Playing With Fire

Chapter 24

Disclaimer: I do not own the world of Harry Potter. Most of the quotes you will see belong to J.K. Rowling.

Above them, two doors burst open and the surge of relief that flooded through Tilly at the sight of Sirius, Remus, Moody, Tonks, Charlie and Kingsley was almost painful. . . . But it was certainly less painful than when the Death Eater holding her threw her forward, off the last step. She barely had time to register it, landing on her side and feeling her wrist snap this time. Tears came to her eyes and she tried to blink them away as she crawled along the floor, spells flashing over her head. She could see Harry crawling his way over to Neville and she started towards them.

Someone jumped down into the sunken pit in front of her and she sat upright as a wand was pointed into her face. "You're not going –"

Before he could finish, a red flash of light hit him in the face. He keeled over and his head hit the platform with a sickening thud. A hand gripped her arm and Tilly looked over into Charlie's worried face. "You okay?" he called over the noise.

She nodded, not wanting him to worry about her broken wrist. She lifted her good hand to her cheek, feeling the slick, stickiness of her own blood from Bellatrix's nails. "I don't have a wand."

Charlie looked around for a moment, reaching forward to grab the wand that the man he had stunned had dropped. "We'll get you a new one later. Ready?"

Tilly nodded and they jumped up, wands ready. Charlie helped her climb up onto the first step as she looked around, spotting Harry as he Stupefied Macnair. "We need to get them –"

"Protego!" Charlie cried out just before something purple and fierce hit them. It was bad enough to send them skidding backwards. The Death Eater was running towards them. Tilly pointed her wand, screaming, "Stupefy!"

The man was halted, falling onto his back. Tilly had a moment to breathe before Tonks came crashing down the stairs, her body limp. With a quick glance at each other, she and Charlie split up, him going to into the fight and she running over to catch Tonks, keeping her from crashing father down the stairs. Above them Bellatrix crowed in excitement running down the stairs. Out the corner of her eye, she saw Sirius running to meet his deranged Cousin.

Tilly pulled Tonks close to her as best as she could with one arm, looking down into the pale face, her eyes closed. Even her hair looked dead, listless. "Tonks!" she yelled, ducking down as a flash of green light streaked past her head.

Remus Lupin rushed over, dropping to his knees next to her. Tilly had only spent time around him during Order Meetings but, if what Tonks said was true, she had been spending a lot more time than that with the older man. Tonks said he avoided her like the plaque at times, because it was quite obvious that the metamorphous had taken quite a liking to werewolf. From the look on his face at that moment, he was quite obviously taken with her as well. "Is she –?" he asked, face ashen, eyes wide.

Tilly took hold of her friend's wrist, feeling a pulse, slow but steady. "She's alive," she told him, laying Tonks back down on the step. "We need to get Harry and Neville out of here!"

Remus hesitated a moment, something that Tilly definitely noticed, but he nodded, both of them getting to their feet. He ran towards Harry and Neville just as Harry blasted Lucius Malfoy across the room, smashing into the dais where Sirius and Bellatrix were dueling. Tilly ran towards Charlie, pointing at the Death Eater he was dueling, screaming, "Petrificus Totalus!"

Charlie turned to her as the man's legs and arms snapped together, his face frantic. "Tonks?"

Tilly nodded. "We need to go help Remus with the boys!"

"Where are the rest of the kids? Where's Ron and Ginny?"

"Unconscious in the Brain Room. We'll go get them and –"

"DUBBLEDORE!"

Tilly and Charlie looked up as Albus Dumbledore came flying down the steps past Harry and Neville. Tilly couldn't remember ever seeing her former Headmaster so furious. The Death Eaters who were still conscious were trying to scramble away but whateverspell Dumbledore had just cast was pulling them back towards him.

That's when Tilly realized that Sirius and Bellatrix were still fighting, the man laughing. "Come on, you can do better than that!" he yelled at her.

And that's when the spell hit him.

