Faery Heroes

Response to Paladeus's challenge "Champions of Lilith". Harry, Hermione, and Luna get a chance to travel back in time and prevent the hell that England became under Voldemort's rule, and maybe line their pockets while they're at it. Lunar Harmony; plenty of innuendo, dark humor, some bashing included; manipulative!Dumbles; jerk!Snape; bad!Molly, Ron, Ginny

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/8233288/1/Faery-Heroes

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36. What is Justice?

"So… Not that I don't enjoy using the Room of Requirement as our private flat, but are you going to tell us what you need it for tonight?" Hermione asked her boyfriend as he paced in the familiar hallway.

Harry glanced up, not ceasing his movements. "Maybe you forgot, but you owe Luna for losing the bet about whether or not Crumple-Horned Snorkacks exist." The brunette mentally cursed. She remembered just fine, but for a few days she had held hope that the others hadn't. "Your only stipulation was that the forfeit not happen until she was physically fifteen, and guess what? The third of November is after her birthday."

"Fine, fine." Merlin damn it, why did Harry have to come up with something like this? Obviously Sirius was a bad influence this summer. "One belly dance, coming right up."

"Ah, ah, ah," Luna interjected with a wag of her finger. "Standard forfeit, Mione. That's seven nights of dancing and raunchy sex, not just one."

The door to the Room faded into view, and Harry opened the portal and waved them in with a flourish. Stepping inside, Hermione noted the stage in the middle of the space, the exact contents hidden behind a curtain, as well as two more doors set on either side, one bearing the letter 'H' and the other an 'L'. "Harry? What is this?"

"This is me claiming my bet." He smiled wickedly at the blonde. "If you'll recall, we had a wager going that Hermione couldn't finish two whole weeks without getting frustrated about having to redo a year's worth of homework."

"Oh, you are a conniving bastard," Luna said, her left eye twitching. There was no real heat in her voice, however; they all knew that she enjoyed playing dress-up the most of the three.

"I'll have you know that my parents were happily married, thank you very much." He shooed them towards their doors. "Hermione, there's a bell in your changing room that will ring when Luna and I are ready for you. Just wait quietly until then, if you don't mind."

"Too late for that." She stalked into her room and glared at the silver instrument hanging innocently on the wall. Not for the first time did she wish that the rules of their little game allowed them to spend one of their 'prizes' to offset another. Not that it would matter much now, she thought as she walked over to a low table and opened the single box sitting on it. Even if we could, I owe Luna while she owes— "Oh, you have got to be kidding."

The 'clothes' inside the container were barely worth the title. Huffing, the brunette reached inside the box and removed the billowing harem pants. She stared with undisguised irritation at the hand she could clearly see through the sheer red silk. Why do I agree to do this, again? Oh, yes, because Luna said it would be fun.

All right, and it kind of is, she admitted, pulling her school uniform off and shimmying into the costume. I'd never wear anything like this of my own volition, and there's absolutely no way I would ever let myself be seen in public, but if it's just her and Harry, I can't say I really mind that much. I mean, before we came back in time they saw me completely naked on a daily basis; revealing outfits aren't any worse. A wide belt made from strings of fake galleons wrapped around her waist, then she tied on the bikini-like top composed of the same material as the pants. Examining herself in the mirror, she shrugged weakly. "Could be worse, I guess."

The bell chose that moment to ring, and she silenced it with a wave of her wand before setting her focus on top of her normal clothes. "May as well get this over with," she muttered. Opening the door and peering out, she gaped at the get-up Luna had been forced to don. "Yeah, definitely could be worse."

"I have no idea what to what you are referring," the blonde replied with a dainty sniff before crossing her arms under the solid bronze bra. "The breeze is quite comfortable."

Hermione could not help but snicker as she examined the long blue loincloth stretching between her girlfriend's legs. "I wouldn't expect that outfit to provide much insulation. Harry, now I understand why the third Star Wars movie was your favorite."

