A/N: Sorry I've been away so long. Life really took me for a spin. Truthfully, the burnout of writing these books without the ability to write anything else due to guilt has been kinda exhausting, but as we are nearing the end of this story. I hope to pull through okay! Your patience and support have been wonderful and I hope you all enjoy this chapter!
Chapter XXIII: Broken Trust
The walls of the great castle shook with the roar of a titan. The weather never seemed normal in Avalon. At times, it was a wonderous paradise. Other times, it was a wasteland. Much of it depended on the mood of the castle's mistress. That, of course, made the beautiful days far less frequent.
Rain fell from the heavens relentlessly. Water flooded the medieval streets of the city below. From her window, Daphne watched the struggles of the people below. Husbands lifted their wives and children to the roof of the house, unable to do anything but watch their city float away. Had they been anything more than trapped civilians, doomed to die the moment they left the city's walls, Daphne may have advocated for them. There was little to be done now but watch.
The familiar chill raced down her spine the second she closed her final bag. Her lips pulled themselves into a frown. For months, she'd dreamed of the day she'd leave the castle. Yet, now, there was almost a sense of attachment to the monumental ancestral home. And perhaps, the mistress that resided within it.
"You'll be going then, I suppose?" Morgana said flatly.
"Yes," Daphne whispered. "I feel it is time."
"You could learn far more if you stayed," Morgana said. "I was right to assume you had great prowess in my developed field. You have the potential to be great."
Daphne smiled. The woman floated behind her with cold air at her back. Her ghostly fingers slipped softly through her shoulder blades like a hot knife through butter. "Had it been a better time, under better circumstances, my lady," Daphne started.
"You and that crow of mine," Morgana shook her head. "Your hearts are far too kind for this world. To sacrifice your life; your potential, it is a noble act and a foolish one." Daphne nodded. There was no denying the truth in the witch queen's words. "Yet you still insist on returning to your chaotic mess of a world."
"I do, my lady," Daphne said. "I've given my word to people I can't betray I'd return. But know this, please, Lady Morgana." A hot tear slid down her cheek, "I will never be able to repay you for everything you've done for me. From the bottom of my heart, I thank-"
"Save it," Morgana said distantly. "I trained you out of sheer boredom and interest in you. I require no thanks, just as I did for my crow." The witch pulled her hands free of her shoulder and checked her nails, "To the eternal life I lead, you were little more than a passing interest. Think little of my time investment. But know this, you carry the teachings of Morgan Le Fay with you; I expect you to be extraordinary."
"I will be," Daphne croaked, "I swear it."
"Very well then. I will show you out, but first, I believe my love wishes to have a word with," Morgana curled her finger at the door simply, "Alastor, I am done here."
From beyond the wall, the former professor floated in. The normalness of his face never settled with her, yet it provided her with comfort all the same. Moody was a frightening man, but he was familiar to her. That was worth more to Daphne by the day.
Moody cleared his throat, "Well then, Ms. Greengrass, seems like you'll be off soon."
"The sooner the better considering the enemy, as you know," Daphne said. "Morgana told me you wanted to speak with me. I can only assume it is about one topic."
Moody smirked, "Clever girl, yes, it is about the boy. I know pretty well how he deals with trauma. It, as you know, is not perhaps the most healthy. I'm sure that my death provided him with another stone on the scale that tips him to more drastic victory strategies. I'd like you to help me remove that stone if possible."
"What do you want me to tell him?"
"That I'm happy," Moody said. "For the first time in a long time, I feel free and happy. He won't believe you, but vouch for me, will you?" Moody chuckled, "After all, you've seen me in this castle. Happier than a pig in shit."
Daphne smiled, "You meant a lot to him, professor. He looked to you as a grandfather of sorts. And I know that you thought similarly of him, a child that you never had, isn't that right? I'll pass along the message, professor. I just hope it isn't too late."
"Aye," Moody nodded, "We can only hope."
"If you are going to be going soon," Morgana cut in, "May I suggest a place for you to stop by?"
"Why?" Daphne asked.
"Because that Blue-Haired boy, Michael, and what looks to be a Veela are about to die in a grizzly werewolf attack," Morgana said, "Plan gone array, I suppose."
"Where's Harry? He wouldn't-," Daphne said.
"Not there," Morgana said, "At least, not that my sight sees."
"Shit!" She hissed, "Dobby! Let's go!"
