Chapter Fifty-Seven

The First Battle

"Wait," she said, turning back to the fireplace. "Let's try our families first."

The Fortescues had disabled their floo years ago due to privacy issues. The Dursleys and Grangers had no such facilities, and Neville's grandmother would sooner believe in the bogeyman than in Neville's outlandish claims. The Diggorys weren't part of the Order. That left the Weasley family floo, which was also a dead end.

"Let's go," demanded Harry.

"There's a good chance we're gonna die," Alex informed the rest of the group. "You may think you're ready thanks to the D.A., but we've no idea what we're up against. Voldemort and his inner circle will be there at the very least. There might even be dementors…"

She inhaled deeply, centring herself before she could grow too side-tracked. "If you don't wanna come, then don't. I don't want anyone dying just because they were too afraid to say no. And frankly, if your heart isn't in it, you're gonna be dead weight to the rest of us."

Were the situation any different, someone would've cracked a joke about her the demotivational nature of her motivational speech. Alex was no general or soldier; she was a seventeen-year-old witch who didn't want to see her friends die before her very eyes.

Cedric placed his hand against her faintly trembling arm. "I'm with you," he promised her.

You shouldn't be, she wanted to say. Alex bit her lip. Ultimately, it wasn't her decision to make.

"Are we able to floo to the Ministry?" said Hermione, her voice shaking a tad.

"You can't floo to Hogwarts, but maybe you can floo from here." If anyone could, it was Umbridge. Rules for thee, not for me.

Alex grabbed a fistful of powder and stepped inside the large fireplace. She threw it down and said, "Ministry of Magic!"

If she thought the floo call was nauseating, this was a thousand times worse – it was almost as bad as apparating, which would've been her second option were this to fail. Fortunately, her faith in Umbridge paid off. Within seconds she was being belched out of limbo and into the famous atrium of the Ministry of Magic.

Alex had been here only once, long ago, before she had even begun attending primary school. Her dad had decided to close the shop early and visit her mum as a surprise. Since she usually stayed at the shop with him at that age, that meant he brought her along with him. Back then, the atrium had been teeming with people, most of them rushing off to the elevators or the fireplaces. A few Ministry workers had stopped to chat by the fountain: it was an enormous, golden structure shaped into the forms of a witch, wizard, centaur, goblin and house-elf.

The fountain was still here and actively shooting off water from the tips of witch's and wizard's wands, the centaur's arrow, the goblin's hat and the house-elf's ears. But other than Alex and her friends, the atrium was devoid of any life.

"This is eerie," Cedric murmured as they congregated in front of the fountain. Soot clung to his robes. "The Ministry is never this empty."

"Which way?" Ginny asked, facing Harry.

He jutted his head towards the elevators. "Ninth floor," he replied, his confidence sending ripples of unease through most of them.

The clambered into one of the elevators waiting for them. It was just about the noisiest elevator ride Alex had ever experienced, and she was certain the clamour would draw every single Death Eater to them like a swarm of wasps. When they remained unbothered, the knot between her shoulders grew even tighter.

The elevator finished its descent. "Department of Mysteries," said a bodiless voice by the panel of buttons.

"Wands out," she reminded them as the elevator's golden grilles cranked open.

The Department of Mysteries was underwhelming at first glance. The elevator belched them into a dark corridor dimly lit by torches lining the side. All the way at the end was a simple black door.

Harry led them straight through it and into large, circular room. Everything in here was black including the floor and ceiling — identical, unmarked, handle-less doors were evenly spaced out with blue-flamed candles in between them.

"Someone shut the door," Harry muttered.

"No, wait," Cedric said hurriedly, but it was too late; Neville had already closed the door.

Not only was the secondary source of light gone, so was their escape route. The moment the door to the exit closed behind them, the circular wall rotated loudly around them. Alex tensed, half-expecting the floor to spin as well, but it remained inert beneath their feet.

