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Chapter 44 She was back at the house and Atticus was looking uncomfortable across from her. “I am sorry Megan, but I don’t know what else we can do. There’s a piece missing from this puzzle.” He paused and hung his head. “He won’t help himself. I don’t know how we can help him.” Atticus Sliverton was not a man accustomed to failure and in many ways, this had meant nearly as much to him as it did to Megan, though for different reasons. Megan was crying softly, her head buried in her arms. “Megan? I’ll make some dinner for us, shall I?” He had given his word, although Sirius Black probably did not understand that Atticus would have done this anyway. Even Megan’s family had become distant from her at least for the time being. She was in love with a despised murder, intent upon having his child. They could neither understand her nor sympathize entirely with her. The best thing would have been to change her name, have her child and give it up for adoption. The house belonged to Sirius and as soon as he was sentenced, she would have nowhere to go. If it had not been for Atticus who took her to the North with him and set her up in his father’s old mansion who knew what might have become of her? She would write to Sirius but the letters were always returned to her, unopened with the same note scribbled on the front. “Please leave me alone, get on with your life.” Sirius Black had no idea that she was writing over and over to tell him that she was carrying his child and that she still loved him. Truthfully, it probably would have changed very little for either Sirius or Megan. But it changed a great deal for the rest of the world, eventually. ::::::::::::::::: Bellatrix Lestrange, her husband Rodo, Barty Crouch Jr. and Judcan Desher crept towards the bright house in front of them being careful not to make any noise. They could see figures moving inside, silhouettes against the drawn blinds. Fools thought Bellatrix, staying here at this home far from nearly anything and almost entirely uncloaked. They thought that their time had come, that the master was vanquished and they need fear no more. But Bellatrix knew that if she searched faithfully enough for Voldemort, she would find him. The master had mentioned the name Longbottom nearly as much as the name Potter. These people would know something. They were moving stealthily ever closer. ::::::::::::::: “Alice, have you seen that book I was reading on the bogs of Bulgaria?” Frank Longbottom called to his wife. Evidently there were many interesting creatures in the woods and marshes of that country. Vampires, werewolves, hags, grindylows even zombies it was said. Frank did not seem the type to have such an interest in the Dark Arts but they had fascinated him ever since he was a child. Not practicing them, defeating them. “I wasn’t even aware there were bogs in Bulgaria.” Alice was in the living room working on a crossword puzzle. They had taken a weekend together, the first they had been able to find in what seemed like years, left Neville with Frank’s mother and came here to the lovely old house belonging to a coworker of Frank’s. They didn’t know him socially very well, in fact he was said to keep mostly to himself, engrossed in his work but Frank was certain he was trustworthy. When they had arrived they had of course put many charms on the place but they were distracted and happy. Anxious to be alone together for a full two days. Of course they had immediately made use of the house as a man and wife should but now they were relaxing for a bit before heading upstairs to bed again. Frank walked into a parlor across from the living room and began shifting things around, looking for his lost book. Alice and Frank had been separated by a small hallway calling across to each other when it had happened, a young fair haired man had burst in through the door and fell to his knees on the hallway rug. “You’ve got to help me!” Barty Crouch Jr. had always possessed a very innocent face. “They’re right behind me.” Instantly Frank and Alice were beside him, trying to help him up. “It’s okay son, you’re all right now.” Frank put a steadying hand on the boy’s shoulder, he looked young enough to be a student. “Tell me, where are they?” Frank’s gaze had honed in on the door and was searching the woods, Alice had moved to quickly look out the window, her wand drawn. “Here actually.” Crouch said and stunned Frank Longbottom with a curse so powerful he had been blown off his feet. Alice whipped around and had uttered “Expel…” But the window behind her shattered and strong arm wrapped itself around her neck as she heard another voice