AN IMPORTANT NOTICE FROM THE AUTHOR:
If you read this story prior to May 19, 2014, you are hereby STRONGLY URGED to REREAD previous chapters on account of extensive rewrites and edits!
See additional notes at the end of the first chapter for further details (and my very lazy excuse about why I left this story in limbo for so long), and thank you for reading.
Think about everything you know about the Second Wizarding War and then forget it.
When the Watchmen Look Away is, by necessity, an Alternate Universe. It takes place in a world where memories are fragile and yet stronger than the will of evil, where magic is potent and unreliable, and Muggles can be just as dangerous as Dark Wizards. It takes place in a world where not just Voldemort is dangerous—but the true danger lies in the idea that purity of blood dictates the worth of a man.
It is not a retelling of the Harry Potter books from the perspective of Fred and George Weasley, but a series of challenges woven into a story centring around a rather remarkable (and troublesome, as later revealed) pocket watch. Some characters who died have the potential to survive, while others who lived have the potential to die.
This is not the Wizarding War you know.
"Fear will kill him."
Kahlil Gibran, from 'The Broken Wings'
I. The Brothers, Prewett
October 20, 1981
Far above, the stars marched across the sky and the half-moon glistened ominously. Augustus Rookwood had a good feeling about this.
A sly smile playing at his features, he crept through the underbrush. He could sense the presence of his fellow Death Eaters moving through the shadows locked between the trees. The forest was dense, and their targets elusive, but he could smell their prey's waning confidence driving them on like a frail scent caught on a breeze. These wizards were dead because he willed it. Sensing movement nearby, he turned and came face-to-face with Antonin Dolohov, a man he'd fought alongside many times before and still didn't trust completely. He was burly, and his dark hair blended in perfectly with his surroundings, and, like him, he had an unrestrained air of excitement.
Dolohov smiled and his smile would have been enough to make the Dark Lord tremble.
Rookwood's placid expression became exceedingly forced and his face felt tense and rigid. For the past few years, these wizards had been his adversaries, dodging and eluding him and always making him seem the fool. Tonight, they'd caught them off guard. Allowing his excitement to get the better of him would only allow their prey to escape; he had to keep his head on. Normally he'd jump in, if he planned to finish what he had started, he had to watch his step. Most of all, he couldn't let Dolohov get in the way. If Dolohov faltered, if anyone faltered, then that ensured his targets' continued survival. They didn't understand the seriousness of the situation. Rookwood did.
Rookwood understood because these were the Prewett twins. After hours of tracking, they were close, and the conclusion to this chase was approaching. If he could just injure one, the other would be disabled as well.
Movement ahead. A flash to their right. Rookwood gravitated towards it.
He tripped over a cloaked body. Death Eater. He didn't check to see if he was dead; he aimed his wand it at a pair of figures streaking past. He charged after them.
"Avada Kedavra!" Rookwood hollered. The spell narrowly flew over the head of the nearest figure, who rounded.
"Confringo!" the wizard countered. The ground exploded, knocking Rookwood back. The air sucked out of his lungs. Footsteps scrambled by. He stumbled up.
The Prewetts where twenty yards ahead, with Death Eater cloaks slinking from the foliage. One of the Death Eaters slammed into a shield the twins conjured around him, before his robes spontaneously lit on fire. Rookwood slashed his wand wildly, sending an array of killing curses in their direction. They deflected. Rookwood gritted his teeth. Exactly how long did these idiots think they could go on?
Charging towards them, Rookwood slashed his wand down, then in a sharp, swirling motion, unleashed a discharge of bright purple energy that shot through the air.
He barely had the opportunity to cast a shield charm. The forest lit in an unnatural glow that highlighted every leaf, every shivering animal, in hollow light. Rookwood slid backwards, but did not fall. When he emerged, the only noise he heard were his own desperate gasps for air. White spots flashed before his eyes. The ground swayed dangerously.
"Fabian! Fabian, God, no! Are you alright?! Fabian!"
"I'm fine—keep going."
The voice was desperate. Uncharacteristic of the Prewetts.
