Chapter 50: The Great Escape
"Potter, Potter!" A frantic voice. A murky pink aura. "Harry, wake up!" A rough shake.
Vision still swimming, the Elder Wand appears in my hand before I can consciously think about it. The person is thrown ten feet away in an instant and a cocoon of stone transfigures out of the mud and thickly encases itself around me, in a short moment as I am hurled to my feet, only allowing for a loud popping sound through before sealing itself. Like the air being pulled in too fast. The person apparated shortly after my reactive attack.
I lean against the inside of my shell, panting heavily to try and soothe my aching head with oxygen. Raising my hand quickly, I rub the back of my wand hand against my forehead in a poor attempt to stave off the sharp, gnawing, pain just above my eyes. An intrusive, oppressive force trying to hammer it's way into my skull against my will, relentlessly driving over and over against me.
Momentarily safe within my temporary barrier from the world, I realise that the shackles are gone and I'm free to use the full extent of my magic. I clutch the Death Stick tightly and crouch in what little space I've created, then retrieve the anti-magic cuffs. I screw my eyes tightly shut and try to get my panicked breathing under control.
The silence is broken by dull thuds, rhythmically pounding against the jagged rock. My eyes swivel painfully as each blast comes as a flash of colour upon closed eyes. Spells, blasting hexes mainly, impacting the rapidly declining shield, tearing it away piece by piece. Muffled voices start to reach through as the ablative construct continues to be blasted apart. The agonising mental pressure eases up as a cold chill runs down my spine, adrenaline rushes into my veins, giving me clear control once more. The pounding in my ears grows louder and louder with the accompanying attacks.
I take a deep breath, flicking my wand and pulling the dirt up from beneath me, allowing me to drop into the floor as I continue the impromptu digging, leaving a visibly untouched roof of dirt above me. A quick transfiguration leaves a stone slab to support the earth above me, so it doesn't fall into tunnel I start to create, essentially hoovering the dirt into the point of the wand and destroying it. I move away from my prison, and towards the nearest point where I can make out the ward line, in the fastest jog I can manage with the injuries I sustained in my somewhat brief, if brutal, capture.
I ascertain from a quick glance over my shoulder that there are at least four wizards above the ground, beyond that it's very unclear without real eyes upon them. I curve my little tunnel towards the surface after passing below the alarm wards. The scheme isn't comprehensive enough to physically block my from leaving, but are more than capable of hiding the building from outside view and other locating methods. I lay an array of spells over my person to hide from sight and magical scans as best as I possibly can without my invisibility cloak with me. I should be glad I left it with Tonks, really. I'd hate to have it with me, only for it to be stolen when I was captured.
The afternoon sun splashes onto my face after I break the surface again, flicking my wand to reform the hole after I'm clear. I take off jogging once more, casting the most paltry healing spells to seal the leaking cuts, at the very least. The last thing I want to happen here is- BANG.
"He's over there!" A voice shouts. "Confringo! Don't let him escape!" The bursting sounds of apparition signal the arrival of the others, too. Trees begin to explode around me as the pursuit starts. I hastily push the charm I used to dull the pain I suffered from the cruciatus curse in order to make running easier. I jump over a fallen tree and pirouette in the air, swishing my wand horizontally and landing – somewhat awkwardly – on the floor again, taking a moment to rebalance and continue running. The trees behind me burst open, thick, thorny, twines of wood tangle up between the points, creating a thick enough barrier to block my pursuers line of sight, preventing them from performing a safe apparation for a few seconds, at least. I am definitely going to put learning to apparate at the top of my list after this, all it would take it to bust the wards to escape.
A hex hits me plain in the back, roughly smashing me into a tree I'd been ready to dodge past. I almost had time to swear before the wind was knocked out of my lungs.
"Ascendio." The spell throws me into the air, sending me spinning wildly upwards. I see a car drive down the road not far from here, which springs a plan to mind. I few quick jabbing motions towards the woodland below causes great fiery explosions below. I slow my descent and widely spin my wand around me to conduct the fire, spreading it as much as possible. I'll leave these bastards to deal with it.
Through the, now cracked, lenses of my glasses, I manage to make it to the roadside unmolested, which won't last for long. I fire of an accio to bring Morris' wand to me, using the motion to thrust my wand out over the open road.
A cacophonous tooting accompanies the Knight Bus, stretching into the road in front of me. I take a step up onto the bus the second it stops before me, earning a squawk from the conductor, Stanley Simon Shunpike.
"Drive, right now, or we're all dead." I croak out.
"Uh, where we goin'?"
"What part of-" A window is blown in, scattering glass inside the bus. Stanley ducks down, covering his head with his arms the moment it happens. I blindly shoot some nasty explosive curses towards the trees and draw up a shield to protect the bus. The satisfying clicks of the handbrake being pulled rings out from behind me and the bus lurches sideways, I grab onto the side of the doorway to maintain my balance and hold the shield up. A curse flies out from the open sky and hits the top of the bus, not covered by the shield. I drop it and lean out of the moving bus. "Expecto Patronum! Albus. Ministry. ASAP." Whatever charms propel the Knight Bus finally kick in at full force as the shield vanishes and my patronus, looking as dark as it did the day we ventured into Azkaban, starts it's search for Albus. The broomstick rider is nowhere to be seen.
