Disclaimer: I do not own these characters; they belong only to the genius of Ms. Rowling.
The old wizard looked back at the rest of the Order members assembled. "We will enter the main Atrium; the most chaos is likely to be occurring there. It is imperative that we rescue the civilians from the fray and prevent unnecessary loss of life. Because the battle is already underway, we do not have time to discuss the fine details. I trust all of you to make sound decisions and to come back safely." With that, Dumbeldore held out his hand. As everyone gathered grabbed his arm, Fawkes settled on his shoulder and flashed them to the scene of the battle, leaving nothing but a slightly singed carpet behind.
Chapter 17: And it All Came Tumbling Down
Death Eaters flooded the Atrium. People screamed in terror as green flashes burned through the air. Alarms blared through the Ministry. Aurors streamed past bystanders and into the fray. There was a desperate aura around them. They knew they were outnumbered and because of politics, there was little chance of reinforcements arriving.
Ten floors below, in the Department of Mysteries, the Unspeakables were locking down their labs. The self-destruct wards were set to prevent dangerous information falling into Voldemort's hands. With the Department of Mysteries contained, the Unspeakables congregated in the Entrance Room. As the last one entered, all of the doors shut and the torches went out. In moments, the Unspeakables lit their wands, confused by the odd occurrence. As the room started to glow with wand light, white skulls could be seen along the edges of the circular room.
As one, the Death Eaters attacked the momentarily frozen Unspeakables. The ones on the outside of the group fell quickly, their bodies temporarily shielding their compatriots closer to the center. The remaining Unspeakables furiously attacked the Death Eaters. Spells flew back and forth between the elite of Voldemort's forces and the elite of the Ministry's. Spell-for-spell, they were equally powerful. But the Dark Wizards did not allow themselves to be trapped into playing fairly; they pushed every advantage they had in their arsenal, happily delving into their most powerful spells that no Light Wizard could handle.
The elite Death Eaters, led by Rookwood, a former Unspeakable himself, maneuvered their way expertly through the spell-fire. There was little the Unspeakables could do, surrounded and caught off guard, they fell. As the last one died, he muttered the words to trigger the self-destruct wards, hoping to take all of the Death Eaters to the grave with secrets locked in the Department of Mysteries. His brown eyes glazed over, and his breath shuddered to a halt. The last image he saw was of Rookwood taking off his mask, bending over him and smirking.
Augustus Rookwood stood as his former coworker expired. Lifting his wand, he muttered to the room at large, "The secrets of the universe will never be truly discovered."
The tension in the air vanished as the self-destruct wards were deactivated by his command.
"We have other places to be."
With that, the Death Eaters followed their Commander out of the Department of Mysteries and into the main portion of the Ministry. Now that they had secured the most valuable portion, materialistically; their next goal was to target all Department Heads and the Minister himself.
The Dark Lord knew that he was losing his followers to Slytherin. So, he had to make a strong show against the Ministry. It was vital to show the creatures that he would not be satisfied with offering them refuge, but would destroy anything that prevented them from taking their rightful place in the world. It was discouraging that he had lost several important supporters through the effectiveness of the ridiculous bill and the appearance of a legendary figure form the past. An overwhelming victory here would rectify the devastating losses they had faced at Hogwarts.
With these reminders to keep them focused on their objectives, the elite Death Eaters made their way up the stairs, killing as many powerful and influential people as they could along the way. The more ineffectual, they left alone. It was crucial for some to live, to spread the word of the Dark Lord's power and demonstrate that he was capable of mercy, as long as there was no resistance.
Finally after several floors, they arrived at the one that they were truly interested in. Grandiose double doors heralded their arrival at the Minister's office. With a well-aimed curse, bluish-white light left Rookwood's wand and blasted a crater in the middle of the two doors. The Death Eaters swarmed into the office to find it deserted. Pulling out their wands, they scanned the area for any sign of life. A fly in one corner met its untimely demise, but not another living thing moved in the room.