"Obviously, it was the final triumph of good over evil and had nothing at all to do with a half-naked Carrie Fisher," he denied. Reaching behind him, Harry brought out a bowl of pudding and placed it in Luna's hands. "It's not grapes, but it should work just fine."

The other girl paused mid-motion, a spoonful of steaming sponge cake about to enter her open mouth. "Huh?"

"You thought your forfeit was just dressing up? Oh, no. I get to spend seven nights like a sultan, one slave girl dancing for me while another feeds me." He grinned unrepentantly at their incredulous stares.

The blonde growling lightly as she possessively cradled the dessert in her arms brought a smile to Hermione's face. "I think she might disagree with that plan."

"Yes, I can see that." He sighed and drew their mutual lover to his side. "Split it?"

"…Fine."

"Excellent. Music, please." A steady drumbeat thrummed from the walls, and Harry gestured towards his fellow Lion. "If you need a little inspiration, the Room provided me with a spell that will let you dance even though you've never done it before."

She arched an eyebrow at him and stepped into the middle of the empty space, colored lights shining down on the floor and slowly revolving around her. Even if she were not worried about him overpowering the charm, it was ultimately unnecessary. While she had been hoping her lovers would forget this arrangement, that was no reason not to prepare for it, even if that required slipping inside the most wonderful room in Hogwarts and taking lessons she would probably never use again. If nothing else, it was something new, unlike their classwork.

And so, Hermione began to dance.

Harry and Luna both seemed to enjoy her undulations as they froze in amazement before settling back onto their puffy cushions, hunger of the more carnal sort burning brightly in their eyes. That was not to say that they did not try to satisfy their desire with mere food; Luna's visage took on a decidedly displeased cast whenever she offered the loaded spoon to her boyfriend, a look that disappeared again when it was her turn to enjoy the dessert. After several minutes of frenzied dancing, the empty bowl vanished and Harry leaned over to steal a last taste from the blonde's lips.

The brunette frowned, her movements slowing, as Harry's shirt and Luna's bra went sailing into the air. If they forget I'm here and just shag in front of me, so help me I'll—

"Mione, what are you still standing over there for?!"

just have to join them in the fun.

Harry frowned as he peered through the Omnioculars at the house. It was just two stories tall and the least sprawling of all the properties the trio had raided since they came back in time; a rather modest place, all told. No one would ever think that this pleasant-looking building with its brick exterior held one of the most brutal men living in Britain. "At least it will be a quick job."

"It's just getting in that's the problem," Luna countered. "Winky's been watching for the past two weeks, and she said MacNair stays cooped inside all weekend long."

"Getting pissed?" he asked hopefully. A drunk enemy was far less dangerous than a sober one. Normally, anyway; he had only made the mistake of fighting Amycus Carrow after a weekend bender once.

The blonde shrugged. "We don't know. With that house-elf ward up, she and Dobby can't actually sneak in and scope out the place. That's just what they've been able to tell after observing him from a distance."

"Wonderful. He probably only leaves the house to work at the Ministry, so the only time we can break in is the least convenient for us. Why can't Death Eaters just be polite and make it easy on us?"

"I'm still wondering why MacNair isn't with his friends in Azkaban," Hermione muttered. "Obviously he isn't rich, so how did he bribe the Wizengamot to accept the Imperius defense? An axe leaves very different marks than a cutting curse, too, so it isn't that he could claim he didn't hurt anyone. All his murders would have been readily identifiable."

Luna promptly offered, "Malfoy floated him a loan, I expect."

"You're probably right," he agreed, "but it could also be that he's clever enough to talk his way out of trouble. Cunning and vicious don't make for a good combination, at least not for us. I was hoping that we could continue relying on classic Pureblood stupidity."

"For some reason, I feel like I should be offended by that," remarked the lone Pureblood in their little family.

