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‘…their lives, like so many of those around them, were drawing to a close.’ OOTP, pg. 178

“Look at Madam Bones, look at Emmeline Vance…it could be me next, couldn’t it? But if it is…I’ll make sure I take as many Death Eaters with me as I can, and Voldemort too if I can manage it.” HBP pg. 77

“Think, and try for some remorse, Riddle…” DH pg. 741


Chapter One: Frank and Alice Longbottom
By Adelaide Merrefield


“Where’s my darling boy?”

Alice Longbottom, a fair-haired woman about twenty-eight years old, waited a few seconds before crawling to the back of the sofa, where a little one-and-a-half-years old boy sat, giggling as soon as he saw his Mum’s face.

“Found me!” he shrieked, clapping excitedly. Alice laughed, gathering Neville in her arms as he bounced around. “Again!”

“All right, sweetheart,” she cooed. It had been a long time since Alice was this content and living without any fear. Ever since three days prior, when Lord Voldemort had been defeated, Alice, Frank, his mother, and Neville had been without any worries. The Death Eaters on the loose didn’t worry them at all – they would be caught soon enough. It was horrible, however, that Lily and James had died. And poor Harry, off to live with his dreadful Muggle relatives; Alice wouldn’t have wished such a fate on her own son. No, she would watch him grow up and attend Hogwarts, and so much more.

Neville had disappeared again; judging from the sounds of tiny little feet stomping on the floor, he was heading towards the kitchen. Alice got up immediately. Though she loved playing these games with Neville, he was very accident-prone and she didn’t want him to get hurt. As soon as she arrived at the kitchen entrance, Neville, excited when he saw his Mum, didn’t look where he was going and ran right into a cabinet. Falling down onto his rear end, tears began forming in his eyes and he began screaming and crying.

“My poor baby!” cried Alice as she rushed over to him, pulling him onto her lap as she patted his head. Content with his mother's attention, Neville placed his thumb in his mouth and began sucking. Alice heard the door open and slowly got up, trying not to agitate Neville, and went back to the living room. It appeared as though Frank had come back from work.

Alice quickly went over and kissed him on the cheek, asking, “Any captures?”

“Avery,” he said shortly, smiling at his son.

“Dada!” he shrieked, extending his pudgy arms towards his father.

“Hey there, Neville,” he said, picking up his son and flying him in the air, much to Neville’s delight. “You’re going to visit Grandma today! Won’t that be fun?”

“What?” Alice asked, frowning. “We’re visiting Augusta today?” Truth be told, Alice never really felt comfortable around her mother-in-law. Her formidable hat with the stuffed vulture always put her off, not to mention that Frank all but shrunk under her commands.

“Not us,” he explained. “Neville. We’re going to have a night to ourselves.”

“Oh, really?” countered Alice, a smile tugging at her lips.

“But of course,” he replied, looking at his wife with unbridled love. They were both silent, staring into each other’s eyes for a few seconds, until Neville sneezed.

“Good aim, Neville,” said his father, not enjoying the mucus on his face. Alice doubled over with laughter and, Neville, spotting his mother, began to laugh along with her. Frank couldn’t help but smile at his son’s shaking body as giggles erupted from him.

Evanesco,” whispered Alice, and the mucus disappeared from Frank’s face.

“Thanks. We better get going; it’s almost dark.”

“Right. Floo powder?” suggested Alice, glancing at her son.

“Yeah, better not risk Apparation. Neville might get hurt,” he agreed, holding his son tighter in his arms. He followed his wife to the mantel place, where she threw in a pinch of Floo powder.

“Shall I take Neville?” she asked as she stepped into the emerald green flames. Nodding, Frank handed her the baby, who promptly began screaming at the unfamiliar sensation. He had only traveled by Floo Powder once before, and he didn’t enjoy the sensation. However, it was the safest way.

“Longbottom Manor.” Alice’s voice was hard to hear due to Neville’s incessant screaming. Praying they wouldn’t get out at the wrong grate, Alice and Neville disappeared. Frank waited a minute before adding another smidgen of Floo powder and traveling to his mother’s house. He was not surprised to see his mother had already snatched Neville from Alice, who was looking a bit disgruntled.

“Frank,” his mother said by way of greeting upon his arrival. She nodded at him from her place on the gold sofa. “It is nice to see you.”

“Thank you, Mother,” Frank said politely, not worrying about his mother’s lack of affection. She wasn’t the emotional sort of woman – rather, she kept her feelings in check as to appear dignified. He knew that she really felt relieved at seeing her son and his family once again, as they had been in hiding for over a year.

“I was just speaking with Alice about your appointment tonight.” Frank stifled a laugh when he saw the indignant look on Alice’s face at the word ‘appointment.' “Be assured, Neville is safe with me.” Frank was sure he was when he saw his son eyeing the vulture on his grandmother’s hat warily, as if seeing if it was threat, before slapping it mightily.