The younger Barty Crouch sidestepped away from the group and motioned them to be quiet. The older Death Eaters knew better than to question the young man when it came to Ministry secrets.
Walking around the desk in the center of the room, he waved his wand, scanning for any trigger wards. The area was clean. In fact, there was absolutely no magical residue being reported from beneath the desk. His face lit up with a twisted grin. With his left hand, he motioned for the others to join him.
Curious about what was so interesting about the desk, the others came over and gathered about to see what the young Crouch would uncover.
The sandy-haired man kept his wand pointed at the floor with his right hand. Using his left, he groped under the desk until he found an unusual bump. Gleefully, he pressed the knot.
The carpet below their feet rolled away, exposing the bare floor. As they watched, wards shimmered and fell away, revealing a trap door. In moments, the door receded, leaving a gaping hole below the desk. Hiding in that pit was the Minister of Magic. He was curled up, trying not to be seen, but the light from the office left him in full view of the Death Eaters waiting above.
"Now, now, Minister. Surely you aren't afraid of your old friends?"
The pudgy man blinked, "Barty?"
"Is it really such a shock? I have seen firsthand this government falling apart and rotting away. That will all be resolved before the day is out."
Barty nodded to Rookwood. The former Unspeakable sent a dark smile at the man in the hole. With a swish of his wand, the green light struck the Minister between his eyes, effectively lopping off the head of the British government.
The youngest Crouch addressed his compatriots. "Those of you assigned to my team, we are through here. Rookwood, I hope you enjoy making an example of the Minister and the other Heads."
Three-quarters of the group left the Minister's office, following Barty upstairs and towards the Aurors' offices. The remainder stayed behind and helped Augustus pull the dead body from the hide-a-way and set to work defacing the remains. One of the still masked Death Eaters transfigured the Minister's chair into a spike. With a powerful banishing charm, he shoved the spike clear through Fudge's body, leaving it impaled lengthwise. They left the blood and innards spewing from the body. The others quickly set to work enlarging the carpet so that they could wrap the grisly body in it and transport it quickly to the Atrium for display.
Dumbledore and the Order members not already in the Ministry roughly landed on the sidewalk outside of the phone booth entrance. The battle-ready group knew this meant that the siege was well underway if there were anti-Apparition wards up surrounding the Atrium. That left them with the elevator entrance which would act like a funnel, making their approach extremely dangerous.
Silently, they readied their wands and pushed into the red phone booth. Dumbledore picked up the receiver and answered the automated operator.
"Order of the Phoenix. To assist the Aurors in battle."
Twenty badges fell from the coin return. Dumbledore passed them to the witches and wizards crammed into the elevator with him as the floor began its agonizingly slow decent into the mayhem below.
Everyone knew their pairings well. They were well-versed in how to work as a unit. The silence was tense and troubled, knowing they would be severely outnumbered.
The elevator dinged open. Acrid smoke billowed into the tiny compartment, but McGonagall did not hesitate to immediately start casting. Before any Death Eaters could focus fire on the Order members, the Professor erected a brick wall in front of the doors, effectively blocking any incoming spells. The debris that littered the floor in front of the group was quickly transformed into more bricks for defensive positions and allowed the Order to exit into the chaos as safely as possible.
Dumbledore and McGonagall took positions just outside of the elevator doors and continued to reinforce the walls as the Death Eater spells pelted and chipped away at them. The first to rush out were James and Sirius. They were notorious duelers and more than capable of handling themselves at the point position. They maneuvered from wall to wall, quickly getting into position to attack the Dark Lord's minions. Right behind them, Fred and George Weasley rushed up to their positions, portable swamps and Peruvian darkness powder in hand.
At the signal from James, Fred launched the darkness powder over the barrier and into the center of the Atrium. Sirius pivoted around the wall and immediately started casting stunners. He could not cast more dangerous spells due to the chances of hitting innocents in the cross-fire. It was only a matter of seconds, but he could hear some of his spells taking down people as they hit the ground. Either way, it took out a Death Eater or removed a civilian from the middle of the deadly battle. Green spells quickly started coming at the crumbling barrier, forcing Sirius to spin back into cover.