Hermione snorted. "First, you can't deny that the majority of Purebloods – even Neville, much as I like him – are oftentimes completely blind to solutions to their problems that are laid out right in front of them. I'll admit that by the end of Hogwarts, those of us who grew up in the Muggle world have generally picked up that bad habit as well, but it's much more prevalent in the wizarding-raised. Second, you're anything but a proud Pureblood. How else do you explain why we had so much trouble dragging you away from the telly this summer?"

The blonde stared at her with wide eyes. "Mione, your parents have Animal Planet. A whole station dedicated to Muggle magizoology! How could I not watch?!"

"It's not Muggle magi— You know what? Never mind. I don't even care anymore."

"About time you learned that trick. If it's not a matter of life or death, just let sleeping Grims lie," Harry said with a snicker.

"That isn't even a real phrase!"

"Is now," Luna giggled before she flopped onto the ground beside him. "What's the plan?"

"My casting still isn't up to snuff," he reluctantly admitted, "so the best thing to do would be wait another week or two. We could come out here one day in the afternoon, strip the house, then use a time-turner to slip back into school during the lunch period. I hate having to throw off our internal clocks like that, but I don't see much other choice unless we want to fight him in a straight duel."

"Let's avoid that." Hermione's eyes unfocused as she flipped through their schedules. "How about the twentieth?"

"It's a date."

A knock on his door drew Horace's attention from his cauldron, and he barely withheld a sigh as he heard the Malfoy brat hobbling into his private lab without waiting for his permission to enter. "Mr. Malfoy, what can I do for you at such a late hour?"

"It happened again, Professor!"

"Ah, yet another attack from your mysterious assailant." He cast a stasis charm over his half-brewed potion and finally looked at the boy before forcing himself not to laugh. Bright red boils stood out starkly against the prefect's pale skin while mucous bats stretched from his nose and fluttered idly above his head, likely exhausted from beating themselves against his face. Small bruises were scattered over his hands and arms, obviously the results of a stinging hex, and dark blue horns poked out of blond hair. A foul odor wafted to the man's nose and caused him to gag. "What is that?"

The boy grimaced. "Bowel-loosening hex."

"Great Merlin, that reeks. Don't you dare sit on any of my furniture." A deodorizing charm diminished the smell enough that he wouldn't immediately send his student away for fresh robes. "Did you even catch a glimpse at your attacker this time, or has he safely gotten away once again?"

"I don't think it was another Slytherin, Professor."

Horace perked up at that. Had Malfoy finally figured it out?

"I think it was Potter!"

No, obviously not. "And what would Mr. Potter have been doing hiding out around our common room, hmm?"

"He was waiting for me!" the boy screeched, puffing up like the peacocks Lucius had always been obsessed with. "He has an invisibility cloak; I saw it two years ago!"

"So if I went up to Gryffindor Tower and asked him about this, he wouldn't instantly deny any and all knowledge of this? He wouldn't be able to produce witnesses who saw him sitting in their common room while you were on patrol?" Horace sneered, the expression unnerving the younger Snake. "And if I went to the hospital wing or the other houses, I wouldn't find students who had suffered the exact same hexes you did? I wonder who they would point the finger at as their attacker."

"They're lying!"

"Do you think I'm blind?!" he roared in fury, Malfoy blanching in response to his sharp tone. "I have heard all about the abuse you heap on your fellow students, and I am not pleased. Severus may have ignored your disgusting behavior, but trust me when I say that I will not. The only reason I haven't punished you yet is that your attacker has been doing a much better job at driving the consequences of your actions into your head than point losses or detentions ever could, and I, for one, applaud his or her effort."

"W-W-What?" the hooligan stuttered.

"You heard me." He stomped past the blond and ripped the door open. "A prefect is supposed to be above reproach, the best student his house can offer. You, Mr. Malfoy, are nothing more than a spoiled bully. Get out of my office."

