Hour 23: 5 PM
Previously in Harry Potter 24:
Chamber of Secrets: Harry destroys two more horcruxes: the Cup and the Diadem…
Hermione runs into Pigwidgeon, she kills the owl and destroys the warning letter sent by Molly Weasley, then decides to head to the Chamber of Secrets…
Leaving the Chamber of Secrets, Bella pulls Harry into a classroom, and explains more about what happened with Hermione and Ginny. She reveals that Hermione killed Ginny…
Voldemort makes his way to Chamber of Secrets:
He finds the dead basilisk, he is furious and summons all of the Death Eaters to Hogwarts…
Harry finally remembers the Marauder's Map – he does not find Ginny anywhere, and he does not find the headmaster in the school either…
The Death Eaters gather at the main entrance of the school:
Voldemort addressed his followers again, "Potter will come to me, even if it is just to try and save the half giant. Now, let us take our place in the Great Hall. And if any of Potter's friends show up to try and help, there is only one thing to remember. Kill them all!"
As he was about to open the doors to the Great Hall, an exotic appearing young woman in a black/purple bustier with a flowing grey skirt walked up to the Dark Lord. Bowing before him she kissed the hem of his robe as she then looked up at him and pleaded, "Master, can't I help?" she pleaded.
Voldemort picked her up with his hand placed under her chin. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead.
"Of course, my lioness, of course," he said softly.
The Twenty-third Hour: 5 PM - 6 PM, Saturday, October 19, 1996
Hogwarts, Main Entrance
Tom Riddle was very unhappy. Things were not going according to his plan. He had at least killed Albus Dumbledore, and he had taken the headmaster's wand. He wondered briefly if there was something to the prophesy that Lucius failed to obtain for him that would have explained just what he needed to do, but then he dismissed that idea. For he knew that he was the most powerful wizard to walk the earth, that no one could stand in his way, especially now that he had the Elder Wand. But his plans were falling short of his goals. It was time to take matters into his own hands. He had called forth his followers and he was now meeting them at the entrance to the school. He had already sent his secret weapon, his lioness who he had turned to serve him, to begin another attack against his enemy. He almost smiled as he thought that he actually found something useful for a mudblood to do - to betray their friends to him, even if it would still lead to their own death. But it was proving to be quite entertaining in his mind. But now was not the time to dwell on such matters, now he had to meet with his followers.
Voldemort regarded the group that stood before him. Thorfinn Rowle, the Carrow twins, the Lestrange brothers had arrived a short while ago with several other Death Eaters. He looked around and saw no sign of Yaxley or Macnair. "More incompetent fools," he cursed under his breath as it was clear that the group he had sent to Diagon Alley was not responding to his summons.
Voldemort stood tall in the entrance hallway as he addressed the gathering of his faithful followers and he was determined to not show any weakness to them.
"As you can see, my plans are unfolding just as I suspected," he began, "the supposedly impenetrable wards of Hogwarts have fallen at my command! The supposedly unbeatable Albus-something-something-something-Dumbeldore has fallen by my wand! And soon The-Boy-Who-Lived will be The-Boy-Who-Finally-Died!"
His group of about twenty followers cheered their master.
"I need a couple of volunteers," he said simply as he looked around the crowd. He pointed to the Lestrange brothers as he continued, "Bring me the oaf games keeper. He played his part so well years ago, I think he would do well with a new role today. Potter likes the large creature, bring him back here and he will be the bait by which we shall lure and capture the youth who continues to try and foil my plans. Hagrid, is his name, his hut is nearby. Now go!"
Voldemort then turned and walked into the Great Hall. He was surprised to find absolutely no one inside.
First Floor Girls Bathroom
Hermione Granger, the once proud and studious Gryffindor was hoping that she knew her former best friends well enough that they would come and find her. She licked her lips as she relished the idea of betraying them to her master. This was an excitement that she had never dreamed of, a pleasure she never knew she could feel. Laying a trap for the two Gryffindors who were too blind to see the truth of power and its usefulness. She was so grateful that her new lord had opened her eyes and her mind to the way she now saw the world around her. She let out a slight laugh, that if anyone had heard it they would have sworn it was the cackle of Bellatrix Lestrange.
Hermione decided to head to the bathroom near the dungeons where Harry and Ron had saved her from the troll when they were in their first year of school. That was nearly five years ago, she reminded herself. She shook any thoughts of reminiscing from her head as she considered the irony of using the place where they saved her and became her friends as the place where she would betray them and become the one who ended their little game of playing the hero.
