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His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 0]
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The Dark Lord’s Last Call
‘Are you sure about this?’ Harry asked as Snape laid the bare bones of his plan to the rest of them. ‘It just seems that you’re relying on an awful lot of things falling into place.’
‘Of course I’m not sure, Potter,’ Snape replied with acid. ‘I do not have a book of instructions.’
‘All right, all right.’ Harry backed down with little grace.
Severus could see the boy’s own temper was beginning to fray at the edges; that was good, if he were angry enough it might block out a bit of the fear. He wasn’t quite sure why Potter had sat at his side, but he didn’t see fit to comment on the fact. He didn’t feel uncomfortable, and no one else seemed to have noticed, except Black, and he’d just given Potter an odd look and sat on his other side.
Severus found himself turning to where Lucius sat at the end of the table, with Lupin on one side and Draco on the other; he suspected they were the only things still holding him up. He was worried about Lucius; he was worried about having wasted all of the time there, without making the effort to speak to him properly; he was worried that Lucius had been lying through his teeth when he said he hadn’t had any contact with Voldemort; he was worried that if Lucius had had no contact with Voldemort, that it was because he was terrified of his retribution; he was worried that that very fear would manifest itself when they needed it least, and render him either useless or worse. He found Malfoy had turned to look at him as though he knew he was being worried about.
‘You’ll have to take some things on trust, Severus,’ he said quietly. ‘I might as well be one of them.’
He was going to ignore the remark, pass on to something else, and stopped himself. If Lucius were true to them, he deserved more. ‘Are you going to cope?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Lucius admitted. ‘I’m going to try though. Good enough?’
‘It’s good enough,’ Sirius replied before Snape got the chance. ‘Come on,’ he said, nodding to the others, ‘let’s get moving to Hogwarts before we all chicken out of this.’
They went to Hogwarts and left from the fireplace in the Gryffindor Common Room. Harry felt there was something right about that, something fitting about Godric Gryffindor scowling down on their final journey to try to rid the school of Salazar Slytherin’s influence forever, had he but known it, one thousand years to the day that Salazar had left himself.
Harry was having quite a job remembering that Sirius Black was actually Remus Lupin, and that the Lucius Malfoy at his side was actually Sirius Black; he hoped he’d remember if it came to really mattering. The real Malfoy stood with Lupin, as far apart from Narcissa as the common room permitted, without Lucius actually leaving the room; Harry suspected he was in for a hard time ... if they got back.
Snape wasn’t under any disguise; there was no real need for him or Lucius to don another persona, they had Kingsley’s word that they would be able to enter the Department of Mysteries unmolested. Harry thought his old Potions Master looked even paler than usual, more drawn, as though the weight of the whole operation were on his shoulders and he was staggering beneath the burden; at least he had foregone the Polyjuice. He watched as Snape stood taking last minute instructions from Dumbledore’s portrait that McGonagall had brought from her office, occasionally nodding or arguing a point mildly. Harry had a feeling he’d already made his mind up, that he’d examined the possible scenarios so many times that he had a plan for each of them. He found himself looking into the black eyes as Snape turned to him.
‘Are you ready, Potter?’
‘Yes, I’m ready,’ Harry replied. ‘Are you ready to defend me, Severus?’ he asked, without the trace of self-consciousness he’d felt addressing Snape by his given name at the safe house.
‘Yes, I believe I am.’
Harry looked around the rest of them, watching quietly on. He was struck by the realisation that he and Snape were the only ones who really mattered; the rest of them made up the numbers and swept up the mess. ‘Do you trust me?’ he asked quietly, wondering why he suddenly needed to know.
‘Yes, I trust you.’ Snape nodded. ‘The big question is, do you trust me?’
‘I think we are all about to put our lives into your hands,’ Harry answered. ‘Yes, I trust you implicitly.’
Severus wasn’t at all sure what he expected when they Flooed to the Department of Mysteries, but it certainly wasn’t a reception committee made up of the few people he didn’t even realise he would have handpicked if he’d had the opportunity to do so.
Both of the older Weasley brothers were there, Bill bearing his scars like a war banner, and Kingsley and Mad-Eye.
‘I thought you were in Romania,’ Harry gasped, as Bill gave him a rough hug.
‘We left the rest of the clan there.’ Charlie grinned, before shooting a sideways glance at the two Lucius Malfoys. ‘I thought he was big, but that’s ridiculous.’
