Harry Potter & the Ritual of Merlin's Choice

Chapter 28

Severus winced as Bellatrix’s eyes flared with anger, and she threw the priceless potions grimoire he’d been showing her aside, mindless of its value.

She lifted her wand.


Smiling malevolently, she watched as he writhed in pain and dropped to his knees at her feet, screaming as though every nerve in his body was on fire. She'd never much liked the man, but even so, she couldn't believe that he'd had the audacity to come into her home and suggest—to her face—that the Dark Lord would likely emerge misshapen if she brewed his resurrection potion herself, and then to accuse her of being incapable of properly brewing so much as a simple first-year boil cure…
It didn't matter that he was probably right; she'd make sure that he suffered for the insult! As such, she waited until he'd screamed himself hoarse before finally lifting the curse. Then, smiling sweetly at his trembling form, she simpered, "I suppose I can let you brew the potion for me," taking enjoyment from the sight of him struggling to his feet, "But…"

Snape halted mid-motion, not willing to waste energy to get up from the cold, hard tile if Bellatrix was planning to curse him again. He certainly wasn't in any state to fight back at the moment. While the Dark witch might not be as powerful as her Master, what she lacked in power, she more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Groaning, he cursed himself for letting his guard down in the first place, and asked himself, yet again, why he'd agreed to go along with this crazy scheme, and why he’d agreed to meet with her here, at the Lestrange manor house, where she had the upper hand. So far, not much had gone according to the headmaster's plan—unless it had been the old coot's intention for Bellatrix to torture him to within an inch or two of his sanity…

"I shall acquire and add the final ingredients to the potion myself," she continued, the malicious glint in her eyes leaving no room for argument.

Severus sighed in relief. That, he could live with. Once she dropped Hufflepuff’s cup containing – unknown to her – the black soul of Voldemort, into the potion, there'd be no need for the three final ingredients. Let her dig up Tom Riddle Senior's grave and cut off a portion of her own flesh in anticipation, if she wished; he preferred his own limbs intact. True, it was regrettable that whatever unwilling donor she found for 'blood of the enemy' was unlikely to survive the donation process, but it was a sacrifice that he was willing to make in order to keep Lily safe—Lily.

She wouldn't go after Lily, would she? No, Bellatrix knew nothing of the prophecy; there was no reason for her to go after the Potters and, seeing as the Dark Lord had met his demise in their home, she'd be foolish to even consider it…but…what of her thirst for revenge…?

No! Severus struggled to get his emotions under control; he would not go down that path. Instead, grateful for Cruciatus induced tremors that hid his physical reaction, and the Occulmency shield that protected he true thoughts, he rasped, "Very well, if you insist."

Bellatrix smiled down at him, the firelight that lit the sombre room reflecting off her face, and making her appear more maniacal than usual. "I knew that you'd see reason, Severus."

The Potions Master shuddered at the glint in her eyes, then cursing himself for the lack of self-control—he'd become complacent since the Dark Lord's disappearance—pushed himself to his feet, despite the tremors still wracking his body. It was difficult to keep the fury out of his voice but, with great effort, he managed to respond civilly, "Shall we meet at the grave of our Lord's father, in three days time? I assume you know—"

The glare she sent his way was so vicious, that he didn't dare finish his sentence. Either she knew, or she'd figure it out on her own. He wasn't going to be the one to tell her that Voldemort's father had been a Muggle, nor where he was buried, not if she was planning to reward him with another round of Cruciatus. Best he take his leave, while he still could.

Three nights later, found Severus Snape waiting beneath the leafless branches of the yew tree in the Little Hangleton graveyard, within sight of Tom Riddle Senior's recently excavated grave. It was a cloudy moonless night, lit only by the flames heating his largest stone cauldron and the fiery sparkling potion within.

In appearance, the potion closely resembled the one that he'd shown Bellatrix, the one that could resurrect the Dark Lord. However, in reality, it contained none of the same ingredients. Instead, it had been brewed with the goal of selectively enhancing the destructive properties of the Basilisk venom it contained.

By the time Bellatrix Apparated into the graveyard several hours later, her thick dark hair blowing wildly, the Potions Master had almost given up hope of her showing up. Chilled to the bone by the cold November wind, despite his proximity to the fire and copious use of warming charms, he wasted no time on pleasantries, "The potion is ready and awaits only the final ingredients. I trust you brought Hufflepuff's Cup and not a piece of worthless junk?"