The Prewetts appeared in front of him, half-limping, half-sprinting. One was supporting the other. The uninjured twin cast a curse in Rookwood's direction, a curse so haphazard that he sidestepped it without incident.
And just like that, they vanished into the thick undergrowth.
Rookwood aimed in the direction they'd disappeared in. Dolohov and three other Death Eaters did the same.
They burst into a clearing littered with wet autumn leaves that had escaped their branches. It was Rookwood who outstretched his wand. An invisible hand reached out and snatched the ankles of Gideon, causing him to fall face-forward to the earth, accompanied by his twin. They were both on their feet again an instant, one with some difficulty. They made a run for it. Unfortunately for them, the remaining Death Eaters emerged from the opposite side of the clearing. The twins turned on the spot to keep them at bay. The injured twin slammed one Death Eater into a tree. The other flicked his wand to encourage flames to engulf another Death Eater.
Finally, Fabian Prewett collapsed, blood soaking his robes. His brother caught him and twisted to face his attackers. A Death Eater rushed forwards, only to go flying across the clearing as his face melded into his head and disappeared, his screams muffled. It was here that Rookwood saw his opportunity. With a single slash of his wand, Gideon was knocked backwards and Fabian fell to the grass.
Among the fallen autumn leaves and with the moon at his back, Gideon raised his wand.
The red-haired wizard expanded a shield charm. And in that moment, Rookwood saw the face of the twins he knew so well and hated so much.
Gideon Prewett. Stern, serious. More likely to analyze, yet his arrogance demanded humour when he believed he had the upper hand. On the ground was his twin, Fabian Prewett. Kinder and less cruel, however impulsive and temperamental.
Rookwood advanced, conjuring various lights. Gideon's eyes flicked, uncertain of what to focus on. When Rookwood was almost nose-to-nose with him, he pointed his wand right in between Gideon's infuriated eyes. He was knocked backwards with a simple stunning spell. The wizard's feet slid against the slick, wet grass. After all this time...after years of combating...Rookwood finally had the upper hand.
"Crucio," Rookwood said casually.
Gideon arched back. His screams penetrated the otherwise still night, his voice a petrifying, unheard cry for help. Every limb lurched in protest. Rookwood ceased if only for a minute. Gideon's breath came in ragged gasps. When he resumed, Gideon flipped onto his stomach, jerking uncontrollably.
Dolohov approached from the sidelines. There was a smear of blood on his face and sweat on his brow, but he was smirking and his drawn wand was directed at Gideon. The downed wizard managed to draw his own. With an unconcerned flick, Gideon's wand flew across the clearing. Gideon looked after it forlornly. Dolohov slashed upwards. A stream of blood flew from a fresh vertical cut appearing on the wizard's throat. He fell back, chest heaving.
"May I?" Dolohov asked.
"By all means," Rookwood invited.
Rookwood sighed and wiped sweat from his face. Normally he didn't bother with the flamboyance of a fight. Under ordinary circumstances, he'd be more inclined to create a convoluted trap and then laugh from out of sight as his victims died. No, fighting was dirty. Death was dirty. Everything about this whole goddamn war was dirty.
Around him, the surviving Death Eaters were panting and doubled over. Rookwood moved over to the body that belonged to Fabian Prewett. Gideon's brother—completely identical from his vivid red hair to the thin pattern of freckles on his face—had not had a painless death. Fabian lay on his side, one hand outstretched with blood dripping from his finger tips, and the other clutching the gaping hole that had been shot into his abdomen sometime during the fight. The twins had stumbled through the woods for hours while the Death Eaters pursued them, the instructions from the Dark Lord still echoing in their minds.
"Kill all members of the Order of the Phoenix. Let them knowwhat it means to oppose me. Show no mercy."
No mercy, indeed.
Rookwood almost felt sorry. These annoyances were taken care of, but he'd miss their deceit. And the chase. There would be others to chase, but none quite as talented as the Prewetts.
He scanned the edge of the forest for any sign of the remaining Death Eaters aside from the four of them. The only one in sight was a body curled in the moonlit grass, face down and obviously dead, while others had undoubtedly shared the same fate.