‘One of them is Sirius,’ Harry explained, ‘and Sirius is actually Lupin.’
‘Oh, that’s fine.’ Bill grinned a somewhat lopsided smile. ‘Put a cross on the real Malfoy’s back so we know who to sacrifice if the need arises.’
Snape wanted to get moving, to get away from this false party atmosphere. He looked across to where the Veil muttered softly in a breeze from nowhere. He’d been so sure this was the right night, that the conditions couldn’t be better for what they were about to do, and what he needed to do: the date said so, even the heavens said so. As he tried to clear the doubts from his mind he had a sudden wish that he’d had a chance to speak to Firenze about it.
‘There isn’t ever going to be a good time,’ Harry said from his side. ‘But there is a right time.’
Snape nodded curtly and began to unwrap the parcels of the Horcruxes the others had handed him, as Minerva and Andromeda instructed the rest of them, except for the Knight Protectors of the Shield of Merlin, into concealment.
Narcissa gave Draco a hug as she clasped the Keepstane to her heart, and watched Lucius walk back to Lupin’s side. ‘Don’t let the old fool get himself killed,’ she said archly, pretending she was addressing her son instead of her husband’s back.
‘Don’t get sentimental on me now, Narcissa, not after all these years,’ Malfoy said as he turned to her again and drew himself up.
‘Back off, Old Snake. I just don’t want you to die until I know where all the money is.’ Narcissa smiled back. ‘Believe me, this is going to cost you, Lucius.’
‘Let me assure you that that will not be a problem.’ Malfoy raised his silver eyebrow at his wife of almost twenty years. ‘I am not in the habit of doing anything on the cheap,’ he said with his expensively cynical smile.
‘That’s good,’ Narcissa replied with the sweetness of rancid fat; it did nothing to conceal whatever odd affection the two of them shared. ‘Your divorce won’t be breaking any moulds.’
Severus watched her duck behind a row of dusty bottles and boxes, taking the moment to smile to himself. He understood just what Narcissa had done, seen the carrot she had dangled in front of Lucius’s nose; she might not have wanted him as a husband, but she certainly didn’t want him as a corpse. He took a quick look at Malfoy, but he had turned away to talk to Lupin.
They formed themselves into a pentagram, with Snape at the front, Lupin to his left and Lucius on his right; Draco and Sirius took the two back points.
‘Where do you want me?’ Harry asked.
‘In the middle of course, Potter,’ Snape replied. ‘The pentagram is not to complicate issues; it is there to protect you.’ He looked around them: Lupin quiet and tense, Draco seemingly a calm contrast to his nervous father, Sirius the cool watchful soldier he expected him to be. He wondered what he was waiting for, why he hadn’t started; it struck him as a blow to realise he was frightened. He caught Potter’s eyes, clear and calm; the boy was facing his destiny and found himself equal to the task … Severus envied him that.
‘Now, Severus,’ Harry said, and Snape finally accepted what he was waiting for. This was Potter’s show, not his; he had only ever been there to show him the way.
He lifted his wand and blasted Helga Hufflepuff’s cup to particles of dust; Tom Riddle’s diary went next, and he had raised his wand to Salazar’s ring when he heard Potter hiss to him.
‘Nagini is here, Severus. I can hear her talking.’
Snape nodded, turning only slightly, and blasted the ring, even as he saw Sirius change form from the corner of his eye, as all hell broke loose. Snape didn’t let his concentration falter; he had to dispose of the necklace before they went through the Veil. He only wanted Rowena’s brooch left, and Voldemort, of course. The timing was crucial; he was the only one who really knew just how crucial it was. As the necklace disappeared in a million pieces, Snape felt Voldemort arrive in a blast of sheer fury. He began to move towards the Veil; he had to get through so that Voldemort would have to follow. As he reached the Veil he heard Lupin groan at his side.
‘Greyback’s here, Severus,’ he said sickly, ‘and he’s not been taking Wolfsbane.’
‘I was expecting him. I shall deal with him, Lupin,’ Snape said calmly. ‘Trust me.’ He stepped through the Veil and heard nothing more of what was happening on the other side.
