledore, but still couldn’t help but agree a little with Jeff.
Jeff looked at Sarah, who raised her eyebrows and half shrugged in a way that plainly told Jeff to accept the help. “Remus, if you will brief Harry on where exactly he is going….”
Remus nodded and walked over to Harry and began to describe the area surrounding one of the Malfoy’s home in enough detail so that Harry and Ron would be able to Apparate to it. Meanwhile, Tonks had engaged Sarah.
“I knew Michael Jacobs when he was in the Aurors,” she told Sarah in a low voice. “He was a good man, and a good friend.”
Sarah crossed her arms at the older woman. “You're Tonks, huh? Yeah…Michael didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about the Aurors, but he mentioned you specifically. You were there the night Michael and Owen were attacked by Voldemort, weren’t you?”
“I only showed up after the fact,” Tonks shook her head. “If I had been a little earlier…well, You-Know-Who might not have such a powerful ally. Doesn’t matter though. He is a monster.”
Sarah glanced at Jeff, who was talking to Dumbledore. “Is it bad how much I want to hurt them?” she asked Tonks in a rush. “All of them – the Death Eaters, Voldemort, Owen. I miss him so fucking much.” The two girls locked eyes with each other. Sarah’s face hardened. “They didn’t just kill him – its Luna too. No, there’s no doubt what to do.”
A look of grim determination passed around the six. Each team was set an equally difficult and dangerous task. If there was ever a mission from which not everyone would return, this was it. But that could not happen. They could not fail, or they would lose more than they ever had.
Tonks pulled her eyes from Sarah and addressed the group at large. “There’s something I have to say. I remember Michael Jacobs well, but the person I remember most clearly in the Aurors was Owen Stetnas. He’s not right…there’s something very wrong with him.
“But whatever is going on in his mind, he’s still one of the most dangerous Wizards alive. If either of you encounter him,” she said to Harry and Ron, “I won't tell you to run. I know you would never leave your friend behind. I'm only going to say be careful.”
There was no time for hesitation now. Every second they wasted, Voldemort was one step closer to finally laying hands on one of the Slytherin Seven, and Luna one step closer to death. Jeff and Sarah Apparated together to Somerset, Dumbledore vanishing on his own, and followed shortly by Remus and Tonks, who obtained the Secret of Luna’s home from Harry. This was where, God willing, they would all meet up once their tasks were completed.
Harry and Ron stood in the kitchen of Grimmuald Place, preparing to Apparate to the location Remus had described to them, which was as close as they could get to the Malfoy's’ home in southern Scotland without the possibility of tripping any security wards.
Somehow, Harry already knew that they would be the ones to find Luna, and therefore, Owen. It wasn’t pessimism, he simply knew. It would still be foolish to not send Remus and Tonks to check the other house though.
“This is it, Ron,” Harry said quietly. “Either we kill Owen, or he kills us…then Luna. We have to do this for her.” Harry knew there was no point denying it, surely Ron felt it too. Harry didn’t relish the idea of killing, but he knew there would be no avoiding it when it came time to duel Owen.
Ron nodded. “For Luna… He’s made a mess of all our lives, but no more.” His voice, which had been a quiet mutter, grew louder and more confident. “We’re going to save her, Harry. We’re going to save Luna, and take out that bastard too… Then we’ll track down the other three of the Seven, with Luna, and then… then there won't be a place on earth Voldemort will be able to hide….”
“Yeah,” Harry said, a little taken aback by Ron’s sudden speech, but at the same time impressed. The desperate situation seemed to have emboldened his friend. “You’re completely right, Ron. This one’s for everyone… Now let’s do it.”
They turned in tandem into crushing blackness. A moment later, they felt and heard the fierce frigid wind blowing in Scotland. Harry quickly glanced around, checking their surroundings. He saw Ron do the same, his eyes darting to all possible places danger could be lurking.
Granted, they were plainly walking into the two most powerful Dark Wizards alive, but Harry had long since learned safety is never certain.
They stood side by side on a rocky hill overlooking a large valley. Down in the clearing there was a large house which could only be the one they were looking for. The rushing ocean could be seen on the other side of the house.
