England had simply wished to stop by the used book store on Charing Cross Road for a moment before heading home when the screaming began. He clutched at his chest, feeling the deaths of his people, and that distraction cost him. A flash of green light, a jolt of pain stopped his heart, and he knew nothing more.
Arthur woke in a cell, dark, dank, and smelling of blood and piss. He was chained to the wall and trapped by cold iron. None of the fae would be able to help him here. So he waited patiently to see what would happen next, green eyes glowing with suppressed anger. England knew who held him, and before he attempted an escape with the old, elemental magick of his childhood, he would know why.
"Perhaps this will loosen your tongue," Voldemort said idly, and nodded regally to the woman at his side. "Bella."
"Crucio!" the mad witch cackled at her lord's command.
England bit through his lip to keep from screaming – always so full of pride and arrogance – and the moment he tasted blood the rage he had felt at this wizard's actions against his people turned to hatred.
"Give me your immortality," the Dark Lord demanded as Arthur lay gasping and twitching. "Tell me how you survived the Killing Curse."
Arthur looked him dead in the eye and said clearly, "Fuck. You."
He was braced for the next crucio, but that didn't make it hurt any less.
He allowed the wizard one single warning.
"I am England. I am the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and you made a large mistake in bringing me here," he said softly.
They baited him, tried to break him, and were thwarted still.
"If you manage to keep me here, you will have more of us to contend with." England's grin was savage, reminiscent of his time as a privateer. "My Commonwealth. My allies. We do not interfere directly with human affairs unless we must. Do not push us, boyo."
Voldemort's features were twisted in a mask of rage at being talked down to by this appearance of a common Muggle. "Crucio," he snarled.
England could not bite back his scream this time, and so he shrieked with mad laughter.
When he came back to himself he was in his cell once again. His entire body ached, muscles twitching in the aftereffects of the curse, and he didn't dare attempt to stand just yet. He was exhausted. It was past time for him to escape. Closing his eyes, England reached inside himself for the flame that was his magick, only for it to slip from his weary grasp. Again and again he tried, until he grew too frustrated to sense it at all.
"Buggering fuck," he hissed, slamming a hand into the stone floor in his anger. Unless he feared for his life, he couldn't yet muster the energy to work a spell. It was a waiting game now, and Arthur could only hope that he recovered before the next round of torture began.
He was too slow or Voldemort was too impatient.
It felt like the cat o' nine tails, this curse, as it flayed open the skin of his back, soaking his dirty shirt with bright, crimson red. A red haze was filling his vision as well – how dare they do this to him, to England, the former British Empire – but patience, patience. They would get their dues, and England would watch and he would laugh as the life was ripped from them.
"Tell me the secret to immortality and you can be spared the pain," the Dark Lord murmured with a humorless smile.
The wizard's eyes were red too, red as blood, and England recalls red battlefields and red skies and waters running red for him, because of him, by him and his people and allies and enemies, and this man standing before him and reveling in his torture has no idea how tiny and insignificant he is in the face of all of it. Before this war is through, England will force him to know.
"It's all relative," he said, and though his voice was clear and steady, he couldn't quite grasp what he was saying, or trying to say. "There's no secret. It's just not for you, human." For some reason he thinks of Ivan and his sister, Belarus, and he still thinks they are quite, quite mad, but not evil. He had never thought they were evil, and now he stared evil in the face and taunted it, laughed at it. He was going mad.
They turned him over and carved into his chest.
The blood loss made England lightheaded and he nearly blacked out from the pain, but he forced himself to move around his small prison. He drew a magic circle, and while it definitely wasn't his best, the way the lines wobbled, all the important points were done correctly. Then he set himself in the middle and slept as his body repaired itself.
They tried starving him. England could tell by the progress of his body's healing that several days had passed, and no sign of food or water. The feeling of hunger was not unfamiliar and he put it out of his mind with ease. He put aside all distractions and began a chant in Gaelic, concentrating on safety and protection and escape, and the flame of magic in his heart swelled into an inferno.
They monitored him, somehow, because England distantly heard the shouts and the sound of running. He was far too experienced to pause, to be so easily distracted, and as the door slammed open the circle burst into flames and he disappeared.
"Arthur," a voice shouted in a familiar French accent, and Arthur's eyes flew open in alarm.
"The hell are you doing here, Frog?" he slurred in exhaustion. "Where…" He squinted, looking around the large stone walls. Some kind of castle, he realized at once, and barely registered the aged man in robes watching him with some concern. Hogwarts, probably. He hadn't been by in centuries, but he could feel that this was still his land.
"It has been more than two weeks, Arthur, and we have been very worried. Mon Dieu, that Alfred tried to storm off on his own, until we went to Monsieur Dumbledore to request help for a rescue." Francis paused. "You look even worse than usual."
Arthur didn't pay his fellow nation's words any mind. He grasped the front of France's shirt with a surprisingly steady grip, ignoring the disgusted look and loud complaint about stains. "That human is dead," England hissed, fueled solely by rage and adrenaline. "I will spit on his rotting corpse and dance on his grave."
Francis' expression immediately became shuttered. "You are in fine form, L'Angleterre. I have not seen you so murderous since your pirate days. Or perhaps the War. You never did lose the savagery of your childhood."
"He dragged me into this. So be it. If I cannot kill him myself I will curse him unto death. He has no conscience, and so my fae will show him agony. What sayest thou?" he ended in Gaelic to the faeries who gathered around him, eyes glowing red with the promise of vengeance, and they hissed their support of him.
