In which both Holly and Albus learn something unexpected.
“…okay, I think I’ve got it,” said Hermione. “You don’t have surnames as we know them in the Muggle world. You have a coven name, and a line name. And when you’re young, you get the coven name from your father and the line name from your mother.”
“Birth mother,” Ronnie corrected her.
“Oh yes, birth mother. And that’s why you’re ‘Veronica Weasley of the Prewett line’, but your new baby sister ‘Dahlia Weasley of the…’ um… ‘of the’…”
“Of the Ziegler line,” said Ronnie helpfully. “Ow! Molly-Mum, don’t pull so hard!”
“I’m just fixing your ponytail,” said Molly. “Honestly, we need to get more of that hair potion for you. Your hair’s quite unmanageable without it. I’m tempted to just give you a short haircut.”
“How about we just shave me bald and be done with it,” Ronnie grumbled. “I’m sure Flora-Mum would lend me one of her wigs.”
They were all standing on a street corner while Molly was fixing up Ronnie’s hair. Holly had discovered soon enough that while her own silky black hair was super easy to manage and probably was a sign of her magical heritage, not all witches were as lucky as her when it came to hair. If anything, Ronnie’s hair was the opposite; that wild red mane turned into a tangled mess if anyone so much as looked at it.
“So,” said Hermione, who was still trying to grasp the witching family situation. “Since my surname is ‘Granger’ but my mother’s maiden name was ‘Puckle,’ would that make me… ‘Hermione Granger of the Puckle line’?”
“You could call yourself that if you wanted to,” said Molly. “But to be honest, most Muggle-borns don’t bother with the line names, at least not when they’re young. My coven-wife Mandy just went by ‘Mandy Henderson’ before she joined our coven and became a Weasley.”
“What about me?” said Dean. “My biological Dad died when I was a baby, and the man I call ‘Dad’ now is really my step-father… whose name do I take?”
“You can just be Dean Thomas,” said Ronnie. “Line names are for girls, not for boys!”
“How come?” said Hermione curiously.
“Well, because… because girls join covens and boys start them!” said Ronnie triumphantly. “But when I grow up and join a coven, whatever it is, I’ll have to change my name to ‘Veronica Whatever of the Weasley line’…”
Holly looked at her. “You want to join a coven?”
“Er.” Ronnie blinked and seemed a little taken aback. “I suppose? I mean… everybody joins a coven when they’re old enough, right?”
“Not everybody, dear,” said Molly. “Plenty of witches don’t join covens. You remember Hortense Slughorn of the Bulstrode line, don’t you? She’s not in a coven!”
Molly turned to the other children. “Ronnie’s explanation is a little simplified,” she said. “But I wouldn’t worry too much about it yet, if I were you. You’re all much too young to think about that sort of thing. Legally, you can’t join a coven until you’re eighteen. There, Ronnie, I think we’re good to go.” She finally let go of her daughter’s hair. “How are we for time, Hagrid?”
Hagrid, who had been standing beside her, pulled a gigantic pocket-watch out of his coat pocket. “Ah, blimey!” he said. “S’a good thing yeh asked. We’re s’posed ter be at Rosa’s in ten minutes!”
“What about Mr Dumbledore?” said Holly. “Will he be there too?”
“Hope so, unless those dwarfs are keepin’ him,” said Hagrid. “How’re yeh likin’ the witchin’ district so far, Holly?”
“I love it!” she said earnestly.
The last couple of hours had been magical. The witching district was so full of amazing things, incredible shops and fascinating people that it was hard to decide what to gawk at first.
Ronnie had been very enthusiastic about showing them all a shop called Quality Quidditch Supplies, which sold those amazing flying broomsticks, as well as all sorts of gear and special balls for use in a witch sport called Quidditch, which was played up in the air on broomsticks. Holly had never liked PE at school, but she suspected if they’d played Quidditch instead of dodgeball or football, she’d have been far more into it.
Hermione had liked the book shops the best, particularly the oldest and largest one, which was called Flourish & Blotts (est. 1654), and which seemed to have every single book ever written on anything even slightly magical. It was only with great reluctance and a resolve to return later that Hermione let herself be dragged away from the shop in the end, and Holly got the distinct impression that if she’d been allowed, the girl would have set up camp inside the shop and stayed there for days.
Dean had immediately fallen for the Animated Art Canvas, with art supplies and drawing tools both magic and mundane. Paints and canvases and pencils that were enchanted so that everything you drew with them would come to life, instruction books on how to draw dragons and nymphs, and several paintings which – just like the photographs in The Quibbler – moved around freely and seemed to be fully sentient.
