Failure To Thrive

Acts of Revenge - Part I

Severus felt the world stop spinning as his brain struggled to process what he'd just seen. He blinked, paralysis setting in for a split second. "No!" the harsh bellow felt like it had ripped from his chest as he broke into a run, charging straight at, and all-out tackling, the waiter who had served the champagne. He pinned the younger wizard down, already recognizing a familiar face beneath the faltering glamour. Rory Bolero. "Where did you send them?" He wandlessly cast a finite on Rory's magical disguise, and the satisfied smirk that was revealed on the younger wizard's face nearly cost Severus all self-control. "You son of a bitch-"
"Severus!" Kingsley yelled at him. Percy Weasley had just run up behind the Minister, and Ron, Bill and Arthur were racing over to the scene. "Percy will handle him. I need you sane. Gather yourself, man!"
Severus jumped to his feet, effectively releasing Bolero, while Percy immediately had the miscreant auror in wrist and ankle restraints. Severus briefly wondered when Percy had gained such a role of authority with the Ministry.
"We can trace McAnthony, Smith and Winger through their wands, as well as all of the Malfoys," Percy said. "That will likely yield some answers as to culprits and locations of the hostages."
"Agreed. And quickly!" Kingsley responded. He cast a look around and found Rothchilde jogging over to them. "Accompany Weasley to the Ministry to proceed with the trace. Percy's on lead," he told the Commander of Magical Law Enforcement.
Rothchilde gave Kingsley a look that said, I beg your pardon? but the Minister of Magic ignored him as the rest of the Weasley men joined the circle that had formed around Severus. Percy levitated the prisoner and began to run down the hill, with Bolero yelling in fear as he flew, feet first, along beside the middle Weasley brother. Rothchilde ran with much less enthusiasm as he attempted to follow suit.
Arthur and Minerva stood beside Kingsley as the Minister addressed those who had collected to offer their help: Severus, Ron, Bill, George, Lee Jordan, Dean Thomas, and Neville. "Hold out your wands, all of you," Kingsley said. "Honoris dēputāre," he murmured as he wove an intricate pattern over each of their wands. He then conjured a quick quill and parchment, saying formally, "Let the record show that each wizard present, along with Harry Potter, is officially deputized to act on behalf of, and in assistance to, Magical Law Enforcement to resolve this crisis to its conclusion. You are authorized to use non-lethal force to contain any situation you come upon. If your life, or the life of any of the six victims of this attack is threatened, you are authorized to defend yourself with lethal force." Everyone shot looks of determination at each other as they waited for Kingsley to continue. "There are six people in peril. They were taken by portkey, which very likely means their destination is heavily warded. We are operating blindly as of now. Severus? If it was the Lestranges, and we both know it was, we know their family manor was seized and obliterated by the Ministry. Where else would they have been able to hide? Who else might give them shelter?"
"I have only in my lifetime congregated with either of them in three locations: Lestrange Manor, Malfoy Manor, or Spinner's End," Severus said grimly. "We know they are in none of these locales."
Ron pulled the Deluminator from his pocket. "I might be able to help with that."

Harry hit hard ground with a grunt of pain, but jumped to his feet quickly, wand at the ready. He cast a domelike shield over himself as he had a look around. He saw two wizards standing nearby, both with arms crossed, having a hearty laugh at the confusion of the Boy Who Lived. One was Auror Winger. Now, there's a shock, Harry thought bitterly to himself. His shield held strongly, but the other wizards didn't try to take it down, clearly unconcerned. Their voices were mostly muted to Harry's hearing, but he caught something about the graveyard in between their snickers and derogatory comments about his stature and age. Harry quickly recognized his surroundings as the grounds of Riddle Manor, in the back near the caretaker's cottage, as he'd seen it in his visions in fourth year.
He canceled his shield and stood glaring at the wizards. "I know who you are," he said to Winger. Then to the other, "But, who are you? and what's this about?"
