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Harry Potter and the Mouth of Hell

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Summary: The Ministry has fallen, and Harry and his friends are on the run. In a desperate attempt to stop Voldemort and find the remaining Horcruxes, the bedeviled trio is led to track down the help of the Slayer

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Harry Potter > General > ActionDavidBMorrisFR1320112,33179834,5177 Apr 1120 Sep 12Yes

Chapter 12

They had a pre-arranged meeting point before Faith and Harry had left for the motel, but due to their unscheduled 'pit stop', they didn't arrive until about half an hour after sunset. Buffy, who seemed to be more tightly wound with each successive obstacle, was not happy about this.

"I was beginning to wonder if they set another ambush," she told them.

"They did," Faith told her. "We stopped it. But you're right. Voldemort had to have an inkling what's going on now. He might just have been sending in his second-stringers before. He won't make the same mistake again."

"If he was, Sunnydale would be flooded with Death Eaters tonight," Ron countered. "The Dark Lord has never been big on subtlety."

"Still wouldn't rule it out," Harry countered. "Which means we need to get this done now and right." He took out the bag of magical gadgets they'd been hanging on to ever since their attack on the ministry. "Is Willow ready to move?"

"See that telephone over there?" Buffy pointed, before looking at her watch. ""In about two minutes, it's going to ring. On the third ring, Willow's going to cut the power for the block. She's done the calculation. We have maybe five minutes before the emergency power comes on. We have to use that opportunity to get inside and figure out where these goblets are."

"That takes care of the mechanics," Ron asks. "What about the magic?"

"That's going to be your department. Which is why you'll need this."

Buffy took out a device Harry couldn't identify --- black and bulky, nearly the size of a headband.

"What the hell is that?" Faith echoed his opinion.

"Electronic transmitter. Compliments of Xander's Halloween stint. It'll connect you with our Brain trust"---- Buffy's nickname for Hermione, Giles and Willow. "Willow's going to be tapping into the closed circuit feed. The three of them will hopefully be able to talk you and me through getting past whatever other obstacles they've got set up."

Faith frowned a little at this. "We even sure that there's going to be some kind of old black magic?" she asked. "Far as we know, nobody in town knows how important these are."

"No, but Voldemort does," Harry pointed out. "And he will have made some kind of fallback to protect the Horcrux. Hopefully, our friends will be able to get us through this."

Faith didn't say so, but Harry knew that this was a pretty big 'if'

"We have to do this fast and right, guys," Buffy told them. "There's no way we can get through this without causing a mess. Only thing we can do is limit the damage."

"Where's the fun in that?" Faith asked, before holding up her hand. "All right, I got it."

Buffy looked at her watch. "This is the cleanest method,"

Harry asked. "Waiting for the phone to ring?"

"Says the man who gets his information from owls," Buffy reminded him.

And at that moment, the phone began to ring.

"Show time." Buffy turned to them. "Like we discussed---- Ron, you and Faith are handling security. Harry, you're with me."

The time for arguing was past. Harry was a little surprised that he wasn't more nervous. Then again, he was starting to get used to both Slayers confidence that they could get things done.

Before the lights went out, he looked back at Faith, who tipped him another roguish wink as she ran off with Ron.

Those poor bastards guarding this place aren't going to know what hit them Harry thought as they ran to the path of least resistance. "Where's Angel going to meet us?"

"There's a manhole that leads into the adjoining pipeline," Buffy replied. "He said that he'd be handling the first of the guards."

A remark about how fitting it was for a rat like Angel to know the sewers so well crossed Harry's mind, but he clamped down on it. He realized the vampire was something of a blind spot for Buffy, and, at any rate, he was risking his safety to essentially do them a favor. Best not to bite the hand that feeds you ---- so to speak.

The block had been dark for less than a minute when Buffy stopped running. She held up her, and made a stay put motion. Harry hadn't realized that nocturnal vision came with the Slayer package.

She stayed still for a moment, then motioned Harry along. He was still adjusting his eyes to the darkness when he heard the sounds of punches connecting with muscle. Just from being around Faith, he knew enough to stay out of her way until the fighting was over. By his estimation, it took less than ten seconds for her to knock the guard unconscious.