"There goes our exit," sighed Ginny.

"How're we going to get back out?" Neville asked uncomfortably.

We don't.

"A better question is where do we go now?" rebutted Ron. He wiped his undoubtedly clammy hands against his school robes.

Harry swallowed audibly. "I know what the room looks like, but not which door leads to it."

"…Meaning we have to try all of them," surmised Hermione.

Off-kilter, Harry hurried to the door directly in front of him. It swung wide open the moment he pressed his hand against it. Bloody creepy, Alex thought from the back of the group. It became even creepier when the first room they entered had a tank full of brains. The organs floated lazily in a huge glass tank of green water situated in the centre of the cavernous room.

"Straight out of a mad scientist's lab," Alex murmured, though only Hermione and Harry understood the reference.

"Let's get out of here," said Harry. "This isn't right, we need to try another door—"

"There are some here," said Ron, pointing around the walls.

Harry shook his head impatiently. "Let's go back to the room we came from."

Learning from their previous mistakes, Hermione cast a charm that allowed her to draw a great fiery X onto the door. This time, when the walls made to confuse them, they knew which door they had already went through.

The next door they tried opened into a room much larger and colder than the last. The centre of it was sunken, forming a great stone pit some twenty feet below them. Fortunately, there were no body parts in the middle of this room. Instead, there was an ancient-looking stone archway on the raised dais. The archway was hung with a tattered black curtain or veil which, despite the complete stillness of the cold surrounding air, was fluttering very slightly as though it had just been touched. Alex felt inexplicably drawn to it.

Harry seemed to share her sentiment. "D'you hear that?" he asked, staring intently at the dancing veil. "It sounds like someone's behind it."

Now that Alex thought about it, she could hear something coming from the veil. "Is that…laughter?"

"There's nothing," Cedric said, peering at her with a concerned look in his eyes. "It's just a stone structure."

"Harry," Hermione said firmly. She had quite a grip on Harry's arm, but he didn't seem to notice – the only thing he was paying attention to was the veil. "We're here for Sirius, remember?"

"Right," murmured Harry, snapping out of it. "Right. Let's go."

Alex was still pondering the familiarity of the veil when they returned to the circular room. After another flagrate courtesy of Hermione, they chose another door at random. It led them to a room covered in clocks – wall-clocks, alarm clocks, grandfather clocks, you name it.

"This is it!" said Harry, much to everyone's surprise.

He ignored the myriad of clocks, running right past them in order to reach the door hidden in the back. Harry glanced to confirm everyone still had their wands out before easing the door open. His green eyes gleamed in satisfaction as he surveyed the (yet again) dark room illuminated by candles that burned blue. This new room was as big as the one with the stone arch, if not bigger, and was filled with rows upon rows of dusty glass orbs.

"You said it was row ninety-seven," whispered Hermione.

"Yeah," breathed Harry, looking up at the end of the closest row – it was labelled 53.

"We need to go right, I think."

This totally screams TRAP, thought Alex, her hand tightening on her wand. Her other hand gripped Cedric's for comfort.

They inched towards row 97. The closer they, the tenser they became. Once they reached row 95, Alex knew they were done for. Sirius was nowhere to be seen.

"Harry," Ron said before his best friend could spiral off, "this thing has your name on it." He pointed at an orb above him. It sat on a shelf that had a yellowed label attached to it. The orb was dated back to 1980; scribbled onto the label were the words:

S.P.T. to A.P.W.B.D.

Dark Lord

and (?) Harry Potter

"Pass it here," Harry said to Ron.

When Ron tried, though, the thing wouldn't budge. "Think you might have to do it, mate," he said, shrugging.

"Don't touch that," snapped Alex.

"Why not?" Harry asked irritably. "It's something to do with me, isn't it?"

"Yeah, and the fucking Dark Lord! Or is your head so big that you don't even see anything besides your own bloody name?" she spat.