"Oh, apologies, little Harry." The nameless of the two told him. He looked to be in his late twenties. "We've brought you here to teach your dear friends about loyalty. Now that you're all so happy and family-like, wouldn't it be the perfect tragic ending for each of you to die alone?"
"I've no intention of dying," Harry said with an impressive attempt at nonchalance, but his stomach plummeted in dread and fear.
They laughed. "Well, yes, but that's because you're a dumb little boy, who has no one but the defeated traitors of the Dark Lord to look after him," Winger said.
Harry strained to hold off his panic. "You're grasping," he said, still attempting the indifferent attitude, but the shaking of his voice and body betrayed his fear. "That was yesterday's news. Voldemort's dead. Time to bloody well get over it, already." He wondered what Severus or Lucius would have said in this situation. "You still haven't told me who you are," Harry tried again. "Are you Death Eaters?"
The nameless one stepped forward and started to slowly approach Harry. "My uncle Pius was one. I always looked up to him and his ambitions. I'm set to pick up where he left off. I'm Normal Thickeness."
Harry barked a harsh laugh. "No you're not. Who names their child-" it was like divine intervention. He suddenly saw the derisive humor in this pathetic situation. He held up his left hand, as if to stop the idiot from speaking any further. "Nevermind. I could care less, really. So, what's your plan, then?"
Normal shrugged with a taunting smirk. "My plan is to kill you, little boy," he said as he raised his wand.
Harry smacked his wand wrist up against his outstretched left arm and sent his blasting hex out to shoot Normal Thickeness backward about fifty feet behind them, into an unkempt topiary shaped like a giant peacock. He heard a collection of crunches as the wizard crashed through branches and dead leaves, and completely out of view. One down, for the moment anyway, Harry thought as he turned in time to read the slicing hex that Winger made the motions to cast. He deflected it right back to the bully auror, who fell to the ground bleeding and moaning from a horrible, probably mortal, wound to his torso. "Shouldn't play with grownup magic, you ponce," Harry taunted to keep himself from losing momentum.
He sent a challenging glare around for Normal, and could make out the sound of approaching unsteady footsteps. It did not take much calculation to anticipate Normal's attack, as the now injured assailant came into view and cast impulsively, clearly not having expected Harry to prevail. Harry couldn't identify the spell coming his way, but rather than deflect it, he threw up his open void, followed it with a nearly simultaneous and silent expelliarmus, and then a lashio that tightly wrapped inescapable bindings around the older wizard, pinning his arms to his sides, and feet together. Harry caught Normal's wand as it sailed straight to him and gave in to his temper, snapping it in half, right before its owner's eyes. In the back of his mind he heard Severus warning him about taking the law into his own hands, but he didn't care. He was not going to let these monsters have a chance to hurt anyone else.
The urgent pounding of his heart helped him stay in motion, and at the moment, the only thing Harry could clearly recall through the shock of the portkey transit was at least four other people getting pulled away within his peripheral vision. That likely meant Draco, Naomi, Narcissa, and Lucius, if not also Hermione and Luna. But none of them were anywhere nearby.
He cast his patronus, embedded his message, and swished his wand to send it racing away. He sensed warding over the Riddle grounds, so he set off running for the property boundary.

Ron had just finished explaining how the Deluminator worked, and was attempting to locate Hermione or Harry, when a familiar stag patronus approached them.
"We were abducted and portkeyed separately. I landed at Riddle Manor, I've gotten loose. One of my captors needs a healer as soon as possible. The other is Auror Winger, and he's tied up and wandless. They said something about the graveyard - probably Little Hangleton where Voldemort was resurrected. There's a wood surrounding it. I'm headed there."
"You will need brooms," Minerva called after the male wizards as they all began to run through the waning crowd, down the hill to the school gates. She summoned the set of brand new Nimbus Millennium school brooms from the Quidditch locker area, directing them individually to the retreating figures, and each deputy grabbed one as he ran.
Just outside the gates, they convened one last time.