"Little light would be nice," she whispered.

Harry cast the Lumos spell, and saw that Buffy was going through the guards pockets. A moment later, she found what she was looking for --- a small piece of plastic, rectangular in shape.

"This is where all those spy movies better pay off," Buffy said quietly.

Harry, whose TV exposure at the Dursleys was limited, didn't have a clue as to what she was talking about. He had no time to ask because it seemed like a dim light flickered, and he could see again. The back-up power had to have come on. It also meant their timetable had accelerated.

Buffy didn't seemed phased at all. She walked over to the doorway, looking for---- something. Apparently, she found it, for she slid the plastic through a similarly shaped slot. A red bulb turned green, and suddenly Harry realized what it was --- some kind of electronic key.

"Humanity. We bring good things to life," Buffy told them.

"Technically speaking, that was the easy part."

Despite everything that he had experienced over the last few years, it took a considerable amount of effort for Harry not to jump into the air. Even in the abrupt quiet, he still hadn't heard Angel approach. "You're saying that any part of this is easy?" he demanded instead

"Well, it's not going to be much fun," Buffy didn't seem particularly disturbed either. "In any case, you're on. Got your cloak with you?"

This part had been prearranged. Harry was going to be using his Invisibility Cloak to get around the cameras, while Angel would be going in to avoid the body heat sensors that the place was wired with. The cameras wouldn't see either of them, and the guards watching from somewhere else in the warehouse wouldn't be able to tell what was going on, until it was too late.

Hopefully.

Harry made sure the bulky contraption was attached to his ear before he donned the cloak. This was the one part of the plan that worried him. Usually the cloak covered up everything the wearer had on, but he didn't know how it would react to Muggle technology. At the very least, he wished the damn thing wasn't so hard to manage.

"Um, testing, testing---" he said awkward, never feeling less like a Muggle

There was a squeal of feedback loud enough for him to jump back. "Sorry about that, Harry," Willow said sheepishly. "But you're coming through fine."

"Do you have a picture of the inside?" he whispered.

"I've tapped into the feed," Willow replied. "It should be streaming in----and, we're live. Let's just hope you don't need that much help."

Harry hoped the same, but he wasn't betting on it.

"Be safe, and try not to take too long," Buffy was trying to look where Harry had been, but the cloak was giving her trouble, so finally she shifted her attention to Angel. "I realize the two may be exclusive, but still----"

"We'll be careful," Angel cut her off in a way that none of the Gryffindor would have dared use on either Slayer. This was the advantage of being undead and the Slayer's boyfriend, Harry guessed. "You do the same."

Buffy managed a smile before she walked away.

Angel opened the door, and made a gesture in Harry's direction. Even knowing everything he did about the vampire, it took a lot more effort than Harry thought to go in without looking behind him.

Hey, at least you're sure he can't see your neck. Harry didn't like this thought---- it was unusually childish--- then shrugged it off.

Considering all of the effort that they were making to break in, the interior of the warehouse was something of a disappointment. There were cameras in all four corners of the building, and there looked to be a lot of electronics on the wall, but it didn't look particularly difficult to get through.

Then Harry saw the number of the crates that were around, nailed or sealed shut---- and realized they had no idea where to start looking. Well, this is what the headpiece was for.

"Stupid question," he asked. "Do you see anything that resembles a set of goblets?"

There was a definite pause. "You didn't expect for them to just leave them out there, did you?" Hermione ended up asking. "Willow's going through the inventory as we speak."

"Dumber question: you really think that they're going to be labeled Hogwarts Cups, do you?"

There was a longer pause, during which Harry could definitely make out some loud whispering. Apparently, this hadn't occurred to the brain trust. But Harry decided to give them a break--- he had beaten their reasoning by all of one minute.

"We're working on it," Willow finally whispered.

Harry looked at the cameras. He knew that no human could see past the cloak. But he'd lived in the Muggle world, and he knew they could do some pretty marvelous things with cameras. And then there was the realization that even they couldn't see him, he was generating body heat.

He tried not to let nervous enter his voice. "Work faster," was all he could say.