Holly’s favourite had been the Magical Menagerie, the pet shop. There had been so many wonderful animals there; mostly cats and birds, but also some creatures Holly had never heard of before… like the Puffskeins, which were like adorable little balls of fluff that hummed pleasantly when they were cuddled, or the Kneazles, which were like oversized cats with plumed tails and extremely intelligent eyes.
But it was the snowy white owl that had stood out. It had sat majestically in its cage and looked at her with round, curious eyes. Holly had learned at school that despite what all the fairy tales and kids’ books said, real owls weren’t actually all that smart, but this particular owl seemed different. She got the feeling it liked her as much as she liked it.
It had been hard tearing herself away from the beautiful owl, but she knew all too well that Aunt Petunia had a very strict ‘no animals in the house’ policy.
Besides, she was starting to get tired and hungry, so it was a bit of a relief when Hagrid hurried them along on the short walk towards Hexagon Square and Rosa’s Tea House.
Hexagon Square turned out to be a large (and, to Holly’s great satisfaction, hexagonal) public square with several green trees surrounding a large fountain where the water changed colour every few seconds.
Several witches were gathered there, sitting around the fountain or walking in between the various shops surrounding the square… oh, wait, there was a wizard too.
Holly couldn’t help but stare a little. Apart from Hagrid and Dean, who had come there with her (and Gilderoy Lockhart, who had just been a photograph), this was the first man she had seen in the witching district. He was pretty handsome, with a clean-shaven, pointed face, and long, blond hair that flowed freely down his back… and his clothes were just ridiculous; they seemed to be made out of silver embroideries and nothing else, which made him gleam and glitter when he moved. It should have looked gaudy, but somehow he made it work.
He was accompanied by two women and one little girl, all of whom were blonde and wearing clothes that were similarly sparkling and glittering, in silver and gold. The two women were… well, they were gorgeous. Not impossibly beautiful like the nymphs, but stunning enough that model agencies would have fought over them. The little girl, who seemed to be around Holly’s age, wasn’t quite as gorgeous, but the golden dress she wore was extremely flattering.
“Ah, blimey,” said Hagrid as he saw them. “Typical that the Malfoys would be here.”
“Malfoys?” Holly and Dean chorused.
“Bugger,” said Ronnie. “Don’t look at them, maybe they won’t — Ugh, too late. Dracaena just spotted us.”
“Dracaena?” Dean repeated as the little girl motioned towards them. “That’s her name?”
“She didn’t choose it, dear,” said Molly in a hushed voice. “Everyone thought she was going to be born a boy, and they were going to name him Draco…”
“Draco?” Dean repeated, like an increasingly disbelieving echo. “That’s better?”
Molly never got to answer, because by now the group – the Malfoys – had begun moving towards them, with the girl – Dracaena – in the lead.
As they got closer, Holly saw to her amazement that Dracaena’s dress wasn’t only sparkling like gold, it was literally made out of large gold coins that had somehow been fastened together. You’d think a dress like that would be drafty and uncomfortable, not to mention heavy… but the girl was moving quite easily, even gracefully, speeding ahead of the adults.
“Hello there!” she said as she came closer. She clasped Ronnie’s hands and smiled sweetly – but Holly immediately saw that the smile didn’t reach her eyes. “Ronnie, sweetie, how big you’ve grown!” Her smile turned slightly nastier. “I almost mistook you for that half-giant there. What is his name again? Hangry? Haggar?”
“That’s Hagrid,” said Ronnie hotly. “And unless you get your pampered arse away from us, I’m going to –”
“Ah, don’ pay her any attention,” Hagrid rumbled. “C’mon, we’re late.”
He began ushering them across the square, but Dracaena wasn’t one to let herself be dismissed just like that.
“And who’re you?” She batted her eyelashes coquettishly at Dean. “I thought I knew all the wizards around my age! I’m Dracaena Malfoy, of the Black line. I bet you’ve heard of me. Do you like my dress? It’s made from real Galleons. Fastened together by dwarfs and placed under charms to be as light and warm and comfortable to wear as real cloth. It cost a fortune to have it made – but that’s okay, because it is a fortune.”
“Er –” Dean looked rather flabbergasted at this.
“And these are your sisters?” Dracaena went on, looking at Holly and Hermione. “What are their names?”
