AU. When Sirius and Remus go looking for Peter Pettigrew, they make a wrong turn and someone else finds him first. Eight years later, Sirius owns a book store and Remus manages it for him. When Harry stumbles into the store and they find out the truth, they decide it's time to be Stealing Harry. (SB/RL slash relationship in later chapters.)
Severus did not return for dinner that night, and Neville didn't, after all, come home with Andromeda. Instead, Ted took a basket of food to the Aurors who, with Snape, had set up camp above the hair salon across the street from Sandust, watching for Peter's return. Andromeda arrived home with an armful of hospital paperwork, and spent a significant amount of the evening filling in her name, her birthdate, her references, her economic status, and her intentions towards young Mr. Longbottom. His great-uncle had been almost relieved not to be burdened with a young child, but St. Mungo's wanted to make sure that the boy wasn't being taken willy-nilly like a picture book from the library.
"I'm sure I can steal Nymphadora's old tutor back from the LeVances, they don't know what he's worth anyhow," she said, as she shuffled papers. Remus, next to her, filled out the Black family tree for God-only-knew what purpose, with the help of an elderly book. "He'll have a proper education that will prepare him for Hogwarts. None of this pushing-off-piers business. His parents would be horrified, I'm sure."
"Be sure you put something in that short-answer question about taking him to see them on week-ends," Ted put in. "He told me while you were getting the papers that his gran takes him every Sunday."
"Morbid," Andromeda sniffed. "Scaring the poor child that way. Still, I suppose seeing the truth is better in the long run. I wonder if anyone's bothered to sit him down and explain it to him what's happened, or if they presume he somehow just knows. Really, people oughtn't to be allowed to raise children without taking some sort of class first."
"Yes, love," Ted murmured, exchanging a mildly amused glance with Remus. "Speaking of raising children, where's Dora got to?"
"Research in the library," Sirius answered, walking into the room with a handful of books. "Is it normal to be studying this much before she even starts classes? She's reading loads more than Lily did when she was getting ready for the Academy."
"Competitive field, I would imagine. That's what Lily always said, and I'll bet it's worse now. Harry asleep?" Remus asked.
"Very nearly," Sirius answered. "I thought I'd read up in -- " he coughed, "the room across from him...."
"Your bedroom?" Andromeda asked helpfully. Both men turned slightly red. "Remus, you should sleep too. Isn't Severus coming to fetch you at eleven?"
Sirius frowned at her. "Andromeda, are you meddling?"
"Yes, Sirius," Andromeda replied, head once again bent over her paperwork. Ted couldn't quite stifle a laugh. "Now run along."
Sirius glanced at Remus, who shrugged and smiled a little, eyes drifting down the line of his neck to the purpling bruise on his shoulder. He left, and Sirius glared uselessly at Andromeda before following.
They didn't make it quite to their room before they gave in, hands hooking in belts and cupping chins to kiss, noses bumping, pulling each other along the hallway and into the room they shared. It was good, in general, Sirius felt; though it was very peculiar that the first bed they shared should be a musty guest-bed in the house of a family that would have screeched in shame to see what went on in it.
They fell back on the bed together, Remus curling against him as though that was the only place he fit.
"I should sleep," he said in Sirius' ear, as their hands roamed, exploring each other, learning new sensations.
"We're lying down," Sirius answered. "That's almost sleep."
"Not by half," Remus murmured, but he didn't protest when Sirius dipped his head, tasting his skin. They kissed and touched, tangling the bedclothes around them, until Remus lay back again, breathing hard. Sirius sank down beside him, nuzzling shoulder and neck.
"I have something I need to ask you," he said quietly, and Remus closed his eyes, smiling.
"Mm." Sirius lay his hand possessively across Remus' stomach, fingers curling over his hip. "This afternoon. When you left. Where did you go?"
Remus covered the hand with his own. "Is it so important you know?"
