AUTHOR'S NOTES: Chapter 140 is here, as am I! Hello, everyone, just a quick couple of messages before I let you go on:
1. I am very sorry for my absence, but I am going through a pretty rough time in life, mostly mental health issues coz of extended lockdowns and stresses like finding work in my field and whatnot... I won't bore you with the details, but I'm getting some actual help and I feel ready to come back to doing what I love!
2. My review section is for my story, it is not the place to be discussing update schedules, or, worse, calling each other terrible names. I'm going to be dead honest here, I have worked myself to the bone on this story, and seeing people litter my review section hurts me very deeply. I mean, A Song of Ice and Fire is 1,770,000 words total in length, whereas the Harry Potter novels are 1,084,170 words in full. Even when combined, Fate is the longer tale (But not the better one, I ain't delusional, and ASOIAF is bae). I've crossed over three million words in less than three years... I've put my soul into this project, trying my hardest to deliver decent chapters consistently. So, when I see people littering in my review section, when I already get less reviews than most authors per chapter on account of me writing about Ron, it just plain hurts, I don't care how that makes me sound. Please, review the story if you enjoy it, but do so with this in mind. It's 4:00 am down here as I type this, and yeah, I pretty much always work through the nights because during the day, I have to live my life. So, c'mon, please... Just be kind to each other, at the very least. I'm not asking for much.
(Basically, when you leave reviews, it should be about the story, whether its praise or criticism, I don't care, but it should never be about anything else)
3. The discord server is not under any sort of 'clean-up', I myself haven't been on for nearly a month due to needing time away from Fate in general, but I'm back there now, so please, if you ever have questions about updates, or, just want to hang out with fellow Fateheads, I'm coining this term right now hehe, please feel free to join, link is on my profile page. But if you don't wish to join, just send me a dm, and I will try to get back to you in time.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter, and I do not intend to make any money off of this. Harry Potter is the intellectual property of J. K. Rowling , and I take no credit of it whatsoever.
I was also inspired by Demon Eyes Laharl's: THE RED KNIGHT! and also from Random-Fruitcake04's: CHOICES! I hope you check them out as well because they are genuinely very good stories.
There's also another Ron story out that's really good so far! It's called 'There and Back Again', and it's written by Chuchi Otaku. Please, go check it out! I've certainly enjoyed reading it! Starway Man is a chad!
Chapter 140 – The Big Bad Wolf
Albus Dumbledore's POV
Monday 22nd March, 1994 (Ilvermorny – Night)
The cool night air washed over Albus and Severus the moment Fawkes' fire faded, all three of them finding themselves surrounded by Apparating Pukwudgies within a heartbeat.
"Bows and arrows?" Severus looked around, not concerned.
"Poisoned arrows, which are further empowered by their Spellwork," Albus whispered. "Be ready, Severus."
The Potions Master gave a simple nod, reaching into his robes but not withdrawing his wand. Albus, meanwhile, stepped forward with Fawkes still on his shoulder, a light smile on the old wizard's face. "Pardon our untimely intrusion, but we have business to discuss with your Headmaster."
"What business?" one of the smaller Pukwudgies approached, two sharp daggers in her hands. Tipped with poison, no doubt. "You're trespassing, and seeing as the little brats are all asleep in their beds-"
"Send them to me!" a voice suddenly cracked through the air, surprising even Albus a little. Asmodeus?
The Pukwudgie sneered, but sheathed her blades, while the others looked… frightened? "Come, Albus Dumbledore, but that Phoenix must leave, now. We don't want it here. It hurt Brightbeak."
The Pukwudgies aimed their arrows at Fawkes, however, the Phoenix was entirely unfazed by their attempts to intimidate him. Pukwudgies can be brutal creatures, and making an enemy of them now will only bring trouble down the road.
"Fawkes, I will call for you when I need you," Albus said, and after giving the Pukwudgies a warning glare, Fawkes vanished in Phoenix Fire. "There, just Severus and myself, now. May I have your name?"
"No," the Pukwudgie all but spat out, their hatred of humans was legendary. "Give me your arm, old fool."
"Disrespectful Elf, you forget your place-" Severus began icily.
"ELF?!" she screeched, while Albus drew in a tired breath. Why, Severus? You know they're not Elves, and she was not wrong. I am old, and often very foolish.
"Severus, please," Albus stopped his friend, giving the offended Pukwudgies a sorry look. "Forgive us, but we've had a long night, and are under much pressure back at home, as I'm sure you've all heard."
"We are not Elves!" the Pukwudgie stomped her foot, glaring murder at Severus.
She then marched forward, holding out her grey hand to Albus. The old wizard took Severus by the arm, and then accepted the Pukwudgie's hand, being Apparated inside the grey castle in an instant. Impressive Apparition, I barely felt any discomfort.
The inside of the castle was just as cold as the courtyard outside, so very unlike Hogwarts. All around them, magnificent balls of Bluebell Flames floated about, illuminating the stony hallway with their blue light. Albus felt a cold shiver run up his spine, as if his very spirit was being smothered by some shadowy force lurking in every corner of the school. I certainly hope this castle is livelier with the students about, because so far, these walls feel very similar to that of a prison.
"Through the door," the Pukwudgie ordered, eyeing them both suspiciously. "We have an army, Dumbledore, you need to know that." If Ronald is hurt, you will need it.
"I understand," Albus smiled at her, his eyes twinkling at the grand, ebony door leading up to Asmodeus' quarters. "Come, Severus, let us not waste too much of their time."
Severus followed quietly as Albus went through the door, the two wizards marching up the long stairway which led to an even grander, ebony door. Just as Albus reached for the handle, the door gave way, revealing the poorly lit Office of the Headmaster of Ilvermorny. My word, was he asleep?
"I knew you'd come sooner or later, but I must say, returning with Fawkes was a poor decision, Albus, especially after his attack on my school," Asmodeus' voice echoed around the room, while Albus and Severus looked from dark corner to dark corner. "You have disrespected me and my staff with your carelessness." No, I've shown you that you cannot hide from me. I will find out the truth, my friend. The truth behind Ronald's sudden disappearance, and the truth behind this change in you.
"Asmodeus, forgive me for calling on you so late-"
"You are not forgiven," Asmodeus' precise voice turned cold. I see… "You think you can just come here whenever you please? As if you own my castle…"
"Enough," Severus growled, waving his wand and lighting up every candle in the room. "Reveal yourself, Harkin. It is late, and we have no patience for dramatics."
The candles quickly fizzled out, but Albus had had enough time to look around. Asmodeus' Office, which was once filled with flowers from across the globe and paintings of magnificent creatures, was now empty and cold, with dark, dusty drapes covering every window and spiderwebs hanging from the ceiling. He doesn't allow anyone up here, does he? Not even his staff. Asmodeus, what has happened to you? How can you live in this squaller?
"Ronald Weasley never arrived for the Junior League Tournament, Asmodeus," Albus started, deciding to prioritize Ronald, first and foremost. "I want to know if you had anything to do with his sudden disappearance."
"I played a role in it, I won't deny that," Asmodeus responded, causing Albus and Severus to exchange looks. Then, you have made two powerful enemies today, ones with a very long memory.
"Where is he?" Albus asked, his voice turning hard. "Is he here? Within this castle?"
"No, I imagine the Aurors have taken him," Harkin replied, followed by slow, methodical footsteps.
"The Aurors? Stop hiding, coward," Severus demanded just as Bluebell Flames came to life across from them, revealing the tall and dark figure of Harkin standing behind his damaged, marble, thronelike chair. He's become more powerful since we last spoke, neither Severus nor myself could detect him. Odd, given that he never had an interest in such techniques before, as his interest always started and ended with Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.
