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Chapter 28

Fools & Traitors

Albus sorted his thoughts while pacing back and forth in his tower. When he’d been young, his constant need of movement to match his thinking had driven his classmates crazy. His brother Aberforth had gotten so irritated at him one day that he’d hexed him with the jelly leg and had caught him unawares right in the Gryffindor common room. It had been the last time that he’d been surprised by his brother. He’d learned as he always did from his mistakes.

He listened to the walls pulsating with thoughts and emotions. The students and teachers movements and the smatterings of their thoughts rose up to him. The paintings had started rumbling, too. His spies had begun appearing. It had begun. It humored him that it was the muggle holiday called April Fools Day. It inspired a chuckle. We are all fools walking on this earth.

“The girl in Ravenclaw, sir,” said a young woman dressed in a hoop skirt and a matching knit cap. She stood in master Phineas’ portrait. Only Phineas Black’s profile could be seen with an arm reaching to pinch the young lady. “Oooo!” she winced and glared. “The girl has finished dinner and is walking toward that awful woman’s office, sir.” She stuck her tongue out at Phineas, who smirked arrogantly.

“Would you mind terribly fetching Minerva, my dear?”

“Tis a pleasure, sir,” she replied with a curtsey. She kicked Headmaster Black before exiting the portrait. He stood again looking very full of himself.

Dumbledore ignored him for a moment.

“It’s time, Phineas,” he said finally. “The young informer is about to confess. Alert Sirius, if you please, that I’ll be arriving soon. And, if you wouldn’t mind asking him to alert Kingsley, as well, I would appreciate it. The Ministry should be here by this evening.”

“Had I known that this existence would entail an ever constant trail between the Black seat and Hogwarts, I might have decided not to sit for this portrait.” He moved from the frame before Albus could comment.

Albus thought a moment then looked up at the portrait of his mentor, Professor Dippet. “I wonder if you might walk over to ask Severus to come quickly, Headmaster?” he asked politely. “I’d like to speak with him before I leave.”

“Leave?” said Professor Dippet grumpily. “I don’t remember any plan involving you leaving being discussed, Albus.”

“It’s only for a while. I’ll return shortly.”

“But why?”

“Severus Snape, if you would, sir? I believe we have very little time.”

As Dippet left, Albus called for quiet from the gallery. He needed to concentrate on where particular personalities were in the castle. Harry, Hermione and Ron were walking from their common room late for the evening meal. The Weasley twins were in a closet storing items near the third floor of the stairwell…no doubt they were planning something festive…Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle were in the Great Hall…

He guessed that he had perhaps an hour, at the most two, to be ready to depart.

There was a knock at the door. “Come in, Minerva, Severus,” he said quietly.

Minerva rushed in the door while Severus took his time taking his spot next to her in front of the Headmaster’s desk.

“What’s happened?” she said nervously.

Albus raised both hands in a soothing manner. “Nothing unexpected, Minerva.” He looked at Severus expectantly. “Felicity has left for Wolvin in good order?”

Severus nodded and looked down at the shocked face of Minerva.

She looked fearful at Albus Dumbledore to explain. “I sent Felicity to Wolvin early this morning, my dear.” He looked at Severus who stood rigid and straight backed. “Our esteemed retired Professor Landseer has kindly agreed to return and teach the Runes curriculum in her place for a short duration.” He eyed Severus. “She’s come down with a nasty case of sneezelboutitus. Poppy has sent her home to her father, or so we’ve told our Madame Inquisitor. Felicity has gone to Wolvin because Voldemort is now there.”

Minerva’s eyes widened. “He’s…he’s in Wolvin, then?” Her voice whispered as if the air had stopped in her throat.

Dumbledore nodded. “And, I’ll be leaving shortly, Minerva.” He looked hardened and resolved. “It will be up to you and Severus to persevere in protecting the students.” He directed his gaze to Severus. “The Ministry will be here soon. There will things said about me. Your house has aligned itself with them as we expected. It could not be helped.” His eyes pierced Severus with an icy blue intensity. “You must not be seen to support me. It’s inevitable now. The final maneuver is in place. Stay clear of the skirmishes that inevitably will occur, my old friend.” He closed his eyes and sighed. “I’ve asked much of you, and will again before we’re through.”

