Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or this universe... Not at all... This story idea (which only comes up very, very slightly in this prologue of a chapter) is mine, as are all the original characters who appear both here and throughout the rest of the story. Also, please to note that this isn't going to be really light and uplifting, it will bloody and dark and gritty... Just warning you...
Also, please to note, that as this is a post Second War story, there will be most definite spoilers for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pretty much right off the bat... So don't complain, cuz I warned you so...
When she had laid eyes on him for the first time, after everything she had heard of him, her heart had begun to thump, creating a primitive beat for her blood to pound to. The droll of the present made even the most intense moments of her life, like her Auror test or the multiple torturing of innocent Muggles, seem like her heart had stopped.
There she was, standing on the front steps of Hogwarts in a forced silence, staring at the flat, pallid white face of The Dark Lord, in the foreground of Hagrid, who was carrying the limp, cold, and lifeless body of Harry Potter, their last hope. She hadn't seen him except in the "Undesirable Number One" posters and the various photographs that had appeared in the newsprint prior to the coups d'état, but he looked older than she thought he would. His incredibly handsome face was emotionally battered and beaten, but perseverant and stronger for it; but that strength had landed him broken and defeated by the hand of the Dark Lord.
She looked to Kingsley, who was standing on the step next to her. His face looked horrified, but resilient. She had to be strong. This wasn't over yet. Not by a long shot. The Dark Lord might have had an army of Death Eaters at his command, but she would continue to the last breath. After the suffering of the last eleven months, there wasn't the slightest chance she would back down. Even if she stood alone (and she knew she wouldn't have to) she would still be standing against the one who had put her life through such hell.
Looking at the creature who had defeated Harry Potter, taken over the Ministry, and destroyed countless families with his desires and selfishness, she stood firm, refusing to believe that the death of the one person whom she had never met yet still trusted would stop this war from ending. She would fight to the end, to the last breath, like Tonks had, like so, so many others had.
Shouting something inaudible, someone, a Hogwarts student, charged The Dark Lord. Reflexively and simultaneously with Kingsley, she whipped the ten and three quarter inches of Alder and dragon heartstring from the inner breast pocket of her robes, ready to begin spelling and cursing and hexing at the first sign of trouble.
And if she had thought her heart's constant pressure against her breast wasn't enough, it had somehow intensified, begging to be heard, begging to act as The Dark Lord tempted the boy, who had valiantly declared himself "Neville Longbottom."
To her satisfaction, he didn't. She knew he wouldn't, but he suffered dearly for it. The Dark Lord summoned the Sorting Hat and placed it on Longbottom's head and lit it on fire, causing the boy to scream in pain, but she could not look away. She refused to give the Dark Lord the pleasure of torturing her again. Not after-
But things had changed. There came a loud thumping and multiple sounds of rushing wind, something disrupting the air's balance as a giant rounded a corner shouting "Hagger!" and Centaurs emerged from the Forbidden Forest, firing rapidly falling arrows, which landed amid the Death Eaters like a heavy rain, the first of the spring. From the sky came a Hippogriff and the black, bony winged thestrals of the castle, who valiantly attacked the giants who had begun to stomp and cause mayhem again.
As one, the Death Eaters scattered, and Caly came to life, firing off spells and curses as fast as she could. "Stupefy!" she called, making one of the Death Eaters who was fleeing for the far off gates fall face first into the ground, struck from behind by Caly's attack. Smiling satisfactorily, she pointed her wand down the steps at the quickly dissipating cluster of Death Eaters and saw Longbottom- Neville slice off the head of the snake draped around Voldemort's shoulders. Caly only barely managed to register the idea that someone shouted that Harry Potter, or his body, rather, had disappeared in the confusion.
The world had descended into chaos. People were running for the doors, Death Eaters trying desperately to lay claim to what was not theirs. Kingsley disappeared, and as Caly looked for him, she saw Voldemort land in front of the open oak doors and begin to fire curses as he retreated backwards. She hurried into the Entrance Hall among the mass of people, doing her best to catch up to Kingsley, bumping into Augustus Rookwood and sending him unwillingly towards a bearded man, who promptly stunned him, sending him to the ground.
And then the unthinkable happened, a blue curse shot from the end of Voldemort's wand just as he crossed the threshold of the Great Hall and zoomed straight towards Caly. On the slippery marble floor, she didn't have a single chance, and before she knew it, the curse was flying towards her, corkscrewing through the Entrance Hall, like a drill twisting towards her gut. In anticipation for the worst, she shut her eyes and ground her teeth.
The sensation was cold, like a length of taut ghost rope had passed through her solar plexus. And then it was gone, over, passing through her as though she hadn't been there, like she was in fact a ghost, or the spell didn't exist. Slightly confused, she took off towards the Dark Lord.
She managed to reach the Great Hall, but was too late to do anything. After the events on grounds and in the Great Hall, only Bellatrix Lestrange and the Dark Lord himself were left. She was dueling three students while he was dueling against Kingsley, Professor McGonagall, and a large, rotund wizard Caly didn't quite recognize.
Someone shouted out, pushing aside the growing crowd, who, like Caly, stood along the walls, dozens upon and dozens of witches and wizards not wanting to join the duels for being hit in the crossfire. Molly Weasley had sprinted forward, pushing aside the three students, so that she herself could battle Bellatrix. They exchanged words.