Behind the skeletal man were four large statues carved out of ugly, grey stone; their flickering shadows engulfing Harkin's frail form completely. The man looked exhausted; his usual friendly smile replaced with a bitter sneer and heavy eyes. Who are you…?
"It is true, then," Albus said, studying the statues with growing dread. A Pukwudgie, a Thunderbird, a Horned-Serpent, and a Wampus. The four faces of the Grey Castle, all together. "You are not who you portray yourself as, Asmodeus. You have changed, and not for the better, I believe."
"Yes, you always were the authority on goodness, Headmaster," Harkin all but whispered, his heavy eyes falling a little. "Are you… disappointed in me…?"
For a brief moment, Albus found himself staring at the teenage version of Asmodeus, once again in tears after being relentlessly bullied by the Slytherins. He'd talk to the Professors for hours on end about undiscovered flora and fauna, his dream was to discover and share his findings with the Wizarding World, not hide himself away in this… in this cell! Albus' eyes moved to the statues again, their imposing figures only served to cause Albus great anger, now. What has this accursed mountain done to you, my boy?!
"Asmodeus, what did you do?" Albus asked, his voice becoming softer without his permission. "Why would the Aurors take Ronald? And why would you help them?"
"He came into their house and spat on their faces," Harkin replied, still staring at his empty desk. "This is not Magical Britain, there is no place for arrogant, entitled Lordlings here." Arrogant and entitled? Arrogant I can believe, but entitled? You're talking about someone who sees himself as less than dirt…
"You clearly don't know the boy, then," Severus said harshly, looking to Albus. "No more games, Albus. Get him to speak, or, I will."
"If you wish to torture me, at least take me away from the school," Harkin said, not even putting up a fight, much to Albus and Severus' surprise. "Just don't hurt me near my students, it would upset them greatly… They don't deserve that."
"No one is going to get hurt tonight," Albus said strongly, giving Severus a harsh look. Control yourself, or, I will continue this discussion alone. "We just want answers, nothing more."
"What did you do?" Severus' expression turned darker and darker. "Where is he?!"
"I did little but tell the Aurors of why Mr. Weasley attacked my school," Harkin replied simply enough. "He stole a silver leaf from the Sacred Tree, which he has no doubt already used on his friend, Miss. Davis." He knows? How? "And now, I know you two helped him, because you care for him. Why else would you come here so late? Why else would you come alone?"
"He stole nothing-" Severus started.
"I count the leaves, Potion Master," Harkin stopped him. Damn… "One went missing, and after speaking with the Dryad who watches over the surrounding forests, I learned the truth." Then, Ronald is in a lot of trouble, and so are the Aurors who have him in captivity… Ronald is not one to be contained, he simply isn't. "She gave it to him because of his goddamn Quibbler, one of the students read her their copy… Told her all about Miss. Davis, and that's all it took for her to betray me as well…" As well? And clearly, Octavia hasn't shared her plans with her own Headmaster. We cannot trust this particular Dryad, not until we're absolutely sure that she's not just a puppet of these Sages.
"If you've indeed spoken to young Octavia, then you know that he was gifted the leaf," Albus countered. "He did not steal from you, as the Guardian of the Sacred Tree herself-"
"Then, why did he lie to me and run away from the Aurors?" Harkin asked, before his face twisted with further bitterness. "… And I'm the Guardian of the Sacred Tree, not that foolish girl…"
Once again, Harkin's expression shifted, as if overcome by great guilt for speaking poorly of Octavia. He's beginning to scare me… This is not the man I remember; this is a complete stranger wearing his skin.
"You would have taken the leaf away, and condemned his friend to death in the process, if he had told you the truth," Severus bit out. "You put him in that position when you refused to listen, or, explain yourself-"
"I would have done no such thing, for once the leaves are removed, they can no longer serve the Sacred Tree," Harkin stopped Severus, giving the man a bored look. "He revealed himself to be a snake in the grass, and now, he is being rightfully punished for it. The Tournament was just a warning. If I see him set foot near my mountain ever again, I will destroy him entirely." You… would kill a child…?
"What happened to your fingers, Asmodeus?" Albus asked, his eyes darting to Harkin's left hand. "What happened to you?"
Much to their shock, Harkin laughed coldly, his voice strained as if he were choking to death. Albus just stood there, staring at the laughing madman, while Severus took a cautionary step back, his wand at the ready.
"They were taken from me…" Harkin suddenly told them, heartbreak dancing behind his glazed eyes. "They took my fingers, and then he…" Harkin trailed off, his eyes losing their mad mirth instantly, as if he had remembered a terrible truth. "…I have nothing and no one…"
"Asmodeus… Tell me what has happened, and I will help you," Albus promised, feeling genuinely frightened for his old friend, now. "This is not you… I remember you very fondly, you were always such a gentle boy-"
"I was nothing, and I'm still nothing," Harkin slowly turned to leave, hiding his gaze from Albus once again. Why can't you look me in the eyes? What are you so ashamed of? "And you're just like everyone else, Headmaster… You take what you want, and you give no thoughts to the consequences of your actions, because you are 'good', but in truth, it's just about power… It's always about who's more powerful, and I'm so tired of it… You. Voldemort. This Death-Eater dog. That Blood-Traitor bastard. You all deserve to rot together. And you will."
Albus took a step back this time, the sheer venom in Harkin's voice had struck him like a strong slap. Rot, he said? By the Gods, what did I miss here? I've visited before, but I never once-… Damn! How could I miss this?!
"You're all the same…" Harkin's voice echoed all around them, just as the Bluebell Flames began dying out, hiding the Headmaster of Ilvermorny within the shadows of his domain. "Leave my tomb, Headmaster. Let me rest in peace, at least."
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (The Headmaster's Office – Dawn)
Albus sat motionless, as he had for last two hours; his mind constantly jumping between his plans to rescue both his friends from their current predicaments and the cruel actions of his old enemy, Tom Riddle Jnr. What did you do to Ilvermorny, Tom? What manner of Curse grows more powerful the longer it lingers? It sounds more like a disease, the more I think about it. The Tree siphoning the healing properties of its own leaves in order to stave off the 'infection' is proof enough, it's using the last of its strength to repel this Curse, but it's a losing battle. If young Octavia is to be believed, then in less than a century, we might not even have a Magical America, which only makes me further question her choice to aid Ronald by handing over a vital part of the Tree's protection. Why not wait until after he had helped? It makes no sense; she simply gave up her leverage over one conversation and a promise of help… She's using his love for his friends to her advantage, I simply cannot shake the feeling that this is all too convenient.
Albus didn't like to admit it, even to himself, but he was terrified.
Terrified for Ronald and his continued descent into madness. Terrified that Severus would never heal from his injuries, nor mend his broken heart. Terrified that Harry would never be prepared to face Lord Voldemort, and much like his parents before him; he too would fall before the Dark Lord's ever-growing power.
And then, even after moving past all his other fears, simply possessing the knowledge that there were billions of people living their lives not knowing that the greed and fear of one man would soon undo them all; it was just too much for his weary soul.
Albus was indeed terrified, and in these quiet moments, when he was completely alone, that fear was too much to bear. Gods, help me, for I cannot do this on my own-…
He stopped, wincing internally as he realized what he was praying to. Ronald's eternal tormenters… Is there truly no out? Are we all destined to tear each other apart, even in the great beyond? Have… Have I always been wrong…?
