Life After Death

A/N

Not too many chapters left of this now.

Also, if you haven't already, do check out my latest work When the Roses Bloom Again.

If you like war, battles, and some wholesome moments, you might well enjoy it.

Peace,

TBR

With Peverell seemingly having been side-lined from the ongoing conflict between the Dark Lord, his followers, and the Ministry, the former was under the impression that he had achieved a great victory. Abraxus Malfoy, however, knew better.

The man may be experiencing some temporary success with his attacks, but the Ministry had not fallen idle. If anything, without the threat of Peverell hanging over their enemy, they themselves had been pushing back.

Unbeknownst to the public at large, the Aurors had been carrying out raids of family manors of those they believed were funding or supporting the pureblood movements, and though Abraxus was not involved himself, the status of Lucius was no longer a secret.

As such, the Malfoy lord expected that he would be targeted soon by the Department of Magical Law Enforcement and needed to ensure there was nothing within his home that would bring him under suspicion.

This was what brought him to the hidden room within the manor, the place in which generations of Malfoys had stored their more frowned upon items. Within, there was a plethora of dark artefacts, books and even some illegally obtained potion ingredients.

Those would have to be removed. Perhaps Borgin would take them off his hands for a nominal fee? If the Ministry managed to find this room, something they had failed to do thus far, he would likely be subjected to a fine at most due to the other illicit items, but little more. Most were merely questionable in nature and not strictly illegal to own.

However, just to be certain that he had not passed anything over that could cause problems were it to be discovered, he gave a final check over the contents, pausing as he came to an unfamiliar book.

It was a rather inane thing really, a black journal of sorts and not something he himself had added. Abraxus prided himself on knowing all the items here, but this was not one he had come across before.

"Tom Riddle," he muttered, reading the words embossed in golden letters on the back.

The name was as unfamiliar as the item he held, but there was something distinctly bothersome about it. To the untrained eye, it may appear to be but a book with empty pages, but Abraxus could not ignore the feeling of foreboding that emanated from it.

Drawing his wand and casting a series of spells, resulted in nothing, other than the urge to write in the pages growing stronger.

He shook his head of that notion.

Only a fool would follow such a compulsion, and Abraxus was far from being one, though the diary was unrelenting with its efforts to draw him in.

Whatever this was, it was alive in some way, sentient and able to influence any poor soul who happened across it. Were Abraxus not a man of strong mind and will, he would perhaps have fallen victim to the allure of the piece.

Still, he would do no such thing, but he was certainly intrigued and also, out of his depth.

He would take it along with the potion ingredients to Borgin. The man was a scoundrel at best but his knowledge in dark artefacts could not be questioned, and Abraxus had no doubt that this was a sinister creation.

He frowned as he left the room, pondering just where it had come from.

Had Lucius acquired it?

That was the only possibility, but it was not as though he could currently question his son on the matter.

Lucius yet remained under the care of the healers at St Mungo's, his condition showing no signs of improvement despite the efforts of the staff.

He spent his days cowering in the corner, moaning about ravens and death stalking him.

Slowly, but surely, Lucius was going mad, tortured by the presence of things that were not there. Until recently, he had moments of clarity where he was not raving about what haunted him, but they had seemingly passed.

Now, there was no coherence in his heir, and the healers had all but given up.

Not that Abraxus had helped matters.

When asked if an expert in the Mind Arts could be involved in attempting to treat Lucius, Abraxus had firmly denied the request. Lucius knew far too many of the family secrets to allow him to be subjected as such, and the warning from Peverell could not be ignored.

Were a Legilimens allowed to be able to peer into Lucius's mind, they would know all his misdeeds under the guise of supporting the pureblood movement.

Abraxus could not allow that to pass, for his own good and the good of the family.

He had come to accept the Malfoy line was at an end, but he would not have it bow out in disgrace.

He was, however, looking into alternatives for Lucius's care moving forward. Already, he had advertised for a private healer to treat him within the Malfoy home and away from the hospital.

The attack there had proven that nowhere was safer for his son, and perhaps there were other routes to see him well once more, without his deeds coming to light?

If that was indeed possible, Abraxus would be willing to part with the not so negligible pile of gold it would cost to see done.

(Break)

Having lived as many years as he had and experiencing the loss and horrors that life had to offer, there was little left that could shock Arcturus Orion Black, but seeing his thought-to-be-dead granddaughter embracing his wife left him all but speechless.

He had heard the same news the rest of wizarding Britain had; that Narcissa had been murdered by her own sister at St Mungo's.

Such a thing had filled him with heartbreak, anger and disappointment, but her presence here filled him with confusion.

People did not simply come back from the dead, not even witches and wizards were granted such a respite from the killing curse. Yet here she was, seemingly well and no worse for wear.

Shaking himself of the many thoughts that plagued his mind, he crossed the distance between them and wrapped her in his arms, shooting the Lord Peverell a question look.

The man merely offered a tired shrug, and Arcturus knew he would get no true explanation. Not that he needed it. Whatever Peverell had done, Narcissa was here and feeling her warmth and hearing her breathe evoked a feeling of incomparable joy.

"I thought you were gone," he murmured.

"I was," Narcissa whispered in response, "but I'm back."

Arcturus shook his head.