But Caly wasn't didn't care. If Molly didn't take out Bellatrix, she would herself. It was irrelevant, because Bellatrix would fall. She turned her focus to Kingsley, McGonagall, and the rotund wizard, who were having no luck defeating him, dueling to a stalemate.
There was the sound of a falling body, and the Dark Lord screamed, waving his wand violently, McGonagall, the rotund wizard, and Kingsley flying through the air, spiraling out of control as they flew towards where Caly stood on the wall.
She waved her wand and let slip a thought of "Wingardium Leviosa!" making the three stop in midair in front of her as someone else shouted "Protego!"
Caly turned just in time to see Harry Potter whip off an invisibility cloak. Her heart, which had thus far been beating the hum at the knot in her chest, skipped two beats as people around the room called out cries of elation that he had returned. The Chosen One.
"I don't want anyone to try and help!" Harry called out. "It's got to be like this. It's got to be me."
Caly let McGonagall, Kingsley, and the rotund wizard down to the ground as she watched Harry circle the Dark Lord. He was saying something, shouting, but Caly wasn't exactly listening. She was more focused on the fact that Harry Potter had cheated death yet again. And for the first time in so many months, years even, Caly felt a spark of hope, that perhaps this whole thing would finally be over and done with.
The seconds blurred past, the knot of her heart making a thud against her chest that almost drowned out the sounds of the Dark Lord and the Chosen One. This was it, the climax; one way or another, this would end. One would be defeated once and for all and one would walk away the victor.
They were exchanging words as Kingsley got to his feet. Caly still wasn't really paying attention, eyes focused on the Dark Lord as he circled with the Chosen One. They were talking about wands and the death of Albus Dumbledore, about sacrifice and repentance. The Chosen One looked smug, prepared, as though he had planned what would happen next. Didn't he know who he was facing off against? The atrocities he had-
Her brain stopped. Time had stopped. Harry and the Dark Lord had stopped talking, blanketing the entire Hall in silence. But for the silence, she could hear an entire lifetime of heartbeats pound through her chest as the first ray of golden sunlight broke across the faces of the two enemies.
Golden flames shot from the ends of both wands along with a jet of red from the Chosen One and a jet of green from Lord Voldemort. The green hit the red and shot back towards the Dark Lord. The disarming spell spun the legendary Elder Wand into the air while the killing curse hit Voldemort in the chest, knocking him backwards so that he flew back to the floor. With an echoing thud, he fell back to the floor, lifeless, red slitted pupils rolled backwards into his head.
It echoed around the hall, forcing its way into Caly's ears as she stood in stunned silence, looking at the fallen body of the greatest dark wizard of all time. Her heart slowed from an anxious throb to a slowed exhilaration. A sensation of cold started at her heart and spread through her entire body, down her arms and legs to the tips of her fingers and toes, making her feel cool, and calm, relaxed for the first time in living memory.
The hall erupted into sound as Calydithia screamed in elation and joy. He was defeated! He was truly gone and dead! She couldn't believe it!
Every person in the hall swarmed to Harry Potter, congratulating him and his miraculous comeback and defeat of the Dark Lord. Side by side with Kingsley, she sprinted forward to congratulate Harry amidst the cheering and whooping crowd. People hugged him and squeezed his arm and ruffled his hair and spun him around. Caly gave him a huge hug, making the instant last not too long (although to her it was not nearly enough to say everything she was thinking) but enough to say thank you.
When she had broken back through the ranks, someone pulled her aside and she found herself staring face to face with Kingsley.
"We have to go," he said curtly.
"But we've just… won," Caly said, letting her voice falter with the last word. The Dark Lord, tormentor of the country for almost twenty five years, had finally fallen and lay dead on the floor and still she wasn't done. "We deserve a little celebration, don't you think?" She asked, already knowing Kingsley's answer.
Kingsley looked at her, frowning slightly, face etched in concern.
She dropped her head. "Right. I know."
"I'm sorry, Caly," Kingsley said. "But it has to be done. Our work's not over." He turned around, with a flourish of robe and began to exit towards the Great Hall doors.
"Is it ever?" Caly said, arguing back but careful to keep her voice low, trying unsuccessfully to keep her tone not only respectful, but soft enough to escape the ears of the elated crowd. He didn't turn around and kept walking away from her. She chased after him, hoping to try to talk some sense into him. "Kings, it's over! We've just taken care of twenty years worth of-"
"Think, Dithy," Kingsley said, turning around, calling her by his playful nickname for her, but keeping his voice serious, playing perfect contrast of his role as friend and superior. "With Voldemort finally destroyed and his Death Eaters captured, we've only done part of the work. We have one more thing to take care of."
Caly felt her stomach drop. Even without the title of head of the Auror Office, he still had the innate ability to stay in charge and know exactly what needed to be done, capable of taking control of the situation. "When do we leave?"
"In a moment," Kingsley said. "I need to talk to Minerva before we go. We need to make sure we keep Voldemort's body hidden and safe. Wait here."
Kingsley turned and found Professor McGonagall amidst the throng of people while Caly waited for him to finish. She tried to smile, trying to feel what she had felt just moments ago, trying to leech from the people who had, just moments ago, been crestfallen and crushed by the death of so many loved ones and their hero, Harry Potter. Now people were talking, shouting, smiling, and normal again. Caly tried to channel the overwhelming positive energy, but it did not quite come, like an incompatible wand trying to light a stubborn wick.