His trembling, bony hands massaged his aching eyes, but to no avail. His insomnia had fully returned, now, robbing him of both his focus and his strength. I will sleep when Ronald is safely at my side once more. Until then-…
The fireplace suddenly roared to life, and Severus stepped the green flames; malice dancing behind his dark eye. Severus…?
"I am done waiting," Severus said, his voice cold as ice. "He didn't sit around when I needed him, when I was being…" he trailed off, his grip on his black cane tightening. "I am done waiting, Albus. Either you come with me, or, I go find some old friends of mine to help me."
"You're going to start a war, are you?" Albus asked, unable to muster any of his usual charm. "Where is the legendary cunning of Slytherin House when I need it most?"
Severus blinked, somewhat taken aback by Albus' unsympathetic tone.
"He needs us-"
"Sit. Down. Severus." Albus ordered, but Severus remained rooted to his spot. Control your emotions, Albus, not all is lost just yet. If you lose hope, then many others will swiftly follow. You don't have the luxury to question yourself. "…Severus… Please… Do not make this worse for him just to satisfy your anger. Come, sit with me, instead. It is clear that neither of us have slept, nor will we until he is home."
Severus clenched his jaw, but after a few silent moments, he limped over to his chair, all but falling into it. He's in pain, again. If only we had another leaf, it could help bring him some peace at the very least, not that he'd ever accept it. He chose the 'easy road' once, and now, avoiding it is all he cares for.
"How is your leg, dear boy?" Albus asked, managing a weak smile. "Shall I make some tea? It always calms you-"
"I don't want to be calm," Severus hissed, his fingers digging into his leg. "Damn this leg… I'm going to have it removed-"
"Pardon?" Albus blinked, sitting up straighter. "You're going to have it removed?"
"I… can't live like this…" Severus all but whispered, sneering down at his leg. "…I'm useless…" Ah, I see, now. His anger is coming from within. He wants to fight, to contribute to the war, but now… Even if he were to get a prosthetic leg like Alastor's, his fighting days are done. Tom saw to that, as he always does.
"I have always prized your mind over your mobility," Albus began, while Severus continued his glaring. "Perhaps, with another leaf-"
"What leaf? You heard Harkin, didn't you?" Severus asked icily. "He's willing to murder children in order to protect that damn tree of his-"
"I'm not so sure about that," Albus interjected. "Yes, he was upset, and he did threaten Ronald's life, however, I do not believe that he would go through with it, despite the change in him… I know him, Severus… Or, at least, I knew him when he was still young and full of life. Whatever has happened to him, I have to believe that the sweet young man this school helped nurture is still in there, clawing to break free." I have to believe that goodness will prevail, not only for my sake, but for yours too. And for Ronald's.
"This is not the time to sympathise with our enemy, Albus," Severus growled.
"There is only one enemy, Severus, do not forget that," Albus said strongly. "And Lord Voldemort will only benefit if we start fighting amongst ourselves, it is exactly what he needs right now to regain his strength. We must recover Ronald, but do so in a manner that does not leave us open to attack."
"So, what? We go there and talk to them? Ask them to be kind?" Severus asked scathingly, shaking his head. "Why do you always do this…?"
"Do what?" Albus asked, leaning forward slightly.
"People are not equal," Severus said, his voice low but critical. "Ron's life has more value than most, and we both know that. We've seen what comes if he fails, and yet, even now, you're willing to put him second… And for what? Someone who used to be decent? People change, Albus, and your old friend has changed for the worst. I don't care about Harkin, nor do I care about his fucking school… I care about Ron, and I'm getting him back." Severus then stood up again, grimacing as pure agony shot up his damaged leg. "The time for words is over. Either you're coming, or, you're not." He made up his mind long before he came her. "Make your decision, now."
"Let me do the talking, at least," Albus sighed out, rising as well. "It is clear that you are not yourself, and that you've been drinking-"
"Just enough to numb this damn leg, which didn't work," Severus said, looking to Fawkes. "What of him?"
Fawkes shrieked, turning his head away from them. He does not wish to make matters worse, same as myself.
"Using Fawkes will only further antagonize the Aurors, we can't compromise the safety of their offices and still hope to have a civil conversation with them," Albus said, Conjuring a Portkey to the States with a wave of his hand.
"Is that…?" Severus started, cocking an eyebrow at the silver coin. "You just happen to have a Portkey prepared, do you?"
"I want him back too, Severus," Albus said tiredly, wracked with guilt. "And I'm sorry if I put Ronald second, I know I've not always been good to him… Or, to you…"
Severus's expression turned indifferent at that, always quick to hide any and all emotion. "…I did not mean to say-"
"I know what you meant, my friend," Albus gave a sorry smile, thinking of the night Ronald had been found atop the Astronomy Tower. I could've done more, said more, but I didn't. I was angry with him; I cannot hide that from myself. I was angry, but he was hurt and alone, and I should've done more. I could've… but I just didn't…
"We've both made mistakes…" Severus said, looking back down at the Portkey. "I've said things that I've come to regret too, but today… Today is our chance to make up for our mistakes, Albus. If we don't reach out for him now, we will lose him…"
Albus found himself staring at Severus, both in agreement and in awe. He… openly confessed to caring about Ronald. I just realized that. Unable to help himself, Albus slowly began to smile, much to Severus' annoyance.
"What?" the Potions Master hissed. "Have I amused you, old man?" You've made me proud.
"No, not amused," Albus said, his smile still growing. You may have lost your leg, but you've regained your heart. "I'm proud of you, Severus. More than ever, as a matter of fact."
"Good fucking Lord," Severus groaned, giving Albus a terrifying look. "Stop staring at me and let's go. I doubt the Aurors will just let him go because a cripple and an old man come begging." More has been accomplished with less. Thank you, Severus, for reminding me of what's most important.
"On the count of three, then," Albus drew in a deep breath, vowing to return only once Ronald was safe. "One, two… Three!"
Sebastian Greengrass' POV
Magical Congress of the United States of America
Sebastian stared at the pale man sitting across from him, his blood boiling in his veins. Arcturus Carrow… How long have you been working for these animals? And I wonder, does your Master know of this? Or, was he the one who put you here in the first place? I've no idea what's going on here, all I know is that we should have never set foot on American soil… They were waiting for us, for Ron.
"Sebastian, I can't help you if you don't speak to me," Carrow suddenly knocked on the table, his cool smirk fixed in place. "You and James are in a lot of trouble; Headmaster Harkin was adamant that he wants charges to be pressed." If he were so adamant, then why haven't you pressed any? Why hold us down here, instead? "You clearly don't understand how much these Aurors despise you, Sebastian… I can't keep them at bay much longer, not unless you give me what I'm asking for." You mean Ron? Never… I'll swallow burning coals before I turn him over to you bastards.
"I want to see him… I have to," Sebastian croaked; his voice still laboured despite being healed. They did a lazy job on purpose, even talking hurts…
Sebastian closed his eyes, planting himself in a happier memory using Occlumency. He could hear his daughters' laughter, as well as his own and Mary's. The night we went ice-skating… Astoria had just turned seven, and it was the happiest day-…
A strong slap knocked him right back to reality, sitting across from a frowning Carrow. "Don't ignore me, because I'm being very patient with you."
Sebastian felt his head throb as he stared into Carrow's bottomless eyes, and Sebastian began to realize that he knew nothing of the man sitting across from him. Even at Hogwarts, he was quiet and kept to himself… We all just assumed that he was just like his mad kin, but that's not the case at all. I can see it in his eyes, he has a focus that his siblings could never hope to have.
"How long have you been work-…?" Sebastian stopped, wincing because of his bruised side.