Rather than acting chastised like any reasonable person would have, Harry scowled and—his eyes locked with Alex's—closed his fingers around the dusty ball's surface. Hermione threw her hands in the air while Ginny hissed through clenched teeth.

"Very good, Potter," drawled a cold, posh voice. "Now turn around, nice and slowly, and give that to me."

Good going, you stupid wanker. Alex seethed even as adrenaline rushed through her in preparation of a fight.

And what a fight was it going it to be. Several hooded figures stepped out of the shadows, their wands pointed at Alex and every one of her friends.

"To me, Potter," repeated the drawling voice of Lucius Malfoy as he held out his hand, palm up. His blonde hair was visible even behind his hood and mask.

Alex's insides plummeted sickeningly. They were trapped and outnumbered two to one.

"To me," Lucius repeated calmly.

"Where's Sirius?" demanded Harry.

To their mortification, the Death Eaters chortled. A harsh, high-pitched voice from the midst of the shadowy figures said triumphantly, "The Dark Lord always knows!"

"Always," echoed Lucius softly, and were it not for the direness of the situation, Alex might've laughed. "Now, give me the prophecy, Potter."

As Harry continued to distract the Death Eaters by insisting upon seeing Sirius, Alex began planning. They were outnumbered and outmatched, sure, and their enemies were violent racists, okay, but they were trained for this. Sort of.

Alex bit her lip hard enough to draw blood. She couldn't die here. None of them could.

"Go on, then," urged Harry, his wand shaking slightly.

But the Death Eaters didn't strike.

"Hand over the prophecy and no one need get hurt," said Lucius.

Oh. Maybe they still had a chance after all.

The sole female Death Eater stepped forward, the movement jostling her hood. Azkaban hadn't done Bellatrix Lestrange any favours; her cheeks jutted out noticeably, and her eyes were sunken, but despite the setbacks to her physical state, she emanated a feverish, fanatical glow.

"You need more persuasion?" she hissed, her chest rising and falling rapidly. "Very well — take the smallest one," she ordered the Death Eaters beside her. "Let him watch while we torture the little girl. I'll do it."

Alex flinched when everyone directed their attention to her.

Harry stepped sideways so that he was right in front of her, the prophecy held up to his chest.

"You'll have to smash this if you want to attack any of us," he told Bellatrix, snarling. "I don't think your boss will be too pleased if you come back without it, will he? Why is that, anyway?" he continued, sounding frustrated. "What does Voldemort want with this dusty old globe?"

The use of the Dark Lord's name was enough to set Bellatrix off. Fuse lit, she attempted to Stun Harry, but Malfoy miraculously stopped her for fear of damaging the prophecy. Instead of hitting any of the teens, the Stunner smashed into a shelf close by. Several globes shattered, and two figures, white as ghosts, fluid as smoke, unfurled themselves from the fragments of broken glass upon the floor and each began to speak. Their ominous voices were drowned out by the argument between Bellatrix and Lucius, to Alex's mild disappointment.

But they had at least given Harry an idea. "Smash the shelves," he muttered from the corner of his mouth. From behind him, Alex nodded, and passed the message on as discretely as she could; Harry did his best to draw attention to him by asking about the prophecy.

Lucius sneered at his apparent ignorance. "Dumbledore never told you that the reason you bear that scar was hidden in the bowels of the Department of Mysteries?" he asked sceptically. "Haven't you ever wondered why the Dark Lord tried to kill you as a baby?"

Alex watched from her periphery as Harry's grip tightened around his—and Voldemort's—prophecy. For a moment, she was terrified he had forgotten his original plan, but when Lucius continued to gloat, Harry suddenly barked, "Now!"

"Reducto!" called eight separate voices. Eight curses flew into six different directions. The seventh—Alex's—slammed into one of the silent Death Eaters, toppling him to the ground. If he wasn't immediately crushed by the fallen shelves, then the shards of the broken orbs would surely finish the job.