"When my father hears about this—"

"Oooh, I quiver with fear." His threat ignored, the boy scurried out like a prideful mouse. Horace slammed the door shut and paced for several minutes before dropping into his chair. "Stupid, stupid, stupid. I should know better than to lose my temper like that, but oh how I've wanted to give that little shit a piece of my mind."

What Severus could have possibly been thinking when choosing Malfoy as the fifth-year prefect, he would never understand. The brat was anything but clever or cunning, just a brutish oaf who felt entitled to anything and everything around him. He demanded and demanded in a loud voice, and when he did not get what he wanted the minute he wanted it, he threw a tantrum reminiscent of a spoiled toddler. The foolish child couldn't even find the charm on the common room's entrance that was causing him so much grief.

Horace snorted. It's been there for over a month, probably placed before I retook this post, yet he still hasn't discovered it even though I noticed it not five minutes after he first came to me to complain about his dormmates ambushing him. It truly was a marvelous bit of magic, activating only when a second charm came in close proximity and raining the exact curses the boy used to torment the other houses. The head of Slytherin was not sure exactly where that other half was located, but it had to be something Malfoy carried on him constantly. His wand, perhaps?

Recalling what Minerva had told him about the spats between Harry and Malfoy throughout their years in the castle, he paused to truly consider his prefect's accusations. As Lily had recently reminded him, she had a penchant for cooking up deliciously ironic punishments for those who earned her ire, and had not he himself noted how much like her Harry was? It was certainly something to consider. Not that he would punish the other boy, not at all; should he locate evidence leading back to Lily's son, he simply planned to praise the boy for how sneaky and effective his retribution was and then make sure he knew how to cover his tracks better in the future.

Speaking of things to look into, he thought as he picked up the sheaf of parchment containing the grades and his own observations of his fifth- through seventh-years. His agreement with Albus meant that he could not change his prefects until after the winter holidays, but come spring term, neither Mr. Malfoy nor Miss Parkinson would have any authority. Perhaps Mr. Zabini and Miss Davis wouldn't mind taking on some additional responsibilities?

Lily was right; he should have worked harder against the monster Tom became. While those mistakes were in the unchangeable past, there was more he could do to stymie the bigotry running rampant among the Slytherins now, and by Merlin and Morgana, he was going to do it. Bullies would find themselves powerless; blood purists would discover that their words were unwelcome. It was time to clean house.

And the next time he saw his favorite student, he would be able to hold his head high.

Ron glanced up from his assignments at the sound of the portrait opening, his bad mood plummeting further as he saw Harry and Hermione entering the common room. His eyes immediately shot to the girl's misbuttoned shirt and heaving chest. "You know, that was more fun than I expected," she said in a breathless voice.

Harry nodded, wiping a bit of sweat off his forehead. "Well, leave it to Luna to get creative with our play. I don't think I could do that every night, though."

"Oh, certainly not."

The redhead's insides squirmed uncomfortably and his blood pounded in his head as he watched his 'best mate' walk off. Four years he had been at Harry's side; if it weren't for his help, the Boy-Who-Lived would have died years ago. Who stopped the troll? Who outplayed Flitwick's chess set? Whose car saved them from Hagrid's giant spiders? Who found out Sirius was innocent? Who saved Harry and the little Veela girl when they were drowning in the Black Lake? That was all Ronald Weasley, that's who! But this year, this year Harry dropped him like a sour potion to spend all his time with Hermione and bloody Loony Lovegood.

Ron snorted. He's just jealous, jealous that McGonagall made me prefect and not him.

Still, it wasn't fair. He had fancied Hermione since the Yule Ball last year, and Harry knew that. Merlin, even Hermione knew how he felt, but instead of being with him, she was shagging their mate. Why was it Harry who got to date two birds at the same time, even if one of them was a complete nutjob?