Time seemed to stretch in a way it hadn't back at the motel. Harry was nevertheless surprised when he checked the clock and after just two minutes, Willow was back on the line. "According to the manifest, the material that was most recently transferred from the museum is located in a crate labeled A784."

Harry repeated the numbers to Angel, and they began to search the warehouse: Harry, the eastern side; Angel the west. The numbers were stamped very clearly on the boxes----- after all, the curators wanted to make this part easy. And after less than a minute, Angel found what he was looking for.

Unfortunately, they then ran into their second snag of the night. Harry took out a crystal, which Hermione had modified to detect any sign of magical energy. However, before it could do that, it paid for itself, when he moved in, and a series of red lines suddenly appeared surrounding the box.

"What the hell is that?" Harry demanded.

"Well, now we know how our parents taxes are being spent, " Willow replied.

"Excuse me?"

"Not having had a soldier share my head, I'm not a hundred percent certain, but I'm pretty sure that thee are some kind of modified electronic security. Touch one of those beams, and something pretty bad is going to happen." Willow replied him. "And since this is Sunnydale, bad could have connotations it wouldn't have in Fort Knox."

"Tell me that there's a way around this," Angel wanted to know.

"There is, but you're not going to like it much," Willow hesitated, then described the process.

Harry didn't know enough about the kind of movies that Buffy and her friends watched, but knowing that the plan came from one of them wouldn't have boosted his confidence. Angel had a better idea what Willow was talking about, and he still thought that it was crazy. Unfortunately, he also knew that it was probably the best way they had. "Let's get this over with," he told Harry. "And try not to set me on fire."

Biting down on an insolent urge that said he could do it if he wanted to anyway, Harry followed through. Casting a Reflexor spell at the exact locations using the crystals as his guide, in less than two minutes he had managed to redirect enough of the lasers so that there was a gap sizable enough for a man to crawl through.

As Angel prepared to crouch, Harry couldn't resist a parting shot: "Try not to set yourself on fire---- til you get the box through."

There was no reaction from the vampire.. Harry was beginning to think Angel went through his life with that broody scowl on his face.

Still, the vampire managed to get under the gap without even having to squeeze that hard. And he managed to lift up a crate that would have staggered three normal sized men.

Once Angel had it over his head, Harry carefully cast a Leviosa spell, and ever so carefully floated into the air, until he realized he had no idea where exactly was a good place to put it.

"Um, shouldn't you put it down?" Willow whispered.

"You mind telling me where?" Harry whispered, trying not to notice that for some reason, it was causing him a great deal of strain to keep this thing airborne.

He had to wait another long minute until Willow finally guided him to a small gap about ten feet from the way in. He finally managed to land it.

"Is there any sign of the enemy?" Angel demanded.

"Not yet, but don't let this prevent you from getting this done right," Willow replied.

Hermione had agreed with Willow that their entire purpose for doing this would be defeated if the museum guides knew what was missing. Therefore, they decided to do a variation on what they had done with the Horcrux that Umbridge had possessed. It was going to be a little more difficult, but Harry and Ron had thought that they could get it done.

So very carefully, he and Angel removed the lid, which gave them surprisingly little difficulty. Then, however, he saw why they'd had so much trouble with it. The crate was full of artifacts, most of them jeweled with silver and gold.

"Please tell me that somewhere in the electronic list, there is a picture of what we're looking for," Harry said into the earpiece.

At that moment, Hermione came on the line. "No, but we have the next thing," she told them. "Going through some of Mr. Giles' tomes, we located several illustrations of what the cup would look like. Go through the crate, and hold up whatever you find. I'll identify it through the camera."

There seemed something very reckless about this idea, but the constraints of time forced them to move forward regardless. They moved very swiftly through the case.

Fortunately, they needed no help eventually finding the thing. Unfortunately, it nearly spelled their doom.

After a couple of minutes, Harry eventually found little golden cup. It had a badger carved into it, and the symbol of Ravenclaw: the eagle. But just as Harry was picking it up, it grew hot, so warm so quickly, that he had to drop it in agony. Before it hit the ground, it split and became a shower of goblets. In a matter of seconds, they covered the floor; all identical, and the original impossible to discern.