"I'd like to. If you'd rather not say, I'll understand, but these are," he kissed his shoulder again, "uncertain times. I didn't like you being alone and unprotected."
"I can defend myself," Remus answered, but his tone was gentle. "I went to see the man in charge of my..." he sighed. "My registry file with the Ministry. The one I had to see after I tried to kill Severus."
"I know you are."
"I never meant -- "
"Sirius, if I was still angry at you, I would have left you behind long ago."
Sirius considered this in silence, until Remus drew a breath and continued. "The dreams are changing."
"The ones about Peter?"
"Yes..." Remus put one hand over his face, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "They're not about Peter anymore, not directly."
"What are they about?"
Sirius felt his breath hitch. "What about Harry?"
"Him being hurt. I don't know." Remus rolled away, turning his back, legs curling slightly. Sirius let his hand slip until it was just barely resting on his hip, afraid to move closer for fear Remus would move away again. "There's a...it's some empty place, there's a tree, and Harry's there, but he's -- he's older. At first I thought it was James, but he has green eyes."
"How old?" Sirius asked, sliding closer slowly. Remus didn't shy away.
"Fifteen, maybe. Maybe a little younger. He's hurt -- his blood -- like Peter actually took. I think...I don't remember it very clearly. Peter has a silver hand, I don't know why, and when I see that I always wake up. It's blurred. But Harry gets hurt, and Peter somehow...resurrects Voldemort. Like Snape said he might."
Sirius pulled him closer. "How long have they been going on?"
"A few days. Only since Peter attacked Harry, but every time I sleep, they're there. It worries me."
"But your last one didn't come true."
"Peter did come back, though. And he was right under our noses."
Sirius sighed. "Harry's already been hurt."
"He could be hurt again."
"We won't let that happen."
He heard Remus draw breath to remind him that they hadn't been able to stop it, and he spoke before the other man could. "They're just dreams."
"But they might be things that are happening, somewhere. In some other world. This one isn't like the last one; it feels like a story I've been told, not one I've seen. But it still feels too real, Sirius." Remus sighed. "I need to sleep. Unless you want a very cranky werewolf on your hands come morning."
Sirius curled every inch of his body he could against the other man, trying to comfort him with heat and contact. "Planning on sleeping here?" he asked lightly. "Snape's going to have a really fascinating reaction to coming to fetch you and finding me," he said, "wrapped around you like a second pair of pyjamas..."
Remus snorted. "With Snitches on, I suppose."
"Any way you want," Sirius answered. "I -- what is it?"
Remus was sitting up, pushing him away gently. "Do you hear that? It sounds -- "
He slid off the bed, crossing swiftly to the door and opening it, peering out into the hallway. Ted and Andromeda's door was closed, and Nymphadora's also, though a light was on under hers; there was a thudding noise, as though someone was running up the stairs...
"Snape," he said, as the black-cloaked man turned onto the landing. "What on earth -- "
"There's no time," Snape growled, running down the hallway. "Sandust -- Peter -- "
"He's come back?" Sirius demanded. Snape shook his head.
"Come back, yes -- but not captured -- the shop, set it on fire -- "
Remus bolted for the stairs, and Sirius gripped the doorframe tightly. Nymphadora had come to the door of her room, and Andromeda moved to stand next to her daughter, Ted nearby.
"Peter," Snape said more clearly. "He's set Sandust on fire. Go."
"Neville," Sirius said, pointing at Andromeda, who nodded agreement and ran inside to change, Ted following her. "I'm going. Stay here. Dora, you mind Harry. Do as Snape tells you!" he shouted over his shoulder, as he followed Remus' mad dash for the stairs. He heard the Tonkses following him, and barely paused to toss floo powder into the flame before ducking into it and shouting "High Street Watchroom, Little Whingeing!"
