All was silent.
All was still.
Everyone in the crushing crowds moved slowly… peacefully; the flurry of activity slowed to a nothingness as the sky rained gold. People were blinded by it – blind to all else…
But he saw everything. The colours, the noises, the swells, the fury – all of it melted into calmness. And at the heart of the calmness…
He saw a staggering Shujin.
The Goblin teller who'd first raised the alarm – also the first to have been struck by one of the auror wizards' curses - was lying flat on the ground, scaly face against the cool marble.
His eyes opened and, through the medley of feet both Goblin and human, he saw a man walking towards the exit, otherwise unnoticed, who he wouldn't have expected to see there at that moment in a million years.
He tried to cry out, but could not. His eyes closed and he rested.
But he remembered. It was only a few minutes before another goblin shook him awake with a sneer and he burst out the name of the man who'd just walked out the door, before his eyes were even open, and before he'd got to his feet the goblins had mobilised, the wizards reorganised, and they'd all moved out into the alley.
she thought. We need more flowers in here.
She was staring at the ceiling. She had nowhere else to look.
She hadn't cried, or screamed, or even fought back too much – she'd just stared at the ceiling. Its cracks, patterns, and lack of floral activity were now very familiar to her.
It hadn't taken Saevus long to finish. He'd clearly been interested more in the thrill of the chase than the act itself – she wasn't sure if a vampire could even enjoy it – even feel what a human would - in the act. It was more a case of dominance.
But she had felt it.
She didn't try to cover herself – there was little point. She just lay there, staring at the ceiling, detached somewhat from her own consciousness.
How did I come to be here? She wondered. Enacting my worst fears…
Saevus had arrived at the manor, sweeping in, surprised to find Lucius there with her. He'd mentioned something about seeing Lucius at Gringotts. They'd put two and two together and he'd rushed away – her own husband, rushed away for what was probably a bare-faced lie, leaving her alone with - with… him.
And he'd torn at her, sudden in his lust, undressing her on the floor of the drawing room… and he'd taken her.
Or what little she had left of herself.
Flowers, she thought blandly.
The doorbell went.
Saevus stood gracefully, nude, an unfinished glass of vintage red wine in his hand. He went to the grand hall, to the door. Narcissa heard him moving delicately across the floorboards.
A female voice at the door.
Narcissa checked her neck slowly. With both hands, she ran her fingers over her ivory skin.
Muffled conversation in Saevus' harmonious tones and this strange woman's.
"I'm on my way," she heard him say.
He walked back into the room, light on his feet, and laid the glass down on the table near her.
"Someone's found the mark," he remarked gently. "Must dash."
She heard him dress and move to the fireplace. He stated a destination and moved into the fire. For the briefest moment the patterns on the ceiling were cast in a green relief.
Then he was gone.
She lay still for what seemed like an age, listening to the grandfather clock at the top of the stairs. As it ticked gently through the house she merely listened.
After what seemed like an age, she pinched herself on the arm, hard.
Still she couldn't cry.
"…Aurors have issued a call for all those who were nearby to hand in the gold that was expunged from the explosion, which tells us that they believe it was real gold and not the Leprechaun equivalent, but mysteriously, so far, none has been handed in..."
Snape smirked in spite of himself.
"Well anyway," the presenter continued, "we wish the Hogwarts teacher and the other person involved a hasty recovery. Now... last night we at the WWN issued a survey about Christmas Smells..."
Catching himself with a stupid smile on his face, he quickly replaced it with a sneer. Poppy insisted on having this drivel on in the background in her office as she bustled about noisily. He surreptitiously flicked his wand towards the wireless, lowering the volume to a blissful murmur.
He stretched gingerly, arms up, wincing at the dull, aching agony that still shot through his midsection.
Blasted muggle weapons, he thought with venom. Some of the more radical pureblood ideals make more sense when you're on the receiving end of the muggles' own treatment.
He peered slowly around, gritting his teeth against the pain. Minerva was at St. Mungos, having been taken there by an 'anonymous' party. She was quite simply on the edge of death, according to the MediWizard who'd called in, who'd also mentioned 'hours of physical torture', which puzzled Severus to no end. Quirrel was conscious – how he was still alive was anyone's guess. He'd been shot in the back of the head and all the turban jokes in the world couldn't account for an expected full recovery.
The ward was desolate and empty with only the unconscious Dumbledore in the cot and the two motionless aurors standing either side of the fireplace. What on Earth is it with the Potter boy and Hogwarts Staff ending up needing medical attention?
Snape sneered at the aurors in disgust, but his heart wasn't really in it. He was exhausted, and by rights should be in one of the cots instead of standing vigil. He'd be useless in a duel at this moment anyway. He understood why they were here – this Chow person had somehow bested Albus in a duel, leaving the Headmaster comatose, and anyone involved could not help but realise there was more going on here – something else happening behind the scenes, just out of sight.
Suddenly the fireplace turned green – in an instant, the aurors were ready for action, each having taken a step away from the fire and raised their wands at the ready. Snape's brow furrowed, but his wand slipped back into his fingers nonetheless.
For a moment, nothing happened.
"DAWLISH," a voice boomed from the fireplace without warning. "A.S.N.: 00901."
One of the auror guards visibly relaxed a little but the other remained stock still.
