Chapter 7: The Sound and Fury
The quiet ticking of a clock permeated through the office of the Department of Mysteries. A light from a single candlestick barely illuminated a small portion of the large desk at which Lazarus worked, his aged face barely showing through in the pale firelight. The hearth had long since been allowed to grow cold, and the silence of the room was practically deafening. The only noise other than that of the clock was the usual bubbling and simmering of the constantly brewing elixir in the corner behind Lazarus' desk.
He sat there oblivious to the world around him, merely scribbling down a few notes on a piece of parchment in front of him. Occasionally he would dab his quill into the endless inkwell situated on the right hand corner, and then continue with his work. Silently he sat there, tediously looking over every detail, until a sharp knock rang through the halls of the office, echoing off the vast chamber within.
"Who is that?" he wondered aloud. Lazarus simply picked up his wand, a small jagged stick on this occasion, and flicked it towards the door. A long string of locks and bolts snapped into place, and the door swung open moments later. "Honestly Clarissa," Lazarus began, waving his hands and causing the fire to roar back to life, illuminating the room somewhat, "I didn't expect you this late."
"Miss Zabini is not here," the figure replied, emerging from the shadows to reveal herself as Delores Umbridge.
"Delores?" Lazarus replied with a mocked expression of curiosity, "What brings you into the bowels of my department?"
Delores smiled, giving off a look only an ogre's mother could love. "You should know the answer to that Lazarus," she replied icily, "given what happened the last time I was down here."
Lazarus raised an eyebrow, mentally chiding himself for forgetting that small detail. "I see…" he continued, standing up from his desk and slowly making his way forward. "I suspect then that you've come down here to discuss this then?"
"No," Delores replied, "I'm here to arrest you for assaulting a Ministry official and the Minister for Magic himself."
At this, Lazarus chuckled. "My dear, I assure you that I did not lay a hand on Cornelius' head…and that given the current political environment, you are in no such position to make such demands of me."
"I am not making idle demands or threats Lazarus. You assaulted the undersecretary for the Minister for Magic…and more than likely performed a memory charm on the Minister himself. Such things are capital offenses." She smiled at him before adding, "And as I will soon be Minister for Magic myself now that you have orchestrated Cornelius' departure, you will be brought before the Wizengamot on these treasonous crimes!"
Lazarus smiled internally, before his face darkened in a dramatic fashion. "You accuse me of committing an offense against the Ministry which I represent woman," he bellowed out, the flames in the hearth beginning to roar in intensity, whipped by an unseen wind. "You have insulted my honor and my dignity, and by the rights granted to me in the ancient rites of the Ministry…I hereby challenge you to a duel."
Delores looked on in stunned silence, as she stared at the feeble old man before her. She knew that the old man routine was overstated so that he could hide his true power, she had seen as much when he had conjured the hallucinations the last time she was down here. Still, she had a supreme confidence in her own abilities, and pureblood etiquette designated that she not turn down this challenge. Thusly, she stood firm, and removed her wand from her side.
"Very well. I accept your duel!"
Lazarus creaked a smile, and leaned forward on his staff. "We shall work to disarm our opponent…and this shall be a duel without honor…" Delores' eyes went wide momentarily as she understood the implications of such a duel. There would be no recourse if unforgivable curses aside from the imperious were used, aside from a moderate breach of decorum. There was a great possible chance of death.
Of course, she also knew that the same rules would apply for her as they would for Lazarus, and no matter how talented or powerful was, the Killing Curse was notoriously unbiased when it came to its effectiveness. She waited for a moment, her own resolve foolishly steeled in her mind, as Lazarus spoke once more. "Per custom, I allow you one last chance to apologize and yield the duel."
"I forfeit that right," Delores said, deciding to end this quickly. "AVADA KEDAVRA!" She smiled as the green jet arced out of her wand, heading straight for Lazarus, who merely blocked it with the stick of wood that he called a staff.
She didn't notice the two sets of runes glowing green momentarily, or the shield that manifested itself over Lazarus. She noticed the feared curse impacting the shield and splitting off into two different directions. "H-how…" she managed to stammer, while Lazarus merely stood there, unaffected by the display.
"Perhaps there is more to magic than you realize Delores," Lazarus said in a patronizing fashion…slowly raising his staff high into the air and then forcefully slamming it to the ground, causing a fine mist to fill the head office of the Department of Mysteries. Delores stumbled about in the mist, unable to see anything. As she randomly fired off curse after curse, causing the numerous tomes that filled the room to explode in a shower of parchment, she heard Lazarus taunt her from just beyond the mist. "For your whole life you have used your money, influence and family name to advance your career…blind to the fact that the world around you was changing…"
In one fell swoop, the mist disappeared, leaving Lazarus standing in front of the firelight. Delores fired a curse at the image, only to see it fly right through him and crash into the burning hearth. Much to her shock though, she heard neither the sound of the damaged hearth, nor the cacophony of spell fire that she followed it up with. In her mind however, Lazarus' voice rang true... "…you have been deaf to those who did not share your egotistical worldview."