"Dare I ask how?"

"I do not understand it myself, and I don't think Harry does either."

"Then I shall just be grateful that you are here."

He held her for several moments, his wife watching him with a look of relief adorning her features.

Evidently, she hoped that with Narcissa's return, he would simply forget what had been done to her.

He would not. Bellatrix would still be subjected to the full fury of House Black. There was nothing more treacherous than the murder of one of their own, even if she no longer carried the name.

His blood still flowed through her veins and his own father along with those that came before him who had worn the Lord's ring would expect nothing less than suitable justice being served.

Eventually, Narcissa extracted herself from his arms and relieved Harry of their daughter who had begun to fuss, wanting the attention of her mother.

Arcturus approached the man, not knowing what to say, whether to question what he had done or let the matter lie. He needn't make up his mind as Harry spoke when he reached him.

"I can't say much more other than the opportunity to save her came, and I took it. I was successful, and that is all that matters to me."

"And to me," Arcturus returned sincerely. "It is not often I will offer my gratitude, but you have more than earned it, Peverell."

Harry shook his head.

"If I had been less accommodating to Bellatrix, this wouldn't have happened. I will not make that same mistake again."

Arcturus nodded his agreement.

"You have my full blessing to do as you wish. She will be stricken from the family, her status among us no longer meaning anything."

"Not that I needed it but thank you. She will not get away with this," Peverell vowed.

Arcturus believed him.

Peverell had been very tolerant of the woman, had spared her on more than one occasion and she had dismissed the chances to redeem herself out of hand. It was foolish on her part to do so, and now she had a vengeful and dangerous lord vying for her blood.

Her days were numbered, and at best, she could expect a swift death.

Arcturus doubted she would receive such and felt no pity for the woman. She had brought what was coming to her, after all.

"What are you going to do?" Arcturus asked.

"About Bellatrix? I don't know, but tonight, we are going for dinner and I'm going to enjoy the fact that my wife is back. Tomorrow, I will think about the other problems. They will be waiting for me then."

His tone was casual, as though his problems merely amounted to trivial things and not something so severe as the murder of his wife. His eyes, however, spoke differently.

Peverell was beyond angry, beyond compromise, and that did not bode well for any that he thought of as his foe.

With the death of Narcissa, something had changed within the man, and Arcturus did not envy those in which his ire was aimed at, the cold look he wore promising them nothing but misery and suffering.

(Break)

"How are you settling in?" Charlus asked the young woman as she joined him and Dorea at the breakfast table.

"Well, considering my house has been burnt down and my father will be sent to Azkaban if Peverell doesn't choose to kill him, everything is great," Cara returned sarcastically.

Charlus released a deep breath.

He understood the woman was upset, but she had been granted mercy. Had she known her father was in leagues with the Dark Lord or had knowledge of the things he had done, Harry would have killed her.

"Harry is a man of his word," Dorea replied. "You need only be here temporarily, and then you can start your life anew with your family fortune."

Cara nodded.

She was furious with her father for what he had been doing and his attempt to kill Narcissa's baby, but more than anything, she was hurt.

Evan Rosier had once been a good man, a doting and loving father. That had all changed when her mother had died. Cara looked just like her, and the sight of her provoked a sadness within her father.

He took to drinking more often and refusing to see her, leaving the care of the then young girl to a maid he had hired.

She had never wanted for anything, but all the material things in the world could not fill the void her mother's death left behind nor the neglect of her father.

Throughout her younger years, Cara had believed he blamed her for her mother's passing, and it wasn't until she had grown older that she understood that wasn't so. It was because she was just like her, in looks and her mannerisms.

Even when she had attended Hogwarts, she felt that her father believed her a disappointment, unworthy of carrying his name and had set out to prove him wrong. Despite her best efforts and her achievements, nothing had changed. Only him, from the once caring man he had been to the cold, soulless monster she knew he had become.

To join the Dark Lord was one thing, but to attempt to murder a child was nothing short of unforgivable.

In truth, she knew she should be grateful that Peverell would see him sent to Azkaban, but it felt like a small mercy.

The only thing she was grateful for was that the mysterious lord had allowed her to pack and take her mother's belongings before he had torched the home.

He was immovable in his decision of the latter.

"I don't care about the gold," she muttered unhappily.

The Lord Potter gave her a look of sympathy.

"We do feel for you," he offered sincerely. "This war has taken much from many and we hope that it will be brought to an end soon."

"As do I," Cara agreed. "Do you think I'll be able to speak to Cissy? I need her to know that I was not involved in any of this."

"I'm sure that can be arranged," Dorea comforted.

Cara nodded gratefully.

She was not so keen on her cousin's husband, but her and Cissy had always gotten along, and she did not want what her father had tried to do come between them.

Cara was already alone enough in this world and did not want for one of the very few people she'd had growing up thinking badly of her.

"I will send a message to Harry," Charlus offered. "I can't see any reason to why he would be opposed to it."

Cara smiled at the man.

The Potters had been kind to her, though she was under no illusion that she was free to leave as and when she pleased.

She was a prisoner here of Lord Peverell, but as far as prisons went, this one wasn't so bad.

The alternative would certainly have been much worse.

Peverell had been honest with what he intended to do, and as she ate her breakfast, she wondered if her father had any regrets over the way her had treated her over the years.