Dumbledore did something unusual then. He reached out with his hand. Severus, too, as if he knew what was expected, as if he and Dumbledore had always said good-bye thus, reached out and they grasped each other, not by the hand as a muggle might, but by the forearms. They stood with arms entwined for a few moments and then released. Severus turned with the slightest of nods in Professor McGonagall’s direction and strode for the door.

Professor Snape had not uttered a single word during the entire interview.

The Dark Lord was only minimally satisfied with his new form. For perhaps a little less than a year he had been housed within the skeletal body. In all that time the cold had been his nemesis. It grated on him that this form had been less than expected. He blamed his minions for not having secured that Potter boy properly.

“Wormtail,” he called lightly. There was no need to shout. His servant was always aware of his master. His thin lips curled as the fat little creature hovered. “I’m cold, servant. Again.”

Peter Pettigrew turned to stoke up the flames of the fire with his wand. The flames roared with simple flick and swish of a spell. He bowed, and then returned to writing in the book for his master. The boy had become persistent. He wanted to come to his mother and asked over and over why he couldn’t when she was so close by. Since they had come to live on the farm in Wolvin, he had written several times a day begging to see his mother.

The Dark Lord had long since given over the job of placating and putting off the idiot boy. Soon he would have to be gotten rid of.

“Bellatrix is with the old man, Wormtail,” said Voldemort. “Fetch her for me.”

Peter bowed respectfully and scurried from the room. He stepped over the ever-present snake that no longer needed to be before the fire because it was so very warm. The snake had curled itself at the door like a sentry. Peter let out an involuntary shudder as he stepped over it.

Peter had been dying in the extreme heat and walking out into the open air was a welcome release. He usually liked the dark warmth of Voldemort’s rooms but lately his lord had seen fit to raise the temperatures ever higher. It was stifling in his presence.

He stood on the stair of the house to sniff the air and gaze about the bucolic scene with rheumy eyes. It was a pleasant place, with green fields made even greener by the spring rains and warming climate. The dwindling flock of sheep grazed lazily just beyond the old man’s house.

“Watch this, Gryffindor scum,” said Bella the instant Peter entered the old geezer’s kitchen. She was sitting at the kitchen table with her feet slung around the back of a chair. She was pointing her wand at the old man who stood strangely frozen in the middle of the room. The old man had been put under the Imperius Curse on their arrival and Bellatrix had entertained herself with making him do tricks.

“Dance,” she commanded and twitched the wand.

The rickety old man did a small soft shoe shuffle.

“The Dark Lord is asking for you,” said Peter avoiding looking at the pathetic man. “You really shouldn’t do that.” He didn’t know why he’d bothered saying it and wished immediately that he’d not.

Bella turned her face to sneer at Peter, her wand still guiding the unfortunate old man. “I wouldn’t dare act so superior, Gryffindor,” she said snidely. Her face had a harsh, ugly look. The basic structure was made for a pretty face but it was as if the years in Azkaban had frozen her meanness to her very features. She was frightening not because she was ugly, but because she was so obviously cruel.

“I’m not acting any way at all, Bella,” said Peter defensively.

“Yes, you are,” she said narrowing her gaze. “It’s a little thing to make an old man dance. He’ll never remember it if he manages to live.” She smiled casually, knowing Peter was by far an inferior. “A man who betrays his only friends will always be remembered for it and will never be trusted, even by the one that he did it for. You’ll always be a traitor for whatever side you pretend you’re with.”

Peter shifted his eyes to the old man who still shuffled. He had no desire to argue his loyalty with Bella. They would never accept him, this old guard to the Dark Lord, no matter how he ingratiated himself to them. He only wanted to fade into the woodwork when any of the Death Eaters were around. How he hated his lot in life. He would escape if he thought that he could get away.

Bella made a disgusted sound then got up and walked from the room. As she released the old man, he crumpled to the floor in a heap, spluttering with exhaustion. Peter looked down at him with no compassion. It never occurred to him to help the man to his feet, or maybe to sit him in a chair with a cup of tea. He walked after Bella. The unlucky geezer had nothing to do with him.

