Elizium for the Sleepless Souls
Epilogue: Returning to Gehenna
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"Senior Auror Dingle, do you know why you have been summoned here today?"
The wizard looked up from his study of the cracked, fading flagstones, eyes twitching as they darted frantically from side-to-side. Twin, hooded figures in dark robes stood on either side of the slowly-balding man, their faces obscured by shadows.
"No! I never did anything wrong!"
His denial echoed, bouncing off the close walls and disappearing into the vast darkness that stretched above Courtroom Eight. The two silent figures standing in vigil could have been made from stone, for all the reaction they had to man's declaration.
"You never did anything…wrong?" repeated Dolorors Umbridge as she stared down from her perch upon the upraised platform overlooking the wizard. "Ever?"
To her left and right, John Dawlish and Martha Hopkirk let out small chuckles. Neither was the brightest member of her staff, especially John, who on a good day retained half of his wits, never having truly recovered from a miscast Confundus Charm, but their loyalty to the Ministry was not in question.
Not today, at any rate.
While the platform was warm and cozy, Harold Dingle seemed anything but. His arms were crossed over his chest, shivering as he watched the silver longhaired cat cross back and forth on the platform above him, the Patronus trailing translucent silver streams in the air as it stalked.
"Well, if he's never done anything wrong, perhaps we should let him go?" ventured Martha Hopkirk, a sly smile upon her face. An original thought had probably never entered her mind, but the niece of the former Head of the Improper Use of Magic Office possessed a yearning for power, and an infatuation with wielding it.
"Aye, why not?" Dawlish said with a shrug, his liver-spotted head shining in the scant torchlight. "Maybe we can just ask a few questions and send him on his way?"
Dingle seized on the opportunity the way a drowning man would grab at a tossed lifeline.
"I'll tell you anything! Anything!"
"Auror Harold Dingle, tell us what happened on the day of October fifteenth, 2029. For your own sake, I would urge you to be thorough."
"I…I woke at five in the morning, like- like I d-d-did every shift. The night sergeant, Arkie Philpotts, gave me the shift turnover, and reported that nothing was wrong. I did my normal morning route around the Abyss, before returning to my office to do some paperwork. At around eleven that morning, one of the Aurors on my crew, Whitby, reported finding a discarded dementor's cloak on the second sub-level of the Abyss."
"What was Whitby's first name?" snapped Hopkirk, a quill suspended in mid-air next to her, an unseen hand making scratches on parchment as she spoke.
"Was that a question, or an answer?"
"Kevin Whitby, that was his name! Kevin!"
"Very well then," conceded Umbridge, taking charge. "It is now clear to us you know the full name of one of the Aurors working beneath you. What happened once Auror Whitby found the cloak?"
"We…I…I d-didn't know what to make of it. So we did a sweep of the Abyss, b-b-but we didn't find anything amiss."
The Auror began to shake uncontrollably. Inwardly, Umbridge grinned with satisfaction. No matter how tough, how uncouth, how powerful they were, the dementors reduced them all to scared children, flinching at every barb and shadow.
Beneath the hammer of justice, every witch and wizard was equal.
"Now, Harold…as far as we know, dementors are not in the habit of taking off their robes for laundering. How did you proceed once the source of discarded robe could not be determined? Did, as you no doubt should have realized by now, that a prisoner might have used a dementors' robe to escape?"
"How could we have known?!" wailed the Auror, throwing his hands up in the air.
"It is your job to know!" thundered Dawlish from atop his station on the platform, causing Dingle to cower. "No, it was only the word of a house-elf that even alerted you to the fact that Potter disappeared, wasn't it!"
Umbridge shook her head in disappointment.
"And to think, your superiors had spoken so highly of you, Auror Dingle. After reading their reports, I would have never suspected that your incompetence would be so complete as to allow not just a prisoner, but a Kissed prisoner, to be smuggled out under your watch, by the Order of the Phoenix, dressed in dementor robes. Luckily, one of them was careless enough to leave one behind before they left. Otherwise we would have had no indication of what truly transpired, would we?"
