A/N: Been a while, eh?
"Safe" chapters are getting us nowhere, I have plans, but it's difficult to execute them all. In the Azkaban chapter, I teased about the wider universe – I hope to get started on more of this soon, but I don't want to rush it too much in-story.
Chapter 49: Captured
A week after being chosen by the Goblet of Fire, Albus is waiting just inside the entrance of Hogwarts as I come back from my morning run. I look far less immaculate wearing a vest and tracksuit bottoms than he does in his silvery-grey robes.
"G'morning." I greet him, blowing hot air onto my hands in an attempt to defrost them. Bloody dementors. As if winter wasn't cold enough already.
"I had forgotten about your morning routine." He says as I fall into step beside him. "I encountered Miss Tonks on my way to the Ravenclaw Tower."
"Yeah, I bumped into her on my way down." Definitely didn't go out of my way to find her after she'd sneaked out of my room twenty minutes earlier, and we also didn't inspect the inside of a broom cupboard for intruders.
"Purely coincidental, I'm sure." He manages to not sound too sarcastic.
"So, Do you have a room ready? I think I need a drink before we start."
"I'm afraid we will not be sparring today." He replies, glancing over his shoulder. "The cup is due to be returned to storage in an hour, Rufus and I believe it may be beneficial to have you inspect the cup yourself, either for a way to free yourself, or clear evidence of the tamperer's identity. Ah, Bonjour." He smiles at a pair of French Aurors we pass. Since the decision was made after the attack on the Quidditch World Cup, Fudge has managed to spin the French security here as international cooperation, rather than making him look like more of a fool. Moody grumbled about the extra people, telling me that it's just more faces to keep an eye on. I really wish it was a joke about his magical eye, but I can never be sure with him. In saying that, he's made me needlessly paranoid.
"We know it was him, so I still think you should just grab him. People love a scandal. 'High ranking Ministry employee incarcerated for treason'. It'll be the headline for a week." I recite the faux-headline.
"Would you condemn a man for caring for his son?"
"No, but in this context, he did use the imperius on him for years, and hoodwinked the Azkaban guards. Both boast bulky sentences back in the prison. There's also Barty's vast list of crimes too, maybe they can share a cell?" I rub my forehead and sigh. "Albus, I need you to promise me something. If I ever name my son 'Harry Junior' I need you to come and kill me."
"Perhaps something a little less severe, should the situation arise." Albus leads our party of two to an old classroom, currently sporting two English Aurors at the door. The woman on the right looks familiar. "I believe Rufus is expecting us?" I know that Scrimgeour is already inside, along with Cornelius Fudge, and Allain Delacour with a handful of French Aurors. Well, they're inside unless they've fled out a window.
"Yes, Professor." The scrawny looking Auror says. I don't think I ever call Albus 'Professor' unless I'm poking fun at him. The Auror taps the lock with his wand and I watch the locking charm peel back away from the door.
"Oh, you've got two hands now." I blurt out. That's where I know her from! The other Auror is the one whose hand I had to cut off when we were hunting Fenrir Greyback. "Sorry about that." Her 'serious Auror' mask cracks fir a second as she smiles.
"Probably saved my job."
"Harry." Albus grabs my attention again, tilting his head to the room. Right. Pretending to be important.
"Ah, Harry, M'boy!" Fudge all but snatches my hand to shake it.
"Minister, So nice to see you bright and early in the morning." I force on a smile. I'd much prefer to have had a shower first. I feel incredibly uncomfortable being dressed in my running clothes whilst in the same room as two Ministers of Magic. "And Allain, it's good to see you again." My greeting is a bit warmer, as he's not done anything to annoy me. Yet. Scrimgeour just looks like he's sulking. "Is Mo- Professor Moody not going to be here?" I ask the room. He's usually around when something pertaining the school's security is involved. It's actually his job to overlook it for the tournament. The door opens again.
"Alastor has other duties to attend to." Barty Crouch. Senior. Urgh, I hate the man even more for having a stupid name. I catch Scrimgeour's eye as Allain starts to talk and he nods slightly. He knows to be on the lookout.
