See Ch. 1 for disclaimer.
Oh dear. I am so sorry…
Haha, so you know how I previously said I'd try to stick to the chapter-a-month goal? … can we pretend I never said that? I now consider that made in a flush of optimism, only RL got in the way (again) and brought me down to earth: piano competitions, finals, gov school/summer program applications, 2 all-nighters for chemistry class, SAT IIs… would continue to complain, only I imagine people want to get to the chapter, especially considering the cliffie from Ch. 23. :P Thanks to my reviewers!
Warning: For violence and language. But hey, this is an attack, and it is Azkaban, and it involves Death Eaters… of course. But without further ado:
"I personally don't think Celestina Warbeck's a good singer," someone said further down the corridor.
"What are you talking about? I think she's great!"
"You would, although I bet it's more for her physical attributes."
Tonks turned the corner and saw the two Aurors who were standing guard. "Wotcher, Jacqueline, Beckett!" she said cheerfully, concealing her own worries behind a smile and a wink. "I don't much like Warbeck either."
"That's two against one," Jacqueline Asterbury said, facing Beckett Sumner. "Majority rules—she's too sappy for me."
"Two against zero, now," Beckett said, edging away. "You're taking my place, Tonks—right? Thank god—" and he muttered under his breath, but Tonks and Jacqueline heard it all the same, "—Jackie's a right terror when it comes to arguing. Bye!" And he fled down the corridor, the shout of "Not Jackie, Jacqueline!" following close on his heels. Looking somewhat exasperated, the other Auror turned back and smiled at her. "Happy Christmas, Tonks. How's the little party going?"
"If by party you mean telling stories about food in a dark, drippy place where there isn't any food, then it's going wonderfully well," Tonks replied wryly. "Absolutely fantastic, in fact. The perfect place for a Christmas party."
"Indeed," Jacqueline said. She leaned a little to the side, peering into the small room off the side of the corridor where the surveillance mirror was, and commented, "Nothing much happening in the cells, if you want to know."
Tonks looked in as well; the 1956 Burleigh mirror the Aurors had nicknamed Big Brother Azzy had been moved close to the door, so its surface could easily be seen from the doorway. "Azzy disagrees," she pointed out. "Look, there's Lucius Malfoy trying to comb his hair. Right there. That's something happening. You think maybe we'd be allowed to make his hair grow more quickly?"
"So he'd throw a hissy fit about his dirty hair? As if he isn't right now." Jacqueline watched, a look of mild distaste in her eyes. "That would be incredibly entertaining, but—" she puffed out her cheeks and tried to look as stupid as possible, "as Warden Roth says, 'I need to approve everything that happens here!'"
Tonks grinned and nodded and went on doing so. She jammed her hands into her robes, her fingers curling around her wand. "Now, now, there's no need to make fun of him, Jacqueline—you know he only means the best."
"To protect his sorry self, you mean," Jacqueline retorted. "Whiner."
"Definitely." Tonks yawned theatrically. "Wonder what we're ever going to do with the prisoners, anyway."
"What do you mean?" Jacqueline's voice was curious.
They'll attack sooner or later, Tonks told herself. So you might as well build a good mental foundation. With the suggestion of a possible attack, Jacqueline'll be more on guard.
"Well," she said, gesturing towards the Burleigh, "I mean, after the war's over—" And it will be over, she thought, it will be over, "—we probably actually ought to be put them on trial, or something like that. Unless the Death Eaters are trying to break them out, but it doesn't seem like that's happening anytime soon." Depending on your definition of soon, she added silently in her mind.
Jacqueline had had a rather merry look on her face before, but now her smile dropped. "Yeah," she said. "They were too busy torturing others to bother with their own. Very good of them."
Tonks remembered, suddenly, that Zilla Arwood, tortured and dead, just as the other victims of Death Eaters were usually dead, had been a friend of Jacqueline—Ravenclaw Housemates, in fact. And the attack had the mark of Bellatrix Lestrange all over it. The Auror investigation hadn't said so, but Tonks had recognized it anyway, she was sure. She didn't like to be called a Black, but she'd spent enough time studying the Black files and visiting the Black house that she had an idea of what her ancestors were like. What with all that she'd found, she always wondered if she were "besmirching the name of Black," as Walburga Black always screeched, or if it had always been the other way around. The name of Black had already been besmirched enough by others before her, the fanatic Muggle-haters and criminals and corrupt family heads. This, she thought, is the Black legacy. Who's ever going to have the chance to change it?