"Maybe he should have rounded all the dementors on the island, to check which one was naked?" suggested Martha Hopkirk.
"Or perhaps he was working with the Order of the Phoenix the entire time?" Dawlish suggested, beady eyes fixed on the crimson-robed figure below him. At the accusation, all the blood drained from Dingle's face.
"No, no!" he denied, shaking his head wildly. "My loyalty is to the Ministry!"
"It is now?" questioned Umbridge, rising from her seat. She leaned out over the edge of the stone platform. "Do you deny that you smuggled out Harry Potter's lifeless body, in a criminal act perpetrated by the Order of the Phoenix, with the ultimate goal of attempting to use the Darkest of magics to reanimate him?"
"Never!" screeched Dingle, eyes nearly rolled up to the whites, spit flying from his mouth.
"We shall see," sneered Umbridge as she looked down upon the pathetic wretch. As she did, a golden locket came free from her fluffy pink cardigan, dangling in the air. She tucked it back, never taking her eyes off her prey. "Guards, take him back to his cell. A few days in the dark may bear us the truth of the matter."
"No! No, please, I'll-"
His pleading was cut off as the dementors stationed at his side descended on him. Hands of grey, rotted flesh covered with scabs clamped down on each of his arms. Dingle wilted like burning parchment as the phantoms bore him away, in the direction of the dungeons.
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The Muggleborn Registration Commission was running at full capacity as Umbridge moved across its main floor. Seated at the hundreds of desks that stretched across the wide production floor witches and wizards worked diligently. Wands waved and twirled, and brightly colored pieces of paper flew like tropical birds, folding and arranging themselves into neatly stacked piles.
Though her head was held high, her gaze fixed straight ahead, she mentally inventoried each furtive glance, every slight downturn of the mouth. In each display of dislike, she saw the seeds of discontent being sown. Doubtless, they may not flower immediately, but once a weed has grown, its roots had already spread outward, corrupting all it touched. No, it was the seeds themselves that must be purged.
She smiled to herself as she approached the gleaming mahogany door, twin bronze plaques set into it. They were no longer accurate, as her influence and importance within the Ministry had risen far above the station of Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, and Head of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission, but it was a useful reminder of where she had come from, and how hard she needed to work to maintain all she had accomplished.
She closed her hand around the freshly-polished doorknob, and turned. As the door opened, she stopped to admire bright, electric-blue eyeball set into the center of the door. The freely moving eye unsettled more of her staff than anything else she had conjured, keeping them tense and watchful whenever she was in her office. And while certainly it was an occasionally useful real-time surveillance tool, it served even better as a distraction from her true monitoring system.
Umbridge closed the door behind her, shutting out the outside world. Lace draperies, doilies and dried flowers preserved beneath thin panes of glass covered each table. From every inch of available wall hung ornamental plates, each featuring brightly colored kittens frolicking and playing. The wide desk was covered with a flowered cloth, and the large mahogany cabinet behind her desk had entwined roses and vines carved over its entire front.
Pushing aside the brass telescope extension which led to Alastor Moody's eye, she sat down behind her desk, noting the time to be half past the sixteenth hour. For a moment, she stretched her arms above her, trying to force the persistent ache from her lower back. The rigorous demands of her position within the Ministry had not agreed with the advent of her ninth decade on this earth, but there was far too much to accomplish to slow down.
Reaching hand down, she opened one of the drawers and withdrew a small stack of stationary. The top of every sheet of lilac-pink paper was emblazoned with the heading 'From the Desk of Chief Undersecretary Dolores Umbridge' in purple ink, while a kitten played and leapt at the bottom left. She spared a single glance to the porcelain clock next to the door, in which every numeral had been replaced with a different colored cat, before she began scratching away at the paper with her quill.
In just under fifteen minutes she had written ten short notes, each addressed to one of her many agents on the floor of the Muggle-Born Registration Commission. Each was given specific instructions as to which worker they would be shadowing, and what sign they should study. A bathroom break spaced too closely to the last; their facial expressions when Ministry superiors crossed the production floor; any conversations with other workers; one could never tell when an unguarded moment might present itself, and the true malcontent hidden within would unwittingly be revealed.