“We can speak for ourselves!” said Hermione, annoyed. “And we’re not his –”
“And what are you doing with the Weasleys, of all people?” said Dracaena. “You really should look better after your brother. Everyone knows the Weasleys can’t be trusted with boys.“
“What?!” Dean looked more confused than ever. “What are you talking about?”
“Just that if you want to stay a boy, you’d better stay away from the Weasleys,” said Dracaena. “They brainwash boys into thinking they’re girls, and then –”
“All right, that’s quite enough!” Molly snapped. She looked up at the three adult Malfoys. “Narcissa. Cordelia. Lucius. Will you please control your daughter?”
“Why, hello there, Molly dearest,” said one of the women. “Yes, it’s a pleasure to see you too. How is your darling family? We’re doing quite well, thank you ever so much for asking. Our other wives send their love, I’m sure. And how is your son these days”
Holly looked up at the adult Malfoys. The two women (Narcissa and Cordelia, apparently) were smiling sweetly, while the man (who had to be Lucius) was just watching the scene with reserved interest.
She knew this game all too well; this was the sort of game grown-ups played when they met someone they didn’t like. For some reason, you weren’t allowed to be rude to people you hated… the more you hated them, the more important it was to be polite to them to their face. At the same time, you had to make it clear that you didn’t actually mean any of the nice things you said to them. Aunt Petunia was a master of this game; when encountering neighbours she didn’t care for she could make “hello, how are you” sound like “I hate you, sod off and die” just with subtle changes in her tone of voice.
Molly, however, didn’t seem as good at this game. “My daughter is fine, thank you!” she snapped. “She has made her choice, and we support her!”
“Oh, I’m certain nobody here would ever imply that you didn’t do what you thought was best for your son,” said the first woman. “After all, he had to get his delusions from somewhere.”
“But now that the pleasantries are out of the way,” said the second woman, “aren’t you going to introduce us to these three darling children? Such a handsome young man,” she added with a glance at Dean. “Which coven do you come from, my dears?”
Hagrid, who seemed to sense just how uncomfortable the children were getting stepped up in front of them. “None o’ yer business,” he growled. “Now stop botherin’ them an’ move, before I pick y’ all up an’ throw yeh inter that fountain.”
Whether or not he really would have done it, Holly never knew, but the Malfoys did back off, the two women looking somewhat startled. “You wouldn’t dare,” one of them protested. “This dress is genuine Acromantula silk!”
“Wait.” The man – Lucius – who hadn’t spoken until now, was looking at Holly with icy grey eyes. “I admit I don’t know the other two,” he said, “but unless I’m very much mistaken here, this one doesn’t belong to any coven…. at least not yet.”
“This one?!” Holly repeated.
“You’re James Potter’s daughter, aren’t you? Holly, am I right?” Lucius’s voice was calm and collected, but his wives and daughter all gasped and turned to look at Holly.
“Oh, of course! I can’t believe I didn’t see that! My darling child, you look so much like your father!”
“Holly Potter of the Evans line! So sorry that I didn’t recognize you straight away!”
“We knew James from school – not well, since he was a few years younger than us, but oh, wasn’t he the charmer! Such a tragedy, what happened to him!”
“And his poor sisters, of course!”
“Sisters?! What sis–!”
“That’s quite enough of that!” Molly had apparently had enough. “Veronica, Holly, Hermione and Dean – say goodbye to the Malfoys! We’re late for our appointment!”
And without waiting for an answer, or give them the time to say goodbye like she’d told them to, she ushered the four children along, away from Dracaena and her family, and up towards the other end of Hexagon Square, with Hagrid bringing up the rear.
“How rude!” came Dracaena’s voice from behind them.
“Don’t look back,” Molly told them. “I’m so sorry about this. Of all the people we could have met…!”
“What was all that about?” demanded Hermione.
“It was about the Malfoys being bigots and dickheads, that’s what it was about!” said Ronnie hotly.
“I’d tell you to watch your language, young lady,” said Molly, “but in this case I can’t very well argue with you. Are you all right?” She looked at the children with concern.
“Er – yeah,” said Dean.
“It was the parents that frightened me,” said Hermione. “The girl was mostly just a younger and less aggressive Sirena, but the parents… They looked like you and Holly like…” She searched for words, gave up and then finished, rather lamely: “I think I get why witches don’t like to let their boys out in public.”
“Not everyone’s like that,” said Ronnie hurriedly. “Most people aren’t. It’s just the Malfoys, see? All money, no heart.” She lowered her voice. “Everybody knows they were with Tom Riddle back when he was alive, blowing up things and killing people. but when he died they pretended he’d mind-controlled them into doing it. And they weren’t thrown in jail because they bribed the judges…”
“Ronnie, dear…” said Molly. “What have I said about listening to gossip?”