She wrenched herself away from her thoughts, and carried on. "But you have to say it's awfully suspicious," she pointed out. "Because—I mean, the sad thing is that You-Know-Who isn't stupid. He's got some of his followers locked up, and you'd think he'd want them out."
"Maybe he is that stupid," Jacqueline suggested. "Only in my dreams, though. Mad megalomaniac, he is. Barking."
"I wish I didn't have to come here," Tonks said. More misdirection was always helpful. "Could've been home with my parents, or something… I don't like this. Why'd the Ministry have to stick the bloody Death Eaters in Azkaban? I mean, it's the one place you'd expect them to be. They've got to have other prisons somewhere."
"There's Jaiole," Jacqueline said unexpectedly. "But Azkaban has the greater reputation, and if the papers say they've been put in Azkaban, so much the better for the Ministry."
"And who guarded Azkaban?" Tonks muttered. "The Dementors—and even then, there were two escapes anyway. It's stupid, I swear to Merlin—"
"Code Omega! Code Omega!"
Both Tonks and Jacqueline whirled around in surprise. The stone slab upon the wooden pedestal was glowing. Tonks hurried over, and she felt as though her heart were rising up into her throat, as though she could not breathe. Code Omega, she thought numbly. Omega, for the end. The communication was used only for alerts and warnings.
"Code Omega!" The speaker's voice held undeniable fear, yet stayed loud and clear with admirable steadiness. "Section Low L, Dark Mark, report!"
"Section High A, report received," Tonks snapped tersely. "How many?"
"Estimation here, around thirty Death Eaters," came the reply. "Reinforcements?"
"Shall send," said Tonks. Only thirty. There's more of us… Maybe we could fight them and win…
But Snape's words came to her mind. "Your main task is to get as many Aurors out of Azkaban as possible, alive… The building is of no use; the people within are important. The Death Eaters must be killed. The Aurors must get out of there alive."
And then Azkaban shuddered. Tonks could feel shockwaves of some far explosion travelling through the stone, through the ground, twisting around her. "What's happened?" she asked the wardstone, but a vague realisation dawned on her that Section Low L might already be gone. "Jacqueline," she said. "Look it up on Azzy!"
"Seon elles hwaer, Azkaban prison Section L cells!" Jacqueline shouted. "Tonks—"
Tonks jerked away from the wardstone to look at Azzy. A large section of Section L had been blown away, leaving a vulnerable row of cells. The suddenness of the attack had taken most of the Aurors by surprise; the last ones standing plainly realised that they couldn't do well in such a situation, and fled to Section K, quickly sealing the escape route. But Tonks noticed a whirl of black hair and grey eyes and a cruel face—Bellatrix Lestrange. She didn't think the block would last very long.
The two of them exchanged glances, and then they were dashing down the corridor, dashing to the center of Azkaban, and Tonks and Jacqueline yelled together, their voice flying further than they could run, "Code Omega! Death Eater attack!"
This, this was what she had wanted and wished for a long time, to be able to return to the prison that had held her for years and kept her from her Lord. And destroy it. Yes, this was fun.
Off to her side, Rozier cast one last spell that shattered the barrier, and they went through. Bella lunged forward at an approaching Auror. "Cytan!" she sighed lovingly, and the Auror twisted and fell with her next "Stupefy!" When will you all learn, she thought, that there's no point in trying to stop us? It was a pity that she could not kill them, but the Dark Lord had ordered the Aurors to be captured. "For other purposes," he'd said, and smiled slowly.
There was a group of Aurors up ahead, three of them standing side by side. Pathetic. Three against us all? Then there came the sound of more coming from the other end of the corridor. "Split," she said, nodding that way. "Purge these corridors of those Aurors. Meet at the center, where the others are."
Half of them whirled away upon her command, while she darted toward the lone Aurors who stood at the door, the door that led to the central corridor, the corridor that led to the captured Death Eaters. "Stupefy!" the three cried together, but Bella batted the red jets of light away with a "Scield!" and watched as the three-turned-six curses flew back toward them.
They had the presence of mind to duck out of the way. One of them rolled to the side and snapped, "Conjunctivito!"
Bella bent away from the curse and threw an arm-twisting curse at him. The Auror cried out as his arm twisted backward with the audible snapping of bone. She saw the quick, single spurt of blood, the muscles tearing, and the jagged bone coming into sight.
