Chapter 15, Part One: Christmas Lament
"That's it! Excellent teamwork. Tonks, Shiva, you two are the best trainees I've had in my thirty years of trying to teach some newbies how to survive," Chief Howard Walters praised them.
Admittedly, he'd heard of Britain's Magical Law Enforcement Squad being one of best in the world. He'd met dozens of outstanding Hit Wizards these past fifty years as an Auror. However, Tonks and Shiva were newbies. Although already having completed their basic education, both with a specialty, they were new to the field and even newer to the Enforcement Squad.
Walters had come from New York to London a little less than four months ago. He'd been asked to come here by Britain's minister Laurence Skawn himself because Walters had the reputation of being the best instructor since the famous (not few of those who'd been trained by him would say infamous) Charles Brighton had retired twenty years back.
It was his job to keep those foolish, young and eager Aurors alive long enough to actually be of use.
He loved his job.
What he hated was the increasing amount of funerals he had to attend to.
Four months and twenty funerals.
Lord Voldemort – or Tom Marvolo Riddle as the classified files he had access to revealed – certainly knew what he was doing. He was impossible to track, his secret followers were hard to determine and those who were siding with him out in the open were as hard to find as their master. Walters had read the old files, what had happened the last time when Riddle had risen.
These days, it was different: he still spread terror with horrifying actions, covert ops, kidnappings and assassinations. However, something was different this time.
Last summer, when his return had been acknowledged officially, he'd been seen inside of the Ministry of Magic looking for a prophecy. His actual return a year ago had been witnessed by Harry Potter.
Chief Walters would bet all the gold he owned on the fact that the Boy Who Lived wasn't supposed to survive that night.
Harry Potter played an important role in this war and he wasn't even of age yet.
It was crazy.
Howard had never been much for hero-worship and he was therefore not overly impressed with the fall of Voldemort fifteen years ago. He didn't exactly know what happened, but it was foolish to think that a one-year-old was solely responsible for the defeat of a powerful wizard like Riddle.
Because of this, Howard couldn't view a Hogwarts student as the saviour of the world. The world could only be saved if everyone stood up against the rising powers. Unfortunately, there were too many cowards and too few who actually tried and that allowed Riddle to kill those who opposed him.
One by one.
It was a disaster.
For that reason, the chief was glad watching his favourite Auror newbies working together.
Tonks was a force to reckon with. Her Metamorphmagus abilities were rare and she was an effective duellist. She had a wonderful sense of humour and always managed to lift the troop's mood when it looked particularly dire. Her weakness was stealth, though. He'd hardly met an Auror displaying more clumsiness than her. Hell, without even trying, old Alastor with his wooden leg was quieter than she was!
When Mad-Eye had decided to retire, Howard had felt old for the first time in his long life. He'd worked together with the talented and slightly more experienced British Auror in a rather dangerous and classified mission not long after having finished his education. Their teamwork had been outstanding.
A lot like Shiva and Tonks, really.
He'd met many young male newbies over the years. They were usually passionate, stubborn and hot-headed, especially after having been forced to sit behind a desk for several months.
Not Shivalewski, though.
The Polish Auror was calm, collected and sharp-minded, displaying the dignity of an old man. He was highly capable yet modest.
Usually, Howard had little patience for types like Shiva. He'd been short-tempered in his youth, still was at times, and he knew a lot better how to deal with that character trait than this unnerving calmness.
However, his determination and the way he was ready to get his hands dirty made up for his reserved behaviour.
"Thanks, Chief." Tonks smiled brilliantly, before looking up into her partner's eyes who'd nodded slightly at the praise. "That last spell… What was that? I've never seen it before."
A very good question, Chief Walters decided. It had looked like the variation of the Disarming Charm, but unlike the classic charm, the wand hadn't flown away. It, quite literally, blew into the wizard's face before flying away in the opposite direction of the caster. Kyle, another newbie, had been knocked unconscious by the wand since Shiva's Disarming Spell seemed to have somehow charged the wand with energy.