After sealing each set of orders into tamper-proof envelopes, she set them in her wicker outgoing mail basket, before flinging another glance towards the clock, which showed that it was fifteen minutes until seventeen hundred hours. Which meant…
A quiet knock on her door echoed through the office. Yes, right on time. Nonetheless, she reached for the telescope view port, peering into it. After confirming the entrant's identity, she pushed away the telescope and opened the door with a casual wave of her wand.
"Unspeakable Entwhistle, please come in," greeted Umbridge, waving him into the office. Dressed in grey, unassuming robes, the blond, middle-aged wizard entered, his heavily-lined face without expression.
"Thank you, Undersecretary," he replied in a low voice, before motioning to the single chair before her desk. "May I?"
"Of course! Please, sit! May I offer you a cuppa?"
"No thank you," he declined, before running hand down his face. Entwhistle's eyes were sunken deep into his face, with heavy, dark bags hanging underneath him. It appeared that the Unspeakable had taken his orders literally, and hadn't slept since receiving them. From the pockets of his robe he withdrew a thick file, placing it lightly upon his desk.
"Did you uncover anything of note?" Umbridge asked, with a speculative eye upon the file. The question came out light, but inwardly she was coiled tightly like a spring.
"That is…difficult to say," the Unspeakable answered noncommittally after a moment of silence. "I was given the robe to examine by one of the superiors, but not given its contextual significance. What exactly were you looking to discover?"
"The most recent count of Azkaban dementors came one short. The only anomaly found after sweeping the island was this one robe. So the Aurors need to know if there's a rogue dementor, or if someone perhaps snuck onto the island in the guise of one, and discarded it carelessly when through with it. Or maybe it's all a coincidence, and nothing is amiss, and we just need to overhaul our inventory system."
"Well, you can cross off an intruder from your list," answered the Unspeakable, crossing his legs. "We found no particles of discarded skin or hair follicles on the robe. Neither did we find any lingering magical corona on the clothes. It's never been worn by a human."
"So it couldn't have been scrubbed clean?"
"Scrubbed clean of physical traces, perhaps, but only by a wizard extremely well versed in our forensic techniques. As for the magical corona, however…no way. You could place it within a dementor's negation field for a month, and you'd still find traces of our magic if you examined it afterwards."
Umbridge leaned forward in her chair, resting her elbows on the table. "So if no human wore it, where did it come from?"
"Based upon the age and breakdown of the raw materials present…I'd say it came from a dementor."
"It…came from a dementor," repeated Umbridge, lowering her voice in disappointment. She let out a deep sigh, shaking her head. "That seems highly unlikely, Unspeakable. Dementors are not known for their cleanliness, and thus would have no reason to take off their robes, even to launder them. So…what, then? An Auror stripped a dementor of its clothes on a lark? A little fun to enliven their Friday nights?"
Entwhistle bore her barbs with patient indifference.
"No, I think it more likely than the dementor wearing it died."
Silence met his theory. Umbridge studied the Unspeakable for a moment, before letting out a brief, fluttering laugh.
"Oh, it died? Is that correct, Unspeakable Entwhistle?"
"In my professional opinion, yes."
Umbridge let out another bray of high-pitched, girlish laughter. "Well, as a professional, Unspeakable, surely you would have noted that dementors cannot be killed? A teensy-weensy oversight on your behalf, I'm afraid."
"Well, that is the prevailing opinion, certainly."
"Unspeakable, if there was a way to kill them, we would have found it by now. Fire shrivels in their presence, puncture wounds scab over and disappear, and most spells have no effect on them. Am I leaving anything out, Unspeakable?"
"How do dementors breed, Undersecretary? Why is it that in the past thirty years, their numbers have doubled?"
Umbridge quickly found herself losing patience with the young Unspeakable. He was reporting to her; not that other way around.
"Since you appear to be an expert on the subject, why don't you enlighten me?"