She shook her head.

Cara had her doubts. When Evan Rosier looked at her, he didn't see his daughter, but the wife he had lost so long ago.

People would judge him for what he had done, Cara did too, but she would not deny that he had loved her mother, had all but worshipped the ground she walked on.

She would not forget, however, that Evan Rosier had not found that same love for his daughter.

She had endured too much heartache and sadness for that, but she did not wish him ill and hoped that Peverell would prove to be a man of his word to allow her father to live.

Even if it was in the company of the dementors of Azkaban.

(Break)

Edgar didn't know what to expect when he saw Narcissa again. He had witnessed her demise, seen the light leave her eyes as the curse had struck her down, and yet, here she was sitting opposite him, eating a meal.

The week without word from Harry had been trying, his mind having wandered to the very same dark places it had with the passing of his father.

Did Harry blame him for what had happened? Could he have done more to prevent Narcissa's death?

These were only two of the many questions that he had repeatedly asked himself and could find no answer to.

Even when Harry had come to him, had explained that all was not as it seemed, Edgar dared not believe it, not until he saw the woman herself as she arrived this evening.

She appeared to be fine, a little quieter than usual but she did not seem harmed by what she had been through. Edgar took that as a good sign, it was Harry's demeanour that concerned him.

Even as he merely ate, his eyes would flash white, and the Lord Bones could only guess what the man was thinking.

Nothing good, he decided.

Whatever Harry was pondering would end badly for someone, and Edgar found he had no sympathy for them. For what the Dark Lord, Bellatrix and any other Death Eater had done to him, they deserved what was coming to them.

"How many attacks has there been in the last week?" Harry asked suddenly.

Edgar shook his head morosely.

"Every night since," he replied. "Sometimes two or three. They run from the Ministry. They have no interest in fighting those that will meet them with equal force."

"Cowards," Ellie muttered.

Harry nodded.

"There doesn't appear to be any progress being made," he huffed. "They attack, they flee. It will never end unless something is being done about it."

"It is," Edgar whispered conspiratorially, checking to ensure that Amelia was not listening in. "Millie told me that they're now carrying out raids on suspected Death Eaters. They have a few in the cells, but they're keeping it hushed for now."

Harry nodded thoughtfully.

"I suppose that is something."

It's better than nothing," Edgar sighed. "At least it keeps a few of them off the streets."

"But there are more than a few of them," Narcissa commented.

"There are," Edgar mumbled. "Are you…?"

"I'm okay, Edgar," Narcissa assured him with an unconvincing smile.

"How will you explain what happened?" Ellie pressed. "The world knows that you were…you know."

"We are going to keep it quiet for now," Narcissa answered, "until the right moment."

Even Harry shot his wife a questioning look at her statement, but she did not elaborate further, and Edgar returned to his meal.

He was pleased that Narcissa was indeed alive and seemingly well, but he could not help but think that she had not come to terms with what had happened.

How could she?

How could she accept the fact that her own sister had murdered her in cold blood?

Edgar did not see how, but if there was anyone that could help her through it, it was Harry.

She may not be ready to admit it, but she would need him in the coming days, weeks and even months whilst she dealt with the trauma, just as much as he would need her.

Edgar would never forget the look of utter devastation that adorned his friend's features when he saw the lifeless body of his wife.

Had he not found a way to bring her back, Edgar Bones doubted there would be a thing that could stop him exacting his revenge upon the world for its cruelty.

Even with her here, Harry seemed intent on such, and he would not be the one to stand in his way.

(Break)

As predicted by Harry Peverell, dark days had returned indeed. Albus was not foolish enough to believe that Tom would have given up at the first sign of adversity, the defeat in Hogsmeade proving to be little more than a setback for his former student.

But he had returned, had sought his revenge against Harry and had succeeded. His ploy had been cruel, forcing Harry to choose between the life of his wife or that of his daughter.

Although everything had been done to save them both, the combined efforts of those that went to aide him, had been to no avail.

Ever since that fateful night, Tom had simply picked up where he had left off before he and Harry had fought in Hogsmeade.

The Dark Lord and his followers had grown bold, had been attacking more frequently and with the same malevolence they had come to be known for.

It pained Albus to admit it, but with Harry out of the equation, they showed no concern of those that still opposed them. The increase in attacks attesting to that very sentiment.

Through it all, it was the death of Lord Peverell's wife that occupied the headmaster's mind.

Narcissa had been a fine student and had grown into a fine woman. Her demise saddened him greatly, but it was the eventual reaction of Harry that held the sense of foreboding.

Albus would not profess to know the man intimately, but he prided himself on being an excellent judge of character. The Lord Peverell was a quiet man for the most part, observant, and brilliant in his own way.

What went hand in hand with his thoughtful nature, however, was just how dangerous he could be.

The headmaster had met many dangerous men over the years; those he had overseen the trials of in his capacity as Chief Warlock, and even associates of his. Gellert had been such a man, and Harry Peverell was cut from the very same cloth as his former friend.

What worried Albus about the ominous lord was that he did not know him well enough to judge what reaction to expect.

Nothing had been heard from him these past days, and Harry was a broody type. He would play over in his mind what had happened endlessly, and something would have to give. One did not simply emerge on the other side of such a tragedy unchanged.