With a nod to Ron, Harry began to cautiously slide down the rather steep hill, doing his best to keep his balance and his wand ready at the same time. His foot caught a large rock and he fell forward, rolling headfirst down the slope.
After a few turns he came to his senses and assumed his stag form – something Michael had always given him hell over, the fact that Harry had not become a wolf – rolling back onto his feet and taking off down into the valley to the house. Ron’s burgundy wolf soon caught up with him. Together the two pelted forward against the howling winds, eyes fixed straight ahead onto the spot where they knew Luna Jacobs to be.
The vacation home, which was large even for a regular house, was enclosed in a high stone wall and a black iron gate barred their entry. Harry and Ron reverted back to human form in front of it.
Harry pointed his wand at the gate, ready to blast it off its hinges, but there was no need. The gate swung open, allowing them access to the inner courtyard. With a glance at Ron, who shrugged and gripped his wand a little tighter, Harry proceeded into the courtyard. It seemed they were expected.
They walked cautiously down a cobblestone path, looking left and right constantly. Off to one side on the well manicured lawn was a fountain with a stone statue of Lucius Malfoy in the center. He was looking typically arrogant, and water was pouring from his wand. They reached the door of the bleach white house and stopped. Harry looked at Ron and Ron looked back at him.
“I don’t hear anything,” Ron muttered, “maybe this isn’t the one where they’re keeping her…” Harry shook his head.
“No, I'm sure of it. She’s in there Ron…and so is Stetnas.”
“Right then,” Ron said, squaring his shoulders. “Let’s not keep them waiting, shall we?” He waited for Harry to nod before placing a hand on the door handle, which he half expected to bite him, and turning it.
He and Harry both pointed their wands into the foyer, directing them all around the room. No one was in the room, but Harry thought he could hear something farther inside. They quietly entered the house.
“What’d you think that is?” Ron muttered, obviously referring to the sounds echoing around the house.
“Nothing good,” Harry said darkly. “Come on…”
Harry and Ron continued into the house, passing through another room, then into another. Harry then finally had evidence they were in the right place. The body of Lucius Malfoy was sprawled out on the floor, eyes still open in shock. They passed it without a word.
“Down this hall,” Harry whispered, as the sound became louder and became clearer. Owen and Luna’s yells resounded down the hallway, though it was unclear exactly what she and Owen were saying. “A left turn, then the room at the end…”
“Let’s do it,” Ron said, almost succeeding in hiding the shaking in his voice. “Luna’s right there, now let’s go get her!”
Harry and Ron crept down the hall, though now Luna’s screams were easily loud enough to cover their approach. They paused for less than a second, than Harry yelled “Bombardo!” and the door exploded into the room.
For a fraction of a second, Harry and Ron had a clear view of the scene in the room. And for that second, nothing but pure hatred filled Harry's mind, boiling over to every part of his body, so that he knew nothing but fury.
Luna had been thrown up on a table in the small room. She was struggling valiantly, but was weak from three days of nonstop torture and was losing her battle stopping Owen’s flesh hand tugging up at the bottom of her sweater.
Luna’s eyes widened with shock and recognition as Harry and Ron charged into the room. Apparently unconsciously, and without turning around Owen’s artificial hand whipped his wand off of his belt and fired two powerful suppressive curses at Harry and Ron. They blocked them, but with difficulty, and were unable to actually reflect them.
Owen spun around, and Luna fell onto her side, overwhelmed by the scene. There was no cover or room to maneuver; this was a plain contest of magical power between Harry, Ron, and Owen. All three fired curses, to disastrous results.
Harry’s white jet met Owen’s green, but Owen proved superior and the new light green spell was sent back at Harry. It met Ron’s red jet and exploded with a huge bang. All three were thrown backwards.
The table Luna was on hit Owen in the small of the back and he collapsed against it with a grunt, sliding down onto the floor. Ron slammed into the wall and fell to the ground unconscious. Harry did a spiraling sort of turn in the air as he flew backwards and hit the doorframe. He briefly felt a piece of wood from the exploded door pierce his arm before his head banged into the ground and too was rendered unconscious.