"I invented it. I was once confronted with an… en… opponent who was proficient with Expelliarmus in a way it took me aback. I created this spell to neutralisieren… neutralize the effect of the Disarming Spell," he explained. Shiva's English had improved over the past few weeks, but every once in a while he struggled with the proper vocabulary.
"Impressive. Does it work?" the Metamorphmagus asked.
"I do need to refine the wording to make the spell useful for everyone besides myself, but yes, it does work well."
"Definitely." Kyle moaned while getting up with the help of his partner.
Shiva was silent for a moment before saying, "I did not mean to harm you."
The poor guy was so reserved his apologies always sounded awkward, as if he never said that he was sorry at all.
"'S okay, lad," Kyle said, roughly patting the taller wizard's shoulder. As a result, Shiva looked even less comfortable.
"Who'd ever use Expelliarmus in combat?" Charles chimed in.
"Harry Potter does, according to the records," Kyle began, his gaze was fixed on Tonks, "but you'd know more about that."
"I don't really…"
"Don't give me that," Kyle interrupted. "Saw the two of you, remember? You and I were part of the small squadron of Aurors who made sure he arrived safely at Hogwarts. His main focus was on you and Kingsley, the rest of us were only… inspected."
"He's been having some bad experiences with Polyjuice and mind games. It would have worried me if he hadn't been careful," Tonks defended the Boy Who Lived immediately.
How come he hadn't known that one of his newbies knew Harry Potter?
Shiva didn't seem surprised, therefore he'd known.
"You know Harry Potter?"
Despite the fact he wasn't much for hero-worship, one couldn't help but be curious about that teenager everybody was talking about.
"I've met and talked to him a couple of times… Knowing him would be a gross exaggeration. First time I saw him, he was fifteen and very… a typical teenager. But then I saw him fight last summer at the Ministry and he's really good. Not exceptional, though. He could give us a hard time, that's for sure, but if you think of him as a wizard with the magical talent of Professor Dumbledore, I have to disappoint you."
"I've read he's been fighting off You-Kn… the Dark Lord several times. He must be better than that."
You-Know-Who and He Who Must Not Be Named were idioms nobody in the Auror office liked to use since they suggested cowardice, but only a handful knew his real name and Voldemort was only used by some. Therefore, Dark Lord was the phrase of choice in the Auror office.
"The Dark Lord was weakened each time," Shiva spoke up, his ever-serious tone even, almost cold. "It would be foolish to think that Harry Potter was a match for him now that he has risen again."
"Well, he escaped him twice ever since," Kyle came to the defence.
"That may be, but when it comes to sheer power, the Dark Lord surpasses Harry Potter's strength by length."
Charles took a step forward and Walters decided to interrupt, "Boys, please! Kyle, Charles, you must look at this from Shiva's point of view: he hasn't witnessed the first war the same way you did. Harry Potter might be the Boy Who Lived, but that's all he is: a boy. It's the same for me as well."
Stunned, Kyle and Charles grew silent.
"He's a special kid," Tonks decided to speak again, "very kind. Openhearted for a boy who has lost so much. He lost his Mum, his Dad and as if that wasn't bad enough, he lost his godfather not too long ago. You know what it's like, Shiva. Didn't you say that you had no family back home?"
Howard knew Shiva for quite some time now, but this was the first time he seemed taken aback. Tonks noticed and her eyes widened. "That sounded terrible. I'm sorry, Viatus. I didn't mean to…"
The tall wizard's long fingers were laid tentatively on his partner's left shoulder. "My… Family died a long time ago, Dora. Do not bother too much with what has long passed."
"All right, boys! And Tonks. I think it's time to call it a day. Kyle, Charles, you're on call tonight. If we find Voldemort's lair, your presence will be requested. However, stay back! I want to capture the bastard and I've no wish to attend to yet another funeral. Got it?"
"Sure, Chief. Goodnight." A moment after having spoken those words, Kyle and Charles disapparated.