"I did not theenk we would 'ave the pleasure of your company 'ere." Clearly some distaste between the two men, judging by the glare. I would guess it's to do with the World Cup being attacked.
"We should see if Mister Potter can discern anything from the cup." Scrimgeour speaks up for the first time, trying to defuse the tension. Aurors from both countries look ready to stop curses flying. The Goblet looks a lot less impressive without the fire.
"Sure." I nod, taking a step towards the carved wooden relic. "Hopefully it doesn't kill me for trying to escape the tournament." I joke. It falls flat as there is probably a fairly high chance of me really dying. I close one eye and stretch my hand out, laying it on the side.
Carved in 1217, a full seventy-seven years before it's use in the very first Tri-Wizard Tournament, by Richard Cross and later enchanted by the same man to lock wizard-slaves into servitude, or perhaps entertainment in a sort of gladiatorial arena. We're incredibly lucky we don't put blood into this thing as an entry requirement, or we'd be severely screwed. After 1294, when it was first used at Hogwarts for the tournament, it was brought out of storage once every five years to hold another one at the next school. In 1312, the enchantments on the cup were altered slightly to make it more competition friendly, and then they were confounded on October 31st 1994 by Barty Crouch Sr. The cup is pure evil, a sort of watered down slavery machine.
"Bloody hell." I wipe my hand on my leg and sigh. "No, I can't get out of it's bind-" I look over at Barty, standing by the door. The Aurors outside haven't closed it, instread choosing to watch the proceedings inside. Moody would have their heads. "-but I did notice a confundus on the-" Barty darts out of the door.
"Imperio!" He fires the unforgivable backwards. It's heading straight for me, he was quite a proficient duellist in his time, easily able to aim that. The goal is to have me delay the others. In a quick twist of my hand, I fire a dart from my wand at Barty as he runs. At about eight inches long, the silver bolt hits Barty in the base of the spine just as the curse hits me in the chest. I feel a haze over my vision, but it quickly vanishes as a sharp pain strikes at my forehead. I blink rapidly and see the door-guard Aurors already tying Barty up in chains.
"Harry?" I turn and see Albus, one hand on my shoulder. His other hand sports his wand, the ancient aspen that once brought Gellert Grindelwald to his knees whilst wielding the Elder Wand.
"I'm OK." I tell him, popping my wand back into the holster. Allain and Fudge seem to be in a heated argument, barely keeping their voices down in the corner of the room.
"Mister Potter." Scrimgeour. God, my head hurts. "By law, we are required to place you under Imperius Protocols for twenty-four hours. I'm sure you can appreciate the danger you would pose, potentially to other students, if you were under it's effects." He has his wand out too, very ready to react if I were to attack right now. "You will need to relinquish your wand and allow us to place magic-inhibiting handcuffs on you." It's a genius idea, really. And I can't worm my way out of it because they all saw me get hit by it. Even Albus has his wand out.
"Moody will never let me hear the end of this." I grumble, reaching up to undo the straps on my wand holster.
"Alastor was the one that designed the system. During the war we wanted to make sure we had no more... incidents." Scrimgeour explains. More? Probably best not to ask exactly what happened.
"Can I leave this with Albus?" I ask him. The disillusionment charm cuts off on the wand holster, revealing it's normal white-scaled appearance. Scrimgeour nods and Albus accepts it. He curiously turns the piece in his hands and smiles when he spots Tonks' name.
"Parker, the cuffs." Scrimgeour beckons one of the Aurors over.
"Rufus, is this really necessary?" Fudge nervously turns his hat in in his hands, frowning.
"I feel fine, but I don't want to suddenly snap and do anything." I say to him. I hold my hands up and the Auror, Parker, produces a large set of dark grey shackles from within his robes. He closes the shackles around my wrists and affixes a chain to them. The rune structure engraved into the metal is one of the most impressive feats of magical engineering I've ever lain my eyes upon. They create a magical void to the desired size, in this application to cover my hands, and then creates a bubble around the void to stop the prisoner pushing the void onto anything important. "Amazing." I mutter, mostly to myself, as the bubble sprouts into existence around my hands. I've read about these, but never thought I'd ever see any. The idea came from Japan, a small, mostly isolated group living on Kyushu believed that if they built their houses with hollow walls, and made the hollow void of magic, then undesirable spirits would be unable to harm them. The book I read, or touched, says that it worked so well that the British Ministry decided to adapt the magic into these inhibitor cuffs.