Severus could hardly breathe. It seemed almost as though breathing weren’t necessary there, that the body’s functions were suspended, surplus to requirement in this other place. He found himself moving forward as Lupin appeared and then Lucius; that was good, he’d been worried about Lucius’s courage failing him. Potter came through next, still in the middle; he admired the boy’s nerve, both him and Draco, it was too easy to forget they were only seventeen. He didn’t have to remind himself to move slowly to allow Sirius the time to deal with Nagini and come through lined with Draco; his movements were sluggish anyway, like trying to run away in a nightmare, with his legs caught in a bath of treacle.
He began to think he’d made a terrible mistake, and that Voldemort wouldn’t come through, when he saw Rowena Ravenclaw’s brooch, just sitting waiting for him, the way Dumbledore said it would be; it seemed shockingly normal in this surreal place. As he bent to lift it he heard a scream of fury as Voldemort hurtled through the Veil, with Greyback on one side and a clearly terrified Pettigrew on the other.
The Dark Lord ground to a halt as he took stock of his surroundings and the four men already through the Veil. As Sirius and Draco slipped through unnoticed to complete the Pentagram, Snape smiled to himself at the irony. Voldemort must have disregarded Draco and passed Sirius in his snake form; he hoped the rest of the serpents would fool him as well as the impostor had done.
Voldemort lifted his wand, but Lucius had had the few moments longer than the Dark Lord to adjust himself to the atmosphere, that and the advantage of surprise, and his Curse had already left his wand. Snape could actually see it travel through the thick atmosphere and hit the Dark Lord on his wand arm; he knew Lucius had only disobeyed his instructions to prove his allegiance, probably to himself. That didn’t matter for now; it was more important to him that Lucius had made his stand.
‘The job is done,’ Sirius said from behind him, his words floating up to him. He knew Sirius had killed Nagini, and that one of the others they had left behind would even now have reduced her body to so much ash; Black wouldn’t have hung back to do that himself. Snape didn’t bother to nod; he had more pressing matters on his mind. Greyback had reared on his hind legs, and his slavering maw was bearing down on him. Severus tipped the accelerated Polyjuice to his lips as he heard Lupin gasp at his side.
‘Snape, no ... you haven’t taken Wolfsbane.’
Sirius flicked the button on his stopwatch, as Snape changed form to a fully-fledged werewolf and began wrestling with the taller, more powerful Greyback. They had twelve minutes before the reversal agent Severus had added to the Polyjuice took effect; it was going to feel like forever. His own Curses, and those released by Draco and Lucius hardly scathed Greyback, as he swatted them like so many annoying flies.
Voldemort had regained his feet. He frowned for a moment, and Sirius could feel him search his mind and discard him as an impostor, to advance on the real Lucius, probably picking whom he considered was the soft target.
‘The brooch,’ Harry gasped. ‘Destroy the brooch.’
‘Get the brooch, Wormtail,’ Voldemort screamed.
But Draco was faster. It was then that Sirius realised the boy had broken the pentagram as he scrambled for the brooch. Voldemort raised his wand, and Sirius watched the Curse spin through the air towards Draco’s back. Sirius felt himself gasp as he saw Lucius sidestep to take it full in his chest, staggering forward into his Dark Lord, catching him off balance. Pettigrew was turning as though undecided as to whether he should help Voldemort or get the brooch, and Sirius raised his wand to send a bolt of blue sizzling towards Wormtail to catch him between his hunched shoulders. Sirius tried to blot out the nightmare battle between Snape and Greyback, attempting to stay focussed on what they were there for. He watched Draco drag Lucius to his feet from where Voldemort had shoved him away to get to the last Horcrux, but the Dark Lord was too late. Sirius had blasted the suddenly freed brooch to tiny pieces which seemed to float through the thick air.
As Voldemort spun and called Greyback, Sirius remembered something he’d read in a storybook, a tale of a small dog defeating a great wolf by cunning; he’d only read it because a black dog was the hero. He hoped it hadn’t been literary license as he manoeuvred himself behind the struggling Snape and Greyback; the Pentagram was broken anyway. He transformed again to the Cobra. He knew Snape only had about five minutes left, and Sirius wasn’t ready to let him change back to himself pinned under a furious werewolf. He raised his head and flared his hood as he bit his way down Greyback’s legs, until he found one of his grisly hamstrings, and the werewolf toppled to the ground, howling in anger.