The Dark Lord had wanted them alive, but he certainly hadn't said anything about them unharmed.
But—"Relashio!" and she turned her head to see the fiery sparks flying towards her—then—Merlin, they struck across her arms and stung with a burning sensation. And was the damn Auror smirking?
She hissed and narrowed her eyes. She could hate—yes, she could hate. "Crucio!"
Screaming, and she smiled.
Henry Wyatt heard the shouts of alarm even before Tonks and Asterbury rounded the corner, and so had the others. They all leapt to their feet. "What is it?" he and Section B leader Cyril Ravenhurst both said at once, but really, he thought, there was no point in asking. Not when it was Code Omega. Bloody Code Omega, damn it.
"Section Low L," Tonks said, leaning slightly against the wall and trying to catch her breath. "An explosion to break up the walls there, they asked for reinforcements—but I don't know how much longer the Aurors there can keep it up. Thirty Death Eaters he said, right?" This was addressed to Asterbury, who nodded and gripped her wand tight, blue eyes wide and wary and watchful.
Nice Christmas here, Henry thought bitterly. "All right," he said. "Reinforcements, yes. Who'll go?"
"But—" Tonks began, then fell silent.
Henry whirled around to face her. "Yes? Speak up, Tonks!"
"I—I don't see the point," she said hesitantly, watching the others as though they might yell at her for saying so. "Because, well—the prison, they've already destroyed part of the prison, and we know they're after the Death Eaters here—"
Someone shifted next to Henry, and Dagny Morgenstern's calm, implacable voice came out of the shadows. "Yes, I see. The prison's as good as destroyed, the wards have been breached, and the Death Eaters are here—they'll come here and fight us, and if we're lucky we'll win, and lose some, and if we're unlucky we'll lose, and all be dead or captured."
Cyril straightened slightly and looked at Morgenstern. "You mean…"
"I mean that we get rid of the Death Eaters, and get the hell out of here," Morgenstern said, still with that terrible, calm voice of hers.
"But we can't just desert!" Fitzwilliam McKay there, his eyes spitting with fury.
"It isn't desertion," Morgenstern said curtly. "Only common sense."
And yes, Henry had to admit, it made sense. Azkaban was useless, in a way, and they knew most of those incarcerated here were Death Eaters. Still… he shook his head. "But we can't leave the others," he said. Can we be so callous as to do such a thing? He turned towards Cyril and looked steadily at him, asking an unspoken question. But he knew Cyril well enough; Cyril nodded. Yes. Henry looked back at the other Aurors. "Auror Ravenhurst and I will go get the others," he said. "We'll tell them all to head for the center of Azkaban and meet you all here—"
"Anti-Apparation wards are up," Asterbury said then. She raised her wand, at the point of which was a small ball of light; it danced around a little, casting amorphous shadows onto her face. "What about Portkeys?"
"Portus," another Auror said, and then a muttered curse. "It didn't work either."
"I saw brooms," Tonks cut in, her voice trembling a little. "Broomsticks, we could use those…"
"Good enough," Henry told her. "Get those together."
Cyril said, "Garner, you take over while I'm gone." Richard Garner made a slight nod.
Henry nodded and turned to Morgenstern. "You're in charge, Morgenstern," he said. "Get the Death Eaters and get out of here, but stay for a moment because more Aurors will be coming." I'm wasting time right now, he realised. "I'm going."
Morgenstern regarded him inscrutably, then held out her hand. "I will see you soon then, Wyatt," she said. "We don't want more Aurors dead."
Henry grasped her hand and shook it firmly. "Merlin with you too, Morgenstern."
Then he was turning on his heel, Cyril next to him, and he was thinking of his parents, together and dead and the Death Eaters did that to them, and he held his wand tensely. It seemed a timeless period had passed, although they had passed through several levels of Azkaban, and now—
"Reducto!" and Cyril screamed, "Protego!"
Henry dodged a curse that flew over his head and snapped out, quick and deadly, "Fyrippen!" The fire whip shot out from his wand and struck at a Death Eater, who recoiled back and fell.
The other Aurors noticed they were here, too, because they all started fighting their way towards them. Strength in numbers, yes, Henry thought. Keep our backs covered.
Adrian Laurelton was hit with a curse before he had made it, but the others gathered around him and Cyril and began moving backwards, blocking the corridor so that the Death Eaters couldn't get through, in a circle facing outwards.