say, “Ah, the Aurors. What a pleasant night we shall have.” Alice Longbottom was stunned in the neck and slumped forward as the woman who had stunned her stood laughing beside her. :::::::::::::::::: It was hours later and Alice felt as if she had been tied to this chair for her entire life. She had watched poor Frank being tortured with the Cruciatus Curse over and over again but he never revealed anything. Both knew where Harry Potter was, and neither could have guessed at Voldemort’s location. Voldemort’s follower believed he could not be touched by death, and lived on still somewhere in need of them. Alice could guess why they were looking for the Potter boy. She cringed as she saw Frank take another spell to his chest, “Crucio!” Shouted the fair-haired young man, smiling taking pleasure in seeing Frank’s body jerk and spasm. But Frank would tell them nothing. Alice knew why she was being forced to watch this, they hoped that she would be so terrified that it would soften her up. These people understood nothing good, or brave, or even courageous. By watching all that her husband went through if had only strengthened Alice Longbottom’s resolve. They came at her with everything they possessed, over and over. All that Alice kept in her mind was, “Please God, keep Neville safe from people like this.” It was the same thing her husband had thought as his own mind had dwindled from a bright flame to nothing more than an amber glow somewhere far in the distance. The Death Eaters left them in the morning. They hadn’t even had the decency to end their victims now meaningless lives but rather left them locked forever within their own bodies, not quite mindless, but very close to it. When Frank hadn’t turned up at work on Monday morning, his coworker Barty Crouch Sr. had gone to check on them. Perhaps they had trouble getting the flue to work. When he stepped into the room he saw them, Frank slumped, a thin line of drool hanging from his mouth. Alice, still tied to a chair humming very softly, something that sounded a bit like a lullaby. Crouch Sr. had shouted in despair, he knew how this house could have been found. Only his own family knew its location. As much as Barty Crouch wished that his son, his own namesake might be innocent, he knew without a doubt that he was guilty. He rushed back to the Ministry and got help. It was too late to make any real difference. ::::::::::::::::::: Sophie Burns was sitting at her desk in the Ministry of Magic filling out the paperwork that was a never-ending task. Here in the Misuse and Mutation of Jinxes and Hexes she seemed to spend as much time filling out the forms as she did anything else. The Longbottoms had been found just two days ago and the entire Order felt their loss keenly. The poor souls left as nothing but shells of their former selves. It troubled everyone horribly as they realized that the danger was still very high for the members of the Order. She gasped in surprise when a large Raven fluttered through her open window and sat on her desk. Only Atticus Sliverton ever used Ravens instead of owls. He said it was more fitting because Ravens were meant to be birds who delivered messages. He had returned when he’d gotten word about the Longbottoms. Before that, she hadn’t heard from Atticus in months, not ever since he had disappeared to his large estate in the North following Sirius’s sentencing. She detached the message from the large bird’s leg and it nodded to her before flying off. Sometimes Atticus’s wide variety of almost eerily intelligent pets was just downright creepy. She read through the message quickly, it was brief. Sophie – Come to headquarters as soon as you can get away. Credible information about the Longbottom’s attackers received. Strike planned for tonight. – Atticus Sophie shot a glance across the room at her supervisor, Hester Grey whose head was bent, examining a report. “Inspector Grey?” Sophie began. “I’ll need to head off…I’ve just remembered that I think I left my…that is to say…I completely forgot that I had an appoint….Oh for heaven’s sake. Look, I have to leave. Please don’t fire me I’ll be back as soon as I can, hopefully tomorrow morning.” “I hope it all works out, Burns.” Hester Grey said quietly. She wondered if all young people thought anyone over the age of fifty was mentally deficient? One of the Sliverton Ravens arrives in the office and Sophie goes tearing off like a bat out of hell? It wasn’t difficult math to do. She’d seen Burns talking to Longbottom and Moody before. Surely Burns must realize that she was obviously a part of Dumbledore’s team. Bless them all, thought Hester as she continued to read through a hex used by a witch