Tom and his followers may be feeling rather bold now, but would they still feel the same when Harry unleashed whatever he would upon them?

Albus had his doubts, and the only thing he was certain of was that a reaction from the Peverell lord would come. He just didn't know when or how.

He was pulled from his thoughts as his fireplace flared green and the face of Minister Bagnold swam into view.

"Has something happened, Millicent?" he asked.

"There has been a development, one that I would like your assistance with. Could you come through, Albus?"

The headmaster nodded as he stood.

Millicent was not one to bother him with trivial things so it must be a pressing matter for her to call upon him for assistance.

"I will come through now."

"Thank you," she replied and vanished, awaiting his arrival in her office.

With no need to leave her waiting, Dumbledore stepped through the fire and into Ministry where he was greeted by the sight of the woman he had been conversing with and the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

Pushing thoughts of the suspicions he held of his son, Albus greeted him with a bow.

"Barty, it has been some time since I saw you."

"It has," Crouch agreed. "We are busier than ever and find ourselves stumped by our latest problem."

Seeing that the man was not going to explain further, Albus turned his attention to the Minister.

"You will not be aware of this, but we have been conducting raids of those we suspect of supporting the Dark Lord."

Albus did not know that and was taken aback by the productive approach the Ministry were taking.

"I see," he replied, prompting the Minister to expand.

"Thus far, we have a few in custody that we are certain are part of this and will look to bring them to trial. There is, however, a minor snag and we hoped you would be able to offer some insight for us."

"If I can be of assistance, I will be glad to try, but what is the nature of this snag?"

"This," Crouch interjected, showing Dumbledore a piece of parchment, he had been holding.

"It is his mark," Albus commented with a frown.

It was the very same one that had been illuminating the sky these past months, signifying an attack sight. This one was neither bright nor emerald, but a dull black and unmoving.

"We know that," Crouch huffed irritably. "Perhaps we should show you and you can see for yourself what we mean."

As was his way, the man did not wait for a response and exited the office, followed by a bemused Dumbledore and severe Minister.

They walked in silence until they reached what Albus recognised as one of the holding cells where prisoners were kept before being transported to Azkaban.

With a wave of his wand, Barty unlocked it, entered and gestured for Dumbledore and the Minister to do the same.

Within the small room, Dumbledore was met by the gaze of a former student, one he had never been fond of. There had been many incidents that this man had been linked to during his schooling, but there had never been any proof of his involvement.

Albert Jugson had graduated more than a decade ago, and Albus had not been sorry to see the back of him.

"We brought in Jugson here as part of one of our investigations," Bagnold explained. "He has refused to speak, but his movements tie in with the Death Eater attacks. What is curious is that the mark of the Dark Lord seems to have been enchanted into the flesh of his forearm."

The mark in question stood prominently on the inner-left forearm of the man as it did on the parchment Barty had shown him. The key difference was, however, the mark in the flesh was not dormant. It moved and was seemingly alive in some way.

"We can't make heads nor tails of it," Barty muttered. "It is a magic that we cannot decipher. I suspect it was cast using a rare language."

Albus would not dispute the deduction. He had no doubt that Tom had used parseltongue to create this.

The fact that Crouch could not decipher it would be quite the sore point for the man. He had spent much of his life perfecting over 200 hundred languages, but this was one that would elude him.

"Do you have any idea of it's purpose?" he asked.

Millicent shook her head.

"We thought that it is perhaps a form of communication between those that carry it, but we cannot be sure. Without knowing the magic, we would only be speculating. We asked you here for your thoughts on the matter.

Dumbledore hummed as he took in the Dark Mark. It was a rather brilliant if not unsightly piece of magic, but that was neither here nor there. He needed to decide how much he wished to divulge to Millicent and Barty, especially the latter.

Harry Peverell had all but assured him his son was a Death Eater, and though Dumbledore did not wish to believe it, the man was seldom wrong.

Seeing no other choice and with the status of the Peverell lord currently unknown, he knew he needed to be forthcoming with them. They were doing all they could to put an end to the conflict and this could prove to be quite the pivotal breakthrough.

"The language is parseltongue," he informed them. "The Dark Lord is a direct descendant of Salazar Slytherin."

Jugson laughed heartily and the two Ministry representatives were stunned by the revelation.

"How did you come to know this?" Crouch demanded.

"He is a former of student of mine, before both your times at Hogwarts," Albus explained. "His name is Tom Riddle. He is the son of Merope Gaunt and a local muggle she became infatuated with."

Jugson laughter had ceased, his features twisted in fury as he lunged for the headmaster.

Barty, however, proved why he was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement.

Even before Jugson had left his seat, Crouch had snatched him up by the throat and slammed him into the wall.

"Anymore of that from you, I'll lock you in with a group of muggleborns and tell them exactly what you are," he warned.

The Death Eater glared at Dumbledore.

"You're a filthy liar," he seethed.

"What do I have to gain from such a fabrication?" Albus returned. "I taught him myself."

"That doesn't matter," Crouch huffed, pushing Jugson back on to the bench he had been seated on before his attempt to attack the headmaster. "What matters is putting a stop to him. What would you suggest, Dumbledore?"