"How long have I been working for these Aurors?" Carrow asked, leaning back as his smirk grew. "They work for me, it's the other way around."
"I don't buy that…" Sebastian grit out. "You're a Death-Eater-…"
"Allegedly," Carrow interjected. Horseshit! I saw you at the meetings, whenever you did decide to leave this wretched country. You were there, same as your brother and sister, and just like them, you killed without hesitation.
"You're a Death-Eater," Sebastian all but growled, sneering at the raven-haired wizard. "I've no idea what games you're playing here, Arcturus, but they're going to end unless you let me and mine go-"
"You really did ignore me, didn't you?" Carrow chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief. "I can't let you go-"
"What? Because Harkin is spreading lies about me and James? About a sick boy?" Sebastian hissed, he had been listening most intently, even if he had chosen to remain silent. "We did not steal a leaf from that fucking tree… We didn't! We asked for permission, just like everyone else, and he rejected us, just like everyone else. The only difference is that I was the one asking, a man of means-"
"If you think Asmodeus Harkin needs you for anything, then you're as delusional as always, Sebastian," Carrow's smirk grew rather cruel, his eyes flashing. "Men like you and Harkin are not even in the same league, so trust me, you should be glad that we came for you, rather than him. Now, enough of this conversation, I'm here to do a job, and until I get what I want from you, you're not leaving this room." Carrow then looked to the door. "Unless there's an accident, and you need emergency treatment… That's the only way you leave this room without singing like a canary for me."
"How can you even entertain the notion that a child was behind that massacre…?" Sebastian shook his head, putting on his best act. "All you have is the name of an Elf, that's it… There could be a hundred Martys running about Magical Britain-"
"There aren't, we've checked with your Ministry's records," Carrow stopped him, his gaze becoming more intense. "And no, we've not shared any of this with them, they'd just waste it. No, we know your boy was there that night, and we're going to find the proof we need eventually. You know it, I know it, even the Aurors outside know it… Luck runs out, Sebastian, and your boy's gotten lucky enough times, I think." It's not luck, and I have a strong feeling that you'll figure that out for yourself soon enough.
"We didn't steal anything," Sebastian stuck to his story, just as he knew James would too. "That's all I have to say, so do whatever you must, but I'm done with you." I failed to protect him, Mary, but I won't fail to get vengeance on those who hurt him…
"Then, you've left me no choice…" Carrow stood up, fixing his dark robes into place. "If you and James won't talk, then perhaps Susana will?"
Sebastian felt his throat tighten a little, he didn't want this Death-Eater anywhere near Susana Davis. Never again!
"Stay away from her and Tracey," Sebastian whispered warningly, his tone even making Carrow think twice. "You want to come after me? Fine… You want to go after James? That's fine too… But if you bring this fight into our homes, then we'll do the same damn thing when we get out of here."
"That would frighten me, if my wife wasn't a dullard and my daughters weren't anchors holding me down," Carrow said coldly, causing Sebastian's stomach to freefall. What…? What did he just say? "Go on, please, keep making your empty threats. I'd rather you realize for yourself that there's no way out of this. No more gold. No more favours. Nothing. Only the truth can set you free, now, Sebastian." He-… This heartless bastard, I actually believe him…
"You… You fucking cockroach…" Sebastian was dumbfounded, how could a man think so lowly of his own family?
"Cockroaches are survivors, as am I," Carrow leaned forward. "Now… Should we keep going? Or, are you finally going to give me what I want? Was Ronald Weasley involved in the Pureblood killings committed on the nineteenth of February, 1994? If so, what was his goal? Is he attempting to cause political upheaval? Does he plan to take more power and put it in his family's hands before he expires? What does a terminally ill boy gain from getting mixed up in all this? I know you know, Sebastian, and if you give a damn about your girls, you'll tell me everything."
Sebastian looked back down to the table's grimy surface, praying for a miracle as Carrow went on and on. I know I can hold out, but James… Putting him back inside a cell… These fucking bastards. I won't forget this. I won't forgive this. There'll come a day when our positions are reversed, Arcturus, and unlike you, I won't bother with the questions.
The Champion's POV
Magical Congress of the United States of America
The Champion pressed his forehead against the cool tiles as his hollow eyes watched the blood circle the drain before forever vanishing, all his sins being washed away by the cold water. Five more monsters destroyed…
The Champion banged his head against the tiles, gritting his teeth. "…Soon… Soon, it'll be my turn…" Be patient, be strong. Nothing lives forever, and We can still take solace in that. Even We'll die, someday, and that's reason enough to keep fighting.
"What's going on in there?" came a woman's voice, belonging to one of the two Aurors who were waiting on him to finish showering. "Leonard, I think he's fallen over-"
"He's fine…" came a colder voice. "Finish up already, boy. We don't have all night."
"Just let him have this, at least… Didn't you see what they put him through?" What you put me through, you mean. You were both there, after I was done with those cunts. You played your parts, so don't act like you care now.
"What they put him through? Reyes was right about him, Cassandra… He murdered five people and didn't even bat an eyelash. Trust me, this one should be locked up, not working with us. Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with that country? Every bastard I've met from there is crazy…"
"I know, but… That's Ronald Weasley…" the woman all but whispered, but the Champion still heard her clear as day. Is it…? I don't even feel like a person anymore… I feel like one of my training dummies, just getting beat down only to stand back up for more. No, I'm not Ronald Weasley… This wasn't supposed to be his life…
The Champion turned off the shower, shivering as he summoned a towel to his scarred hand. His head felt as though it would explode any second now, all of his internal conflict spilling out for the world to see and laugh at. I'd laugh too, actually… Look at the cunt who wants nothing more than to be someone else…
Drawing in a deep breath, the Champion put on a cold smirk as he wrapped the towel around his waist. Strength. Show them nothing but strength. Stepping out of the shower, the Champion immediately came face to face with his babysitters.
The woman averted her gaze almost immediately, obviously uncomfortable because of his scarred form, whereas the man just sneered in disgust. It's just mangled flesh… What's that compared to Our mangled soul?
"Fucking Dark Wizards… Were those scars worth delving into the Dark Arts, huh?" the man asked, shaking his head. "Was it worth your miserable life?"
The Champion's smirk only grew, as it had been entirely worth it. If it weren't me, it'd have been Neville, or, Merlin forbid, Hermione, who the Dark Lord would've attacked… So, yes, it was worth it. I did my duty that night, and I would do it all again, because that's all I'm good for… Taking the hits.
The man's look of disgust only got worse, his lips squeezing together tightly as if he had just sucked a lemon.
"Leonard…" the woman frowned, before shooting the Champion a sorry look. "Um… Your clothes are right there, Mr. Weasley, we'll give you some privacy." This one is soft; she will give Us what we require.
"Shouldn't one of you stay behind?" the Champion asked, his voice low and gentle. "In case I decide to run away, or, something?"
"And where would you go, exactly?" the man asked.
"I don't know… Where does your mother live?" the Champion asked in return.
"St. Mathew's Cemetery…" the man replied, already heading for the door. "One of your goddamn people put her there… You can watch him, Cassandra. I can't even look at this shit for another second, ugly bastard is turning my stomach." Yes… Ugly… Hideous, even. That's what We are, and don't you forget it, Leonard, because We won't forget you. We know that face, now, and We'll take it when you least expect it.
Ignoring the insults, the Champion moved over to his clothes, smiling to himself when he heard the door click shut. Just you and Us, now, Cassandra.
