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â€œDudley.â€ said Harry.
â€œAnd your first name?â€
â€œI â€“ Vernon. Vernon Dudley.â€
â€œCheck the list, Scabior.â€ said Greyback, and Harry head him move sideways to look down at Ron, instead. â€œAnd what about you, ginger?â€
â€œStan Shunpike.â€ said Ron.
â€œLike â€˜ell you are.â€ said the man called Scabior. â€œWe know Stan Shunpike, â€˜eâ€™s put a bit of work our way.â€
There was another thud.
â€œIâ€™b Bardy,â€ said Ron, and Harry could tell that his mouth was full of blood. â€œBardy Weasley.â€
â€œA Weasley?â€œ rasped Greyback. â€So youâ€™re related to blood traitors even if youâ€™re not a Mudblood. And lastly, your pretty little friendâ€¦â€œ The relish in his voice made Harryâ€™s flesh crawl.
â€œEasy, Greyback.â€ said Scabior over the jeering of the others.
â€œOh, Iâ€™m not going to bite just yet. Weâ€™ll see if sheâ€™s a bit quicker at remembering her name than Barny. Who are you, girly?â€
â€œPenelope Clearwater.â€ said Hermione. She sounded terrified, but convincing.
â€œWhatâ€™s your blood status?â€
â€œHalf-Blood.â€ said Hermione.
â€œEasy enough to check,â€ said Scabior. â€œBut the â€˜ole lot of â€˜em look like they could still be â€˜ogwarts age â€“ â€
â€œWeâ€™b lebt,â€ said Ron.
â€œLeft, â€˜ave you, ginger?â€ said Scabior. â€œAnd you decided to go camping? And you thought, just for a laugh, youâ€™d use the Dark Lords name?â€
â€œNod a laugh,â€ said Ron. â€œAggiden.â€
â€œAccident?â€ There was more jeering laughter.
â€œYou know who used to like using the Dark Lordâ€™s name, Weasley?â€ growled Greyback, â€œThe Order of the Phoenix. Mean anything to you?â€
â€œWell, they donâ€™t show the Dark Lord proper respect, so the nameâ€™s been Tabooed. A few Order members have been tracked that way. Weâ€™ll see. Bind them up with the other two prisoners!â€
Someone yanked Harry up by the hair, dragged him a short way, pushed him down into a sitting position, then started binding him back-to-back with other people. Harry was still half blind, barely able to see anything through his puffed-up eyes. When at last the man tying then had walked away, Harry whispered to the other prisoners.
â€œAnyone still got a wand?â€
â€œNo.â€ Said Ron and Hermione from either side of him.
â€œThis is all my fault. I said the name. Iâ€™m sorry â€“ â€
It was a new, but familiar voice. and it came from directly behind Harry, from the person tied to Hermioneâ€™s left.
â€œIt is you! If they find out who theyâ€™ve got -! Theyâ€™re Snatchers, theyâ€™re only looking for truants to sell for gold â€“ â€œ
â€œNot a bad little haul for one night.â€ Greyback was saying, as a pair of hobnailed boots marched close by Harry and they heard more crashes from inside the tent. â€œA Mudblood, a runaway goblin, and these truants. You checked their names on the list yet, Scabior?â€ he roared.
â€œYeah. Thereâ€™s no Vernon Dudley un â€˜ere, Greyback.â€
â€œInteresting,â€ said Greyback. â€œThatâ€™s interesting.â€
He crouched down beside Harry, who saw, through the infinitesimal gap left between his swollen eyelids, a face covered in matted gray hair and whiskers, with pointed brown teeth and sores in the corners of his mouth. Greyback smelled as he had done at the top of the tower where Dumbledore had died: of dirt, sweat, and blood.
â€œSo you arenâ€™t wanted, then, Vernon? Or are you on that list under a different name? What house were you in at Hogwarts?â€œ
â€œSlytherin,â€ said Harry automatically.
â€œFunny â€˜ow they all thinks we wants to â€˜ear that.â€ leered Scabior out of the shadows. â€œBut none of â€˜em can tell us where the common room is.â€
â€œItâ€™s in the dungeons.â€ said Harry clearly. â€œYou enter through the wall. Itâ€™s full of skulls and stuff and its under the lake, so the lightâ€™s all green,â€
There was a short pause.
â€œWell, well, looks like we really â€˜ave caught a little Slytherin.â€ said Scabior. â€œGood for you, Vernon, â€˜cause there ainâ€™t a lot of Mudblood Slytherins. Whoâ€™s your father?â€
â€œHe works at the Ministry,â€ Harry lied. He knew that his whole story would collapse with the smallest investigation, but on the other hand, he only had until his face regained its usual appearance before the game was up in any case. â€œDepartment of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes.â€
â€œYou know what, Greyback,â€œ said Scabior. â€I think there is a Dudley in there.â€œ
Harry could barely breathe: Could luck, sheer luck, get them safely out of this?
â€œWell, well.â€ said Greyback, and Harry could hear the tiniest note of trepidation in that callous voice, and knew that Greyback was wondering whether he had just indeed just attacked and bound the son of a Ministry Official. Harryâ€™s heart was pounding against the ropes around his ribs; he would not have been surprised to know that Greyback could see it. â€œIf youâ€™re telling the truth, ugly, youâ€™ve got nothing to fear from a trip to the Ministry. I expect your fatherâ€™ll reward us just for picking you up.â€
â€œBut,â€ said Harry, his mouth bone dry, â€œif you just let us â€“ â€
â€œHey!â€œ came a shout from inside the tent. â€œLook at this. Greyback!â€
A dark figure came bustling toward them, and Harry saw a glint of silver to the light of their wands. They had found Gryffindorâ€™s sword.