“She’s right, I reckon,” said Hagrid. “Albus always suspected why they some down so hard on things that aren’ ‘traditional’ enough. Don’ wanna remind anyone that they used ter side with someone who was tryin’ ter bring the witchin’ world to its knees, to they jus’ go look at us, what good citizens we are, we jus’ hate an’ discriminate against all the right people…!”
“You know what Frankie-Mum said?” Ronnie went on. “She said that it’s because of Tom Riddle they only ever managed to get one child! That’s why Dracaena has five mothers and no sisters! And it’s why they thought she’d be a boy, because there was some kind of a spell and –”
“Ronnie!” Molly finally snapped. “I don’t care what Frankie told you, you don’t repeat it outside the house!” She looked slightly pained as she turned to the other three. “I’m sorry, dears. We were going to explain everything more closely when we had a bit more time. This was just supposed to be an introduction to the witching world… a bit of a tour.”
“I didn’t get what they were talking about,” said Holly. “I didn’t know Ronnie had a brother. I didn’t know my father had sisters.”
“I don’t have a brother,” said Ronnie hotly. “Dracaena’s a bigot.”
“But –” Holly began.
“Oh, come on!” Hermione huffed. “Ronnie’s sister is obviously transgender! You’ve never heard of transgender people?”
“Er… I don’t think so,” said Holly.
“Oh.” Hermione seemed to deflate a bit, but then hurried to say: “Well, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Ronnie’s right when she says she doesn’t have a brother, and everyone who says differently… is stupid and wrong.”
“Exactly!” said Ronnie gratefully.
Holly wasn’t sure what had just happened between the two, or what it meant to be ‘transgender,’ but she decided to drop it for the moment and add it to the increasing list of ‘things I need to ask Lily about.’ (She slipped her hand down into her skirt pocket and touched the wand.) For the moment, though, there was another, more pressing question that demanded to be asked: “And what about my father’s sisters?”
“Ah… yeah, we were gettin’ to that,” said Hagrid. “Didn’ wanna overwhelm yeh, an’ on yer birthday an’ all.”
“So my father did have sisters? I have… I have aunts that are witches?” The concept seemed strange and almost alien to Holly. The word ‘aunt’ immediately brought the mental image of someone like Aunt Petinunia; harsh and strict and about as un-witchlike as you could get.
“Yer Dad had five sisters, actually,” said Hagrid, somewhat apologetically. “Like I said, we were gettin’ to it…”
“Perhaps we shouldn’t talk about this out in the open –” Molly began.
“Five sisters?!” Holly repeated.
“Holly, y’gotta unnerstan’, the witchin’ world’s not like the Muggle one,” said Hagrid. “With the covens an’ all, only children aren’ really a thing. If yeh’re a witch-born an’ grow up in a coven, yeh have sisters! Usually many sisters!”
“Except Dracaena,” said Ronnie.
“Right, except her. S’not unusual for a coven ter have six kids, or more.”
“But I have five aunts that I never even knew about!” said Holly. “Five magical aunts. Why didn’t anyone tell me about them? Why didn’t they take me in instead of Aunt Petunia? Why…?” Her voice trailed off as one obvious reason presented itself to her. “…oh. It’s because they’re dead, isn’t it? I don’t have five magical aunts. I just have more dead relatives.”
Hagrid sighed. “Not all of ‘em are dead,” he said. “The three oldest sisters, Rose an’ Charissa an’ Violet, yeah… they were killed, along with their covens, by Riddle’s followers. The middle sister, Alexandra… I dunno what became of her. She went ter travel the world before you were born, an’ jus’ never returned. We haven’ been able ter find her. Maybe she’s alive, maybe not.”
“Oh.” Holly didn’t really know how to feel about this. She had a vague feelings she should probably be upset that three of her aunts were dead and one was missing, but… up until a few minutes ago she hadn’t even known they existed. “What about the final one? What happened to her?”
“I really think we should do this inside,” Molly repeated, but nobody was paying attention to her. Holly, Ronnie, Hermione and Dean were all staring at Hagrid.
He took a deep breath. “Fine,” he said. “The final one, that’s James’s twin sister Lyra.”
