Title: The Devil’s Due
Fandom: Harry Potter/Crow Crossover
Summary: Six months after Voldemort’s victory and the Fall of Harry Potter, an angry spirit rises from the grave to wreak bloody vengeance.
Spoilers: HBP and the Crow mythology. With the publication of DH, this is now AU, but I had a few very close guesses about certain things that came out in Book 7, and starting with this chapter I am incorporating selected bits of backstory that got introduced. In other words, read at your own risk.
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters or the mythology. Just my sick imagination.
Archive: At Twisting the Hellmouth and Crossoverfic. If you want it, check with me first.
A/N: Many thanks to Selenya, who helped me conceive this bunny. On the night before her wedding, no less. Let’s hear it for dedicated Goff Grrls!
This part isn’t as graphic as the last chapter, but is still disturbing in its own right. Please review so that I know you don’t hate me for being a sicko.
Chapter 9 – Devil’s Night
October 31, 12:00am
The Polyjuice had worn off. Lily was no longer straining the seams of her borrowed finery with Bellatrix’s borrowed body. Perched high atop a Victorian cupola, she peered down at her next victim as he scurried along the narrow divide between houses.
Pettigrew’s shoulders were hunched under his ratty black coat, and even from four stories above, she imagined she could see his nose twitching as his head swung back and forth. He moved cautiously along the trash-strewn passage, a few feet at a time, looking nervously over his shoulder and peering hesitantly ahead. His face was in shadow, but his silver hand gleamed in the darkness.
She swayed on the rooftop, caught in a peculiar triple vision. She saw him from her vantage, and she saw him from the crow’s soaring height, but most of all she saw him through memories both hers and not hers. She remembered a pudgy boy whose desperation for the approval of his friends caused him to laugh too loud, and at the wrong things. She saw him grow bitter with never quite being able to compete with his more dashing friends. When the others confidently, almost unconsciously, drew the eyes of girls, he remained the pudgy, pimply tag-along. When the others mastered animal forms that were noble, valiant and true, he became vermin, a lord of filth. She saw his first, shaky steps into Voldemort’s circle, saw how he manipulated her and James and Sirius. She saw his betrayal, heard him whisper the secret into Voldemort’s ear. She saw him now, scurrying away in the hopes that he would be overlooked by whatever force threatened the inner circle.
A black shape plummeted through the darkness, feathered wingtips brushing the high, narrow walls of the pass-through. The crow dipped, causing Pettigrew to duck with a sharp exclamation, before rising again into the night. Lily stood on the edge of the cupola, grim gaze fixed on the man she had once called friend. The drop to the ground below was a narrow abyss between rooftops. Pettigrew was still staring after the bird, cursing and fumbling with his wand. Lily let the crow’s cold thirst for vengeance wash over her. She became something not quite herself. She stepped forward into the abyss.
The wind of her passing was like a gentle caress. It caused her hair and cloak and skirts to billow above her. It reminded her of an illustration out of a book of fairy stories she’d once owned. In the story, the heroine was stolen away by the wind to become Death’s bride. The picture was done in the clean, flowing lines of art-nouveaux, and the girl’s face had been entirely at peace, despite the terror of her predicament. Lily had always wondered if the girl were already dead. Now she knew.
She landed and absorbed the impact with a crouch, as if falling from four stories was nothing to her – as if it was something she did every day. Pettigrew was facing away, still searching for his feathered nemesis. The crow had wheeled and swooped past his head again, ruffling his thin, wispy hair with the wind of its passing. Pettigrew turned, wand raised, lips already forming a curse. He came face to face with her. His eyes widened in recognition, and the curse died in his mouth.
“Hello, Peter.” Lily smiled gently.
The house was in an uproar when Snape and Malfoy quietly let themselves out of the study. Revelers in Death Eater’s robes hurried past them in both directions, ignoring the two men. Snape exchanged an apprehensive glance with Malfoy. They moved towards the central hall with set shoulders and grim expressions. The furor could only mean that Voldemort had arrived, and that he was not pleased.
They were not two steps into the hall when they were spied by Dolohov. The tall, gaunt man pushed his way past two semi-hysterical women who were cradling a third trembling form… obviously a bystander who’d run afoul of a random curse from her Lord. Dolohov ignored the women.
“You two. Where have you been? The Dark Lord wants you. Now.” If he expected them to quail at his words, he was in for a rude awakening. A wizard did not survive Voldemort’s inner circle for long if he was easily intimidated.
“Excellent,” Malfoy said smoothly, “for we have terrible news to deliver to our Lord. Take us to him. Now.”