There was nothing anyone can do as his body curved and he fell through the veil. It fluttered and then fell still. Tilly didn't delve much into the works of the Unspeakables but she had heard about this room. She had heard that what they did in here involved Death.

Arms wrapped around her waist holding her back; she hadn't even realized she was moving. She could hear Harry screaming Sirius' name, heard Bellatrix scream in happiness. She had gotten to know Sirius fairly well, considering he was stuck in the house. He was kind, smart, funny . . . a bit of a flirt but he was a great guy.

And he wasn't coming back.

She made herself focus, realized that people where still fighting, still trying to get away. Remus had a hold on Harry, his arms wrapped around his chest. "SIRIUS! SIRIUS!" Harry screamed.

"He can't come back, Harry," Remus told him, his voice breaking. "He can't come back, because he's d –"

"HE – IS – NOT – DEAD!" Harry yelled. "SIRIUS!"

There was a slight moan and the arms wrapped around her waist slid off. She looked up, watching Charlie move over to Tonks, helping her sit up, Mad-Eye Moody already sitting beside her with a hand over his empty socket. Most of the Death Eaters were gathered up by Dumbledore. Tilly forced her feet to move again but this time towards Harry and Remus, who had a grip now on the younger boy's arm.

"Harry," she mumbled and when he looked up at her, she didn't know what else to say. He was so hurt, so broken. She looked to Remus instead and thought she might be seeing the same thing. She reached forward with her good hand and took his free one.

"Harry?" Neville Longbottom said, sliding down the benches, his legs still dancing uncontrollably, his face a bloody mess. "Harry . . . I'b really sorry. . . . Was dat man – was Sirius Black a – a friend of yours?"

Harry nodded. Remus turned to Neville. "Here, Finite. . . . Let's – let's find the others. Where are they all, Neville?"

"Dey're all back dere," Neville told them. "A brain addacked Ron bud I dink he's al righd – and Herbione's unconscious bud we could feel a bulse –"

A bang and a crash alerted everyone to Bellatrix and Kingsley. . . . Unfortunately it was Kingsley who fell. Dumbledore turned, sending a spell at the crazy woman. She blocked it though and ran.

Tilly was jerked suddenly as Remus made a grab for Harry, who had twisted away from the man's grasp. "Harry – no!" he cried.

"SHE KILLED SIRIUS!" Harry yelled as he ran up the steps. "SHE KILLED HIM – I'LL KILL HER!"

Tilly moved to run after him but Remus grabbed her elbow holding her back. "You're hurt!"

"But – Harry –"

"No Tilly, we –" Another shout distracted them and she was able to wrench herself out of Remus' grasp. She distinctly heard Charlie call her name but she didn't stop. This was her fault. If she could have just gotten the kids out of there before they met up with the Death Eaters, none of this would have happened. . . .

Now Harry was running off to fight Bellatrix Lestrange, the craziest woman alive and Tilly desperately needed to get to him before he got himself killed.

Tilly ran past Luna Lovegood, who looked dazed, and Ron, who was still giggling on the floor. Ginny had crawled over to Hermione, who still lay unconscious on the ground. "Tilly!" the red head shouted but by then Tilly was already slamming through the door into the circular lobby.

It rotated, catching Tilly off guard again. She rooted herself, taking a deep breath and shouting, "Exit!"

The room stopped spinning and a door to her left open. She ran through and into the corridor, the door slamming itself shut behind her. Two of the lifts were missing when she reached them and she jabbed her finger against the button, waiting for the third lift. Why was this thing taking so long? Any other day and it would have been here already. Finally, the lift came and Tilly jumped on, slamming the gate shut behind her and she slammed her palm against the Atrium button. As the lift rose, she thought she could already hear Harry's voice.

"Well you're going to have to kill me, because it's gone!" he was yelling. "And he knows! Your dear old mate Voldemort knows it's gone! He's not going to be happy with you, is he?"