Felicity arrived at the Gray’s beautiful house and grounds with a crack. She stretched out her hands to the place, breathing in the fresh air and feeling wonderful. She was free. Dumbledore had sent her to a Wolvin under siege but the terror of imminent attack didn’t dissuade her from the joy of being there. In fact, she would relish a real battle. The dragon hungered for a fight. Months of being the quiet protector, the subtlety of dodging Umbridge and her malice had built up a violence in her that needed release. Let them come. She would protect this place with all her might.

Remus was just up those steps and behind that door. The warmth and acceptance of the Gray’s and their family was there, as well. She drank in the anticipation of them, then walked to the door and knocked. They weren’t expecting her and she loved surprises.

Kate answered the door almost immediately. “It’s Felicity!” she yelled to anyone who could hear her. “Felicity is here!” The sweet young woman threw her arms in welcome around Felicity’s neck. “I’m so glad that you’ve come! Remus has been such a grumpy guts without you.”

“I take offense at that observation of my character, young miss,” said the deep resonant voice of Remus Lupin from the hall. He stood looking pleased as punch and as if Felicity arrived at the door every day.

Kate released her and Felicity ran to him throwing her arms around him and knocking him into the wall. They both were laughing. “Are you surprised to see me?” she said breathlessly.

“Very surprised, my dear,” said Remus happily. “And, very pleased, as well. You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

By that time, a crowd had gathered in the hall with Agatha, John and Barnabus, who had all been having lunch in the kitchen. They’d come to see what the commotion at the door had been.

Agatha gave a sigh of delight. “My dear girl,” she said graciously taking her hands from Remus. “It’s wonderful to see you.” She kissed her on both cheeks in welcome. “We had no hope that Dumbledore would allow you to visit us for the full moon.”

“It’s not a visit that I’ve been sent for, Agatha,” she said suddenly serious.

John moved forward. “So it’s time is it, finally?” he said grimly. “He’s here somewhere? Or coming? Dumbledore has said it?”

John Gray had that look of a leader whose only thought is to protect his community. Felicity felt instant empathy for the man.

“Dumbledore thinks he’s already here, John,” she said quietly. “He said to tell you that Fenrir Greyback is with Voldemort now.” Agatha gasped and drew her daughter closer in panic. John’s face suddenly paled with shock. Evidently, they knew the feral wolf. “I’ve met him,” continued Felicity, “and he’s purely evil in his cruel viciousness. We are in great danger.”

Barnabus started shaking uncontrollably. He backed away from the group in obvious terror. His mouth lost all moistness in instant fear. “Fenrir Greyback,” he whispered, “is with him?”

Felicity, and all of them stared at the boy.

“Barnabus?” asked Agatha concerned. “Do you know this werewolf?”

Barnabus’ eyes widened in horror and all in the hall looked at him with real alarm. He gulped and ran from them, down the hall, through the kitchen and out the back door. He ran as if his life depended on it.

They all stood in shock for a minute and then Agatha nudged Kate forward. “You go fetch him back, daughter,” she said. “He must know Fenrir and that would upset anyone.”

Felicity, however, snapped to attention. “No,” she said sternly realizing what was really wrong. She looked directly at Remus. “I smell his fear, but I also smell danger.” She looked at the stunned Gray’s. “Remus and I will find him. You stay here.”

She and Remus started down the hall and then she stopped at the threshold and turned. “Alert everyone, John. Voldemort is here in Wolvin and that boy knows where he is.”

Kate’s jaw dropped in shock while John’s set in a teeth-grinding shudder. “I should have seen that coming,” he said. “I should have seen the signs.” he was talking to himself rather than to his wife and daughter. “We’ll put out the call.”

“But mother,” said Kate turning in disbelief. “Who is this Fenrir Greyback? Why is he so dangerous?”

Agatha hugged her daughter tightly to her, the tears stinging her eyes as John, with a look of frigid resolve, strode out the front door. “He’s an evil werewolf, dear daughter,” she whispered watching her husband. “Who favors young victims and…is feral. In the last war, he aligned himself secretly to the One-Who-Should-Not-Be-Named, and we didn’t find it out until it was too late. He killed …and made werewolves of so many of the young, child. He enjoys hurting humans and has no respect for our peaceful ways.” She let out a strangled gasp. “And,” the tears flowed with terror and sadness combined in one emotion, “he’s your father’s older brother, child. He was once called Fenrir Gray and he’s a traitor to our family.”