Once the terrified Ministry workers realized that help had arrived, any still able to walk, run or crawl began hurrying towards the elevators and the barriers. Bill and Charlie Weasley made their way up to a wall just behind the advancing group and cast defensive wards between the two adjacent brick walls. Working together, they quickly pulled the civilians towards safety and, more importantly, towards Lily and Remus who were working in tandem to rapidly heal any immediately threatening wounds before Portkeying them to St. Mungo's.
The Death Eaters seemed to realize that they were not able to rack up their body count anymore and started dispersing the smoke and the Peruvian darkness powder. The air started to clear in the Atrium, forcing the rest of the Order to evacuate the elevator and take up their ready positions. Severus and Emmeline Vance, both excellent at the Dark Arts, moved up to join Bill and Charlie. As the air began to thin and shapes took form on the other side, the Order rushed to face the Death Eaters laying waste to the Ministry.
Dumbledore and McGonagall moved from their defensive positions to the front of the attack. James and Sirius sidestepped to their right, focusing their spells on the swarm of black-clad wizards along the far wall, closest to the fireplaces. Severus and Emmeline moved through the wards and shifted into position to Dumbledore's left and flung a barrage of acidic colored spells across the Atrium.
The red-haired twins changed over to their portable swamps, levitated the small devices between the lines and dropped them. The moment the small boxes touched the ground, viscous mud and bog sprung up from the floor, cutting off any forward movement the Death Eaters could make.
The Order's rapid advancement only concerned those present. They knew that these were not the Inner Circle Death Eaters. Under a heavy barrage, seven teams of two spread out, casting a rainbow of spells, each pair working in unison to drive the Death Eaters away from the wounded and down into the lower parts of the Ministry.
George pulled out their Wizard Space bag and grabbed a box labeled DANGER: Explosives. The twins set the box on the ground and set off their target-locking fireworks. The red rockets shot off at a high velocity towards the Death Eaters, beeping as they tracked their movements. Seeing the red blurs whiz by them, the Order members cast simultaneous Protegos in time to shield themselves from the blast.
Each firework left a three foot diameter crater in the floor and bloody limbs flung in all directions from the blasts. The remaining Death Eaters were forced to fall back towards the stairways and far offices where they had more cover from the twins' projectiles.
Slowly, the Order pressed their advantage, for once not standing on ceremony, allowing themselves to fully fight their opposition. They knew that the Ministry was a loss and they had no fear of being put on charges for using Dark Magic of their own. The fight grew vicious between the last ten remaining Death Eaters and the push of the Order.
Lily and Remus cast from the back intermittently as they dropped portkeys on the still bodies lying on the Atrium floor. There was no time to separate out the dead from the stunned.
A black mass of Death Eaters surged from the stairwell and behind their flagging friends. Seeing the large group, the Order knew they would not be able to hold out much longer. Molly and Percy Weasley moved to a wider angle to try to improve the coverage of the floor and shield the wounded until they could be removed. Dorcas Meadows and Caradoc Dearborn shifted more into the gap provided.
The Death Eaters, emboldened by the arrival of their leaders from the bowels of the Ministry, gained a second wind and started casting with renewed fervor. Green spells lit up the Atrium floor, forcing the Order members to dodge, duck or transfigure stone into the paths of the deadly spells. The ricochet from several of the spells went wide and caused more structural damage to the building. Percy quickly cast a Protego over himself and his mother's position as mortar crumbled from the ceiling. During his brief distraction, Amycus Carrow cast a severing charm and decapitated the third eldest Weasley child.
The Weasley matriarch had no time to register the loss of her son. Knowing the Weasley fury, the Carrows worked together, casting directly at her, not allowing her a respite to regroup. Dorcas and Caradoc were busy with the new surge from the Death Eaters, trying to duel five at a time. Their side was failing and it was quickly becoming apparent that they would have to fall back.