Albus sighed knowing that there was only one other person who perhaps knew Tom better than he did.

"The only suggestion I have would be to consult Lord Peverell on this. He has a very sharp mind and if there is any that can help us with this, it would be him."

Jugson laughed again.

"Peverell is finished. Bellatrix saw to that when she offed his wife."

This time, Barty lost his temper with the man and struck him with the back of his hand.

"So much for preserving purebloods," he muttered. "Your master doesn't care about the blood that flows through your veins. It makes sense really knowing that he is not one himself."

Jugson merely glared at Crouch, allow the trail of blood that seeped from his nose to continue doing so.

"Why Peverell?" he asked Dumbledore.

"I do not know if it will count for anything, but the Peverell line is the closest remaining to the Slytherin one. Harry and Tom are related by blood, so if anyone has any hope of understanding it other than the Dark Lord, it would be him."

"But Peverell has not been heard from since…" Millicent replied.

"I know," Dumbledore mumbled. "I will attempt to contact him in the morning in the hope that he will assist us. This is important, after all, and Harry will want to see this through to the end. If only for Narcissa and his parents."

"His parents?" Barty asked.

Dumbledore nodded.

"Tom murdered his parents when Harry was still only a babe. He has made it his life goal to put an end to him."

"And what about Peverell?" Millicent asked. "With the death of his wife, can he be trusted to act by the book?"

Dumbledore chuckled.

"You forget, Millicent, that this is no longer only a Ministry battle. This is a war amongst the families and Harry will have the support of the majority of the Wizengamot to pursue what justice he deems fit against Bellatrix and the Dark Lord."

Millicent released a deep breath.

The old laws of magical Britain were archaic, but it was unlikely they would ever be repealed. They were a safeguard for purebloods who found themselves targeted by others, implemented and kept in place to ensure they would not be prosecuted by the Ministry for carrying out suitable justice, so long as it was deemed so by their peers.

"This is going to get messy, isn't it?" she asked.

"Undoubtedly," Crouch agreed.

(Break)

It was late in the evening when Arcturus arrived at Grimmauld Place, his mind having been made up on the steps he would take against his granddaughter. Even Melania could find no disagreement to his intentions, and that was all it took for the decision to be made.

Within the next moments, Bellatrix would never be able to refer to herself as Black or ever having been one. Her crimes against the family were unforgivable and casting her out was his only option.

It would not undo what she had done, but it would show the world his disgust towards her and was a strong statement to the rest of the Blacks that may be considering supporting the Dark Lord.

Arcturus's stance would be officially known, and those that defied his wishes would suffer the harshest of punishments.

"Father? What are you doing here?" Orion asked as he entered the drawing room in which Arcturus arrived in.

"I am here to carry out some business with the tapestry," the Black Patriarch explained.

"So, you have made your decision?"

Arcturus nodded.

"She must be removed. I will not tolerate her association with us."

"I am in agreement with you," Orion sighed. "Our history, as sordid as it is, speaks nothing of the sort of what Bellatrix has done. You must act, and you have my support."

Arcturus offered his eldest son a grateful before leaving the room.

Orion followed him two floors up to where the family tapestry filled the expanse of two walls in another drawing room, this one seldom used.

For a moment, Arcturus gazed at the family tree.

He was proud of his heritage, proud of the name he carried and more so that there were few blemishes to be seen.

Andromeda had of course been removed for her own transgressions, but she had been the first in more than a century.

The Blacks were raised to respect the morals of the family, have pride in what they were, but Bellatrix had proven to be nothing of the sort.

She was no Black at heart and would no longer be by any means soon enough.

"What is going on?" Walburga demanded from the doorway, evidently having heard the two men moving around the house.

"Nothing to concern yourself with," Arcturus bit back.

Walburga leered at him, her face illuminated by the tip of her wand.

"When you are in my home, it is my concern," she returned.

"Go back to bed," Orion commanded.

"And allow him to remove the only member of our family worth anything? I don't think so."

"Crucio!"

The spell left Arcturus's wand before Walburga could react and the woman collapsed to the floor, the sounds of her screaming reverberating off the walls.

The Lord Black's patience had been sorely tested this past week, his mind awash with a plethora of emotions, and he had finally snapped.

He would not be questioned by the likes of Walburga, nor would he allow her to attempt to justify what Bellatrix had done.

He released the woman from his curse a moment later, needing her to heed the next words he spoke.

"Bellatrix is gone, and you will be too if I get even a whiff of treachery from you. Do you understand?"

Walburga glared at him, but it was Orion that intervened with an uncharacteristic venom to his tone.

"You will answer the Lord of our family," he hissed. "There will be no more foolish talk of aligning us with the Dark Lord, there will be no more grooming Regulus to follow him, and there will be no more mention of Bellatrix in this house. So help me, I will put a stop to you myself if you push your luck."

Walburga was taken aback by the demeanour of her usually pliant and cool husband, her eyes wide as though she was seeing him for the first time.

"Well?" Orion demanded.

"So be it," Walburga muttered as she pushed herself to her feet on trembling legs. "You will be the ruin of this family," she spat before limping from the room.

Orion glared at the door for a moment after it had been slammed shut and was pulled from his thoughts by his father.

"I knew you had it in there somewhere," Arcturus commented.