Her hearing returned to her in a rush, as she began to hear a hellish symphony of her own voice. Every speech she had ever given before the Wizengamot, every tirade about pureblood supremacy and every double-faced lie she had ever told played throughout the room at once. She screamed, her voice going hoarse at the onslaught. In the midst of the roar, Lazarus concluded his speech. "Your entire career has been a rising tide of voices…so numerous and loud that they have drowned out your own true voice, making it amount to a tale told by a mute idiot…a sound and fury signifying nothing." The myriad of voices died off in a blinding explosion that forced Delores back hard into the wall, and sent her wand clattering to the floor, technically ending the short duel.
The woman lay on the cold stone floor, stunned at what had happened. Lazarus hobbled over, looking down at her. "I doubt you can appreciate the significance of this lesson," he said matter of factly, "As you are too far gone to understand your own personal flaws. To that end, perhaps some re-education is in order." At this, Lazarus merely raised his staff in the air, and Delores screamed as she was levitated in front of him, unable to move.
At that moment, Malcolm and Clarissa entered the Department. They sat back on the edge of the scene, surveying what was going on. Malcolm made a move to stop Lazarus, but Clarissa held him back, shaking her head.
"I find you unfit of the position which you hold Delores Umbridge," Lazarus said with an ethereal voice that echoed off the aged walls. "Therefore I shall take it from you as payment for your loss in this duel…so mote it be." He slammed his staff down onto the ground once more, and a blinding rush of white light filled the room. Delores' screams were drowned out by the rushing wind, becoming higher pitched as she faded into the maelstrom. With a loud crack, the wind died off and the light disappeared, revealing nothing but stone and mortar. Lazarus let out a deep breath, and motioned towards his desk. He stumbled forward a couple of steps before his flask came rushing towards him. He took a good long drink from it, before sitting it down, making sure not to waste a single drop of the golden liquid. Sighing, he turned and looked at Malcolm and Clarissa, offering the same toothless smile he always did. "What brings you down here at this time of night?" he asked in a grandfatherly voice.
/ - / - / - /
Ron Weasley was a tad bit nervous this day.
Scratch that, his insides felt like the consistency of a flobberworm.
He was certain of Luna's feelings for him; that much if anything was certain. She certainly was never one to hide her feelings around those she cared for. During their time in the time warp at Potter Manor, Ron had fallen in love with the pretty, yet somewhat spacy witch named Luna Lovegood. He had discovered in the process that the spacy façade she presented to the world was entirely that…a façade. It was a defense mechanism that she had created for herself early on in her life to try and keep people at a distance, for a reason she had only recently disclosed to him.
The Lovegoods, centuries prior, had sworn an oath of allegiance to what would become the Department of Mysteries. Since that time, each generation of Lovegoods had served the department in its never-ending goal, whatever that happened to be. Luna explained that it involved something called the Prophecy of Merlin, but was unclear as to what that prophecy actually said. All she knew about it was the ultimate goal was the emergence of the Heir of Merlin.
Frankly he didn't like that idea…and so he intended on doing something about it. Perhaps the Lovegoods were doomed to that oath…but not the Weasleys. As he considered the thought, his hands fingered the small ring he had in his pocket. He had wanted to pay for it himself, but knew he didn't have the galleons to afford anything even close to worthy for Luna. With some degree of pride swallowed, he had asked Harry for a little help, with the promise that he would pay him back when he could. He chuckled back to the remark that Hermione had made that the old Ron would have let his pride get in the way of ever asking such a thing.
Ron ran a worried hand through his red hair, and took a deep breath. 'Better now than never,' he thought. He grabbed a pinch of floo powder from the jar atop the Burrow's fireplace and cast it into the flames. "Lovegood residence," he clearly intoned, after remembering the address in his mind after Luna had given it to him, before stepping into the emerald fire.
He stumbled out of the large fireplace in the Lovegood sitting room a moment later, muttering out "Nargles" quickly when he sensed the intruder wards about to go off. The wards quickly shut themselves off, recognizing the password. He glanced around the small room, noting the ticking clock hanging on the wall that was eerily reminiscent to the Weasley family clock, though there were significantly fewer hands on it. He saw the two hands pointed at home, reading Luna and Jeremy…however the third hand pointing at home caused him to raise an eyebrow, as he saw Lazarus pointed there as well. The two other hands were oddly named, one reading "Mr. Greenjeans" and the other reading "Widow." Both of them were pointed at work. If he looked hard enough, he could have sworn he saw Luna's hand wavering in its position, seeming to want to switch to traveling. Shrugging it off, he walked through the sitting room, looking for Luna. The sound of raised voices off in the distance clued him into their location.
He slowly walked into a large formal dining room, hanging towards the entrance. A large crystal chandelier provided light to the otherwise dimly cast room. Ron positioned himself just around the corner, peering around so that he could see what the argument was about. He had to keep his temper from going off the deep end when he saw Luna getting verbally berated by her father. Jeremy Lovegood was currently yelling about something or another, and Ron stretched out a little further and strained to try and hear what was being said.
"…what you'll cost the family if he calls in our debt?" Ron heard the elder Lovegood shouting. Luna, for her part, merely stood there, seemingly unfazed by the whole episode.