"Oh, no," Hermione whispered in dismay.

"Don't say that," Harry said, still nursing his blistered fingers.

"They seem to have added Gemino and Flagrante Curses," Hermione replied. "Touch any of them, it will burn and replicate, but the copies are worthless. And if you keep handling the treasure----"

"I think we can pretty much forget about getting out of here unseen," Angel replied grimly.

"You're going to have a lot more to worry about than that," Willow got back on the line. "They found one of the guards Faith waylaid. Any minute the cops are going to be breaking down the door."

Harry looked at Angel. "I thought the police in this town were monumentally incompetent," he replied.

"You really want to stick around and find out?" Angel.

"I am not leaving without this cup," Harry repeated. "Willow, please tell me there's a way to work around this."

"First things first: get as far from the gold as you can," Willow demanded. "Let's not make a terrible situation worse."

Harry and Angel didn't need any second bidding. "How do we identify the cup?" she asked.

There was a very long pause, more than a minute. "Willow, we don't particularly want to---"

"Put Angel on the line," Willow told them in a forceful tone he hadn't associated with her.

Reluctantly, Harry removed his headpiece. If Angel was surprised to see it extending from nowhere, he kept it suppressed. He took it.

"Angel, I want you to find the fourth cup from your right, but I don't want you to try and grab it yet, " Willow ordered.

"Are you sure that's the Horcrux?" Harry demanded.

"Am I positive? No. But according to the thermal scan, it's the only one of those goblets that isn't generating heat."

"All right, but how do I get it without creating Midas' wet dream?" Angel asked.

"You ever see one of those mechanical cranes to win prizes at an arcade?" Willow asked. Both Angel and Harry's faces must have registered a blank, because she hurried on. "There's a long stick on the other side of the room. One of you is going to have to use it to try and grab one of the handles. Get as close as you can without grabbing any of the other cups."

"I'd better do it," Angel replied. Before Harry could put up any resistance, the vampire added. "I've got the steadier hands, and if I end up touching it, it's not going to hurt me as much as it would you."

Harry thought given enough time, he could probably levitate the Horcrux out without touching the others. However, Willow then added: "And, uh, not to put any additional pressure on you guys, but according to 911, the cops are less than five minutes out."

"Where the hell are Buffy and Faith?" Harry demanded. It was a valid question, considering he hadn't heard anything out of them since they had entered the building.

"You really want to end this night trying to explain to the Sunnydale PD what the hell we were doing here?" Willow whispered.

Angel's answer to the argument was to grab the claw and start looking for a position that gave him the cleanest opportunity to grab the Horcrux.

The next two minutes seemed to last half an hour. Angel finally decided on an appropriate crate on which to stand. Then with the artistry of a cat burglar, he managed to lower the staff until it was just above the handle.

There was a horrible moment when he accidentally banged the stick against its nearest neighbor, but apparently the Gemino curse only reacted to the touch of flesh. Finally, Angel managed to very gently dislodge the cup and hold it.

But before they could breathe a sigh of relief, they heard the very unwelcome sound of sirens.

"Oh crap," Willow whispered.

Angel's mind, however, was working a lot faster than Willow's. "Harry, put the cloak over you and run as fast as you can out the back door."

"What about you?" Harry's first concern was for the Horcrux, but as much as he disliked the vampire, he didn't particularly want him to end up in a holding cell with dawn approaching.

"I've got a plan. Granted, it's a very dangerous one, but it's still a plan," Angel told him. "Besides, it's not the cops I'm worried about."

"What are---"

"Go!" Angel ordered.

Reluctantly, Harry took off to the back. The last thing he saw before he left was Angel heading towards the copies of the fake goblets.

And then when he was outside, he realized they had a whole new set of problems.

The police were there, and they seemed to be in the process of establishing a blockade. Despite himself, Harry was worried until he remembered that the cops couldn't see him. Nevertheless, it took a surprising amount of willpower for him not to break into a run.

Instead, he very carefully slowed his pace, and walked around the barrier, trying to be even quieter than a mouse. He was therefore considerably alarmed when there was a buzz from what appeared to be three radios at once.