Hermione knew that Harry had his special map which he could use to find anyone. She also knew that he was predictable. They had become separated when they fled away from the other students, and Harry was noble enough that he would come and find her. She knew she just had to wait. A little more patience on her part and her foolish friend would walk right into her trap. She hugged herself tight as she considered the joy that encounter would bring to her.
The Dark Lord walked into the Great Hall and upon finding it empty he banished the rows of tables and benches where the students would gather to take their meals. He then jumped up to the front of the hall and to the faculty table. The table where his rightful position had been denied so many times before. With a quick swipe of his wand, the faculty table was banished as well. Then he regarded the chair in the centre where the headmaster used to sit. Voldemort then transfigured the chair into a throne. His rule over the school would start now.
Voldemort sat himself down upon his newly created chair and looked down upon his followers. He expected that the Lestranges would return with Hagrid any moment. He put his hands together under his chin as he considered that his plans were coming together much like he expected. The loss of a few of his numbers would easily be overcome with his own power and his new wand. The failed attempt of Umbridge to capture Harry Potter served its purpose of distracting others and hopefully exhausting his prey. He knew that the incompetent woman would be hard pressed to have any chance of success, but it was a pot to draw attention away from his other schemes that he was putting into play. He leaned back into his throne as he knew that now was a time for him to simply wait for the other pieces to fall into place.
Outside Girl's bathroom
Harry and Ron had been searching the map. They found no evidence of Ginny being in the castle, nor of the headmaster being there either. They had been looking to find Hermione and they finally saw her name appear next to some footprints in the hallway near the dungeons.
The two friends decided that they wanted to go find her. They still had a hard time believing what Bellatrix had told them. Their best friend could not possibly have turned on them because of some magical artefact. But they also had no explanation for the change in Bellatrix' behaviour. She clearly was more stable, not lashing out, not cackling like a mad woman. She even voluntarily gave them one of the missing horcruxes. The past twenty-four hours had been very unusual, even among what had become almost normal for Harry Potter.
The small group made their way down to the hallway. As they approached Ron stopped in the hallway.
"You do remember this place," said Ron who was starting to lose colour from his face.
Harry looked around, and then he simply stated, "Halloween, first year."
"Exactly," replied Ron.
"What is this about Halloween during our first year?" asked Tracey.
Daphne offered an explanation, "Wasn't that when the troll managed to find its way into the dungeons?"
"More like that was when Professor Quirrel let the troll into the dungeons as a distraction so he could then try and steal the Philosopher's Stone form where it was hidden down the third floor corridor," said Ron.
"Professor Quirrel let the troll in?" gasped Tracey. "That wasn't any of the rumours we heard back then!"
"Really, Tracey, now is not the time," snapped Daphne.
"We'll tell you all about it later but for now why don't you just stay back here," said Harry as he recalled the events from their first year. Then he called out down the hallway towards the bathroom where they had found Hermione crying that night, "Hey, Hermione, are you here?"
Harry and Ron slowly made their way towards the bend in the corridor that would lead to the door to the bathroom where Harry had jumped on the troll's back.
"Of course I'm here," called out Hermione, but the two boys could not see where she was.
Suddenly jets of red light shot forth from the shadows behind the corner. Harry quickly put up a shield spell and Ron dove to the other side of the hall. The two friends found cover behind some suits of armour that were lining the hallway. Behind them, Bellatrix conjured a brick wall to provide cover for herself and the two Slytherins with her.
"Bloody hell," yelled Ron as he landed hard on his shoulder.
Another red curse flew towards Harry and the suit of armour he was hiding behind shattered into debris. Harry went to run to his left, but tripped over a leg of armour. Hermione noticed him stumble and cast a cutting curse at the Boy-Who-Lived. Harry's wand had fallen from his hand as he stumbled. Suddenly a shield erupted in front of Harry. The spell absorbed the cutting curse as Harry managed to grab his wand and summon a statue to provide an extra shield in front of him. He looked backwards and saw that Daphne had cast the shield charm that had saved him from injury.
As Harry made sure he had a little more protection he began to cast stunning spells in the direction from where Hermione was sending out her attacks. Ron and Tracey and Daphne joined in as well, while Bellatrix just sat back and watched. She noticed that the attacks coming from Hermione were increasingly powerful as the protections that Harry and the girls were hiding behind were soon levelled to rubble. But the attacks from the witch who had previously been their close friend were starting to slow down.