He emerged into confusion, backlit by a fierce, terrifying orange light; ahead of him, Remus was slithering down the stairs and out into the street, running towards flame -- flame licking out of the windows of Sandust, his bookshop, his haven --
"Remus, no!" he shouted, dropping hard to the ground and running off-centre to catch up with him. Remus stopped barely shy of the flames, staring in horror, and then turned to Sirius.
"The spell," he said. "The books -- your wand!"
Sirius drew his wand almost on instinct, and Remus steadied his arm, wrapping his wrist around Sirius', his own wand clenched tightly.
Flame was consuming the wooden wall-beams; heat-shattered glass littered the pavement, and the air reeked of smoke and burning trash. Inside, he could just barely see shelves, beginning to warp with the heat, books beginning to blacken and char. For a split second he thought he saw a long-limbed, almost apelike shape moving within the flames, but a second later it might have been a trick of the light; Remus was holding him with his left hand so hard he was going to break bones if he wasn't careful, and it distracted him.
"Eripio libris," Remus said in his ear. "Say it, Sirius."
"Eripio libris," Sirius repeated, chanting the words. "Eripio libris. Eripio libris. Eripio libris -- "
"Get back!" Moody was running towards them, pulling them away as the storefront began to crumble, but Sirius could feel the magic coursing through them now -- an old spell they'd put on the bookshop, just in case, to rescue the valuable volumes should something dire happen. But why was the fire burning still -- the Aurors should have been able to put it out with a simple freezing charm...
Moody finally tore them back just as the facade of the building fell forward, and they were pelted with sparks and burning ash. Sirius heard himself cry out and felt Remus move to block the cinders even as others pulled them across the street again.
"Did we save them?" he panted, as they backpedaled, running back into the brick wall of the hair salon. Remus pushed his hair out of his eyes and gasped for breath, a nasty burn showing livid on his throat. Fire, Sirius recalled. Silver, beheading, other werewolves, and fire...
"I think so," Remus rasped. "Felt like it. We can check with Dumbledore in the morning, they should have gone to the Hogwarts library -- oh, Sirius..."
Sirius turned to face him properly, and saw tears soot-streaking Remus' cheeks as he stared at the flame-engulfed remains of Sandust.
"My bookshop," Sirius said brokenly. Moody pressed cups of water into their hands, turning to stare at it also.
"Tis an awesome sight," he agreed, seamed face etched with anger and sorrow. "Been enchanted against simple fire-fighting charms -- called in specialists -- " he faced Sirius, curiously. "And how'd ye know about it, then? Alarms we weren't told about?"
Sirius shook his head. "Snape came for us. We left as soon as we heard."
Moody stared. "Snape? That one hasn't left the Healers -- " he gestured with his hand to where a small crowd of Aurors were being treated for burns, and sure enough, in the thick of them they could see a pale, soot-smudged Snape, bereft of his outer robes, holding a bandage to his temple, another taped over his cheek.
"But he came to -- " Sirius paused, then ran across to the knot of Healers, shoving them aside roughly, lifting Snape with one hand. "Did you call us?" he demanded. When Snape looked at him, bewilderedly, he shook him. "Did you come to Grimmauld Place this evening?"
"No -- I was attacked..." Snape winced as he was set on his feet, and took the bandage away from his head, where a square patch of flesh was missing along his hairline. "They only found me because -- "
"Polyjuice," Sirius growled, turning to Remus, who was helping support Snape as he eased himself back down. "He's polyjuiced himself -- "
"Merlin," Remus breathed. "We left Harry and Dora with him -- "
Sirius Apparated out of instinct, back to Grimmauld Place, running through the wards and nearly knocking down the front door, bursting inside and up the stairs.
"HARRY!" he shouted, dashing into Harry's room. Nothing. "DORA!"
He could hear Remus, on the floor below, pelting up behind him. "HARRY? NYMPHADORA!"
"HARRY!" Sirius shouted desperately. "HARRY!"
Remus caught him as he passed, almost swinging him around. "Sirius -- "
"No -- "
"Sirius, they're gone."