â€œVe-e-ery nice,â€ said Greyback appreciatively, taking it from his companion. â€œOh, very nice indeed. Looks goblin-made, that. Where did you get something like this?â€
â€œItâ€™s my fatherâ€™s,â€ Harry lied, hoping against hope that it was too dark for Greyback to see the name etched just below the hilt. â€œWe borrowed it to cut firewood â€“ â€
â€œâ€˜ang on a minute, Greyback! Look at this, in the Prophet!â€œ
As Scabior said it, Harryâ€™s scar, which was stretched tight across his distended forehead, burned savagely. More clearly than he could make out anything around him, he saw a towering building, a grim fortress, jet-black and forbidding: Voldemortâ€™s thoughts had suddenly become Razor-Sharp again; he was gliding toward the gigantic building with a sense of calmly euphoric purposeâ€¦
So closeâ€¦ So closeâ€¦ With a huge effort of will Harry closed his mind to Voldemortâ€™s thoughts, pulling himself back to where he sat, tied to Ron, Hermione, Dean, and Griphook in the darkness, listening to Greyback and Scabior.
â€œâ€˜Hermione Granger,â€œ Scabior was saying, â€the Mudblood who is known to be traveling with â€˜arry Potter.â€œ
Harryâ€™s scar burned in the silence, but he made a supreme effort to keep himself present, nor to slip into Voldemortâ€™s mind. He heard the creak of Greybackâ€™s boots as he crouched down, in front of Hermione.
â€œyou know what, little girly? This picture looks a hell of a lot like you.â€
â€œIt isnâ€™t! It isnâ€™t me!â€
Hermioneâ€™s terrified squeak was as good as a confession.
â€œâ€¦ known to be traveling with Harry Potter,â€œ repeated Greyback quietly.
A stillness had settled over the scene. Harryâ€™s scar was Exquisitely painful, but he struggled with all his strength against the pull of Voldemortâ€™s thoughts. It had never been so important to remain in his own right mind.
â€œWell, this changed things, doesnâ€™t it?â€ whispered Greyback. Nobody spoke: Harry sensed the gang of Snatchers watching, frozen, and felt Hermioneâ€™s arm trembling against his. Greyback got up and took a couple of steps to where Harry sat, crouching down again to stare closely at his misshapen features.
â€œWhatâ€™s that on your forehead, Vernon?â€ he asked softly, his breath foul in Harryâ€™s nostrils as he pressed a filthy finger to the taught scar.
â€œDonâ€™t touch it! Harry yelled; he could not stop himself, he thought he might be sick from the pain of it.â€
â€œI thought you wore glasses, Potter?â€ breathed Greyback.
â€œI found glasses!â€ yelped one of the Snatchers skulking in the background. â€œThere was glasses in the tent, Greyback, wait â€“ â€
And seconds later Harryâ€™s glasses had been rammed back onto his face. The Snatchers were closing in now, peering at him.
â€œIt Is!â€ rasped Greyback. â€œWeâ€™ve caught Potter!â€
They all took several steps backward, stunned by what they had done. Harry, still fighting to remain present in his own splitting head, could think of nothing to say. Fragmented visions were breaking across the surface of his mind -
â€“He was hiding around the high walls of the black fortressâ€“
No, he was Harry, tied up and wandless, in grave dangerâ€“
â€“looking up, up to the topmost window, the highest towerâ€“
He was Harry, and they were discussing his fate in low voicesâ€“
â€“Time to flyâ€¦
â€œâ€¦ To the Ministry?â€
â€œTo hell with the Ministry.â€ growled Greyback. â€œTheyâ€™ll take the credit, and we wonâ€™t get a look in. I say we take him straight to You-Know-Who.â€
â€œWill you summon â€˜im? â€˜ere?â€œ said Scabior, sounding awed, terrified.
â€œNo,â€ snarled Greyback, â€œI havenâ€™t got â€“ they say heâ€™s using the Malfoyâ€™s place as a base. Weâ€™ll take the boy there.â€
Harry thought he knew why Greyback was not calling Voldemort. The werewolf might be allowed to wear Death Eater robes when they wanted to use him, but only Voldemortâ€™s inner circle were branded with the Dark Mark: Greyback had not been granted this highest honor.
Harryâ€™s scar seared again â€“
â€“ and he rose into the night, flying straight up to the windows at the very top of the tower â€“
â€œâ€¦ completely sure itâ€™s him? â€˜Cause if it ainâ€™t, Greyback, weâ€™re dead.â€
â€œWhoâ€™s in charge here?â€ roared Greyback, covering his moment of inadequacy. â€œI say thatâ€™s Potter, and him plus his wand, thatâ€™s two hundred thousand Galleons right there! But if youâ€™re too gutless to come along, any of you, itâ€™s all for me, and with any luck, Iâ€™ll get the girl thrown in!â€
â€“ The window was the merest slit in the black rock, not big enough for a man to enterâ€¦. A skeletal figure was just visible through it, curled beneath a blanketâ€¦. Dead, or sleepingâ€¦?
â€œAll right!â€ said Scabior. â€œAll right, weâ€™re in! And what about the rest of â€˜em, Greyback, whatâ€™ll we do with â€˜em?â€
â€œMight as well take the lot. Weâ€™ve got two Mudbloods, thatâ€™s another ten Galleons. Give me the sword as well. If theyâ€™re rubies, thatâ€™s another small fortune right there.â€œ
The prisoners were dragged to their feet. Harry could hear Hermioneâ€™s breathing, fast and terrified.