Entwhistle took a deep, weary breath inward. "No one knows. There is so much about these creatures that we don't understand…when I first received the robe, it was covered in a thin, grey slime. However, with each passing hour, it vanished. There…solids and liquid may change form, but it never disappears. For matter to vanish completely…there's no logical explanation for it."
"So what's your best guess?"
"Mine? That it went back to wherever the dementors come from."
Umbridge fixed her gaze upon Entwhistle, trying to determine whether the Unspeakable was having her on, but the man's face, covered in two days of stubble, gave no hints. With a sigh, she dismissed him from her office. When he closed the door behind him, she took up her wand and locked the door. That done, she began to speculate.
They knew far too little about the dementors; that could not be disputed. It was have been far more neat and tidy if the discarded robe had belonged to the intruder who had snuck Harry Potter's body out of Azkaban, but that was looking less and less likely as being the solution. Was there even a connection between the two events, or had the disappearance of Potter's body caused her desperately grasp at any straw?
It was like an old scar had opened. Her triumph over the de-facto leader of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore's golden boy, had been one of the highlights of her career, shoveling the last load of dirt upon the Order's resistance. With their terrorist cell no longer a threat, the Ministry had been able to focus all of its efforts upon Voldemort and its Death Eaters, who had outgrown their usefulness as allies, paving the way to what was widely publicized as Voldemort's defeat, and subsequent withdrawal into the shadows. And if that wasn't exactly the truth of the matter…who would be able to say otherwise?
Potter, though…why go through the trouble of stealing his body, even as a rallying point? There were precious few members of the Order remaining who hadn't been either put to death or Kissed. Why surface now after years of hiding? What purpose did the abduction of a soulless vessel accomplish?
No closer to an answer, Umbridge rose from her seat and stood in front of the ornately carved cabinet. She withdrew a gold-plated key from a hidden pocket in her robes, and unlocked the door. Within hung countless fluffy cardigans, sorted neatly by color. She quickly closed the door again, turning the key the in the opposite direction and opening the door again.
The clothes were gone. An inky darkness filled the cabinet, stretching beyond the reach of the office's torchlight, into what looked like a tunnel formed from stone blocks. Umbridge stepped inside the cabinet, closing the door behind her. It locked itself with a small click as a white light began to spill from the tip of her wand. Holding it in front of her, she walked into the darkness.
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At the end of the stone-walled tunnel was a large, square room. It was lit by flickering blue torchlight, causing shadows to strut and dance within what Umbridge referred to as 'The Archive'.
Tall columns of long filing cabinets, stacked atop one another, stretched up to the high ceiling, occupying most of the floor space. A small section of wall, clear from any clutter, had a plain mahogany desk set against it, bereft of the decorations which smothered her office.
Above the desk sat a gallery of posters, bearing the likenesses of the fallen enemies of the Ministry. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Bellatrix Lestrange, Ron Weasley, Nymphodora Tonks, Antonin Dolohov, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, Neville Longbottom…and Harry-fucking-Potter.
Her mood soured at the mocking visage. The unruly black hair, the piercing green eyes, the abominable lighting-bolt shaped scar upon his forehead, and worst of all, the contemptuous smirk he wore. It was like he was laughing at the pink note bearing the word 'to be punished' stuck the corner of the poster. She was struck with a sudden urge to tear the poster down and burn it to ashes.
Taking a deep breath, she reconsidered. Her victory of Potter was complete, his place upon her gallery secured. Hadn't she been there when the dementor had administered the Kiss, had watched the light fade from his eyes, had seen his mouth slacken?
Though how could her victory be complete if his body had been snatched out from under her nose?
Scowling, her head pounding, she down at the large desk. Ever since his body went missing, three days ago, Potter continued to torment her. He hid in every shadow, lurked behind every unopened door. He was a mental scab she could not stop picking, that sore on the inside of your mouth that would just heal if left alone for a day.