in Hampstead that had resulted in the ears of the recipient falling off. Dreadfully tricky graft work at St. Mungo’s had been required. :::::::::::::::: “It’s nice to meet you.” Remus Lupin said uncertainly as Moody introduced the young man with him. “Shacklebolt was it?” “Call me Kingsley.” The black young man answered, towering above Remus by several inches. “Kingsley, a pleasure.” And Remus had grabbed Moody’s arm and dragged him off towards the other side of the room as Sophie sprinted in and joined them. “He’s coming with us? Are you sure he can handle it?” “Sure? Of course I’m sure, he’s a trained Auror.” Moody growled. “How long ago did he qualify?” Remus asked. “Three weeks ago but he’s a dead aim and he’s incredibly dedicated.” Moody looked at the young man appraisingly. “You’ll be glad he’s with us.” Sophie was also staring at Kingsley. “Alastor, what the devil? He looks like an infant. A very tall infant! He can’t be more than 18.” Moody chuckled slightly. He wondered what they all thought they had looked like to him when he had first met them. He’d taken Dumbledore aside and whispered, “Albus, what is this? The Children’s Crusade?” “You’d be surprised how little difference age makes, it’s guts and heart that make the difference.” Moody turned and back towards the young Auror whose shaved head was catching the light from the windows. Only Atticus seemed unperturbed by the addition of this young unknown. “Kingsley Shacklebolt? Was Rexton Shacklebolt your brother by any chance?” He asked. “Yes, my older brother.” The man was barely eighteen but his voice was surprisingly low. “Hell of a beater, broke my arm in a game one time…and we were playing on the same team.” Atticus grinned. “Are we ready to head out?” Moody grumbled. Suddenly, they were all very serious about the task at hand. Dedalus Diggle had joined them also. So it was to be Moody, Sliverton, Burns, Lupin, Shacklebolt and Diggle against four Death Eaters with a particularly vicious reputation. “For Frank and Alice.” Remus said suddenly and together they trouped out, all of them looking determined. ::::::::::::::::::::::: Desher was standing guard at the door to the private mausoleum on a property owned by Lester Crabbe, a Death Eater who had long since been in detention at Azkaban crowing about Imperius curses. Remus and Moody exchanged a look. They were all heartily sick of fighting in what amounted to graveyards. “In there?” Attiucs hissed so quietly that they could barely hear him. “Yes, we’ll need someone to come up over the roof and stun him while the rest rush from the sides.” Moody somehow managed to keep his gravelly voice soft. “I’ll do that.” Remus said, he was used to climbing things and dropping down with accuracy. Years of playing in the forbidden forest when he was at school had taught him the grace of a cat. Moody nodded and motioned to the others, he would be on one side with Burns and Diggle, Sliverton would be on the other with Shacklebolt. Remus climbed the mausoleum stealthily from the back. They had waited for nightfall and in some ways he wished that they hadn’t the blasted building had all kinds of grotesque statuary on top of it. He hoped to God none of them were enchanted as he advanced to the roof’s edge, peered over an inch and confirmed that he was directly above Desher’s head. It was imperative to take one of the Death Eaters out immediately. These were four of the strongest fighters that Voldemort had ever had, although according to Snape Desher and Lestrange’s husband were not as dangerous, merely strong. Remus Lupin grabbed the edge and swung down, kicking Desher dead in the chest as he did so. Before the DeathEater could finish falling Remus had him bound, gagged and stunned. “You stay here and guard him.” Remus spoke to Diggle, who was a good man but known for not being much of a dueler. “Stun the hell out of him if he so much as flutters and eyelid.” Diggle looked frightened but resolutely stood back and pointed his wand at the prone DeathEater. “Once more into the breach, dear friends.” Atticus quoted and everyone stared at him blankly. “You people out to read more Muggle literature you know.” They stormed inside and Bellatrix’s alarm sounded, a shrill whine that only the Death Eaters could hear. As usual, the Order Members found themselves having to descend farther down into the earth. A marble landing led down a set of stairs to an area where sarcophaguses stood. As soon as the alarm sounded the three remaining Death Eaters tried to scramble out of a small door in the back of the room. Remus, Atticus and Kingsley all decided to forgo the stairs and leapt over the railing to the area below. The area was