Bella entered the overbearingly hot room with her head held high until she stood before the great one and bowed low.

“Bella, my dear,” said Voldemort solicitously. “You were in that prison much too long. Do not exhaust the werewolf with your play. We may need him in future for purposes other than your entertainment.”

“Forgive me, lord,” said Bella bending lower. “I’ll do anything you ask, always. I am your most faithful servant.”

“So you have said many times, my dear.” There was no emotion in the high voice. “Though you waste my time with your maneuvering for power amongst my followers.”

“It was I who brought Rookwood to you and we discovered that Avery had lied.” She bowed lower fully expecting a curse flung in her direction for her insolence.

“Look at me,” said Voldemort coldly.

Bella lifted her head though she kept her body prone. She welcomed her lord’s probing into her thoughts with a vaulted rush of joy.

“Stop your vile grasping for my favor at once, Bellatrix. I see everything. I have no need of your protection from my own loyal followers.” His red slanted eyes pierced hers and she felt suddenly that she could not breathe. Her lord had seen fit to punish her for her ambition.

“Ack.ack,ack.” She gasped, her mind suddenly filled only with vivid pain. She relished it and so did he.

Voldemort released her and she fell to the floor.

“Peter Pettigrew, Severus Snape and the all others that you bark at continually are my loyal subjects. That’s not for you to question. I trust them, as I trust you, my dear, because I control them. Just as I control you.”

Bella said nothing. She could only feel her heart beating and the adrenalin flowing through her veins. The lord was without peer in his abilities. It was glorious to follow him. She looked up, inviting him to read the loyalty and admiration in her eyes.

“I am the Dark Lord and I have no need of your feeble advice, Bella.” That said he released his hold on her mind. “It’s time to put out the call,” he said casually. “When I’ve gathered all my followers in this ridiculous backfield that we call a sanctuary, you’ll lead them to the heart of Wolvin.” His licked his lips tasting the imagined salt of victory. “I’m not referring to that town, either, but the so-called school for their werepups and the Gray family home. They must all be exterminated. Within this place we will be safe in our assault on the Ministry. The boy Potter is nearly there.” Voldemort smiled. “The door has opened and I’ve only to bait the trap to bring him to me.” He closed his eyes. He was so close. Soon Dumbledore would be thrown in Azkaban and the way would be clear. Though, he cautioned himself, Dumbledore was no fool. He would be pleasantly surprised if the idiots at the Ministry could actually capture and hold Dumbledore but he wouldn’t be celebrating until that was actually accomplished. A sudden feeling of absolute loathing for Dumbledore escaped from him and he lashed out at the only available subject.

Bella fell to the ground unconscious. The last thought she experienced before blanking out was not really a thought at all but an acknowledgment of a surprising and sudden charge of exhilarating pain.

Remus and Felicity ran very fast after the boy who’d run along the path past the barn where they’d witnessed the birth of a thestral only a few months before. They thundered down the path but were too late. The boy had disappeared into the dark forest.

“Barnabus! Barnabus!” yelled Remus after him, but it did no good. The boy had gone in without looking back. By the time they reached the forest edge there was no sound. Even the birds had quieted, sensing that there were predators nearby.

“Are you sure, Felicity?” panted Remus. “That the boy knows where Voldemort is?” His face showed intense anguish. Betrayal by those he trusted was particularly hard for this man. Treachery was too familiar and too painful.

“We cannot let him escape, Remus,” said Felicity breathlessly. She was out of shape and it surprised her. She’d never experienced such a lack of oxygen, having the heart of a dragon. She should be able to outrun any human in this form.

Then she realized that it was the shock of sudden adrenalin racing through her body and the danger mechanism, both dragon and human, was overloading her system. Her human form couldn’t take the strain. She could feel her body swelling.

“I must change, Remus,” she panted. “You flush him out of the forest and I’ll fly above. If he leaves, I’ll be able to pick him up.” She stepped away as Remus watched. He was frozen at her sickened look. She was so obviously in pain. His first instinct was to protect her.