Snape had to admire the slightly mocking intonation on the last word, and the way that Malfoy’s command effectively placed Dolohov in the roe of escort, rather than jailer. Dolohov seemed to be aware of his sudden status change as well. His face twisted into a scowl of displeasure, eyes jumping between Snape and Malfoy before he grudgingly turned and shoved his way through the crowd. Once they realized where the three men were headed, people seemed only too happy to part for them. Dolohov passed through the hall and down a set of stairs that led to Bellatrix’s laboratory.
Snape had been subjected to the dubious pleasure of touring the madwoman’s sanctum on one or two occasions. She might not have ever desired him sexually, but she had a healthy respect for him as a fellow practitioner of the Dark Arts. The feeling was not mutual.
The silence of the lab below was interrupted by Bellatrix’s sob and the mute rustle of Death Eater robes. Voldemort was in the center of the room, along with a small cadre of his supporters. They were sycophants that regularly rose and fell in the ranks according to the Dark Lord’s whim. They had left a small but unmistakable bubble of space between themselves and their Lord, as if by that small remove they could protect themselves from his unpredictable wrath.
Only Bellatrix broke the invisible boundary. She was crumpled on the floor next to him, pale and still twitching from the effects of a recent Cruciatus curse. That alone was enough to chill Snape’s blood; he couldn’t recall a time that the Dark Lord had punished her thusly. Her trembling hands were reaching for the hem of her Lord’s robe, probably to kiss it.
Voldemort jerked the fabric from her grasping fingers with a cold hiss, before turning to glare at the new arrivals. Snape noticed Malfoy’s profile smooth into regal indifference, and set himself not to think about all the things he had done to earn his Lord’s displeasure.
“Lucius. Severus. So glad you’ve deigned to join us.” Voldemort’s sibilant hiss cut through the tension in the cellar. His potential wrath had found a focus. Bellatrix’s muffled sobs fell silent. “Had you managed to arrive in a more timely fashion, you might have had the opportunity to enjoy the final moments of two of your fellows, and the punishment of this wretch for her mistake.” He kicked at Bellatrix, but she only took it as an opportunity to grasp on to his foot and rain penitent kisses on it.
“Please, my Lord,” she supplicated between kisses, “I didn’t realize it was them. I didn’t know.” Snape noticed the gathered Death Eaters shuffling and casting furtive glances towards the corner of the room, at the same time that he noticed that the copper tang on the air was fresh, rather than the embedded scent of old blood layered over old blood. Next to him, Malfoy stiffened almost imperceptibly. Snape’s gaze lifted from Bellatrix’s pathetic cringing to where Malfoy and the others were looking.
The two bodies chained to the walls inside Bellatrix’s cage looked at first like they were in shadow. The faces and bare chests appeared dark and strangely striated. But the whites of the dead, staring eyes gleamed too brightly and too large to be normal. That was when Snape realized that he wasn’t looking on skin in shadow, but the dark, meaty red of exposed muscle.
He’d heard that Bellatrix had been working on an improved flensing curse, one that was slower and kept the victims alive for longer. From the builds of the two victims, he’d hazard that Crabbe and Goyle had been her first successful test.
It was a sad testimony to the thoroughness of Lily’s vengeance that the results were not the worst carnage he’d seen that day.
“What do you have to say for yourselves? Can you give me any reason not to kill you now?”
It took Snape a moment to realize that Voldemort was addressing Malfoy and himself, and not Bellatrix. It boded ill for how their news would be taken. He’d seen Voldemort kill the messenger on more than one occasion.
“Forgive us my Lord,” Malfoy offered, to Snape’s surprise. “We were dealing with another matter of great concern. Rabastan and Rodolphus are also dead.”
“What?” Voldemort visibly jerked. The gathered supporters flinched away from him. Only Bellatrix, still huddled at her Lord’s feet, seemed oddly unfazed.
Malfoy stepped slightly forward, and Snape waited for the other man to sell him out, “I’m afraid it is true, my Lord. We arrived in Rodolphus’ last moments. Rabastan was already gone. There was nothing we could do to save either of them.” Snape controlled his start of surprise, wondering what game Malfoy was playing.
“And did you at least learn anything useful about who is killing my Death Eaters, or were you as useless as you’ve been all day?”
“Bellatrix,” Malfoy said, with perhaps the barest hint of a smile, and suddenly Snape understood. This was Malfoy’s one chance to take down his sister-in-law. Bellatrix, who was already implicated and under suspicion. Bellatrix, whose loyalty could be neither bought nor bartered. Bellatrix, who Malfoy blamed for her part in the deaths of his son and wife. “No one else could have done it. And Rodolphus accused her with his final breath.”