After several seconds of the failed attempt, she shook the thought from her head. She had to do what she had always done: turn the pain into the metaphorical ring on her finger, making it a reminder and a bond, but not an inconvenience like a weighted necklace or a ball and chain.
Kingsley exited the Great Hall with Professor McGonagall, levitating the corpse of Lord Voldemort in front of him. Caly followed him to the doors, and stood in the center of the Entrance Hall while she watched them place the body in a side room, alone, away from Tonks and the rest of the dead that deserved their respect. McGonagall sealed the door with a flick of her wand and pointed her wand with Kingsley's at the door handle, simultaneously locking it.
"Are you sure you don't want me to go with you, Kingsley?" Professor McGonagall asked, concerned for his wellbeing.
"I'm afraid not, Minerva," Kingsley said, smiling. "Your duty is to the students, while mine is to the Ministry. We have to see it in the right hands finally, lest we lose it to someone… incompetent."
"But how will you make her step down?" McGonagall asked.
"I have Calydithia with me," Kingsley said, placing a hand on Caly's shoulder. "We'll think of something."
"Send word as soon as you have news," McGonagall said concernedly. "Remember we have more than enough competent witches and wizards at our disposal here to send to your aide."
"We'll be fine, Minerva," Kingsley said. "Just keep everyone here happy and wait for my patronus."
Professor McGonagall nodded and, much to Caly's shock and surprise, her mouth cracked into a rare smile, one of authenticity and contentment, as though she would cry from the elation. "He's gone, Kingsley. How I wish Albus would have been able to see this."
"As do I," Kingsley muttered, nodding in agreement. "He would have been proud of everyone, especially Harry."
McGonagall nodded. "Aye, that he would." She shook her head. "Go. You have work to do. Good luck." And, spring in her step, McGonagall began to walk back into the Great Hall to join the roaring crowd, who were all still talking loudly, jubilantly. Caly watched her go, but stared into the Great Hall for a long time, thinking of the possible conversations, laughters, reconciliations…
Kingsley waited a few minutes to speak, enough to respect Caly's dip into the quixotic. "She'll make a good headmistress," and without so much as another word, he turned on his heel and began a brisk walk towards the oak front doors.
His words shook her out of her hypnosis. "You think she'll be headmistress?" Caly asked, taking off after him and practically jogging to keep up.
"If I have anything to say about it, she will," Kingsley said.
Caly shot a sidelong glance at him. "What are you planning, old man?"
"Treat the head of the Auror office with some respect," Kingsley said jokingly as he pushed open the oak front doors, bathing both himself and Caly in golden light.
"Ex-Head of the Auror's office," she corrected him. "You were exposed, remember? But seriously, Kings," Caly said, chasing him down the front stairs. "What are you planning?"
"I'm surprised you didn't figure it out already," Kingsley said. "I thought you were faster than this. Did Thicknesse slow you down?"
Caly scowled. "I don't want to talk about it."
"Apologies," Kingsley said somberly, out of respect for her. After another minute, he shot her a grin. "But if you must know, Dithy, you must figure it out. There is no greater mystery than the immediate future. Especially in the aftermath of the death of the biggest threat to this country in over a century. Nothing could be more exhilarating."
"I hate it when you're right," Caly scowled, still bitter over his mention of Pius Thicknesse. Technically, it wasn't his fault. He'd given her permission to walk away and join him in hiding at any time, but she'd chosen the high road, to keep continuing no matter what. Again, she shook thoughts from her head. No, she had brought what had happened upon herself. She couldn't blame him. "So what's the plan, Kings?" Caly asked.
Kingsley smirked as they approached the end of the drive and the entrance to the school. "We're going to recapture the Ministry," Kingsley said, wheels in his head turning.
"And how are we going to do that?" Caly asked, slightly more agitated at Kingsley's ability to torment her through lack of information.
"Let's just get inside for now." Kingsley crossed over the barrier of the Hogwarts grounds and stopped. Caly stopped too. "Apparate to your Ministry access point. We'll meet in the Atrium."
"Agreed," Caly said. "See you in a minute."
She turned on the spot, barely able to see Kingsley disappear before the world turned to darkness and she compressed through the Apparition tube. The side alley near the early morning bustling street corner of Hyde and Sloane materialized around her. Proudly, she walked out and onto the sidewalk amidst the Muggles going about their usual daily routine, none aware of what had transpired the night before. Some stared at her appearance, but she pressed on, making her way to the Underground station just two blocks away from her Apparition point. Pushing her way through the suit clad Muggles, she made her way to the women's bathroom in the station just at the bottom of the escalator. Caly withdrew her final Ministry token, played with it in her fingertips for a few seconds, deposited it into the slot on the door, stepped into the toilet, and pulled the chain, flushing herself into the Ministry.
She tucked and rolled at the bottom of the chute, withdrawing her wand as she shot out of the fireplace, landing in a crouched position. Wand in right hand, she placed her open left palm at the base of her wand and made a sweep of the deserted Atrium.
It was chilling and unnerving, seeing no one in the typically bustling cavern of a room. True, she had walked out in the wee hours of the morning at times, when she had needed to file long and particularly nasty reports, but those times it had been dark but for torches. Now was strange because of the natural light coming from the early morning, when people should have been walking past, creating shadows and sounds and sights and-
The sound of another entrance into the Atrium made Caly turn on her heel, wand still poised to attack. Kingsley slid out of the fireplace, wand pointed at her; they made eye contact and lowered their wands.
