SORTING WHEAT FROM TARES
Several of the Death Eateres looked terrified, while others looke relieved to see Voldemort back in control. Snape alone, held a guarded, indifferent look about him.
"First to you," said Voldemort as he directed his attention to the still immobilized form of Avery. "A question, and a matter of old business. I have placed trust in you. Enough trust, even since my youth, to let you safeguard certain secrets. It seems that Harry has been able to penetrate some of those secrets. How can this be? Have you revealed those secrets to anyone? Are you careless with your master's confidences? Or perhaps, you are unfaithful?"
From the moment he had been dropped to the floor, Avery had been crawling toward Voldemort. The drop had obviously broken his right leg as it trailed behind at an odd angle. His pitiful begging and sobbing filled the chamber. "My Lord, I have been faithful. I have shared your secrets with no one. I implore you to believe me." His words trailed off into unintelligible sobbing.
"I have no reason to believe you. I can find out beyond a doubt whether you are lying." Voldemort almost lazily aimed his wand at Avery. "Legilimens!" he shouted.
Avery went rigid. He head was thrown back as if an invisible hand clutched his throat. He started to convulse. Foam came from his mouth and then blood started to trickle from the corners of his eyes and from his ears. The mental interrogation lasted little over a minute. When it was over, Voldemort dropped Avery to the floor with a casual flick of his wand. Avery hit the floor hard with the sound of more breaking bones, but it was obvious to all present that broken bones were of little consequence. Avery was dead.
"It seems that Avery was telling the truth. Or at least he believed he was telling the truth," said Voldemort smoothly, completely ignoring the broken form that had been, until moments before, a faithful supporter since his youth.
"There remain still more mysteries to be resolved," said Voldemort. "Perhaps he shared these secrets with one of his fellow Death Eaters. Perhaps his memory was modified. I have plenty of time to determine who is behind this." Annihilation's promise filled each word.
Still imprisoned against the wall, the Death Eaters had gone grave-silent. Lestrange alone was in motion. Looking helplessly at Avery's remains, he summoned the courage to speak. "My Lord, Avery was my friend. I know friends can be a danger. I know the rules by heart, but I believe Avery never uttered a word about the forbidden to anyone."
"Thank you for speaking up Roldolphus," said Voldemort coldly. "You can be next. You are the only remaining person who participated in the "first meal" of the Death Eaters. Perhaps it was you who violated confidence?"
Lestrange had gone chalk white. He realized belatedly the attention he had drawn to himself by speaking. "No my Lord! I have been faithful to you for over fifty years. I have never violated your trust! Please believe..."
Lestrange was released from the wall and dropped to the floor in mid sentence. He had the presence of mind to attempt to soften the impact by rolling as soon as his feet touched the floor. Irrespective of his attempt, his precipitous drop ended in a bone-jarring crash. He did not attempt to get to his feet. As Avery, he crawled toward Voldemort, sputtering and begging. His words, mingled with tears and pain, were mere gibberish. The fear of impending death was etched in his every feature.
"How is it that Harry Potter knew of the Greyback's murders?" asked Voldemort, looking down at the begging Death Eater. "I have kept that incident a closely guarded secret. It was necessary in order to weave a believable story and gain Fenrir's, indeed all the werewolves' allegiance. Fenrir, poor foolish werewolf, how would he have reacted if he had know it was I who killed his littermates? I saw to it that his hatred was directed toward humans, particularly Dumbledore. You see, I told him that Dumbledore and the Ministry officials killed his brothers and sister when they were found under Rubeus Hagrid's bed after that great halfbreed oaf was expelled from Hogwarts. I told Fenrir I was able to save him alone as a pup. Rearing him as a faithful pet sealed his fealty to me. Now I find that Fenrir is dead and someone disclosed the secret to Harry Potter! I'll ask you one last time! Was it you Rodolphus?"
Lestrange's whimpering had gone silent. He was apparently steeling himself for what was to come. He hazarded a glance up at Voldemort and quickly looked away.
"Do not avert your gaze," said Voldemort as he lifted the terrified man's face in his long white fingers. "Once, so many years ago, you vowed to serve me, to obey my slightest command. Perhaps you do not look at me because you fear what I will see in your mind? Legilimens!" shouted Voldemort not waiting for a reply.
Lestrange was pulled to a kneeling position and brought to within inches of Voldemort's face. As his body began to spasm and twitch, a cry sounded from a black robed figure still pinned against the wall. Bellatrix Lestrange broke the silence of the room, "My Lord, please. My husband would not betray you. He spent fourteen years in Azkaban keeping your secrets, despite the Ministry's torturous interrogations. He would not divulge your secrets." As she finished her voice became a plaintive wail.
"Bella, we shall see if your faith in your husband is valid or, perhaps, misplaced? Have you forgotten Slytherin's tenth rule?" Voldemort raised Lestrange to his feet. The Death Eater had gone silent. Voldemort gazed into Lestrange's eyes and laughed. "Someone has been teaching you Occlumency, yet you appear to be a poor student. You think you can hold a blank mind against my probing? Come, let us see what have you to hide!" Lestrange's mouth split in a wide, silent scream. Voldemort released him and he hung suspended in the air. Minutes passed. At length, Voldemort laughed again. Voldemort flicked his wand and Lestrange's neck snapped. Another flick piled his dead body unceremoniously atop Avery.