—and there and there and there—
He veered sharply to the side as a curse flew past him and struck the wall. "Fyrippen!" he thought, and the now nonverbal spell flashed out again in another fiery attack. Behind him, Cyril raised another shield to block a vicious cutting spell.
A murmur under his breath, and there!—a Death Eater was changed into a little green frog. Henry had always been good at Transfiguration. He then crushed the little green frog with a piece of rubble from the destroyed section of the walls, and tried not to think about what the Death Eater was thinking as he was crushed to death. They didn't care about my parents, why should I care about them?
"Go, go, go!" Henry snapped to the other Aurors, keeping his voice low so the Death Eaters couldn't hear him. "To the center, the others are waiting for you!" He made a quick back-step and nodded almost imperceptibly to Cyril, and they shouted in unison, "Arisan vallum!"
A huge block of stone, with a groan and a creak, forced itself up from the floor from wall to wall, momentarily blocking the Death Eaters' curses. "Protego!" they both said again, protecting it from destruction by a stray Reducto. He jerked his head at the others.
"We can't just leave!" one of them said, stubbornness lacing his voice. "You two—"
"I'll have you up for insubordination!" roared Henry. "Go! We'll be behind you!"
He glared at them; the Aurors hesitated before they began moving as a group, dashing down the corridor. "Finally," he muttered.
"This is going to be dicey," Cyril said next to him, breathing heavily. "If we get—a series of walls up—all the way down the corridor—"
Henry nodded. "That'll work," he said, and—just in case—pulled Cyril back and invoked another Arisan vallum, securing it with Protego. "You all right, Cyril?"
"As fine as I can be," Cyril said. Henry shot a quick glance at him; Cyril was bleeding just a little at his right temple, and when he pressed his hand against his head, he winced a little. "You go too, Cyril," he said.
Cyril frowned. "Henry, I don't think that's a good idea—"
The wall in front of them shook, just a little. They must've broken through the first one then, thought Henry. His mind was curiously calm.
Your first duty is to the Aurors, Gawain Robards had said, when Henry had been assigned to Azkaban and Robards called him to his office. Always to the Aurors and your colleagues. Standing there with that perpetually tired look on his face, all lined with worry and exhaustion.
Cyril and Henry had been fellow Hufflepuffs. Henry glanced again at Cyril, who was still testing his head and wincing to himself. Cyril wasn't in a good enough fighting condition, he saw.
Well. He'd always been good at Transfiguration. Human Transfiguration wasn't too hard for him. "Sorry, Cyril," he said, almost too casually, and turned his wand upon his friend.
Where Cyril had been, a mouse stared up at him with a look of anger and indignation.
The wall was trembling now. "You couldn't have made it back quickly enough," he said. "Here—" a quick, small Reducto and a little hole was made where the wall met the floor "—you stay there, they won't find you. After I get away and they leave, I'll come back, all right? Can't take you with me if I'm fighting, you'll get hurt if you get hit by some stray spell."
If Cyril had still been in human form, he'd be protesting loudly, but as a mouse, he couldn't do much. The little mouse rubbed at its head with its paws, made a sniff of disdain, as if to say, "You idiot," and darted into the hole.
The wall shuddered and crumbled as Henry turned and ran. Arisan vallum. Arisan vallum. Arisan vallum. He didn't dare look back to see if his spells were working, that would take too much time—he twisted around the corner, dodging another Stupefy, and ran.
He ran so quickly that he didn't see another group of Death Eaters heading towards him from the side until it was nearly too late—
"Conjunctivito!" Taken by surprise, he narrowly avoided the spell, throwing himself against the wall to get out of the way. He quickly darted across the corridor into the next level before the Death Eaters could get to him, and—oh, damn it! He was under too much fire.
"Protego!" he snapped. "Stupefy!" He had to turn around and parry off the blows now, no more running. Can I make it? he thought to himself. Then he saw Bellatrix Lestrange, and his mind went hot with fury.
"Reducto!" Yes, blow her to smithereens! But she quickly side-stepped and shot back a curse which he didn't recognise. More of that illicit magic she'd learned, no doubt.