Bellatrix realised that if she were in Hermione's situation she would send out a massive barrage of attacks soon as it was clear that she was cornered. Bellatrix also realised that the four students would not be prepared for what was probably about to be unleashed on them. Summoning all of her strength, the former right hand of the Dark Lord cast the largest shield spell she could conjure. The attacks of green and red spells that were then sent out against the four students were easily repelled. The four had tried to hide behind whatever protection they could find, but the shield managed to provide all of the protection they needed. Then there was a massive explosion as a blasting has was sent into the ceiling above them causing the walls to buckle and dust to cloud the hallway. By the time they could see again, Hermione had apparently made an escape down the hallways behind them.
The four friends gathered themselves together to see Bellatrix standing there with a modicum of concern on her face.
"What the hell just happened?" asked Ron as he brushed the dust off of his robes.
"I just saved your bloody arses, that's what happened," stated Bellatrix smugly.
"Well, besides that," he snapped.
Harry turned to the older witch, "I guess we owe you our thanks."
The girls nodded in agreement and voiced their thanks as well.
Ron wasn't about to thank a Death Eater for saving him, so he returned to his earlier question. "I mean what was Hermione doing? She never knew spells like that. She never would cast spells like that."
Harry understood where is mate was going with this. "And she never had that kind of power before," he added.
Bellatrix seemed unimpressed. "Actually, her attacking you reminded me of the power and the spells I would have used in the same situation. When I was controlled by the amulet. So, I would have to say that the amulet has given her that power."
"But she's our friend," complained Ron who was clearly not comfortable with the idea that they were being attacked by someone who was such a good friend.
"Don't fool yourself, Weasley," snapped Bellatrix. "That person who attacked you, she is no longer your friend. She is not the same person you knew. She would just as easily kill you as torture you as bring you captive to the Dark Lord himself. Whatever you call her, one thing is she is no longer your friend. Believing otherwise will likely get you killed."
Hogwarts, Great Hall
The Lestrange brothers had returned with their hostage, Rubeus Hagrid. The half giant was bound and held against the wall to Voldemort's right side. The Dark Lord looked around his new headquarters as he prepared for the showdown with Potter. He placed his wand against his neck as he broadcast his voice throughout the school.
"Harry Potter," he declared, "your time is coming to an end. You have been brave and strong as you have fought against me. But the outcome of this battle is inevitable. Your headmaster is dead, Harry Potter. Your friends do not need to die. Your classmates do not need to die. The professors do not need to die. All of this senseless fighting can come to an end right now, Harry Potter. There should be no more needless spilling of magical blood. Your friend, Hagrid, he is here with me, in my new Hall of Power, what you had previously known as the Great Hall. If you do not want your friend to die, Harry Potter, then you best make your way here and surrender to me. How many of your friends do you need to see die because of you, Harry? I will be merciful to all, once you turn yourself in to me. I now control this school. You cannot hope to defeat me."
There was an eerie silence throughout the school after Voldemort finished his brief speech. The students that were gathered in their dorms and house common rooms were not sure how to react or what to say. Their headmaster had been killed. There school was now controlled by the Dark Lord who had indeed returned. Some wept, some shook in fear, and a few even quietly celebrated the victory of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Black Family Summer Home
Narcissa had completed her meetings with Amelia Bones, the head of the DMLE. She knew she could not return to Malfoy Manor. She was sure that someone would soon discover the body of her late husband, and she doubted anyone would even begin to suspect her for having any involvement in his death. However, she needed a place to go. The home where she had grown up had long ago been destroyed during the first wizarding war. The home where her cousins grew up was under some sort of protection, and she knew that there was no point in trying to get in there again. The only place she could think of where she might run was the Black Family summer home. She remembered that was where the old picture of her and Bella and Andy was taken when they were little girls, the picture that Bella had torn up and left in her room at Malfoy Manor. Narcissa hoped that the wards would not keep her out, although she had no idea what to expect. She concentrated on the location of the house, and she soon found herself standing in front of the old cottage like home. Clearly the yard needed work, but the house was surprisingly in good repair.
As she walked in through the front door, she was surprised to find that someone had recently been tot he home. There was evidence of that someone had recently been cleaning in a few of the rooms, and someone had apparently slept on a couch briefly in one of the rooms. Narcissa walked into the kitchen and there was evidence that someone had eaten a meal in there earlier this day. She turned to the sound of a 'pop' from behind her and looked down upon the smiling face of a house elf.
"Ariel?" questioned the former Lady Malfoy.
"Welcome miss Narcissa," squealed the house elf. "First Miss Bella and now you! Is Miss Andy coming by today too?"
Narcissa was shocked at first to hear that her sister had been by the house earlier. "When was Bella here? Do you know where she went?"