"…I'm really sorry about him…" the woman suddenly said, her voice barely audible. "It's been a long night for everyone involved, and Leonard's always been…" she trailed off. "Well, he's lived rough, but that's not really an excuse, I guess… Sorry." Why are you sorry? Kick me when I can't fight back, go on… I don't care anymore. Call me names, spit on me, even… Why should you be any different, eh?
"It's okay, I'm used to it," the Champion said casually, he'd taken far worse than his insecurities being attacked. "I'm guessing that a Death-Eater killed his mother?"
"A Snatcher… Many of them fled here during the war, when the British Aurors started using Unforgivables left, right, and centre," she replied. "One of them broke into her home, killed her for her jewellery." Bloody hell… Poor woman, losing her whole life over some fucking baubles.
"I'm sorry to hear that," the Champion said, fastening his gauntlets. "No one should die like that, murdered in the safety of their own home. She deserved better."
"That's odd of you to say, given what we know about you…" You know nothing.
"Are you referring to the Carrow Twins?" the Champion asked, not caring about hiding anymore. What are they going to do? Throw me in their dungeons again?
"…I saw the pictures in your Quibbler, Mr. Weasley… I saw what you did to them… To all of them."
"And? What did you think?"
"I…" she looked conflicted, maybe even a little scared. "I think what you saw in that place made you angry, and rightfully so, but… Well, there's a lot of people who won't see their slice of justice, because you ate the whole cake by yourself, and that's not right. At least, in my eyes." Fuck your eyes, and your stupid fucking opinions, you cunt.
"What justice were they getting, exactly?" the Champion laughed at her stupidity, outright ignoring her frown. "Tell me, were you lot going to show up at some point during the night? Were you going to save those poor fucks down in those dungeons? No… No, you couldn't have cared less when those people were being slaughtered and defiled for the sake of 'entertainment', because, let's face it, you can't even wipe your own arse unless your superiors give you permission first. You're just upset that I took your glory-"
"Glory?" she blinked, taking a step back. "There was no glory in what I saw… And if you think that there was, then maybe Leonard was right about you, Mr. Weasley. Maybe we should lock you away. If not for the safety of others, then for your own." She then turned on her heel, heading for the door in a hurry. "Excuse me, I'm going to step outside as well… Get changed, the higher-ups still need to talk to you." She's in a hurry to leave all of a sudden, isn't she?
"It's easy to feel disgusted by my actions, isn't it? To look at me and decide that you're the better person?" the Champion asked, stopping her by the door. "And it's even easier to say that you care about life, that you'll do more for your fellow man, but I was there when those people needed saving, while you Aurors were sitting pretty in your offices, eating fucking waffles… You all knew what the Carrow Twins were doing, you had those damn files, didn't you? Then, why? Why not act, even if it got you into hot waters? Why not stand up and do your duty? Tell me, Auror, isn't it your duty to protect Wizarding Kind? To preserve life and bring about order amidst all this chaos? If my actions are so evil, then what does your inaction say about you, eh? What does it say about your pissy little friend? From what I've seen so far, you lot are only good at two things… Setting up ambushes, and beating brain-damaged teenagers over the head."
She winced at that, averting her gaze. Not proud? Why not? You lot were perfectly happy before, so why act like you have regrets now?
"People like you, Cassandra, disgust me more than any fucking Death-Eater ever could," the Champion continued, his harsh tone cutting her down to size. "At least, they're honest about what they do and what they want… Death and destruction for anyone who isn't like them… But you, and Leonard, and Bellator, and those two pricks running this whole operation under everyone's noses… You lot are cowards who will never take a good, long look in the mirror, and as a result, you'll just keep pretending that your crimes are justified. I mean, have a look at your friend, eh? He helped organise those five deaths, and yet, it's me he has an issue with… I'm the one who should be locked away, right?" The Champion then grinned, enjoying watching her squirm. "What I did to the Carrows and their friends, it was barbaric and merciless, but I'll never apologize for it, because I know who I am. I know what I am. Can you claim the same, Auror?"
She said nothing, opting to stare at him darkly before she suddenly turned back around and stormed out, slamming the door shut behind her. Did I touch a nerve? Good. You lot are just as foul as me, and I'll make sure you understand this fact before the end.
The Champion silently went back to dressing himself, somewhat regretting antagonizing Cassandra as opposed to getting vital information out of her. Eh, not a big loss, I'll still meet them all, eventually. It did, however, feel great to bring her down a peg. Acting like she's so holy, all the while aiding in the executions of locked up prisoners.
Merlin, he hated this world so much, and he couldn't wait until he was finally rid of it. Soon… Be patient, be strong. Our time will come yet.
Thirty Minutes Later
"I've heard that you're making fast friends," Reyes said as he entered the interrogation room. "Oh, and sorry about keeping you in here, but it's best that no one sees you wandering about. It would cause quite the commotion."
The Champion nodded, not really listening as he was too busy staring at the white wall in front of him. That is, until Reyes moved into view, taking a seat and smiling at the Champion. He's here alone? Where's the fried one?
"Where is the other one?" the Champion asked. "Your friend with the blue eyes?"
"Who? Jerimiah?" Reyes asked, his voice was rather pleasant on the ears. At least, he's polite. I'll give him a quick death. "He's making sure that no one discovers what we did last night."
"Covering your arse, are you?"
"Yours too, Mr. Weasley," Reyes chuckled, reaching down and pulling up his briefcase. "No one will miss those prisoners, of course, but you know how the public is… They don't understand that we're on their side." You're on your side. Same as me, same as everyone else. Stop pretending to be good, because men like us are nothing but poison.
"More files?" the Champion asked, keeping his cool as he casually eyed Reyes' missing fingers. "Did you lose those in the war?" Since we're alone, I might as well get some answers from him. No way is this a coincidence, he's missing the exact same fingers as Harkin. Right down to the fucking knuckles.
"I did, yes," Reyes replied with a smile. Liar. No one smiles when they remember the war.
"Yes, in fact," Reyes' smile only grew. "Why the sudden interest in my missing fingers, Mr. Weasley?"
"Just wondering why you chose not to have them reattached, given that the Severing Charm's damage can be healed quite easily," the Champion smiled back. "Any competent Healer could do it, unless the fingers were lost entirely."
"They were indeed lost, buried under rubble, in fact" Reyes replied, no doubt lying once again. "Now, shall we move on?" I need to find some way to make him talk.
"Move on to what?" the Champion asked, deciding to be just as civil with Reyes. "I thought I'd be well out of your hair by now, given that you promised me I could leave after…" he trailed off.
"Yes, I remember, and you certainly may, but only after I tell you what I need from you," Reyes nodded. "I'm going to be dead honest here, that's the only way our new partnership works, and I hope you'll return the favour." You just lied to my face not a minute ago… What the fuck?
"Please, go on," the Champion kept smiling, he'd already decided to play nice until he got his chance.
"Jerimiah and I made a promise to one another a long, long time ago…" Reyes began, popping open his briefcase and pulling out a thin folder. "We swore to each other that we'd put an end to Blood Supremacy, and not just in our beloved country, but all over the Wizarding World." What did he just say? He's going to end Blood Supremacy, is he? Him and that fried fuck?
"Top-notch job so far, lads," the Champion barely held back a laugh. "You're really sticking it to those cunts-"
"Our promise still stands, Mr. Weasley, despite our wrinkles, and I'll caution you not to laugh at a man like me," Reyes said, polite as ever. "You are now a part of this promise, because I think you're just like us, even if Jerimiah believes otherwise. You attacked the Carrows not because you wanted those Pure-Bloods out of the way, but rather, because you couldn't stand what they were doing to their 'fellow man'." He's definitely spoken to Cassandra, then. I wonder what she told him. Probably that I'm foul and need to be put down, which isn't entirely wrong. "Am I wrong in this assessment?"