‘Nagini, my lovely,’ Voldemort screamed at the Veil as Sirius bit the werewolf’s other hamstring. ‘Call me now, my lovely, and let us deal with this rabble if they try to go back.’
‘Nagini’s dead,’ Harry said in a flat cool voice that made Sirius turn to watch him. The boy was standing alone in the middle of what had been his protection; he had his wand arm hanging loosely at his side and his head held proudly, a little to one side. There was about him an unfeigned arrogance and superiority that almost made Sirius gasp in pride; he hoped Voldemort didn’t recognise it. ‘They’re all dead, you withered husk of hate,’ Harry said calmly as the pentagram formed again, this time with Harry at the front in place of the missing Snape and Lucius Malfoy struggling to keep his feet, supported by his son at the back. ‘You know I always wanted to take you in a straight battle,’ Harry went on, ‘but you always had to try to cheat.’
Voldemort took his time in turning to Harry, as he dragged Wormtail back to his feet. ‘Harry Potter,’ he said with a smile that twisted his snakelike features with disdain. ‘I said I would kill you, and I shall, while your pathetic companions watch you scream, and the only true one amongst them invites me back through the Veil.’ He smiled again, this time encompassing all of them. ‘You didn’t think I was going to rely on just one snake, Potter, did you? No, no, of course not, even you are not that stupid. I wonder which of my snakes you doubted.’
He looked around to where Snape was still trapped below the furious Greyback, whose damaged legs trailed behind him, and then to Draco, and finally to where Lucius stood with his head bowed, in pain or shame, Sirius couldn’t tell which. ‘CRUCIO,’ Voldemort shouted with a laugh, and Malfoy dropped to the ground writhing in new agony. ‘Just in case you forgot who bows to whom around here, my Lucius. Have you told your friends that you and I also share a Blood Oath?’
Harry gasped to himself as he watched on. Lucius Malfoy, why had they trusted him? But for now he had to wait, wait for the right time, for Sirius’s signal. He swore to himself he would deal with Malfoy at a time of his choosing; for now he had a bigger fish to fry.
‘Round them up, Wormtail,’ Voldemort said over his shoulder as he delivered a kick to the still form of Lucius. ‘I shall take care of this one; he has debts to pay.’ He bent slightly and grasped Lucius’s arm. ‘You know the price and the prize, my Lucius. You know you can resist neither.’
‘Don’t touch him,’ Draco snarled from where he stood immobile at the back of the broken pentagram.
‘Ah!’ Voldemort smiled, releasing Lucius’s arm to let him fall to the ground again. ‘The cub has longer teeth than the mewling sire, I see. CRUCIO.’
Harry heard Draco’s scream of agony; he knew there was nothing he could do about that either.
Lupin slumped to ground.
Sirius doubled over in agony.
They were falling like ninepins, and Harry wondered if the Dark Lord were so vain that he had thought them all frightened into immobility. Voldemort had no way of knowing the price Snape had asked them all to pay, that no move against Voldemort, except to protect Harry or destroy the Horcruxes, had to be made unless it was in defence, that Severus was relying on that very conceit. Surely he must wonder why even resistance to him had stopped. Harry wondered why he hadn’t killed any of them, until he realised that Voldemort needed at least some of them back through the Veil, in some belief that they would allow Lucius to call him back to the reception of the massed Death Eaters Harry assumed he thought were even now awaiting him on the other side; he just hoped they weren’t.
He wasn’t sure whether he heard Sirius’s gasped words or felt them; he just knew they sounded like a bell in his mind. ‘Count to thirty now.’
‘Well, Harry Potter. It is time for you to die. I think I shall do it here; that way not even your body will be feted like the hero of glorious failure you are.’ Voldemort turned slightly to Pettigrew. ‘It hasn’t been much of a fight has it, Wormtail? The chase was much more entertaining.’ He turned again to Harry, even more slowly than the heavy atmosphere demanded, as though savouring his moment. ‘Don’t think that your stupid pentagram ever protected you from me, Potter. Your filthy mother’s mudblood was stronger.’ He made a show of raising his wand before the audience he knew he had disabled by his Cruciatus Curses, and terrified beyond action. ‘Say farewell to your ...’
‘AVADA KEDAVRA.’ Harry had raised his wand only slightly and watched the Curse travel through the air to meet its disbelieving target. ‘If you’re going to kill someone, you arrogant fuckhead, kill them; you can always brag about it later.’