“Neville Frank Longbottom!” admonished Augusta. “That kind of behavior is inappropriate in the Longbottom household.” At that moment, Neville began crying, and his mother hastily scooped him up from her mother-in-law’s arms. She shot a glare at Frank, who cleared his throat and looked at his mother.

“Er…Mum, you shouldn’t really be y-yelling at Neville like that. I mean, he’s only one…” He drifted off at the look on Augusta’s face.

“Have I reared children?”

“Y-yes, Mum,” he answered hastily.

“Don’t you think I know how to handle a one-year-old?”

“Of course, Mother, what I’m saying is –”

“Be quiet, Frank. Alice, hand him over.” Frank opened and closed his mouth, looking a bit like a fish. Alice, uncertain whether she should hand her son over to this She-Devil, relented. She craved a night out with her husband.

“Remember to read him a bed-time story,” said Alice desperately after she kissed her son.

“Of course, Alice dear.”

“And don’t let him eat any carrots! He swells up otherwise…”

“Don’t you worry, Alice.”

Evidently, Alice could not think of anything else to say, for she just stared at her precious baby. Eyes glistening a bit – she had never left her baby alone before, for the dangers of war prevented her from doing so – she ran over and hugged and kissed her child, whispering, “Mummy’ll be back soon, my Neville. Don’t you worry.” Neville smiled, reaching out to hug his Mummy. “Oh Neville…my darling Neville,” she sobbed, before Frank pulled her away to the fireplace.

“Come on, Alice.” He went first, eyeing her in sadness as he enunciated, “Number sixteen, Upper Flagley, Yorkshire.” As soon as he got home, he knew something wasn’t right. For one thing, he and Alice had not left the kitchen lights on; for another, he was pretty sure he had shut the closet door. Frank slowly took in the empty butterbeer bottle near the sofa, one of Neville’s toys lying broken near the front door, and his missing cloak.

As he saw a shadow cross the hallway, he knew this was a trap. He ran back towards the fireplace, trying to prevent Alice from coming, but she arrived as soon as he got there.

“Alice,” he whispered, a frantic look on his face, “we have to leave. It’s a trap.”

“What?” Alice gasped, unable to believe it was true.

Before they could reach the Floo powder, they heard shouts of “Petrificus Totalus” and “Expelliarmus” coming from all corners of the room and they were unable to move, immobilized. At that moment, they heard a cruel, high-pitched laughter, clearly belonging to a female.

“Crouch – did you place Anti-Apparation wards?”

“Yes, Bellatrix.”

“What about the fireplace? Did you block it?”

“Doing it right now.” Alice and Frank watched in fear as a pale young man, with hair the color of straw and a few freckles adorning his neck, muttered an incantation. The fireplace turned a ruby red before becoming normal again. Sensing the two watching him, Crouch looked down at them and sneered, spitting on Frank’s face.

“Well, well, well,” came a voice directly behind Alice. “Look what we’ve got here. An itty bitty Auror and his pretty wittle wife.” Suddenly her laughter became maniacal and had Alice been able to, she would’ve shrieked at the face that appeared suddenly in front of her, a grin creating a disturbing look on an otherwise beautiful woman. “Thought you could get away with it, did you, filthy traitorous Purebloods you are?” Alice whimpered as Bellatrix jabbed her in the side with her wand. The feeling was suddenly gone, for Bellatrix had stood up and was conversing with Crouch and two other men. They heard laughter; Alice, terror in her heart, felt tears leaking out of her eyes as she thought of Neville and how she was never going to see him again.

Finite incantatem,” incanted Bellatrix, and Alice and Frank immediately got up, clinging to each other in fear and desperation. All four Death Eaters laughed shrilly at the expressions on the Longbottoms’ faces – they looked like rats cornered by four hungry cats. With a wave of her hand, Bellatrix stopped all laughter.

“Where is the Dark Lord?” she asked softly, looking from Frank to Alice. “If you tell us, we’ll make your death quick and painful.”

“Like hell you will!” cried Frank, spitting at Bellatrix’s feet. Enraged, she levitated Alice out of the way, motioning for one of the men, thickset and resembling the other unnamed one, to subdue her. Once that was over with, she turned her attention back to Frank, an evil grin darkening her features.

Crucio!” she shouted, closing her eyes as she waited for Frank’s screams. However, nothing came. She opened her eyes in shock and confusion, only to see the Auror twisting in the ground in pain, refusing to look at her. She smiled when she heard Alice sobbing, pleading for her to stop. At least one of them was useful.

After about a minute, she lifted the curse. Frank lay on the ground, unable to move what with the pain engulfing his body.