"Where do you think everyone is?" Caly asked.
"You're the detective," Kingsley said businesslike, wand still held in front of him at the ready. "You tell me."
"You think they know" Caly asked, thinking aloud. "Think they know we took the bastard down?"
"Most likely," Kingsley said, moving cautiously down the hall towards the elevators. "But I doubt that is important at the moment. We need to get to the top floor."
"You got point?" Caly asked, slightly behind him.
Kingsley nodded silently as they moved down the length of the Atrium. When they reached the line of elevators at the end of the hall, Caly noted that they were all present and accounted for.
"That's peculiar," she said.
"What is?" Kingsley asked as he pointed his wand into the elevator, looking to either side and then above and below, making the sweep with his wand.
"All the elevators are present and accounted for," Caly said. "Which means that no one must be using them or that no one has used them to go up for quite some time."
"Options?" Kingsley asked, looking at the line of open and empty elevators.
Caly looked around to the line of elevators. "Send them all up."
Kingsley smiled proudly. "I was just thinking the same thing."
Smiling proudly, Caly raised her wand and flicked it on each car in turn, moving from right to left, making all the elevator car doors, with the exception of the two farthest to the left, slide shut with loud clangs and rattle up towards the first floor. They stepped into the second to last car and Caly slipped her wand into the inner pocket of her robes as she pressed the button for the first floor. As they began to rise towards the Minister's office, Kingsley waved his own wand then pocketed it, making the sound of the other car echo from beneath them as it followed their upward climb.
They stood in silence for several seconds, the absence of the stop at each floor and the soothing voice of the female witch making Caly shiver from discomfort. The silence was chilling, making her shake in anticipation. The higher they got, the more she shivered the pre-fight jitters she occasionally suffered from.
"Kings?" Caly asked as her teeth began to chatter. The world had suddenly begun to grow colder and she felt herself go clammy and cold.
"I feel it too!" Kingsley shouted as he tried to pull his wand out of his robes.
But he didn't have time. Dementors swooped out of the walls of the elevator, completely surrounding Caly and Kingsley in the already confined space. They grabbed the arms of Kingsley and Caly, holding them at bay, making them incapable of getting hold of their wands as the world began to blur and Caly's eyes began to sting from the cold, more and more dementors slipping into the compartment from the ceiling and walls. One pulled itself close to Caly, cold rattling breath echoing along with the others in the claustrophobic cabin. Caly struggled as the world grew colder, numbing her arms and legs, making them feel tingly and asleep as the image of her screaming father, kneeling at her feet superimposed itself over the image of the Dementor. The ones holding her stayed firm, control over the abysmal cold of the room strengthening with their continuous hold over her and her quick succumbing to their thrall as the image of her sister, wand slipping from her hand, look of shock on her face, swam in front of her in her mind's eye.
The Dementor moved forward still, stepping in, closer and closer to her, as though preparing to touch her. A clammy, scabbed hand withdrew itself from the folds of its robes and stroked her cheek gingerly, making the world shiver and shimmer in front of her as the pictures of her sister and father flashed passionately in front of her… It was over. Being in the Ministry didn't matter if… If… Her brain was slowing to a stop and she felt her limp fingers try in vain to clutch onto her wand, but it slipped from her grasp and fell to the floor, too soft to be heard amidst the sounds of struggling and hollow breathing and the breath of her sister and the screams of her father… and the Dementor was getting closer, and, try as she might, she couldn't shut her eyes. The Dementor placed both hands on her cheeks as it pulled in and rattled its breath excitedly in the prospect of-
Something silver shot itself through Caly's chest. It bounded off the chest then the withdrawing arm of the fast recoiling Dementor, using its propelled momentum to shoot into the Dementor's hood. The rattling turned to a harsh, shrill scream, and the Dementor exploded and dissolved into a mass of dark, which gave way to a shining silver lynx within the confines of where its midriff had been. Kingsley's patronus unfurled itself, as though awakening from a deep slumber.
Caly closed her eyes and fell backward as the Dementors that had been holding her disappeared into the walls. Her head hit the ground as she felt light and warmth return to her body again. Feeling shot back into her fingers and she opened her eyes.
Standing over her, holding her wand, point side towards himself, offering it to her, was Kingsley. "I never did like Dementors."
"Nor did I," Caly moaned as she grabbed her wand and pulled herself to her feet with Kingsley's help, rubbing the swell on the back of her skull. "What took you so long?"
"You looked like you had it under control," Kingsley said, smiling.
"Ha, funny," Caly said sarcastically. "Wonder who set that up."
"The acting Minister, I'm sure," Kingsley said contemptuously.
"Of course." Caly rolled her eyes, disgusted not only with the prospect, but in that she hadn't realized it before. "I never did like her affinity for the creatures."
With no warning, Kingsley looked up. "I just thought of something."
Caly shot a look at him. "What is it?"
But he didn't quite have time to speak again, because the soothing voice of the elevator witch sounded in the car. "Level One, Minister of Magic and Support Staff."
But the grilles stayed shut, rattling slightly in an effort to open themselves.
Caly reached forward and tried to pull open the sliding black door, but it wouldn't budge. She looked at Kingsley, hoping the panic she was feeling wouldn't bleed out onto her face and give away her sudden fear.