“Yep. Ten minutes younger’n him, I think.” Hagrid looked miserable. “She’s alive, but… this was really summat I was hopin’ that we could talk about when Albus was here, he’s much better at this sorta thing…”
“All right. She’s in jail. She and her entire coven. There was this business with a werewolf, an’… could we please talk about this later? I really think Albus should be the one tellin’ yeh about this.”
He looked so pleading that Holly didn’t have the heart to argue. She looked at Dean, Ronnie and Hermione, and then nodded. “All right, then.”
“Good,” said Molly with forced cheerfulness. “Now that that’s settled… shall we go in? We still have a birthday celebration waiting for us!”
They’d arrived at a cozy-looking little two-story building. Its walls were nearly completely covered in colourful flowers and plants, but the building itself (judging what little was visible of it) was made of pink stone. Two large windows on the front sported multicoloured glass which was hard to see through, and above a big red wooden door a sign welcomed you to MADAME ROSA’S TEA HOUSE in friendly golden letters.
Now Holly remembered that she was hungry. Birthday celebrations usually meant food. If Dudley’s birthday celebrations were anything to go by, they meant a lot of food.
“Okay,” she said. “Let’s go in!”
Knockturn Alley hadn’t changed much since last Albus had set foot in it. Perpetually dark and gloomy – the sun never reached down between the darkened buildings, which were standing so close together that a mouse would have problems wriggling in between them – and with a narrow, cobbled street twisting and zigzagging past ominous-looking doorways and shop windows with dubious-looking wares on display.
There wasn’t anyone else out and about. In Knockturn Alley, you didn’t walk the streets unless you absolutely had to.
“Never liked this place much,” Darach grumbled. “It’s dark in the wrong way. So, you think we’ll find Ulva Greyback here?”
“No,” said Albus. “But I do think we will see her.”
Darach groaned. “What is it with you private investigators and your cryptic answers? Would it kill you to give a straight answer every once in a while?”
Despite himself, Albus had to chuckle. “Forgive me, Darach. What I meant was that if I’m right about who we’re chasing, she is second only to Tom Riddle when it comes to staying hidden. If she was seen here in Knockturn Alley, it’s because she wanted to be seen.”
“Awww…. Am I really that transparent?” The throaty half-whisper came from behind them without warning.
They spun around to see the speaker. She was a tall, slender woman with a wild and almost animal-like look about her; she was dressed in a hodgepodge mix of furs and leathers, her body sported several old scars, and her waist-length black hair that clearly hadn’t seen a comb in a while.
“And here I thought I was cultivating an air of mystery,” she said, pretending to wipe a tear from her cheek. “Nobody appreciates a good scary figure in the shadows anymore.”
“Ulva Greyback!” Before Albus could warn him, Darach drew his axe and charged at the woman, with a mighty blow that would surely have sliced her clean in two… if the weapon hadn’t just passed harmlessly through her body, as if it was only made out of thin air. Darach stumbled through her and almost lost his balance, but managed to stay on his feet.
“Oh, I’m terribly sorry,” the woman laughed. “What a way for you to find out what Dumbledore meant. I’m not actually here, you see. Not anymore. It’s just a little trick I’ve picked up…”
“I see you haven’t changed much, Bellatrix,” said Albus calmly.
“Bellatrix,” she repeated mockingly. “Oh, I suppose you can call me that, for old times’ sake. Though I would really prefer ‘Ulva Greyback.’ It’s just a more fitting name for the Queen of the Werewolves, you know? So you finally figured out my clue?”
“The war isn’t so far in the past that I can’t remember that the Triggered Tearing Curse was one of your trademarks,” said Albus. “Add to it the rumours about werewolves in Knockturn Alley, it became fairly obvious. Really, Bellatrix… if you wanted my attention, there would be better ways than murdering an innocent dwarf.”
“Perhaps, but not as much fun,” said Bellatrix. “I’ve got to keep you on your toes, after all – “
“This is for Ragmar!” Darach yelled, swinging his axe at her again. Once more, it passed harmlessly through her.
“Oh, please, will you stop –” Bellatrix began, and cut herself off as Darach’s axe passed through her a third time. “Look, you idiot, this isn’t my corporeal form!” she snapped. “I’m not even here! You can’t harm me!”
“It’s a matter of – hnngh! – principle!” Darach swung his axe again.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake!” Bellatrix vanished. One moment later, she reappeared, hovering eight feet above the ground, too high for the dwarf to reach. “You really should learn to control your followers, Dumbledore. Aren’t you the least bit curious what I wanted to talk to you about?”
“I’m honestly more concerned that you committed murder in order to do it,” said Albus.