"Talking to your imaginary friends?" France said, grasping about for something to bring the Englishman back to his usual self. He jerked, and cried out in shock as some invisible thing tore open his cheek.
"Try not to be a bigger idiot than you usually are, wine bastard," England said in response to the astonished stare as France touched his bloody face. "You ought to know better than to think the fae are not dangerous, even if you have forgotten the old magick."
"Arthur, mon ami, snap out of it," Francis shouted, briefly considering just slapping the shorter nation, before realizing that with the other in this state it was akin to suicide. "You are making a bad impression on Monsieur Dumbledore."
The blood lust receded slightly at that. "Dumbledore?" England murmured, taking a moment to place the name. "Ah, Albus Dumbledore. The last wizard I informed of my status, in gratitude for services rendered against Germany and the Dark Lord Grindelwald." His tone was empty of emotion as he turned to gaze upon the wizard.
Albus could only stand to look into those blazing eyes for a moment. They were a dangerous green, not at all like the Killing Curse. There was unstoppable death in those eyes, yes, but not instant, painless, or bloodless. If the Cruciatus was green, he thought perhaps it would be the shade of England's eyes at that moment.
Dumbledore was no coward, but he was relieved when that gaze left him. He preferred being ignored; the consummate English gentlemen he had briefly met all those years ago had been stripped away by Voldemort's actions.
"My boss?" England queried of France. "My queen?"
"Alfred is watching the Prime Minister."
Arthur snorted. "I suppose that idiot is better than nothing. I do hope my boss hasn't been too inconvenienced by America's antics."
"I, myself, was with the queen until we thought perhaps a rescue would be required. Matthieu replaced me several days ago."
England nodded. "All the better to keep the threat contained," he said dryly.
"But of course, mon ami. None of us wishes for this mess to spread across the channel," Francis said. "Just think how horrible that would be. To interrupt the country of love with such distasteful fighting. You, well, your unfashionable, ignorant mind could not comprehend the tragedy. Perhaps it is the eyebrows…"
With a shriek, France found himself on the ground with a broken nose spouting blood and what he thought might have been a cracked rib or two.
"Oh, belt up. Let's get going, Frog. I have…work…to do before I see the Dark Lord dead," he said in a frigid tone. Arthur ignored the other man as he moaned pitifully and slowly pushed himself to his feet. Instead, he looked back at Dumbledore as he turned to leave the office. "Inform me of the time and place of the final battle."
Albus nodded silently, relieved to see him go. He did not want to imagine the nation's rage if he failed to do so.
The day of the final battle was overcast. England stood on a hill overlooking both sides of the conflict. The magic of the earth, his land, shielded him, and the power of his mistress, the sea, bolstered his defense. He was here to witness, and to finish if necessary. Nothing they did could kill him, but he wanted to be conscious until the end.
Voldemort noticed him first, and Arthur bared his teeth in a savage grin. The Dark Lord and his followers were weakened, tired, and more prone to cursing each other than working together. His fae had done their job well. It should be much easier for them to be taken down.
"You," Voldemort snarled, drawing the attention of Harry Potter and everyone else to the slight figure that watched the battle. "You are a fool to show your face to me. Soon you will return to your former cell and I will make you scream for mercy."
"You are the fool, Tom Riddle," England called back without a trace of fear. "In trying to take me and break me, you sealed your fate. Germany could not break me, Rome could not keep me. I created the largest empire this world has ever seen. And you think you, insignificant worm, stood even the slightest chance?" He laughed, and many shivered at the harsh, mad sound.
"Whether or not this ends in your favor, you will die, my lord," he said mockingly. "I will kill you myself if I must, once the prophecy is fulfilled."
Voldemort jerked at the mention of the prophecy, and fear flitted briefly across his features.
"Have at them, my friends," Arthur murmured to his red-eyed fae. "Make them easy targets if it suits you. Kill them if you wish. They are away from their cold iron now."
They shrieked with malicious glee and sped forward.
Arthur sipped daintily at his cup of rust red colored tea as the nations waited for America to arrive so that the meeting could be started. His briefcase leaned against the leg of his chair and his papers were organized neatly on the table in front of him.
"The hero is here!" Alfred exclaimed as he burst into the room.
Antonio, who had been curled up into a shivering ball as far from England as possible, screamed and toppled out of his chair. Not daring to take his eyes off of the former Empire and the familiar dark, satisfied look in his eyes, he scrambled backward, almost climbing the wall.
America grinned cluelessly as he looked around at his fellow nations. France was far twitchier than usual, and though he was in his usual seat at England's side, had failed to make even one inappropriate move on the nation, and China was watching the Englishman with wariness and disapproval in his ancient gaze.
Alfred could read the atmosphere if he so chose, but where was the fun in that? So he remained ignorant and unconcerned to the tension in the air.
"You're late, git," Arthur said caustically.
"A hero is never late," Alfred replied with an obnoxious laugh. "And speaking of heroes, not bad with the Potter kid, Iggy. I could have done it better, of course, but still."
The entire room tensed at the mention of the war, all of them prepared to duck and flee if need be. Those who hadn't witnessed England's thirst for vengeance firsthand had been filled in by those who had, and almost all of them were familiar with his old habits.
"You're an idiot," Arthur said bluntly. "Now let's get started with the meeting and hope it doesn't devolve into the brawl it always does."
Germany cleared his throat awkwardly. "The first order of business is global warming."