"Affirm," the warier of the two barked. "Request?"
"Affirmed – alpha-sierra-november double-zero-nine-zero-one; Dawlish, J," the familiar voice said from the fire. "Request all through, plus one."
"Acknowledged," the same auror said from this side. The other auror didn't hide his relief now, stepping back a little from the fire. "What's up, John?"
"I have the suspect," Dawlish stated bluntly through the fireplace. "Chow, Michael Sung."
Now Snape did sit up properly. The other auror suddenly snapped to attention also. Poppy Pomfrey watched carefully – nervously – from the door to her office.
"Send him through first," the auror said carefully.
"On his way," Dawlish confirmed.
Snape raised his wand, and the aurors readied themselves – one to grab the man, the other to cover from a safer distance.
In a flurry of ash, Mike Chow staggered into the room and into the arms of the waiting auror. He was roughly manhandled over the nearest cot, arms pinioned behind him, looking utterly defeated.
In the blink of an eye the fireplace erupted once more in emerald flames and the not-so-impressive form of John Dawlish stepped out, wand at the ready and a spare in his left hand.
"Where's Rean?" the standby auror asked Dawlish as he brushed himself off.
"Dealing with red tape in his best Gobbledegook," Dawlish said with a sour smile. "Malfoy's still at the bank, absolutely up in arms, rousing the goblins into a fervour."
"What the hell happened?" the same auror asked.
Dawlish shrugged, saying, "Something about an attempt on Gringotts – this idiot went straight from here to there."
"Later," the sterner of the two barked from where he was restraining Chow. "Let's fix the Head first."
Snape was content to watch with a brisk 'hello' nod to Dawlish, who he'd taught NEWT level potions to a few years beforehand. He didn't have the energy to assist.
Within a few moments, the three had bundled Mike Chow into a Full Nelson over Professor Dumbledore. He wasn't resisting but a large show was made of it nonetheless. Poppy, Snape noticed, came to stand nearby, predicting sensibly that some sort of injury would occur to someone – most likely the prone headmaster – in the midst of it all.
"Now, Mr. Chow," the ranking auror hissed. "Reverse the curse."
They teach rhyming at Auror School, at least, Snape thought humourlessly.
"I need a wand," Chow grunted, looking defeated. "I didn' wan' ta hurt 'im, f' Merlin's sake – I'll fuckin' reverse it."
Snape flinched as the aurors negotiated a wand into Chow's hand. This will not end well, he knew. With an ever increasing feeling of dread, the Potions Master watched as they laboriously explained to the man what would happen if he even thought of an incantation other than the counter-curse.
The Asian man nodded. His shoulders showed him sighing. The aurors guided the wand towards the Headmaster's body.
Oh, Merlin, Snape thought, starting to rise as he saw Mike Chow's eyes harden.
Without a sound, suddenly the world went white.
The force of the blast knocked the already-injured Snape to the ground, his robes and hair billowing from the floor in the haze. Oddly there was very little sound. Just rustling movement.
"Grab him," one of the aurors grunted through the sheet of white. "Fucking grab him…"
There was a groan and a thud somewhere in the mist.
"I can't fucking see!" Dawlish suddenly screamed in frustration – he sounded very close.
Snape pointed his wand above him – he couldn't even see his arm in front of his face.
"Evanesco," he hissed. "Fi – finite incantatem."
Nothing happened to clear the dense, pale smoke.
More rustling. Footsteps. A groan.
Silence. Snape waited, useless and exhausted on the infirmary floor, for his fate. He was drained dry in every way – physically, emotionally, magically…
Without warning, a most unexpected voice came out of the silence.
"DEBILITO!" Dumbledore roared. "NUBEDIUS!"
The whiteness disappeared in a single sweep. Snape's eyes came into focus – the white panelled infirmary suddenly looked very dark and dilapidated after the pure white fog disappeared.
He forced his head up from the floor and saw, like a paragon, Dumbledore off of the bed, standing over Mike Chow, who was incapacitated at his feet. The aurors pulled themselves together and began to move in, grabbing the unconscious Chow and dragging him away.
Dumbledore's expression was one of fury, but then it softened. He looked slowly around. His eyes met Snape's.
"Don't worry, my boy," he said to him. His voice sounded echoey – unreal. "I'm alright."
Snape tried to speak.
It was a smile like the one you'd receive from your grandfather.
"Relax," said Professor Dumbledore. "I have taken care of Michael. Harry is at the Twilight Inn in Knockturn Alley. I need you to take the Aurors over to fetch him."
Snape's head rolled back slowly, resting on the floor.
"Ah - and after only a me-?" he heard Dumbledore murmur before cutting himself off. "Poor Severus. In that case perhaps I'd best go myself."
He heard Albus move away, but before Snape's brain could process anything, he suddenly was finding it very hard to remember how he'd ended up on the floor as all recollection of a white fog slipped from his mind.
Lucius marched doggedly into Knockturn Alley. Witches and Wizards of all shapes and sizes jumped out of his path, for he was trailed by a phalanx of eight goblins in battle dress, armed to the razor-sharp teeth. Halberds of black silver and platemail inlaid with golden runes made for a once-in-a-lifetime sight.