He was dead. Harry was sure of it. As he struggled to force his way back to awareness, he had never felt so certain of his own demise. In fact, he had never felt sure of his own death until now. His glasses were gone, surely destroyed, and his vision was incredibly blurred, twofold by his lack of glasses and the curse he had taken.
He could make out two human shapes. One was slowly getting to its feet, stumbling slightly. He knew this was Owen Stetnas. While it was impossible to truly make out the other figure, he knew that Ron was still down, a few feet from him, his red hair barely distinguishable. It couldn’t be Luna: The figure was that of a man, and anyway, Luna was far too badly injured to do anything.
Owen staggered over to him. As he stood over him, he could see him more clearly. His artificial hand had been destroyed in the explosion, leaving a mangled mess of bars of light and crackling magic protruding from his wrist, but his remaining hand held a slightly shaking wand over Harry.
“Harry Potter,” he muttered, sounding disorientated but at the same time evilly alive. “I get to kill Harry Potter… Then Weasley… And then, back to Luna, sweet, delicious Luna…”
Harry feebly stretched out his arm and tried to summon his wand to his hand, though it was futile. Owen stomped down hard on Harry’s hand.
“Still got some fight in you Potter?” Owen taunted, his face, though covered with blood and cuts, graced by a victorious smirk. “You're not as pathetic as I thought, never thought you or Weasley would be able to produce curses at that level….
“Oh well,” he sighed dramatically, “you never really had a chance, Potter.” Harry saw him point his wand directly at his face. Ron was still out, and he couldn’t see Luna anywhere. “You see, no matter what Michael taught you, it never mattered. You see, Harry Potter, I am the best. I killed Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and soon, Luna Jacobs.”
He bent down next to Harry and spoke in a whisper. “You see, Harry, I'm not one of Voldy’s little minions, like Malfoy or Bellatrix were. Do you know why, Harry?” His mouth was barely an inch from Harry’s ear.
“Because he doesn’t own me. I'm going to betray him soon, you see… Once I've had his help eliminating you and the rest of your little ‘Wolf Pack’ I'm going to slip in, real quiet like, to his bedroom and slit his throat.” Though he could barely see Owen’s face, he was sure he was grinning now. He gave a mad laugh. “Ever wonder why the Lacerte aren’t seen with Voldemort? Because he doesn’t control them either. They told me. They only follow a Pureblood…I bet you already knew that about him, didn’t you Potter? He's not a real Pureblood…they’ll only take orders from me. I couldn’t care less about what kind of blood someone has, as long as I can spill it…but he likes to play, to pretend, to act like he’s the Dark Lord. He’s fucking pathetic.”
“Better pathetic than dead.”
Owen jumped back up and directed his stare to the door. Harry could tell he was no longer smirking and tried painfully to turn his head to see who had spoken. Harry saw someone and Stetnas exchange curses, but Owen’s insignificant curse was carelessly deflected, a slashing curse ripping Owen across the chest.
It was a close contest as to whose face was whiter, Owen’s or Harry’s. Both death white as Michael Jacobs stepped into the room, his eyes switching between Owen, who was trying to remain standing, his remaining hand clambering at his wounds, and a mass Harry now knew to be Luna.
Michael briefly glanced at Harry and Ron, though his concern was rightly focused on Luna and the man who had hurt her. Owen, who had dropped to his knees, tried to raise a shaking hand to point his wand at Michael, but a second later both wand and hand dropped to the ground as Michael waved his wand, again producing the Sectumsempra curse.
Owen yelped with pain and held up both bleeding wrists to eye level. His eyes were huge as they flicked from his wrists, to Michael who now stood directly in front of him, wand pointed down at the man on his knees.
“This was your fault!” Owen screamed violently. “You left me to die, it’s all your fault!”
Michael’s eyes narrowed as he continued to stare down at Owen. For the first time, Harry was afraid of Michael. There was no weakness or exhaustion on Michael’s face. But there was no compassion either.
“No, Owen,” he said quietly, “But this,” he gestured around him, his hand lingering over Luna, “is yours.”
“Damn!’ Owen shouted, but pointlessly. Michael slashed his wand through the air again, blasting Owen off his feet and against the wall, where he dropped to the ground. He tried feebly to raise himself up, but Michael had already moved in on him again, replacing his wand in the holster Luna had given him and drawing back a fist. His left hand grabbed Owen by the front of his shirt and his right sunk into Owen’s face. Michael, his face warped with rage, pulled his hand back and delivered another blow to Owen’s stomach.