The corridor was dark, lit by only the furiously criss-crossing streams of lights. Henry bent down as more curses in quick succession came at him—no, she'd calculated it so that he'd be hit even if he ducked—"Protego!" And her two cutting curses stopped and flickered out against his shield. He breathed a sight of relief, but—
"Flipendo Maximus!" one of the Death Eaters yelled then, lunging at him out of nowhere, and he'd already cast Protego against Bellatrix Lestrange's curse, it wouldn't last—
The spell shattered the magical shield and caught Henry across his torso, and he was thrown up and backwards—crack went his head against the stone wall, and snap twisted his shoulder, and pain.
Then the darkness of oblivion came for him, a wave of black.
Pour la famille, Francis thought to himself. For the family.
He bent over the collapsed Auror. Still breathing, so he bound him with ropes and left him there; then he looked up at Madame Lestrange. Everything seemed oddly picture-like, as though it was click one picture and click another, and there was no transition in between: so he remembered the Auror fighting and the Auror fallen, and there was no picture to show how that'd changed. Perhaps it was better that way, he decided. It was odd to think that it'd been because of him and that nice Flipendo Maximus. You wouldn't expect some stuffy little academic like himself to be fighting here.
What a sabbatical to have, he thought sourly. His colleague Jacques Reynaud would be laughing at him now. "And how did you get into such a mess?"
"Ah, Jacques," he'd say in reply, "but how could you expect me to be coerced into this kind of thing?" No, he couldn't have expected, but then again he wasn't a Rozier.
He didn't expect too much excitement on a sabbatical, just some nice travelling, a break from his teaching duties at the Gautier Institute. Hadn't expected to be knocked out and wake up with a rather batty-looking wizard, if he might say so himself, telling him to work for him, or else—
Yes, he was Rozier. He did this for the family. He did wonder, though, what they might be thinking. They'd probably be irritated with him for missing their joint Rozier-Dufay Christmas celebration, sadly. They had the most wonderful food. And the Institute would be quite angry about how he'd fallen out of contact with them. Maybe they thought he was already dead, somehow? And perhaps that was for the best—he didn't want his status as Death Eater known, the Ministry would go after the family, no holds barred.
Francis looked up and frowned. "Madame Lestrange?"
She waved a hand in the direction of the unconscious Aurors they'd captured. "Confine them, if you will."
He nodded then, carefully blank grey eyes in his thin, handsome face, and suppressed the urge to smile. Any chance to make use of his skill with runes was welcome; the rest, to him, was all rather distasteful.
Runes was a slow subject; it wasn't ideal for duelling, or anything fast-paced like that. But it was the master of wards, and the master of ward-breaking; the Dark Lord had wanted him for that purpose. He half-wished he could be back in France, with Jacques and Heloise and the others at the Institute, but the Dark Lord had him, and if he ran away—well, the Dark Lord might be a little mad, but he certainly wasn't stupid. The Roziers and Dufays were prime targets; the Death Eaters had spoken of blood purity and preserving the wizarding world, but Francis wasn't stupid either, he sensed the implied meaning in their words: Join, or you and your relatives are going to suffer the consequences. So he'd agreed to join, in a very nice, acquiescent, sheep-like sort of way, as though he'd meant to all along, and kept his head low. Look serious, look dedicated, look unobtrusive, and for Merlin's sake, don't let them figure out what you're thinking! He thanked Heloise, wise old Heloise Mauperin, for dragging him and Jacques into looking at Occlumency. And he had thought it was a waste of time, too.
He'd managed, so far. He wasn't stupid.
He let the other Death Eaters file past him and watched as they swept down the corridors toward the high-security level of Azkaban where all the incarcerated Death Eaters were. Then he walked back and gathered all the unconscious Aurors. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. There would probably be more undoubtedly, although he did wonder why they'd all fled to the center of Azkaban. Or was there some escape route he and the Death Eaters didn't know about? He knew his wards had sealed off any way to escape by Portkey or Apparation, and he trusted his wards as he did no-one else's.
As Francis surveyed the Aurors, he thought he heard a little scratching noise behind him. He whirled around quickly, and for a moment he could've sworn that there really was something—some noise—but odd, nothing anymore. A fancy, probably, a fancy of his. He imagined too many things nowadays: adorable little Amélie, his six-year-old niece, and his brother Jean-Yves talking politics with that passion of his. And the Dufays as well, Calanthe and Valentine both exclaiming over the newest fashions, Maximilien with his polished appearance and ready grin.
"Mon dieu," he sighed to himself. Oh well… there's nothing to be done but stay away from attention, that's all.