"How close are you to finding him?" Tonks asked the experienced Auror.
"Not close enough." The only way of being close enough was when they found it and didn't follow rumours.
He decided to change the subject, "Any plans for Christmas?"
It was rather unlike him to pleasantly chat with his newbies. Those two were special, though.
"Hogwarts. I'm going to Hogwarts with some of my friends. You, sir?"
Instead of answering, he commented, "Hogwarts, hm? Don't know how long I'll be here, but before going home I'd like to take a peak at that legendary castle. Have you ever seen it, Shiva?"
A sentiment, Chief Walters was unable to recognize, flickered over the younger wizard's face before it wore the familiar severe expression again. "No. I don't think the school is open for strangers in times like these."
"Oh, I am certain Professor Dumbledore would welcome you to Hogwarts, the both of you. I mean, do any of you have any plans for Christmas? I'm sure you'll be allowed to spend the holidays with us."
Nymphadora Tonks was a very kind girl. She was a family person and couldn't bear the thought that her colleagues would be spending Christmas alone. And that they would, without the invite.
Shiva stiffened. "I will never step a foot into this castle as long as Albus Dumbledore is the school's headmaster."
Now that was a surprise. Howard and Tonks both looked at the tall man whose eyes seemed cold and unyielding. Walters had never seen him look like this.
"Why?" The young and only female trainee to become Hit Witch (he was too old to think of all the impropriate phrases concerning this particular title) sounded disappointed.
"Fifty years ago, the one who is called Dark Lord these days didn't exist yet," he began with practised calm. "But there was a dark wizard and he was responsible for the deaths of millions of people on his quest for the Greater Good, apart from his own murders by empowering a megalomaniac of a Muggle whose intention were no less evil than his own. Gellert Grindelwald was hardly of consequence here in England or in the United States, but his deeds still cause terror in the heart of my country's citizens. So I beg your pardon when the idea of meeting Albus Dumbledore doesn't exactly thrill me."
"But, Professor Dumbledore defeated Gellert Grindelwald." Tonks looked both defiant and unsure of Shiva's statement.
Walters however knew what the Polish Auror was trying to say. It was very likely that he knew more about it than Shiva did.
"That he did. But years and years too late. All he had to do was show up... Imagine my family, Dora… Some of my relatives tried to fight back Grindelwald's forces for years. Albus Dumbledore defeated him in a matter of days. When he'd defeated him, he wouldn't even allow us to take revenge on the creature that was terrorizing our homes. He insisted on having him imprisoned in Nurmengard where Grindelwald still rots. Albus Dumbledore may have defeated Grindelwald, Dora, but in return he forced us to bend to his will. He wouldn't listen to any objection and no one dared to stand in his way… I've no wish to ever meet that man and I do hope you understand my reasons."
Tonks nodded sadly, avoiding the taller wizard's intense, sky-blue eyes, "I… He… He's a good person, Shiva. Whatever happened back then, he's a very kind man and he would welcome you with open arms. Trust me on this."
For a long moment, the young Auror didn't speak before he finally said, "I will think about it."
"Thanks. It would be great if you could come, I mean… Like this I can introduce you to my friends. Apart from the Weasleys whom you already know."
"You are being very kind," Shiva said, the hint of a smile adorned the young face.
"Don't mention it," she grinned happily. "Same with you, sir. Interested?"
"Let's see what happens on the Voldemort front… Then, let's plan our holidays."
'Shouldn't have thought that. Shouldn't have thought that. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.'
Adrenalin rushed through the experienced Auror's body. Outwardly, he was calm, but inwardly he felt as nervous as he'd hardly ever felt before.
They'd found it. Riddle's lair.
Only two hours after they'd said goodbye to each other, Dawlish appeared to say that they had a lead.
They were fifteen Aurors, seven of which were full members of the Magical Law Enforcement Squad. Two Squad trainees: Charles and Kyle. Five fully trained and more or less experienced Aurors of the other squads.