â€œGrab hold and make it tight. Iâ€™ll do Potter!â€œ said Greyback, seizing a fistful of Harryâ€™s hair; Harry could feel his long yellow nails scratching his scalp. â€On three! One â€“ two â€“ three â€“ â€œ
They Disapparated, pulling the prisoners with them. Harry struggled, trying to throw off Greybackâ€™s hand, but it was hopeless: Ron and Hermione were squeezed tightly against him on either side; he could not separate from the group, and as the breath was squeezed out of him his scar seared more painfully still â€“
â€“ as he forced himself through the slit of a window like a snake and landed, lightly as vapor inside the cell-like room â€“
The prisoners lurched into one another as they landed in a country lane. Harryâ€™s eyes, still puffy, took a moment to acclimatize, then he saw a pair of wrought-iron gates at the foot of what looked like a long drive. He experienced the tiniest trickle of relief. The worst had not happened yet: Voldemort was not here. He was, Harry knew, for he was fighting to resist the vision, in some strange, fortresslike place, at the top of a tower. How long it would take Voldemort to get to this place, once he knew that Harry was here, was another matterâ€¦.
One of the Snatchers strode to the gates and shook them.
â€œHow do we get in? Theyâ€™re locked, Greyback, I canâ€™t â€“ blimey!â€
He whipped his hands away in fright. The iron was contorting, twisting itself out of the abstract furls and coils into a frightening face, which spoke in a clanging, echoing voice. â€œState your purpose!â€
â€œWeâ€™ve got Potter!â€œ Greyback roared triumphantly. â€Weâ€™ve captured Harry Potter!â€œ
The gates swung open.
â€œCome on!â€œ said Greyback to his men, and the prisoners were shunted through the gates and up the drive, between high hedges that muffled their footsteps. Harry saw a ghostly white shape above him, and realized it was an albino peacock. He stumbled and was dragged onto his feet by Greyback; now he was staggering along sideways, tied back-to-back to the four other prisoner. Closing his puffy eyes, he allowed the pain in his scar to overcome him for a moment, wanting to know what Voldemort was doing, whether he knew yet that Harry was caughtâ€¦.
The emaciated figure stirred beneath its thin blanket and rolled over toward him, eyes opening in a skull of a faceâ€¦. The frail man sat up, great sunken eyes fixed upon him, upon Voldemort, and then he smiled. Most of his teeth were goneâ€¦.
â€œSo, you have come. I thought you wouldâ€¦ one day. But your journey was pointless. I never had it.â€
As Voldemortâ€™s anger throbbed inside him, Harryâ€™s scar threatened to burst with pain, and he wrenched his mind back to his own body, fighting to remain present as the prisoners were pushed over gravel.
Light spilled out over all of them.
â€œWhat is this?â€ said a womanâ€™s cold voice.
â€œWeâ€™re here to see He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!â€ rasped Greyback.
â€œWho are you?â€
â€œYou know me!â€ There was resentment in the werewolfâ€™s voice. â€œFenrit Greyback! Weâ€™ve caught Harry Potter!â€
Greyback seized Harry and dragged him around to face the light, forcing the other prisoners to shuffle around too.
â€œI know â€˜es swollen, maâ€™am, but itâ€™s â€˜im!â€ piped up Scabior. â€œIf you look a bit closer, youâ€™ll see â€˜is scar. And this â€˜ere, see the girl? The Mudblood whoâ€™s been traveling around with â€˜im, maâ€™am. Thereâ€™s no doubt itâ€™s â€˜im, and weâ€™ve got â€˜is wand as well! â€˜Ere, maâ€™am â€“ â€
Through his puffy eyelids Harry saw Narcissa Malfoy scrutinizing his swollen face. Scabior thrust the blackthorn wand at her. She raised her eyebrows.
â€œBring them in,â€ she said.
Harry and the others were shoved and kicked up broad stone steps into a hallway lined with portraits.
â€œFollow me,â€ said Narcissa, leading the way across the hall. â€œMy son, Draco, is home for his Easter holidays. If that is Harry Potter, he will know.â€
The drawing room dazzled after the darkness outside; even with his eyes almost closed Harry could make out the wide proportions of the room. A crystal chandelier hung from the ceiling, more portraits against the dark purple walls. Two figures rose from chairs in front of an ornate marble fireplace as the prisoners were forced into the room by the Snatchers.
â€œWhat is this?â€
The dreadfully familiar, drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy fell on Harryâ€™s ears. He was panicking now. He could see no way out, and it was easier, as his fear mounted, to block out Voldemortâ€™s thoughts, though his scar was still burning.
â€œThey say theyâ€™ve got Potter,â€œ said Narcissaâ€™s cold voice. â€Draco, come here.â€œ
Harry did not dare look directly at Draco, but saw him obliquely; a figure slightly taller than he was, rising from an armchair, his face a pale and pointed blur beneath white-blond hair.
Greyback forced the prisoners to turn again so as to place Harry directly beneath the chandelier.
â€œWell, boy?â€ rasped the werewolf.
Harry was facing a mirror over the fireplace, a great gilded thing in an intricately scrolled frame. Through the slits of his eyes he saw his own reflection for the first time since leaving Grimmauld Place.
His face was huge, shiny, and pink, every feature distorted by Hermioneâ€™s jinx. His black hair reached his shoulders and there was a dark shadow around his jaw. Had he not known that it was he who stood there, he would have wondered who was wearing his glasses. He resolved not to speak, for his voice was sure to give him away; yet he still avoided eye contact with Draco as the latter approached.
â€œWell, Draco?â€ said Lucius Malfoy. He sounded avid. â€œIs it? Is it Harry Potter?â€
â€œI canâ€™t â€“ I canâ€™t be sure,â€œ said Draco. He was keeping his distance from Greyback, and seemed as scared of looking at Harry as Harry was of looking at him.
â€œBut look at him carefully, look! Come closer!â€
Harry had never heard Lucius Malfoy so excited.
â€œDraco, if we are the ones who hand Potter over to the Dark Lord, everything will be forgiv â€“ â€
â€œNow, we wonâ€™t be forgetting who actually caught him, I hope Mr. Malfoy?â€ said Greyback menacingly.