"Minister Delacour has graciously volunteered his Aurors to escort Mister Potter to the Ministry." Fudge says, a little unhappily.
"But Minister-" Scrimgeour starts.
"Please take Barty." Fudge orders.
"Yes, Minister." With as nudge, Scrimgeour pushes me out of the room towards the French Aurors. Albus exchanges a few words with Fudge before electing to walk along beside me.
"Are you well, Harry?" He asks, looking deeply concerned.
"Having the time of my life, really." I reply dryly. "I've now been hit by all three unforgivable curses at some point in my life, and I'm the one in handcuffs." I hold up my magical bubble. It's a semi-clear yellowish colour, kind of rubbery. I'm not sure why there's a chain, as nobody is holding onto it. Nobody thought to remove my mithril ring, but I can't actually channel any magic through it because of the void, so it's a non-issue to them. "At least there's evidence that Barty has broken laws. And reason to further question him now."
We march on in silence through the school. Thankfully, there aren't any other students around yet. We do pass Sir Nicolas de Mimsy-Porpington, the Gryffindor house ghost, who looks on curiously as we exit the castle.
I hope that the Ministry can get a location on Barty Jr from Barty Sr. I suspect he's had something to do with the recent attacks from the Crows. I suspect the Crouchs to be quite well off, which can go a long way with low-paid mercenaries. Hopefully he will give up now, after this many failed attempts, but it's unlikely. I would guess that he intends to try harder, he and Pettigrew. If anybody knows where Riddle's disembodied soul lurks these days, it's those two.
We pass through the gates outside Hogwarts and one of my escorting Aurors stops me with a hand on my shoulder. A group of slightly nervous looking French Aurors, clad in their blue coats with white trims, pull aside another of my escorts and listen to the frantic explanation. There are about ten of them in total and one holds an empty glass bottle, which is a portkey.
"We will take Mister Potter to the Ministry now." One of the Aurors tells Albus. English accent?
"Of course. May I accompany you to the edge of the wards?" Albus asks in a way that isn't really asking. A small stare-down ensues as a couple more Aurors move to stand behind me. Personally, I think this is overkill for security. I'm already in the shackles, although I could try and whack them with the chain I suppose. Like many wizards, I am greatly handicapped without a wand or, at the very least, my hands. This big rubbery ball also stops me from being able to pick up any other weapon too.
"Very well. The sooner we can start the timer, the sooner it's over." The Auror gives Albus a smile that wouldn't look out of place on the face of Lucius Malfoy. I want to tell them that I'm not under the imperius, but that's exactly what somebody that is under the imperius would say to avoid suspicion.
Our group continues to march on across the grass, I'm now being prodded along at wand point. I suppose a captive could dispparate, but would that cut off the hands? I'm inclined to say yes, but it's never been attempted with this particular pair of cuffs. Regardless of the outcome, I can't even apparate. I must bump that up on my to-do list, maybe with Sirius' help, or a good book. I'm sure there's something hidden away in the restricted section that can assist me.
An angry hiss brings us to a halt. Crookshanks is standing in front of the leading Auror, between the ward-line and us. The very angry ginger cat is giving an incredibly convincing glare, one that Hermione would be proud of. Then, far in the distance behind us, comes the call of "Croooooooows!" from Moody.
I flatten myself on the grass as the spells start firing. Of course they aren't Aurors. Stupid Harry! Stupid! Stupid! I roll on the grass to avoid a dark orange slicing curse heading my way. I push myself onto my feet and narrowly avoid something hitting me due to Crookshanks hanging off the wand arm of the newly-identified Black Crow. He throws the cat to the floor and kicks him. I clear the two-step distance and awkwardly swing my chain, catching the man in the cheek, sends him to the ground. I bring my foot up and stamp down on his head, bringing back a brief flashback from when I killed Quirrel by stamping on his head, but without the death part.
The next thing I know, I've been hit by something and I sail through the air, not in the direction I'd like to go, and across the ward designed to stop portkey travel. Another fake Auror is waiting on the ground with the portkey-bottle in his hand, firing a stupefy at me.
