Few of the ministries workers were active at this point in the morning as Unspeakable Rookwood made his way forward from the lower levels up to the domain housing the Minister himself, just shy of the Auror Head-captains quarters.
Striding down the corridor with it's pale glow of torchlight toward the northern most end of the hall and toward the doorway hidden therein beside the tempered glass window, he began counting each step until halting nine paces down and two across from the center row of black and white checkered tiles.
It had taken him three weeks of investigation between his usual duties and spare activities in order to confirm where the key to that doorway changed to every other day, one of his fellow Unspeakable's contributions to the Ministers safety in the time following their confirmation of his... removal from office.
Paused before the the small checkered black tile third from the top and second from the center Rookwood banished it to reveal a set of tiny potion bottles no larger than his thumb. Drawing out the far right bottle he unscrewed the cork and placed the tip of his wand within, then restored the stopper and bottle and lastly the tile to it's place.
He approached the wall to his left and drew a tall rectangle into it with the end of his wand, then a small circle on the inside right. The outline left behind began to squiggle in place after waiting long enough and he reached out to run his fingernails under the edge of the circle and slowly twist clockwise.
A soft click followed and the rectangle of wall swung open to reveal a large blue oval office. Lining the walls were the portraits of the last three Ministers in term, looking down upon a moderately sized marble desk with a name plate resting on it, reading as 'Envoy BLACK, P.' and a stack of neatly organized notes and vials in a pair of wooden holders beside it.
A low sneer crossed the man's face at the sight of it. He had learned something about Pollux Black after much observation, and that was that the man had an obsessive streak to memorize details down to the letter. No doubt the vials contained the very memories he had deemed most important to retain and preserve against time and aging.
Stepping through and over the continued checkered floor he cast a silencing dome around himself and the portrait to the right of the desk, another simple flick of his wand ensuring the opening to the office shut before then snapping his fingers loudly beneath the portraits nose. The former Minister stirred and glanced about in sleepy confusion. "Hello? Someone around?" he questioned.
From beneath the cloak a sheet of parchment was drawn with the activation phrase scrawled onto it. The eyes scanned the message and glazed over before the portrait swung outward and left behind a folding step-ladder and a dark hall behind it.
Shoving the now worthless sheet back into a pocket Unspeakable Rookwood ascended the ladder and slipped into the room. At the far end a softly burning fireplace rested with a small shelf jutting from the right side at shoulder height, baring a black pot of floo powder. He already knew what lay in wait from one end of the hall toward the other, having helped construct the defensive wards.
Quietly striding forward the first of a set of wards blazed to life as he neared. Like a flowing waterfall the pale blue light ran from ceiling to floor and hummed with a fluid power coursing through it, and it resisted him for a moment before allowing passage forward; for this ward sought confirmation of the mark of the Envoy, Unspeakable, or Auror Head-captain - in order of importance during this time of war.
None of the alarms triggered though his token grew chilled within his breast pocket. Rookwood carried forward to the second ward in soft yellow precisely seven feet behind the first, a duller noise coursing through it and a measure for the intentions of those who would pass.
It was this ward that concerned him most, for though he had left behind a small flaw to exploit when the time was ripe it seemed probable his fellow Unspeakable's would have gone over it time and again in light of the travelers appearance.
As he neared the dull noise rose in pitch as if in warning until the moment he stepped through it and a faint crackle echoed across the hall in even further resistance; but it did not stop him fully, and after half a dozen moments he emerged with a narrow grimace and approached the third and final in the ward scheme before the end of the hall.
Quiet as death itself, the luminescent green ward flickered into view just before his foot made contact. He let out a hiss of physical pain as it passed through the Cloak instantly and made contact with his flesh beneath, and deeper than that down into his veins, before finally sinking down into the core of magic wound tightly within his chest.
In the instant between stepping into and stepping out of the third ward his magical reserves were ignited and siphoned off. A full third of his strength was deprived of him and used to power the ward again until next time, and he felt a sense of fatigue develop in his muscles and a dull ache settle into place behind his eyes the moment after it was done.
But he had succeeded. He was only grateful that the choice of one third rather than two thirds of magical energy was not questioned by the others when he first proposed it, for the intent was to weaken those approaching the Minister rather than render them dead from shock.
Stepping up to the fireplace with a slight shake in his stance Rookwood dipped his fingers into the pot and drew forth a tablespoon's worth of the shining powder, staring at the flicker of light across the surface for a moment more before tossing it forward.
A rush of flame spun up out of sight as the tone darkened to emerald green, and Rookwood placed a preservation charm over the lid of the pot before shrinking and pocketing it. Then he placed one foot into the dancing fire and spoke sharply and clearly.
"Office of the Minister." he ordered as he ducked down and fully immersed himself. The short trip of tumbling lasted only a moment before Rookwood found himself on one knee on the other-side.
And just as he and the other Unspeakable's had seen, there the middle-aged wizard rested on his granite desk with a Wireless droning softly in the background on another message about how the war would soon be over, the peace of the dreamless sleep potion aiding the Minister in a time when he would have been far better off consulting his information at all hours of the night.
When Harry opened his eyes it was to the usual agony he had become accustomed toward after encountering Unspeakable's. His spine was arched obscenely with his legs twisting away and to the side, so that the slightest motion set the leg and hip bones grating against one another. His feet were pressed flat to the ground and twisted even further than his legs.