"We've got a problem at the front!" It was hard to tell over the buzzes, but the voices seemed to be panicked and in pain. "All units approach front but do not enter the building. I repeat---"

With a sense of real horror, Harry realized what Angel had to have done. By charging through the front with complete disregard for his own safety, the Gemino curse had probably flooding the front entrance. The police were now trying to enter, and making what could be a bad situation perhaps irreversible.

He tried not to think of the Muggle police being overwhelmed by a situation even working in this city couldn't have prepared them for. For an instant, he felt that they needed to do something before the town was overrun with gold. And then he realized that this was another situation that was beyond his control. They had the goblet. Now they had to get out of here.. Everything else was not their problem. Besides, the dispersal of the cops in that direction made it a lot easier for him to make his way through the police tape.

Slowly, he finished getting around the tape and through the other side. He was just beginning to think that the worst might be over when he heard a new voice. "Come out, come out, wherever you are."

He froze dead in his tracks, trying to see where the speaker was coming from. Then he saw a red dot rise until it was nearly where his forehead was.

"Nice little trick that you've been pulling. What is it, some kind of invisibility spell?" The speaker chuckled. "Man, you wizards are worse than some of those vampires. You are aware that this is the twentieth century? Your spells and wands might have had us lost back in the day, but technology's come a long way since then."

Now two other red dots joined the first in the same area.

"I always wondered whether these invisibility spells stopped when the wizard did." Suddenly the voice grew a lot more serious. "Well, unless you reverse it by the time I count to three, we're going to find out."

That was not the voice of someone who bluffed.

"One---- two---- thr----"

Harry pulled down the hood of his invisibility cloak, trying as hard as he could not to let his hands shake. Buffy, Faith, where the hell are you?

"Shit, you're a damn teenager," There was amusement in his voice. "You're not going to spin me a tale that this is some kind of wizard fraternity prank, are you?"

Harry found his voice. "Why don't you come out and deal with me face to face, instead of hiding behind whatever weapons you're using?" he said loudly.

"Kid's got balls, I'll give you that,"

Harry had not thought that his challenger would come out and face him, so he was surprised when a few seconds later, a young black man in his twenties walked down the street and stood just about ten feet from him.

"And a kid who's caused this much trouble deserves to see the face of the vamp who's gonna ice him."

Without thinking, Harry removed his wand and called out "Incendio!"

He had just enough time to realize how stupid he'd been, how come he hadn't been shot at, and how come this vampire hadn't so much as flinched.

Then his flames touched the vampires sports coat---- and just died.

"See, the modern vampire has friends," the vampire continue, not looking even put out by what Harry had just tried to do, "and those friends go to, well, let's call them, very special tailors. This particular outfit is magic resistant. By all means, cast spells to your heart's content. "

Then the vampire's face shifted. "Not that I'm going to let you."

"That makes two of us."

What happened next was hard to visualize given the position Harry was in, but a moment the black vampire doubled over, and he saw that Buffy had chosen the perfect time to reenter.

The vampire was not flummoxed for long. "Her, you can shoot!"

Before Harry could realize that he was being trailed by the same people who had 'saved' him from the battalion of Death Eaters less than a week ago, the air was filled with gunshots. He had just enough time to get a Protego spell up before Buffy began her bobbing and weaving, apparently no more bother by the gunfire than a swarm of mosquitoes."

"We've never been properly introduced," Buffy replied. "You're Trick, the guy who put together Slayer-fest '98. I don't think I ever thanked you for sending a team of assassins after us!"

"Who do you think I have working with me now?" Trick replied coolly. "And believe me, I always come prepared for these kinds of dances."

"Run," Buffy ordered Harry.

It was definitely sensible advice, especially against what might well be an army of vampires privy to the world of magic, sniper teams, and God knew what else. But Harry could no more leave Buffy and Faith behind then they would've been able to. Not if he was capable of helping.

He tried to get a visual on whoever the hell was shooting at him, by casting a Lumos spell before he realized that these particular shooters could be well out of the line of sight. The spell did, however, do something useful. It revealed there were a lot more vampires than just Trick around.

Are the cops here really that blind? Harry had time to think before they swooped in on him.