As if dating his girl wasn't bad enough, Harry was still held in high regards by the Quidditch team, even though they kicked him off earlier that year. Probably because they couldn't stand his new attitude, Ron thought viciously. I bet those rumors about Umbridge forcing him off the team were just made up to make sure he wouldn't look bad. He, on the other hand, had had one bad night with his broom acting wonky and his headache keeping him from playing his best during the tryouts, but Angelina had told him that he wasn't going to be Gryffindor's keeper, or even their reserve player. His own brothers wouldn't even back him up!

And that's not all, either. Slughorn's all 'Harry, you have your mother's talent' and 'Harry, this is the best potion I've ever seen' and 'Harry, can I please, please give you straight Outstandings for the year?', but he's giving me Poors and even Dreadfuls. Snape was a bloody git, but at least he was equally mean to everyone who wasn't a slimy Snake. Flitwick's the same way; the glamour charm was the first time this year that he's had even a single complaint about how Harry's been doing, and then he tells me that I'm too simple-minded to cast illusions! For crying out loud, McGonagall's treating Harry like he's the next coming of Merlin, talking about how detailed his transfigurations have been this year and how she's glad he's spending all his time with his nose in a bloody book.

That last one really stuck in his craw. The head of Gryffindor house had called him into her office just the previous week and lectured him on how he still hadn't turned in the essays she had assigned in October; she had even said she would take away his prefect badge if his grades stayed as low as they were. She didn't care that he had other things to do, like trounce that uppity little firsty in chess or argue with Dean about how his dumb Manchester football team would never be as good as the Chudley Cannons. And since when couldn't he take the younger kids' Fanged Frisbees and Ever-Bashing Boomerangs? They were against the rules, and he was allowed to confiscate them. Who cared what he did with them once the brats no longer had them?

It wasn't like Harry was much better; if he spent more than five minutes writing any of his papers, Ron would eat his chess board.

She just wants to give my badge to her new favorite student. That or she's tired of Roper being the girl's prefect and remembers that Hermione said she won't do it unless Harry was the boy's. It's not my fault that her second choice is worthless.

He sneered and looked back at the seven late essays he still had yet to start. If Hermione would just do them like she always had, he could get back to the important stuff, but she was too busy giving Harry everything he wanted. I bet she'd even snog Loony if he asked. Of course, that would be one way to shut the crazy bint up about her stupid made-up animals, he added with a mental laugh.

"Weasley? I think we need to start our patrol now."

Roper's squeaky voice dragged him back to the outside world. "Yeah, yeah, I'm coming." He stole a second glance at the short brunette, and an idea popped into his head. Harry's acting like he is because he's jealous of me, right? So if I get a bird of my own, he'll be even more jealous, and after a while not even the teachers would ignore his bad attitude. Then he's sure to realize that I'm the best friend he could ever have and come crawling back for forgiveness. Looking back to the girl, he said, "Hey, let's go to Hogsmeade together this Saturday."

"Um, er… I already have plans?" Roper replied before she scurried out the portrait hole.

The laughter of the students lounging around nearby caused him to flush up to his ears, and he stalked out into the hall as well. She's probably one of Harry's fangirls, anyway. I'll find some way to make him quit acting like Malfoy, and maybe then Hermione will figure out which boy she should really be with.

It was the flash of light from outside that caught Walden's attention. Setting his axe on the ground and the whetstone on the table, he rose and walked over to the window looking out onto his front lawn, only to find three people wearing black, Muggle-style clothes messing with his wards. An ugly grin grew as he realized what was happening. So these are the people who have been robbing good, proper Pureblood families and leaving that damn fox head picture on the walls, huh? I should have known they'd be Mudbloods. Good thing I took the afternoon off to finish my latest project, or I wouldn't be able to take care of them.

Drawing his six-inch wand and grabbing his weapon of choice, he moved onto the balcony overlooking the front door and waited. The protections on his house were relatively minor; it wouldn't take the thieves long to get through and enter the building, and then he would get the drop on them. The Dark Lord would be pleased when he brought back their broken bodies.

They wouldn't be dead, though, oh no. The Dark Lord wanted to torture and kill them personally for stealing the money he needed for his campaign.