“No!” The prone woman finally roused enough from her self-abasement to protest the accusation. Voldemort kicked her again.
“Is this true?” His baleful red glare bored into them, and Snape felt an alien mind, oddly reptilian, brush against his own. He concentrated on Rodolphus’ final moments, letting Voldemort see them for himself.
“My Lord,” Snape confirmed carefully, “at the end, he named her as his killer.”
“No! I would not.” Bellatrix rose to her feet, but her stance was still vaguely feral, hands curved into claws. Her breath came heavily, “I live only to serve you, my Lord. This is a trap, a trick.”
Snape forced his mind away from thoughts of Lily, and his own actions, and his certain conviction that a certain Gryffindor revenant had somehow managed to implicate Bellatrix in so many deaths. He needn’t have worried, he realized as the pressure on his mind receded and Voldemort turned his probing gaze on Malfoy. The Dark Lord was willing to be convinced of Bellatrix’s guilt.
“It is too late to protest, Bella,” Voldemort said softly, breaking eyes with Malfoy to level a cold glare on the wild-eyed woman. “I have seen the truth through the eyes of the dead and the words of the dying. You have overestimated my patience for your games.”
“No games, my Lord. Never with you. I am your most devoted servant.”
“Yes, you have made sure of that by murdering your competition. Your service leaves something to be desired, my dear.”
“I love you, my Lord.” She threw herself again at his feet. He seemed to soften, but Snape knew it for an act.
“Do you, Bella?” He cupped her cheek with one long-fingered hand.
“Yes.” She turned to kiss his palm, “I would never betray you. I would do anything for you.”
“Would you die for me?”
For a moment, Bellatrix seemed completely lucid. Her eyes widened as she realized the trap in her Lord’s words – realized he was about to repay her unswerving loyalty with betrayal. Then her face collapsed in despair. Her head shook and her mouth worked as she tried to deny his abandonment of her.
“Wrong answer, my dear Bella.” Voldemort leveled his wand at her, “~Avada Kedavra~.”
In a flash of green fire, Bellatrix Lestrange collapsed to the floor.
Voldemort regarded her body for a moment, his reptilian features unreadable. “If only all business could be so cleanly resolved. But we have other matters to attend to this night, my Death Eaters.” He stepped past the body and glanced over his shocked supporters. “We are lacking only Pettigrew. Find him. Or better yet,” he raised a hand before anyone could think to move, “I will.”
“Lily?” Pettigrew blinked rapidly. It was vaguely comical, as was his slack-jawed surprise. She cocked her head, unsure how to respond. Lily. She hardly felt like that woman anymore.
“Is it so hard to believe, Peter?” She was genuinely curious. Perhaps she only thought she was who she claimed. Perhaps she really was just a memory. “Do I look so different?”
“It’s been seventeen years.” He shook his head. She could sense his struggle to resolve the strangeness of her presence with the banality of their conversation. Just two friends, running into each other after a long absence.
“It feels like just the other day for me.” The hardness in her tone reminded them both that however it might seem, there was nothing casual or friendly about this meeting. Whether she was Lily or not, she knew why she was here. Pettigrew’s eyes darted up the walls on either side of him, perhaps only just realizing that he was trapped.
“You… this… this isn’t possible,” he stuttered, seeking escape through denial. She shook her head.
“Of course not. Even magic has its limits. Perhaps I’m no more than a figment of your imagination, or your guilty conscience.” She paused, “But no. You would have to feel guilt for that to be so.”
He stumbled back a step and she took three forward, closing the distance between them. From a window ledge above her the crow cawed. The gaping abyss roared in her head, devouring the remnants of self that might have recoiled from what she was about to do. She was nothing but vengeance.
She grabbed the back of his neck and forced his face up to the meager yellow light of the street behind her. It glinted off black pupils wide with fear. She felt a ripple of flesh underneath her hand, and she tightened her grip brutally.
“Oh, yes, Peter. Change. Remind me of what a traitorous piece of vermin you are. Let me know the satisfaction of ripping off each of your tiny rat limbs.”
“You’re the one who killed Nott and Avery,” he whispered.
“Yes,” she whispered back. He made a feeble attempt at struggling, but she bore him to his knees, bending over him.
“Who are you?” he sobbed. “You can’t be her. Who are you, truly. You owe me that at least.”
She owed him nothing. She did not wish to step away from the cold, dark abyss that made the killing so easy. She did not want to return to that other place where she remembered who she was, and felt horror at what she was doing. Who was she. She barely knew. She let the pain and horror flood her, and she remembered.