And him. Though he was an instructor these days, he was first and foremost still an active Auror. He was used to combat. The most experienced fighter of the bunch, actually. But this night made his skin crawl.
Something wasn't right.
He saw two Death Eaters about twenty feet ahead of them and gave the signal for caution. The entire place was strategically occupied by Aurors.
Kyle and Charles were right behind him.
It was their goal to keep the Death Eaters from noticing them without actually having to take them out.
They had one target tonight: Tom Marvolo Riddle.
He made a sign for Dawlish and Martin to move towards the hill. It would give them a better position.
Problem was, they didn't respond.
'Shit!' he cursed without making a sound since that wasn't wise in this kind of situation, 'Shit! Holy shit! F…'
He turned around to see whether Kyle and Charles were still safe and sound. Walters' eyes widened in horror when he saw that they were lying there motionless, only ten feet behind him.
What the hell was going on?
As if he'd asked for it, a scream as if from a wounded animal cut through the silence of the night, soon joined by several others. He didn't recognize the voices for they were filled with too much pain, but he knew where they had come from.
Only what kind, he couldn't tell. He hadn't heard anyone speaking the Cruciatus curse and not even Voldemort was able to torture so many people at once.
It didn't matter.
"FALL BACK! FALL BACK!" he yelled into the night and got up, his wand in his hand. He focused in order to disapparate, but it was useless.
A strong ward kept him from leaving.
A silent, high and cold chuckle was carried to his ears. He didn't have to turn back to know what was waiting behind him.
He turned around to look into a face that only marginally resembled a human being.
"Good evening, Howard. Do you know what those are?"
Briefly, Walters wondered just how on earth Voldemort knew his name. He wanted to take out his wand and fight. He wanted to… But for the first time in sixty years, Chief Howard Walters was petrified. Terrified of whatever creature Tom Marvolo Riddle had become.
So, instead of hurling insults, instead of fighting, he simply followed the creature's gaze.
What he saw nearly made him vomit.
There was Dawlish, a pool of blood next to his body and as if all bodily fluid had been extracted from the body; he looked like a mummy.
There was Martin, his limbs strangely angled as if every bone was broken. His eyes were opened wide in horror and pain.
"Ever heard of the Indicendi, Howard?" Voldemort's cold voice asked calmly.
'Oh… Fucking hell!'
It was like a wake-up call. Howard could suddenly move again. He raised his wand and silently spoke, "Feritis!"
Voldemort parted it casually with a flick of his wand.
'When it's you or them,' his instructor had told him countless times, 'make sure it's them.'
Before he could finish the incantation, his wand turned on him and he was knocked down, while his trusty weapon was casually caught by his enemy.
He recognized that spell.
"What have you done to him?" he asked with barely suppressed anger. The thought of having lost not only two but three of his kids in one night (or four. By Merlin! How did Tonks and Shiva get into this?) was so painful, it even buried his own fear.
Again, a cold hollow laughter was emitted by the monster. "Think again, Howard. I thought you were smarter than that. Than Piotr. Than the rest of them."
It was impossible. Absolutely impossible. And yet…
"You?" the experienced Auror asked in disbelief, "You? How?"
Another quiet, cold chuckle.
"Well done, my Death Eaters," he spoke. He had to have used some spell for his voice, not loud but strangely intense, was heard over the hills far into the graveyard, "I now wish to be alone."
That was an almost polite way of saying, 'Get lost!'
Who'd have thought that monsters could be courteous?
When they were alone, at least that was what Howard thought, Riddle… Shiva talked again, "Humans can be very blind. They see blue instead of red, see polite reserve instead of actual disinterest and suddenly, you are a valued member of society. Even you, an experienced Auror, about my age and you did not see immediately. Manipulation. It is so easy. People see what they want to see and you tell them what they want to hear and they open their minds and souls for you…" A cruel, lipless smile made this face an even more horrifying mask.
"Why don't you just get over with it, then? You played me. Congratulations. I can't leave, you can't afford to have me walk around, knowing your secret. And a secret it is, right? Not even your precious little slaves know."