"There will be anti-apparition wards, so we will apparate to the graveyard entrance and surveil the situation," Kingsley directed. "If any one of the captives is there, we will decide how many of us stays to contain the situation, and who will follow Ron to the next destination. Arthur, once we know what we're up against, I'll want you to return to the Ministry for Percy's report. Team yourselves in the following pairs: Severus, you'll join Harry. Ron with Neville, Arthur with Bill, George with Lee. Dean, you're with me. If forced to separate, we'll communicate by patronus where possible, and return to the Hogwarts infirmary with retrieved captives. Agreed?"
"Agreed." The group said in grim unison.

Harry popped into the spot behind the large boulder he'd used to shield himself from Voldemort's cruciatus curses four years prior. He heard a bellow of pain, and recognized the voice as belonging to Lucius. Wand drawn, he cast a silencing charm on himself as he raced to duck out of sight and into the wooded perimeter of the graveyard. He dearly wanted to send another patronus to Severus, or any of the Weasleys or Kingsley, but he dared not risk drawing attention to himself with its bright light. He heard another yell from Lucius, a scream of agony that cut off suddenly, filling Harry with dread. That kind of scream only came from losing consciousness from unfathomable pain. He pressed his lips together as tears sprung to his eyes, and he struggled to keep himself from calling out to his pseudo guardian as he continued to circle the area, searching for Lucius and whomever his assailants were.
He came around a thick cluster of greenery and inadvertently ran out into the open area of manicured lawn and grave markers. Harry recognized the wizard before him as one of the Lestranges, though he didn't know which. The dark wizard was standing over Lucius, who looked as though he'd dropped from a great height and landed in a broken heap, on his side, facing Harry. Harry didn't hesitate, and cast his magical shove hex with all of the force he could muster, watching grimly as Lestrange flew, at furious speed, out of sight. Harry heard a dull thunk in the distance, and hoped, beyond hope, that he'd put the bastard out of commission as he ran to Lucius and dropped to his knees on the damp grass beside his fallen pseudo guardian. Lucius' hair was matted with blood and dirt and covering his face. Harry knew better than to try to move him until he knew how badly the senior Malfoy was hurt.
"Lucius!" he whispered fearfully into the fallen wizard's ear. When he got no response, he looked the older wizard over, noticing a leg and an arm twisted at unnatural angles, and decided on the spot that he was out of his league in this. Why hadn't he learned healing charms? He wished for Severus. He wished for Hermione. But he had no idea if anyone would come. He carefully felt for a pulse on Lucius' neck and found a very faint beat against the skin beneath his fingers. Panic rose up in him now, and he thought furiously about what he should do next.

Severus heard the impact of a body against a hard surface and had a good idea what had just happened. Harry! "This way!" he called in a low voice, disillusioning himself as he straddled his broom and rushed up into the air, leading the rest to fly though the trees to the far side of the graveyard, where they could all see Harry in a clearing, hovering over a very badly injured body. "I see no assailants - we must separate and secure the area!" Severus said.
Harry obviously saw them now, and the boy was pointing at an area behind where he was kneeling.
"Go to Harry," Kingsley directed. "Ron, Neville, go as well. The rest of you, with me!" Kingsley lead the others out of sight behind a section of wood that divided the graves from the mausoleum area.
Severus led Ron and Neville toward Harry, and they all saw Harry cast a dome-like shield over himself as they registered the sudden appearance of four other wizards who began to send hexes and killing curses at those on their brooms. While in motion, they were not easy targets, but neither were they easily able to shield and deflect, as they made their perilous descent to the ground near Harry and Lucius.
"Hold your shield, Harry!" Severus yelled frantically as a full fledged dual to the deaths began in earnest. He recognized Rololphus Lestrange, but not the other three wizards who were furiously casting deadly slicing, blasting, and flaming curses at Harry's good friends and at Severus.
"Switch with me, Harry!" Neville yelled. He knew he was the weakest of them as a fighter. He had an excellent dome shield, however. He dove toward Harry and cast his shield as the smaller wizard jumped up to join in the fray with Ron and Severus.