It seemed fair. The Death Eaters paid the price of three or four lives for the lives of two valiant and extremely powerful twin wizards. Their companions had been expendable to begin with, while every member of the Order of the Phoenix was precious. With every death, they grew weaker. With every death, Albus Dumbledore made another miscalculation. Every evening for the last month, the Dark Lord muttered about the impending end of resistance and Rookwood grew more and more inclined to believe him.
He inhaled the cool night air and moved back to where Dolohov loomed over Gideon. Their victim's eyes moved rapidly, seeing nothing, while blood streamed down his chin and neck. His skin was stark white.
Dolohov raised his wand and violently slammed it down. A crack filled the air. Gideon had just broken a few bones. He retched. Blood pasted his clothing to his skin.
"We should get a drink later," suggested Rookwood. "On me. I could use one."
"Sounds like a plan," agreed Dolohov. "Crucio! I'm surprised he hasn't cracked yet. I got Marlene McKinnon screaming for mercy in just minutes."
"Now you're exaggerating."
He fell silent because Gideon's screaming was too powerful for him to hear Dolohov.
"I'm not exaggerating," Dolohov contradicted intensely, ceasing the curse only for a moment.
"McKinnon was talented. It would've taken at least a few hours to get her to crack. Are you going to hurry up and kill him so we can get that drink?"
"Don't rush me. The Killing Curse is too light a punishment for blood traitors."
"If you say so," Rookwood shrugged. He didn't particularly want to argue with Dolohov. He was certain that he'd never intentionally hurt him, but it wouldn't hurt to avoid potential confrontations.
Dolohov raised his wand again, this time aiming it at Gideon's left arm. The arm twisted and bent wildly, accompanied by several audible cracks. Gideon grit his teeth, his face contorting, but no scream escaped his lips. His face was set with determination. Rookwood folded his arms and vaguely wondered how long this was going to go on. If he knew Dolohov, perhaps for hours.
A flash briefly lit up the trees.
"Did you see that?!" Rookwood exclaimed.
"From the woods."
"It's your imagination. Crucio!"
Gideon could no longer restrain himself. He twisted on the ground, curled into a ball, and let out a cracked scream. Despite the noise, Rookwood heard the thunder of footsteps. The other Death Eaters had their wands drawn.
"I mean it!" Rookwood grabbed Dolohov's shoulder. "It has to be the Order! We're in no shape to take on a whole bunch of them!"
Dolohov sliced his wand across Gideon's chest. At first, it seemed as though the unspoken spell had been ineffective, until his robes parted, followed by his skin, to allow a dark line of blood to spill out. Life drained out of Gideon's mud-covered face. In a crack, their group vanished.
At almost the exact moment that they disappeared, two figures emerged from the edge of the wood, wands raised in anticipation. They scanned the grass swaying gently in the breeze, as if to suggest that all was well and the chaos had been in their imagination. Someone muttered "Lumos," and a wand lit, bathing a white glow on the sickly features of Remus Lupin and the glistening eyeball of Alastor Moody. They moved forwards slowly, back-to-back.
"Fabian?" Remus called into the darkness. His voice was level. "Gideon?!"
"There!" Mad-Eye pointed.
Remus hurried forwards the moment the light fell on the crumpled body of a red-haired man. Blood stained the tips of the grass blades. He roughly pushed the body over, heart pounding, and he was met with hollow eyes. Fabian's head slumped to the side.
"Shame," Mad-Eye grumbled.
Without checking for any concealed Death Eaters, Remus sprinted to the second body and collapsed by the side of Gideon. Gideon's fingertips were trembling.
"Thank God," Remus breathed. "Gideon, can you hear me? We're going to get you out of here."
Gideon's eyes flew open and he inhaled sharply. With a bloody hand he reached out and wrapped his fingers into the fabric of Remus's jacket. His face was white.
"Fabian," the name was hoarsely whispered, a desperate cling to life.
"I'm sorry," Remus answered softly.
Remus drew out his wand and cast a number of healing charms on the wounds, but if anything, they grew wider and wider with each incantation. Tears streaked down Gideon's face, mixing with blood. His breath rattled, though it was clear he was taking in no air, and his eyes searched for something he couldn't see. His arm waved vaguely in the air.