"I am a Black," Orion replied simply. "Now, should we be done with this?"

Arcturus nodded and turned towards the family tree once more and to where Bellatrix had been added by the Black magic.

"Goodbye, Bellatrix," he muttered, burning her name and face from the tapestry.

(Break)

Those that frequented Knockturn Alley did not tend to be early risers, so when Abraxus arrived shortly after breakfast, there were few to be seen. Still, he obscured his features within his robes, the clandestine nature of his approach necessary for what he was doing.

For the entire day prior, the diary had ben weighing heavily upon him, a weight that only increased with each passing moment, the urge to write within the pages growing only stronger.

Whatever the magic it contained within was of the wickedest kind.

Even as he slept, Abraxus had dreamt of it, had heard a rather compelling voice encouraging him to accept it as part of himself, to let it in to his mind.

He had woken suddenly and dared not sleep again.

There was something very wrong with it, the Malfoy lord could feel it attempting to take hold of him, to have him submit to it.

Thus, he had left his home the moment he knew Borgin would be open. He needed knowledge of what this was and to be rid of it at the earliest possible opportunity.

The journal was unsettling and only became more so.

Giving a final cursory glance as he reached to dingy shop to ensure he had not been followed, he entered, the sound of the bell alerting the owner to his presence.

"Who's there?" Borgin demanded in the very same charmless he always had when someone dared enter his establishment.

Were manners and decorum a necessity for success, the man's business would have failed years ago.

"I have come to seek your expertise in what has become quite the delicate matter," Abraxus replied, revealing his identity to the oily-haired and slouching man.

Borgin nodded.

"Of course, what do you have?" he questioned with a frown.

Abraxus removed the diary and placed it on the counter between them. Borgin placed a pince-nez atop his nose and stared at it for a moment, his frown deepening as he muttered the name on the back.

"Where did you get this?"

"It was concealed with my own collection of objects. I can only assume it was put there by Lucius."

Borgin nodded thoughtfully before flicking his wand towards the door.

Several locks clicked and an obscuring charm blocked the inside from any potential watchers from the alley.

"What you have here is dangerous, Malfoy, more dangerous than anything else you own and if you're caught with this by the Ministry, you can kiss your own pampered arse goodbye," Borgin warned.

Abraxus had never seen this man react in such a way to any item that had been brought in by him, and some of those things had been worthy enough of an exceptionally long stint in Azkaban.

"What is it?" he asked worriedly.

"The book has been turned into a horcrux."

It was Abraxus's turn to frown. He had heard the term, perhaps from his own father whilst he studied with him, but he could not remember the details.

"A horcrux?"

Borgin nodded severely.

"It is something only the worst would create, an object that houses a soul piece of the creator. This isn't just dark magic, Malfoy, this is as dark as it gets. Even if someone is killed, they can be brought back if they have one of these," he explained, gesturing to the seemingly inane book.

"How does it work?"

"You planning on making one?" Borgin snapped.

"Of course not, you fool," Abraxus huffed. "I need to understand the significance of what it is."

"To the right person, it would be invaluable," Borgin returned with a shrug. "To me, you could empty your vault and I wouldn't take it off your hands."

Abraxus felt a sense of unease settle within him at the declaration.

Borgin would have sold his own grandmother for a meagre sum. If he had such an attitude towards what this book was, it must be much more than he initially thought.

"So, I should destroy it?"

Borgin nodded.

"Not only because of what it is, but because whom it belongs to."

"Riddle?"

"The only T. M. Riddle I knew worked here funnily enough. Typical pretty boy, charming smile, but he was an evil shit. Some strange things I heard about that one."

"What things?"

Borgin narrowed his eyes and seemingly thought twice about divulging anything further but released a deep breath.

"You were never here."

"Agreed," Abraxus replied.

"He came here asking for a job. I don't know why, he had the best NEWTs I had ever seen, but Caractus took him on. Me, I didn't trust him. There was something about the boy that didn't sit right with me, so I asked around."

"What did you learn?"

"The boy was related to the Gaunts, a parseltongue, and everything, except he didn't look like one of them. You remember old Marvolo? About as inbred as they come and ugly kids he had."

Abraxus nodded.

"Well, when I mentioned it to Caractus, he reminded of something we had obtained some years before; a necklace belonging to Slytherin himself. Old Marvolo would brag about the bloody thing when he came in, that and a ring. We didn't think much of it at first until we remembered the waif that brought it in. Ugly as sin she was, heavily pregnant and snatched at the ten galleons we offered for it. Must have been Marvolo's daughter. We didn't care at the time. We made a fortune from that piece."

"So, you think the Riddle boy was her son?"

"I'm getting to that," Borgin snapped, "but yes. Old Hepzibah brought the necklace to go with Hufflepuff's cup she owned. We tried to pry that from her many times, but she wouldn't budge. When we showed her the necklace, we couldn't turn down her offer. Now, when the boy started here, he got very friendly with the old girl. He would take some trinkets round to show her, and then she died. Quite a fishy way too."

"I remember," Abraxus mused aloud. "Poisoned by her own house-elf."

Borgin snorted.

"Funny that. Well, when she was dead, Tom didn't come back here, vanished over night he did, but they never found the necklace or her cup. I reckon he had them both from her."