“The first time we met was the night of our Sorting.” She could see it. She’d been so happy, so terrified. She’d been separated from her only friend at Hogwarts. The memory hurt almost too much to speak around. Her life felt comprised of ‘if only’s’.
“You saw me saying goodnight to Severus, saw me hug him. You were so quick to tell James and Sirius. You wanted so much for them to like you, and you sensed already how much they hated Severus. You told everyone. You told them I was a spy for Slytherin.” She laughed at this, at the irony. The childhood trauma seemed so insignificant next to the loss of her friends – all of them.
“It was months before anyone in Gryffindor would make friends with me. I forgave you, eventually, for James’ sake.” Her eyes narrowed. She brought her other hand up, and tightened them around his throat. She began to slide back into the abyss, “I shouldn’t ever have done so.”
Pettigrew’s eyes had widened with her recitation. Now, they bugged from lack of oxygen, and the realization of what she meant to do.
“Tell me you’re sorry, Peter,” she said to his reddening face. His mouth gaped open, struggling for breath. His hands, one silver and one flesh, scrabbled at hers. He clawed great gouges in her forearms that healed almost instantly. She could feel the frantic flutter of a pulse beneath her palms. The abyss roared at the back of her mind, but she didn’t succumb. This death, she wanted to feel. She squeezed harder.
His face turned a sickly grayish-purple. Veins stood out on his neck and temples, ropy and grotesque in the yellow light. His eyes rolled back into his head and his hands flopped uselessly at his sides. The silver made a grating sound as it brushed against the pavement.
Behind her, the crow gave an agitated cry and launched into the air. She heard the scuffle of shoes and the soft rustle of robes. She gave the limp body one more jerking squeeze before releasing her grip to let it slump among the refuse. She felt… hollow. She’d just killed a man, a former friend, and she felt nothing. There was nothing there to feel. Unwilling to face what that meant, she sought refuge again in the abyss.
Straightening, she turned to face her recently arrived audience.
“Thank you for not interrupting.”
The figure before her shrugged one shoulder in a gracefully sinuous motion, as if it was of no matter to him. The barely contained fury in his red-slitted eyes belied the movement.
“Hello, Tom,” she said, ignoring the crowd of followers that surrounded him. He was all that mattered at the moment. The abyss inside her cried out for him, a hungry wail from the center of her being.
“Hello, Lily,” Lord Voldemort responded coolly. “What brings you here?”
Snape had expected Voldemort to Apparate away. It seemed everyone else had as well. When their Lord started forward, striding up the stairs, all the gathered Death Eaters stood motionless in astonishment. A moment later, they were all rushing to follow. Snape and Malfoy were the first to reach the stairs.
Voldemort’s trail took them out to the street and around the side of the house. Snape could see two forms in the shadows of the narrow passage. One of the forms was limp in the grasp of the other. A dark, fluttering shape launched itself skyward and Snape realized with dread who one of the shapes must belong to. A flash of silver in the streetlight gave a good indication as to who the other one was.
Voldemort waited. He waited until his most sycophantic follower was a boneless heap amongst the trash and filth. He waited until Malfoy and Snape and the others eddied around him. His stillness bespoke a fury deeper than Snape had ever seen.
The murderer ahead turned to face them. Her black dress blended with the shadows, but her hair glowed a violent, malevolent red. Even her green eyes seemed feral in the dim yellow light. Her slender fingers flexed, as if she could still feel the life she’d choked out of Pettigrew.
Snape noticed more than one person amongst the followers flinching at that. To a wizard, killing without a wand was obscene… barbaric. A monster, she had called herself, and against his will he began to believe it. He wondered if he should question his own sanity, to ally himself with such a creature. Yet he knew he had no choice. She was Lily, and he was hers. Always.
“Thank you for not interrupting.” Her voice was light, conversational. Snape willed her to keep silent, knowing that Voldemort would not be placated. Under his usual blank façade, Snape’s mind raced. He could see no way that this could end in anything but Lily’s death.
He should never have brought her here this night.
“Hello, Tom,” she said, making matters even worse. No one dared to refer to the Dark Lord by his chosen name, nevermind the name of his birth.
“Hello, Lily.” Lord Voldemort’s tone was equally soft. It didn’t make it any less menacing.
Snape began edging towards the wall, peripheral to any line of fire, but still accessible to both adversaries should he need to act. Malfoy was shifting in the same direction, though Snape suspected it was for reasons of self-preservation.