I've just been successfully kidnapped.
A dungeon, judging by the fact I'm not the first person to wake up on this floor. Or the first to have been kicked, or whipped, or stabbed. Well, more a cut than a stab. A knife wound on my left upper-arm. My head hurts, along with just about every other part of my body, probably from where I've been kicked. If I ever meet Morris Hunt, thirty-seven years old, ex-Death Eater, current Crow, I'll be sure to kick him in the head too.
I'm probably in Wales, unless the dungeon floorstones were commissioned and cut by Welsh muggles in 1737 and then moved, which is unlikely. Enchanted to act better as a prison cell, not that I can even attempt to blast, or transfigure, anything whilst wearing these shackles. I open my eyes slowly, looking down at my anti-magic ball. I can't call the Elder Wand to me, and Albus, hopefully, still has my wand with him. Fat lot of good either would do me currently, though.
The room is about two metres squared in which I lay curled up in the middle of. I shuffle over to the corner of the barely lit room and sit up, my body groaning miserably in protest. The 'leader' Crow, the fake-Auror that was leading me along, Graham Hedges, came in and collected a vial of my blood just over twenty minutes ago. I have been here for about five and a half hours now.
My blood? Was that the goal? Maybe to ransom me off, as they'd have killed me already if that were the plan, but my blood? There are a lot of horrific things they can do to me with my blood, but also a lot that can go wrong in doing so, both to myself and the person attempting it. I can only hope they've blown themselves up already. If Barty or Peter are pulling the strings here, then it means Voldemort is behind this.
I rub the magic-void against my forehead, attempting to stave off the headache. I let out a frustrated sigh as I contemplate the situation. Maybe if I hadn't whapped that guy that kicked Crookshanks, I could've ducked towards Albus, but as far as my instant-trigger anger is concerned, kicked him is like kicking Hermione. If I'd had a wand, that guy would've been in for a world more hurt than being hit in the head, but it doesn't change the fact I'm now locked in here. The cell door, a heavy piece of wood, has a locking charm on it, most likely a deadbolt on the other side too.
Well, This is shit.
I inspect my arm as best I can in the low light that leaks through the barred window gap at the top of the door. It's scabbed up a bit, but there is still blood trickling out from where it tore as I sat up. The scab had been attached to the chain as well, the dried blood is still stuck to the links. I use my legs to shimmy myself up the wall into a standing position, trying not to rattle the two feet of chain as much as possible, just in case somebody is nearby and listening. My legs ache, only partially due to the run I'd been on before my capture, mostly because I've been beaten, and I'd guess a less-than-kind drag to this cell is what caused the scrapes and torn skin on my feet and ankles. A more heavy kick seems to have cracked a rib low down on my right-hand side, or maybe something more severe. Despite the increased durability I gain from Scar, I will still bruise. At some point shortly after I was portkeyed, somebody tried to pry my glasses from my face, but the sticking charm was performed this morning by the Elder Wand, so instead I have painful sections of skin just above my ears. They did manage to crack the right lens, and give me, what I'm sure will turn into, a black eye.
No point in moping about it, standing here feeling sorry for myself isn't productive. I need to escape, then find transport back to England, preferably London. Hogwarts might still have undercover Crows laced with all sorts of charms to avoid suspicion. Oh, getting these shackles off is also fairly high priority.
First step – Get through the door.
I square up against the hefty door and press my foot against it, hoping to discern something useful. It's Oak with steel trims. New, a mere thirteen months old, which is when the Black Crows seem to have started using the room. A newly acquired building for their illicit dealings, perhaps? It's reinforced, so it can't be kicked down with any amount of force that isn't a dragon, and I certainly don't have one of those in here. I'll have to Macgyver my way out of here.
Ten minutes later, I find that I can't apparate out, I can't turn myself into a portkey, and I can't call any house elves.
I guess I'll have to fight my way out.
After another ten minutes of hard thinking, and almost giving into my despair, I devise my plan.