I slide down the interior wall beside the driver and wrap my arms around my legs, hugging them to my chest. I rest my forehead on the tops of my knees and take a moment to collect myself after another brush with mortality. Near enough every part of my body still aches, or is injured in some way. The immediate fear is gently poking itself at me, rather than having a constricting effect on my heart. With the Elder Wand very tightly gripped in my fist, the sense of security that I associate with my magic is a comforting feeling after having been cut off. I tilt my head up slightly to glare at the shackles, which have now slid down the far end of the bus.
"Wireless said you gotcha self kidnapped." Stanley, who prefers Stan, says, now on his feet, doing his best to pretend he didn't cower at the first sight of trouble. "From righ' outa 'Ogwarts."
Ever since the leaving the Dursley's house, I was shown freedom in magic. Not just in the hidden world, but in the introduction to the usage of magic. No longer downtrodden or mistreated, the place I was truly able to excel, and then I am handcuffed for being the victim of dark magic and cut off from my freedom. It's an inhumane thing, to part a wizard from their magic. It's almost laughable how differently you can be treated between moments, sometimes a child, sometimes like an adult. Changing what they can and can't do with laws for when it suits them. Pulling an innocent soul from a person in Azkaban, or depriving a person of everything that defines them.
It's more than just a tool for me. Magic symbolises my independence.
Sneaking into a public toilet in broad daylight and flushing myself isn't something that I've ever had to do before. A reapplication of my disillusionment charm, as a wide cast spell destroyed my last in the escape, makes the sneaking part much easier. The fireplace in the Ministry atrium spits me out and strips me of all protective and concealment charms, only not throwing me into a cell for my subterfuge because I jinxed the toilet to let me pass easily. The manacles clatter onto the dark green tiles as I collapse down onto my hands and knees, the air knocked out of me from the uncomfortable forced entry through the floo. Urgh. I haven't even repaired my glasses yet.
"WANDS DOWN." A shouted, but calm, voice booms across the entire chamber. Albus-Bloody-Dumbledore. I struggle to my feet, brushing off the soot, can't look scruffy, can I?
"Get the fuck out of my- Harry!" Sirius shoves past the Aurors and hugs me, ignoring the wands pointing at me. He pulls back, looking worried, possibly from my not returning the hug. I think my left arm is broken in quite a few places after being smashed into a tree, very hard. "Bloody hell, Harry. You looking like bloodied hell barely warmed over."
"Padfoot, I was gone for hours, that's the best you've come up with?" He returns my smile, far more enthusiastically than I can muster, and I use my good arm to hug him as best I can, the pain soothing charm already waning.
"I had other things on my mind." His toothy grin fades quickly. "What happened? I couldn't get much out of anyone." He frowns deeply. "Dumbledore said they were doing everything they could but… well, I guess you got yourself out?" It draws my attention back to the barely healed cuts. There was the person that removed the shackles. A spell, so no contact, and they only touched my skin when they shook me awake, because of the vest I wear when I run in the mornings. Who was there? The pinky-purple aura, it seems to familiar, but I can't quite place it.
"I had to… make some decisions I'm not proud of in order to return." My jaw clenches. The conquered wand of Morris Hunt, shrunken and sitting heavily in my pocket, reminds me all too clearly of the lengths I can go to when cornered. "I had to…" I swallow dryly. "They were going to kill me, Sirius. After they had my blood...I-I had to." Tears break free, crawling down my cheeks, the salt burns my busted lip. Sirius doesn't say anything as he wraps his arms around me again.
I have my hands resting on the cold stone window sill at the back of Albus' office as I lean heavily, looking out over the castle grounds. After angrily telling the Ministry that they had caused enough damage for the day, Albus escorted me back to Hogwarts with Sirius so Madam Pomfrey could work her magic. I had to assure Sirius that he needn't stay, and that I would be fine here.
"I won't stop until I destroy them, Albus." I glare vehemently into the darkness. "I've seen the creation of those wards they hide behind, practically felt them cast as if they were my own. I can dismantle them easily once I find where they are."
"And if you become pressed for time when, or if, you locate the building?" He asks from beside me, where he sits on the stonework.
"I will destroy the wards forcefully." The Elder Wand coalesces in my hand. I focus on Bellatrix Cornwald's mastery of the wand. The murders by her hand, the wards used to hide the Black Crows from the law for all these years. I must have watched her do this a hundred times in the hours I was talking to the Aurors in the Ministry.
"And this 'Belladonna'? She would make her wards so easily felled?"
"The Elder Wand, and a lot of spite." The wand disappears again. "We both know what can be accomplished with those two." Albus lets out a hum.
"I believe you capable." He slowly stands up, laying a hand on my shoulder. "When today's events are less fresh, will you talk with me?" I nod jerkily.
"I'm not sure if I did the right thing."
"What matters is that we try to." He pats my shoulder.
"For the greater good?" I look up and meet his aged eyes. He nods a little.
"For the greater good."
A/N: Once again, I apologise for taking forever to write this. I had a lot of fun doing so, and I, like you, can only hope the next one isn't too far away.