We are on the run in now folks...
Firstly a special thanks to Jake for giving this chapter a really good beta reading, thank you! J
I have had the same `disclaimer' thing for ages but just to say that obviously I make no claim to the characters below, but am really happy to have had the chance to play with them. Thank you to all of you that have emailed and provided feedback it really has been great to hear from you!! Thank you!!
I am very open to constructive feedback and comment on the story so please, if you have time and would like to please, either comment or drop me an email on phill2818 at hotmail .co . uk
Harry Potter and the Unforeseen Hero
Chapter Twenty One: A Wretched Soul
The clock struck three rapid chimes in succession across the deserted square in a far away village and the corner of a curtain twitched as a dishevelled maniacal looking woman with frizzy hair glanced quickly out into the pitch black centre of the small hamlet.
Drawing back into the dark room Bellatrix glanced around at the almost burned out candle and clicked her tongue impatiently. Her guest was late and not by a small margin; an entire hour had elapsed from the scheduled appointment. She retook her seat on the mangy old sofa and instantly began to pick at the stuffing in the sofa's arm. Admittedly these highly secret rendezvous' had not happened frequently but in all the previous occasions the hooded man had not been late, not even by a few minutes, albeit that this was due to be only their fifth brief meeting.
The clock struck, a now familiar, half chime to signal the half hour and the candle finally died plunging the room into total darkness. She could not wait much longer; she knew that, it was critical to get the wretch back to its confinement before the light began to appear. Bellatrix snorted at the prospect of being accosted by muggles questioning the state of the thing she would need to transport.
The hooded man had however, been very clear in expressing his requirements and so here she was; out in the open...exposed for nothing. A firm wrap at the door made Bellatrix jump as she clasped her wand tighter and sprang from the seat leaving a trail of sofa stuffing over the floor.
"Yes?" she spoke into the door firmly.
"It is I" replied a silky voice.
"You are late."
"Come now Bella, enough of this, let me in at once."
After casting a quick spell to check that there was indeed only the single person at the other side of the front door she gently tapped the door and the lock slid across. As she opened the door the man slid in immediately. Looking around the room he flicked his wand in the direction of the fireplace and flames licked up illuminating the room once again.
"Trouble?" Bellatrix tried once again.
"I do not think so but I had to be sure, completely sure, that I was not followed and hence my delay."
"I see. What can you tell me? It has been some weeks since our last meeting."
"The plan enters its final stages. It has been complex in the extreme but I am confident that I have performed the process correctly. What news of your mission?"
"Some improvements since we last met. I have compiled a list" and she indicated a scroll of rolled up parchment that sat on a tatty side table. A hand snaked out and pulled the parchment to within reading distance and his eyes scanned down the list.
"Good. This is very good. We will require their support before long. I have also come for the final ingredient."
"Of course, they will be ready" the strangers lips curled in an effort resembling half smile and half grimace.
"Why do you require it?" Bellatrix asked nodding her head in the direction of her ward.
"Its purpose does not concern you Bellatrix. It is sufficient that I do require it. The blood of an enemy is integral. Of course I would have preferred Potter's but as it is... that will have to suffice as I dare not risk a failed attempt on his life."
"How much do you require?"
The grimace of satisfaction appeared once again across the man's countenance before he replied "Do not kill it. It may yet have a use however; I should not think it wise to skimp."
Bellatrix smiled before pointing her wand into the corner and saying `Sectumsempra'. The scream was beyond pitiful. Pain was its friend now the one and only real way of knowing that it was still alive. After a minute or maybe two Bellatrix walked over and conjured a large phial and began siphoning the blood that now stained the floor into the bottle before placing a stopper in the end and handing it to the man.
"I believe that this will be adequate, yes."
"Good" she replied and made a curt nod in his direction.
"I will not be in touch now until I have completed the final stage. At which point I shall require our friends from your list."
"Of course. The Dark Lord" she said and raised her right arm in a salute.
"The Dark Lord" the man replied before concealing the large phial and moving towards the front door. He turned for a fraction of a second before inclining his head in Bellatrix's direction and then exited the small house.
Bellatrix was pleased, it would not be long now and they would all get their dues. Every man, women and child that stood before them would be swept aside. She arched her back pointed her wand back at the wretch on the floor and said `crucio'. It didn't even scream anymore, it almost destroyed the fun in doing it. She liked to hear them scream. No matter, she flicked her wand and the contortions stopped.
