Title: Rank and File, Number 3
Author/Artist: thanfiction
Rating: PG-13 (borderline R for violence)
Main Characters/Pairings: Derek Adams
Spoilers: DAYD
Summary: Who are Dumbledore's Army?

B. January 2, 1981
D. May 2, 1998


The thing that drove Derek mental more than anything else was how many people felt compelled to treat him like a dumb animal, whether a dependable, good-natured draught horse or a dangerous, lumbering dragon. If he had a Knut for every time he'd been patronizingly called a "gentle giant", he was quite sure he could have bought half of Diagon Alley, and he always felt a deep burn of resentment whenever someone cringed away from him with an ingratiating smile. Don't hurt me, please…didn't mean to be in your way. Didn't mean to exist in your vicinity, really. Just ignore me, would you? Or at least don't make a stain out of me.

There was no getting around his size. By the time he was three, other parents were asking if he was in Kindergarten yet, and he hadn't seen 200 pounds or six feet since he was fifteen – he wasn't entirely sure, but if he had to guess, he'd probably say that he had passed them by about five inches and four or five stone, respectively - but even if he wasn't as chiseled as Macmillan, he was proud that there was strength and athleticism behind the mass, and he had always tried to do good things with it. Mum always said nature did nothing without a reason. It hadn't taken him long to figure out what that reason was, either.

Maybe he wasn't exactly Ravenclaw material, but he was far, far from stupid, and he rather resented blokes like Crabbe and Goyle that made people expect him to need help counting past ten with his shoes on. As a matter of fact, it was people like Crabbe and Goyle that Derek believed to be his reason for being. They used their size to hurt, to bully, to intimidate, and if that was all they understood and respected, well, there needed to be someone equally large to stand between them and their victims.

He'd been standing up for smaller kids as long as he could remember, even before he'd properly come into the wizarding world. His Mum was a Muggle, he'd been raised with both options, and he still remembered a particularly fine moment when he was eight and they'd been on holiday in Dover. A huge, fat Muggle boy and his friends had cornered two little girls outside a confectioner when Derek had found them. But his Mum was a good woman, Muggle or no; he'd not gotten in any trouble at all once she knew what had been going on, and she'd given an earful herself to the boy's mother when she had come howling about the 'awful hooligan' who had pummeled 'Iddle Diddikins'.

It was also why he'd joined the Quidditch team. Secretly, Derek was terrified of flying. The broomstick always seemed pathetically flimsy beneath him, and he was just waiting for it to snap like the toothpick it so worryingly resembled. But he'd already managed to ensure that Malfoy's pet trolls hadn't laid a finger on anyone in Hufflepuff since his first year, and he wasn't going to give them the chance with a pair of Beater's bats. Bagman and Macmillan said that he should consider going pro, but he always refused, not telling them that his skill was rooted in terror and determination far more than any enjoyment of the sport.

Besides, even if he hadn't been afraid of flying, he had other dreams. They weren't something he talked about openly because he was sure people would make fun of him, but he wanted to be an Auror. Someone who's whole job was protecting people, someone who put wizards like You-Know-Who firmly in Azkaban before they had the first chance to raise a wand against people.

The only person who knew his secret was Stephen. He'd first gotten to know the Ravenclaw in fourth year when Crabbe had been trying to bully Charms notes out of him in the library, but he'd soon found himself lingering in the halls, hanging back in the Great Hall after meals in the hopes that Stephen would give him another one of those grateful smiles. Ryan's question had been a joke, he knew, but it had caught Derek completely by surprise to realize that yes, he did have a crush on the other boy. A wicked one.

It had taken him three months to work up the courage to ask Stephen if he'd like to go down to Hogsmeade together, and despite the rumors he'd heard, he'd been entirely prepared to be turned down with a look of horror. When Stephen had said yes…well, it would have taken a Severing Charm to get the grin off his face.

They'd been boyfriends for two years now, and Stephen had been secretly helping him study. That was one of the things he loved most about him. Not once, not even for a moment had he laughed at the idea of Derek being an Auror, and when he had shocked his entire House by achieving 'E' or 'O' in nine of his O.W.L.s, Stephen had just kissed him and said with the most wonderful sincerity in those black eyes that he wasn't surprised in the least that the hard work had paid off.

Being an Auror was out of the question as long as You-Know-Who was in charge of things, of course, but Derek didn't really care about the title, and he had continued working just as hard, despite the dark changes in their courses in his first N.E.W.T. year. If the enemy was going to teach their own secrets and viewpoints, well, he'd pay close attention, and if he survived the end of the year, he'd go to Shacklebolt and present himself for the Order of the Phoenix. Same thing, different title, really, and if they won, he'd maybe even have proven himself enough to get accepted into the Auror program directly once it was put right again.