An Imposter, eh? He thought furiously. A thrice-cursed imposter? I'll hex his balls off. I'll transfigure his tendons into piano wire.
It had taken them only half an hour of explaining to make him the angriest wizard in the country, but he was still mildly – mildly – grateful that he was, as far as they knew, on their side.
And when the teller had suddenly screamed out who he'd thought he'd saw… well. It was a whole new game of Quidditch, if He was involved.
Half way down the alley he paused. A sharp, angry little voice squawked up at him but he ignored it. Immediately ahead of him, he saw Saevus – his own demonic half-brother - being pointed by a Marksman into the Twilight Tavern, a crooked structure in the middle of the alley that split it into a fork. He narrowed his eyes. From the shadows several Marksmen emerged from where they'd lain in wait. They were dressed straightforwardly, in dark muggle suits, a few with black rings around their eyes.
"Our first priority is the gold," the goblin sergeant to his side reminded him.
Lucius bared his teeth angrily, watching as Saevus led the Marksmen towards the Twilight Tavern. He'd heard about the explosion up the road from about an hour ago, and the resulting gold shower… but having since learnt that none of the stolen bullion was his, his priorities had shifted slightly.
"It's in there," he said to the sergeant, pointing at the Tavern, "along with the people responsible."
The creature's eyes widened. It barked an order at the phalanx and, as one, they trotted towards the Tavern. Lucius followed in their wake. People peered curiously out from the side streets at the goblin phalanx – it looked almost comical, and the uniform 'chink – chink – chink – chink' it made as their chainmailed legs' quick-march echoed up the street.
He lost sight of Saevus and the muggles. The Goblin phalanx reached the front door.
The goblins poured in through the front into the bar, which took up all of the grey downstairs area. Lucius followed swiftly, his eyes scanning the room they entered, at the gallery on the first floor that overhung the bar area, searching for any sort of sign…
On the other side of the room, almost twenty muggle Marskmen stood, staring dumbly at the goblins. A few wizards accompanied them and stared in confusion. Saevus was nowhere to be seen.
One or two patrons still sat in there, huddled into their pitchers.
Saevus rose from behind the bar, blood down his chin. Ah, Lucius thought. Taking care of the landlord.
Saevus met Lucius' eyes with a flicker of confusion before the man removed his wand. The goblin phalanx was motionless. The muggles waited for someone to make the first move, still transfixed by the little goblin warriors.
"Avada Kedavra," Lucius said simply, pointing his wand into the mass of suits. One dropped and the rest erupted, firing in his and the goblins' direction.
Lucius disapparated in the nick of time – two aurors suddenly entered the fray from outside.
'Shujin!' it insisted.
'Harry James Potter –awake!'
Slowly – torturously slowly – Harry drifted into the land of the living. He couldn't see anything – he was face down on the covers.
'What?' he sent drearily.
'You must wake.'
He opened his eyes into the covers once more.
'Mar?' he thought, confused. 'Is that you?'
'Yes! Yes, it is, Shujin – you must wake!'
'I – I am awake… are you ok? Why – why have you been out of contact?'
'I will explain later – you must rise! You must escape!' the bird sent back, the genderless, disembodied voice shrill.
'Wha – why? What's wrong?' Harry sent, forcing his body to move slightly. 'Where are you?'
'Locked in the Headmaster's office. There's no time to explain. You have to escape – there are wizards on their way to arrest you.'
After a beat, he was wide awake.
'Where?' he thought urgently.
'Upon you – as we speak -'
Without wasting another second and despite his body's protestation, he dragged himself off of the bed, trying to get his bearings.
Gringotts – Mike's – Knockturn – Twilight Tavern – bed.
He didn't dare rub his eyes, in case they didn't reopen, as he moved towards the window that looked down onto the little alley.
At the windowsill he stopped dead. In Knockturn below, two aurors flanked a fiery-looking Albus Dumbledore as they marched towards the Tavern.
Holy fucking Christ, he thought. How the fuck did he find me? Oh – he winced at his own stupidity. You told him where you'd be staying, didn't you, stupid.
He made to prepare himself mentally before suddenly his brain clunked into place and he thought, What the fuck is Albus fucking Dumbledore doing locking up my fucking Raven?
A shout went up from downstairs. A distinctly inhuman shout. Harry turned slowly from the window, hesitant in his fury and confusion, looking at the faded wood of the door to the rest of the Tavern.
An enormous cracking gunshot, like someone firing off a 14-bore shotgun, erupted from somewhere downstairs and all hell broke loose.
Suddenly, shouts of curses and battlecries mixed with gunshots and, in the medley, he heard a familiar vampire shout his name.
"SHUJIN!" the voice crowed through the corridors. "LITTLE SHUJIN… ARE YOU HERE? ARE YOU WAITING FOR ME? I CAN SMELL THE TOBACCO ON YOU…"
His skin crawled and he reflexively went for his sword.
Oh, wait – no sword, he remembered, the blackened mess of metal filling his mind's eye. Oh fucking dear.
Without another moment to waste, he staggered towards the bedside table and snatched up his miniature trunk. He glanced around to see if there was anything else he'd left – nothing important, he decided. Time to go.
He ran at the fireplace of the room and took the last tiny sprinkle of Floo powder from it. Just enough. He threw it into the embers and, moving forwards, shouted, "Gryffindor Tower, Hogwarts!" for lack of a better idea.