‘NOW, MOTHER,’ Draco called from behind him, before the green light from the ultimate Curse had even faded.
Harry spun in time to see Draco haul himself to his feet and move back towards the Veil; he held one of his hands out to his father, as though imploring him to move. Harry watched the blond boy disappear first, as Lupin dragged Lucius upright, and shoved him towards the Veil.
‘The dagger, Harry,’ Sirius said urgently, his face still contorted in pain.
Harry galvanised himself; there was no point to any of this if he had to stay here. He fumbled with the dagger as Lupin staggered back through the Veil, sending a final Stunning Hex at Greyback as he went. He watched Pettigrew gibbering over the remains of Voldemort, as Greyback tried to struggle to his useless legs, shaking his head slowly in wounded rage, while flecks of spittle seemed to float through the air from his slavering jaws, and the other werewolf slipped back into the form of Severus Snape. An unearthly howl came from near Snape, from something that seemed almost to have a shape, but even in this heavy atmosphere where you could see a spell travel, it was just a hazy grey mass. Harry knew it was the same shape the men had seen part the bushes at the safe house. He raised his wand, even as he saw Sirius do the same, to blast Greyback out of Snape’s reach. He understood why none of them had used a Killing Curse at any distance; in this strange atmosphere it was too easy for a man to walk in front of a slowly travelling spell by mistake.
Snape had spun to him; he had two livid gashes down his white cheek and he seemed to be fighting for breath. He grasped the dagger. ‘Quickly, Potter, before it decides it would like to inhabit me permanently.’ He held the point to Sirius’s wrist and then to Harry’s and finally to his own, letting the three lots of blood mingle. He took the dagger in his left hand and repeated the action on their right wrists. ‘Stand between us, Potter,’ he gasped.
Harry could see Snape was struggling badly, and only understood why when he saw that Severus’s shirt seemed to be sticking to his side; he knew it wasn’t sweat. Even on the black of his shirt Harry could see red; he found his mind recoiling at what other injuries Snape must have.
‘Hurry, Severus,’ Sirius said urgently.
Harry saw Greyback dragging himself across the floor, trailing his useless legs behind him. ‘You are mine, Snape; you cannot escape me now,’ the werewolf growled as he inched closer.
‘Hurry,’ Sirius repeated as Snape began to intone something Harry couldn’t understand; it certainly didn’t sound like English.
Sirius began to back to the Veil, his two wrists still held against Snape’s. Harry felt the wrench as Sirius began to pass back through the Veil and he staggered after him. It was only once the Veil fluttered back into place that he realised what he’d done, but the rage overtook him, and he found himself flying at Lucius Malfoy. He was standing gasping, with his head slumped forward, and being supported on one side by Draco and the other by Lupin, whilst Narcissa tore at the front of his doublet to expose the ugly red and black mark from the Curse the Dark Lord had meant for her son.
‘You traitorous bastard,’ Harry screamed and tried to break away from where his godfather had pinned his arms to his sides. ‘Let me go, Sirius. He was going to call Voldemort through.’
‘No, he wasn’t, Harry,’ Sirius hissed at him. ‘I swear to you, he wasn’t. The Blood Oath with Voldemort was destroyed. Severus and Lucius destroyed it years ago,’ he said, in a hurry to spill the words out. ‘I was there, Harry; listen to me. James and I were there when he did it. Lupin and Regulus were there too; we split it up amongst us and destroyed it.’
‘You can’t destroy a Blood Oath, Sirius,’ Harry argued, struggling against Sirius’s powerful grip.
‘No, but you can dilute it so many times that it means nothing,’ Sirius said, finding his eyes, ‘until it is less than useless. We did that, Harry. Remember we all had an oath with one another. We split it amongst us and as we each took it, we each denied it,’ he went on urgently. ‘We kept splitting it and denying it until Voldemort’s oath was virtually useless.’
Harry found himself flailing, and then shivering in shock at what he’d just done, as he realised Sirius had dropped his arms. He saw Malfoy had pushed Narcissa away and was fully alert; he had a look of disbelief on his face that had nothing to do with what had happened to them behind the Veil ... the Veil that he and Lupin were watching, the one that Sirius turned slowly to watch, the Veil that was fluttering in the breeze from nowhere, with Severus Snape still behind it.
His Own True Heir by Scaranda [Reviews - 0]