He had not been treated as an equal by the Aurors, which rankled Severus Snape deeply. If there was one thing he knew, it was how to keep watch. Wasn't he just as responsible for the boy's welfare? Hadn't he spent hour upon hour of his own spare time with the child, trying to give him some kind of civilised upbringing?
So, when he saw the shadow scuttling into the bookshop, rather than alert the others, he simply slipped out of the watchroom, down the stairs, and into the darkened street, black cloak hiding him from not-terribly-attentive eyes -- Moody was on break, otherwise he never could have made it -- and down the alley to the back door of the shop. If he could catch Peter himself, the reward would be great, and not just in terms of showing up the arrogant Aurors chatting away to each other in the watchroom.
He let himself into the shop, mindful of the hexes, and stalked stealthily towards the front, where he could hear voices -- that was Pettigrew's irksome squeak, he remembered it, and the other must be Bellatrix...
He stepped out from behind a shelf and raised his wand, the end glowing faintly with a hex at the ready.
"Don't move," he said.
He had a moment in which to examine the almost cherubic face of Peter Pettigrew, blond hair shaggy around his head, pudgy fingers clenched around a chalice. The look was faintly surprised, eyes slightly wide, though still not terribly intelligent -- much as they had been at school, when someone had said something that didn't fit into Peter Pettigrew's mental script.
He had another moment to notice that Bellatrix was not in his line of sight, right before something hard and cold connected with his temple and the world went away for a while.
When he woke, it was to choking smoke and unbearable heat; a pain in his head told him he'd been cold-cocked, and worse, sucker-punched, by a woman. A tiny rational voice in the back of his head said that at least it was a Black, and their women hardly counted, they were that manly, but this was not a comfort when one of his shoes was on fire...his robes were gone, just his tunic and trousers remained --
There were shouts outside, and he crawled towards the noise, eventually pushing himself upright, stumbling against the white-hot front door, trying to shoulder it open. Fire; the bookshop was on fire -- the books --
He had that moment's hesitation which comes when all true book-lovers are faced with a decision between personal destruction and literary travesty, but his self-preservation instinct got the better of him, and he staggered out into waiting hands, which dragged him away from the awful, awful heat and into the cool night air.
Bandages were pressed to his head, lung-clearing charms were applied and a salve for burnt skin was spread on his hands. When he was finally fully aware of his surroundings, he found himself in a small knot of concerned Aurors and Healers, holding the bandage to his head, watching in horror as a bookstore burned. It didn't matter that The Most Despised And Hated Sirius Black was its owner; setting books aflame simply Wasn't Done.
"Are they getting the books?" he thought to ask. "Is someone saving the books?"
"It's a goner, mate," replied one of the Healers. "Be lucky if there's slag left by the time that thing burns itself out."
"But the books..." Snape insisted, just as he saw Black and Lupin arrive.
The man said something else, but Snape was intent on the pair standing too-close to the fire, arms outstretched, wands at the ready; some sort of charm? They couldn't stop the flames or the aurors would have by now, but perhaps there was hope yet --
The world became a blur for a while, as actual pain began to set in, and he began to wonder if the dizziness was lack of oxygen or blood, or simply confusion brought on by being left for dead in a burning building. He didn't pay attention to anything else until he saw Sirius charging towards him, and then he could hardly move before he was being lifted off his feet and shaken until his teeth rattled. Black was shouting something about Grimmauld Place; Snape winced and took the bandage off so he could hear better.
"No," he replied, trying for Haughty and barely making Coherent, "I was attacked...they only found me because -- "
Black cut off his explanation, and Snape realised something was very, very wrong.
"Merlin," Remus breathed. "We left Harry and Dora with him."
He saw both men Apparate, and realised finally what was going on; the fools had left Harry with Peter Pettigrew, disguised as himself, and run off to protect their bookshop. Cursing them for idiots, he stood and took two swift steps away from the knot of people trying to restrain him, and Apparated also, praying the concussion he was no doubt suffering from wouldn't cause him to splinch.