Severus was on the front point of their triangular formation. He was directly engaged with Rodolphus, and kept complete focus as he cast and deflected with deadly precision. Rodolphus was a formidable opponent, and they were nearly equally matched in skill. Nearly.
Ron had felled one of Lestrange's fellows, and now he and Harry were facing off the other two, who were clearly not as strong with their wands as their leader. They had spread themselves apart and were circling around, forcing the two best friends to stand back to back to fight.
This was not a bad thing. It gave Harry the chance to indulge his fury, as he sent a simultaneous expelliarmus and one of George's favorite curses, the projectile puking hex, at the idiot he was currently facing. In a matter of seconds, the other wizard had turned a vile shade of green and was completely debilitated by his vomiting. Harry caught this ones wand and snapped it in half as well.
"Can we do that?" Ron asked in surprise as he pulled the grass out from under his assailant, and hurled a pulse of magic that caused the dark wizard to freeze under a paralyzing pressure on his chest as his feet went up and out from under him. After he'd slammed hard onto the ground, the only way to continue to breathe was to lay flat, arms and legs outstretched, which is exactly what the now decommissioned wizard was doing.
"I guess I'll find out," Harry said, having a flash of realization that when his anger was calmed, he'd have far less bravado about being in trouble with Severus. He looked over at Lucius and Neville. They were still protected under the shield. Lucius hadn't stirred. He cast an incarcerous at both the puking wizard and the one Ron had knocked senseless early on, who was still out cold.
He and Ron turned simultaneously toward Severus, in time to witness a spectacular exchange of curses between the two older wizards who were still actively engaged. Harry was reminded of the fight between Voldemort and Dumbledore at the Ministry. They'd both summoned elements and hurled them into lavish bursts of energy and debris. What was sailing back and forth between Severus and Rodolphus looked like splits in the atmosphere, as if creating openings to alternate dimensions.
"You were always such a sanctimonious prick, Severus," Rodolphus seethed. "I should have known you were out for yourself all along."
"As were you," Severus said unapologetically, his wand arm slashing dramatically left and right, as he cast vigorously.
"I never understood why Lucius befriended you, half-blood that you are," Rodolphus continued, slashing his wand viciously, to send a lethal cutting curse that would have sheared Severus in half if he'd not deflected it. The magical strength behind the curse was to such a degree that the deflection was not controlled, and it whirled the lethal magic off into the wood, where it halved a tree instead. "And Narcissa, she always had a thing for you, didn't she?"
"No, she loved Lucius," Severus corrected, casting a sectum sempra and successfully getting somewhat past Rodophus' shield enough to deeply cut the man's shoulder. He ignored Lestrange's angry bellow of pain, continuing conversationally, "I was her confidant, not her lover. It was Rabastan who wanted to have her, and stalked her, but she saw him for the worthless dolt that he was."
"He did no such thing. He went after Evelyn Munson, and married her instead. Narcissa was jealous."
Severus snorted with disdain. "The hell she was. She was relieved." More frantic magic flew between them, clashing with barely visible transparent impediments. "And you married a witch who grew more and more unstable, and who transferred her affections to your Lord. How very demoralizing." His arm flew upward and a transparent, bowl-shaped film of magic spread in front of him just in time for Rodolphus' fiery curse to splat against it and billow out to the sides, roaring ferociously around the curves of the shield and hurling back at Lestrange. "No wonder you still hold onto what might have been. Never mind that you've reduced yourself to terrorizing those of us who have a desire to live normally."
Rodolphus had conjured a metal barrier in front of himself, which melted rapidly when his previous curse returned to him. His shocked eyes met Severus' for the split second, before the former potions professor whirled his wand over his head and snapped it outward toward Lestrange, releasing a series of ropes that essentially hogtied the Death Eater, knocking him hard to the ground, face down, feet and hands all bound in one solid bundle.