The Champion stared back at the man; he clearly wanted an answer this time.
"They were raping children…" the Champion said simply, his icy voice widening Reyes' smile to a comical degree. We would butcher them again, if We could.
"If I had known about you before… Well, I would have approached you much sooner, Mr. Weasley, and under very different circumstances," Reyes said. "However, we must all play with the cards we're dealt, rather than the cards we want, and as such, here we are… On the same side, regardless of how we got here." Yes, yes, I fucking get it already. Just shut up and tell me what you want.
"What's that folder?" the Champion asked, hoping to move things along.
"It's everything we have on your mentor," Reyes handed the Champion the file. Lord Greengrass?
Without hesitation, the Champion opened the folder, only to find himself staring at the moving picture of a bruised and battered Lord Greengrass, adorned in very familiar black robes. The robes of a Death-Eater… This picture is old, he looks so much younger.
"That picture was taken after he was captured, we had a copy sent to us for our records," Reyes continued. "But everything in that file, your Ministry has no idea about it. These are all of his shady dealings, his shameless crimes, that we caught wind of in the past decade. Extortion. Bribery. Poisoning Centaur land in order to steal it. Dumping waste in Merpeople waters, only to clean it up later for publicity. He's quite the piece of work, your mentor, and it's clear that gold means more to him than the lives of others."
The Champion said nothing, simply electing to read these crimes for himself. He really poisoned Centaur crops? Just so he could buy the land they were living on when they moved on? Bloody hell, here's a copy of the deed… He really did buy that land. And the Merpeople… He told me he helped them; I still remember that conversation. He told me that it cost him a fortune, but he failed to mention that he was the one polluting those waters in the first place.
Ron felt his grip tighten on the folder, his eyes glaring murder at the bruised Death-Eater in front of him. You… piece of… filth… Fucking Death-Eater scum!
The Champion suddenly drew in a sharp breath, closing the folder before his rage took over completely and he did something foolish. Reyes, thank Merlin, didn't feel the need to rub the truth in any further, and he chose to remain quite until the Champion broke the silence. Think! Stop sitting around, and act!
"I take it that you have proof of his crimes…" the Champion muttered, thinking of Daphne, Astoria, and Mary. If this information gets out, they'll be painted with the same brush as him… Damn you, Sebastian Greengrass, you fucking liar!
"Here," Reyes pulled out another folder, this one was much thicker. "Associates, Elves, allies, and even henchmen… We picked up a lot of these people after they left his service, and we managed to get testimonies, as well as memories, for proof. Now, memories, as you know, can't be used in trials, but these testimonies… They're legit, and we still have witnesses who'll roll on him for immunity. All the recorded testimonies are in this one, I put them all together for you."
The Champion took the thicker folder, opening it and reading through the first testimony that caught his eyes. 'It was all for publicity! Greengrass was the one who poisoned those waters, and it was all for publicity, I'm telling you! He got the Ministry to exempt him from a year's worth of taxes, even the fucking Minister shook his hand like they were goddamn cousin! He set it all up!'-…
"Mr. Weasley?" Reyes cut in. "You look pale, should I call for a Healer?" No Healers… Just let me fucking die, please…
Ron closed the folder, his chest felt like it was going to burst open any second now, revealing his aching heart to Reyes. Why is everyone so cruel…? Just… why…? What does Lord Greengrass need more land for? Why would he…? Fuck… FUCK! I don't understand! WHY?!
Ron lowered his head, letting out a shaky breath. Soon… Just a little longer, old boy… Just a little longer…
"I'm sorry, it gives me no pleasure to show you these," Reyes sighed out, closing his briefcase and hiding it away. "These are actually meant to be a gift; it was never my intent to upset you." Yes, it was… You're all just liars, trying to manipulate me… To use me… It's always the same, and it always will be. Why can't I just learn my lesson? Why am I so fucking stupid…?
"A gift, you say?" Ron all but whispered, not raising his gaze out of shame. "You've got a funny definition of the word, mate…"
"We can destroy his life, and his family's reputation, with this information," Reyes stated. "We had planned to leak these files eventually, once his crimes were too numerous to be ignored, but now… You can have them. Do with them as you please. Publish them, or, destroy them. It's up to you."
"You'll just let me destroy all this evidence you have on him?" Ron had to ask, looking up. "Why…?"
"Because I don't give a shit about Sebastian Greengrass, he's no Blood Supremacist. He's just another rich bastard who wants more and more, and he'll never be sated, not until he's eaten the whole fucking buffet. Men like him, they're not my problem, not until they start funding my enemies. You promise to keep him on the straight and narrow, and we'll leave him and his family be." Daphne and Astoria can't hear about this, it'll kill them. And Mary… Surely, she knows all about this already. She's his fucking partner in crime in all things, after all. Damn them both to hell… I just can't keep caring… Fuck it all. Fuck all of it, because I'm done…
"I…" Ron didn't know what to say, or, what to feel, anymore. "Thank you…" I'm going to read these once I'm out of here, and then, I'll destroy them, but not for him… He was Ronald Weasley's mentor, not ours.
"You're welcome," Reyes put on a softer smile. "And again, I'm very sorry-"
"What's this going to cost me?" the Champion asked, pushing his emotions down with Occlumency until he was entirely numb. Better. Perhaps We should ask for a Calming Draught? Just one sip would make this so much easier to bear.
"We have other files, Mr. Weasley, and not just on British Lords and Ladies," Reyes started, leaning forward. "And you have your own media outlet, which you have complete publishing control over. The Daily Prophet will never side with us, we just don't have the capital, but you are different. You report on current events that truly matter. Poverty. Lack of jobs. Homelessness. Segregation. Torture. Genocide. You are exactly what Jerimiah and I have been searching for, and considering your handiwork last night, you're more than just an aspiring businessman. You're a force of nature!" You've no idea how right you are, Heitor Reyes. No idea at all.
"You want me to publish these files? I'll be ruined the moment I do that, because I need a reliable source behind me when I make such slanderous claims," the Champion said. "People will ask where the information is coming from, and if I tell them that I can't share your identity, they'll say I'm making things up. That I'm out for attention once again."
"Then, find another way to use the information we give you," Reyes said. "Because we're not going to be your source. We can't be associated with you whatsoever; it would alert the worms we still need to bring to justice. Do what you did with the Carrow Twins. Use our information and find a weakness to exploit. You infiltrated that party with an Elf, right? Genius… No one would even think of using the servants to stage an infiltration, but you did. I have faith in you, Mr. Weasley. Faith that you can do even more good before your time runs out." Something is better than nothing, I suppose, and if his information helps me devastate the Dark Lord's forces, then refusing him would be nothing short of abandoning my duty.
"Send me everything you have on the British, the French, and the Russian Old Families-…" the Champion stopped. "Actually, send me a copy of everything you have. I want it all. And send me those tomes too, the ones filled with Wandless Magic. I want all of them." If knowledge is power, then knowledge is what I will seek. Far and wide, all over this world if need be.
"Eager to get started?" Reyes beamed, giving the Champion an approving nod.
"I started a long time ago…" the Champion said, speaking more to himself than to the confused Reyes. "Can I leave, now?"
"Of course, follow me," Reyes stood up, fixing up his robes. "I'll take you to your companions, they're all safe-"
The door suddenly burst open, and Bellator raced in, out of breath. What the-?