"Oh, you won't last the night," Voldemort spoke casually. As if trying to underline his words, he pointed his wand at Walter's and it turned into dust right in front its carrier. "But there is no need to rush. Let's talk, the way we did only a few hours ago. It was remarkably refreshing, I must say."
"Fuck you." He watched the dust touching the ground and for a moment, he felt like having lost a friend. Yet another one.
Again, this mirthless laughter. This time, Howard was unable to stop his body from shivering.
"It is a magnificent sight," Voldemort said calmly and started to walk.
Knowing that running would be pointless and an act of cowardice, he walked beside the enemy he'd left his home for and whom he'd met as a friend. As one of his kids.
When had the world stopped making sense?
"Hogwarts, I mean," the monster stated casually when he noted the Auror's silence. "You said earlier that you wanted to see it."
"Well, I guess that wish is futile now, is it?" He wouldn't cry in front of that monster. He wouldn't beg to see his family just one more time.
At that, he felt… He didn't know exactly, but it hurt, his skull seemed to crack open from the pain he felt, but it was over before he had time to scream.
The beautiful lands.
A hall that seemed to open up into the sky.
Reverence that wasn't his own filled his heart.
"The first sight is always the greatest, Howard. I gave you mine."
"Why, Shi… Why do you care?"
He hated that laughter.
"I don't, but you taught me some things I didn't know before and that is rare. They will not be able to say that Lord Voldemort doesn't thank those who've been of use."
"Do you expect me to say 'you're welcome'?" Howard hissed. Then, a thought so sickening it took away his breath came to mind, "What about Tonks?"
"Ah, Dora." Who'd have thought that a smile could scare him so much? "She is so uniquely talented. Her powers are a waste for the Light. She's like a flower in the night, not yet blossomed to her entire beauty."
"If you touch her, you bastard, I will…" '…Kill you with my bare hands. Sure, Howard, why not? That is so likely going to happen.'
This time, the laughter was even higher than before. "Oh, Howard… Do you really think I have this lowly desire the common man seems to crave? I am so much more than a man and I do not wish to possess her like this. No, she is a lot more interesting unbroken. I want her unleashed, Howard, having her live up to her full potential."
"You'll destroy her." Howard felt his eyes burn and he hated himself for it.
"Now that would be a pity." Red eyes looked at him without mercy, without showing as much as a tad of compassion.
"What about Viatus Shivalewski?"
"Dead. In every sense that matters."
"No Polyjuice." He knew this because they were forced to go through several scans before they were allowed to enter the Auror's office, "How exactly…?"
What the hell was wrong with him? Why didn't he just… Oh right, he didn't have his wand.
"That is none of your concern." Dismissed like a petulant child.
"Why am I still alive?"
The tall creature next to him didn't speak. He just continued walking casually as if meeting with an old friend.
"Let me guess," it was worth a try, "Tonks and I… We're treating you like an equal, we don't shiver in front of you, don't beg for mercy. And you like it. It's new… refreshing, you said. Sometimes you catch yourself wishing to actually be Viatus Shivalewski, that talented, intelligent young man who's training to become the best in his field. You are jealous of him… of that façade you created." He was mocking the most dangerous dark wizard in a century, if not of all times… It took a lot of self-control not to laugh hysterically.
"You will not taunt me into killing you quicker, Howard. Don't endeavour it. You would regret it."
They walked across the graves towards and old, shady house. Once upon a time, it might have looked beautiful. Today it looked as if nobody had taken care of it.
"I'm not going to join you." That one triumph he wouldn't give Riddle.
The lipless mouth's corners turned upwards into an amused smile. "I didn't expect you to."
"Then what do you want?" he hissed, but was taken aback when Riddle started to hiss as well. He recognized those sounds… Parseltongue.
Howard didn't like it any more than he had years ago when he'd heard it for the first time. An enormous snake made its way through the grass… Salem's Mercy, he hated snakes. Again, he had to suppress this strange urge to giggle. As if snakes were his biggest problems.