His arms had been drawn out far overhead and bound with biting iron cuffs, and he could hardly feel his neck and head for the blood rushing toward it. His voice was cracked with dryness and thirst as he called out, hardly able to believe they would go to this length before recent memories began trickling forward.
Oh... oh, are you kidding me? he thought and tried struggling against his position. It brought more pain and his body was pulled into an even rougher position by means unknown. Biting back the shout that tried to escape his lips Harry looked around for any identification of where he was.
Only a single candle was lit and it's light hardly reached over to his body. Wherever he was was far too dark and chilled to be above ground level, even if it was night. Harry didn't have long to contemplate his situation before the crack of apparation filled the small room and a loud thud collapsed into a rough chair, shaking it.
What the hell is that? a moment later and he had his answer as Unspeakable Rookwood flicked his wand through the air to ignite the other candles within the room, rubbing at his eyes warily and wearily. A thin slash mark ran the length of his left cheek from nearly the ear down to the jaw bone, sickly blood trailing from it.
"You have cost me a great deal this night." despite his look Rookwood's voice came out just as resolute and strongly as it had before his first subject was delivered to Grindelwald. "I have gifted the minister, but that was hardly of use. My master was pleased to have one less block to his progress, yet the gleam in his eye turned toward madness as he recognized the presence of the Cloak in my possession."
Calling a flask from some corner of the small room Rookwood took a slow drag off it before rising to his feet shakily. "I am now robbed of the Cloak, and your deceit has cost me even further." cautiously approaching Rookwood flicked his wand toward the wall beside Harry and a drawer slid out roughly.
"Apparently a barer of one Hallow can feel when it's brothers lay nearest. A convenient fact to conceal from me!" slamming the tip of his wand like a knife into Harry's ribcage, Rookwood silently cast the ignition charm and watched as a cherry-red glow wrapped about the first half an inch of wood.
The burn mark registered an instant later and Harry choked around the pain of it, which only intensified when it was dragged over pale flesh and left behind an ugly crimson gash. "I will learn all of your secrets this night, all of the events to play out in your time and the end results of this war. I will know my masters course of action before he commits it! I will know when his enemies would strike!" his voice rising in intensity, Rookwood drew his wand away and turned toward the extended drawer.
Harry's eyes had watered and run down into his tangled hair by now. "You will know torture as only the German wizards and witches have ever demonstrated it... and by the time I have worked through each instruction, each tool, I will know all there is to know of your soul on this night..."
Black blood lined the floor around his arched form, poisoned and healed over and over as flesh was melted through and muscles shredded. The effects of the potion to keep him conscious had long since given up and even enervate could only do so much when shock pervaded a system so thoroughly.
The raw stench would have turned away all but the most potent of breathing and filtering charms, but Rookwood had grown accustomed to such vile assaults to his senses within Grindelwald's laboratories, and even if he hadn't the rage clotting his system would have been enough to ignore it.
What lay against the stone was a testament to the power of magic to accomplish whatsoever the caster could bring to focus. The latest addition to the destruction of his remnant-body was the ocular rending curse eating away at each layer a fraction at a time.
"You said Dark Wizard Grindelwald had the Death Stick; The Elder Wand. Something about a Dumbledore getting it. Which one?" Rookwood's harsh voice demanded in his ear. A piece of Harry's crumbling conscious thought recognized the tone and speech and summoned another barricade effort of will to ignore it.
He had been like this for two hours, and he would remain steadfast in his silence regardless of the mans efforts to glean information of the Hallows and the future from him, and he would continue to do so because of the figure resting silently behind his foe with the white outline shining radiantly through his dying vision.
All of the agony he had endured had only worsened when the figure first appeared to him after the first hour, and yet... and yet his will to resist flourished with it's presence, and through every act of pain inflicted a resonance of reassurance rang throughout his bones and promised retribution in equal degrees.
Rookwood could not hear how Harry's tainted blood cried for recognition from that figure, but the white noise was just as sharp to his ears as the other wizard's terrible voice. At length in further silence from the subject Rookwood picked up his blowtorch and directed it toward another splitting bone with the intention of melding it back together again only to crack it open down the line.
He did not have the chance to finish his work. The soft whisper of a breeze began to fill the room as the figure rose to it's full height and approached Harry's form. Command vengeance and rise, Master of Death. the life-loci spoke in it's hollow and stark voice.
"Help me." Harry's split mouth and torn jaw whispered brokenly. As you command. it answered before glancing sidelong toward the distance as if listening to anothers words. A long heartbeat later and it looked back down to Harry's broken and mangled form and placed one over his heart and the other over Rookwood's.
The Unspeakable threw back his head and screamed as never before, while beneath Death's left hand Harry arched just as badly. Each wound across the younger wizard's body flared in green light before black energy surged forward to engulf it, while across the elder's black spires lanced through his body and gradually ripped him open.
One minute and a moment thereafter and the life-loci drew back, keeping it's right hand held tightly to Rookwood's chest before departing just as it came... and taking a pale and transparent energy from the former man's body with it.
End of Chapter Six.
Preview of next chapter: When he recovered Harry found himself laying on one side beside the stone used to bend his back obscenely. The blood soaking the floor reflected his appearance back up to him, hauntingly pale and more angular and gaunt. His muscles burned when he used them to stand up, but he could feel again, and it came with a dark realization:
Crucio would never again fell him, not after what he had endured under Rookwood's hands.