Umbridge reached into one of the desk drawers, withdrawing a small, sparkling hourglass suspended from a thin golden chain. Recalling that she arrived in her office at half past the sixteenth hour, she turned over the hourglass four times, which would allow more than enough time to finish today's archival tasks, and exit the office before coming face-to-face with herself.
She scrunched her eyes tightly as she was flung backwards, at what seemed like a million miles per hours. Strange, alien sounds assaulted her ears as the wind tore at her cardigan. Just when she thought she couldn't take it anymore, the floor beneath her feet once again became solid, and she stopped.
The Head of the Muggle-Born Registration sat for a moment in the chair, hand held over her racing, fluttering heart. As much as she hated to admit it, she was inching towards the age where Time-Turner usage was said to be unsafe. As her heart began to slow down, her convictions strengthened. There was just too much to accomplish. She needed every second.
Four hours into the past, she withdrew a quill and inkwell from her desk, before flicking her wand. Far above, a cabinet clanged open, followed by a rushing sound as a binder flew through the air, and landed neatly on the desk in front of her.
Opening the binder to the first page, she gave it a cursory glance:
Blood Status: Pureblood, though rumors of a Muggle grandparent exist.
Family: None. Both parents killed in the Cataclysm. Reportedly single.
Fraternization: Suspicious. Very infrequent human contact outside the Ministry. Efforts to track him on vacation days has proven difficult. Is clearly hiding something.
Social Patterns: As is typical with the Unspeakables, there are no tells or facial tics during conversation. A neutral expression is assumed at all time.
Security Status: TRACKED. Though confirmed by the Muggle-Born Registration Commission as being of Pureblood ancestry, subsequent and independent confirmations have proven difficult. Along with his disappearances, paints the picture of someone hiding a large secret. Potential enemy of the state.
Potential Threat: MODERATE. Subject may know the true cause of the Cataclysm. If so he could hold the Ministry accountable for the death of his parents. To be monitored.
Umbridge frowned at the first page. A follow-up audit on Entwhistle should have been performed long ago. There were too many unanswered questions. Could he have had anything to do with Potter's disappearance? Only one year had separated them at Hogwarts, and while there was no official documentation mentioning any friendship between the two students, it was not inconceivable that…
She shook her head, sending the bow perched upon her white curls wobbling. This was not productive; she needed to stop thinking about Potter, and more about her task at hand.
Umbridge flipped through the book, past copies of Gringotts' bank statements, OWL and NEWT exams and results, job applications, Supervisor reviews, to the thickest section of the book. Each section was labeled by month and year, stretching back to 2004. She flipped to end of the book, where blank pieces of parchment had been set into the binder, into a section labeled 'October, 2029'. Dipping her quill into the blank ink, she began to scratch out words:
Unspeakable Kevin Entwhistle appeared at the designated meeting time of 16 45, on the 29th day of the month, announcing himself with four quiet knocks upon the office door. I greeted him as 'Unspeakable Entwhistle', and told him to come in. He entered, his face neutral. He thanked me, before asking permission to sit down, which I granted. When I asked him for a cuppa, he declined, before running a hand down his face.
The motion seemed to indicate exhaustion, which is supported by the general weariness of his face, as well as the heavy bags beneath his eyes. This is consistent with the short time-frame he was given to work on the cloak, but cannot be guaranteed to be the cause. Another high-priority case must be assigned to Entwhistle shortly, to see if running a hand down his face is a motion synonymous with exhaustion, or something else entirely.
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Four hours later, Dolores Umbridge exited the Ministry of Magic. The early evening sky was steel-grey, while the heavy winds blew moist mists into her face. The fading sun was behind her, and blotted out by the black spires, leaving her swathed in shadow. Shivering, she pulled her coat tighter and lowered her head, scurrying as fast as she could across the concrete plain.
The Ministry, raised from the depths, stood tall and proud, a gleaming black monolith amidst the gardens of grey. It lay at the center of a sunken concrete field, which stretched out a quarter mile in every direction, ending in a double stone wall twenty-five feet high that wrapped its entire circumference. Lines of waiting witches and wizards stretched out from intervals set around the wall.