"Wand at the ready, I think," Kingsley said, withdrawing his own.
Mikhail Sanerbijan wasn't the brightest of wizards, nor was he the most perceptive. What Mikhail knew best was instinct. That was what brought him here, to the elevator doors on the first floor of the Ministry of Magic, next to his fellow co-workers Halloran McDougall and Jeslie Sauders. Instinct told him to leap aside the instant the elevator on the far right clanged to a halt as it reached the top floor.
"Steady," said the cold, high pitched, yet overcompensating cutesy voice of Mikhail's mistress as she stood behind him.
And still he did not leap to one side, following the elevator doors' progress as they opened. He needed to listen to her and focus on the task that needed to be done. The Ministry had been invaded, and he was here to protect it as a last defense in case Master Thicknesse fell in the battle at Hogwarts school.
The elevator appeared empty as Mikhail strafed into the elevator, pointing his wand in all directions before giving the all clear.
"Empty," he said affirmatively, lowering his wand as he emerged, looking at the still defensive Halloran and Jeslie.
"Strange," Jeslie said, lowering her wand after a second, just enough to make her appear more comfortable, yet enough so it was in a position ready to raise at an instant's notice.
"We know they've infiltrated the Ministry," Halloran said, the hilt of his wand clasped in both hands at his side. "So where would they go if they didn't come here?"
"Aurors?" Jeslie said bitterly. "There could be something in the office, something we, in our infinite wisdom know nothing about."
Mikhail looked at her.
"This is just a fill-in job," she said casually, pulling a Cucumber and .sprouts sandwich from her bag, gracefully unwrapping it from the brown meat paper with her slender hands.
It was hard to fill in time to talk to her. Looking at her from afar in the break room, admiring the perfect way her black hair flared out, and how she smiled with those perfectly straight and pearly teeth, brown eyes reflecting deep pools like the one he imagined himself melting into when he gazed upon her.
"I know," Mikhail said, patting her on the shoulder.
"She better get me that job, the cow," Jeslie cursed under her breath.
"She will," Mikhail said, looking over at the door of his mistress, still able to see the brilliant glaze of the plaques on the door, which Halloran was polishing, keeping the incriminating sneer off his face. "Don't worry about it. She'll keep her word."
"She better," Jeslie threatened, looking at the door herself. "Or I swear she'll need another trio of bodyguards just to defend herself from me."
There was another clang that made the four of them jump. The squatty mistress waddled backwards as quickly as she could, wand still pointing towards the door, until she was safely behind the desk of the main receptionist for the top floor.
Halloran rolled to the left side of the elevator, while Mikhail stood on the right, wand raised by his right cheek, clasped in both hands, ready to enter the elevator the second the doors burst open. He couldn't help but feel guilty as he looked out and saw Jeslie standing in the open, wand pointing at the metal grilles of the elevator.
Someone would be in this one. The first was a distraction, but the second would be occupied. Thank God for the presence of-
Another clang sounded, and a third elevator arrived on their floor, and then a fourth, and a fifth.
"Seal them!" barked the mistress loudly, sounding frightened with her squeak of a voice.
"Fushrum!" Jeslie said firmly, waving her wand, and making Mikhail crack a small smile across his face.
More lifts came to a clanging stop until Mikhail counted the clanging of all remaining twenty six lifts coming to a halt, with the grilles not sliding open on any of them and instead rattling, as though the latch holding them shut was glued down and would not budge much as the doors wanted it to.
"Good curse, Jes," Mikhail said softly, not taking his eyes off the golden grilles of the arrived lift knowing deep down he'd lose his focus and concentration if he watched her accept his compliment.
"Thanks, Mik," Jeslie nodded, wand pointed business like at the elevator.
"Ready?" Halloran asked, looking to the other two in turn.
Mikhail nodded silently along with Jeslie, clenching his wand in anticipation. Any one of these cars would have the ones who broke into the Ministry. The Mistress's Dementors would perhaps have slowed them down, but only temporarily. Any competent wizard could repel a Dementor attack, even if it was in fact a squad of them.
"Alohomora!" Halloran shouted, making the now rattling and frantic to open grilles slide open.
Mikhail flicked his wand. "Specialis revelio!" The shimmering, barely visible wave shot into the elevator, zooming into the rapidly sliding open doors.
Jeslie moved into the elevator, gliding as though she were floating on a cushion of air. She checked the lift from top to bottom, sweeping her wand slowly and deliberately, yet forcefully, checking for the invaders.
"Clear!" she shouted as they moved to the next elevator.
They repeated this process another twenty four times, making sure each and every lift was clear before moving onto the last one, and rotating positions so they wouldn't keep putting each other in unnecessary danger. The doors were rattling now, creating a definite din that echoed around the Minister's Office.
Third to the farthest left now… They must be in one of these…
"Alohomora!" Mikhail said this time, being on the left side of the clattering golden grille.
"Specialis revelio!" Jeslie said, bouncing the spell in and around the lift car.
Halloran strafed into the elevator, and pointed his wand all around the edges, more thorough than the others were.
"Clear!" he shouted and exited the elevator, taking up positions with the other two.
"Where are they?" Mikhail asked as he took up position in front of the second to last door.
"In the last one," Jeslie suggested jokingly.