He ran into the blackened wall of the other side of the fireplace.
He stared for a moment in confusion, stepping backwards, before realising they'd turned off the floo access in the Tavern. Fucking officials!
The shouting voices and general cacophony was getting louder – nearer…
This is bad, he thought, now out of Floo and too severely drained of magical energy to attempt any other type of escape.
Someone started firing an automatic weapon in the hallway outside his room. Something heavy hit the floor a few doors down. Screaming filled the Tavern around him as ordinary witches and wizards, denizens of Knockturn, took up the fight.
What the hell do I do now? He wondered, pulling his Python from its holster. It's a miracle I'm on my fucking feet.
Two rounds left.
Spares in the trunk, he processed rapidly. And where the fuck is my wand?
The door to the room imploded in a cloud of dust. Harry turned, resigned, levelling the pistol at… a goblin.
For a moment the two stood there – Harry with the gun and the goblin, standing wearily, blood pouring from a wound above its scaly eye socket, in bronze chainmail, gold-engraved platemail and with a black halberd twice as long as Harry pointing into the room.
Oh, Christ, he thought as the little beast snarled, suddenly demonic, and pivoted, aiming to drive the spear-point of the Halberd into him.
The gunshot vibrated the hardwood in the ceiling above him and in the enclosed space the thunderclap reached his ears immediately with none of the customary exterior delay, but to Harry's horror while the slug knocked it off balance, it was obvious the creature would be up, relatively unharmed, in a matter of seconds.
Tough little fucker, he though savagely, drawing his dagger and spinning the revolver in his fingers so that he was holding the body and hot barrel with the butt protruding. His thin wrist ached from the recoil.
He lurched forwards and was upon it, stabbing repeatedly at the joints in the armour and battering the helmet and skull with the pistol.
It was rapidly wearing him out, and having very little effect.
With deceptive strength the little creature heaved up Harry's foot with a roar that belied its size and pitched him onto his rear. Without further ado it sunk its razor sharp teeth into his ankle as it scrabbled for its sword.
He grunted in pain and shock and tried desperately to drive his enchanted dagger into its scales, changing angles so as to exploit the joins in its armoured skin.
The fucker bit harder.
He cried out a little and, against his better judgement, allowed himself to slip into his centre.
Despite feeling no pain, and suddenly becoming inhumanly calm, the complete and total depletion of all energy reserves - physical and magical - nearly made him pass out. He had to make a huge conscious effort to drop the dagger, turn the gun around and point it against the under-side of the beast's jaw at the softer flesh of the neck.
He almost – almost – didn't have the strength in his hand to thumb the hammer.
He exhaled and squeezed.
At close range, the .357 round in a Python would take the head off of most living things. Even without outright head-removal, the exit wound would be the size of a fist or larger. Harry now learnt, however, that on a goblin, there probably wouldn't be an exit wound at all. The bullet would lodge somewhere, the beast would stop moving, and that would be that.
Tough as fucking nails, Harry thought mournfully, knowing the beast wouldn't be alone.
He clambered up, exhausted, reholstering the empty pistol and sheathing the dagger. He wished he had his wand, even if it was just to get into his trunk. He picked up the heavy, glittering black halberd that he'd just nearly be skewered with. It was awkward and unwieldy, and would be difficult in the narrow, crooked corridors of the Tavern. He sighed, dropping it onto the wooden floorboards and removing his dagger once again.
His left, free, hand came up to his shoulder, reaching over the dragon there as he thought, It's time I got my money's worth from you. Likewise, he was beginning to hope the runes would have a more outright effect from now on and there was no time like the present for them to start pulling their weight.
He reversed the dagger so that the pommel stuck out between his thumb and forefinger and the blade ran flat along his forearm. He raised his fists experimentally, loosening up, taking every valuable second he had.
Nobunaga – his sensei – had taught him how to do this. And told him never to attempt it. He swayed and had to stop himself falling into the wall. He took a few deep breaths before gritting his teeth.
This is going to be a bit shit, he thought as the first victim – a Marksman – ran into the doorway and laid eyes on him.
Feeling guilty for getting hit with a stray curse and being out of the duel against Chow, Snape had taken a pepper-up or three and recovered his wits enough to assist the headmaster in Potter's retrieval.
He knew he'd regret it later, but it was the least he could do, having felt significantly useless for the past few days and now, when he could be doing something, being expected to just… recover.
He strode from the Apparition point in Diagon Alley and turned immediately into Knockturn, to see to his dismay that people were running away from the heart of it and flooding into Diagon. He stared around, shocked that so many witches and wizards and more could crawl out of the woodwork of the less-reputable alley at one time.
He was then shoved out of the way inexplicably by a reinforcement phalanx of twenty goblins, or more, bustling their way down Knockturn against the tide at a trot.
This is bad, he thought suddenly. This is very bad.
He couldn't see the Twilight Tavern from here. He'd never been inside – he'd walked past plenty of times but he tended to shirk spending more time than was necessary in places such as Knockturn Alley and Knockholt Square, and he'd not yet had the need to stay overnight.
He ground his teeth together, deliberating.
Then he caught himself, astonished – Afraid, Severus? Of a boy? Of… a Potter?