Behind his back, a mouse scurried over. Taking in the tableau before it, it made a nearly inaudible, irritated squeak, as though it wanted to do something it couldn't, then silently darted into the robe pocket of one of the unconscious Aurors.
Francis idly began to trace patterns on the wall, the point of his wand scratching out the patterns of a quick, strong confinement ward. He worked quickly and silently, and waited for the others to return with the rest of the fallen.
"Wow, it's a stroke of luck that the brooms were here," Asterbury said as she hefted a broomstick in one hand. "Sort of old and worn, but they'll do. Lucky."
Dagny Morgenstern said, "Two or three to a broom would work, I believe."
"Yeah, I think it would." Tonks was still staring down the corridor, tense and wary.
Dagny narrowed her eyes, just a little. Tonks was far too jumpy; and odd, too, how she'd known exactly where the brooms were, and that they should be so strategically placed. She did not think broom-keeping was a common Azkaban custom; she wasn't complaining, though. She remembered that the young Auror had been in that Department of Mysteries fracas, with Dumbledore there as well… and if Dumbledore had a way of gaining information, she didn't care, so long as it helped.
"Sumner, you go to the center and direct the Aurors as they come here," she said. "Everyone else, stay in Section A—unless you want to come with me to Section B to take care of the prisoners there." She glanced at Garner, who said, "If you wish, Morgenstern." He looked upward. "Best to blast a hole in the ceiling in a moment," he commented. "Sereny, look up the outside in Big Brother Azzy, will you?..."
His voice faded as Dagny walked away. She went down the corridor, nodding to Sumner as he stood there, face serious and hard—then up to the entrance of Section B, the recognition device flashing, and she strode in.
The prisoners were wide awake. The loud crashes and pandemonium had alerted them all, and now most of them stood in their cells, faces up against the bars as though to see what was happening. One of them—Rabastan Lestrange, she saw—gave her a scornful look and opened his mouth to say something. His lips moved, but she didn't hear him; the wards blocked sound emanating from the inside to the outside of the cells—and thus preventing the possibility of taunts that might goad the Auror guards into imprudent actions. She could still guess what he was saying. They're here. Why aren't you running, you pitiful little thing?
She raised her wand and thought, "Avada Kedavra." But the green light did not appear—only a very faint flicker at the point of her wand.
So she couldn't cast it, then. It didn't surprise her, really; she knew too much of the imprisoned Death Eaters from her time at Hogwarts to truly hate them—more to pity them for being so foolish. But no time to think of that. She couldn't use the Killing Curse, but there were other ways of dying.
She said the spells aloud. "Stupefy. Suffauc." The latter, to deprive the Death Eaters of their breath and slowly kill them; the former, because she felt that she could allow them that much mercy, to die without being conscious of the slow, vise-like grip around their throats as they drew their last breaths.
Rabastan Lestrange crumpled to the floor.
Dagny said the two spells over again and again. Stupefy. Suffauc. Stupefy. Suffauc. Stupefy. Suffauc…
A shuffle behind her; Dagny turned. Nymphadora Tonks stood there, looking uneasy. She was looking at Dagny's wand. "We're really—killing them, then?" she asked. She sounded as if she'd known all along, only that she hadn't wanted to—that she had wanted a superior to confirm that this, yes, this was what would happen.
"Yes," said Dagny, and bit back the impulse to remind Tonks that the prisoners were now dead in their cells, if she hadn't noticed yet. Her voice was grim; she imagined that her face must look that way, too, but when had it not?
Tonks had had her wand drawn, but held it loosely, as though she were loath to cast spells. And perhaps she was. "All right," she said. "But honestly—those too?" She jerked her head at the farthest cells.
Dagny glanced over, then walked to the cells and removed the sound wards with a flick of her wand. "Shunpike," she said.
Stan Shunpike looked up. There was a frightened look on his face. The silly boy, Dagny thought as she observed him. The poor idiot. "There's an attack," she said bluntly. "I've killed the prisoners so the Death Eaters don't get them—but if you're a Death Eater, Scrimgeour's a bloody barnacle and I'm Sirius Black. I'm holing you up until this blows over, Shunpike. Got that?"
"Yes'm," Shunpike said, eyes wide. At the mention of Death Eaters, he'd gone very pale. "As you say, ma'am." He stumbled back and looked at Dagny, who made a wide, sweeping motion with her wand—and the bars faded into a suddenly created wall.