â€œOf course not, of course not!â€œ said Lucius impatiently. He approached Harry himself, came so close that Harry could see the usually languid, pale face in sharp detail even through his swollen eyes. With his face a puffy mask, Harry felt as though he was peering out from between the bars of a cage.
â€œWhat did you do to him?â€ Lucius asked Greyback. â€œHow did he get into this state?â€
â€œThat wasnâ€™t us.â€
â€œLooks more like a Stinging Jinx to me,â€ said Lucius.
His gray eyes raked Harryâ€™s forehead.
â€œThereâ€™s something there,â€ he whispered. â€œit could be the scar, stretched tightâ€¦.â€
â€œDraco, come here, look properly! What do you think?â€
Harry saw Dracoâ€™s face up close now, right beside his fatherâ€™s. They were extraordinarily alike, except that while his father looked beside himself with excitement, Dracoâ€™s expression was full of reluctance, even fear.
â€œI donâ€™t know,â€ he said, and he walked away toward the fireplace where his mother stood watching.
â€œWe had better be certain, Lucius,â€œ Narcissa called to her husband in her cold, clear voice. â€Completely sure that it is Potter, before we summon the Dark Lordâ€¦ They say this is hisâ€œ â€“ she was looking closely at the blackthorn wand â€“ â€but it does not resemble Ollivanderâ€™s descriptionâ€¦. If we are mistaken, if we call the Dark Lord here for nothingâ€¦ Remember what he did to Rowle and Dolohov?â€œ
â€œWhat about the Mudblood, then?â€ growled Greyback. Harry was nearly thrown off his feet as the Snatchers forced the prisoners to swivel around again, so that the light fell on Hermione instead.
â€œWait,â€œ said Narcissa sharply. â€œYes â€“ yes, she was in Madam Malkinâ€™s with Potter! I saw her picture in the Prophet! Look, Draco, isnâ€™t it the Granger girl?â€
â€œIâ€¦ maybeâ€¦ yeah.â€
â€œBut then, thatâ€™s the Weasley boy!â€ shouted Lucius, striding around the bound prisoners to face Ron. â€œItâ€™s them, Potterâ€™s friends â€“ Draco, look at him, isnâ€™t it Arthur Weasleyâ€™s son, whatâ€™s his name â€“?â€
â€œYeah,â€ said Draco again, his back to the prisoners. â€œIt could be.â€
The drawing room door opened behind Harry. A woman spoke, and the sound of the voice wound Harryâ€™s fear to an even higher pitch.
â€œWhat is this? Whatâ€™s happened, Cissy?â€
Bellatrix Lestrange walked slowly around the prisoners, and stopped on Harryâ€™s right, staring at Hermione through her heavily lidded eyes, â€œBut surely,â€ she said quietly, â€œthis is the Mudblood girl? This is Grander?â€
â€œYes, yes, itâ€™s Granger!â€ cried Lucius, â€œAnd beside her, we think, Potter! Potter and his friends, caught at last!â€
â€œPotter?â€ shrieked Bellatrix, and she backed away, the better to take in Harry.
â€œAre you sure? Well then, the Dark Lord must be informed at once!â€
She dragged back her left sleeve: Harry saw the Dark Mark burned into the flesh of her arm, and knew that she was about to touch it, to summon her beloved masterâ€“
â€œI was about to call him!â€œ said Lucius, and his hand actually closed upon Bellatrixâ€™s wrist, preventing her from touching the Mark. â€I shall summon him, Bella. Potter has been brought to my house, and it is therefore upon my authority â€“ â€œ
â€œYour authority!â€ she sneered, attempting to wrench her hand from his grasp. â€œYou lost your authority when you lost your wand, Lucius! How dare you! Take your hands off me!â€
â€œThis is nothing to do with you, you did not capture the boy â€“ â€
â€œBegging your pardon, Mr. Malfoy,â€œ interjected Greyback, â€but itâ€™s us that caught Potter, and itâ€™s us thatâ€™ll be claiming the gold â€“ â€œ
â€œGold!â€ laughed Bellatrix, still attempting to throw off her brother-in-law, her free hand groping in her pocket for her wand. â€œTake your gold, filthy scavenger, what do I want with gold? I seek only the honor of his â€“ of â€“ â€
She stopped struggling, her dark eyes fixed upon something Harry could not see. Jubilant at her capitulation, Lucius threw her hand from him and ripped up his own sleeve â€“
â€œSTOP!â€ shrieked Bellatrix, â€œDo not touch it, we shall all perish if the Dark Lord comes now!â€
Lucius froze, his index finger hovering over his own Mark. Bellatrix strode out of Harryâ€™s limited line of vision.
â€œWhat is that?â€ he heard her say.
â€œSword,â€ grunted an out-of-sight Snatcher.
â€œGive it to me.â€
â€œItâ€™s not yours, missus, itâ€™s mine, I reckon I found it.â€
There was a bang and a flash of red light; Harry knew that the Snatcher had been Stunned. There was a roar of anger from his fellows: Scabior drew his wand.
â€œWhat dâ€™you think youâ€™re playing at, woman?â€
â€œStupefy!â€œ she screamed, â€œStupefy!â€
They were no match for her, even thought there were four of them against one of her: She was a witch, as Harry knew, with prodigious skill and no conscience. They fell where they stood, all except Greyback, who had been forced into a kneeling position, his arms outstretched. Out of the corners of his eyes Harry saw Bellatrix bearing down upon the werewolf, the sword of Gryffindor gripped tightly in her hand, her face waxen.
â€œWhere did you get this sword?â€ she whispered to Greyback as she pulled his wand out of his unresisting grip.