He set his jaw and marched down the alley, the dregs of wizarding society splitting to give him just enough room to march down.
And then, well before he could see anything, he could hear the Tavern. Screams, explosions, and… war cries.
He broke into a run, his face unmasked as he sprinted towards the Tavern – he saw the phalanx of goblins disappear into a hole in the side of the building which Severus was sure had once been a wall and the screaming renewed in vigour.
Steeling himself, he glanced around at the nearby stalls, searching for something that triggered recognition – yes, he thought victoriously, spotting on a dingy corner the tiny shack of a shop called Unction Junction.
He forced his way into the door – nobody was there. Nobody in their right mind, at least, he thought. A couple of goblins on the warpath… in Central London…
He shook his head as he searched the racks. It didn't bear thinking about.
Arming himself with a few odds and ends he finally found something worth the rest put together – hidden under the counter was a vial of what looked like Felix Felicus.
It must be a private stash, Severus thought. How bizarre.
It was just a tiny vial… just enough.
He drank it and returned to the street. A muggle – a marksman, he realised – was standing in the alley with a wild, terrified look in his eyes, firing a huge, long fire-arm into the windows of the groaning Tavern. It's rapid rat-tat-tat-tat-tat cracked unendingly down the alleys. Comrades were rushing past him into the Tavern.
Where the hell are these fucking muggles coming from? He thought viciously, feeling something start to take effect in his body. Dumbledore, if you've died in there I'll never forgive you.
"CONFRINGO!" he bellowed, thrusting his wand at the firing Marksman, who promptly exploded.
He'd already decided that Potter was turning out to be far more trouble than he was worth.
Albus Dumbledore was quite effectively pinned down. He'd been using apparition to great effect until one of his accompanying Aurors – Dawlish, now dead – had noticed that a couple of the accompanying wizards to the Marksmen, not to mention the vampire, were also using apparition to their advantage.
He was battering away goblin magicks consistently and simply dodging goblin halberds, even though to his annoyance when the goblins saw him in particular they seemed to do everything in their power to kill him. His real opponent was still Saevus Malfoy, though, who was really very dangerous indeed.
The Twilight Tavern had been reduced essentially to a structure of scaffolding – most of the walls and windows had been blown out and, although the basic structure for the moment remained, it was a matter of minutes before the entire thing caved in.
There was so much debris that it was almost impossible to notice that they were all ankle-deep in the blood of more than one species.
He prayed, as he cast a barrage of stakes torn from the few remaining wall fittings in the vampire's general direction, that the call for Auror backup had got through…
"Finxincere," he whispered towards a muggle who had successfully reloaded, removing all of the man's fingers.
This is going from bad to worse, he thought mildly, as his next flick animated a mostly-whole table.
The vampire was puzzling, at the back of his mind – he was using far more magic than most vampires were able, or comfortable, using. His speed, fangs and claws were getting exercised too, but the wand remained firmly in his cold grasp. Every attempt by Dumbledore thus far to disarm him had failed.
And there's still no sign of Harry.
As if on cue, the boy himself exploded from the ceiling, tumbling down into the fray accompanied by floorboards, dust and whoever he'd been fighting, sending a dismembered wizard down ahead of him to clear the way.
He landed in a heap but quickly rose, and Dumbledore watched in his peripheral as Harry dodged and weaved his way through the ever-expanding crowd of Marksmen.
His heart broke a little more with every man that Harry cut or stabbed.
They're calling in reinforcements constantly, somehow, Dumbledore groaned internally. The muggles just never seemed to end. It isn't even legal to perform magic on muggles, he wondered incredulously. Thank Merlin I'm fighting with aurors! The political ramifications of this…
He realised that Harry wasn't casting any magic. At this moment he couldn't begin to speculate what that might mean, but it was a mental observation he made anyway. It didn't seem to matter – he wasn't distinguishing between targets, killing muggles and goblins alike – somehow – but it was unnerving to see how well he handled the dagger.
The dagger..? I wonder how he got that back?
With astounding force and on the heels of goblin reinforcements, Snape burst onto the battlefield casting spells left and right, hitting one of the lead goblins in the eye with a particularly enthusiastic Gouging Curse.
So much for diplomatic integrity, Dumbledore sighed, distracted, before something struck him in the face.
He staggered backwards, losing his footing and falling into a heap. The goblin responsible hadn't done it deliberately – he'd been swinging the halberd to strike Harry – but it opened the floodgates, for many eyes had been on Dumbledore. Suddenly, nobody in the room was picky any more about who was who – they knew who they were with and everyone else was fair game.
This took Saevus off of his hands for the minute, but Albus was suddenly surrounded by more than a dozen angry goblins trying to skewer him.
Come along, Albus, he admonished himself whilst rising. Let's finish this nonsense. We've all had quite enough for one Christmas.
He began casting a series of strengthening runes into the wood at his knees, whilst deflecting goblin weaponry wandlessly; waiting for the moment to cast a large spell that would encompass the entire room…
Harry had quite effectively switched off.
It was basic, gut instinct his body was following as he fought, cutting and puncturing alternately, going through the motions effectively with tunnel vision.