Maybe Alex should've felt something regarding that. But right now, the only thing on her mind was get the hell out of dodge.

They ran through the darkened room, Alex's protego maxima preventing them from being sliced into ribbons. There was screaming, yelling, cries of pain, and thunderous crashes as the shelves collapsed and collided into each other.

It wasn't easy, keeping up with the rest of the group while she ran with her arm raised in the air as though she was holding an ethereal umbrella. This was what she had spent the past few years practising for, though; Alex persevered.

She yelped as a hand grabbed hold of her shoulder. Her Shield instantly flickered out as she ducked beneath the Death Eater's grip. Growling, she hit him with a Stunner so forceful he wouldn't wake up even if someone stopped to cast a rennervate on him.

"Through there," Cedric managed to say between heavy breaths, his eyes glued to the door closest to them. They flung it open and charmed it shut behind them, taking a moment to even out their breathing and gather their scattered thoughts.

They found themselves in another unfamiliar room. Unlike the others, this one didn't seem to have a theme. There were a few cupboards, a wardrobe, a chest, and some urns littering the room. A couple of the pieces of furniture shuddered occasionally, which was a mildly disturbing sight.

The doorknob was being jiggled. Someone was trying to get in from the other side.

Cedric and Alex locked eyes. "Disillusion," she told him shortly. He was invisible before he even finished nodding.

Alex Disillusioned herself and placed her back against the wall moments before the door exploded open. A pair of Death Eaters slunk in, their beady eyes scanning the ostensibly empty room.

"Check the cupboards," grunted the taller one. His arm almost brushed Alex's as he walked past.

The moment his partner turned his back on them, Alex hit the tall Death Eater with a silent Stunner and stole his wand from his comatose body. Cedric made quick work of the other one and, at Alex's urging, stole his wand as well. Stunning someone was well and good, but there was no point in doing so if their ally was going to Revive them mere moments later and send them charging back in again.

I should kill them. The idea didn't hit her like a freight train; it slithered into her mind. It was the most sensible course of action, after all. Sure, these Death Eaters wouldn't pose a threat at this moment, but being robbed of their wands didn't automatically make them harmless. They could steal their wands back later, and what about after tonight? They'd leave the Ministry, arm themselves again and continue to do Voldemort's bidding. How many innocent people would be hurt in the process?

"C'mon," murmured Cedric when she wouldn't stop staring at the unconscious Death Eaters. "Let's regroup."

"Right," she replied, but her voice sounded faraway even to her own ears. "Right."

Alex closed her eyes and activated her magical sense. There were no presences besides her own and Cedric's, so they returned the way they came, now fully visible. A perfect Disillusionment required peace of mind, which neither of them were close to attaining at the moment. They had to resort to using their eyes and ears in the dusky room, where all they could hear was their own harsh breathing and heavy footfalls.

Cedric took care of the noise with a Muffling Charm. In a way, the abrupt silence was even more jarring.

The shelves were no longer being toppled over, but only a few rows remained untouched. Alex took extra care not to trip over or step on any wayward orbs, not wanting to deal with a rolled ankle any time soon. As she eyed the orbs scattered over the floor, any idea sprung to mind. Without breaking her stride, she bent down and scooped one up. It felt almost warm to the touch.

"Take one," she encouraged Cedric, who appeared confused by her motive. "If they're still after Harry's, we can make things difficult for them by tricking them into thinking we have his orb."

They burst into the circular room and were faced with several wands pointed their way. There was some confusion for a moment before they realised in the ghostly blue candlelight that it was just the other teenagers, and not the Death Eaters.

"Shut the door!" said Ginny, barely looking away from Hermione's oddly still body.

Cedric hastened to do as she said and locked it with another charm.

Alex stared at Hermione. "Is she…?"

Ginny shook her head angrily. "She has a pulse. Harry and Neville say she was knocked backwards into a bookcase and then hit with a curse."