I start by rubbing my arm against the coarse stone wall to reopen the cut. Bringing my void-bubble above my head, I dangle the chain to my left and do my best to get it between the wall and my cut. Wizards can use their blood as a conduit for magic, but generally it isn't a good idea as blood is inside me, or touching my arm in this case, but separated and at a safe distance, it will do the trick. With my newly painted chain in front of me, I manoeuvre the chain so it's pressing flush against the centre of the door. Unfortunately for me, it isn't the best magical focus I've ever encountered, so I can't do any complex spells, but I can ignite the chain and, in turn, the door. There isn't any protections against fire on the door. With a great deal of effort, I feel out for the blood and the chain bursts into flames as I swing the chain, I have to burn the door, but also not burn my wrists. The room starts to heat up to an uncomfortable temperature before the door finally catches on. I snuff my chain out and get as close to the ground as possible as the smoke starts.
Now I'm in a tiny room, and the only exit is currently on fire. This probably violates a lot of fire safety codes in the muggle world, but wizards don't really have plans for what to do other than 'Put the fire out with magic'. Or if it's fiendfyre, then 'Curl up and die' is probably acceptable too.
A hole starts to appear in the middle of the door, rapidly growing as the metal starts to glow too. I take a deep breath as the heat continues to bite at my skin. I don't want to inhale the smoke. Smoke inhalation is bad.
In, perhaps, the most incredible feat of acrobatics I've performed in my life, I dive through the hole. My chain, thankfully, doesn't get snagged. I land in a stone corridor, there are other cells too, all open. It's strange to watch my limp body fall backwards as I run up a flight of stairs to a much more respectable wooden door, chain jangling merrily all the way, and balance on one foot to twist the door knob. Door knobs are stupid. A lever-like handle is way better, as they can be operated my elbows too, what if you're carrying something with two hands? Or if you've got a sphere covering your hands and find yourself unable to operate a door knob easily? I take a moment to get a grip on just how scared I am right now. It shows just how stressed I am that I can take the time to mentally berate interior decorators for choosing door knobs.
The door opens to an interior corridor, as there are no windows. There is a plush, blue rug running the length of the space, perhaps ten metres or so, and a highly polished dark wooden panelling running along the walls at waist height. Two elaborate metal candle chandeliers hang from the ceiling to light the space, completing the authentic Victorian look. It's the kind of corridor I'd expect to see in the Malfoy's home, maybe with more skeletons there.
I creep along as quietly as I can towards the door at the other end of the hallway, unremarkable like it's twin I've just passed through, also unlocked. Haven't they ever heard of multiple layered security? Lock every door between the prisoner and the exit, with different means of locking, just to be sure. I lift up a foot to manipulate the door knob, only for it to start opening by itself. A wand peaks through the crack first, I launch all my weight on the door as I see a dark black tattoo on his wrist peaking out from under the shirt. The hand drops the wand.
"Fuck!" The voice cries out after a satisfying crunch, the wrist is broken. The door flings open suddenly and a furious looking Morris Hunt glares at me. Wild ginger hair and a thick beard. His eyes flick down to the fallen wand, before twitching back to me. He bursts into action, all but leaping to the floor. My foot reaches the wand first, flicking it backwards down the hallway before he can reach it. Repeating my action from before I was taken, I twirl my wrists to make the chain follow suit, swinging it over my head and bringing the makeshift metal whip down onto his back before he can stand up. "Argh!" He is usually the one to drag their prisoners to the cells, and seems to take great pleasure in the torturing side of "interrogation". I hit him with the chain again, this time it strikes the back of his head.
He doesn't get up.
I backtrace to where the wand ended up and get down on all fours to pick it up between my teeth, then manoeuvre it into the crook of my elbow to carry it more easily. Dragon heartstring. Pine. Nine inches and a quarter. One of Ollivander's. 1957, September 19th. He was sorted into Slytherin. An entitled prick. A bully. A Death Eater.
I shake my head, suppressing my focus on the wand for now. I don't want to be reliving everything he's ever done while I'm escaping this place. I have a handy path that I can follow, that path being the route I was dragged here using. I pass through the door, leaving Morris to his head wound. There isn't much I can do without magic, so hitting him with the chain was really my only option, other than trying to talk my way out of it. Really, if they hadn't put these shackles on me, he would be a lot less hurt – Or at least not at risk of dying from brain damage.