â€œHow dare you?â€ he snarled, his mouth the only thing that could move as he was forced to gaze up at her. He bared his pointed teeth. â€œRelease me, woman!â€
â€œWhere did you find this sword?â€ she repeated, brandishing it in his face, â€œSnape sent it to my vault in Gringotts!â€
â€œIt was in their tent,â€ rasped Greyback. â€œRelease me, I say!â€
She waved her wand, and the werewolf sprang to his feet, but appeared too wary to approach her. He prowled behind an armchair, his filthy curved nails clutching its back.
â€œDraco, move this scum outside,â€ said Bellatrix, indicating the unconscious men. â€œIf you havenâ€™t got the guts to finish them, then leave them in the courtyard for me.â€
â€œDonâ€™t you dare speak to Draco like â€“ â€ said Narcissa furiously, but Bellatrix screamed.
â€œBe quiet! The situation is graver than you can possibly imagine, Cissy! We have a very serious problem!â€
She stood, panting slightly, looking down at the sword, examining its hilt. Then she turned to look at the silent prisoners.
â€œIf it is indeed Potter, he must not be harmed,â€ she muttered, more to herself than to the others. â€œThe Dark Lord wishes to dispose of Potter himselfâ€¦. But if he finds outâ€¦ I mustâ€¦ I must knowâ€¦.â€
She turned back to her sister again.
â€œThe prisoners must be placed in the cellar, while I think what to do!â€
â€œThis is my house, Bella, you donâ€™t give orders in my â€“ â€
â€œDo it! You have no idea of the danger weâ€™re in!â€œ shrieked Bellatrix. She looked frightening, mad; a thin stream of fire issued from her wand and burned a hole in the carpet.
Narcissa hesitated for a moment, then addressed the werewolf.
â€œTake these prisoners down to the cellar, Greyback.â€
â€œWait,â€ said Bellatrix sharply. â€œAll exceptâ€¦. except for the Mudblood.â€
Greyback gave a grunt of pleasure.
â€œNo!â€ shouted Ron. â€œYou can have me, keep me!â€
Bellatrix hit him across the face: the blow echoed around the room.
â€œIf she dies under questioning, Iâ€™ll take you next,â€œ she said. â€Blood traitor is next to Mudblood in my book. Take them downstairs, Greyback, and make sure they are secure, but do nothing more to them â€“ yet.â€œ
She threw Greybackâ€™s wand back to him, then took a short silver knife from under her robes. She cut Hermione free from the other prisoners, then dragged her by the hair into the middle of the room, while Greyback forced the rest of them to shuffle across to another door, into a dark passageway, his wand held out in front of him, projecting an invisible and irresistible force.
â€œReckon sheâ€™ll let me have a bit of the girl when sheâ€™s finished with her?â€ Greyback crooned as he forced them along the corridor. â€œIâ€™d say Iâ€™ll get a bite or two, wouldnâ€™t you, ginger?â€
Harry could feel Ron shaking. They were forced down a steep flight of stairs, still tied back-to-back and in danger of slipping and breaking their necks at any moment. At the bottom was a heavy door. Greyback unlocked it with a tap of his wand, then forced them into a dank and musty room and left them in total darkness. The echoing bang of the slammed cellar door had not died away before there was a terrible, drawn out scream from directly above them.
â€œHERMIONE!â€œ Ron bellowed, and he started to writhe and struggle against the ropes tying them together, so that Harry staggered. â€œHERMIONE!â€
â€œBe quiet!â€ Harry said. â€œShut up. Ron, we need to work out a way â€“ â€
â€œWe need a plan, stop yelling â€“ we need to get these ropes off â€“ â€
â€œHarry?â€ came a whisper through the darkness. â€œRon? Is that you?â€
Ron stopped shouting. There was a sound of movement close by them, then Harry saw a shadow moving closer.
â€œYes, itâ€™s me! Oh no, I didnâ€™t want you to be caught!â€
â€œLuna, can you help us get these ropes off?â€œ said Harry.
â€œOh yes, I expect soâ€¦. Thereâ€™s an old nail we use if we need to break anythingâ€¦. Just a momentâ€¦â€
Hermione screamed again from overhead, and they could hear Bellatrix screaming too, but her words were inaudible, for Ron shouted again, â€œHERMIONE! HERMIONE!â€
â€œMr. Ollivander?â€œ Harry could hear Luna saying. â€Mr. Ollivander, have you got the nail? If you just move over a little bitâ€¦ I think it was beside the water jug.â€œ
She was back within seconds.
â€œYouâ€™ll need to stay still,â€ she said.
Harry could feel her digging at the ropeâ€™s tough fibers to work the knots free. From upstairs they heard Bellatrixâ€™s voice.
â€œIâ€™m going to ask you again! Where did you get this sword? Where?â€œ
â€œWe found it â€“ we found it â€“ PLEASE!â€ Hermione screamed again; Ron struggled harder than ever, and the rusty nail slipped onto Harryâ€™s wrist.
â€œRon, please stay still!â€ Luna whispered. â€œI canâ€™t see what Iâ€™m doing â€“ â€
â€œMy pocket!â€ said Ron, â€œIn my pocket, thereâ€™s a Deluminator, and itâ€™s full of light!â€
A few seconds later, there was a click, and the luminescent spheres the Deluminator had sucked from the lamps in the tent flew into the cellar: Unable to rejoin their sources, they simply hung there, like tiny suns, flooding the underground room with light. Harry saw Luna, all eyes in her white face, and the motionless figure of Ollivander the wandmaker, curled up on the floor in the corner. Craning around, he caught sight of their fellow prisoners: Dean and Griphook the goblin, who seemed barely conscious, kept standing by the ropes that bound him to the humans.
â€œOh, thatâ€™s much easier, thanks, Ron,â€ said Luna, and she began hacking at their bindings again. â€œHello, Dean!â€
From above came Bellatrixâ€™s voice.