“What brings you here?” The Dark Lord was asking, as if it weren’t obvious.
“Vengeance,” she answered, motioning towards Pettigrew’s body. She shifted her arc so that the motion encompassed Voldemort and his followers, “and unfinished business, of course. What else drives a ghost from her grave?”
“You are no ghost,” Voldemort observed, his glance flicking towards the corpse on the ground.
“I am as much a ghost as you are.”
“And it is you who has been slaughtering my Death Eaters?”
“Not just me. Nott and Avery, and now Peter, of course. But Bellatrix took care of Crabbe and Goyle herself, and technically the Lestrange men killed each other.”
“How.” The question was rough and low. Voldemort’s thin control was slipping.
“Polyjuice. I imagine you’ve already meted out punishment? Your poor Bella. She must have felt so betrayed, there at the end.”
Voldemort’s temper snapped. Knowing what was to come, Snape jerked forward. His instinct was to somehow intervene, even if it was foolishly impossible – even if it would result in his death. Malfoy sidestepped in front of him, impeding his action, but also blocking it from anyone else’s notice.
With a howl, Voldemort he raised his wand and slashed it at Lily.
The alley was lit by a flash of sickly green light. The afterimage of a dozen gloating faces were burnt into Snape’s vision, as was Malfoy’s enigmatic glare, Voldemort’s twisted scowl, and Lily’s serene smile. Snape fought not to collapse to the ground at losing her again. He was unaccountably assisted by Malfoy’s supporting hand under his elbow.
A sound penetrated his shock. The smug grins of the other Death Eaters faded. It was laughter – a light, feminine laugh.
“You aren’t very bright, are you Tom? I said I was as much a ghost as you… or did you think I was being poetic?”
Lily stood there, smiling as if she hadn’t a care in the world. Even in his rush of relief, Snape was unnerved. There was something inhuman about her eyes. She took a step forward, and all the Death Eaters shifted back. Only Voldemort held his ground.
“Impossible,” the Dark Lord whispered.
“Not particularly. Not even the first time it’s happened to you, is it?” She took another step forward. Voldemort rallied his fury.
“~Sectumsempra~.” Snape flinched. Long, vicious slashes rent the bodice of her dress and the pale skin underneath. Voldemort’s sneer of satisfaction was short-lived. Before everyone’s eyes the cuts began to knit themselves closed. Snape had never seen such magic. Not even the Dark Lord could heal so quickly.
Voldemort seemed to realize that she was now as untouchable as he.
“Soul magic,” he bit out. “I’m surprised your Order would stoop to such things. Have the heroes finally succumbed to the Dark? How brave. How valiant. How hypocritical.”
“As usual, Tom, you are blind to any perspective but your own.” Lily had taken several more steps forward. Less than a meter separated her from the Dark Lord.
“You have a weakness. You must. Whatever it is, I will find it.”
“As I have found yours.” That gave Voldemort pause. Snape felt a rush of shocked elation. Had she somehow prized the secret of the final Horcrux from one of her victims? Voldemort shook his head, as if by denying her words he would deny the possibility that they were true.
“Bravado. If you though you could kill me, then why haven’t you done so.”
“Because, Tom, it isn’t your time yet. You still have one more day. October 31st, remember? Now I’m being poetic.”
Voldemort’s serpentine features twisted in rage again.
Lily stood unmoved.
“Pain? Oh, Tom. Nothing you could wish on me is worse than what I already suffer. My son, my husband, all my friends dead and gone. I’ve lost everything that meant anything to me.” Snape couldn’t quite fight back the surge of pain that those words sent through him. He knew he’d stopped meaning anything to her long ago, that she meant to kill him, but still it hurt.
Lily took the final step towards Voldemort. They stood chest to chest. The Dark Lord towered over her, yet somehow she seemed the larger. He quailed before her. She stood on tiptoe and whispered in a voice that carried through the silence.
“I’m just here to return the favor.”
She sank back to her heels, still gazing up into his face. She must have been satisfied with what she saw there. She smiled that gentle, motherly smile and began to walk past Voldemort, towards the mouth of the alley. Death Eaters parted before her, terror on every face. She reached the mouth of the alley and disappeared into the night.
“Leave me.” Voldemort’s voice was chill and soft.
The alley echoed with loud pops as Death Eaters began to make their escapes, anxious to leave before their Lord took his wrath out on them. With one last unreadable glance, Malfoy Apparated as well. Snape hesitated, but knew he could not follow Lily into the night. He would have to wait and hope she returned to Grimmauld Place. With a swish of his wand, he left Voldemort standing alone in the dark.