This door leads to a grand staircase which descends into an opulent entrance hall. The sweeping banisters, the needlessly elaborate chandelier, and the gaudy marble statues attempt to create an illusion of arrogant innocence, as if horrific things don't happen in this building. My own kidnapping, and subsequent assault, for example. Everything the Black Crows have used the spaces for, and even what the 'guests' have been forced into. Perhaps we are all still just unsophisticated animals, scrambling around in the dirt, beating each other's heads in with rocks, or chains. Maybe it's the suppression of free will. In any case, this unsophisticated animal is leaving this particular patch of dirt via the wide stairs and grand door.
But the door is magically locked. I groan angrily, frustrated at the inanimate object for having the gall to remain locked. I could attempt to destroy the door if I was capable of using the stolen wand with my elbow, but-
"Give up, Potter." A voice snarls from behind me. It's Graham Hedges, the one that took my blood. Turning round, I see that he has the vial strapped to his belt.
Five bad guys in a semi circle, all with wands trained on me. I can't run past them, even if they couldn't use magic. They have me out numbered and each could easily overpower me physically due to my wounds. Maybe I could get lucky and hit one with the chain before I get cursed, but only if they get close.
Despite the odds, they still look … nervous? More twitchy, perhaps.
"I'm impressed that you escaped the cell at all, and then what you did to Hunt? Not what I expected of you, boy." He sneers. Graham Hedges. If I get out of here, I will kill you. He twitches his wand, as I was expecting, and I jerk my hands to the left ever so slightly to catch the spell on my bubble, taking care not to move too much so I don't drop the wand. If I can somehow break out of the shackles, I'd prefer to have an extra wand with me. "The door's locked, you've nowhere to run." He, quite correctly, growls tauntingly. He makes a show of flicking his wand, audibly having the mechanical lock in the door click.
A Yale cylinder lock. Why is one in this door? It doesn't make sense. I know that lock, the Dursley's have had the same one on their door for the entire time they have lived at Privet Drive. I remember the sound of it locking very well, when they'd leave me locked inside whilst they went out. It was actually nice of them to do so, to leave me in peace for a while.
On one such occasion, I knew that they wouldn't be back for hours, so I decided to read some of Dudley's comics. He tended to only ever look at the pictures, then throw them onto the floor his ever growing fire hazard of a bedroom. A single one of those comics comes to mind, one that is far too mature for a small child (even a fat one) to own. I always thought it was unrealistic, that the villains would never actually monologue their evil plan, would never really allow the protagonists time to stall, or get off a witty line.
But the bad guys do, in fact, boast.
So the good guys get to do it too? I'm not sure if I'll be such a good person after what I'm about to do.
The blood will be my weapon, the vial is sitting right on his belt, a perfect place for an unexpected detonation. I start honing my focus on the blood, a vague splotch in front of me somewhere. Ready to channel the magic.
That comic? Watchmen. Issue six.
"None of you seem to understand." I meet Graham's eyes. "I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me." He moves to cast a spell, but I release the magic before he can.
The blood explodes.
Functionally, it works like a curse named "Blood Boil". Which, aptly, boils blood. Gellert managed to hit Albus in the arm during their final duel. Albus still can't grow hair on his left arm, even after all this time. Dark magic tends to do that.
This was a lot less refined, less controlled, and less aimed.
It made the blood in the vial explode, sure, but also all the blood in the Black Crows too. More blood equates to more bang.
Something I'm keenly aware of as I groggily wake up, face down in the mud.
"Urrrgh." I moan. Everything hurts. My eyelashes are pressed against my glasses, so even they hurt. I worry, for a moment, that I've had my stomach blow out, but feeling returns to my arms and I'm somewhere mollified that it's just the shackles' bubble beneath me. I feel like I've been crushed. I roll onto my back with Herculean effort, letting out another cry from my dry throat. The building is on fire. I seem to have been thrown outside during the explosion. If any of my assailants survived the initial explosion, the fire will surely take them. Eight minutes since the explosion.
A/N: I apologise for the hiatus, hopefully I can get back into the swing of things.
Let me know what you think of this chapter!