"Dobby is here to serve, Miss Greeny," The elf said with a low bow, "Dobby is afraid he doesn't know where he is going though?"
"That would be Epping Forest, I believe," Morgana said. "Best of luck dove, try not to die yourself, yes?"
"Thank you, Lady Morgana, for everything," Daphne said. "Thank you."
Light flashed before Michael's eyes. The heat from the blast wrinkled against his skin in waves. Steam hissed from the liquid shield from each kiss of the flames' eruption. Michael bit back a groan. The pop of his shoulder rippled through the air like a sonic boom. Daphne and Claire pushed against his back to hold him in place safely within the sphere of water.
Limply, Michael dropped his arm. Smoke rose steadily from his palm, mixing with the water of the shield. The crystal-like clarity grew infected with a thin black taint. Michael fell backward, his breaths shallow and quick. Claire raced to his side and held him close. He imagined she was asking him if he was okay, but he couldn't hear anything except a low hum in his ears.
Daphne stumbled to her feet, her wand gripped tight in her hand. With a wave, she banished the smoke and gagged. Michael fought back a gag of his own at the scent of burnt corpses that decorated the burnt forest. All around them, nothing moved. Nothing besides the fall of tinder from the ash-ridden trees and a singular figure on the horizon.
Michael hissed with every effort to pull himself from the ground. His bones were tender beneath his singed skin, and a venomous heat coursed through every muscle in his body. Claire tugged at his good shoulder to keep him in place. The two girls looked to be talking, but Michael couldn't hear a thing. He turned desperately between Claire and the former Slytherin until Daphne put her hand up, locking him in place, a fierce look in her eyes.
Alright then, Blondie, Michael thought. I'll leave it to you then. Fenrir Greyback stood ominously atop the hill. What looked to be half his body was covered in burns. Damn, Michael snickered in his mind; I two-faced him. Fenrir looked to not find it half as amusing as Michael did.
"Boy!" Fenrir roared, "How dare you do this! I'll kill you! I'll rip you in two and eat you by your endtrails!"
The ringing had faded just enough from Michael to make out to menace's words. He opened his mouth, but Daphne beat him to it, "You won't be doing anything of the sort. Because I'm going to put you down right here and now. Fenrir, I'm-"
"Hmm," Fenrir snarled, "Wait, I know you." The wolf-man broke out into a furious fit of laughter, "You're Potter's bitch, ain't you? From what I've heard about you, you're little more than a third-rate duelist. I don't even need my-"
Blood flew from Fenrir's lips as a knockback charm slammed him hard through an ash-clad tree. "It's rude to talk over people," Daphne said evenly. "And for the record, if I'm third-rate, I suppose that makes your fourth, doesn't it?"
Hatred for all that lived glowed in the beast's yellowing eyes. Like a bullet, he sprung towards Daphne. The witch didn't move. She didn't even make a reach for her wand before Fenrir slashed at her. Michael lunged towards her but stopped at the view before him. Fenrir gnashed and slashed at Daphne's face but never reached her. His body looked to be suspended in mid-air.
A green light grew atop Daphne's fingertip, "Now, then, you are probably unaware of this, but beneath your shoulder blade, there is a collection of nerves called the suprascapular nerve palsy. What's going to happen now is that I'm going to push this scalpel here into those nerves and shred them to bits. It's going to hurt, but I really didn't like being belittled by an unimpressive beast such as yourself. Now, prepare yourself. Scalpel."
Fenrir howled louder than Michael had ever heard Remus do when transforming. Fenrir's agony ripped through the air the deeper Daphne pushed her fingertip into him. "Stop!" The wolf screamed, "Please stop!" Daphne did not yield. For what felt like hours, the wolf cried until the pain had finally rendered him unconscious.
Fenrir's body flinched before it ceased to move. With a flick of her wrist, Daphne placed her wand on the beast's head. "Wait!" Michael called out, "We need him to report back what happened here."
"Not sure you want him to do that," Daphne said.
"Well, not exactly what he saw here. We need him to report back to what he will think he saw here." Daphne raised an eyebrow, and Michael sighed. "What I'm saying is we need to alter his memories so that when he wakes, he thinks this was a vampire attack, and resentment builds within their ranks. That's the plan to weaken them from the inside."