Umbridge bypassed them all, going to a security checkpoint reserved for high-rank Ministry officials such as herself. She passed through the large, warded stone archway attended by a blue-robed guard, and patiently bore the Secrecy Detector waved at her. No one was above security protocol; not even her. What right did the commoner have to complain if she herself abided by the rules?
Passing the checkpoint, she entered the wide space between the inner and outer walls, which were plastered with murals and posters. Rows and rows of fireplaces and designated apparation points were set into the inside of the inner wall, and the evening was alive with the cracks of apparation and the roar of green flames.
Bypassing the lines again, a fireplace was quickly made available to her, allowing Umbridge to make the entire journey home in five minutes. She pounded her feet on the doormat outside her stoop, before stepping into the small, modest home.
In the fading light, she passed through a non-descript living room, decorated with pink furniture and draperies, and into the kitchen. Humming to herself as she moved, she retrieved a bowl from an upper cabinet, and emptied a fresh can of cat food into it, using a fork to mash the wet solid into a more digestible form. She brought the bowl outside, to the porch which overlooked the garden in her backyard, setting at the far end.
After a few minutes of patient waiting, a tiny cat, a calico, emerged from beneath the porch. Thin and emaciated, the cat eyed the food with suspicion, but after seeing no immediate harm, she leapt towards the bowl. Purrs echoed out into the night as the calico wolfed down the meal.
"Was that good, kitty?" asked Umbridge once it finished eating. The cat jumped at her voice, its ears laying flat against her black-and-white head.
"It's okay, kitty," she reassured in soft tones, extending a hand towards the cat. "I'm not going to hurt you."
It eyed her hand warily, before taking off down the stairs, out of sight. Rather than being put-out, however, Umbridge felt satisfaction. No war was ever won in a day. Give the cat a few days, and maybe it might start to consider her as a benefactor, rather as an enemy.
Letting out a light chuckle, she went back into the house, hanging her sodden coat on a peg hanging in the kitchen. She cast a Warming Charm upon herself, before moving deeper into the house. Pictures of sleeping cats hung on the walls of the hallway, escorting her to the bedroom. She ignored the pink, frilly bed, and moved towards the wooden cabinet on the far wall. Unlocking it, she stepped into the empty space inside, closing the door behind her.
For a moment she stood motionless, before the floor dropped out beneath her. Despite her familiarity with the sensation, a gasp escaped her lips at the sudden loss in gravity, which ended just as soon as it began. As she opened the door, a smile escaped her lips.
She was finally home. To her true home, that was.
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Umbridge stepped out of the other end of the linked vanishing cabinet, into a bedroom bereft of comfort. Four white walls and a door were its only features.
She stepped out of the room, into a large, indoor park. Small trees grew through the moss floor, the trunk reaching up, while the branches reached out, all the way to the walls, which were painted black, and emblazoned with distant points of light. Grass grew among the thick moss, with a tiny, shallow stream running through the middle.
The cats were everywhere.
An orange and white tabby sat on one of the upper branches, staring at the moon painted on the ceiling. Two tiny calicos, perhaps twins, sat at the juncture of the branch and trunk. A blue and a Persian lay curled up together on a bed of soft moss, eyes closed. A brown and black tiger, ready to pounce, crouched behind a large, pure white cat, completely oblivious to its stalker. A mother Siamese was in the middle of an enormous yawn, while five kittens curled up against her side, looking more like small tufts of fur than cat.
Not a single whisker moved on any of the cats.
"Good evening, my babies," cooed Umbridge, stooping down to scratch behind the ears of the mother. There was nothing that could cheer her up after a long day like a visit with her perfect, obedient children.
In the deep quiet of the house, a tortured moan rolled out, coming from one of the bedrooms. Her smile widening a hair, Umbridge left the menagerie behind, entering the room at the end of the hall.
A noxious, pungent odor filled the bedroom, so deeply ingrained that a million Freshening and Filtering Charms would have done little good. A wide cabinet with a glass front was set against the front wall, displaying hundreds of vials and glass stoppers full of brightly colored liquids.