Suddenly a Duro! Hex hit him in the right hand – instantly, it turned to stone. He glanced at Snape, who had lost his wand with the blow that had sent the curse off-course, then at his right hand.
Ok, he thought. Hand-to-Hand it is.
He transferred his dagger to his left hand, awkwardly working out the metal from between the solid fingers, and swung, pushing it briskly into a man's side, as his right hand lifted and deflected a stray goblin sword in a shower of sparks.
I'm losing momentum. Push, Shujin -
With a huge heave he tried to press forward into the madness, striking left and right with his stone hand or dagger and, blissfully, dropping the goblins that his club-like hand came into contact with in single swings.
The dagger slipped out of his grasp – he'd managed, with tremendous force, to push it through a goblin's helmet and into the little beast's skull… but it didn't come out again.
He had the briefest lull in the briefest moment to decide: It's time to leave.
He elbowed someone in the neck as they wrestled with a goblin, and then brought his stone hand down on the little beast's face, crushing it.
Then the Duro Hex wore off – his hand was back to normal.
He surged, now essentially unarmed, through the chaos as a chair flew into him, almost knocking him from his feet, and a wizard marksman was lifted out of his way by the halberd that had impaled him, heaving the man up into the air like a trophy and fountaining blood down over Harry and the others as the world went red.
Harry shoulder barged someone out of the way, now intent only on escaping, and saw Saevus meet his eyes in fury. He was effectively imprisoned by Albus Dumbledore's hex, which continually conjured Stakes aimed at his chest that he had to bat away or dodge, one after the other.
Harry smiled his best Shujin-smile, the Not today, motherfucker, smile that had ended so few situations as of late, and staggered out of the suddenly clear hole in the side of the building. He turned his back to where he was walking, watching in case someone came through after him, and just about dodged a stray yellow curse.
Suddenly, there to his left, a crowd of Marksmen.
He didn't think he had the energy left. He stared into their midst, astonished that he'd been cornered so easily, and seriously contemplated – for the first time in his life – just giving up.
But all at once they weren't looking at him – they were staring past him, uncertain, scared.
Harry's head spun slowly to see the Aurors lining up across the alley, twenty-something of them, wands outstretched.
Someone was speaking, voice amplified, and Harry held his breath, eyes closed, desperately trying to drag the smallest ounce of magic into his wasted, battered body.
"Drop your weapons!" the Aurors were shouting at the Marksmen. "Move out of the way!" they were shouting at him.
The Marksmen, not taking wizarding enforcement authorities seriously, were readying themselves for the fight. Barrels of handguns alternated between Harry and the Aurors.
Harry opened his eyes, an electric crackle behind them, a faint smile on his face.
I need enough for two…
The situation was rapidly deteriorating. The fight from the Tavern was spilling into the alley, Dumbledore strode outside and locked eyes with him, then saw the line of Aurors, then the Marksmen, then yet another phalanx of goblins coming up behind the aurors with halberds outstretched.
Despite the shock Harry knew he was feeling, the Headmaster's facial expression was so fixed and stern that he looked like the bust of a Greek God… or at least like someone had hit him in the face with a Duro! Hex.
The briefest moment of silence came upon them. Everyone looked around them at who was there. Everyone knew how much trouble they were in. The Aurors began to look nervous.
Harry didn't care – he was ready. Without another word, he fell into his centre, ignited his Art with a hidden frustration, and disappeared into blackness.
Had Harry been able to witness his own departure, he'd have heard the almighty crash as he burst the anti-apparition wards – a crash which made everyone jump, made twitchy fingers begin to pull triggers, made nervous Aurors release safety charms and offensive spells, make the Goblin phalanx break into a run, halberds lowered…
The Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry was, quite rightly, recognised as one of the greatest living wizards. A staple he reinforced on this day, by raising his wand to the sky.
"Immobilus Tempediment," he whispered, and the effect was instantaneous: bullets slowed to a stop in mid-air, people froze in mid run, curses hovered, glowing, losing their velocity… everything stopped.
He broke the spell by allowing his wand arm to drop. As it did, spells, bullets and spears alike floated slowly to the ground. Goblins, wizards and muggles watched in awe and fear.
"That is quite enough," his voice rang out over the silence. "No more fighting. That's enough."
All eyes were on him. There was even silence in the Tavern behind him. Everything was still…
Thank Merlin, he thought. That took about everything I had. What now?
He didn't have to worry about what to do next, however – he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his back as Saevus Malfoy pressed himself against him, digging claws into his spine so that hot blood – the first he'd spilt today – dripped down his robes.
"Very good, old man," the vampire whispered softly into his hair, his voice carrying over the square. "Tell me where the boy went."
Fawkes, Dumbledore thought weakly, unable to move far lest his spine be damaged. He saw Aurors standing there dumbly, watching.
His Phoenix appeared on his shoulder. He heard a collective intake of breath, most noticeably from the creature behind him. I'm safe, Dumbledore thought hazily, his back beginning to throb. I have done what I can.
In a flash of fire, feathers and phoenix song, all hell broke loose once more.
Please don't get your hopes up – this fic is abandoned. However, I didn't want to post the notice confirming this without giving a tiny bit more of the story (as much as I'd written to that point) before doing so. It seemed a shame to let one of the better action scenes I've ever written go to waste.