"Now that makes a bit more sense," Daphne said. "But before you start messing with his memories..." Daphne looked down at the man's hand clutched tightly around his wand, "Diffindo!" She lifted the severed hand and burned it with a glare before snapping his wand. "He's too much of a threat to leave in operable condition. At least now, even if he recovers, he won't be as lethal next time we meet."
Michael turned to Claire, who nodded and hoisted him up. Together, the two trudge to the fallen werewolf's side. Michael pressed his wand to Fenrir's head, the unconscious man's thoughts little more than a playground to him now. "While I work on this," He croaked. "Damyan, can you check on-"
"He's beyond saving," Daphne sighed. "Even if I could stop the bleeding, it seems Fenrir scratched him up. He won't survive till morning."
"Daphne, be serious. He's got to be alright," Michael said. "I promised I'd bring him back alive. I mean, you trained with Morgana, you have to be able to do something." Daphne looked away wordlessly. "What? That's it? You're not going to even try to help him? Your little sister cares about him and you're not even going to bother dirtying your-"
"It's not about that," Daphne said softly. "Michael, look at him. He's seconds away from passing without any intervention. There's nothing I can do, not for something like this. I assume he knew the risks of war before leaving on this mission. Let his suffering end now. Astoria, I-," Her frown tightened, "She'll have to move on. In time, she'll heal. For now, all we can do, is let Damyan go and honor his memory."
Michael grit his teeth and knelt before the kid. "S-Sorry," Damyan whispered. "I'm so sorry. Tell my dad, tell him that I love him, and tell Astoria, tell her I am so sorry for doing this to her. She-," Blood tickled from his lips with a heavy cough, "Just let everyone know I'm thankful for everything. Thank you, Michael, for everything."
Michael's fingers curled at Damyan's weak smile. The boy's chest rose no more, and the warmth of his eyes grew more distant by the moment. Anger flooded his bloodstream. Anger at the war, at the world, at himself. For a second, it was as if nothing existed other than him and his rage.
A distant howl snapped him from his realm of hatred. With a scowl, he muttered, "Obliviate," and weaved the spell through the feral creature's mind. "When next we meet," Michael said, his bones trembling beneath his skin, "I'll skin you like the beast you are."
Daphne's hand pressed on his shoulder, "Michael, we've got to go." Another howl, closer than before, rattled the air, "Seriously, Corner, we need to leave if we don't want to get caught."
"Dobby," Daphne whispered. The elf appeared at her side in an instant, "Take us back to Grimmauld Place." She glanced at the pale body of the Bulgarian Minister's son, "All of us, please."
"Yes, Ms. Greeny," Dobby panted, the presence of the approaching werewolves well known in his voice. "Right away." The elf gripped his wrist tightly, but Michael's eyes never left the beaten werewolf until, with a pop, they vanished.
The halls of Grimmauld Place were dim at the arrival of Claire and her group. Only the kitchen glowed in the distance and rumbled with conversation. Fleur's voice had been the first to break through the noise, adamant for her desire to return to the forest. Though, it was the next voice that brought a paleness to Michael's face. "We need to go back," Astoria hissed, "I don't care what Michael said to do; he is one of ours, they all are, we don't abandon our-"
The voices fell quiet at the movement of Daphne's shadow against the wall. "Blimey," Abigail Thatcher said. "As I live in breathe, the prodigal daughter returns."
"Daphne!" Astoria cried and jumped into her sister's arms, who gripped her tightly. Distantly, Claire watched Astoria's smile drop. In a moment, the witch already knew something terrible had happened.
The shuffling grew from the dining room. Fleur raced to Claire and hugged her tightly with hot tears down her cheek, "Merde," Fleur panted, "I'd thought I'd lost you. We were being followed, and we had to get out quick. We were just planning on how we were going to return-"
"Michael." Claire's stomach shifted at the call to off her boyfriend's name. Astoria waded through the room, "Michael, where's Damyan? Is he hurt? I-,"
"Damyan's dead," Daphne said smoothly, in a tone that nearly made icicles from overhead. "Fenrir killed him."
"What?" Astoria mumbled. "Come on, Daphne, this isn't time for your sick sense of humor." The young witch turned back to Michael like a whip. "Come on, Michael. Seriously, where is he? Tell Daphne to stop messing around like that." The silence grew longer. "I'm fucking serious, Michael! Where is he?"
"Astoria, I'm sorry," Claire whispered. "I'm so sorry."