“Felicity, what’s wrong? Are you all right?”

“Go!” she managed to strangle out. “My body needs to change. We…must…find…him.” Her voice sounded desperate and pleading.

As she threw herself into the dragon pose for the change, she watched as Remus sprang into action. He turned from her and ran into the forest with his wand out and a fierce look of resolve on his face.

Remus walked stealthily, letting his body acclimate to the darkness of the dense forest. He listened for any sign of movement and whispered a small finding spell. His wand lit at the tip. It would guide him.

The forest was deadly quiet. He moved along cautiously following the wand but also his instincts. He could feel the path that Barnabus had strode on. It was as if the warm pads of the boy’s feet had left a mark and the aroma of his blood could still be sensed in the air. Remus felt invigorated. Life amongst the werewolves had taught him to trust his natural abilities. It was exhilarating to hunt. He embraced what he was.

He came upon the boy finally deep in the forest. Barnabus was trying to tempt a Thestral to come forward. Remus realized that the boy would escape from him if he was able to mount the beast but he was hesitant at using a binding spell on the boy.

He boldly stepped out of the dark underbrush with his wand held up and ready. “Barnabus,” he said soothingly. “It’s all right, son. You don’t have to run. We’re your friends.”

Barnabus, started at the sudden emergence of Remus from the forest. He froze in fright and hesitation. “You don’t understand, Professor,” he said in a strained voice.

“But we do, my boy. We know that you’ve been in contact with Voldemort.”

The boy winced at the name as he always did. He looked around in panic as if the mere mention of the Dark Lord’s true name would herald him. “I…did it…for my mother,” the boy started. “He told me that she was ill in Azkaban and that if I would this one thing…he would release her. He promised that he wouldn’t hurt them.”

Remus winced this time. He was only a child and it broke his heart to hear how Voldemort had tricked him so. “Voldemort is a liar, Barnabus.”

“But he did release her! I know he did.”

“How do you know?”

“He told me things…things that she would know and that she was so very sick…and I had to help him so that she could be near me…and…” the boy was crying with frustrated tears as even he realized the lie of it. “But he didn’t tell me about Fenrir…he would know those same things.” He let out a strangled cry of frustration. “He would know and my mother would never have stood having him near her.”

“Barnabus, come back to the house. We will talk there. You’ll be safe with us. We’ll find your mother.” He tried to make his voice as calm as possible. The boy was nearing hysterics and would bolt. He still held his wand at the ready in case he did start to run again.

“You don’t understand,” he cried. “She would never have allowed him near her.”

“Barnabus, calm down. It’s all right. We will work it out. You must help us find Voldemort.”

“No,” said Barnabus, his face strained. “She’s dead. My beautiful mother is dead. He would have killed her as he will kill me. The Dark Lord lied.” He let out a cry and jumped onto the Thestral.

Remus sent out a spell but the boy blocked him and the Thestral jumped into the air. It flew through a clearing in the forest ceiling.

Remus stood shooting spells after him and cursing himself for teaching the boy to block so well but he flew out of sight.

Voldemort contemplated his next move. The boy, Harry Potter was agitated. He felt for his mind. He needed to be very careful how he approached the boy because the path led both ways. Harry Potter must not know this fact.

He probed and prodded, meditating on a spot just above the eye. He focused there, and inflicted intentional pain for spite. He’d found that he could almost control the boy but it took some effort at such a great distance.

He saw a room and vaguely recognized it through a cloudy haze that was the idiotic boy’s feeble brain. The image wavered as if he were seeing it in waves. Then suddenly, he recognized his nemesis before him. Albus Dumbledore’s face came into clear focus. Voldemort reached out with all the venom and hatred within him. If only he could just reach out to Dumbledore, he’d obliterate him with a killing curse.

The dark and fiendish would-be conqueror let out a strangled cry of frustration. “Arrrggghhh!” He’d been so close. The images from Harry Potter were gone.


This is where I'm biting my fingernails and the story writes itself. I love the battles...Those of you who've read Over the Hill know this about me. I'll post again soon. Take a minute to review, if you please. I'm all ears.

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