"He conjured a weird purple flame after Hermione Silenced him," Harry said, grimacing. "She just…crumpled onto the floor after that."

"My fault," Neville moaned through a frightful amount of blood gushing out of his presumably broken nose. "Didn't Stun him fast enough."

"I think it was all our faults," Harry corrected him softly.

Hermione was to blame too, really. Who the hell chose the Silencing Charm as their preferred spell when attacking someone? She should've known that not everyone relied on their voice to cast magic. Then again, none of them were in especially lucid states at the moment. Mistakes were bound to happen – except they weren't in the safe confines of a classroom anymore.

"Move your hand, Neville," Alex told him. She levelled her wand at his nose. "Episkey."

Neville winced as his nose snapped back into place. "Thanks," he murmured, massaging it tenderly.

If Alex had more time, she would offer to clean the bloody smears marring Neville's face. As it was, she was busy gaping at the way one of the Weasley twins was cradling his side. The other was favouring his left foot. Ron, meanwhile, was giggling to himself off to the side.

Alex nudged Cedric and approached the twins. "Explain," she muttered, kneeling for better access to Fred/George's left ankle.

"We were in a room with floating planets," he replied. His slightly deep tenor led Alex to believe he was George. Then again, that might've been the pain roughening his voice. "At some points, we were floating too. One of those bloody bastards grabbed my ankle, so Fred used the Reductor Curse on a planet near the Death Eater's face. The aftershocks hit me."

Fred had nothing to say to that. He purposely kept his eyes on Cedric's wand as the Hufflepuff struggled to patch up his steadily bleeding wound.

Without warning, Ron made a lunge for Harry. Still giggling maniacally, he pulled on the front of Harry's robes, forcing him into a sort of half-bow. "Harry!" he practically yelled. "You look funny, Harry – you're all messed up." Ron's face was whiter than usual; something dark was trickling from the corner of his mouth.

Harry appeared shaken. "What happened?"

Ginny shook her head again. "No clue."

Alex swept her gaze over the disastrous group and bit back a sigh. At least no one's dead.

"Let's keep moving," decided Harry.

Neville, being the closest in height to Ron and the least injured, was granted the pleasure of helping Ron up and keeping him on his feet. Ginny and Harry had each of Hermione's slung across their shoulders. The wily witch's markers had long since faded, forcing them to choose a door at random.

Their group had just crossed the threshold into the room with brains when another across the hall burst open. Three Death Eaters sped into the hall, led by Bellatrix Lestrange.

"There they are!" she shrieked, her wide eyes wild with rage.

George hastily kicked the door closed. "Colloportus!" he shouted, his wand pointed at the door handle.

"Keep going," said Harry, chest heaving. "There are other entrances they can slip through. Seal them!"

Those that were able to do so ran around the door, sealing the doors shut while the Death Eaters tried to break in from the other side. Every now and then another heavy body would launch itself against one so that it creaked and shuddered.

The last of the doors done, Alex was about to return to the others when Cedric's door cracked and splintered open. Four Death Eaters streamed in, shoving Cedric to the side where he slammed his head into the wall and slid down to the floor like a broken doll. He didn't get up again.

The screech Alex emitted was purely primal. Terrified and infuriated all at once, she silently threw any and every offensive spell she could think of at the Death Eaters. One of them grunted as a gash appeared on his wand-arm; another screamed as his leg collapsed beneath him. The rest were rushing towards Harry, intent on nabbing the prophecy before something happened to it.

"Hey!" snickered Ron, who had staggered to his feet and was now tottering drunkenly toward Harry. "Hey, Harry, there are brains in here! Isn't that weird, Harry?"

"Ron!" gasped Harry as he deftly Stunned a Death Eater who had been trying to curse him. "Ron, get out of the way, get down!"

Ron did the opposite by pointing his wand at the tank, grinning gleefully all the while. "Accio brain!"