"This isn't Hogwarts," Nymphadora said, which may have been stating the obvious, but clearly did need to be stated anyway. Professor Snape had taken them here with a crudely-made Portkey, since Harry couldn't Apparate; she didn't consider it odd that he carried a Portkey to a deserted graveyard in his pocket. This was, after all, Terrifying Professor Snape, who for seven years had reminded her just how stupid she could be. She trusted him, to a point, in that he had still helped her score highly on her Potions NEWT, but that didn't mean she didn't fear him.
"No," Snape said. "We'll be safe here."
Nymphadora looked around at the windswept graveyard. "We will?" she ventured, holding Harry's hand tightly.
"Cool," Harry said, looking around.
"Come with me," Professor Snape snapped, and she followed as he stalked through the gravestones, towards a tree overlooking the back edge of it. Harry trotted to keep up.
"Slow down, Harry's out of breath," she said, but he whirled on her and nearly snarled.
"Do you want him happy or do you want him safe?"
She felt Harry's hand tighten in hers, and saw Snake's head poking out of Harry's collar, the rest of the coiled body wrapped around his shoulder and arm. Harry bowed his head a little, and then stopped walking altogether.
"Come on, Harry," she urged, but Harry shook his head stubbornly. "What's wrong?"
"That's not Professor Snape," Harry said. Nymphadora looked at the tall, black-clad man, who had turned ominously when he heard the words. "That's not Professor Snape, and I don't trust him, and neither does Snake, because Snake says he taste-smells wrong."
Nymphadora met Snape's eyes, which flickered for the barest second. She went for her wand, but he was faster; roots sprang from the ground, grabbing her wrists like bony, withered hands, clawing their way up the back of her robes and settling in a choke-hold around her neck. Harry went for the wand, but offshoots wrapped around his whole body, pinning him against her hip, snaking down his legs to keep him from struggling. He hissed, and Snake wriggled out of his shirt, but a single branch forked around and caught Snake's writhing, wriggling body in a v-shaped prong against the bindings on Harry's arms.
Snape leered down at them.
"My old companions are too trusting by half," he said. "But then Moony always was a fool and Padfoot never did well in emergencies. I suppose you're meant to be his nanny. Plain little thing, aren't you?"
Nymphadora snarled and tried to lunge forward, but the branches throttled her, and eventually she gave up struggling. Instead she tried to change face, but the plants moved with her, tightening when her neck narrowed, expanding when her body widened.
"And a metamorphmagus! Perhaps I spoke too soon." The man in Snape's body clapped his hands delightedly. "We might keep you. Bellatrix would have a use for you, I have no doubt. Shame about the boy. He looks rather like James."
Harry gazed up at the man, eyes almost placid behind his glasses. "I'm not scared of you," he said. "I bet you're Peter Pettigrew. Everyone says you're dim."
"Hold your tongue," came the reply. Nymphadora tried to calm herself, but her heart was threatening to pound so hard it would break her ribcage.
"So you're Peter," she said softly. "I remember you."
He glanced at her, almost idly. "You're far too young."
"I'm Nymphadora, Andromeda's daughter. You came to our house once, when I was seven or eight. Sirius made fun of you for falling out of our orange tree," she said, with an almost preternatural calm. He backhanded her hard, and the branches caught her other cheek when her head turned.
"You keep your hands off her!" Harry shouted, struggling again, but the branches tightened and, when Snake hissed and writhed, he stopped.
"It's impolite to hit a woman, Peter," said a new voice, with the velvet-softness that comes from psychopathic insanity. The man with Snape's face turned, and Dora craned her neck as much as she could.
Bellatrix, the aunt she'd never seen, was perched on an old above-ground tomb as if it were a park bench, one leg crossed elegantly over the other, though her clothes were a tattered Azkaban prison uniform and a disturbingly jaunty hat. She wasn't much older than Andromeda, Dora remembered; her face was lovely, pale and smooth except for deep shadows under her eyes, and her black hair was swept back in two shining braids, which lay like silk rope over the dusty tatters of her clothing.