"Better not be," Halloran sneered. "Or I'll kill them the second I see them."
"Then lucky for you, it's not your lift to see them first," Mikhail shot back.
Halloran scowled at him as he took position on the right side of the elevator door.
"Ready?" Jeslie asked. Mikhail nodded; Jeslie didn't wait for Halloran's not coming response. He was too focused on the task at hand "Alohomora!" she called.
"Specialis revelio!" Halloran shouted, shooting the revealing spell into the lift.
Mikhail didn't even wait for the doors to finish opening to move in. He went forward, ready for the task to be done. They would be in the last elevator, it made the most sense.
He waved his wand to the left and the right and then in an arc over him, taking little notice of a small series of webbed cracks in the back corner of the ceiling.
He moved out of the elevator and into the corridor but froze as he exited.
"What is it?" Jeslie hissed as she took up position in front of the last elevator.
"Shhh!" he hissed, whipping his head to look behind him, where the sound of a light, high pitched whistling was coming from. Slowly, making sure his footsteps were soft and muffled on the thick carpet, he walked towards the open elevator doors. With a leap forward, he shouted "Confringo!" and then immediately "Protego!"
A ball of white light shot into the elevator and began to ricochet around the walls, including the invisible shield he had created in the grille way, bouncing off at odd angles, finally landing in the spider web crack in the ceiling and blasting a hole in the corner, showering rubble out into the elevator shafts on the other side of the walls.
"Mikhail!" screamed the voice of the mistress behind the secretary's desk. "What the devil do you think you're doing?"
"I was just-"
"Crucio!" the woman shouted.
If it was the first time it had happened, he wouldn't have been expecting it, but he had secretly known that deep down, this was coming. Knives and pokers jabbed into his skin, creating invisible cuts and slashes on his flesh that burned deeply. He yelped and whimpered, trying t hold back. After so many times-
But he couldn't complete the thought as the pain continued, and unbearably so. He writhed on the bed of jagged red coals in vain, hoping to perhaps roll off-
And as abruptly as it had began, it stopped.
"Finish the job," his Mistress commanded.
Mikhail nodded, curtly, shaking from the pain. She should have trusted his instincts. He thought he had heard something in that lift.
"Ready," he said, ignoring the ringing in his ear and passing it off as a random side effect of Cruciartus Curse as he took his place on the right side of the elevator. He tried not to make eye contact with Jeslie, who was looking at him pityingly, but he didn't need that. He just needed to get the job done.
A red stunning spell shot forward and blasted Halloran backwards so that he flew and smacked into the wall with a sickening crack, head hitting it such that it lolled forward and blood began to trickle out of the corner of his mouth as it sank under its own weight.
Mikhail just had time to turn around to the sound of another cry of "Stupefy!" as he saw two Aurors, whom he recognized as Kingsley Shacklebolt and Calydithia Sheppard fire another pair of red spells at Jeslie.
She blocked them, but barely.
Within seconds, Jeslie and Mikail were sprinting as fast as they could to the receptionists' desk, casting both offensive and defensive spells over their shoulders as fast as they could while they dove over the desk and landed safely on the other side.
"Shacklebolt!" Jeslie said spitefully. "I thought he was gone."
"I guess this means the party's over," Mikhail said somewhat jokingly. The small display on the desk behind them, upon which a wand twirled and rotated, flew forward and smashed on the wall behind the secretary's desk, shattered and blown apart by a spell flying from the two Aurors.
"Guess so," Jeslie said.
A huge section of desk blew apart, shattering wood into the wall in front of them.
"Come on out!" Came the deep, gruff voice of Kingsley."Just give up, It'll be easier for you."
She looked up contemptuously, as though he was a teacher catching her cheating on a test. "I never liked him," she looked over at Mikhail and smirked. "Think I can take him?"
"Shacklebolt?" Mikhail asked, shocked. "What are you? Mad? He'll kill you!"
"Perhaps," she said, looking at him. A smile cracked across her face. How he loved when she did that. "But I always wanted to see if I could take him."
"Jes-" Mikhail tried to say.
"Don't, Mik," Jeslie held up her hand. "We need to do this."
He looked at her, and his mouth opened as though to speak.
The other side of the desk blew apart making them both jump, ruining the moment.
"Come out now!" Kingsley shouted. "Throw your wands out to us, and you'll not be harmed."
Jeslie smirked and tossed her wand into the air. She reached forward, kissed Mikhail on the lips, sensation fleeting and passing far too quickly, and leapt to her feet, catching her wand as she vaulted over the desk.
Not hesitating, Mikhail hopped to his feet and began firing his spells at Sheppard as Jeslie began to duel with Kingsley even though everyone in the room knew the bodyguards would lose.
"Dammit," Caly cursed, as Mikhail, leader of what the Auror's had dubbed the Toad Patrol, fired off spells at her. She began repelling them as fast as she could, chancing a quick, sidelong cast at Kingsley, who was taking on the girl rather easily.
"This won't make you an Auror!" Caly shouted between spells, firing off a bat bogey hex, that shot past Mikhail's ear and exploded onto a desk, infesting it with a plethora of swooping and attacking bats.
"Says you!" Mikhail said as he fired a shot of blue electricity from the tip of his wand.