soon charged with curses flying back and forth as the Order Members and the DeathEaters had one more show down. Kingsley was indeed young but he had taken on Crouch Jr. and was handling himself well at least at first. Crouch was aiming to kill, not to maim or stun and as a jet of green light missed Kingsley’s face by less than an inch, he’d roared with anger and launched himself forward. The Death Eaters were outnumbered nearly two to one but the Order hadn’t counted on the enchanted floor. Just as Kingsely managed to stun Crouch Jr. and Rodo Lestrange’s unconscious body was falling to the floor, stunned by both Lupin and Sliverton something began to happen. Moody and Sophie were trying to get Bellatrix but she was incredibly fast and seemed to be able to shield everything. “What the hell!” Remus shouted. “The floor’s got hold of me.” The marble beneath their feet had begun to turn into some kind of sticky, tar-like substance. “I can’t move an inch!” Moody yelled as both Kingsley and Sliverton pulled desperately at their legs. In the split second the floor had begun to transform, Sophie Burns had leapt atop a sarcophagus as Bellatrix Lestrange’s jagged laugher rang out. The enchantment did not effect her and she was running towards the small door in the back. Leaping from one stone coffin to another Sophie followed. “Sophie!” Remus shouted. “Don’t!” The last time someone he loved had faced Bellatrix Lestrange they had died but Sophie merely shouted: “She’s getting away!” And was after her. Remus watched Sophie’s small form disappear after Lestrange with a sinking feeling. He shouted to others: “Bind them and wake them up.” He was desperate to run to Sophie’s aid. It couldn’t end this way again. He knew Montague had killed Amelia, but he also knew that Lestrange was just as capable of it. “Tell them if they don’t remove the enchantment straight away, we’ll put out their eyes.” Still more spells flew as the Order members desperately complied. Sophie Burns was a solid fighter, but she was no match for Bellatrix Lestrange. :::::::::::::::::: Sophie tore through the door and found herself on another landing that led down to another flight of stairs at its very end. A jet of green light shot past her shoulder as she quickly took stock of her situation. There were several chests on the floor by the railing. Sophie dived for cover behind one of them. Lestrange had actually stopped and was now advancing towards her, laughing. “Another little warrior come to meet me.” Bellatrix’s voice was shrill. “So nice, so polite.” Another spell, this time red hit the ground near Sophie and without thinking she threw open the chest. There might be something in there that would help. It was filled with weapons. Sharp knives, crude looking hatchets, even a sword or two. Sophie suddenly knew what to do. Pointing her wand into the chest she shouted: “Wingardium Leviosa!” And at least a dozen weapons rose into the air and floated. Bellatrix laughed still harder, “You make for me balloons, little warrior?” “Not quite.” Sophie shouted back pointed her wand at half the weapons and screamed, “Ballistica Non Mortem!” Lestrange gasped as half the weapons came hurtling towards her but she put up shield quickly. Not quite quickly enough though because Sophie had time to choose the other half and cause them to hurtle towards Lestrange. Bellatrix screamed in pain as a dagger plunged into her shoulder and she stumbled backwards. Sophie was on her feet screaming: “Expellimarus!” Lestranges wand shot into the air and Sophie ran forward to catch it. “Thank you Professor Flitwick.” Sophie grinned but quickly had to duck as the dagger came winging back towards her. Bellatrix had wrenched it from her own shoulder and sent it flying back at Burns. Sophie inadvertently dropped Bellatrix’s wand. Lestrange quickly scooped it up. She wasn’t laughing now her face was contorted with fury as her wand went zinging back to her own hand. Sophie didn’t even have time to think about what would happen next, it was clear as day what Lestrange would do. Sophie was out in the middle of the landing’s hallway with one of the most ferocious killers Voldemort had ever had as a follower. As the green jet came towards her, she did the only thing she could do; she flung herself over the railing and crashed to the ground at least fifteen feet below. A sickening crunch filled the air. :::::::::::::::: “Wake them the hell up!” Remus was shouting. “Mine’s coming to.” Kingsley said, it was like all of them had been set in stone, engulfed up their knees in the rapidly hardening marble. “So is mine!” Sliverton yelled as Rodo Lestrange opened his eyes and saw the tall form of Atticus