Stupefy! The magic word was repeated three times. Harry had wondered where the hell Ron had been hiding until.

"Were you planning on waiting until they had their teeth in my neck?" Harry demanded.

"No, just until the cavalry arrived," Ron told him. "Speaking of which..."

Faith chose that moment to reappear with a stake in her hand, and do a complete turn in a half. "Bang," she staked the first stunned vampire, "Bang," she got the second, "and, did I mention, bang!" and there went the last one.

The snipers didn't seem the least bit alarmed by any of this, and retaliated by, once more, filling the air with gunfire. If anything, there seemed to be more of it then before. For the first time, Harry considered the possibility that maybe the police were the people shooting at them. He couldn't imagine any other force that could get away with this kind of shooting, even with the force field of blindness that seemed to surround all of Sunnydale.

"I think we should leave now!" Harry yelled at Ron and Faith.

Ron nodded enthusiastically at this idea, but Faith did not seem quite as disturbed by the chaos around them "I don't know about you, but I'm not going anywhere until I get some goddamn answers!" she told them.

Harry then looked at Trick and Buffy, who despite all the chaos around them, had not even glanced up from their personal grudge match. "And you think this vampire has them?" he demanded as he and his friends ducked behind a dumpster.

"This guy worked for Kakistos, and has already done some next level shit in the past two months," Faith told them. "But he's a number two guy. He didn't just show up here because of a break-in at a warehouse. Somebody's pulling his strings."

Buffy might be the number-one slayer in this town, but she was barely holding even with this Trick guy. Harry figured two Slayers would be enough to do him in, but that would actually be overkill for what they wanted. And if that anti-magic suit really was what was keeping him protected, knocking him down was going to be a problem.

Or was it? Harry had an idea of his own. In a matter of seconds, he spelled out the basics, and he knew he was becoming inured to the Sunnydale style of thinking, because Faith gave a wicked smile when she heard it. "Just watch where you aim," was her only contribution.

"You know, I gotta tell you , for all the talk I've heard, you've been kind of a disappointment," Trick was saying. "Probably going give me an upset stomach. Oh well, maybe your friend'll be more of a challenge---"

And at that moment, Harry and Ron cast two 'Reflecto' spells on the area just in front of the dumpster. The snipers, who hadn't even slowed their fire, hit the shield , and their last three rounds, went right into Trick, two in the stomach, one in the chest.

"Shit," Trick muttered before he hit the ground, "I'm going to be feeling this in the morning."

As Buffy had explained to them a few days earlier, bullets couldn't kill vampires, but they could still cause tremendous amount of pain. Before Trick managed to recover his strength, Faith was standing over him, poised to put the stake where it could do the most damage.

"I see anybody even trying to take potshots at any of my friends, and your boy becomes so much dust in the wind," she yelled.

"Watch... who you call... boy," Trick managed to get out.

"Not a good idea to get all PC with a Slayer prepared to put a stake through your heart," Faith told him. Now she spared a look for her fellow Slayer. "You OK, B?"

"I've had better nights," Buffy admitted. "Seeing him laid out flat is helping my mood. You sure he's worth keeping, you know, whole?"

"We've got questions. This guy can answer them," Faith said flatly.

"Then I think we'd better get the hell out of here before his friends regain their nerve," Buffy looked up to see Harry and Ron. "We get what we came for?"

"You see Angel?" Harry asked in turn.

Faith nodded. "Caught him tearing ass out of here, leading the cops on a merry chase. Said that he'd meet up with us back at his place later. Of course for him, late is our early."

"Whatever it is, I think we should be leaving before the, um, enemy regains his nerve," Ron pointed out. "Two of you can make it out of here, you know, carrying that?"

Faith's answer to this was to heave a man who was at least twice her body weight over her shoulder like she was carrying a backpack. "Any more dumb questions?" she asked.

"Just one," Buffy now sounded a little concerned again. "Can you keep a handle on him while getting through them?"

She then pointed to the end of the alley that the three of them had been hiding out in. Apparently, the enemy had taken advantage of the sniper fire to form a demonic barrier.