"Knows me!" Caly said, using her wand to connect to the end of the bolt. She withdrew the wand past her ear, transfiguring the bolt into a length of thin razor sharp wire, which she whipped back at Mikhail, commanding it with a mental "Tautlio" to wrap around Mikhail's abdomen with the goal of strapping his arms to his sides.
"Why can't you just accept who I'm meant to be?" Mikhail shouted back, twirling his wand in a circular motion and changing the wire into a spring, which split apart into twenty individual curly razor wires and shot off at Caly.
"Refracto!" Caly shouted, throwing up a magical barrier designed to deflect a spell at a strange angle than repel it. As expected, the razor curls flew off at odd angles.
Lucky for Caly, unlucky for Mikhail, one of the razor curls shot towards Kingsley's opponent, the woman, Jeslie, who was mid deflection and didn't get a chance to block the speeding metal coil. With a huk, it embedded itself in the side of her neck, blood spurting immediately from the wound. In an instant, her hands were to her neck and the foreign, unwelcome, alien object. Collapsing to her knees, she tried to apply pressure to stem the steady flow of blood, which still shot over her limp hands, staining them progressively darker with each pulse of red from her heart.
"No!" Mikhail shouted, forgetting his duel with Caly to come to the rescue of his fellow teammate.
Caly didn't have time for this. She pointed her wand at Mikhail. "Incarcerous!" Several lengths of rope arced from her wand and encased him in a cocoon from shoulder to toes, making him trip forward and land on his face, momentum skidding him forward.
"No! Get 'em off! Get 'em off!" He screamed, writhing hopelessly on the floor as he watched his teammate begin to convulse and shake from the loss of blood. "I have to help her!"
"Silencio," Caly said coldly as she walked past him and to Kingsley, who had moved swiftly to remedy Jeslie's condition, even though her face had turned white from shock. She understood his rationale, really she did, but now was not the time for nobility, and certainly not the time for nobility from a member of the Toad Patrol. "This is why you're not an Auror. You lack focus and resolve to see your opponent foiled."
"Caly, that's enough," Kingsley said, focusing on Jeslie's wound. Her breaths came shallow, as though she had just experienced something terrifying. "Now this will hurt," Kingsley explained. "I need to remove the section of cursed metal.
The woman merely whimpered, hands still slicing open on the razor curl in her throat as they tried to grasp the metal coil.
"I'll take that as green sparks," Kingsley said remorsefully. "Keep applying pressure here. This is about to get bloody."
"More so than it already is?" Caly asked, crossing her arms and sneering.
"That's enough, Dithy," Kingsley commanded over the sound of scuffling from Mikhail. "Just stay silent until we get this taken care of."
The rubbing of Mikhail's cord on carpet made a horrible, loud, scratching on Caly's ears. She rolled her eyes in frustration. "Petrificus Totalus!" His body went rigid and didn't make another sound. "That's what I thought. Let the professionals take care of this," she paused, looking at him. "And no, you're not a professional."
"Calydithia!" Kingsley shouted, looking up from his wand. "Will you please leave him alone?"
"Do you know what he's done?" Caly snapped at Kingsley.
Kingsley looked away from her, still speaking with commanding authority as he finished cleaning Jeslie's wounds. "Would you have done the same as him if I'd have asked you?"
"You did ask me," Caly said softly, resentfully. "And I did do what you asked."
"My point exactly," Kingsley said, standing up. "She should be fine. Incarcerous!" Cords sprang from his wand and encased the now unconscious Jeslie in her own bonds. He turned to Caly. "There's no reason for him to be awake for the rest of this."
Caly nodded. "Stupefy!" The red jet of magic shot into Mikhail's stomach, forcing his eyes closed. "To the office then?"
Kingsley nodded. "Wands at the ready. There's a reason she's been undersecretary for so long."
"Yeah because she loved to su-"
"Enough, Caly," Kingsley said, aggravation breaking through his usually calm voice as he turned to head towards the Minister's Office. "Is there anything you would care to say?"
"I'm in the Minister's office," Caly said bitterly. "There's nothing to say."
"Ah yes," Kingsley said. "I had forgotten your distaste for Ministers both past and present. Perhaps that will change."
"Doesn't look like it," Caly said as they approached the Minister's door.
There was a new plaque on the Minister's door, similar to the one placed on the current occupant's previous office entrance: bronze, dazzling, and very pompous. It read:
Dolores Jane Umbridge
Minister of Magic
"On three?" Caly asked, clenching her wand in frustration at the hubris of the woman. "And then we can finally take down the century old Undersecretary of the Ministry."
"I'm sure she's not that old," Kingsley said seriously.
"Don't be too sure," Caly said. "She doesn't celebrate birthdays." Kingsley shot her an unconvinced look. "Well, she celebrates, but it's a formality to get gifts from those who fear and… respect her, although how they could-"
"Now is not the time for speculation," Kingsley said. "On three? Like you said?" Caly nodded. "One…"
"Two…" Caly continued.
They burst into the room simultaneously. It was a strange office, changed drastically from what she remembered in her one visit to the place during Scrimgeour's brief, year-long tenure. Chairs now sat small and comfortable looking in front of the large, neat desk. Apparently the Toad had cleaned the desk in Thicknesses' absence.
Umbridge looked up from a scroll of parchment and took the monocle out of her eye. "Ah, Mr. Shacklebolt, Ms. Sheppard. What a pleasant surprise. How may I help you?" Her voice was still unnaturally high in the attempt at cute and her tone was calm and casual, faking surprise to see them.