Earlier that Saturday evening Harry, Ron and Draco where to be found ensconced in the familiar library room concluding their latest interview.
"And so you see that's how our good friend Ron returned to us" Harry concluded and the editor of the Daily Prophet lifted his nose from the parchment that he had been scribbling on capturing Harry's every word.
"So, let me get this straight, the gold key was literally the key to Ron's life?" the exocentric looking man clarified before scratching his cheek and smudging ink all over it.
"Yup so when they destroyed the mouth organ they threw the key into the pot and bob's your uncle I was as good as new" Ron grinned triumphantly.
"It funny, I don't remember it happening like that, do you Draco?"
"No I seem to remember him being a miserable bastard for weeks. My neck hurts, my legs hurt and my arm too" Draco moved deftly to the right to avoid the playful blow that was aimed in his direction.
"Shut it ferret face I was close to death of course it was going to hurt for a while" Draco grinned back at the red head. Even now he was on occasion amazed at how his relationship had changed with the Weasel. If anybody had ever suggested to him in his fifth year that he would be sat here with Weasley and the famous Harry Potter was his boyfriend and not to mention that they were giving a detailed account of how they had killed the Dark Lord frankly he would have considered them off their rocker.
"So another one down then!" The Editor clapped his hand in triumph, which made the three men smile.
"So let me recap and ensure that I have this correct. Voldemort had split his soul into seven pieces I believe you said at one of our beginning sessions. Correct?"
"That's right, yes" Ron replied
"Good, good. Now we know that one of those pieces had to be within him to facilitate his return to form and strength in your fourth year, correct?"
"So that leaves us with six to account for. We know that Harry destroyed the Diary, in his second year and that Dumbledore added the Ring in your sixth."
"Correct again" Ron supplied. The editor always liked repeating this tally of Voldemort's soul after each piece of new information he learned in its destruction.
"Which leaves us with four more and we know that you destroyed the thimble and the mouth organ. So two more to hear about?" he looked up counting off his fingers.
"That's still correct" Ron smiled back at the older man.
"Now I know we haven't approached this in your version of events but you mentioned to me that the snake, Nagini, was one and it was killed at the same time as Voldemort. Which leaves me one more mystery to hear about?"
"Once again Mr Cuffe, your mathematics serves you well" McGonagall said. Harry's head flicked around as he glanced at the still imposing witch. The editor blushed before saying "Is there anything we can do for you Minerva?"
"No, I simply wished to remind you that these three are expected in the Great Hall for dinner. You will have to pick this up in your final session."
"Final session?" The editor looked up shocked
"Yes?" she queried before continuing "I do hope that isn't an issue?"
"Well I must admit Minerva I did expect a little more time."
"My dear Barnabus I do believe that we agreed a meeting every other weekend until a month before their exams at Christmas? Well the exams start in less than five weeks and I would not have you jeopardise these three gentlemen's academic pursuits for a few more hours of story telling. I am afraid you will have to ensure that you have all of the information that you require in your final session. Agreed?"
"But of course" and he inclined his head in the witches direction before continuing "I must admit that whilst I am, of course, plainly aware that it is November I had not fully appreciated those implications. Do you think that one session will be sufficient to convey all that is outstanding?" he asked looking in Harry's direction.
"Yeah, I suspect it will be a long session but I think I know where we can start to speed this up a little. In all honesty we spent much of January and February getting Ron, as well as, Draco back to full strength. Not to mention more researching. But then I had an idea and to be fair from that point on things moved pretty quickly."
"So what exactly was this idea" the editor asked and licked his quill poised to take further notes until a slight cough emanated from Professor McGonagall.
"Perhaps we can pick this up next time?" Harry suggested.
"Yes, yes that would be fine my boy. Next week and maybe start bright and early?"
Harry exchanged glances at the other two who nodded in resignation at the loss of yet another weekend.
"That will be fine and we will give you the thrilling climax!" Harry said and smiled as he got to his feet to take his leave.
That Sunday after a good nights rest found Harry, Draco, Ron and the rest of the `8th year' Quidditch team practising for the midweek game that was scheduled for the following Wednesday.