It was as if Ron had cast a spell on the entire room instead of the tank. Everyone—including the Death Eaters—froze in the middle of what they were doing. They watched as a brain burst from the green liquid of the tank, Summoned by Ron. It soared towards him, and what looked like ribbons of moving images flew from it, unravelling like rolls of film—

Ron touched it. The moment they made contact with his skin, the ribbons ensnared him.

His panicked screams would haunt their nightmares for weeks to come.

While Harry and the Weasley siblings rushed over to help Ron, Alex and Neville struggled to pick off the last of the Death Eaters. The more observant ones noticed the cloudy orb in Alex's right hand; the sight of it made them waver, and they aimed to incapacitate rather than kill. Alex took advantage of their hesitation and sent most of them careening into the wall with a powerful Stunner.

The lone Death Eater remaining in the room was Bellatrix. Rather than attacking them forthright or even pausing to Revive her allies, she snagged the teen closest to her, pulling him by the hood of his robes while she jabbed the tip of her wand into his throat. Despite the rough treatment, Cedric didn't stir.

Bellatrix grinned horribly as she locked eyes with Alex. "Hand over the prophecy or pretty boy here gets it," she crooned.

Alex's vision blurred. She couldn't reply even if she wanted to. Her jaw was locked tight, her throat dry, even as the rest of her burned like she'd been hit with the Body-Burning Curse. Her arms trembled with exertion.

She'll kill him anyway, said the final shreds of rationality in her mind. And then the rest of us will follow.

Somehow, Alex found the wherewithal to respond. "How do you know the orb he's carrying isn't the correct prophecy?" she croaked.

Bellatrix frowned. Without thinking, she glanced at the spherical shape protruding from Cedric's pocket.

Alex capitalised on her momentary lapse in concentration by liquefying the tiles Bellatrix was standing on. Caught off guard, she gave into her instincts, tossing Cedric away from her like he was nothing more than trash as she focused on leaping out of the sudden pool of quicksand beneath her feet.

Distracted though she was, Bellatrix still managed to dodge the Stunners thrown her way before throwing up a large Shield. Before she could retaliate by murdering them all, Harry taunted her by lifting his prophecy high into the air and took off in hopes of drawing the Death Eater away from them. To Alex's despair, his tactic worked – Bellatrix chased after him like a moth to a particularly alluring flame.

There was no way in hell Alex was going to let Harry sacrifice himself for them. Before running after them, Alex turned to the Weasley siblings, who were the only ones still conscious. They didn't appear to be in fighting condition, though. Fred's injury had reopened, if the way he was keeling over was any indication. George's ankle was no doubt too tender to run with, and Ginny was tearing up in frustration as the brain continued to suffocate the now-silent Ron. Neville was face-down on the floor. Whether he was even breathing was a mystery.

"Stay here and protect them," she instructed the Weasleys, referring to not only Neville and Ron but also Hermione and Cedric. Alex didn't have time to wait for their response before taking off after Harry and Bellatrix.

There was but one way they could've gone. Before entering the room with the stone arch, Alex took a great deep breath and calmed her nerves enough to cast a passable Disillusionment Charm on herself.

When she peered into the cavernous room, her heart all but dropped. Bellatrix was no longer on her own. Though the scales were tipped in her favour before, Alex had foolishly hoped she and Harry could work together to take her out. Now they were totally outclassed – Lucius Malfoy had caught up with them, backed by another pair of Death Eaters. These two were clearly out of it, though; they couldn't seem to walk in a straight line without stumbling. Alex was willing to bet they were very recently unconscious before Lucius cast a rennervate on them, which was a poor move on his part. If anything, the bemused duo would be more of a liability than anything else.

Alex crept into the room as Harry climbed backwards onto the raised dais, the remaining Death Eaters slowly closing in on him like a pack of starving hyenas.

"Potter, your race is run," drawled Lucius Malfoy, pulling off his mask. "Now hand me the prophecy."