â€œYouâ€™re lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, tell the truth!â€œ
Another terrible screamâ€“
â€œWhat else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with this knife!â€
Harry felt the ropes fall away and turned, rubbing his wrists, to see Ron running around the cellar, looking up at the low ceiling, searching for a trapdoor. Dean, his face bruised and bloody, said â€œThanksâ€ to Luna and stood there, shivering, but Griphook sank onto the cellar floor, looking groggy and disoriented, many welts across his swarthy face.
Ron was now trying to Disapparate without a wand.
â€œThereâ€™s no way out, Ron,â€œ said Luna, watching his fruitless efforts. â€The cellar is completely escape-proof. I tried, at first. Mr. Ollivander has been here for a long time, heâ€™s tried everything.â€œ
Hermione was screaming again: The sound went through Harry like physical pain. Barely conscious of the fierce prickling of his scar, he too started to run around the cellar, feeling the walls for he hardly knew what, knowing in his heart that it was useless.
â€œWhat else did you take, what else? ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!â€œ
Hermioneâ€™s screams echoed off the walls upstairs, Ron was half sobbing as he pounded the walls with his fists, and Harry in utter desperation seized Hagridâ€™s pouch from around his neck and groped inside it: He pulled out Dumbledoreâ€™s Snitch and shook it, hoping for he did not know what â€“ nothing happened â€“ he waved the broken halves of the phoenix wand, but they were lifeless â€“ the mirror fragment fell sparkling to the floor, and he saw a gleam of brightest blue â€“
Dumbledoreâ€™s eye was gazing at him out of the mirror.
â€œHelp us!â€ he yelled at it in mad desperation. â€œWeâ€™re in the cellar of Malfoy Manor, help us!â€
The eye blinked and was gone.
Harry was not even sure that it had really been there. He tilted the shard of mirror this way and that, and saw nothing reflected there but the walls and ceiling of their prison, and upstairs Hermione was screaming worse than ever, and next to him Ron was bellowing, â€œHERMIONE! HERMIONE!â€
â€œHow did you get into my vault?â€ they heard Bellatrix scream. â€œDid that dirty little goblin in the cellar help you?â€
â€œWe only met him tonight!â€ Hermione sobbed. â€œWeâ€™ve never been inside your vaultâ€¦. It isnâ€™t the real sword! Itâ€™s a copy, just a copy!â€
â€œA copy?â€ screeched Bellatrix. â€œOh, a likely story!â€
â€œBut we can find out easily!â€ came Luciusâ€™s voice. â€œDraco, fetch the goblin, he can tell us whether the sword is real or not!â€
Harry dashed across the cellar to where Griphook was huddled on the floor.
â€œGriphook,â€ he whispered into the goblinâ€™s pointed ear, â€œyou must tell them that swordâ€™s a fake, they mustnâ€™t know itâ€™s the real one, Griphook, please â€“ â€
He could hear someone scuttling own the cellar steps; next moment, Dracoâ€™s shaking voice spoke from behind the door.
â€œStand back. Line up against the back wall. Donâ€™t try anything, or Iâ€™ll kill you!â€
They did as they were bidden; as the lock turned, Ron clicked the Deluminator and the lights whisked back into his pocket, restoring the cellarâ€™s darkness. The door flew open; Malfoy marched inside, wand held out in front of him, pale and determined. He seized the little goblin by the arm and backed out again, dragging Griphook with him. The door slammed shut and at the same moment a loud crack echoed inside the cellar.
Ron clicked the Deluminator. Three balls of light flew back into the air from his pocket, revealing Dobby the house-elf, who had just Apparated into their midst.
Harry hit Ron on the arm to stop him shouting, and Ron looked terrified at his mistake. Footsteps crossed the ceiling overhead: Draco marching Griphook to Bellatrix.
Dobbyâ€™s enormous, tennis-ball shaped eyes were wide; he was trembling from his feet to the tips of his ears. He was back in the home of his old masters, and it was clear that he was petrified.
â€œHarry Potter,â€ he squeaked in the tiniest quiver of a voice, â€œDobby has come to rescue you.â€
â€œBut how did you â€“?â€
An awful scream drowned Harryâ€™s words: Hermione was being tortured again. He cut to the essentials.
â€œYou can Disapparate out of this cellar?â€ he asked Dobby, who nodded, his ears flapping.
â€œAnd you can take humans with you?â€
Dobby nodded again.
â€œRight. Dobby, I want you to grab Luna, Dean, and Mr. Ollivander, and take them â€“ take them to â€“ â€œ
â€œBill and Fleurâ€™s,â€ said Ron. â€œShell Cottage on the outskirts of Tinworth!â€
The elf nodded for a third time.
â€œAnd then come back,â€ said Harry. â€œCan you do that, Dobby?â€
â€œOf course, Harry Potter,â€ whispered the little elf. He hurried over to Mr. Ollivander, who appeared to be barely conscious. He took one of the wandmakerâ€™s hands in his own, then held out the other to Luna and Dean, neither of whom moved.
â€œHarry, we want to help you!â€ Luna whispered.
â€œWe canâ€™t leave you here,â€ said Dean.
â€œGo, both of you! Weâ€™ll see you at Bill and Fleurâ€™s.â€
As Harry spoke, his scar burned worse than ever, and for a few seconds he looked down, not upon the wandmaker, but on another man who was just as old, just as thin, but laughing scornfully.
â€œKill me, then. Voldemort, I welcome death! But my death will not bring you what you seekâ€¦. There is so much you do not understandâ€¦â€
He felt Voldemortâ€™s fury, but as Hermione screamed again he shut it out, returning to the cellar and the horror of his own present.
â€œGo!â€ Harry beseeched to Luna and Dean. â€œGo! Weâ€™ll follow, just go!â€
They caught hold of the elfâ€™s outstretched fingers. There was another loud crack, and Dobby, Luna, Dean, and Ollivander vanished.