A few minutes later, the door creaked open and the first of the Mudbloods entered. Unable to hold himself back any longer, he cast an organ-rotting curse and snarled when the criminal jumped to one side to avoid the jet of yellow light. The thief popped back up and retaliated with a grey bone-breaking hex, forcing Walden to duck so as to avoid having his skull shattered. The other two took advantage of the exchange to race inside and run to the opposite wall.

Well, that's just fine. I've always been an up-close-and-personal kind of guy, anyway. He spun in place, vanishing with a loud crack and reappearing right behind the leader of this little crew. His axe swung in a wide arc that would have cleaved the man's head from his shoulders if he hadn't Disapparated away as well. Sharp reflexes let him cast a shield charm behind him to block the blue spell aimed at his back. "Too slow!" he shouted, turning around and sneering at the red fox mask peering out from under the dark leather hood. They sure are nursing a semi for those beasts, aren't they?

A low snort came from the thief, and he retorted in a metallic voice, "Too stupid." His pale wand fired a blasting curse into the ground between them, throwing up a cloud of dust and cobblestone shards aimed at Walden's face. A shield charm prevented them from ripping through him like he was Swiss cheese, but it also forced him to dodge the scarlet and lime spells that came from the two remaining bandits.

Walden Apparated to their side of the room, but his attempt to flank the pair was pointless. As soon as he appeared, they each launched a spell before vanishing as well. "Bugger, they're gone," he muttered as he shouldered his axe and dropped his Protego. "I wanted to take them to the Dark Lord, too."

"Oh?" He whirled around and glared at the red-masked thief standing nonchalantly on the stairs. "What could Voldemort possibly want with us?"

"You don't ever say his name, you damn Mudblood!" Another curse left his wand, doing nothing but destroying his staircase. "And he wants you dead!"

One of the menaces – Walden thought it was the blue fox-man, but he was anything but sure – laughed, his tone higher than his red friend's. He was hidden well, though; no matter where the executioner looked, he couldn't find the thief. "I think we'd be better off not meeting with Moldy Shorts if that's the case."

Did… did he just call the Dark Lord 'Moldy Shorts'?

"You seem surprised," rang out a third voice that could only belong to the yellow thief. "We have plenty of other things to call him. Voldemonkey."

"The Dork Lord."

"VD-mort."

"Snake-face, always a classic."

"The Noseless One."

"He-Who-Must-Not-Sunbathe."

A pause, then, "Eh, too long, Blue."

"Sorry, Yellow. How about… You-No-Clue?"

"Better. The Dark Idiot."

"…I got nothing."

"Sectemsempra."

Burning pain suddenly ignited in his wrists, and Walden looked on in shock as both hands fell from his arms and blood spurted from the remaining stumps. Bereft of axe and wand and in too much agony to Apparate, he was undefended against the body-bind that hit him in the back. Leather boots faded into view inside his limited field of vision. "As I said, too stupid. Stupefy."

"I found MacNair's Gringotts key, though considering the state of everything else here, I don't know that we'll get much out of his vault."

"Copy that, Blue," Harry answered absently as he examined the chairs scattered about the Death Eater's sitting room. After raiding opulent manors for several months, this particular house was rather underwhelming. Secondhand furniture, tin eating utensils, no books or paintings; Voldemort certainly didn't pick MacNair to join his little club because of the money he could bring to the table. Probably it was due to him being such a vicious fighter, which makes me more glad than ever that Hermione and Luna know the ventriloquism charm. Without him putting all his attention into finding them, I would have had a much harder time sneaking up on him. If you have a sharp pair of eyes, noticing someone moving around while disillusioned is entirely possible; the Cloak is the only way to attain true invisibility.

"All right, this was mostly a waste of time. Let's pack it up and—"

"HARRY! LUNA!"