"You're letting a centuries old oath dictate our lives! Why should we have to live our lives based on what our ancestors did centuries ago?" Luna shouted back, standing up to face her father. Ron furrowed his brow in thought. What oath? he asked himself.
Ron watched as Jeremy looked ready to yell something back, before he took a deep calming breath. "Luna," he began, speaking in a softer tone that made it harder for Ron to hear. "You're my daughter, and I love you. You're all I have left of your mother after she…after the accident…"
"Wait," Luna said, cutting her father off. "You changed what you were going to say." Ron could see a slight shadow pass over Jeremy's face, and he didn't say anything in response. "What were you going to say father," Luna asked again, in a cold tone that Ron had never heard come out of her mouth before.
"It…it doesn't matter now," Jeremy replied, avoiding Luna's questioning gaze."
"She didn't die in an accidental fire," Luna sadly replied, lowering her head and closing her eyes. "Did she?" Jeremy didn't answer. "Was it you?" Luna asked softly, a few moments later.
Jeremy let out a deep sigh and shook his head. "Lazarus," was all he could reply. There was a long, cold, palpable silence that filled the room. Ron saw Luna silently turn away and begin walking from the room. "Where are you going?" Jeremy asked in a toneless voice.
"Away," was Luna's solemn reply. "To my friends, the ones who care about me….the ones who love me." Luna stood there momentarily, staring at the back of her father's head for a moment longer, before leaving the room.
Ron quickly moved away from the wall he was standing at, and made his way back to the sitting room, walking in just as he saw Luna appear. The two of them stared at each other for only a brief moment. All it took for Ron to bridge the gap was seeing the tears that were threatening to leak out of Luna's eyes. He rushed over and hugged her fiercely, and she clung to him with equivalent emotion. Silently between the two of them, they walked towards the fireplace and headed back to the Burrow.
And in the dining room, a lonely man wept.
/ - / - / - /
The past three days had been the most peaceful and serene that Draco could remember in his lifetime. He had mentally distanced himself from all of the troubles of the wizarding world, allowing a measure of comfort to enter his life. All he had done was get to know his real mother, his stepfather, and become acquainted with a fascinating muggle device known as the television.
A part of him was completely surprised by the unconditional attention and care that was being given to him by his muggle relatives. Perhaps a part of him had expected, or perhaps feared, that he would be rejected outright once they learned of what he was and what he had done. But instead of fear, they had responded with kindness, an emotion that, at least in the true sense, Draco was unfamiliar with.
His childhood growing up had always been one devoid of any real affection. Having no cousins to speak of on his mother's side (the one he had was completely forbidden to be spoken of) and two far younger cousins on his father's side, along with no siblings, meant that any affection he was given was from his parents. His father was often cold to him, treating him less like a son and more like a possession to be trotted out for a social occasion. His mother was affectionate, but only from a safe distance. Given what he knew now, that seemed to make perfect sense. He idly wondered exactly how much Narcissa Malfoy actually cared for him, and how much of her affection was merely autonomic in response to her situation.
Shaking such thoughts out of his head for the time being, he stood up from the small guest room that they had given him for the time being. He made his way downstairs for a quick lunch, content with his life for the first time in a while.
He entered the breakfast room, stopping short when he saw that no one was there. He knew that their kids were still visiting their grandmother in Wales, so their absence was explainable. He idly checked a hanging wall calendar for the date, and frowned when he saw that there was nothing written on it to explain the absence of his step-family.
"Hello," he called out, expecting an answer quickly. A few moments of silence caused a lump to form in his throat. He gestured with his hand and his wand came out, ready for whatever lay near. Slowly he crept through the kitchen, glancing around. "Hello," he called out again, becoming even more nervous when he heard no reply.
He stopped at the door to the main room, and took in a deep breath. Counting to three, he barged in.
And again found no one inside.
Frustrated, he pocketed his wand and glanced into the backyard. He decided that perhaps they had just gone off without telling him. He turned around to head to the kitchen and get himself something to eat, hoping that they would be returning shortly.
His luck wasn't that good.
Out of the corner of his eye, Draco noticed a small glimmer against the otherwise shadowed wall. He turned and glanced at it, his heart falling when he saw the telltale sign of the Dark Mark on its heading. He ran to the parchment, and plucked it off the wall. Frantically he scanned it, his eyes darkening when he read the news.
They had found him, and Fenrir Greyback had his family. Draco crumbled the parchment up and closed his eyes in frustration. He let out a sigh and silently walked to the front door. Letting himself out, he began walking to a safe spot for apparition. He knew where Fenrir would be hiding, the note had told him that much. He would have to fight again to save what little he had already gained.
He entered an open field, and apparated away. Off in the distance, a few seconds later, a second crack of apparition was heard.
/ - / - / - /
Ron and Luna exited the fireplace of the Burrow, still arm in arm with one another. Ron did his best to comfort his girlfriend, for the tortuous break she had made. They stopped short however, when they saw the rest of their friends gathered. "What's going on?" he asked, turning his head towards Harry.
"Dumbledore's contacted us," Harry said coldly, "He's found the Horcruxes."