“Well, Longbottom,” she sneered, turning Frank on his back with her shoes. “Ready to spill?” Frank didn’t answer immediately. He gazed over at his wife, who was looking at him fearfully, shaking her head. He turned back to Bellatrix.

“We don’t know,” he said simply, though it required much effort on his part.

“Rubbish!” cried a thin man who looked to be the brother of the man currently subduing Alice.

“Quiet, Rodolphus!” snapped Bellatrix, turning towards her husband. Frank took this moment to grab onto Bellatrix’s leg and cause her to fall, buying him time to grab her wand in the process. But when he was inches away from it, he was once again blasted by the Cruciatus Curse, this time delivered by Barty Crouch. This time, Frank couldn’t control his screams. The curse, the second in such a short amount of time, nearly caused him to black out in pain. Alice was shouting now, screaming at them to stop torturing him and to take her instead.

“A tempting offer,” drawled her subduer, Rabastan Lestrange.

“Indeed,” agreed Bellatrix, who had already stood up. “Bring her over here.”

“No!” cried Frank, but it only came out as a whisper. Rabastan shoved Alice against her husband, and Bellatrix stooped down to their level, tracing her wand against Alice’s milky white collarbone.

“Wouldn’t this be so nice,” she commented, “severed and void of blood? What do you think, Barty?” Alice shook fearfully, clutching Frank, but not too hard, as he was still injured.

“Perhaps,” replied Crouch airily. “But wouldn’t it be so much better if we murdered the child in front of them?” Bellatrix’s face lit up at the mention of torturing a baby.

“Don’t you dare,” cried Alice. “Don’t you dare touch my child!” Bellatrix laughed suddenly at the look of ill-disguised horror and disgust on Alice’s face.

“Rabastan,” commanded Bellatrix, “search the house for the boy…Nathan, is it?”

“Neville,” spat Alice, enraged. What kind of monster was this woman?

“Ah, well, details,” smirked Bellatrix. “Meanwhile…Crucio!” Alice screamed as pain invaded her body. It felt as though she was being burned and stabbed at the same time, and she suffered for more than a minute before Rabastan came down the stairs and Bellatrix lifted the curse.

“Well?” she demanded, looking at Rabastan’s empty hands.

“He’s not here,” he explained. “I searched everywhere.” Bellatrix turned towards Alice.

“Where is he?” she asked in a low voice, eyes ablaze with fury only a couple of Cruciatus Curses could extinguish.

“I’ll never tell you!” shouted Alice, as Frank supported her. “Never, you horrible, demonic, wretched woman!” Bellatrix’s eyes flashed in anger at the sight of this woman, this weak, filthy blood traitor, defying her. She, Bellatrix Lestrange, most devoted servant of the Dark Lord!

“How dare you!” she hissed, nearly spitting on Alice as she spoke. “CRUCIO!” This time, the curse was worse, as it was accompanied not only by pleasure, but with rage. Alice’s screams drowned out Frank’s whispered pleadings to please, let his wife go, and kill him instead.

“Kill you?” laughed Bellatrix, as she turned towards her husband. “Look at them, Rodolphus! Begging for death like common Muggles. What a disgrace!” She kicked Alice hard, as if she were a stray dog, on the last word, shrieking in delight as the woman doubled over in pain.

“No, we’re not going to kill you,” came the softly spoken words of Crouch. “We’re going to torture you beyond your imagination. We’re going to break your minds under the sheer, unimaginable pain. We’ll have you lying on the floor, bleeding from every fiber of your body. And best of all? When we’re through with you, you won’t remember a thing.” Alice and Frank recoiled, with difficulty, in horror as the young man (or was it boy? was he not so young?) laughed quietly, his face aglow with excitement as he looked upon the couple. It made Alice want to throw up.

“And if we tell you?” gasped Frank, clutching his bleeding leg in pain.

Crouch smiled, though it did not reach his eyes. His tongue jutted out quickly as he said, “Then we’ll only kill you.” Alice moaned softly. They were doomed.

“So, Longbottom,” jeered Bellatrix, turning Frank on his back while ignoring his moans of pain, “you have one last chance. Where is the Dark Lord?”

“Death first,” he snapped defiantly, managing a grin at the enraged look on Bellatrix’s face. He turned towards Alice with great difficulty, pulling her face towards his. “I’ll always love you,” he whispered, and kissed her. They heard cruel laughter explode all around them as they kissed, knowing it was the last time they would be together.

“Look at the filthy blood traitors,” laughed Rabastan, pulling Alice away from her husband. She started sobbing, holding on to Frank’s hand until Rabastan gave a rather hard pull. “Give me a kiss, love?” he asked, laughing at Alice’s teary eyes and involuntary shudder.

“Quiet, Rabastan,” admonished Rodolphus. “There’s time for all that later. First, make her watch.” For Bellatrix had her wand aimed at Frank, mania distinct on her face.

