I have waited a year.
A year--three hundred and sixty-five days. Three hundred and sixty-four
days too many. It's been a burning flame inside of me all this time--let's
finish this, let's finish it NOW--but he counseled patience. It
will be guile that takes him in the end, not aggression. You are performing
your part well. This counsel quiets the flame, but doesn't extinguish
it. Nothing could do that except the end of all this.
I walk at the Master's side, a mark of my rank within the Death Eaters.
He looks on me with favor for the work I have done. "May I witness
the end of it, my lord?" I ask.
"I am depending on it," he responds. "Think of their
faces, when they learn their undoing has been one they called friend."
His eyes glow with hot red glee.
I laugh softly. "Trust is so easily betrayed."
"Indeed it is--a terrible weakness. Trust is the downfall of
fools. Remember that."
"I do, my master."
A dark thrill shoots up my spine as the house comes into sight.
Almost . . . almost . . .
Is there a more frustrating word?
"Wait here," the Master says, pointing at a spot beside
the door. "You know when to enter."
I bow my head. "I do."
He steps back, lifts his wand, and utters a short phrase. The door
splinters and collapses into dust. I stay in the shadows as he strides
through the door, my stomach fluttering with razor-winged butterflies.
Through the ruins of the door, I hear voices, furious and fearful.
"What are you doing here? How did you discover us?"
The Master's voice now: "You did not believe I would be taken
in by the Fidelius charm again, did you? Especially when it worked
so miserably the last time?"
"What have you done with Ron!"
"How well do you know your little friend, Harry Potter? How
loyal is he, truly?"
"I know that he'd battle a troll at my side," he says.
"I know that he'd face down giant spiders for me. I know that he'd
drink Polyjuice Potion and face an accused murderer and wear maroon dress
robes with a really nasty ruffle on them for me."
"How touching. And do you know what else he would do for you?"
My cue. I push the door open and stroll in. There is quiet triumph
gleaming in my eyes, I know, and I make no effort to hide it.
"He would betray you, his closest friend, to me."
Harry stares at me, his face unreadable. "Ron . . ." he
Ginny bursts into tears. "Ron--" she sobs into her hands.
"How could you--" She raises her wand.
I point at her and say, almost casually, "Expelliarmus."
The wand flies to me, and my sister is left defenseless.
Voldemort laughs aloud, the sound high and chilling. "What is
it," he muses, advancing, "about the Potter men, that they trust
so foolishly in their friends? It was your father's downfall, the fool,
and it will be yours."
"We trust in our friends," Harry spits, shaking, "because
we choose friends who merit trust."
"Did you honestly think he would be content to be your hanger-on
forever, boy? Are you truly such a fool? Misplaced trust, indeed!"
"Misplaced?" Harry says quietly, raising his own wand.
"I forgot to mention one more thing that Ron would do for me. He
would walk into a Death Eater's camp, completely alone, and, over the
course of a year, work his way up the ranks--all for the purpose of leading
you, Tom Marvolo Riddle, into a trap that has been seven years
in the making."
Voldemort's red eyes open wide in horror, and he swings his wand
on me. With a roar of heat and a shower of sparks, the curse bounces off
the shield against the three Unforgiveables that Hermione developed and
placed within the fake wand, to be activated at my touch.
I stare through the sparks at the man who thought himself my master,
and the triumph is no longer quiet. "Surprise."