Abraxus frowned.

"What happened to him?"

Borgin shrugged.

"I never heard from him again until now, but it raises some interesting questions, don't you think?"

"Such as?"

"This is speculation mind, but this type of thing doesn't turn up and neither do people claiming to be directly descended from a line like Slytherin's. There's only two people who have done that recently; the Peverell bloke and the Dark Lord."

Abraxus felt his stomach sink and he eyed the diary much more cautiously now.

"This isn't Peverell's style," he murmured.

"No, but I wouldn't put it past the little shit Riddle to do something like this, and the Dark Lord is claiming to be a relative."

Abraxus shook his head.

"No, the Dark Lord must be him," he whispered. "This is a piece of his soul."

Borgin cackled.

"Then he is worse than I thought. I'd like you to leave and take that thing with you. If he catches wind of this, we will both be dead before nightfall."

"What do I do with it?" Abraxus asked desperately.

Borgin shrugged once more.

"Destroy it or be rid of it, it's not my problem."

Abraxus nodded and carefully placed the diary back within his robes. He could not afford to allow this to fall into the wrong hands, but he had no desire to keep it.

He left the shop, more aware of those within the alley than he had been previously.

Would the Dark Lord know he possessed it? Was he able to connect with the soul piece to spy on him?

Abraxus knew not, but he could not be more relieved when a sudden spark of inspiration set in.

He knew just who would take this off his hands, and perhaps, the Malfoy lord could benefit from it.

After all, the Dark Lord did have enemies, and one in particular came to mind, one that had something Abraxus wanted.

(Break)

The mere presence of the mark on the man's arm mocked him. It had once filled Harry with dread during his formative years, the sight of it meaning only death and misery. Now, it filled him with unbridled rage and the urge to curse the sneer off Jugson's face almost proved too much to ignore.

"What do you make of it?" Bagnold asked nervously.

She was walking on eggshells around him, evidently concerned that only the wrong look would send him over the edge.

"It is a way to communicate," Harry confirmed quietly. "The magic is excellent, but not flawless."

"What do you mean?" Crouch pressed.

"Well, take Jugson here. He's feeling very smug and proud to carry this mark. Observe as I demonstrate the other capability of it."

Harry pressed the tip of his wand against it and hissed, eliciting a scream of agony from the detained Death Eater.

"You see, he has also made it into a way he can punish his subordinates. Quite ingenious really."

"Merlin, he is deranged," Bagnold muttered, her eyes fixed on the twitching form of Jugson. "Anything else?"

Harry shook his head.

"Nothing of note."

There wasn't. For all the flair and movement of the mark, it was rather basic, though impossible discern such if one was not versed in parseltongue. Tom probably concocted the spell in only a matter of minutes.

Harry found his investigation rather anticlimactic. He had expected there to be much more to the magic behind the feared symbol, but found it lacking. It was nothing more than a means of communication and punishment.

"Very well," Bagnold sighed, "so, we can glean nothing from it?"

"No, it is useless other than identifying other Death Eaters when they're brought in. The spell is unique to him and those that carry the mark have been given it by the Dark Lord."

"That is something, I suppose," Crouch murmured.

"We are grateful for your assistance, and my condolences for what happened to your wife. By all accounts, she was a fine woman," Bagnold offered.

"She was," Harry agreed.

"I must ask, however, Peverell," Crouch interjected, "what it is you intend on doing about what happened?"

The man was blunt, something Harry appreciated about him.

"Those responsible will pay in blood and suffering," he answered simply, "but all within the confines of the law," he added. "What happened to my Narcissa will not go unpunished, and no offense, but there are not enough years in a life that could be spent in Azkaban that would suffice. Bellatrix Lestrange and the Dark Lord will have their reckoning and it will be me that exacts that upon them."

Millicent had paled as he spoke, and Crouch simply nodded his understanding. He was well-versed in the law and knew that Harry was within his rights to do so.

Dumbledore, however, said nothing, choosing to remain silent on the matter.

He would never advocate for what Harry's intentions were, but he knew better than to speak out against them. If any had the right to act in such a way, it was Harry after what he had endured because of the pair.

"Ensure that it is," Crouch warned. "I do not relish the thought of my aurors being at odds with you, Peverell."

"I will give them no reason to be," Harry assured the man, "so long as they do not attempt to stand in my way where my affairs are concerned."

"They will be briefed on the matter."

"Then there is nothing more to say. If you will excuse me, I have other things to attend to."

As though Olin had read his mind, Harry vanished in a plume of smoke.

"Should we be concerned about him?" Bagnold asked.

"We would be foolish not to be," Crouch replied, "but he is no fool and he is not blinded by grief. He seeks recompense for what has happened, and I am all for letting him have it. If he can eliminate the Dark Lord on his own terms, it would go a long way in putting an end to this madness."

"Although I do not like the idea of him running rogue across Britain, I agree. From what we know and have seen, he is perhaps our best hope of being rid of the Dark Lord."

"Indeed," Dumbledore broke in. "Despite his rather cold countenance, he is at heart, a gentleman, and one I have come to respect. He is our greatest hope."

(Break)

It had been a number of days since she had been summoned by her master, the man having given her leave to gather herself after what had happened at St Mungo's. Bellatrix found she hadn't need such, the death of Narcissa little more than necessity to ensure Peverell knew that he was not untouchable.