Sliverton far above him. “Remove the curse Lestrange, or you’ll be whizzing out of your ear.” :::::::::::::: Sophie stared down at her leg for just a moment, and saw that there was bone protruding, glistening with blood. “Oh hell.” Sophie looked around there was another hallway, leading down a corridor. The underground network here must be vast. Sticking her pocket she began pulling herself towards the wall to her left, right below the staircase. Make noise, she thought, make sure she can’t hear you moving. “Listen, I know you people are Death Eaters.” Sophie began dragging herself as quickly as she could, gritting her teeth against the pain of her shattered leg. “But do you have to be so damned literal about it? What’s with all the tombs and graveyards? Can’t bear to be away from death?” She could hear Lestrange’s mad laughter and her swift footsteps running down the stairs. She’d be there in at any moment. “Just can’t stand to be away from the dead I guess.” She was nearly to the wall. “You must like the smell.” She was there, flipping over and propping herself up, her body screaming in protest. She had one shot, she knew it and she couldn’t mess about with stunning because Moody had told them this woman was nearly impossible to stun. To use an unforgivable curse you had to mean it and mean it with all your heart. Sophie concentrated on Alice and Frank Longbottom and all the pain they had suffered at the hands of this woman and those upstairs. She thought of Amelia Strong and the details of her death provided by Snape. She thought of Lily and James Potter, who had loved each other so dearly and were now both dead. As Bellatrix ran from the stairs toward the spot she thought that Sophie would be lying, Sophie Burns pointed her wand at the woman’s back and screamed at the top of her lungs: “CRUCIO!” A red jet burst from her wand and caught the insane woman square in the back. As Sophie lost consciousness from the pain, the last thing she heard was Bellatrix’s screams of agony. :::::::::::::::: Moody stayed with the bound Death Eaters, he had taken yet another hit to the nose as Kingsely, Atticus and Remus burst through onto the landing. The tortured screams of a woman met their ears and Remus felt as if his head would explode. All three men ran down the long landing with incredible speed and took the stairs three at a time on the way down. When they reached the bottom, Bellatrix Lestrange was still writhing on the ground and Kingsley walked over to her with Atticus as they both began stunning her. Remus’s eyes shot around the enclosed area and finally to the left. There, slumped against the wall was Sophie, her left leg twisted horribly, blood and bone showing. “Sophie?” He was gently tapping her face with his hand. “Can you hear me?” “Umm?” Sophie moaned and Remus knew that it would be all right after all. ::::::::::::::::: As four of the worst Death Eaters who had ever followed Voldemort sat rotting in Azkaban Remus Lupin sat holding his wife’s hand in St. Mungo’s. Albus Dumbledore sat in a chair, waiting with the young man. “She should wake at any time. We had to keep her out to set that leg.” The mediwitch had grimaced. “It was very badly broken I’m afraid, four different places. She’ll always limp after this but she’ll be fine overall.” Sophie stirred in her drugged sleep and her eyes opened slowly, it was difficult to focus but she knew Remus’s voice. “Hello there, dearest.” Sophie’s voice felt heavy, like an object she had to lift. “Hello, sweetness.” Remus had never felt such relief in his life. “Sophie, you did quite well.” Dumbledore spoke, his voice resonating majestically. “Actually, I’m afraid I may be in a lot of trouble.” Sophie grinned sleepily. “I used an unforgivable curse.” “Did you do it for pleasure, or for justice?” Dumbledore asked gravely. “Justice. For all of them.” Sophie’s head was clearing. “Will there be a hearing?” “I highly doubt that there will be one.” Dumbledore smiled and withdrew. Remus stroked her face and kissed her. He didn’t wish to tell her what he had to. “Sophie, your leg was badly broken.” He began. “Guessed that.” “I’m sorry, but you’ll have a bit of a limp from now on. Shouldn’t be anything too bad but your days of running up and down stairs may be at an end, slow and steady from now on I’m afraid.” Remus waited. “Oh hell Remus, lead with the important information would you?” Sophies brown eyes were bright. “Just tell me, did I get that piece of dung? Are they all in Azkaban now?” “You did, and they are.” “Well then, a limp’s well worth that.” Sophie said truthfully. The first war was over now for both of them.

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