"Bella came by and had lunch," said Ariel. "Do you need something eat? Ariel already filled the kitchen with food. Bella left this afternoon to go to see the goblins. Ariel helped her get there without being caught by the wizard ministry people. Bella said she had something important to do after she left for the goblin bank. Ariel is not sure when Miss Bella will return."
The little elf was bouncing on her feet as she spoke to Narcissa, who was holding back tears as she recalled how the house elves would try so hard to please her when she was young. The house elves other than Kreacher, who only seems to want to please her Aunt Walburga. Then after she had married Lucius, she found the house elves at Malfoy Manor to be almost distant, which became clear to her was due to the horrible way her late husband would treat them as worthless slaves.
"How was Bella," asked Narcissa, "did she look well?"
"She seemed to be upset and worried about something," answered the elf who appeared to be sad as she spoke. "She was holding a tattered picture, and Ariel fixed it for her. She left it here in the other room."
"What picture is that?" asked Narcissa.
With a pop the elf disappeared and then suddenly reappeared holding the picture for her mistress to see. "This picture, of you and Miss Bella and Miss Andy when you were little girls."
Narcissa took the picture in her hand and stared at it. Something about this picture had affected Bella, and she wondered who that could be. Her sister had become cold and cruel and fanatical once she married Rodolphus. Once Bella entered the service of the Dark Lord she became obsessed with serving Voldemort, doing anything to please her lord and master. Narcissa knew that they and grown up with a dislike for muggle-born wizards and witches, but the level of hate that Bella developed for them after she was married was beyond anything that the Black family had ever taught at home. The Black family had been much less inbred than many of the other old families, and her father and uncle had a clearer understanding of the benefits that muggle-borns brought to their society. They may have looked down at them, but they never wanted to eliminate them completely as many within the Death Eater ranks spoke openly about their desire to rid the world of all muggle-borns.
Narcissa realised that if her sister had been holding onto this picture, that she had returned here to their childhood summer home, that maybe she had changed. Maybe she had found her heart and soul after years of being a heartless and cruel bitch.
Narcissa looked away from the picture and down at the elf in front of her, "Ariel, do you know where Miss Bella is now? Can you find her?"
Neville Longbottom had spent the afternoon working in the greenhouse on a special project that he had undertaken for Professor Sprout. He was working on developing a new way to cultivate some of the plants, such as mandrakes, that would allow them to develop more quickly in case they were needed in an emergency such as the school had experienced with the students being petrified. He was almost finished his work for the afternoon when he heard the door to the greenhouse open and close behind him.
Turning to look at who had entered the greenhouse, Neville did not see any sign of anyone else in the warm building with him. He stepped around the raised platform where he was working on the plants to get a direct look at the doorway, wondering if someone had come in and tripped over something, as it wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility for Neville to have left a trowel or some other tool lying not he floor by mistake. But he had not heard any sound other than the door closing. As he turned the corner he thought he heard a hissing sound. Then he saw the largest snake he had ever seen coiling in the aisle between the garden beds.
Nagini, Voldemort's familiar and horcrux, was ready to strike. The snake lunged towards Neville's face, but Neville made a quick dive behind the planer boxes. He immediately thanked Harry for the training they had in the DA the previous year, including duelling and fighting techniques, especially how to avoid an attack.
Neville rolled to his feet and quickly drew his wand as the snake was readying to strike again.
"Merlin's balls!" exclaimed the once timid boy as he prepared to defend himself, "that things bloody huge.!"
Nagini once again lunged towards Neville, who this time was a little more prepared and he cast a protego shield which stopped the snake in mid air.
Neville quickly fired a couple of stunners at the snake, but they seemed to just bounce off of her scales. Realising that his attacks were having no effect he started backing up between the tables. Then he feared that the snake might try to slide underneath the tables so he quickly changed direction and ran to the other side of the greenhouse. His quick thinking was indeed serendipitous as Nagini had slithered under the table and struck at his feet as he ran away, once again missing her prey.
Neville was wondering what he could do. He feared that if he tried to open the door that the snake might catch up with him. He had never heard of a snake this big being around the school before. The only time he had heard of anything like this was when his friend Harry had told him the story of the vision he had when Mr. Weasley had been attacked by a giant snake.
"Bloody hell," he thought, "Voldemort's snake is after me!"
Neville turned and ran around another table of plants trying to stay ahead of the reptile that was apparently sent to kill him. As he ran down the length of tables he looked at the various plants in the greenhouse, hoping that he could figure out something that might help him defeat this monster. Nothing came to mind.