"I'm not going to give you any information."
"You would, but there is nothing I don't already know," Voldemort said dismissively.
"I know more than Shiva." 'Idiot!' he reprimanded himself, 'You wanna get tortured? You're doing one hell of a job so far.'
"But not more than Ian Lapidan, and his Occlumency skills are abysmal, but you know that."
Ian. Damned clerk. Never completed any field time, but he had risen high in the ranks of Britain's Auror office simply by smooth talking everyone. Two Aurors were occupied the entire day keeping that idiot from getting kidnapped. That was a needless fear as it seemed for he was simply spied on.
By Voldemort himself.
"You wanted us to find you."
"Your observation skill is astounding." Riddle knew sarcasm. Knowledge he could have done without.
"Guess it wouldn't have been too convenient, had Shiva been called to find Volde…" Pain shot through his limbs as the Cruciatus took effect.
"Don't you dare speak this name into my face, Chief." The cruel mockery was hardly noticed since Howard was too occupied trying to catch his breath. He couldn't remember having fallen to the ground.
"You are weaker than usual. What is it?" It was no worry, just a strange sort of morbid curiosity.
"I've just lost more than a dozen of my friends and I was betrayed by another. And your face doesn't exactly have a soothing effect either."
He expected of being tortured for that, but he was surprised to hear that cold laughter again.
"If I meant to do that, I'd have kept my old face, Howard." For a moment he was silent, then he said, "I betrayed you?"
"Shiva betrayed me. He was my friend."
"Interesting," the creature whispered thoughtfully, "I've never been in the position to betray or be betrayed. What does it do to you?"
"What the hell do you want from me?"
'Okay, note to myself: if you want to avoid being tortured to death, don't piss off the single-most evil wizard that has ever lived.' His thoughts were random and unfocused. This Cruciatus had been more painful than the last. The bastard was able to play with the curse's intensity.
"You explain things. You always have. Why? How? What? Important questions that occupy me a great deal, have occupied me a lot my entire life, but nobody ever bothered to explain, so I sought the answers. I found them, and more than I ever asked for. However, tell me, what does it feel to be betrayed? Not even my closest Death Eaters are capable of touching me."
"Must be pretty lonely, that kind of life." Maybe, he was just getting sentimental in the face of upcoming death. He couldn't explain any other way why he pitied the horrifying creature in front of him.
"Coming from a man who has just been weakened in the face of some strangers' deaths and the betrayal of someone whom he'd known for only a few months," Voldemort whispered, his red eyes were wide and the slits that were his nostrils widened, he looked positively excited in an extremely morbid way.
Proudly, Howard straightened up to his full height (unfortunately, he was still half a foot shorter than the tall wizard) and said defiantly, "I'm an Auror, Shiva," he put as much venom into his voice as he could. "I trust my partners with my life. It is our code of honour not to betray each other. It sickens me, looking at you, knowing whom you've pretended to be. The thought that you touched Tonks' shoulder earlier today makes me shiver and I want to vomit. To think that I defended your opinion on Harry Potter embarrasses me. All I want is spit in your face, you bastard!"
Almost like the parody of a curious child, Voldemort… Shiva… Riddle tilted his head.
"Thank you, Howard," Voldemort spoke almost softly, "for explaining. Avada Kedavra."
Howard Walters didn't even see how the wizard had lifted his wand.
About the time when Chief Howard Walters heard the agonized screams, Harry Potter stood upright in his bed in the Hospital Wing, screaming as loud as any of the Aurors did.
Madame Pomfry was immediately by his side. "Harry! What happened?"
The Boy Who Lived's entire body shook, he moaned and cried at the same time.
"It has started." He gasped, "It's begun. He's using them out in the open."
A/N: Thank you so much for the encouraging reviews for the last chapter. And thanks to MissGoalie75 for being my Beta.
There's not much more I have to say but: It has started... And I'm excited to have reached this point of my story.
Thanks for reading, please review!