"We have a fuckin' problem, Sir," Bellator spoke straight to Reyes, who just stared right through her. "Sorry… Didn't mean to interrupt you two-"
"What is it, Lucia?" Reyes asked, returning to his polite-self. "I've never known you to rush-"
"Dumbledore is here, and he's fuckin' mad… He knows we have him, Sir," she blurted out, and for the first time, the Champion saw fear flicker across Reyes' face. The old man is here?! For me? Really…? Wait, I can use this to gain the upper hand before I fuck off! Quick, act now, you damn fool!
"You lot fucked up, didn't you?" the Champion grinned, basking in their growing confusion and dread. "Don't worry, though, I'll protect you from the big bad wolf before he blows your fucking Ministry away."
Albus Dumbledore's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (MACUSA Headquarters – Dead of Night)
The Aurors had moved in quickly, surrounding Albus and Severus the moment their Portkey had brought them into the heart of the Magical Congress of the United States of America. I count… thirty-three. It seems that the American Aurors have been recruiting, if they have over thirty Aurors on call this late at night.
MACUSA was just as grand as Albus remembered it, the main hall alone being several hundred feet tall, featuring gold and black accents all along the decorated walls. The overly large Magical Exposure Threat Level Measurer hung above all their heads, having been recently moved to the most crowded part of the vast building.
And at the centre of it all stood the monument commemorating the many lives lost during the Salem Witch Trials, both Muggle and Magical. Four large Phoenix statues sat atop four columns made of gold, overseeing another group of statues before them, that of three women, a man, and a child, all of them holding hands in a circle. At the very foot of the monument, four Latin words had been carved into the stone; 'Integritas, Unitas, Virtus, Magia'. Integrity. Unity. Valour. Magic. The creed of the American Aurors.
"Albus Dumbledore, welcome back to MACUSA," came the familiar voice of Jerimiah Wilkinson, the Head of the DMLE within the States. "It has been a long time since you graced us with your presence."
Albus took a step forward, smiling at the blue-eyed, scarred man.
"Jerimiah Wilkinson, thank you for the warm welcome," Albus chuckled, amused by how serious they all looked. Angry children, must I spank you first before I speak? I hope not, I wish to do this quickly and quietly, for all our sakes.
"I'm assuming that you used an illegal Portkey to get here?" Jerimiah asked, his voice was cold enough to send a chill up even Albus' spine. I've only ever spoken to him in passing, but his reputation… They say he was born without a heart, and that he only ever smiled during the height of the Wizarding War, when he was burning Tom's followers alive by the dozens. "It couldn't have been your Phoenix; this building is warded against them. Only way in is through the floo, or, Portkey, and I don't smell any firewood…"
"Are you going to arrest me?" Albus asked, his smile slowly vanishing as he looked at each and every Auror. "Come, arrest me, then."
Not a single one of them moved, most looked genuinely frightened when they saw the fire behind Albus' eyes. You have all taken someone very dear to me, and I am here to take him back.
"We would never arrest a man like you, and I doubt we could even if we wanted to," Jerimiah said, signalling his Aurors to sheathe their wands. "Put those away. Now. This man has always been a friend to us, and we will return the honour." A wise choice. "What can we do for you, Headmaster? What brings you to us so late into the night?"
"Ronald Weasley," Albus replied, immediately noticing a few shifty eyes. "I hear that you've arrested him unlawfully-"
"Arrested?" Jerimiah repeated, his expression utterly unreadable. "I'm afraid that you've been misled, Headmaster. We have not arrested Ronald Weasley, we are caring for him." Is that what you call it?
"Explain," Severus demanded, stepping up to Albus' side.
"He had a seizure the moment he landed, it seems the distance was too much for his frail health," Jerimiah started, while Albus felt his blood boil inside his veins. "He's currently sleeping in our infirmary, drifting in and out of consciousness-"
"Enough lies!" Albus' voice suddenly boomed, and a wave of errant Magic erupted out of him, blowing past the Aurors and even knocking a few over.
Albus even felt Severus go as stiff as a plank by his side, while Jerimiah just stood there, staring through Albus as if he were less than nothing. Utterly unfazed… This is a dangerous man. A very dangerous man.
"Return him to me at once," Albus commanded, matching Jerimiah's gaze. "I will not ask again."
For what felt like hours, the two men stood perfectly still, their eyes and wills clashing against one another, until very suddenly, a loud 'ding' broke the overbearing silence. What was that-?
"Headmaster! Professor Snape!" came Ronald's cheery voice from the elevators behind them. Ronald?! Dear boy, is that truly you?!
Albus and Severus both turned around immediately, only to see Ronald marching up to them with his usual grin in place. Behind him was Chief Lucia Bellator, and the Head of the Federal Bureau of Covert Vigilance and No-Maj Obliviation, Heitor Reyes. Jerimiah Wilkinson's partner in crime… I hear they've joined their Departments entirely over the last decade, their operative working together to completely control the country with brain and brawn.
Albus looked back to Ronald, who stopped right in front of him before shooting him a wink. "You missed me that much, did you? I was only gone for a couple of days, Sir."
Albus felt relief wash over him unlike ever before, and he had to physically restrain himself from pulling Ronald into a tight embrace. He looks unharmed, that is all that matters. Clearly, something is off here, but I'm sure he'll explain everything to us-…
"You're… not a prisoner here?" Severus whispered, looking the young wizard up and down. "Get that stupid grin off your face, boy, do you have any idea-?"
"Severus," Albus stopped the man, who just clenched his jaw at the ever-grinning Ronald. "Ronald, are you hurt?"
"I'm okay, just trust me," Ronald whispered back, before looking to Jerimiah. "Cheers again for taking care of me, it was most kind of you." He's putting on an act, isn't he? Is that why he winked at me just before? Very well, I trust you, my boy, and I will follow your lead in this.
Having decided to play along, both Albus and Severus looked back to Jerimiah, who gave Ronald a soft nod. "Think nothing of it, Mr. Weasley. Shall I alert your companions that you are fit to leave?"
"Please do," Ronald nodded back, and without a word, Jerimiah turned on his heel and vanished amongst his Aurors. And why are his companions not with him already? They must think Severus and I are fools.
"Don't you all have work to do?!" Chief Bellator barked at her men, gesturing them to return to their desks.
As the main hall was slowly emptied, Albus finally realized how utterly lifeless MACUSA felt at night. Strange… Usually, even at this hour, the British Ministry is bursting with life. Where is everyone? Don't they have nightshifts here?
"The President gave everyone a few nights off," came Reyes' voice, as if he had read Albus' mind. "It's the start Easter Break, after all. We've always followed Hogwarts' dates, as you well know, and family is most important." Or, he cleared the building so you could ambush Ronald and hide him away. Either way, I'll be speaking to President Harper very soon.
"Sounds like a decent bloke," Ronald smiled at Reyes, who smile back and gave a nod. The man who never sleeps; President Jack Harper. He and Ronald would get along famously, they're both obsessed with their work. "Shame I never got to see him… Must be very busy, given that he didn't even visit me once."
"He's away, at the moment," Reyes said, smiling right at Albus. "I can't discuss his comings and goings, of course, but I'm sure you'll run into him eventually. He's not the sort to ignore sick children."
"Is he free to go?" Severus cut in, giving Reyes an icy look.
Something shifted behind the man's eyes when he looked to Severus, his fake smile faltering for a moment. "Of course, he is, 'Professor'…"
"Good, then get out of our faces," Severus hissed, pulling Ronald to his side and moving in front of him.