"You can help us by coming quietly," Kingsley said tranquilly.
"Why what do you mean, Mr. Shacklebolt?" the toad asked, playing dumb.
"We're placing you under arrest," Caly said, stepping forward, unable to contain her silence any longer. She had put up with the toad for too long, far too long.
The toad's face turned sour, not attempting to be pleasant any longer. "On what charges?"
Caly opened her mouth to speak, but thought better of it, instead waiting for Kingsley to. She looked to him for guidance, but he was staring at the Toad, scrutinizing her as he did in the most intense of situations, analyzing before things turned particularly nasty.
"For crimes against Muggles and Wizards, specifically Muggle borns," Kingsley said. "Treason, being an accessory to murder, and for at least one casting of an unforgiveable curse."
The toad eyed him for a few seconds, and then smiled deviously, eyes narrowing. "I'm afraid you cannot do that, Mister Shacklebolt. You have no proof, and even if you did, you have no way of charging me because all of these actions, if they were in fact perpetrated, are entirely within the law."
Caly took a step forward. "Like hell, you old-"
"Quiet," Kingsley snapped, silencing Caly with a look. "We have witnesses, including your three personal bodyguards, who will provide us with any relevant information about crimes you committed during your tenure as the head of the Muggle born Registration Commission."
"Those were sanctioned by law, Mister Shacklebolt" Umbridge explained. "They were all put into law by Pius Thicknesse, who is Minister of Magic-"
"And under the Imperius Curse," Caly smirked. "Which means that any and all decisions he made as a lawmaker during that time are illegal." She grinned, relishing the moment. "You lose, bitch."
Umbridge's eyes flared green as she raised her wand in a slashing motion, which split the Minister's desk in two. She flicked her wand and sent both halves zooming towards the Aurors, papers and desk appliances flying through the room.
"Diffindo," Caly thought, sending the slicing curse from her wand and blasting the half desk zooming towards her into shards of wood.
Umbridge stumbled backwards, wand pointing down as Kingsley and Caly advanced on her. She flicked her wand and the logs in the Minister's fire pit leapt out, stacking each other until it created a burning, humanesque creature, which took a second to get its bearings and then charged the duo.
"Aguamenti," Kingsley said impatiently, dousing the papers into sopping wads as the creature fell to the ground, slapping like a fish out of water. "Enough of this, Dolores."
"No!" Umbridge shouted, flicking her wand and sending the books on the shelves zooming towards them.
Caly and Kingsley blocked the books easily with a shield charm.
"It's over, Dolores," Kingsley insisted.
She sneered. "You can't do this! I'm Minister of Magic!" Umbridge shouted.
"No you're not," said the painting of a toad faced man in a green suit.
"You're a painting!" Umbridge screamed, losing her composure. "You don't know anything!"
"Apparently he knows more than toads," Caly said offhandedly.
Umbridge's face turned rabid as she wheeled on Caly. "You-"
"Incarcerous," Kingsley said, sending cords flying at Umbridge.
Umbridge waved her wand. "Condensio!"
The cords forced themselves into small, hard-impact balls, which levitated in front of Umbridge before she forced them to charge the Aurors.
"Refracto!" Caly shouted before Kingsley had the opportunity.
The rope cords shot towards them and reflected back off the invisible shield in front of Caly and Kingsley, heading back towards their master, who had just begun to cast another spell.
"Stupe-" But Umbridge paused and began to choke, one of the balls flying into her wide toad like mouth and lodging itself in her throat. She gagged several times, tugging at the pink cardigan she still had on, even after all these years. After struggling and suffocating for several seconds, the toad fell to the floor, gagging and suffering, clutching the thick carpet in her hands. Within seconds she passed out from a lack of air, fat toad lips turning blue.
Kingsley flicked his wand, making the small cord ball leave Umbridge's windpipe. He looked down on her pityingly for a few seconds. "How does a woman go so wrong?"
"Because… she likes power?" Caly offered.
"Perhaps, but she was so…" he looked at her and frowned. "Apologies."
"None needed," Caly said, shrugging it off. "I agreed to it and all the tasks and duties that came along with it."
They stood in silence, staring at the toad for several minutes.
"So…" Kingsley said, trying to break the silence. "Azkaban, you think?"
"No thanks," Caly said, looking at Kingsley, repulsed. "I hate that place."
"No, I meant…" He motioned t Umbridge.
"Oh! Oh, her!" Caly said. "I thought you meant if I wanted to go clean it up, which would be a no."
"We need to retake Azkaban," Kingsley nodded , but we have plenty of time for that. This was the most pressing matter after toppling Voldemort. The rest will fall into place naturally."
Caly looked at him. "Sounds to me like you have a plan."
"That I do," Kingsley smirked before looking around the debris-strewn office. "The first of which is to step in as acting Minister while the Ministry gets back on its feet."
"You really want to declare martial law?" Caly asked, folding her arms over her chest.
Kingsley scowled at her. "I'm just a placeholder, only temporary. As soon as someone comes by to take my place I'll step aside."
"Uh huh," Caly said, faking unconvinced as Kingsley pulled out his wand and cast a patronus, which shot out the door and out of sight, no doubt to Hogwarts to give word on what they had accomplished.
"So what now?" Caly asked.
Kingsley smiled at her. "And now, we start to pick up the pieces."