She took the hat off and turned it about. "I found this. Do you think it belongs to Sirius?" she asked.
"That's Remus' hat!" Harry squawked, indignantly.
"The halfblood werewolf?" Bellatrix wrinkled her nose, and threw it at them, trying to get it on one of their heads as if they were a carnival game. She slid off the bench with disturbing grace, and circled them, picking up the hat and placing it on Nymphadora's head. She giggled.
"Queen!" she declared. Nymphadora shook her head, trying to dislodge it, and felt Bellatrix's fingers clamp down on her scalp, through the brim of the hat. "Hold still, my dear," Bellatrix breathed, and Nymphadora held her breath against the stench.
"This," Peter said, wrinkling Snape's nose in disgust, "is Andromeda's daughter, Bellatrix."
The woman made a vaguely displeased noise. "You shouldn't have hit her, Peter. It's wrong to hit girls. Especially Blacks. Even if they are unnatural mudblood spawn. We tend to hit back."
"I'll do as I please," Peter answered sullenly. "We should begin."
"Pretty baby," Bellatrix murmured, moving to crouch in front of Harry.
"Leave him alone!" Dora ordered, struggling to free herself until the branches tightened so much she could barely breathe.
"Pretty green-eyed baby boy. Will you be my baby boy?" Bellatrix asked.
Fast as lightning, Harry craned his head forward and bit a chunk out of her jaw.
Bellatrix drew back, shrieking, and clawed at his face, but only succeeded in knocking his glasses away. Harry spat blood at her, straining against his bonds, while Peter yanked her away.
"You can kill him in due time," he growled in Snape's voice. Bellatrix shrieked, and he held onto her until she had spent herself trying to get to Harry, who glared defiantly at her. Peter pressed the tip of his wand to the wound, healing it.
"You're a crazy old woman and when my godfather gets here he'll show you!" Harry shouted, and then Nymphadora heard him drop into Parseltongue, furiously. Bellatrix stopped cold, staring in fascination as the small, tightly bound child hissed and spat.
"Call for help, Harry," Nymphadora urged softly, but if Harry heard her, he paid her no mind. "Harry, call for help in Parseltongue, maybe there are snakes nearby -- " she cut off as the bindings tightened again, squeezing the breath out of her briefly.
Bellatrix wrenched Peter's wand from his hand and said a word, tremblingly, and the branches holding Harry clamped his jaw shut, encircling his head. Harry continued to glare fiercely, if somewhat unfocusedly.
"Quite finished?" Peter asked, taking the wand from her trembling hand. "Very well."
Bellatrix dropped to the ground, and began drawing in the dirt; at first Nymphadora thought she'd gone into a fit of some kind, but then the etchings glowed green, and earth seemed to fall away, leaving a narrow, deep pit into which she reached.
Was that rustling in the wilderness beyond the graveyard?
Bellatrix drew out a sack, cackling to herself as she unpacked it.
Tails in the tall grass, or merely a trick of the moonlight?
A cauldron, full of liquid; two vials, and a strange circular wooden pendant, on a tattered green ribbon.
Nymphadora was sure she saw eyes watching them, but if Harry couldn't talk, he couldn't tell the snakes what to do. She looked sidelong at Harry; he'd gone almost rigid, and his eyes had closed; his lips moved, even though his jaw couldn't.
Then Peter picked up a shining metal knife from the ground where Bellatrix had thrown it, and Nymphadora's whole world closed to a single tunnel with that knife at the end of it.
"What're you going to do with that?" she asked. "You have his blood, you don't need -- "
"I have his blood," Peter agreed, almost absently. "But you see, we're doing two spells tonight, aren't we, Bellatrix?"
The woman grinned up at him.