Dagny turned to see Tonks looking at her. The Metamorphmagus was smiling just a little. "So I'm not the only one who thinks Shunpike was just boasting, then," she said.
"No," Dagny replied. "You weren't." She started away, not looking at the death she had delivered. There was no time for that now. Time later.
She came out of Section B as Sumner rushed by with a group of battered Aurors. "Morgenstern, these are the last ones!" Sumner shouted to her. "They say Aurors Wyatt and Ravenhurst will be here soon!"
"Come on, Tonks," Dagny said sharply, and ran.
They burst into Section A behind the exhausted Aurors from the other security levels, and Dagny saw that Garner had organized well; most of the Aurors had already mounted brooms, and she noticed a hole blasted in the ceiling. As the Aurors swung onto the brooms, the rider at the front bent low, close to the shaft of the broom, and with a faint swoosh sailed off into the night sky.
"Auror Morgenstern!" Garner there, holding out a hand. "Get on, won't you?"
Dagny paused. "No, just a little longer," she said. "Just two more coming." Two more leading Aurors, that's all, it shouldn't be too long before they're here…
Garner stared at her for a moment longer, then sighed. "Careful, Morgenstern," he said. "There's one last broom there, take it." He jerked his head at the broom lying nearby, then turned and said, "Sumner, get on with Sereny. Tonks, Morgenstern, you're the last."
Tonks hurried over and picked up the broom. "We could manage four, I think," she said. "Go ahead, sir, we'll be behind you, don't worry."
Garner said, "You two leave as quickly as you can, all right? See you on the other side." He kicked off as well, Beckett Sumner and June Sereny behind him.
Dagny looked around at the prisoners in Section A. They were all dead as well; their bodies didn't show any signs of physical harm, so she supposed the Killing Curse had been used. Who would've done that? Most likely Fitzwilliam McKay, she decided. He'd been quietly bottling his anger up for ages. And Wyatt and Ravenhurst had authorised them to do so, too. He wouldn't suffer any huge bureaucratic backlash.
Where is Wyatt? And Ravenhurst?
She saw the body of Lucius Malfoy, and averted her eyes. There'd always been that faint sense of injustice she'd had around him; she still remembered the snake in her bed, and who had arranged for it. Still, he'd had a wife, a son—Draco, yes, his name was Draco—and yet…
Dagny wondered, sometimes, about the reason Malfoy had been willing to take such an action. Such a trifling little thing… surely he hadn't really bothered with a second-year, then? Only to him, she had committed the greatest sin of all in Malfoy's eyes—not hate, because hate he could deal with—but indifference.
Tonks said, a faint note of worry in her voice, "When are they coming?"
It was what Dagny wondered as well. She walked over to Tonks and motioned for her to get on. "Just in case," she said aloud. Suspicion nagged at her. Perhaps they hadn't made it? A little voice of alarm in her head was crying, Just go! Go! They're probably dead!
Wait just a little longer, she thought. One more minute—
She heard voices then, people running. Death Eaters? Or maybe Wyatt and Ravenhurst were back…
Then the door burst open, and she saw a whirl of black robes, heard a scream of anger. No. Death Eaters.
Dagny raised a shield and swung onto the broomstick, and Tonks pushed away from the ground, but—
Too late, too late—too late, said her heartbeat, too late—for another Protego—
—it struck Dagny in the chest as she turned a little in her seat, and she lost her balance, slipping off the broomstick. Tonks yelled something incomprehensible and stretched out her hand to grasp Dagny's, but too late—
A shudder went through Dagny as she struck the ground, a sharp pain in her side. She instinctively rolled to the side so as not to be a still target, a Stupefy struck the floor next to her—looked up and saw Tonks still there, ducking spells and being driven further and further away, up into the sky, but still—Tonks looked down, a split second's hesitation on her face, as though she still hoped to rescue Dagny—too late for me, thought Dagny grimly—
"Go!" she screamed. "Now!"
She scrambled to her feet in the next second, ignoring the ache in her side. "Stupefy! Stupefy! Stupefy!" A boring spell, but a short incantation, and one she could say over and over again. And yes!—one down, there, but there were so damn many—
The pain in her side nearly made her double over, wincing, and the brief lack of concentration was all that the Death Eaters needed. "Accio wand!" cried one of them, and her wand was plucked away. She dodged another spell, cursing to herself.