“And what were you planning on doing about it?” said Bellatrix smugly. “Blast me with sleeping spells and drag my helpless body to Azkaban? Even you can’t harm a soul projection. You might have been able to do something if you still had the Elder Wand…” Her smile turned cruel. “But you don’t have that anymore, do you? Lily’s brat has it.”
“I suppose the rumour was bound to spread eventually,” Albus sighed. “I had hoped she’d have a few more years before you and your ilk found out.”
“Does she even know what it is she’s carrying around?”
“Whether she does or not,” Albus replied, “as long as she has it she will be safe from you. For the same reason that I suspect that even with the Elder Wand I couldn’t have done anything against you. Or am I wrong when I say that you’re the one who has the Cloak?”
For the first time. Bellatrix looked taken aback. “I… How did you know that?”
“It didn’t take a genius to find out,” said Albus. “You were the only one of Tom’s followers that no one ever found. You’re not as good with the Cloak as he was, I’d say, but using it to stay hidden for seven years? That would be well within your capabilities. So, that seems to be two out of three Hallows accounted for… the only question now is who has the Stone?”
“Hmmph.” Bellatrix crossed her arms. “Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you. It doesn’t matter anyway. I’m only looking after the Cloak until the Master returns. He’s only biding his time, Dumbledore! But he’s patient, he can wait… and so can I!” Then, her expression softened. “Why did you ever fight against us, Dumbledore? You should have joined us. You still can, you know… I can’t get the Elder Wand from Lily’s brat, but you could. She’d probably give it to you. Then we could prepare for the Master’s return. Bring this fucking system to its knees once and for all. Torch everything and form something new and better out of the ashes!”
“Tempting as you make it sound, I’m going to have to decline,” Albus replied. “What can I say? Refusing to stoop to terrorism and mass murder has always been one of my more charming quirks.”
“Refusing to stand up for yourself, you mean!” Bellatrix snapped. “You don’t owe the witching world anything! They treat you like garbage!”
“Well.” Albus pulled his wand out of his pocket and twirled it between his fingers. “That is the difference between us, Bellatrix. I don’t think you can save the world by destroying it.” He exchanged glances with Darach, who gave a tiny, almost imperceptible nod. “You’re right, the witching world is not too kind to people like us. But the solution is not to kill them all for it. I prefer to look for other ways. It’s amazing what you can do with a little creativity and cooperation.” He flicked his wand, and Darach shot up into the air.
“His name was Ragmar, you bitch!” the dwarf yelled and sliced at Bellatrix with his axe.
“What – are you mad?!” Bellatrix yelped as the axe once more passed harmlessly through her. “You know you can’t harm me!”
“No, but with any luck, maybe we can make you get to the point faster,” said Albus. “I doubt you went through all the trouble to get me here, just so you could try to recruit me with the same old speech as before. So what do you have to say, Bellatrix?”
“Fine, fine!” Bellatrix vanished again. Within moments she appeared right in front of Albus. “I want to make a bargain.”
“A bargain?” Albus lowered his wand so Darach could get down onto the ground again. “The Elder Wand is no longer mine to give. Even if it was, I wouldn’t have given it to you.”
“Not even if I gave you… Severina?”
Bellatrix must have heard the surprise in Albus’s voice, because her cruel smile reappeared. “Yes. You never did find out what happened to her, did you? She’s been with me this entire time. Not completely willingly, I’ll admit, but… she’s alive and well. Alive, at any rate.”
“I see.” Albus had to take a couple of deep breath to steady himself.
“I see?” Bellatrix repeated. “I tell you that I have a woman that the entire world thinks is dead – a woman who used to work for you, might I add – has been alive this entire time, and all you manage to say to that is ‘I see’?! You’re disappointing me here, Dumbledore!”
“Well…” Albus was used to keeping a cool demeanor even in situations where he rather would have started raging. “I would need some sort of confirmation that what you are telling me is true. For the moment, I only have your word.”
“Are you accusing me of lying?!” said Bellatrix, insulted.
“The thought had crossed my mind, yes.”
“Fine!” Bellatrix crossed her arms. “You want proof? I’m thinking of a cave, and if you’re half as clever as people say you are, you’ll know which one.”
“I think I have a fair idea.”
“Midnight tonight, then. Be there. Come alone, bring that dwarf, or bring that brute of a half-giant. I don’t care. You’ll have all the proof you need. I’ll show you Severina… and I’ll even have a few more surprises for you.” Her smile returned, smugger and more malicious than ever. “You’re going to beg me to trade the Elder Wand.”