Ron had spent hours agonising over the format of the Quidditch team and had nervously approached both Harry and Draco to inform them of his decision regarding playing positions. He, Ron, would be playing as keeper, Zacharias Smith and Terry Boot would play as the Beaters. The team's chasers would be Cho Chang, Pansy and Draco. This left Harry in his favoured Seeker's position.
It was noticeable that a steady stream of onlookers soon found their way down to the Quidditch pitch when ever they trained. They had not yet learned who would make up the membership of the Hogwarts team but Harry had a shred suspicion that some of the observers would soon be found in the air fighting for the win. Ron's shrill whistle sounded calling him back to the practice and he flew down to the ground along with the rest of the team.
"Well done everyone I think we are in good shape. They don't have a chance!" Ron said and continued. "Let's pack up the balls and call it a night."
A rumble of amiable chatter broke out amongst the group discussing their potential in the forthcoming match. It was however, noticeable that Terry Boot did not quite fit with the rest of the team. But as Ron had said to Harry after he announced the team `we don't have much to choose from and he will do a good job for the team'.
The team as well as the hangers on began to disappear back up to the castle and Harry flopped down on the floor next to Draco. Ron and Pansy remounted their brooms and shot off back to the Quidditch supplies office to return the balls.
"Will you miss this?" Harry asked, stroking Draco's fine hair out off his face.
"Yeah of course, how could I not? This has been the best term I have ever had at Hogwarts" Draco replied instantly.
"How come?" asked Harry, who had always considered Hogwarts as his first home.
"I'm here with you; I'm not being tortured or forced into missions of self destruction. What more could I want?"
Harry leaned down to press a kiss to his lover's face and he ran a thumb down his cheek.
"Ok love birds, enough sickly sweetness" Ron said as he flopped down next to the couple
"Thanks Ron" Draco replied, "I thought I was going to get a good fuck on the Quidditch pitch for a moment then."
"Too much information Draco" Pansy said as she slapped him gently across the chest.
"Sure? I was always led to believe that Weasley here got off on it?"
"In your dreams Malfoy."
"Well I suppose we should probably start to think about our revision plans" Pansy said attempting to diffuse the forthcoming argument between Draco and Ron.
"Yeah I guess so" Draco replied, accepting the bait.
"Right I will see you back in the castle" Ron said as he got up and picked up his broom before speeding off back in the direction of the castle.
"Oooook....what was that about?" Pansy asked watching the back of the quickly disappearing red head.
"It's nothing personal Pansy" Harry said.
"So?" She asked questioningly.
"You have to remember that the last time we were here Hermione was here and she always made up our revision timetables" Harry sighed and ran his hand through his hair. It would never be `ok', Hermione's death would never be reconciled in his mind. But he had slowly moved towards acceptance. It was now these painfully stark memories of times gone by that felt like someone pushing a knife into his stomach and playing with his insides.
"Oh I see" Pansy said.
"Like I say Pansy, it honestly isn't anything personal. Its just these moments when you least expect it that it hurts the most. You know?"
"Hey don't be! It's just one of those things. Anyways we should probably head up to the castle or we will miss dinner."
Sunday evening, Monday, Tuesday and especially Wednesday morning dragged for Harry. The whole team was palpably excited at the prospect of the upcoming match. The frustration peaked as Harry sat in his final lesson of the day on Wednesday watching the clock count down the minutes until he could dash off to the changing room to get ready for the match. The last minute of the lesson eventually crept around and as the professor discharged the class Harry bolted for the door down to the changing rooms.
Ron had chosen neutral colours of purple for the team to play in. The combined Hogwarts team would play in all white. The noise was ferocious as the teams changed and reached a cacophony as they emerged onto the pitch. Harry could not remember, even the legendary Gryffindor vs. Slytherin matches, ever being greeted by so much noise. It seemed as if the whole school and more besides were in attendance.
Madam Hooch performed the usual speech of demanding `a clean game from all concerned'.
"MOUNT YOUR BROOMS."
"And they're off! That's Chang to Malfoy to start us off. Malfoy back to Chang who sends the ball out wide to Parkinson...OUCH that has to hurt a bludger to the leg."
Harry was only vaguely tuned into the commentary but it was however, impossible not to hear it as the commentator screamed "Hogwarts first seven score! Despite an excellent first stop by Weasley". Harry groaned inwardly, he felt it to be bad luck to concede first but his frustration was resolved in the preceding five minutes as first Draco and then Cho scored in quick succession for the 8th year seven.