He turned around a corner, and found himself face to face with the snake once more. This time Neville cast a blasting hex at the ground in front of the snake. This was effective in stopping the snake from striking and gave Neville time to change direction and head to the other side of the greenhouse. He turned around another one of the tables and found himself tripping over something on the floor. Cursing his look he turned to look at what happened and he saw a house elf standing there.
"Master Harry Potter's friend be needing some help!" exclaimed the house elf.
"What the?" asked Neville as he wondered where the elf had come from and why was he just standing there. Neville then noticed that the elf was holding an old hat. "How is an old hat going to help me?" screamed Neville as he scrambled to his feet.
Stairs leading to the Main Entrance and the Great Hall
The group of four students and the former Death Eater made their way back to the main entrance.
"You can't just give yourself up to them, Harry," protested Tracey.
"What would you have me do? Let Hagrid die? Then what? Riddle is going to not stop until he has me. He will take you all, one by one, until he finally has me. This is all about me, ever since the prophesy that got my parents killed. Its always been about me," stated Harry.
"Oh, that prophesy," said Bella with a smirk. "The Dark Lord never found out the entirety of the message. I suppose that you and Dumbles knew the whole thing. Snape was such a fool, he clearly didn't hear the whole thing when that drunkard made the prophesy what was it over 16 years ago?"
"If Riddle never heard the whole prophesy, why is he still after me?" asked Harry.
Bella shrugged her shoulders. "All he knows is that the prophesy said something about one born at the end of the seventh month being able to defeat him. He also found out it might pertain to your friend Longbottom."
She then gasped and put her hands to her mouth. "In everything that has been going on today I actually forgot about him. And his parents."
"What about Neville's parents?" asked Daphne.
Harry pointed his wand at Bellatrix, "She tortured them to madness after Riddle was defeated that Halloween when he killed my parents. You may have helped us so far today, but if Neville finds you, I won't even try to stop him getting his revenge for what you did to him. Being an orphan might be better than what you did to him. Knowing they're still alive but can never recognise you, that they can never talk to you, I think that might be worse."
"It wasn't me, it was the amulet," she said dejectedly. Then she looked up at Harry and Ron and saw the anger on their faces. "I know, that is a lame excuse. But I can't undo the things I already have done. I can only work on changing things in the here and now. You're closer now to defeating Voldemort than you ever have been. I would like to think that I at least played a part in that."
"You have, Bella," admitted Harry. "But I don't have time to debate this with you, I need to head up to the Great Hall."
"You are such a noble one, Potter," said Bella with a smile. Then she added, "But you'll be dead before you know it. Look, I have a plan, it may buy you some time, it may even help you in your fight against him. The Dark Lord does not even know I am here." She pulled back her sleeve and showed that the dark mark on her arm had faded significantly since the amulet was removed from her. "The mark is still there, I could feel him calling the Death Eaters earlier, but it didn't hurt like it usually did. In fact I almost didn't feel it at all. But the Dark Lord doesn't know I'm not on his side anymore. When he removed that amulet from around my neck he assumed that I would continue to follow him because I had been blindly following the commands from the amulet for so many years. I can save Hagrid."
With those words she turned and started to run up the stairs towards the main entrance.
Neville recognised the elf as being Dobby, the crazy little one that Harry had freed from serving the Malfoys at the end of their second year. The elf would often show up in their dorm room trying to find a way to help Harry. Neville was trying to figure out why the elf was here now. Then the elf tossed the hat at him and Neville grabbed it with his left hand. The hat felt strangely heavy and then it began to speak to him. "Brave Gryffindor, you have been found worthy by Godric Gryffindor himself!"
Neville was startled to find that he had the Sorting Hat in his hand and immediately he dropped the hat. As the hat hit the ground a sword fell out of the hat. Neville quickly grabbed the sword with his left hand. As he bent over to grab the sword, Nagini had once again managed to try and attack him. This time as she lunged at her prey she ended up sailing over Neville's head. The snake's tail knocked Neville over as it flew past him. Neville dropped his wand and the sword. His wand then rolled under the table next to him so he quickly grasped the sword with both hands.
Once again Nagini had coiled and prepared to strike. Acting on instinct from the battle training he had the previous year, Neville stepped backwards and quickly swung the sword with both hands over his head and tried to hit the snake. There was a loud and sickening thud as the sword hit home on its target. The snake fell to the ground in front of him. There was a black mist rising up from the snake as Neville noted the snake's head rolling away from him along the dirt in between the garden tables.