"I brought it," she answered defensively, pulling a tiny golden cup with two finely wrought handles reverently from her cloak pocket, and holding it up to the firelight to show him the tiny badger engraved on its surface.

A minute passed, and another…but, she made no move to place it in the cauldron. Finally, after a third minute had passed without either of them moving, the night silent but for the crackling fire and the howling wind, Snape scowled, "You were quite insistent that you be the one to add the final ingredients. What are you waiting for?"

When she still showed no sign of moving closer, he added derisively, "Changed your mind about resurrecting the Dark Lord? Decided to replace him instead?"

The reaction he got was not quite that he one that he was hoping for—rather than step forward to prove him wrong, Bellatrix drew her wand, pointing it at him menacingly.

"Careful!" Snape drew his own wand before she could curse him; they were not going that road again. "You'll ruin the potion, you fool!" Okay, so maybe getting her mad wasn't the best approach...

Reassured by the fact that no curse was forthcoming—though Bellatrix kept her wand pointed at him warningly with one hand, while the other lovingly cradled the Cup—Severus tried another approach, remembering something the headmaster had said when he'd gone to him to have his cauldron charmed into a Portkey. "Do you not feel the cup reacting to the potion?" he asked.

The Dark witch's eyes widened in surprise, and she lowered her wand-hand to her side. "It has grown warmer—almost unbearably so. How did you know?" she demanded.

"The potion is calling to it, as it should," Severus drawled acerbically. "Hurry up and drop the Cup into the cauldron, before you scald yourself."

Bellatrix hesitated a moment longer, then took a few steps towards the cauldron. However, she was still several paces away when a low hiss emerged from the Cup, stopping her in her tracks, "Ssstop…it'sss a trap… he meansss to dessstroy me."

Bellatrix's expression transformed instantly in unconcealed rage and fury, and she jumped back, almost tripping over a tombstone in her efforts to put more distance between herself and the cauldron. "You traitor! I knew it! Crucio!" she screamed, her wand once more pointed at the turncoat.

As Severus ducked, taking shelter behind his fortified stone cauldron just in time to avoid the pain curse, he spared a moment's thought to silently curse the headmaster for neglecting to warn him that the bloody Cup had a mind of its own and might try to defend itself. Then, he promptly pushed his anger aside. Duelling Bellatrix would take all his concentration; he could worry about the headmaster later.

He stood to face his opponent, but was forced to dodge once more, as she shot another Cruciatus his way. So, his from position of relative safety, he attempted to summon the Cup, which had fallen silent since Bellatrix started cursing him.

The spell failed.

Snape groaned in frustration. Now he was going to have to get close enough to the crazy bitch to take the Cup from her by force. Time to go on the offensive.

Popping his head and wand hand out from behind cover, he silently cast, "Sectumsempra!"

Bellatrix brought up a shield just in time, but the time she took to defend herself gave him the opening that he'd been looking for. "Crucio!"

She dodged successfully—but now she was enraged, and distracted, "Crucio!"

Apparating out of the path of her retaliatory Cruciatus—just in time—her opponent reappeared behind her, but, rather than attack, he took momentary shelter behind a marble tombstone. Using up a few precious seconds, he cast a set of sloppy but temporarily effective anti-Apparition wards, to prevent her using the same tactic.

She was now between him and the cauldron, and each curse they traded—very few of which hit their target—drove them closer to the yew tree, and the sparkling potion beneath it.

Finally, in a last desperate lunge to avoid yet another of Bellatrix's savage torture curses, Snape tackled his opponent, pushing her against the cauldron and forcing her entire left arm, which still held Hufflepuff's Cup, into the potion.

Immediately there was a reaction: a sound like an explosion, accompanied by a loud piercing scream. Before she could bring her wand to bear, Bellatrix was thrown back from the cauldron, landing a good five feet away, her left hand cradled against her chest and burnt beyond recognition.

Snape wasted no time assessing her condition. Instead, taking advantage of her temporary distraction, he grabbed hold of the cauldron and activated his Portkey.

He'd already begun to feel the telltale pull at his navel, when he remembered—too late—that he'd left his potions grimoire behind, but there was no going back. Hopefully, with the potion's most crucial ingredient destroyed, there was little harm Bellatrix could do with the tome, even if she did manage to find someone to properly brew it for her.

Of course, he had no way of knowing that others had existed or that in her search for his father's grave, Voldemort's most loyal servant had uncovered the location of his mother's childhood home…

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