"No," Astoria lip quivered. The furniture around her swirled with every shake of her head, "No, no, no. That's not true! Michael said he was going to protect him! Right, Michael! You kept him safe didn't you." Michael's face stood blank as stone as if the boy's soul had left him long ago. "Michael!"
"He tried, Astoria," Claire said. "We were almost out, and Michael risked his own life going back to try and save him! He-"
"Shut up!" Astoria cried! "How could you let him die! I thought you were strong enough to keep him safe! You promised you'd-"
"You're acting like a child, Astoria," Daphne muttered. "Claire's telling you the truth, and as painful as it is, you have to accept it. I'm certain Damyan understood the risks just as well as any of us. I'm sorry for the pain it's causing you, but this is not a productive way to deal with it."
"How would you like me to deal with it?" Astoria hissed. "How am I supposed to-"
"Michael Corner!" This new voice thundered over the rest, as did his figure. Claire followed the voice to Kingsley, who stood morosely in the corner. "I need a moment with you. I just got an update from the Ministry with information that concerns you. Let's go somewhere more private."
"Can this not wait Kingsley," Emmeline said, "I think it's best if we work through this current issue together before we-"
"I apologize, but I think it would be unwise to do so," The bald man said evenly. "There is immediate action that must be taken care of in order to avoid further complications."
The rain came. Claire had left the discussion below with Fleur once Daphne had pulled Astoria aside to mourn and keep the blame conversation under control. She couldn't imagine the stress the higher-ups in the Order had to have been feeling. The death of any member isn't easy to handle, but Damyan was high profile. The letter of notification, which had fallen into Sirius' responsibility, must have been a dreadful weight.
Though Fleur spoke, Claire hardly listened. She knew the girl had been on about the fear of the mission and how her heart still hadn't calmed itself. Claire felt the same, though it had less and less to do with the forest. Her mind couldn't help to wander back to her lover and why the auror that called to him had much such a face. It was Fleur's hand that shook her from her daze.
"What do you think, Claire?" The woman asked.
"Pardon?" She muttered.
"Merlin, you didn't hear a word I said, did you?"
"No, no, I was hearing you, I just," Claire sighed, "Sorry, my mind went elsewhere."
"To Michael," Fleur said. "He's a strong man, Claire. He's human, and I'm sure the loss of Damyan is going to be painful for him to mourn, but he'll recover. Actually, that's what I was talking about. It sounds dreadful to say, but perhaps, just maybe, the boy's death was the turn around this war needed."
"You're right, it is a dreadful thing to say," Claire affirmed.
"Listen, I know that. I just-," Fleur sighed, "Minister Oblansk is unlikely to sit still now that the death eaters have killed his boy. Even if it is a politically incorrect move, he lost his son; he won't sit idly by, not anymore. Maybe we can use his entry into this situation to finally get your father to join in. It might be the motivation the Ministry back home needs."
"Maybe," Claire sighed, "I don't know. I don't even want to think about it right now. I think Damyan, I think that he's our youngest loss. God the amount of children getting killed in this conflict, and now with Harry gone, it's just," She gritted her teeth, "Fuck, I just want this to be over."
The girls departed to their rooms. The Blue-Haired boy hadn't returned to the lower floors, and she'd expected to see Michael fast asleep. She'd been wrong. Michael stood like a statue on the bed, his gaze locked upon the rain-coated window. For a moment, she stood still, waiting for him to sense her, but he didn't move.
She called out to him, but Michael stayed silent. Slowly, she walked to his side. He didn't even flinch at her touch. It was as if the boy wasn't even there. Claire's eyes darted to the paper the boy gripped in his hand, "Michael, what are you holding?"
The boy said nothing. Slowly she reached for it and wiggled it from his grip. Teardrops stained the paper, and Claire felt her stomach drop. Casualty Report scanned the document and froze beside her lover at the names near the center of the creased page: Rachel Corner, Henry Corner. "No, this can't be right. This has got to be a mistake."
"Kingsley asked me to identify their bodies based on an auror's memory," Michael said, finally free of his trance. "It was them."
"Michael, I'm so sorry, I-"
"I'm going to kill them," Michael said faintly, "I'm going to kill them all."
A/N: Well, now to take another 6 years to post the next chapter. Just kidding... hopefully. Please be sure to Follow, Favorite and Review! Until Next Time, Peace Out!