Back in the day when this was going strong, or fairly strong, I was posting a chapter every week or two. I was able to do this because the fic was already written and very nearly finished. Because I'm a n00b, when my hard-drive died (four chapters from the end) after 12/13 posted chapters, I couldn't post anymore because I'd not backed it up. I managed, with a hard drive recovery, to get bits and pieces of word documents back, but the entire storyline and all arcs, subplots and detailed notes were in .txt format. This format apparently doesn't recover well, as the encoding went to hell and I lost all of it.
I started to write it again, reasoning that I'd written the 40-ish lost chapters already, and could do so again. You will, however, notice a massive decline in the quality of my storytelling at about this time because I was writing completely blind. This alone wouldn't have stopped me from continuing, but when I got to chapter 26, started this one and posted the prior, I read the story until that point. This stirred various memories of certain plots, characters and details that were integral to the story development that I'd completely forgotten to include. Nor could I remember how exactly I had included them.
Needless to say, it fell apart. It's a shame and the fact that so many people have read and enjoyed the story and it's come to this is quite embarrassing. After 14 months of simply leaving it as is, I came across this last chapter in draft form, and thought I'd polish it up and give it a proper send-off.
Now, I've been asked by members of a certain forum to let loose a couple of spoilers to give a sense of closure and let them know where it would have ended up going, had the shit not quite so vehemently hit the fan. Although I can't give details, having lost them, I'll post a couple that are relevant to where this was being taken;
SPOILER ALERT (though for a dead story)
Dumbledore began to exert more pressure on Harry's life, in an attempt to push him into a scenario where he had to ask the Headmaster for help. When he had a chance on Christmas Day, he had Fawkes kidnap Mar, guessing that the raven had a similar connection to Harry that Fawkes had to himself. Fawkes, all but imprisoning Mar, blocked any mental way of contacting Harry.
Dumbledore began to exert more pressure on Harry's life, in an attempt to push him into a scenario where he had to ask the Headmaster for help. When he had a chance on Christmas Day, he had Fawkes kidnap Mar, guessing that the raven had a similar connection to Harry that Fawkes had to himself. Fawkes, all but imprisoning Mar, blocked any mental way of contacting Harry.
When Mike was brought into the hospital wing after the battle at the restaurant, Dumbledore saw an opportunity to get an insight into what Harry was doing. He forced a type of consciousness on Mike and leglimens'd his way into the man's mind. He saw about the bank heist and decided he'd do what he could to stop it. He also learnt a lot about Harry and the Marksmen, but those particular details couldn't have come into play with the direction it was going.
Dumbledore impersonated Mike with the complicated variant of a Switching Spell. He left Mike, still dead to the world, looking like the Headmaster in the hospital wing, and took on his form and dialect. He staged the aftermath of a duel and break-out, and floo'd straight to the Leaky Cauldron (thereby alerting the aurors of an unauthorised Floo transport between two high-profile locations) and into the meeting between Harry and Taye. The entire time of Taye impersonating Lucius, Dumbledore was impersonating Mike, with full access to a selection of Chow's past behaviour and memories.
Such was his deception that only Fawkes realised that Dumbledore wasn't comatose. However, since Dumbledore had blocked their connection to avoid distraction, Fawkes left the Head's office – and Mar – to search for him. When the heist went wrong, Fawkes flamed into the bank and grabbed the trunk that he thought contained the Headmaster – it was the wrong trunk. Dumbledore, as Mike, was in the other one and had performed his very advanced compression charm to avoid detection. From Harry's was coming a very strong 'SOS' signal as he tried to disapparate, so Fawkes took that one. At this point, several things happened; the goblins activated their emergency wards, Harry's trunk did exactly the same thing as it felt a foreign influence take hold of it, and Fawkes' magic overwhelmed both and flamed to the next best thing from Dumbledore… the Deputy Head. Who was at that exact moment preoccupied with being tortured by Marksmen. The magical backlash from three very powerful sources of magic at loggerheads caused an explosion – the trunk spewed the stolen galleons across the Square, the vault wards killed the goblins in there along with what was left of Taye, McGonagall was flung – shielded slightly by her tormentor's body – into the Square, and the phoenix was forced into an early burning day. Harry's magic itself simply switched off with the effort of surviving the blast, and would take a long time from that moment to properly heal itself. Bye bye, super-powered Harry.
After all of this, Dumbledore extracted himself from the trunk and what remained of the vault, and simply walked out as himself through the bank, deigning to refresh his disguise outside and walk back in, allowing himself to be caught and taken back to the Hogwarts Infirmary. Unfortunately, despite his notice-me-nots (which only effect the fully-conscious), an injured goblin on the floor of the bank atrium saw him, and when fully awakened warned everyone else present that the Headmaster had just walked out of the bank. Lucius and a company of very angry goblins made their way out just as 'Mike' walked into the bank behind them, turning himself in to the aurors there. An obliviate or two later and Dawlish was marching him off to the Floo, wherein at Hogwarts he simply overpowered the aurors, switched the bodies back, put the still-unconscious Chow on the floor and quietly memory-charmed everyone present… including Snape.
Quite determined to go after Harry now he'd witnessed the boy commit a serious crime – technically a warcrime, also, as the goblins would undoubtedly go to war if heads didn't literally roll for the murder of their own kind – he took a few of those aurors to where he knew Harry would have retreated to… the Twilight Tavern. Hence this chapter, which was the end of Book Two.