A trump card, though. She had her daggers, hidden so carefully, and the Death Eaters scorned Muggles, wouldn't know about the daggers, but if only that stupid pain would leave—
Another curse took the decision away from her. Too many seconds without her wand and too many spells aimed at her. "Attaqeorte!"
Dagny felt as though her breath had been suddenly stopped, as though the strength had died in her body—a tightness in her chest, a dizzying sensation in her head—she could not summon the strength to move.
One of the Death Eaters leaned down over her. It was Bellatrix Lestrange. She was saying something to others, berating them for something—their failure? Letting Tonks escape?—did it matter? Dagny, you damn fool, she thought to herself dazedly. Why be so slow?
The world seemed to grow grey with every strangled breath she took, the colours slowly fading… a murmur—the Dark Lord wants them alive—a sudden relief in her chest… Stupefy, she heard as if it came from a far distance, and then there was nothing to hear or see anymore.
Tonks didn't dare take another look at Auror Morgenstern, sprawled as she was on the floor; she wheeled round and shot out into the air, into the darkness. She tried not to think of Morgenstern, of Wyatt, of Ravenhurst… they were all there, still in Azkaban, and she had known about the attack, and yet she hadn't managed to get them out. The sting of self-reproach struck at her; she felt the taste of bitter failure on her tongue. If only she'd left with Morgenstern earlier… if only Wyatt and Ravenhurst had stayed… too much of if only…
"Tonks!" She'd been flying so fast that now she already saw the face of Garner in the night sky, peering worriedly at her. "Where are the others?"
"Aurors Wyatt and Ravenhurst didn't make it back," she said, the ugliness of the words pricking at her. "And we were going to leave, but Morgenstern was hit and fell off."
Garner went quiet. Nearby, Tonks could see Beckett and June Sereny. Beckett looked stunned; June Sereny bowed her head and closed her eyes. "Well," Garner said finally. "Don't worry, Tonks. We'll deal with everything as it comes."
And what if we don't deal well enough with it? Tonks wanted to ask. But in front of her eyes she could only see the figure of Morgenstern, slumped upon the ground and screaming, "Go! Now!"
"Don't think it's your fault, Tonks," Beckett said almost gently.
Tonks didn't answer. She stared straight ahead and flew. The bitter winter wind blew harshly against her, drying her cheeks so that there were no traces of tears left on her face.
"Big Brother Azzy"—thus, in a way, "Big Brother Azkaban." See the allusion to George Orwell's 1984? ;)
"Jaiole" is from Old French for "jail."
I used "Conjunctivito" as the incantation for the Conjunctivitis Curse, although I don't think it's stated explicitly in the HP books. "Fyrippen" is Old English "fyr" (fire) and Middle Low German "wippen" (whip) put together; "Arisan vallum" is Old English for "arise" and Latin for "wall." The spell "Attaqeorte" is a mixture of French "attaquer" (attack) and Old English "heorte" (heart)—literally, "heart attack." (I must acknowledge my debt to Encarta Dictionary Tools… an extremely useful program, I have to say.)
"Mon dieu" is French for "my god."
"The world seemed to grow grey with every strangled breath she took…"—A very, very faint allusion to Algernon Charles Swinburne's poem "Hymn to Proserpine," in which he writes: "Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath; / We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death." (It's a beautiful poem that needs to be more well-known.)
I'm afraid I can't be too exact as to when the next update will be posted… it really does depend on how nice RL will be to me. :( Considering another looming piano competition, and Knowledge Masters tournaments (trivia competitions, basically), and the likelihood of another all-nighter for chem class (stares at chem lab), I will (still) optimistically say that hopefully Ch. 25 will be out by the end of February… Maybe. (crosses fingers)
Question: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. What do you think of the title for the seventh HP book?
On a different note: I've just recently found out Wrath and Tears was nominated in the 2006-2007 OWL awards, in the category "Realm of the Half-Blood Prince" (Snape-centric stories). The link to the awards/nominated stories is in my profile. I encourage everyone to read all the nominees at OWL in every category and vote—and I appreciate every vote for this story. ;)
Finally: Jan. 31, 2007—it's the one-year anniversary of this story, and what a year it's been. :) Once again, I'm grateful to all my readers who have alternately critiqued, nitpicked, complimented, and reviewed Wrath and Tears—your encouragement and support have been wonderful.