Severus spun to see what remained of the crisis at hand. Neville was standing, back to back with Ron, keeping watch for new assailants and Harry was again on his knees beside Lucius.
Severus rushed over and knelt next to Harry. "What was done to him, do you know?" Harry shook his head and rocked back on his heals to get out of Severus' way as the older wizard cast a diagnostic charm over his old friend. The reading was grim: numerous broken bones, concussion, and dark magic embedded in the blond wizard's broken leg. There was no time to begin healing, but he did successfully roll Lucius onto a conjured stretcher.
The blond wizard moaned in pain and briefly regained consciousness. "Severus?"
Severus lay his palm on Lucius' forehead. "I am here. I have Harry with me. You are going to see Poppy at Hogwarts. Hold on, friend. All will be well soon," he said. He was uncertain what Lucius had heard of that, and was glad when the blond wizard slipped back into oblivion.
Kinglsey, Dean, Lee and George flew rapidly into view and descended to land beside them. Lee and George were balancing a body-shaped bundle, wrapped in white draping, between them, and all of the newly arrived faces were grim.
"Who is that?" Harry asked in dread.
"Naomi Butler," Kingsley told him. "We just finished a battle with five additional wizards, one being Naomi. She fought against us, and with far more skill than should be normal for an eighteen year old witch."
"I deflected like Harry always does," Dean said. "Her own curse took her down. It was some kind of de-skinning spell, so there's not much left to see of her, but I could swear she'd shifted out of a glamour, or Polyjuice, while we were dueling."
"I want to have Poppy assess her for signs of being imperioed or otherwise controlled," Kingsley told them grimly. He glanced around and saw the four felled wizards. "You've caught Rodolphus. Good. And who are these others?"
"Hadn't yet bothered to ask," Ron said in disgust. "Honestly, what drives people to pull this kind of thing?"
"We have to stop wasting time!" Harry yelled. "Draco, Hermione, Narcissa, Luna… where are they?"
Severus put a hand on Harry's shoulder to calm him and felt how badly he was shaking. He gave the shoulder a squeeze of warning for the boy to keep his faculties in check. "Rodolphus mentioned Evelyn Munson. I believe there's a strong chance Rabistan is holed up at that family's estate, and likely, at the very least has Narcissa with him."
"The Munsons," Kingsley remembered. "They were all murdered, and their killer never found. It was conveniently blamed on Voldemort."
"Yes," Severus agreed. "The estate would have gone to Rabistan, and it is protected by the Fidelius charm. I believe Lucius may know the secret phrase to access it. We must get him to Poppy. I see no other options at this point."
"Maybe that's why I can't see anything with the Deluminator? They're in an unplottable location." Ron said.
"Possibly, although, knowing Albus, there's a built-in adaptor for such a situation," Severus suggested.
"We will return to Hogwarts," Kingsley said. "I've got Arthur and Bill overseeing the arrests and detentions of the culprits we've contained so far."

"Mr. Potter, a word," Severus said in a low voice, his hand on Harry's arm to hold him back from entering the infirmary with the rest. He led Harry a few paces away from the door and turned so that they faced each other. "Just how many wands have you snapped today, young man?"
Harry's mouth dropped open and he took a couple of steps backward. "It seemed like a really good idea when I was all worked up," he said nervously.
Severus schooled his features to stay stern. "Yes, well, it was not a good idea at all. It is against the law to do so. It is considered vandalism. You could even be called in front of the Wizengamut for this," he said severely.
"Oh," Harry whispered.
"Indeed." Severus crooked a finger at him to come closer. When the boy was within reach, Severus took his arm and turned him to the side, swatting him three times. Hard enough to sting, but not a true act of discipline. He wasn't interested in embarrassing Harry, or bringing him to tears of shame. He just wanted the boy's attention. Harry hissed, but didn't try to squirm away. He kept his back to Severus when he was released. "I trust I won't have to repeat myself."