An hour passed and the score 70-30 to the 8th years reflected the pace of the match. It all changed however as the commentator sprang into life again in Harry's ear "It looks as if the Hogwarts Seeker has spotted the snitch...yes, YES she has!"
Harry turned and cursed inwardly as he watched the Hogwarts seeker plunge after the snitch in a death dive towards the ground. He sped at top speed towards the ground in a high speed vertical dive. The wind rushed through his hair and he could barely take in the commentators words...
"The Hogwarts Seeker surely must catch it...OH MY GOD...I DON'T BELIEVE IT... The 8th year chaser has caught the snitch. Yes that's right folks, Malfoy caught the snitch. Is that even allowed?"
There was pandemonium half clapping, half booing from the mass crowd until Madam Hooch's magically amplified voice called all the players down to the pitch.
"Ladies and Gentlemen we are just checking the rule book to confirm if a player other than the seeker may catch the snitch. Here comes Professor McGonagall now..." Madam Hooch announced to the audience before removing the magic temporarily to talk with McGonagall before reapplying the charm "8th Year Seven......." The whole crowd took a collective breath inwards "WIN!"
The euphoria hit fever pitch at these words. Some of the crowd sat in stunned silence taking in the news that the 8th Year Chaser, Draco Malfoy, had caught the snitch. Others meanwhile were openly booing the turn of events and yet others were clapping and jumping up and down. Harry fell into the `silently stunned' category he was not used to missing the snitch but to have Draco catch it in his place was a little uncomfortable.
Ron was down on the ground slapping Malfoy on the back and a crowd of the Hogwarts team had made their way over to Madam Hooch to protest. Harry wasn't sure how to feel, it was after all only a Quidditch game, but some how the manner of their success confused him. He wished for Hermione, she would know exactly what to say, most likely `pull you're self together Harry, you won; now go and celebrate'. However, as it was she was not there and would not be again. It was odd, Harry missed her a great deal, but found it was these reflective moments more so than the day to day that tugged on his heart strings. He was tempted to try to blend into the background and go for an early shower but this option was removed from the list as Draco ran up to Harry after he had landed and threw his arms around his neck. Both the party in the 8th year common room and the celebration sex in Harry and Draco's bedroom continued long into the night.
The subject of revision could no longer be avoided as the three, as well as Pansy, worked their way through the next week's lessons. Each of the professors took it in turns to remind the class of their forthcoming exams and the need to be prepared. The potions master stood at the front of the class and reminded them all that `NEWTS will define a wizard's future career no matter how famous they are'. By Wednesday Ron accepted Pansy's help in the creation of a revision timetable. By Friday the three were cursing their upcoming appointment with Cuffe as it really began to dawn on them that the biggest exams of their lives where upon them. However, as the alarm rang early on the Saturday morning they held no ill will towards the journalist. This would be a long day but the last appointment they had together and they wanted to do it justice before focusing on their exam. Ron's face lit up as they entered the all too familiar room and saw a pot of freshly steaming coffee and a tray of pastries lined up.
"Brilliant!" Ron exclaimed and Cuffe poured him a strong cup of coffee as he took the familiar seat to the left of Harry who plonked himself down in the middle with Draco to his right.
"You're welcome Mr Weasley. I wanted to offer you a small token of my appreciation for your time and especially today as I have deprived you from a Saturday morning lay-in. I think you will agree however, that an early start makes most sense so that we can ensure we finish off today."
"Yeah no problem, thanks for this though" Harry said and pointed a finger at the array of Danish pastries.
"You're welcome! I also wanted to let you know that I have been working on the chapters of this book in-between our sessions and I anticipate having a good draft to you after your exams for you to review."
"Oh, wow! That's quick" Ron said.
"Yes my boy but I think if we can aim for the Christmas market...so much the better! Did you want to start?"
"Sure" Draco cut in before continuing "As we mentioned last week we knew that the snake, Nagini was always with Voldemort, so we reconciled ourselves to dealing with Voldemort and Nagini at the same time. However, before we could tackle that issue we had one more Horcrux to find. It wasn't until March that we will pick the story up again. We spent most of February recovering from the last ordeal, destroying the Horcrux and also trying to come up with ideas for the final unaccounted for piece. By mid-February we had reverted back to some discrete reconnaissance missions of likely locations but had found very little of interest. It was Harry that had the idea that ultimately came through."