Then another. And another. And another. Harry suddenly realized Michael's hands were moving much faster than what should have been possible. Owen’s face was evidence his blows were doing more damage than even an enraged man would be able to. Michael lifted Stetnas up a little with both hands and threw him across the room. It was then that Harry saw it – a small flash of blue light as Michael tossed Owen that remained around Michael's clenched fists like a mist. Michael was drawing his magic directly into his hands instead of his wand, supplementing each strike with all his pent up magical energy, which was apparently significant. Owen, who was sprawled out on the floor, pathetically lifted his head. It seemed to be all he could do.
“Michael…you…I've lost…you’ve beaten me….”
“That's true,” Michael snarled. “But not the same kind of beating you’ve been doing to Luna, is it?”
“You have a chance, Michael…” Owen muttered. He didn’t seem to be listening to Michael. “You and her…you really have a chance….”
“What are you talking about?” Michael asked coldly.
“You and Luna…” Owen coughed; blood splattered on the floor in front of him, “You can beat him…Voldemort. He’s more powerful than either of you…and so am I. But you two can find a way. I don't know how, but I know you can. You can kill him.”
He raised himself up a little more, into a slightly more dignified position. Michael did not strike, but his eyes did continue to watch both Luna and Owen.
“I hate you,” Owen whispered, “but I also hate Voldemort. Do you know why, Michael?” He waited, though Michael said nothing. “Because he’s weak. Not magically, not at all. But as a person, he’s pathetic. And I hate weakness…it’s the one thing I cannot stand.
“You…you're going to kill him…I was going to do it myself, build my own empire….But now… it’s your chance. If you don't fuck it up,” he added, managing a sneer.
“I don’t want an empire,” Michael spat, “the only thing, person, I've ever wanted, you have spent the last week torturing!”
“You really mean that don’t you?” Owen asked, almost thoughtfully, “Your whole quest to stop Voldemort, it’s not to gain anything for yourself is it…? It’s something I can never imagine, Michael Jacobs… Then again, I never imagined you would be the one to kill me….”
Michael glared down at his defeated, dying enemy. “Well, life never does turn out how we imagined, does it?” he muttered.
Owen gave a last, weak chuckle.
“Maybe death won't either.”
Michael did not meet his eyes as he spoke the curse.
There was no pity in Michael’s eyes. But there was barely a glimmer of pleasure, either. Owen Stetnas dropped to the ground with a dull thud. With that spell Lord Voldemort lost his most powerful and least faithful ally.
Harry somehow found the strength to get to his feet, though he had no idea where it came from. He held his palm against the wall to support himself and felt a sharp stabbing pain as he did. Looking down, he saw something protruding from his bicep.
Hazily remembering the exploding door, he braced himself and quickly pulled the jagged piece from his arm. Michael didn’t even turn at his yell.
He was busy kneeling down beside Luna, waving his wand over her. He paid no attention whatsoever to Harry as he staggered over to Ron to check on him. An explanation of his miraculous reappearance could wait. Not only were Harry, Ron, and especially Luna, injured, but their friends were still in danger.
Ron was unresponsive, but after a heart racing second, Harry found a pulse. He saw two wands on the ground and assumed they were his and Ron’s and picked them up, stuffing them into his pocket. He then pulled Ron to his feet and threw one of Ron’s arms around his neck, keeping him supported.
Michael stood, scooping Luna up as gently as possible and holding her in his arms. She looked truly wretched. Harry didn’t want to imagine what had been happening to her, but couldn’t stop horrifying images from invading his mind. Michael looked over at Harry.
“Let’s take them back to the house,” he said. “We’ll be able to do more there.”
“Is Luna strong enough to Apparate?” Harry asked concernedly, “Will she make it if you do?”
“Luna is stronger than any of us,” Michael said quietly. “But Flame Apparition isn’t so rough as the standard style anyway. Nothing else is going to hurt her.”
The look on Michael's face, the act he had just finished, and the tone of his voice all assured Harry that Michael was absolutely right about this.
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