“Is his wife watching?” asked Bellatrix quietly, turning slightly towards Rabastan.

“Yes,” he replied, tightening his hold on the woman.

A smile appeared on Bellatrix’s face as she heard the woman’s soft sobs. Then: “CRUCIO!” For about twenty minutes, Bellatrix repeated the curse over and over, long after Frank had slipped into unconsciousness – for long after his mind was fully gone, his body still responded to the horrors of that curse. Alice endured her husband’s screams of mercy; watched his bones jut apart; watched blood seep through his clothes and onto to the formerly spotless carpet from all parts of his body; watched him slowly lose his mind, shouting coherent thoughts to just quieting and quieting, ripping at his hair and curling into a ball as best he could under the damage inflicted on his body. She could not stop crying at the way Bellatrix’s face lit up at every scream, at the way Crouch and the two Lestranges watched attentively, as if they could never get enough of the pain and torture.

Soon enough, Frank was broken, and it was Alice’s turn.

“Can we have a bit of fun with her?” asked Rabastan, leering as he grabbed one of Alice’s breasts.

“No,” said Bellatrix sharply, grabbing Alice from her brother-in-law, much to his dismay. “Someone’s going to come soon enough, and God knows you’ll take all night.” Rabastan glowered at her, but didn’t say anything. It could easily be him in Frank’s position if Bellatrix lost her temper with him as well.

Alice didn’t feel grateful at all that Bellatrix had saved her from a terrible rape. She’d rather be dead, anyway. Frank was gone, Neville was…

Neville.

Alice cried harder at the thought of leaving him practically an orphan. She knew Augusta would take good care of him, but it killed her inside to know that she would never see her precious baby ever again. And if he ever saw her…well, she didn’t want to think of that right now.

I’ll always love you, my precious Neville.

All four laughed at Alice’s tears. They let her, however, go towards Frank on her hands and knees, cupping his blood-matted face one last time.

I’ll always love you, my dear Frank.

She kissed his burst lips one last time before being cruelly pulled away by Bellatrix. “Have a nice life,” she whispered cruelly before bellowing, “CRUCIO!”

Alice could not think anymore. All she knew was that she was screaming as her bones began breaking, as her body began feeling as though it was being shot, stabbed, and beat for an endless amount of time. The curse was lifted. Then, just as suddenly, it was cast again and Alice wanted to die, for anything would be better than this. She heard the shouts of laughter coming from all around her and she just wanted it all to stop. It did again, but briefly, and it was back, and Alice began to lose consciousness. Her mind was slowly fading. She couldn’t remember why she was screaming.

Where am I?

She couldn’t remember her name. She heard voices retreating, and then she was left alone in silence. She couldn’t see anything. She felt terribly alone.

She began screaming. She felt around the room, but she couldn’t focus. She felt her clothes, which were ripped, and felt something in her pocket. What was it? She held it close to her face.

She cried heavily when she realized it was in some sort of code. There were all these letters that she didn’t know, but she still clutched it tightly. It was the only thing that was safe because it was with her.

She felt around the room once more, and then felt a warm body. It was another person! She peered at his face, but he seemed to be asleep. She decided to lie down next to him, for he and the object in her pocket were the only things she felt were safe. For she felt that this man was safe, and he would protect her. Closing her eyes in bliss, she snuggled up next to him and fell asleep, unaware of the tragedy that had just taken place.

---

It couldn’t be true.

Augusta Longbottom trembled as Amelia Bones, Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, sat her down and explained gently what exactly had transpired last night. The only words she took in were “Death Eaters” and “Cruciatus Curse” and “lost their minds." Frank and Alice were both gone, and her grandson was in orphan.

She forgot all about propriety and how one ought to act and began sobbing on the woman’s shoulder, questioning why her son, why her family? WHY when they were all supposed to be safe? She had been worried when Frank and Alice had not arrived at the time they stated they would. After an hour, she had Flooed to their house and had discovered them there, alerting the Ministry at once. Now it was all crashing down on her.

At that moment the two women heard a large cry. Augusta had charmed her home so Neville's cries could be heard wherever she was in the manor.

“That’s…that’s my grandson,” said Augusta quietly, slowly lifting herself off the couch, where only last night Frank and Alice had dropped Neville off. She gazed wistfully at the fireplace, tears still in her eyes, before she gazed away and walked towards the stairs.

She would teach him. She would tell him the truth about his parents as soon as he could know. She would make sure that he would avenge his parents on whomever did this to them.

She would do whatever it took.

Author’s Note: Thank you to SerpentClara for beta-reading this chapter. Thanks to lia for the story title, which means ‘The Price to Pay.' Please review!

UPDATE July 9, 2008: Thanks to the efforts of LovlyRita and stargazer, this collaboration is undergoing a revamp. Keep your eyes peeled for even more one-shots!

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