"Hermione!" The young man sprinted out of the room and swiftly transformed into a falcon to slow his dive off the balcony. Returning to his human shape just in time for his feet to hit the ground, he fell in step behind the blonde who had raced around the corner and past the staircase. Their panicked run led them through the small home to their mutual lover as she bent over, her mask in hand as she vomited profusely onto the floor. "Luna, stay with her!"

He did not bother looking back to see if the youngest of the trio was doing as he ordered, instead creating a bright ball of light above his left hand before charging through the dark doorway that had previously been hidden behind a removable wall panel, his wand brandished like a sword. The Lumos charm lit his path and revealed what had so drastically disturbed the brunette, stopping him in his tracks and causing his eyes to widen in horror. "Dear Merlin…"

"Harry? What's down there?!"

Swallowing harshly, he called back, "Luna, stay up there!"

"Don't you dare do something heroically stupid! If there's a trap, tell me so I can get you out!"

"It's not a trap! It's… it's… Just stay where you are. You don't want to see this." He shook his head in a futile attempt to make sense of the scene. This is why Voldemort wanted MacNair as a Death Eater. He sensed a fellow monster. "Is Hermione okay?"

There was a pause before Luna shouted, "She says she's doing fine, but she doesn't want me going down there either. What the hell did you two find?!"

His shock and abhorrence morphing into boundless rage, he grit his teeth and spun away from the gruesome sight. Stomping up the stairs, he stared at the blonde's fearful face and the brunette's wan one. "I'm now very, very glad I didn't immediately kill MacNair. It would have been far too quick. Hermione, go back and reattach his hands. Luna, do you remember the transfiguration you read about in Rookwood's book that you were telling me about?"

"We're going to cast it on MacNair?"

"Oh, yes." A dark, mirthless, furious grin split his lips behind the mask. "Then I'm going to wake him up so he can suffer through it."

"Harry, you're starting to scare me." Hermione leaned over to whisper in her ear for a moment, and Luna's eyes suddenly hardened. "Never mind. He deserves everything we'll give him and more."

Amelia Bones strode into the house of Walden MacNair, barely paying the now-customary Fox Head plastered on one wall more than a cursory glance. This was the seventh house 'Mr. Fox' had hit in the past few months, twelfth if she included the unmarked manors they recently discovered had been broken into. To make matters more complicated, each and every one of them had belonged to Death Eaters or their sympathizers. Which must be why he hit this house, even though MacNair wasn't rich like his other victims. That more than anything says that the money is a secondary consideration. What he really cares about is his vendetta. Dammit all, why can't he be just a plain old selfish thief? She turned to the ashen MLEP investigator beside her. "Where is Auror Shacklebolt?"

"He's in the back, ma'am. Thank Merlin it's not me down there," the man murmured. At her arched brow, he weakly offered, "It's… it's bad. I don't know who the guy was who got MacNair, but if we ever find him, I'm shaking his hand and buying him a pint."

Worry now warring with curiosity, Amelia dismissed the shaken man and eyed the shattered staircase before walking down the hall. Her subordinates weren't hard to find, their voices filled with anger and disbelief. "Report."

"Walden MacNair, executioner for the Department of Control of Magical Creatures, age 47. Marked Death Eater," the African wizard rumbled, his mouth twisted by a scowl. Her concern grew; in all the time he had worked for her, she had never known her best agent to get this worked up over a case. "He left the Ministry at noon on Monday and hasn't been seen since, at least not by anyone who's come forward. Magical Forensics estimate time of death to be between 24 and 48 hours ago, earlier more likely than later. I guess the killer broke in and wanted to play 'Who's the Darker Wizard?'."

"I know it must be difficult, but can we at least try to stay professional?"

He winced at her mild rebuke. "Sorry, ma'am. Cause of death was a transfiguration that turned his blood to mud over the course of several hours; the Maffies don't know when during the spell he actually expired. What they can tell us is that he was still alive and awake when Mr. Fox posed him for us."