"Let the others go, and I'll give it to you!" Harry said desperately.

Alex remained close to the Death Eater by the door. She couldn't sneak past without alerting them of her presence, so she had to wait for the proper timing.

"You are not in a position to bargain, Potter," said Lucius, sneering. "There are four of us and only one of you."

Bellatrix cackled, thoroughly enjoying herself. "Poor baby Potter, all alone again. Abandoned by his parents, abandoned by his friends, abandoned by his godfather."

Harry snapped his head towards Bellatrix. "Where's Sirius?!" he yelled, his face flushing with anger. "What did you do to him?!"

Lucius held out one gloved hand towards Harry. "Give us the prophecy and you'll receive all the answers you need."

Harry's abrupt change in attitude had shocked Alex badly enough that she accidentally released her hold on the Disillusionment. She only realised her mistake when the Death Eater closest to her whirled around, wrath glimmering in his eyes.

He slashed his wand at her. "Crucio," he hissed.

When she was a child who had yet to master her body's motor control, Alex had spilt boiling water on herself in a botched tea-making attempt. The pain that had then followed was indescribable; the flesh on her forearm had literally melted away before her very eyes. She kept the scar despite her parents' ability to charm it away, as a sort of reminder not to be that stupid ever again.

That was all she could think of at the moment as she felt her skin peel off her body.

"Excellent work, Crabbe," someone called.

"That was just a taster!" crowed Bellatrix. At least Alex thought it was Bellatrix's voice she was hearing. Right now, as she lay crumpled on the floor, she couldn't even tell up from down. "Either give us the prophecy, Potter, or watch as we torture your friend into insanity!"

Alex did her best to fight through the pain. Her struggles weren't exactly subtle, so the Death Eater who initially cast the Cruciatus on her helped her up by yanking her hair. Alex's yelp died in her throat as Crabbe pressed the tip of his wand against her neck, his other arm pressing her body against his. She almost blacked out from the physical contact alone.

It mustn't have been a pretty sight for Harry, either. He winced as he gazed at her, and—to Alex's horror—he proffered the prophecy to a near-salivating Lucius.

"Don't!" she wanted to scream, but the wand digging into her throat made sure she couldn't so much as shriek.

Before Lucius could snatch up the orb, thus sealing their fate, two sets of doors burst open. For one terrifying moment, Alex thought more Death Eaters were being added to the fray. But no, Lucius and Bellatrix were bereft of any more allies.

Alex almost sobbed in relief when she realised who was sprinting into the room. Sirius, Remus, Alastor, Tonks, and Kingsley stormed inside, firing off spells before the Death Eaters could even react.

Distracted by the new arrivals, Crabbe accidentally loosened his grip on Alex; she paid him back with a Cruciatus of her own. Alex watched as he writhed in pain, the feeling of his forearm braced against her chest still present in the forefront of her mind.

As much as she would've liked to end his sorry existence, she was forced to duck and dodge as spell after spell was shot from all four corners of the room. Friendly fire was a genuine cause for concern right now, and Alex wasn't keen on another close brush with death any time soon.

Winded, Alex took shelter by the pillar of the archway. She massaged the spot on her throat Crabbe had pressed the tip of his wand against. Her fingers were still quivering from the aftershock of the Torture Curse. Was that why her head was aching something fierce? If she concentrated hard enough through the noise of battle, she could almost hear one, low continuous whine in the back of her mind.

The screech heightened as something toppled into the other pillar of the archway. Alex sprung away from it, her heart in her throat as she saw Harry pinned to the pillar by a bulky Death Eater – a wandless Death Eater, judging by the way his meaty hands were keeping Harry against the archway. Alex made quick work of sending his hulking form flying across the room, and she was about to return Harry's grateful smile when her body froze due to the effects of a Full Body Bind.

Unable to support herself, she toppled straight into the archway and past the veil.