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And so it begins.
Sunday, June 10th - Early Afternoon

Bill Apparated to Glen Hollow, one arm full of the carefully wrapped package, the other wrapped firmly around Tonks for a Side-Along Apparation.

Little had he known back when Tonks had told him about Longbottom's suspected fate - so that he could be ready in case Ginny needed comforting or a big brother's hold to keep her from going after someone for revenge - that he would be end up in the thick of everything.

"Remember, officially, I was just doing a favor for a friend when I agreed to look it over. Harry didn't go through Gringotts, and they could have my job if they thought I was doing paid, freelance work. If you weren't you, Nymph, I wouldn't even have told you what I found because it's Potter's, not mine, but this is big and - Oh, crap, this is big, isn't it?"

He knocked on the door once more, hoping the Potters were home and that someone would answer soon enough. The package was giving him the creeps, making the short hairs on his neck stand on end.
"Definitely. It's big enough to send Lestrange back to Azkaban."

Also on the massive side was the headache that had been trying to develop ever since Bill had come by and dropped the bombshell.

"Shacklebolt will probably want your friend Aaron and Harry to verify what they know; I think we can keep you out of it as far as the goblins are concerned."

There was a familiar sort of forboding that built up whenever a major case was close to coming down; it was in full force now, and Tonks found herself wishing Bill hadn't had to let go in order to knock on the door.

Instead, she simply tried to inject something a bit more light-hearted into the conversation.

"But I will let you be the one to tell the Potters that they aren't going to be allowed their present back."
"I'll get it," Harry called up the stairs to Daphne. Since it was Sunday and Dobby was back to his regular day off, Harry headed toward the front door to see who was calling. The fact they were able to make it to the door at all let him know it was probably safe to open it, but he couldn't stop himself from checking.

Yeah, yeah, I know - paranoid, but it's worked so far, Harry sassed back to the imaginary sound of his wife giggling in his head. After he checked, a large grin formed on his face before the door opened under his hand. There had been rumors about the pair of them, but this - in Harry's mind anyway - spelled confirmation.

"Bill, Tonks! Come in, come in," he said while opening the door wide.

"You're too late for lunch and there were no leftovers, but if you're good little guests and wipe your feet - I'll see if I can spare a piece of cheesecake or two along with a couple of ales."
"Maybe later, Harry." Tonks stepped into the house, followed closely by Bill. "Thanks anyway."

She did wipe her feet as directed, though. An offer of ale after they were finished wouldn't go amiss.

"Are you and Daphne here alone? There's something we've got to tell you two."
At the mention of Daphne's cheesecake and some ale, Bill felt his mouth water. He cast a longing look in the direction he knew the kitchen to be.

Tonks reminder that they weren't there for a social visit had him glancing back down at the carefully wrapped package in his hand.

"Something big."
Curiosity had her coming down the steps not too long after Harry had called out.

She heard Bill and his friend with the hair, Tonks, come in, and Harry offer them food. Daphne smiled warmly as she made to the bottom of the stairs and entered the front hall.

Her smile faltered slightly when Tonks asked if they were here alone. "Dobby may be around somewhere, it's his day off though, so there's no guarantee." She moved to Harry's side and briefly touched his back to let him know she was there.
He'd noticed Daphne coming down the stairs of course and when she came close, Harry slipped one arm around her waist. He didn't know if the big something Bill was talking about required sitting or not, but he wasn't about to take the chance. Harry motioned toward the telly room with his head and started walking, gently tugging Daphne along.

"Let's go have a seat at least. That way you won't have to pick me up off the floor if your news bowls me over," Harry teased.
No one in the place but them and a house elf; that was good. No need to go handing out heart attacks like candy if someone of a more delicate constitution was visiting.

"Sadly, I don't think this will be all that surprising to anyone," Tonks answered after seating herself on a sofa across from the home's owners.

Thankfully, she'd only knocked her elbow against one doorframe — no outright tripping.

"It's about one of your wedding presents. Can you verify for me that this vase," she nodded to the package held by her more-reliable-with-breakables "deputy," "was given to you by Bellatrix Lestrange?"
Daphne watched as Bill unwrapped the package and exposed the delicate vase.

Considering how careful she and Harry had been with the thing because it had been a gift from Lestrange, Daphne easily recognized it.

"Yes. Is that a problem? Is there a curse on it?" She wouldn't have. Would she?

Both hands reflexively fell to cover her stomach to offer a small measure of protection to the baby.
"No, there's no danger from the vase," Tonks hastened to reassure Daphne, noticing the gesture. "Neither Bill nor I would have brought it here if it would harm anyone."