"What? What do you mean?" came Bellatrix's voice and Tilly thought she might have felt her heart clench in fear.

"The Prophecy smashed when I was trying to get Neville up the steps! What do you think Voldemort'll say about that then?"

"LIAR!" Bellatrix screamed. "YOU'VE GOT IT, POTTER, AND YOU WILL GIVE IT TO ME – Accio Prophecy! ACCIO PROPHECY!"

Harry was laughing as the lift finally pulled up to the Atrium floor. "Nothing there! Nothing to summon! It smashed and nobody heard what it said, tell your boss that –"

The gates opened and Tilly caught a quick glimpse of Harry, crouched down behind the fountain with his eyes squeezed shut, and Bellatrix's crazy, snarling face before a jet of red light came barreling towards her. Tilly threw herself to side, pressing against the wall as the spell crashed into the back of the lift. She pulled the borrowed wand from her pocket, holding it down in front of her. "You've lost, Lestrange! This is over! The prophecy is gone!"

"No!" Bellatrix screamed. "It isn't true, you're lying – MASTER, I TRIED, I TRIED – DO NOT PUNISH ME –"

"Don't waste your breath!" Harry told her. "He can't hear you from here!"

Suddenly, another voice echoed through the Atrium, quiet . . . but with a deadly edge. "Can't I, Potter?"

Tilly felt her knees buckle and it was all she could do not to collapse there in the lift. He was here. You-Know-Who was here in the Ministry of Magic.

"So you smashed my prophecy?" Voldemort asked. "No, Bella, he is not lying. . . . I see the truth looking at me from within his worthless mind. . . . Months of preparation, months of effort . . . and my Death Eaters have let Harry Potter thwart me again."

"Master, I am sorry, I knew not, I was fighting the Animagus Black!" Bellatrix was crying, her voice thick with tears. "Master, you should know –"

"Be quiet, Bella," Voldemort told her. "I shall deal with you in a moment. Do you think I have entered the Ministry of Magic to hear your sniveling apologies?"

"But Master – he is here – he is below – and we have the girl!"

"The girl. . . ."

There was a moment of silence in which Tilly thought her heartbeat was loud enough to hear. It was becoming increasingly hard to breathe.

Bellatrix suddenly hopped onto the lift, grinning madly. "Expelliarmus."

The wand was yanked from Tilly's hand and into Lestrange's. The older woman grabbed Tilly's broken wrist in that painful grasp of hers, earning a cry, pulling her off the lift. "Here she is, Master! Just as I told you! Here she is!"

And there he was.

He wasn't a man. He didn't even look human. His eyes were red, his face snake like. He seemed to tower over all of them and the way he moved was eerie.

Lord Voldemort.

Tom Riddle.

As Bellatrix dragged her forward towards him, she tried to think of him only as the man her grandmother had shown her pictures of but she couldn't find that handsome face anywhere on him.

The slits that were his eyes widened at the sight of her and he mumbled one word, "Marguerite."

Bellatrix pushed Tilly forward and before she had a chance to right herself, thin, long, but incredibly strong fingers gripped the neck of her shirt, forcing her to look up into those red eyes. He glared at her for a moment before looking to Bellatrix. "This isn't the girl. This is that traitorous woman."

"No!" Bellatrix eyes widened in shock and fear. "This is her. She is Tilly Riddle."

Lord Voldemort looked back to her and Tilly tried her best to not look as afraid as she felt. Something changed in his eyes as he looked at her and he nodded. "I suppose it is. . . . Your grandmother was a fool to name you after your father and he a fool to marry that creature, but no matter – you will do."

"You are the only fool I see here," Tilly muttered.

A horrible smile stretched the monster's face. "You have Marguerite's gall."

He finally looked away from, back to Harry. "I have nothing more to say to you, Potter. You have irked me too often, for too long. AVADA KEDAVRA!"

"No!" Tilly screamed as Harry moved to do nothing.

He was going to die. . . .


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