After this chapter, however, things get a little messier. In summary, the goblins are a hair's breadth from declaring war, shutting the bank and imploding the economy. Bite-Helm has given copies of the letter Harry wrote to him to both Lucius Malfoy and Dumbledore, and is attempting – with Malfoy's help – to get Harry declared a fugitive. Harry himself is nowhere to be found. The Marksmen are also on the warpath, but their numbers are by this point so depleted that they're using their few wizarding allies to carry out Acts of Terror against the general magical populace – Diagon Alley is hit more than once, and a shipment of dungbombs to Zonko's in Hogsmeade turns out to be a shipment of live grenades, levelling half the street. Wizarding Britain begins to fear these unknown people and their calling card – a blood-red ring – as the terrorism gets more incessant.
Dumbledore is trying to hold it all together – the Wizengamot are furiously aware that it's muggles who comprise the Marksmen, though it turns out that there are far more magical men and women involved in it than anyone would have thought possible – apparently, after the fall of Voldemort, plenty of those who'd been on his payroll needed something to fill that gap and, despite their prejudices, recognised that money is money no matter who is paying it. The source of this information? Dumbledore… who has knowingly let the muggleborn wizard son of a 'reformed' Marksman attend his school (Ali Sumesqi, who is at Hogwarts at the bequest of the Humes, who have decided that fully-trained wizards loyal only to them is a good idea. They've set Ali recruiting, also).
Saevus has managed to find Harry, after an epic hunt across the Alps. Unfortunately, Harry is caught, and Turned. Yes – Harry was going to become a vampire in Book Three of Unforgiven. Book Three was predominantly going to be about Saevus' attempts to control his new slave, and Harry's mostly-successful resistance (this doesn't mean slash – Saevus will stoop to fucking his sister-in-law, but not to paedophilia). Harry was going to be entirely ignorant about the turmoil taking place in Britain for the majority of Book Three, and instead find out from the much-hated Saevus all about the Marksmen – who they are, what they're doing, who Mito Nobunaga was (a badass Japanese warlock from the old school, in hiding after working for several years with the Hume family), the fact that Mike Chow sold Harry out more than once to save his girlfriend's life, and so on.
Meanwhile in this part, Snape starts catching on to Quirrel, guessing that something's not quite right about the man. As Dumbledore is so precoccupied and McGonagall is still in St. Mungo's, Quirrel begins to have almost a free reign at the school, but very quietly. He no longer has to hide his expeditions around the castle and becomes less stammery.
End of Book Three was going to include Dumbledore finally negotiating peace with the goblins… in return for a lifetime of excruciating torture for Mike Chow. Dumbledore accepts, certain that the only way to draw Harry out is to let him have a chance of perhaps saving his friend. Meanwhile, Quirrel makes a go for the Philosopher's Stone and Snape goes after him. In front of the Mirror of Erised, Quirrel was going to reveal Voldemort to Snape, who in turn was going to make him swear allegiance. A Snape-Quirrel-Voldemort alliance would there have begun, to some extent (Snape would have stayed loyal to Dumbledore, mainly) but they wouldn't have been able to get at the Stone. They would have destroyed the Mirror, and with it its contents, and gone back undercover in the school. Meanwhile, Harry escapes Saevus to go and find Mike Chow, who he's been told holds the key to defeating the Marksmen once and for all. He is also going to exact revenge.
Book Four was the final one and so obviously the resolution to everything. A few major battles and whatnot. Harry decides against saving Mike when he learns of his fate and instead takes the terror-tactics fight back to the Marksmen. Harry kills Draco and frames Sumesqi for it, which takes place inside Hogwarts. Voldemort Returns to some extent, though not publicly, and Dumbledore has to devote a lot of his time to that. Harry could care less about any of this – he's decided the Marksmen are his priority.
It's mostly a haze from here – Narcissa manages to kill Saevus. Harry wipes out most of the Marksmen, with exceptionally fortuitous timing (they are about to ally with Voldemort through Quirrel, Snape and Malfoy Snr.) and has a little unlikely help in the form of a fires-of-hell vengeful McGonagall, who takes out a good portion of the Marksmen building single-handedly. When it is discovered that Harry did it, though, he is hailed as an even greater hero by the wizarding populace, who couldn't care a whim for details and simply see the 'Boy-Who-Lived Vanquishes Marksmen' headlines. Mike dies, anticlimactically, in goblin captivity. Everything's hunky dory once again.
Apart from Unforgiven ending with the discovery at Hogwarts of a petrified-to-death Ron Weasley and a message in blood on the wall.
END OF SPOILERS
END OF SPOILERS
So these are just a few of the places I wanted to take this story. Obviously there's loads more but this is off the top of my head. It's a massive shame it couldn't come to fulfil its potential but as you can likely tell, so much of the groundwork for a lot of this was lost in translation. Ah well.
I hope you enjoyed where it got to all the same. Cheers for sticking with it. Once again, a thousand apologies if you were getting into this at any point. I'm working on a new story after a long time spent away from fanfiction and I'll probably stick with the Grinning Lizard username. Said new story will be triple backed up.