She shifted her gaze from Daphne to Harry.

"It's not cursed — it's stolen. Mrs. Lestrange gave you a Longbottom family heirloom."

The implications were obvious.
From the way Tonks and Bill were talking and taking such care in the telling, he assumed they thought he was going to be shocked. At the very least - surprised. Harry wasn't either. He wasn't even particularly sad at the thought of Neville being dead. He wasn't happy about it and would have done quite a bit to prevent it from happening, but in the end - Daphne and the baby were still alive and in good health. In a strange sick way, it made sense that Lestrange would present such a gift of the bull's ears to her Dark Lord and his wife.

Harry became aware Tonks especially was waiting for a reaction. He didn't think she'd appreciate learning of the plans he'd made with Snape for her aunt's future so he needed a few moments to think. Walking over to the full length doors on the far side of the room, he put one hand on the frame and leaned against it.

"That's going to be circumstantial evidence at best isn't it?" Harry asked while wanting to know if they'd found anything more that would lead to Lestrange's arrest sooner rather than later. If it was sooner - he would have to act rather quickly to forestall any questioning of the female Death Eater.

"Have you found anything concrete as far as..."

Not wanting them to think him totally heartless - even if he was - Harry paused for a moment to lend credence to the idea he was having a difficult time dealing with his friend's death.

"As far as his body or parts thereof?"
Tonks had told him about what the Aurors had found, and while there weren't any actual parts, there had been more than enough for them to figure out that Longbottom was dead.

And whoever had killed him had been a nasty piece of work.

"They know he's dead, and they know he didn't die peacefully in his sleep. His house hadn't been ransacked, no sign of thieves, and I doubt he'd just hand over a family heirloom to Lestrange, so that puts her in his house sometime after his grandmother died. Circumstantial or not, this vase will probably be enough for Tonks to get a warrant to bring the witch in, right?" He turned to Tonks for confirmation.
Something was off, somewhere, but the Auror couldn't quite put her finger on it.

Sirius would call it the Black family paranoia and ask for that ale now.

Or maybe it was simply the social awkwardness that came from being closely related to the criminally insane; living among Muggles for a few years, Tonks hadn't had to deal with that particular complication for a good while.

Tonks blinked and nodded at Bill.

"It's enough that neither money nor connections can help her hide from our investigation any longer. The Longbottom murder occurred in London, so that office will have jurisdiction, but with this the barriers in front of the investigation here into Hestia and Kevin's deaths will be lifted as well."

And maybe the danger everyone had been put in when the damned Malfoy influence had sprung her aunt from prison could finally be lessened.
Daphne gasped, covering her mouth just a little too late to mask the sound.

"I knew they were gone, but... dead? And you think Mrs Lestrange..." She felt sick. Daphne had no idea why she was surprised, she shouldn't have been. She'd known Bellatrix had no problem killing Croaker, and he'd been an Unspeakable.

Harry was all the way across the room so Daphne curled closer to the arm of the sofa rather than reaching for him.

Bellatrix Lestrange needed to be stopped, that was obvious, but they couldn't risk having the woman questioned by the authorities. She looked to Harry, concern in her eyes, before turning back to Tonks.

"Are you sure they're dead? Could there be any other explanation?"
"We had Professor Vector run her charts on both of them," Tonks said, shaking her head. "They're gone."

The Aurors had been eliminated even more thouroghly than Longbottom had, no traces of their blood remained. Tonks assumed, or hoped, that meant Bellatrix simply hadn't bothered with torturing them the way she had Neville. Aurors were trained to withstand torture, but, as Neville's parents proved, it didn't help against a determined sadist.

"We had the memorial services last month," she offered. "Remus was even able to attend one of them."

The face of the Herbologist's widow came to mind; Tonks had taken Lupin's suggestion and tracked her down. The woman had been not at all interested in answering any questions that suggested her husband might have had contact with any Death Eater.

"But we don't know Mrs. Lestrange was involved in any of this. Everyone who might know things seems to end up, well. You know. Dead."

Now they had the vase's wordless testimony, though.
It was dark when Severus arrived at Glen Hollow in answer to the cryptic summons he had received.

"Yes, Master. Right away, Master. I live to serve, Master," he continued to mutter under his breath as he waited for someone to answer the bloody door. Potter had changed the wards to keep him from Apparating directly into the home long ago, and Severus felt it greatly hindered his stealth to have to be forced to knock on the damn door for a "secret" meeting.
After feeding Bill as much cheesecake as he wanted, Harry hadn't exactly pushed the two out the door, but he hadn't extended an invitation to dinner either. He'd also taken the time to assure Daphne that although the situation looked grim - there had already been some ground work set in place. He'd sent an owl to Snape, and although he didn't mention the man by name, it wouldn't be hard to figure out it was either him or Draco that Harry would call upon in a situation like this.