"Gideon, stay awake!" Remus pleaded, pushing his arm down. "Gideon, don't. Gideon?...Gideon?"
Gideon's features softened. Then he was still.
"He's dead," Mad-Eye said lowly. When Remus looked up, the Auror's face was unusually hard. "I'll send word to Albus."
Mad-Eye stepped away and a silver patronus leapt from his wand and sprinted through the woods. Remus remained at the side of a man he scarcely knew. The Order rarely convened in large numbers on account of it being too much of a risk—hell, Remus didn't even how many members they actually had—but he knew Gideon and Fabian Prewett well enough to find himself shaking and incapable of comprehending their deaths, though the evidence lay before him. Mad-Eye had disappeared to search for additional Death Eaters.
Finally, Remus summoned the courage to search Gideon's pockets. They were empty except for a folded piece of paper. When he opened it, there were no words written on it. He pocketed it, in the event that it contained a hidden message that may prove of some value, then moved to Fabian's body. He arranged Fabian's hands so they covered the grizzly wound in his abdomen and dug his fingers into the Prewett's pocket. This time they touched a round, metal object ice cold to the couch.
It was Fabian's pocket watch, slightly dented and with a spot of blood on it.
Rustling trees announced Mad-Eye's return.
"Looks like they didn't go quietly," remarked Mad-Eye. "I saw at least five when we arrived."
Remus didn't reply. Mad-Eye was used to death, used to bodies, and so was Remus, for that matter. He wondered if he would be doomed to this nonchalant approach to death, if he was doomed to never feel anything, no matter who died.
"Didn't they have a sister?" he asked quietly.
"Older sister, yeah," Mad-Eye answered. "Something like five or six nephews. Dumbledore'll probably want to tell 'em in person. Find anything useful?"
Remus unclenched his fist to show him the watch.
"You'll want to mail that to their family," Mad-Eye sighed and stepped forwards to stand over the bodies. "Stupid kids. I told them to be more careful, and then they go ahead and get killed. We've already lost too many Order members."
Remus nodded. Four members in two weeks.
He wasn't sure how they were going to win. He wasn't even sure why Gideon and Fabian hadn't simply disapparated to safety. Obviously there had been something here that served of some value or else they wouldn't have risked the journey, but whatever it was had died with them, in a bloody mess that glistened in the gaze of a mocking half-moon.
Ha, ha...yeah, I came crawling back to Harry Potter fanfiction. First, I want to start by begging for mercy from the readers I've left for over a year. This is actually the second time this story's gone on hold for an extended period of time, but this has been the longest time where there has been nothing.
I really have no substantial excuse for why I left this story, though I suppose I could make up something frightfully dramatic and heroic, like I went off to kill a demon or something, and I had to crawl my way back through the circles of hell to return to my mortal form. Or, I could be honest and say that in the beginning, this story was not planned out. At all. I knew what happened in the first ten chapters, and then that was it. I had nothing. Nada. Zilch. No inspiration. At all.
It's only been in these last few months that I started thinking about WWLA again, but honestly I don't think I wouldn't have come back if not for several people asking me to continue. It may have taken several tries for me to listen to a long while in which I had no inspiration for When the Watchmen Look Away, my muse returned. So hats off to those people who didn't give up on me and this story. Without you, this wouldn't have happened.
The story's plot has come together. It's time to continue. I also feel that my writing has strengthened considerably in this last year, in part thanks to the magic of education. I can now honestly say that this story is my top priority for writing projects. I'm going to be aiming for monthly updates, at least, though I certainly won't hold back if I have more to contribute.
So, I decided that if I was going to continue, I had to fix some of the major errors I made during the version written prior to May 19, 2014. The most significant change happens in the third chapter. In the third chapter, there was a scene pertaining to the kidnapping to Ollivander, before I realized that this had nothing to do with the main plot line at all, and was ultimately dragging the story down. I replaced it with a more plot-relevant event involving werewolves, but I'll let you read that for yourself.
I hope you all forgive if you're a new reader to this story, please 'Oblivate' everything I've just said because I am far too ashamed of myself.