"One is going to make me powerful," Peter continued, tipping up her chin with the point of the knife, "beyond your wildest dreams -- beyond anyone's," he corrected smugly. "And the other is going to help me find my master, and to find my master, we have to use the boy. Because the boy, you see..." he added, drawing the blade now down Harry's cheek, not quite opening the skin, "carries my master's scar."
He seemed to choke then, for a moment, and Nymphadora wondered if they were saved, but all that happened was he began to shrink, his face to puff out and nose to shorten. Before long, he was not the intimidating, tall potions master, but a small, rodentlike man with beady eyes and wispy, dead-looking hair. He smiled a sharp little smile at her that was completely unterrifying in his round face. She'd never felt so much like laughing in her life, somehow.
"Handy of him to happen along into Bella's trap," Peter said, as his hands shortened. Nymphadora hadn't noticed what elegant fingers Snape had until they were growing back into the stubby, ugly ones that belonged to Peter Pettigrew. "We were hoping for Padfoot, but Snivellus isn't too useless. And of course the floo recognised him. Couldn't have got into your house, otherwise. Dear, trusting Padfoot."
Harry was too still, but Nymphadora didn't dare stare, and Peter didn't seem inclined to notice.
"It's ready," Bellatrix said, behind him, and Peter turned away, shoving the knife into the turf near the now-bubbling cauldron.
"Stewed in a grave," he said. "And brewed by a madwoman. Fed the blood of two innocents..." he added, breaking the seals on the two vials and dumping them unceremoniously in, "...and bathed in the moonlight. Old magic, older than Latin, older than book-learned charms."
He hovered his hand over the seething mass, the odd wooden amulet clutched in one hand. Bellatrix drew her legs up and rested her chin on them, watching him.
"Get on with it then," she muttered.
"It's going to hurt," Peter said. "I'm steeling myself."
"Life is pain."
Nymphadora heard him mutter something extremely similar to "Thank you, Nietzsche" under his breath, and tried to suppress hysterics. Harry was beginning to twitch a little.
"Harry," she said, in a whisper, without looking away from the hesitating Peter, "snap out of it. We've got to get out of here. If you move your jaw just a little you can call the snakes. Come on, Harry."
Harry wasn't listening. Harry, she suspected, wasn't actually there.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake," Bellatrix said, and slammed her hands down on Peter's wrist, forcing his entire fist into the seething cauldron. He screamed, shrilly, and cursed as she held his hand there -- seemingly for an eternity before he broke, panting and sweating, body going limp. Then she smiled nastily and lifted his hand again. Nymphadora closed her eyes against the sight of his scalded skin.
She couldn't stand not knowing, however, and when she looked again Bellatrix was lovingly holding the amulet against his lips -- no --
Nymphadora watched as she shoved it, ribbon and all, into his mouth. Peter gagged and tried to scream again, but she kept pushing, and finally he swallowed.
He ate it, she thought. Oh Merlin he ate it look at his hand we've got to get out of here --
Peter toppled backwards onto the weedy dirt of the graveyard, chest heaving, right hand flexing and unflexing spasmically.
The little shining snake eyes were still watching. Nymphadora willed them forward, not that it was likely to do any good.
Then Peter sat up again, and opened his eyes. She stared. They were jaundice-amber, and the pupils had changed into the strange cross-shape of a goat's eyes, horribly intelligent goat's eyes in a human face.
He pushed himself to his feet. Bellatrix giggled. He lifted the cauldron with his right hand, which looked as though it had scarred over in the ten seconds between his falling and rising, and emptied it onto the ground. Mud splattered across Bellatrix's legs.
Peter held out his right hand, and Nymphadora quite literally felt her heart stop. He squeezed, and it beat. Palm; stop; squeeze, beat. He dropped his hand and she sagged into the now-welcome support of the restraints, heart finding a normal rhythm again.
"Now," he said, kneeling before Harry and cupping his face in one scarred hand, "We get to play with your baby boy, Bellatrix."