Any grief she felt vanished knowing that her sister had betrayed her for her greatest enemy. What kind of sibling would do such a thing?

Bellatrix had washed her hands of Narcissa the day the engagement between her and Peverell had been announced. Killing her was nothing more than a means to an end.

"Ah, Bella," the Dark Lord greeted her in his usually pleasing way.

She had missed being in his presence, his charisma and scent alone enough to make her weak at the knees.

"My Lord," she returned, her tone sultry as she fell before him.

"I apologise for summoning you from your respite, but a rather urgent missive arrived for you. The owl was rather confused at not being able to enter grounds, so I retrieved it."

"A missive? From whom?"

"I will not pretend to know who you exchange letters with," Voldemort replied, handing her a sealed envelope.

The hand was a familiar one, though the penmanship was shaky, as though it had been scrawled in a rush.

Frowning, she broke the seal and removed the note.

Dear Bella,

I write to inform you of your grandfather's madness. Despite my best efforts, he has removed you from the family tree for your perceived slight against the family.

From last night, you may no longer count yourselves amongst us.

Rest assured, I will do all I can to have to reinstated, but for that, I fear Arcturus must die.

I eagerly await your response.

Walburga

This was a most unexpected development. Why would her grandfather do such a thing?

Bellatrix embodied the family values more than the rest, her loyalty and dedication to see the purebloods sit atop the world attesting to that.

"Bad news?" the Dark Lord asked.

Bellatrix shook her head.

"Nothing of importance, my lord. An issue with my former family."

"Ah, they did not take kindly to your actions?"

"They did not, but it doesn't matter. All will be well," she returned with a smile before taking her leave from the room.

Arcturus must die…

The words of her aunt played over in her mind and Bellatrix nodded.

How dare he do this to her?

She was not Andromeda who had run off with a filthy mudblood, nor was she Cissy who had married a traitor.

Bellatrix would show her grandfather the error of his ways. One way or the other, she would not let this stand.

(Break)

Since their return from within the veil, Narcissa had been quieter than usual, her energy invested in spending time with their daughter, but Harry was becoming concerned. His wife had never been so introverted, and he worried for her.

"Are you okay?" he asked tentatively.

Narcissa hummed as she continued feeding Helena, though she said nothing more until she stood a few moments later.

"She's ready for bed," she announced and swept from the room.

Harry released a deep sigh.

He was trying to be understanding, trying to be there for her, but he was at a loss as to what to do. It pained him to see her this way, and though he knew there was a lot to come to terms with, he knew that bottling up whatever she was feeling would not help.

Having lost his appetite, he began cleaning the table and Narcissa returned a few minutes later. Once more, she took her seat.

"I would have done that," she sighed.

"It's already done," Harry replied, gesturing to the washing up.

She nodded and Harry took the seat next to her.

"Cissy, I'm worried about you."

"I'm fine, Harry!" she snapped. "Sorry," she added apologetically.

Harry shook his head and took her hand.

"You don't have to be sorry," he comforted. "I just want you to talk to me. I want to help you."

Narcissa swallowed deeply as the first tear broke free.

"I'm hurt, and I'm angry and I don't know what else," she choked. "You should have told me everything before we were married."

"I should have," Harry agreed, "but would you have understood? Would you have been able to accept it?"

"I should have been given the chance!"

Harry nodded.

"You're right," he conceded. "I made a mistake, but I did what I thought was right. You know I'm not good at things like this."

"Bullshit," Narcissa countered. "You are very good at this, Harry; at being a father, at being a husband, all of this. Not a day goes by where I don't feel like the most special person in the world because of you, and Helena adores you too, so don't be stupid."

"You swore at me," Harry said dumbly.

Narcissa gave a watery chuckle.

"You deserved it."

"Probably," Harry agreed.

Narcissa released a deep breath.

"It's not that bothering me. It probably should, but I know I will get over it. I know the man you are, and if anything, I love you more for all the things you have been through and that you can be as sweet and loving as you are. You're a special person, Harry, and we are lucky to have you."

Her words warmed him, but when she spoke next, his blood ran cold.

"It is her that is playing on my mind."

"Bellatrix?"

Narcissa nodded.

"She took me from Helena, and from you. I can't let that go, Harry. I just can't. I knew she was unhinged, but I never thought she would do what she did to me, to you and our daughter."

"She will pay for it," Harry promised.

"She will," Narcissa murmured, "but it will be me she will face."

"Cissy…"

"NO!" Narcissa snapped, the glass of water next to her shattering and her eyes becoming wild. "It will be me that will deal with Bellatrix, and no one else."

The concern Harry felt was growing, the rage of his wife something he had never seen from her. It was palpable, and unnerving.

After a moment, she calmed somewhat and chuckled.

"I told you when we first met that this wasn't a side of me you wanted to see, but I am a Black. It seems as though Bellatrix has forgotten that."

"Where are you going?" Harry asked worriedly as Narcissa stood and made her way from the room.

"To prepare. You can either help me or bugger off. That's up to you."

Harry could only shake his head in disbelief.

"Bloody hell," he muttered as he stood and followed in the footsteps of his wife.