â€œWhat was that?â€ shouted Lucius Malfoy from over their heads. â€œDid you hear that? What was that noise in the cellar?â€
Harry and Ron stared at each other.
â€œDraco â€“ no, call Wormtail! Make him go and check!â€
Footsteps crossed the room overhead, then there was silence. Harry knew that the people in the drawing room were listening for more noises from the cellar.
â€œWeâ€™re going to have to try and tackle him,â€ he whispered to Ron. They had no choice: The moment anyone entered the room and saw the absence of three prisoners, they were lost. â€œLeave the lights on,â€ Harry added, and as they heard someone descending the steps outside the door, they backed against the wall on either side of it.
â€œStand back,â€ came Wormtailâ€™s voice. â€œStand away from the door. Iâ€™m coming in.â€
The door flew open. For a split second Wormtail gazed into the apparently empty cellar, ablaze with light from the three miniature suns floating in midair. Then Harry and Ron launched themselves upon him. Ron seized Wormtailâ€™s wand arm and forced it upwards. Harry slapped a hand to his mouth, muffling his voice. Silently they struggled: Wormtailâ€™s wand emitted sparks; his silver hand closed around Harryâ€™s throat.
â€œWhat is it, Wormtail?â€ called Lucius Malfoy from above.
â€œNothing!â€ Ron called back, in a passable imitation of Wormtailâ€™s wheezy voice. â€œAll fine!â€
Harry could barely breathe.
â€œYouâ€™re going to kill me?â€ Harry choked, attempting to prise off the metal fingers. â€œAfter I saved your life? You owe me, Wormtail!â€
The silver fingers slackened. Harry had not expected it: He wrenched himself free, astonished, keeping his hand over Wormtailâ€™s mouth. He saw the ratlike manâ€™s small watery eyes widen with fear and surprise: He seemed just as shocked as Harry at what his hand had done, at the tiny, merciful impulse it had betrayed, and he continued to struggle more powerfully, as though to undo that moment of weakness.
â€œAnd weâ€™ll have that,â€ whispered Ron, tugging Wormtailâ€™s wand from his other hand.
Wandless, helpless, Pettigrewâ€™s pupils dilated in terror. His eyes had slid from Harryâ€™s face to something else. His own silver fingers were moving inexorably toward his own throat.
â€œNo â€“ â€
Without pausing to think, Harry tried to drag back the hand, but there was no stopping it. The silver tool that Voldemort had given his most cowardly servant had turned upon its disarmed and useless owner; Pettigrew was reaping his reward for his hesitation, his moment of pity; he was being strangled before their eyes.
Ron had released Wormtail too, and together he and Harry tried to pull the crushing metal fingers from around Wormtailâ€™s throat, but it was no use. Pettigrew was turning blue.
â€œRelashio!â€ said Ron, pointing the wand at the silver hand, but nothing happened; Pettigrew dropped to his knees, and at the same moment, Hermione gave a dreadful scream from overhead. Wormtailâ€™s eyes rolled upward in his purple face; he gave a last twitch, and was still.
Harry and Ron looked at each other, then leaving Wormtailâ€™s body on the floor behind them, ran up the stairs and back into the shadowy passageway leading to the drawing room. Cautiously they crept along it until they reached the drawing room door, which was ajar. Now they had a clear view of Bellatrix looking down at Griphook, who was holding Gryffindorâ€™s sword in his long-fingered hands. Hermione was lying at Bellatrixâ€™s feet. She was barely stirring.
â€œWell?â€ Bellatrix said to Griphook. â€œIs it the true sword?â€
Harry waited, holding his breath, fighting against the prickling of his scar.
â€œNo,â€ said Griphook. â€œIt is a fake.â€
â€œAre you sure?â€ panted Bellatrix. â€œQuite sure?â€
â€œYes,â€ said the goblin.
Relief broke across her face, all tension drained from it.
â€œGood,â€ she said, and with a casual flick of her wand she slashed another deep cut into the goblinâ€™s face, and he dropped with a yell at her feet. She kicked him aside. â€œAnd now,â€ she said in a voice that burst with triumph, â€œwe call the Dark Lord!â€
And she pushed back her sleeve and touched her forefinger to the Dark Mark.
At once, Harryâ€™s scar felt as though it had split open again. His true surroundings vanished: He was Voldemort, and the skeletal wizard before him was laughing toothlessly at him; he was enraged at the summons he felt â€“ he had warned them, he had told them to summon him for nothing less than Potter. If they were mistakenâ€¦
â€œKill me, then!â€ demanded the old man. â€œYou will not win, you cannot win! That wand will never, ever be yours â€“ â€
And Voldemortâ€™s fury broke: A burst of green light filled the prison room and the frail old body was lifted from its hard bed and then fell back, lifeless, and Voldemort returned to the window, his wrath barely controllableâ€¦. They would suffer his retribution if they had no good reason for calling him backâ€¦.
â€œAnd I think,â€ said Bellatrixâ€™s voice, â€œwe can dispose of the Mudblood. Greyback, take her if you want her.â€
Ron had burst into the drawing room; Bellatrix looked around, shocked; she turned her wand to face Ron instead â€“
â€œExpelliarmus!â€ he roared, pointing Wormtailâ€™s wand at Bellatrix, and hers flew into the air and was caught by Harry, who had sprinted after Ron. Lucius, Narcissa, Draco and Greyback wheeled about; Harry yelled, â€œStupefy!â€ and Lucius Malfoy collapsed onto the hearth. Jets of light flew from Dracoâ€™s, Narcissaâ€™s, and Greybackâ€™s wands; Harry threw himself to the floor, rolling behind a sofa to avoid them.