Most of the room was taken up by a large, rickety wooden bed. As Umbridge's eyes fell upon it, the moans grew more insistent, desperate. A wide smile upon her face, she approached the figure upon it.
"Good evening, mother."
The figure lying on the bed, held in place by the leather straps, looked like a living skeleton, little more than skin-wrapped bones. The eyes staring back were a sickly yellow at the corneas, full of hatred and malice. Bereft of teeth, her puckered mouth gnashed at the air, revealing that most of her tongue was missing. A few strands of straggly, dirty white hair hung down from her splotchy, liver-spotted head, but that was all.
Umbridge withdrew her wand and pointed it at her mother. A red light flashed over her entire body, filling the room with blood, before fading away.
"Your sugar levels are getting concerningly low, but I have just the thing to fix you up," she said in jovial tones, opening the potions cabinet."
"MMMmm MMMmm MMMMmmmm!"
The ancient woman struggled, but was powerless as Umbridge uncorked a blue potion and sent it down the IV line. Blue traveled down the clear tube, disappearing into where the splotchy-grey flesh had enveloped the needle in her arm. The next time Umbridge cast the diagnostic, it came back negative.
"All better now," she declared, placing the insulin back in the cabinet. "Now, what will it be for dinner, mother? The red vitamin cocktail or the green nutrient mix?"
Her mother began to quiver on the bed, but was unable to offer any further resistance. Umbridge let out a hearty, fluttering laugh.
"I know you don't care for them, mother, and even I'll admit they're not the tastiest meal in the world…but how else are we going to keep you healthy?"
The ancient woman let out a familiar muffled cry, composed of three distinct syllables.
"Just kill you?! I think not, mother. You-"
A cacophony of screeches and yowls interrupted her, pouring through the door and assaulting her ears. All thoughts of her mother fled, and Umbridge waddled out of the room, wand drawn. Had she used a bad batch of draught on her babies, limiting the length of its effectiveness?
As she emerged into the living room, she nearly tripped over a running cat. They meowed and hissed, sprinting from one room to another like it was a feline speedway, tails held high, almost faster than she could process.
Beholding the unruly behavior and movements, her surprise curdled to anger.
"I will have order!" she screamed, raising her wand into the air. Before she realized it, she was flying forward, her wand painfully ripped from her grasp. Umbridge hit the ground hard and rolled over several times, landing with her face in the dirt. Gasping for air, she rolled her bulk over, letting out exaggerated moans of pain as her right arm moved downward.
"I wouldn't suggest that," suggested a calm, maddeningly familiar male voice. She ignored the warning, continuing to play possum as she strained her hand towards the spare wand hidden in her boot.
In the next moment, the world spun around her as an invisible force latched around her foot and pulled her up into the air. She let out a squawk of surprise, before her anger lashed out.
"Put me down!"
Eyes widening, realizing she had spoken foolishly, the caster cancelled the spell, sending her crashing to the ground. She landed head-first, wrenching something in her neck as the crown of her head struck the hard ground. Dazed for a moment, she barely felt her spare wand fly out from her boot. Skull pounding, she lurched to her feet, mind full of crimson rage. Before her stood a short, dirty, unnaturally thin man, who wore a cruel, mocking smile.
"Do you know who I am?!" she screamed, slamming her fists against her thick thighs. "I will…"
Her words died as she studied her adversary closer.
"I do, in fact," stated the intruder, his tone light, but his bright green eyes, sunken deep into his skull, burned with hatred. He wore ill-fitting, dirt-stained rags, and was little more than skin-covered bones, but even though time had planted white among his raven-black tresses, the lightning-bolt shaped scar was as clear as it always had been.
"P-Potter….n-no, you're dead…I…I…"
"A certain Dark Lord of ill repute thought the same thing when he stood over my crib, a Killing Curse upon his lips. Didn't work out too well for him, though."
"No! No!" denied Umbridge, shaking her head back and forth, still trying to process Harry Potter's impossible return. "This is unacceptable! I saw it happen! It gave you the Kiss!"