"Daph, I really don't want you involved any more than what you are. If anything goes wrong you can honestly swear you didn't know what was going on. That way - our baby will have at least one of us free. Alright?"

Harry's head turned as a knock sounded on the door.

"Just a minute," he called and looked back at his wife with his eyebrows raised. "Please?"
Daphne wanted to argue, but Harry was actually telling her things rather than just keeping them from her, and she did understand why he wanted her to stay out of it...

She nodded and stood up, stopping next to him to kiss him goodnight before she headed upstairs. "Be careful. I'd prefer it if we were both free and clear when all this is over. And alive. If you need me I'll be taking a nap."

She whispered "I love you," before she left.
"I love you too, sweetheart," Harry murmured as he watched her walk up the stairs and out of sight before he turned to open the door, knowing without checking it would be Snape.

And that - is odd.

I'm actually depending on him.

Bloody fucking strange considering the fact the only thing I wanted to do at one time was kill the bastard.

"Come in," Harry said quietly as he held the door open. "I think you know the way to my study. Daphne just went upstairs and Dobby isn't here so we shouldn't be interrupted."
Severus slithered through the doorway and paused in front of Harry to hiss, "Anyone who was watching your home from afar could have seen me waiting on your doorstep. If you truly wish meetings such as this to go unobserved and undetected, might I suggest not having the entire house warded against my Apparation, or perhaps picking another meeting point?"

Then he quickly moved down the hall to Potter's study. If the elf had the night off, then no one could fault him for helping himself to something to drink once he entered the room, could they?
Old habits were hard to break and as Harry was about to launch an argument in defense of being open and above board, he realized something. The git was right. And it didn't set well.


Doof - Daph is in there a lot.

As much as Harry hated it, there was only one room that worked.

"You're right," Harry said while closing the study door behind him. "I'll adjust the wards so you can apparate directly in here. Good enough?"

It's not like he didn't have my journal in his hands for Merlin knows how long.

Since Snape was serving himself, Harry didn't feel the need to play host and sat down in a chair. It didn't take long to fill the other man in on what Bill and Tonks had told him earlier.

"It's going down soon. Sooner than we thought."
He inhaled sharply. Getting rid of their problem wasn't a simple matter, plans had been forming - ways to get around all of the protections built into the flat, to keep Narcissa and Draco from getting hurt, to keep the details of who had orchestrated the act secret - but time had run out, it would seem.

Severus settled back into a chair and steepled his fingers together as he thought.

"It's crude, and lacking in subtlety, but Bellatrix has never been a fan of the subtle so I find it rather fitting. All that work, wasted. In the end it will be rather simply, I think."

He smirked at Potter. "We simply let the Aurors take her into custody."
There was a trap there somewhere, but damned if Harry could see it. He could sense it and that was what kept him from asking if the other man had totally lost his mind. Getting up and getting himself a drink helped. Sitting back down, Harry took a sip.

"I have to say it. Have you lost your fucking mind? Tell me now, please and I'll find another way to take care of her."
"Oh ye of little faith, I have a plan." There was definitely a smirk on his lips as Severus took his time, sipping his scotch and savoring the taste before he spoke again.

"While it might be amusing to let you get hung out to dry, I wouldn't wish the same for your lovely wife, and, more importantly to me, I would never leave myself in such a position." He leaned forward, resting both elbows on his knees. "We let the authorities do all the hard work to contain her. They'll want to question her, yes, but not until they've transported her someplace extremely safe - Azkaban would be my guess. I have several - contacts who still owe me some rather heavy debts, by the time our wicked witch has returned to her old home, she'll have taken a fatal dose of poison, obviously to keep the Ministry from uncovering any secrets about the horrors she's been carrying out since they so idiotically let her go. Suicide. Sadly, she'll have chosen a fast acting, yet terribly painful to kill herself with, but then Bellatrix always did like to do things the hard way."

Severus was quite pleased with his plan, and took another drink in a silent toast to his own brilliance.
"Arse," Harry said quietly while finally leaning back into his chair. The tension brought about by Bill and Tonks' visit finally left his frame. "You could have said something days ago, but that's not your style is it?"

Grudingly, Harry nodded.

"It's a bri - good plan. There's only one draw back - we won't get to witness it."