â€œSTOP OR SHE DIES!â€
Panting, Harry peered around the edge of the sofa. Bellatrix was supporting Hermione, who seemed to be unconscious, and was holding her short silver knife to Hermioneâ€™s throat.
â€œDrop your wands,â€ she whispered. â€œDrop them, or weâ€™ll see exactly how filthy her blood is!â€
Ron stood rigid, clutching Wormtailâ€™s wand. Harry straightened up, still holding Bellatrixâ€™s.
â€œI said, drop them!â€ she screeched, pressing the blade into Hermioneâ€™s throat: Harry saw beads of blood appear there.
â€œAll right!â€ he shouted, and he dropped Bellatrixâ€™s wand onto the floor at his feet, Ron did the same with Wormtailâ€™s. Both raised their hands to shoulder height.
â€œGood!â€ she leered. â€œDraco, pick them up! The Dark Lord is coming, Harry Potter! Your death approaches!â€
Harry knew it; his scar was bursting with the pain of it, and he could feel Voldemort flying through the sky from far away, over a dark and stormy sea, and soon he would be close enough to Apparate to them, and Harry could see no way out.
â€œNow,â€ said Bellatrix softly, as Draco hurried back to her with the wands. â€œCissy, I think we ought to tie these little heroes up again, while Greyback takes care of Miss Mudblood. I am sure the Dark Lord will not begrudge you the girl, Greyback, after what you have done tonight.â€
At the last word there was a peculiar grinding noise from above. All of them looked upward in time to see the crystal chandelier tremble; then, with a creak and an ominous jingling, it began to fall. Bellatrix was directly beneath it; dropping Hermione, she threw herself aside with a scream. The chandelier crashed to the floor in an explosion of crystal and chains, falling on top of Hermione and the goblin, who still clutched the sword of Gryffindor. Glittering shards of crystal flew in all directions; Draco doubled over, his hands covering his bloody face.
As Ron ran to pull Hermione out of the wreckage, Harry took the chance: He leapt over an armchair and wrested the three wands from Dracoâ€™s grip, pointed all of them at Greyback, and yelled, â€œStupefy!â€ The werewolf was lifted off his feet by the triple spell, flew up to the ceiling and then smashed to the ground.
As Narcissa dragged Draco out of the way of further harm, Bellatrix sprang to her feet, her hair flying as she brandished the silver knife; but Narcissa had directed her wand at the doorway.
â€œDobby!â€ she screamed and even Bellatrix froze. â€œYou! You dropped the chandelier â€“?â€
The tiny elf trotted into the room, his shaking finger pointing at his old mistress.
â€œYou must not hurt Harry Potter,â€ he squeaked.
â€œKill him, Cissy!â€ shrieked Bellatrix, but there was another loud crack, and Narcissaâ€™s wand too flew into the air and landed on the other side of the room.
â€œYou dirty little monkey!â€ bawled Bellatrix. â€œHow dare you take a witchâ€™s wand, how dare you defy your masters?â€
â€œDobby has no master!â€ squealed the elf. â€œDobby is a free elf, and Dobby has come to save Harry Potter and his friends!â€
Harryâ€™s scar was blinding him with pain. Dimly he knew that they had moments, seconds before Voldemort was with them.
â€œRon, catch â€“ and GO!â€ he yelled, throwing one of the wands to him; then he bent down to tug Griphook out from under the chandelier. Hoisting the groaning goblin, who still clung to the sword, over one shoulder, Harry seized Dobbyâ€™s hand and spun on the spot to Disapparate.
As he turned into darkness he caught one last view of the drawing room of the pale, frozen figures of Narcissa and Draco, of the streak of red that was Ronâ€™s hair, and a blue of flying silver, as Bellatrixâ€™s knife flew across the room at the place where he was vanishing â€“
Bill and Fleurâ€™sâ€¦ Shell Cottageâ€¦ Bill and Fleurâ€™sâ€¦
He had disappeared into the unknown; all he could do was repeat the name of the destination and hope that it would suffice to take him there. The pain in his forehead pierced him, and the weight of the goblin bore down upon him; he could feel the blade of Gryffindorâ€™s sword bumping against his back: Dobbyâ€™s hand jerked in his; he wondered whether the elf was trying to take charge, to pull them in the right direction, and tried, by squeezing the fingers, to indicate that that was fine with themâ€¦.
And then they hit solid earth and smelled salty air. Harry fell to his knees, relinquished Dobbyâ€™s hand, and attempted to lower Griphook gently to the ground.
â€œAre you all right?â€ he said as the goblin stirred, but Griphook merely whimpered.
Harry squinted around through the darkness. There seemed to be a cottage a short way away under the wide starry sky, and he thought he saw movement outside it.
â€œDobby, is this Shell Cottage?â€ he whispered, clutching the two wands he had brought from the Malfoysâ€™, ready to fight if he needed to. â€œHave we come to the right place? Dobby?â€
He looked around. The little elf stood feet from him.
The elf swayed slightly, stars reflected in his wide, shining eyes. Together, he and Harry looked down at the silver hilt of the knife protruding from the elfâ€™s heaving chest.
â€œDobby â€“ no â€“ HELP!â€ Harry bellowed toward the cottage, toward the people moving there. â€œHELP!â€
He did not know or care whether they were wizards or Muggles, friends or foes; all he cared about was that a dark stain was spreading across Dobbyâ€™s front, and that he had stretched out his own arms to Harry with a look of supplication. Harry caught him and laid him sideways on the cool grass.
â€œDobby, no, donâ€™t die, donâ€™t die â€“ â€
The elfâ€™s eyes found him, and his lips trembled with the effort to form words.
And then with a little shudder the elf became quite still, and his eyes were nothing more than great glassy orbs, sprinkled with light from the stars they could not see.
The Deathly Hallows
. . . .