"They never learn, do they?" Faith replied. "Harry, would you and Ron mind watching our friend? Stupefy him if you have to."

She then threw Trick down so hard, it would've broken bones on a normal person. Harry wasn't sure that hadn't happened anyway, and frankly, wasn't that worried about it.

It was the sudden and rather too timely appearance of these vampires that bothered him. He had no doubt that the Slayers could reduce them to dust without any problems. And they had to know that they were marching into a suicide box. Something wasn't right.

"Ron," Harry turned to his best friend. "You smell a rat?"

"Pretty sure that it's gunpowder," Ron apparently had inherited his elder brothers tendency to make jokes about anything, "but yeah, something stinks about here."

Suddenly there was a loud pop. Just one. It could have been the sound of another gunshot, but Harry knew it was not. He waited for others, but the sudden silence was deafening. Apparently, Voldemort hadn't learned from what had happened to his last set of flunkies. Or maybe he had, and this was just a scout.

"You've caused a real mess for my master."

Harry knew that voice. Knew it all too well. And while even a week ago, staring down Bellatrix would have been a terrifying prospect, now she seemed far less frightening. Hell, maybe it was Faith's influence, but after everything that had happened already tonight, he felt up for a fight.

"So now it's you," Harry actually maintained complete calm when he turned around. "I never thought that the Dark Lord was such a slow learner. But then I never realized what a small fish he was before he came here."

"You will pay for your insolence," Bellatrix seemed less nervous at hearing him insult Voldemort then she had been the last time they'd met.

"A friend of mine ---- " in fact, it had been Buffy "told me once that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. Your Dark Lord has sent two squadrons to take care of me and my friends, and both times they were thoroughly demolished. Now if you really think that you alone can succeed where ten other Death Eaters failed, you're either an idiot or crazier than I thought."

He didn't expect the reaction he got from Bellatrix. "So you're claiming credit for bringing down the first assault?" Her laugh actually sounded more amused then deranged. "I wouldn't take credit for defeating such rank amateurs."

Harry was still waiting for another series of pops. Voldemort's forces always seemed to come en masse, so he thought that it was very likely they were waiting somewhere just out of reach. Maybe they were going to concentrate their attack on the Slayers.

His eyes flicked down towards Buffy and Faith. They were still dealing with the vampires (none of whom seemed as difficult as Trick had been), but there was no sign of wizards of any kind.

He looked back at Bellatrix, who still hadn't cast a spell of any kind, and who seemed utterly uninterested with what was happening at the other end of the alley. Was it possible that in her long captivity that she had forgotten what a Slayer was, and just saw them as another pair of Muggles not worth considering?

Still, Harry didn't believe for a minute that she was as detached as she appeared to be. But he realized something liberating. The last few days he'd seen so much darkness that now Bellatrix Lestrange seemed little more dangerous then Nearly Headless Nick He still wasn't sure if he could deliver a Killing Curse at her and mean it, but death at her hands scared him far less.

"Do you want to finish this Bellatrix?" he said coolly.

"The Master wants the privilege of handling you himself," she told him in about as level a tone as Harry thought that she could manage.

"In other words, he thinks you're expendable," Harry took out his wand. "and you know, I'm inclined to agree with him."

Bellatrix actually managed a smile at this. "Maybe I've underestimated you," she told them. "Maybe you're closer to the Heir Of Slytherin then we ever thought."

"You bloody coward," Ron had been remarkably quiet up until now, but this particular insult he would not answer. "Harry might have objections to handling you. I certainly don't."

"Your time will come Weasley," Now there was genuine amusement in Bellatrix's voice. "but not tonight. I didn't come here for you."

Harry tried to keep his face blank, but he was a little thrown by this. "Then why did you come to this particular alley?"

"Because she wanted to see her scrapbook. Memories of family are hard to find in this world."

It took Harry a moment to realize Bellatrix hadn't spoken, but the voice that had was so like hers that for a moment he was genuinely unsettled. However, it clearly unsettled Buffy, even from across the alley.

"This time the little lambs going to eat the lion." From the middle of the night came another familiar face, though this time Harry had only seen it in a vision.

"Look my child," Drusilla said to them. "Your great-aunts come home."
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