Hiya, folks! So, I figured I'd be nice – or cruel, depending on how you look at it – and give you all a little sneak peak at the sequel as a Yule gift. Now, this is a slightly abridged version of the beginning of the first chapter, but hey, it's like a preview or something. Anyway, enjoy and Happy Yule (or whatever you all celebrate around this time of year)!
I. Gawain Robards' Bad Day
Gawain Robards was not having a good day, that much alone was a certainty.
It had all started normally enough. He woke up after a night of drinking stout beers and cheap whiskey, accompanied by even cheaper cigarettes, and dragged himself to the shower to wash away the dingy feeling that usually came with such a short but heavy sleep. Following this, he had ventured to the kitchen of his Welsh country house outside of his hometown of Swansea, idly running his fingers over the pictures hanging in the hall, as he always did, and set the kettle to a boil while lighting up another cigarette and taking a long, glorious drag, exhaling with a soft sigh.
When the kettle started to scream he added the tea leaves and let it steep for a few minutes before pouring it into a mug. He added nothing to it, as it already had rosemary mixed in with the tea leaves and that was all he needed.
He had finished his tea, washed the cup and flooed to the Ministry as he always did, arriving a bit later than everyone else, as was his habit, and started making his way through the still-crowded Atrium.
To his right, a fireplace flared and out came a young witch who, rather gracefully, didn't even try to have footing and landed flat on her face.
He paused and shook his head at the clumsy girl. Had it not been for her clothes though, he doubted he would have even recognized her; it also helped though that she worked in the same Department as him.
"You really need to learn to walk, mate," he told the girl in his dry Welsh lilt as he tugged her upright. "Jaysus, Tonks, you look like shit."
Nymphadora Tonks did indeed look terrible. Her hair, usually a bright pink and short or shoulder length and purple, was now long and a sort of black/brown mixture that looked like it had been thought about in regards to a brush but little more than that thought was ever done about it. Needless to say, she looked a mess.
Now, this happened to the girl once a week, so it came as no surprise to Robards to see her this way, but that didn't stop him from worrying. He liked Tonks; she was about the only friend he had left in the Auror Office these days.
It had been worse after that whole Harry Potter fiasco two years ago. The girl had been positively devastated by the sentencing of her friend. Robards himself still felt a bit ill when thinking about it; it was not his finest hour. And that set him apart from the rest of the Auror Office, who were all on the side of Crouch, Scrimgeour and Savage on this one.
Tonks grumbled something rather unflattering under her breath at his comments but straightened up and righted herself. Robards waved his wand at her briefly and her hair became a bit less of a rat's nest, but she barely noticed, trudging on toward the lift without so much as a by-your-leave.
Gawain stuffed his wand away and followed after the young woman, shaking his head.
He stepped into the lift with her and told the attendant to take them to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, Level Two.
"So, I take it you went and saw him again this morning?" he asked the downcast Auror at his side. Not that he needed and answer to the question; he already knew.
"Yeah," she answered softly, eyes directed at the floor.
"How is he?"
Tonks shrugged. "Same as usual. Just sits there, staring at the wall, doesn't talk, doesn't even look in my direction. Doesn't recognize me." The last word was spoken with so much sadness that it made Robards frown.
It was no secret in the Office that Tonks had bent a few rules and called in a few favors and gotten herself a pass to Azkaban. She went and visited Harry Potter every week, the same day and time, every time. Thursday, eight in the morning, before work, during the guard shift change. She had done so since the second week of his imprisonment.
Robards felt kind of bad for the girl. She had not been able to let go of her guilt at what had happened. She had been right there in the pit with him and the other Aurors on duty when Harry was sentenced in that farce of a trial. She had been right there and not been able to do anything. He also knew that she had been at the Malfoy Manor when they had stormed the place and taken Harry Potter and Barty Crouch Jr. prisoner. Why she was there he didn't know and no information was to be found on the matter, but he had his theories.
It was the same, yet different with James and Sirius. They had been there too, but Tonks and them did not get along at all now; which was a switch because it used to be that Tonks looked up to her cousin and James, now there was naught but resentment between them. Gawain was a wee bit of a people-watcher when he had nothing to do and there were a lot of interesting things he had noticed about the people he worked with over the years.
The day didn't really seem to get any better or worse as he sat down at his desk and began flipping through the various case files that had found their way to his station since his last time being there the previous night. Nothing special or difficult. Just your run-of-the-mill petty crime and some lady who claimed that there were dark wizards performing a ritual in a cave near her home; something about seeing flashing lights coming from the cave at night. That might be something to look into later. He doubted that there was anything going on but well, this was his job. Whatever it was, he was duty-bound to at least give it a look.
At this point however, was when things decided to change for the worse.
He was idly reading over the statement given by the woman in the file when he heard his name being called.
He looked up from the file to see Savage standing at the corner of his desk, looking down at him with that smile that was so insincere that it was practically mocking.
"What do you want?" Gawain asked, looking back down at the case file in his hand.
"I need you to go to Azkaban," Savage answer in that strange accent of his; was it even English?
Robards glanced back up at the man and felt the urge to punch him in his perfectly groomed head. How the man managed to look so damned impeccable with that long hair and thick beard he had no idea. "Why? That's not my area."
Savage's smile became a smirk and he chuckled softly without opening his mouth. "We've apparently got some dead prisoners. Need you to go and take a look, see what caused it."
Robards scowled. "Not interested, mate."
Savage's smile turned almost feral, finally baring his teeth. "I think you will find it quite interesting when you hear who they are."
"Yeah? Who's that then?"
"Harry Potter and Barty Crouch Jr.," Savage answered in almost a whisper.
Robards' head snapped up so fast he felt and heard his neck crack. "Beg pardon?"
"You heard me," Savage said, still smiling. "Harry Potter and Barty Crouch Jr. are both dead."