"No, sir." Now Harry turned to look at his former professor and the look on his face was comical. "Let me get this straight," he said to Severus in exasperation. "Normal Thickeness gets to try to slice me in half, and I get spanked for putting a stop to it?"
Severus clenched his teeth to suppress a smirk of amusement, and it was a true measure of his self control that he still sounded stern, although irony was audible as well, when he responded. "Only you could end up in a confrontation with Normal," he said. "Go back inside, Mr. Potter and keep close to Lucius while I compose myself."
Harry looked confused, but did as he was told. As soon as the infirmary door had closed behind him, Severus let loose with the snort of laughter at the brat's audacity. He heard another laugh, and looked up from where he'd leant down to place his hands on his knees for support to see Minerva coming toward him with her hand over her mouth and her eyes wet with her own mirth.
"He's snapping their wands?" She laughed. "Oh, my."
"Kingsley pulled me aside a short time ago to beg me to nip it in the bud before he had to take action." He stood up and sobered rapidly. "I shouldn't be able to muster a laugh right now. We have quite a situation at hand."

Ron looked up from the puzzle of his Deluminator to give Harry an inquiring look as the dark haired teen came to stand beside him. "Remember that question you asked not too long ago?" Harry asked, reaching back to rub at the lingering sting on his behind. "Yeah… the answer is no. We can not do that."
Ron chuckled softly. "Did you just get shown the hand of reprimand? That's what Fred used to call it."
"Yeah," Harry said. He watched Ron fiddle with Dumbledore's invention for a moment before his best friend's face lit up.
"I've got someone!" Ron called out. Kingsley, Dean, and Neville came over and waited with Harry while Ron stared intently at something they could not see. "Luna! She's alone, walking along a road. I can get to her if I apparate. I don't see anything else around. It should be safe."
"Take the shortcut!" Harry said, meaning for Ron to Floo to Grimmauld Place and disapparate from the back stoop, to save the time it took to run down to the school gates.
"Right!" Ron flashed a look at Kingsley, who nodded.
"Take Neville. Bring Luna here. If you get word of any of the others-"
"Yeah - I'll tell you first thing! Come on, Neville," Ron said.
The two young wizards rushed to the floo and disappeared in a flash.
By now, Severus and Minerva had entered the infirmary and were standing near Lucius' bedside, where Madam Pomfrey had him in hospital pajamas, splints and bandages adorning his injuries. Harry, George and Lee moved closer. Harry squeezed over to stand beside Severus and leaned into the man's side when he felt an arm go around him.
There was a gasp and a groan from Lucius as Madam Pomfrey began to shear off his hair so that she could dress his head wound. "I apologize, Mr. Malfoy, but your lovely long hair will have to go for now. I can't bandage you properly with it all in the way."
"I'm not concerned, Madame," Lucius said weakly. "I've been having a repeating nightmare about a gnome making himself at home in a tangle of my hair as it is. Shear away."
George snickered in amusement, and winked at Harry. But the mood quickly shifted back to urgency as Lucius seemed to become more aware of his circumstances.
"Lucius," Severus said over Harry's head. "Do you recall the secret phrase to access the Munson Estate?"
"Of course, I do," Lucius said in a tone that sounded insulted. "The estate can be found on the grassy knoll of Northern Brunswick," he recited. They could see the alarm slowly rise into his conscious awareness, as he fully understood where he was. "My wife? Draco?" he asked. "Who…? There were others as well. Rodolphus told me the plan was to kill some and maim others. Harry?"
"I'm here, sir," Harry said. He moved forward to take Lucius outstretched hand and stood within the older wizard's line of sight. "I got away. We were all sent to separate places. We have lots of help though, so try not to worry."
"Not possible," Lucius murmured, but his eyes began to roll upward and he faded out of consciousness again.
"That's the drain on his magic from the curse in his leg," Madame Pomfrey told Harry and the others. "I will begin to look for the counter curse, and have Fillius assist. It's a bad curse, but it will not destroy him. He will be alright, Mr. Potter, so calm yourself and go do what you do best."
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