"Now to you Bella," whispered Voldemort in a deadly voice, as he released her carefully from the magic holding her to the wall. "You have explaining to do. You alone I entrusted with the secret of my Horcruxes. You alone knew of the location of Slytherin's locket. Harry Potter claims knowledge of that Horcrux. Now I find in your late-husband's mind evidence that you have been teaching him Occlumency! What did he have to hide? What do you have to hide? How, Bella, how did Harry Potter find out about my Horcruxes?"
Bellatrix Lestrange stood erect and unflinching before Voldemort. She looked him in the eyes and, with a slight quiver in her voice, said, "Why don't you ask him?"
Voldemort glanced to where Harry's motionless form still lay crumpled on the floor. "Oh I will. Depend on that. For now though, Harry seems a little uncommunicative. So I will ask you Bellatrix, how did Harry Potter gain this guarded information?"
Bellatrix broke. Between great wracking sobs she began, "I am so sorry my Lord. I did violate your trust, but I thought I had taken care of the matter. My family believed in you from the first they heard of your plans to purify the wizard race. When they entrusted you with my training as a young woman, I already had a fondness for my young cousin, Regulus Black. I had watched him accept completely the Black family dogma of "Toujours Pur." When you entrusted me with the secret of the locket, I foolishly shared the knowledge with him. I thought it would strengthen his desire to serve you, as it had mine. Thereafter he became remote and aloof. When I realized that the knowledge of the Horcrux seemed to have had the opposite effect in him, I renounced him to you as a traitor. You dispatched me to retrieve Regulus. It took me a considerable time to locate him. I discovered his father, Orion Black, had assisted his hiding. I found them in different places, captured Regulus and killed my uncle Orion. I assumed the matter finished. I did not tell you because I feared my family's reaction. Devoted to you they were, but family deaths were taken seriously."
"Bella," said Voldemort with deadly softness, "your greatest mistake is to believe you could weave lies into your story and I would not detect them. I hear the truth, but I also hear the lies. You did not withhold information because of your family. Come Bella, TELL ME THE TRUTH!"
The words of command cut across Bellatrix Lestrange like a quirt. She collapsed to the floor curled into a ball. She whimpered and begged. Finally she looked up imploringly at Voldemort and spoke through her tears. "I should have known you could tell. I have done everything you have asked since that time. I have tried to make amends by being your most faithful servant. I married Rodolphus at your command even though he was much older than I. Our marriage sealed the Black and Lestrange bloodlines. It is true that I taught others, my husband among them, Occlumency. I told myself it would protect you, my Lord, if any of us were caught by the Ministry."
"LIAR!" shouted Voldemort. "Even in your confession you lie! You were not protecting me by teaching the others Occlumency. Your words tell me so. You were protecting yourself. From what I wonder?"
Voldemort spoke softly as he crossed the room to stand beside Bellatrix. "Bella, it is said that confession is good for the soul. Because of your past service to me, I will give you a final chance to tell me what you have so successfully hidden from me for all these years. Mark my words. This is your final chance. If I must extract the information it is very likely you will not survive the ordeal."
Bellatrix stopped her sobbing and looked directly into Voldemort's eyes. In a stricken voice she began, "When I found Regulus I tortured him to verify that he had not given over the secret of your Horcrux to anyone. He resisted valiantly, but after considerable interrogation, I was convinced that he had not divulged the secret. The only information I obtained was that his father had helped him hide. I bound Regulus and sent him to you. Then I set out to find Orion, my uncle by marriage. When I found him, the fight was tremendous. He knew dark magic I had never encountered. I called on every device you had taught me, and in the end, I prevailed. As Orion lay broken and dying, he laughed at me. In his final breath he said that he had helped Regulus do more that evade me. He intimated that he and Regulus had united on a successful quest to weaken you. Orion died as I tried to force him to give details. I had seen how you dealt with those who failed you. By the time I returned to you, you had publicly killed Regulus in front of the Death Eaters. I feared for my life if you were to find out that something as precious as your Horcrux might have been compromised as Orion had hinted. I never discovered what they had done. I am so sorry! Please forgive me, my Lord!"
As though satisfied with her answer, Voldemort pointed his wand at Bellatrix, and causally, almost lovingly, he intoned, "Legilimens!" Bellatrix dissolved into shattering screams. She tore at her hair and face with her nails in vain attempt to remove Voldemort from her mind. She convulsed and writhed, and during it all she continued her endless screaming. Pinioned along the walls, D.A. members and Death Eaters alike, turned from the obscene spectacle. Voldemort released Bellatrix from the spell and she slumped, barley breathing, to the floor. Voldemort leveled his wand at Bellatrix and she rose slowly and gracefully until she was suspended in the air a foot in front of him. He looked momentarily into her eyes and then brandishing his wand like a whip, he hurled her across the room and into one of the marble pillars near Harry's still form. Her body broke under the tremendous impact and she fell dead in a heap at the base of the pillar.
"Apology accepted Bella," said Voldemort coldly. "You are forgiven."