James, Sirius, Severus and Emmeline consolidated towards the center of their line and started inching backwards, trying to buy everyone enough time to get back to the elevators.
Barty Crouch moved towards the front and started working on dispelling one the portable swamps. His spellwork was crisp and efficient, shrinking the obstruction to allow Voldemort's ranks around and to press their advantage.
Seeing Percy's body lost behind the Death Eater line, Molly let out an animalistic scream, tears pouring from her eyes. She cast wide, arching spells. Amycus and Alecto Carrow were caught unprepared. The Prewett line shone true as the brother and sister duo exploded and rained down on the other Death Eaters in fiery chunks.
Dorcas left Caradoc's side and grabbed Molly around the waist, pulling her towards the elevator. Caradoc cast a wide-angle shield, holding off a quick response from the disturbed Death Eaters. He backed towards Molly and Dorcas, funneling as much energy he could into the broad protective dome. Death Eater spells bounced off, pummeling his defense and draining him even further. The shield flickered once, and then collapsed. Caradoc dodged to his right and missed the canary yellow spell, but could not get out of the way of a fast moving Bombarda. He let out a pained yell as his shoulder shattered under the force. Not paying any more attention to his enemy, he ran full out towards Dorcas and Molly, desperate to get everyone out of the way of the crushing Death Eater army.
Agonizingly drawn out seconds later, the remaining members of the Order were back behind the half-destroyed brick walls and tumbling into the elevator. Molly was wildly sobbing onto Dorcas's shoulder, grieving for her son and terrified for her husband. Arthur was at the Ministry that morning. She could only hope that the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts office had been overlooked and that he managed to escape during the early part of the invasion.
Snape was pressing his hand into a cut on Emmeline's side. The traditional Episkey was not sealing the gaping wound. If they were fortunate, the elevator would shield them long enough to have everyone grab a Portkey and take them to the Hogwarts infirmary before she bled out. Severus was trying to keep her responsive and conscious until he could grab the button in his hand, but the blood was causing it to slip in his fingers. Rapidly wiping his free hand against his robes, he tried to grab it again and was able to hold it securely.
The elevator was empty by the time it reached the surface. All of the Order members had activated their Portkeys. The Hogwarts infirmary received the battered crew of nineteen. Madame Pomfrey did not have to look any further than the distraught red heads to know what happened to the twentieth member.
The smoke was still settling over the floors. Bodies lay piled in various corners. The only ones remaining in the Ministry were the Death Eaters. It was a resounding victory. To make matters even better, the Dark Lord did not need to step in and handle any problems. For once, his faithful had proved themselves capable. There would be celebrations tonight and he would be generous with rewards. The most critical and delicate part was masterfully handled by Rookwood. It was imperative for Voldemort to gain control over the Department of Mysteries. If he was to win not only the battle, but the war, he would need to figure out a way around killing his own ancestor.
Currently, he was leaning towards a solution that involved sending the four Founders back to their own time so that he would both win the war and guarantee his existence. There were many avenues to pursue in the most secretive section of the Ministry. Knowing that a report was filed with the Ministry the night of the Founders' appearance, his first stop would be the Auror Department to see if he could locate a detailed report of the happenings that night.
The self-proclaimed Dark Lord stepped over the body of Kingsley Shacklebolt in the hallway outside of the Aurors' Office. Inside, papers were scattered over the floor, some soaked up the blood they had landed in. Others were stuck against walls. And still others lay singed and slightly smoking on desks. Voldemort stepped over the bodies and started to clean up and salvage the papers. He would normally have a minion do this monotonous work, but instead, he would have them go through the paperwork piece by piece to find the records of the night that turned his war on its head. Now, though, was a time for smelling and savoring the glorious burnt air of his victory.
A/N: Just want to give a special thank you to InsaneAlert who graciously beta-ed this chapter and helped get it out to everyone!