"Posed?" She looked at the doorway in the wall, ever-burning candles brightening the foreboding stairwell. "Shack, what's down there that has everyone so disturbed?"

"I don't think words could do it justice, ma'am."

Squaring her shoulders, she marched down the stairs, doing her best to ignore the stench. MacNair was hanging from the wall and had been stripped to his waist, manacles clamped around his wrists while brown veins stood out starkly against his white skin. He was not alone, however; on either side were bodies that were just beginning to show evidence of rot. She could easily tell that the pair had been brutally tortured: the one on the left had had all of his skin peeled off while the other was covered in long, cauterized wounds, likely caused by any of the numerous pokers organized on the opposite side of the chamber above a cold fireplace. The second body had also had his eyes cut out, and both were missing their legs from mid-shin down so that even if they had managed to free themselves from their bindings, they would not have been able to run away.

While her eyes were taking all that in, Amelia's mind was stuck on the small size of the victims. Both of them were children.

"Riley places their ages between eight and ten," Shacklebolt said softly from behind her. "After so long, any magical signature would have long since faded away, but he and I agree that they were probably Muggles."

"Muggle or magical, they were still children," she snapped back, her anger cooling ever-so-slightly at his solemn nod. Her sight roved over to a stack of boxes covered by a conjured blanket at the far side of the room. The pink kittens gamboling on the blue background inexplicably filled her with dread. "Please tell me those aren't…"

The wizard sighed. "More bodies, all about the same age. Some were nothing more than skeletons. We went ahead and made coffins for all of them; figured it was the least we could do, that and giving them a proper burial. MacNair was at this for a decade at least, probably continuing something he had done when he followed You-Know-Who."

"Dear Merlin. Susan was afraid of him the first time she saw him waltzing about the Ministry; I should have paid more attention to her concerns." She shook her head. "Any signs of torture on him?"

"Besides the transfiguration, no."

"Pity." Shacklebolt looked up at her in surprise, to which she smiled grimly. "After finding this, just about anything could have been justified."

"Even lowering himself to MacNair's level?" the dark-skinned Auror asked.

She eyed him sternly. "You've been spending too much time around Dumbledore. There are some people who just need to die; MacNair was obviously one of them." At his grimace, she climbed the stairs, doing her best to ignore the urge to desecrate the Death Eater's body further. An unlucky curse during the War had robbed her of the ability to bear children of her own and made her extremely unsympathetic to anyone who would intentionally hurt them.

We already knew that Mr. Fox was going after Death Eaters, and now it's clear that he's not afraid to get his hands dirty. I had hoped that Julius Rookwood's death was accidental, an unfortunate reflex when the old man was throwing around Killing Curses, but I'm starting to doubt it. It's probably a good thing that he's done his best to hit properties when the occupants were elsewhere, otherwise I'd have a far harder time keeping this information in-house.

Amelia sighed deeply when she exited the chamber and the unraveling anti-Apparation jinx over the chamber of horrors. Appearing directly in her office, a privilege she had as a Department head but one she rarely used, she pulled a form from her desk drawer that would seal all cases related to the mystery thief, the information accessible only to herself along with Aurors Shacklebolt and Tonks as the primary investigators. She had to move quickly, before the Wizengamot caught wind of any rumors; the last thing she needed was the Heads of the Dark Houses putting pressure on her to imprison the vigilante who had clearly made it his mission to turn anyone who had ever supported Voldemort into penniless paupers.

I hate cases like this, she thought as she stamped the last bit of parchmentwork. On the one hand, I understand and completely agree with his motives. These animals need to face justice for the crimes they committed, both during the War and after. On the other, the law exists for a reason; there probably were people who were actually under the Imperius and therefore cannot be held accountable for their actions. Unless he's interrogating his targets – which he can't be if he strikes while they're out of their homes – there's no way he can know the difference. Justice without proof is nothing but persecution.

Hopefully we can find him and convince him of that before he does something we can't ignore.

 
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