"And yet here I am," Potter stated, spreading his arms wide. "Alive to witness the absolute shit world that the Ministry has built. It took nearly thirty years to put the information I stole from the Ministry to use…but better late than never, I suppose."
The slight cut through the haze of unbelief and shock, indignation flaring within her.
"I've built something beautiful," she snarled, drawing a mocking laugh from Harry.
"Beautiful? I took a look in the back room before you arrived. Is what you've done to your mother beautiful?"
"You have no idea! None! What she did to me, what she is-"
"Nor do I give a fuck. Look at what you did to the cats. You don't make much of a distinction between love and hate, just as long as you can control them. That's what this entire world is to you, isn't it?"
Though she betrayed nothing but indignation and anger, inwardly she saw how frail Potter was. However he had come back and found her, the process had taxed him horribly. If she could only keep him talking, then maybe…
"You know nothing! Nothing! All I've sacrificed, all I've done, it's been for the greater-"
"You did it all for yourself!" screamed Potter, spraying spittle across the floor as his eyes bulged with rage. He raised his wand, pointing it directly at her heart, the tip shaking. Seeing her opportunity, she began to creep forward, continuing to talk. Potter was here for his revenge; he didn't just want to kill him, but convince her he was in the right. If she played her cards correctly…
"You misunderstand me, Potter," she said, keeping her voice as low as possible. "I only sought to create a peaceful, prosperous Wizarding Britain. I-"
"And now you're going to help me burn it down," Potter stated, starting to regain his composure. The statement stopped Umbridge in her tracks.
"You can't," she gasped.
"I can, I will, and you shall play a central role."
"You don't know what you're doing, Potter. You have no idea what we've accomplished. You will be alone, Potter! We've stamped out every last bit of resistance in Britain. You couldn't even comprehend the level of control we exert-"
"Actually, I can," interrupted Harry, his confidence returned. "A…I wouldn't call him a friend, but an acquaintance left me with quite the treasure trove of knowledge. More than enough to escape Azkaban, and find your home without being caught."
All hopes of escape rapidly dwindling, Umbridge resorted to one, final desperate bid for freedom. Lowering her head, she charged forward, screeching.
Unfortunately for her, Potter was far quicker. His quick spell caught her in the chest, sending her flying into the wall. Plaster crunched and her back flared with agony as she struck, forcing the breath from her lungs. Umbridge feebly kicked out her legs, but was unable to move, as Potter kept his wand raised, pinning her to the wall.
"Take a good look around, Dolores," urged the Potter whelp as he moved forward, wand held in front of him. "Mark it well, because the next time your thoughts are your own, this world is going to be a vastly different place."
The last thing she saw before oblivion descended was his arm snap forward, a triumphant grin upon his face.
X-X-X-X-X-X -|- X-X-X-X-X-X -|- X-X-X-X-X-X
Well, that's it, that's all I have. Hopefully it wasn't too disappointing.
I was going to do some cool formatting with Entwhistle's file, but wasn't having any of that. Hopefully it's still coherent.
While the epilogue set up many potential plot points, it served as closure to the core plot of this story, which was Harry's escape from the Dementor's Kiss. If I were to continue this, it would be as a separate story, since it would be very tonally different, more of a 1984 / V for Vendetta vibe than the more horror / mystery approach wielded here. I cannot promise a sequel will appear, but if I have enough quality ideas I would certainly pursue it.
As an experiment I decided to write this story completely outside my usual DLP haunts…and I think it may have suffered for it. That being said, the help that I did receive from my co-conspirators was priceless:
T3t, Grinning Lizard, Mira Mirth, Swimdraconian and BajaB
Each helped to craft and edit the story, and without their assistance it would not have gotten nearly as far as it did. I, of course, take full responsibility for the parts that did not work well (i.e. how badly I butchered Mundungus' cockney accent).
As always, thank you for reading. I'd love to hear your reactions to the story, whether they're positive, negative or indifferent. I reply, if not always in a time fashion, to every review I receive.