It was Stephen he really worried about. He was brilliant, he was kind, he had even proven a lot braver this year than Derek had expected, but he just wasn't a fighter. He knew every spell in the book and could perform them with a flawlessness that Derek himself envied, but there wasn't an aggressive bone in his body, and the concept that occasionally, brutality was the only language the enemy understood was anathema to him. When he had been Cruciated, the physical pain had been nothing compared to the terrible reality that there were people who didn't care about right or wrong, no matter how well-reasoned the ethical position or how eloquent the argument.

He was glad Stephen was on the Astronomy tower. Terry had been right to put him there, where he could snipe down with every one of those brilliant spells without having to see how ugly it was down on the ground. And oh, Merlin, but it was uglier than Derek's wildest nightmares.

They'd put him on the doors with Macmillan, Taylor, Thomas, and Williams. Just seeing the five chosen for the position had given him the first dark warning what might be coming. No witches. No Order – too valuable. Two Ravenclaws who were well-known to have nearly wound up in Slytherin for their ice-cold consciences, a combined quarter-ton of raw Hufflepuff stubbornness, and a Gryffindor that had admitted openly that he was there because "I'm disposable until I have a wand." This was not a line-up selected for a tea party.

Someone must have known. When the attack came, not a single Death Eater had so much as looked at the wide double doors and the five young wizards posted there. Instead, a terrible howl had risen from the edge of the Forbidden Forest, and hell had charged from beneath the trees.

There were no less than eighty of them. He had never imagined there would be so many werewolves in Britain, but Greyback's barked and shouted orders to attack, to rip and shred and mutilate were not rasped in English alone, and he felt a chill run up his spine as he knew that Loup-Garou had traveled hundreds of miles to shed their blood tonight.

They came in waves, massed attacks that ignored the huge holes being punched in their ranks by spells and hexes, curses and jinxes that rained down into them from the high stone steps. The monsters seemed to feel no pain, their eyes gleaming madly, their teeth bared and their hands crooked into claws as they surged up the stairs, taking casualties carelessly to turn the defender's attention so that yet more of them could get close enough for the real attack. It was hand to hand within minutes.

Williams was down in the first wave. He got barely a glimpse of a werewolf who's face was almost completely hidden in a shaggy black beard waving a swath of torn flesh like a victory flag, and he gagged when he realized that it was most of Williams' face, the lips open in the middle of the bloody scrap in a loose cry of silent shock. But there was no time to be sickened. They were on him, a half-dozen of them, and he shoved back hard off the edge of the stoop, using them to cushion his fall and his own weight to crush them beneath as they plummeted ten feet onto the ground below. Then he was coming up from behind, flanking them, firing spells and throwing punches with equal ferocity until they began to retreat from the combined onslaught, and he realized that he was bleeding from a dozen places as he re-joined the surviving three at the doors.

Thomas took the lull to sprint down onto the battlefield and snatch a wand from a fallen Death Eater, but he had barely re-joined them when the second wave came. They lost Taylor in that one. The monsters liked trophies, it seemed. After he had fallen, his chest was torn open, the ribs shattered under stomping feet while the defenders battled helplessly for their own lives, and his heart was yanked out, thrown down the steps to Greyback himself, who held it up in a gory toast before squeezing it into his open mouth and flinging it aside.

The third wave was cut short by the collapse of Ravenclaw tower. They didn't manage much that time, only biting a finger off Macmillan's hand and taking a pretty good chunk out of the back of Thomas' shoulder. For himself, he knew he'd broken his knuckles, and his fists were swelling pretty impressively, but he didn't care. Way too much adrenaline to care.

It was one of the Loup-Garou in the fourth wave that took the massive youth down at last. Like the others, his human nails were long and yellow, but he wore a leather glove over his hand, the knuckles fitted with real wolf's claws, and the primal weapon came swiping out of the middle of a half-dozen of them as Derek fought. He saw it for only a moment, then it slashed across his throat, and he felt them draw back as he fell to his knees, suddenly dizzy as he clutched at the wound, knowing it was useless, seeing the triumph in their eyes as the hot liquid spurted thickly between his fingers.

It didn't hurt. Everything felt suddenly cold, distant, and his eyes raised as the pressure of the jets against his fingers began to ease, seeing as if from very far away the sparkle and flash of the fighters on the tall tower above them. He was dying, he knew, he had moments at most, and with the last of the strength that had once been so formidable, he struggled to raise himself just enough to fall from the steps into the shadows below. He didn't want Stephen to look down and see what they would do to him after it was over.

He always had tried to protect people.