"Easy there, Death-Eater," Bellator said warningly. "I have no issues with beating some sense into deviants such as you." You can try, most certainly, but I doubt you'd manage one step before I send you screaming into oblivion-…
"I guess this is the part where we all start measuring our cocks, eh?" Ronald suddenly cut through the tension, nearly making Albus burst into laughter. "Shall I whip mine out first? Believe me, there's a reason why there's so many Weasleys running about, it's not even going to be close." Good lord, Ronald!
Albus coughed, clearing his throat as everyone else just stared at Ronald as if he were insane.
"Right…" Reyes suddenly shook his head clear, brushing off Ronald's comment. "Lucia, please escort them to the fireplaces. I'm certain that Mr. Weasley is eager to be on his way."
"Oh, you've no idea, mate," Ronald chuckled, his smile turning cold. Ronald? "I've work to do, after all." What work? What have you involved yourself in, now, my boy?
The Champion's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Four Seasons Hotel, New York – Crack of Dawn)
The sun was finally rising, illuminating all of Muggle Manhattan in a golden hue. It was an impressive city, and as the Champion stood on the balcony of his penthouse suite, the wind blowing through his hair; he stared down at the busy 'New Yorkers' running about, avoiding honking cars as they charged past one another without so much as a second glance.
The Champion could see them all, and not a single of them had any idea that their children would burn…
"Ronald?" Dumbledore suddenly patted his back, joining him on the glass balcony. "Merlin, this view is spectacular… In all my years… Look, you can even see beneath our feet! The sheer ingenuity of Muggles!" All of these tall towers won't mean a damn thing in the end… It's all just human vanity…
"What do they remember?" the Champion asked, staring blankly ahead. "Their memories have been altered, haven't they?"
Dumbledore drew in a long breath, giving the Champion a sorry nod. Fucking Reyes… He's in charge of the Obliviaters, he only wants me to remember what happened. Whatever, it saves me the headache of explaining-…
"All three of them remember sitting by your bedside, while you 'recovered' from your seizure," Dumbledore said, stroking his beard. "Severus has found minor signs of Memory Alteration, but it's not significant enough to investigate. Heitor Reyes employs only the best, it seems."
"How are they physically?" the Champion asked, he hadn't even spoken to them yet, as just the sight of Greengrass had soured his mood completely. The Great Deceiver… He will regret his lies to Us.
Dumbledore waited, studying the Champion's empty eyes and rigid posture. "Ronald…? Is something bothering you?" Yes, your entire fucking species is a bother.
"I asked you a question," the Champion looked to Dumbledore, making the old man blink.
"…They are unharmed, but tired," Dumbledore replied slowly. "Are you angry with them?"
"What makes you say that?" the Champion asked in response, looking back ahead.
"Well, you all but ignored them, and in their minds, you've just woken up from a small coma," Dumbledore started. "Ronald, I do not know what happened to you down there, but they are very worried about you. Even Artyom." You know his name? Of course, you do, you're too nice not to…
"Albus, Ron," came Professor Snape's voice, he too had stepped outside to join them. "It's cold up here…" It's cold down there too. This whole world is cold.
"My boy, I'm beginning to worry-"
"I killed five prisoners last night," the Champion confessed, not even looking in their direction. "I butchered them." And it felt good… It felt right!
Dumbledore and Snape exchanged looks, before Dumbledore suddenly moved into the Champion's eyesight. "Ronald, what do you mean you killed five prisoners? Explain yourself, my boy."
"Those damn Aurors… I knew it!" Snape hissed, shaking his head.
"Take a seat, I need to go grab a couple of folders from my trunk," the Champion turned around, heading towards the door. "I've found us another powerful ally, my friends, and the butchery has only just begun."
The Champion slid the glass door aside, stepping back into the penthouse. It was one their finest suites, and Greengrass owned it, no doubt bought with the same gold he had used to poison Centaur children. Over a dozen Centaurs died from those foul crops, and not one of them suspected the vermin who would buy their land the moment their herd moved on for greener pastures. So, this is how he does business, eh? Is this how they all do business? Well, I'll know soon enough, once Reyes delivers those files. I'll know everything.
Ignoring the extravagance and luxury all around him, the Champion stopped in front of his trunk, which was still sitting alone by the fireplace. With a flick of his hand, he both unlocked and summoned the folders he wanted, tucking them under his arm as he began moving back towards the glass door.
"Wait…" came Artyom's groggy voice, the large Russian had stumbled out of his bedroom. "Hold on, I need to speak to you…"
"You should rest, Artyom, you were up all night-"
"No, I wasn't," Artyom grit out, and the Champion stopped, turning to face the mercenary. "I would never sit there… I would never let Aurors do my work. We have safehouses in Manhattan. I would have taken you there." He knows his memories were tampered with because he already knew what to do if I got sick after travelling? "I know you are sick. I prepared for it. My memories are wrong. They have to be…" Now, that's a man who's sure of himself right there!
"Bloody hell…" the Champion chuckled, shaking his head in disbelief. "You're a fucking demon, mate. An absolute demon!"
Artyom blinked, and then, he began to frown. "They played with my mind?"
"Had to be done, the other two can't know about these," the Champion replied, gesturing towards the folders under his arm. "Come outside, actually. It's past time you were brought up to speed."
Artyom simply gave a nod, following the Champion outside without hesitation. Dumbledore and Snape were already debating over what the American Aurors were up to, but they both stopped the moment they saw Artyom.
"I showed him the end of the world," the Champion told them outright, not keen to waste any time. "He's with us."
"You showed him your memories?" Snape immediately frowned. "You should have discussed it with us-"
"I make the decision, you follow," the Champion shut him up, the temperature around them dropping even more so. "That's how this works. You don't like that; I'll throw you both off of this balcony right now. How's that for a discussion?"
Snape let out a long breath, pinching his hooked nose before looking to a confused Dumbledore. "You want to say something to him?" For fuck's sake, can we please just get on with it?! Why does every fucking thing I do need a discussion?!
"Are you with us?" Dumbledore simply asked Artyom, though his eyes kept travelling towards the Champion. "Even after what you saw?"
"I am, because of what I saw," Artyom said simply, taking a seat and giving the Champion a nod. "What happened?"
"The Aurors ambushed us, beat you and me bloody," the Champion began, handing out Greengrass' files. "They put me in a room with five of the Dark Lord's old followers, and after I was done with them, the Aurors offered me a partnership-"
"This could potentially destroy Greengrass," Snape suddenly cut in, he had the testimony folder. "They just handed this over to you?"
"They have information on every Pure-Blood, and not just the British and American ones," the Champion couldn't help but smile a little, the sheer thought of having the upper hand for once was exhilarating. They will beg for mercy, but they will find none. "They want to cripple Blood Supremacy, once and for all, and they've been at this for a while from what I could tell. This, you lot, is exactly what we need-"
"Ronald, we cannot work with these people," Dumbledore suddenly cut in. And why not? "You just told us that they had you murder five prisoners, men and women who were already in captivity… That is a war crime, and they forced a child to commit it. No, we cannot work with such people. Committing to another mistake to fix a previous one solves nothing." A child? Really?
"Don't call Us a child… We are far, far more," the Champion whispered coolly, his eyes flashing red. Show some respect. Have We not earned it yet?!
"We?" Dumbledore blinked, before his expression softened. "My boy, you are beginning to worry me deeply… Please, sit down for a moment, let's talk about what they did to you-"
"They didn't do anything that everyone else hasn't done already," the Champion said bluntly. "And I'm going to work with them, because I don't have the luxury of having a morality as grand as yours, Headmaster. You can either join me, or, you can go back to being a useless old man in your ivory tower." The Champion then took a step forward, his eyes turning wholly red. "But know this… I will not forgive you this time…"
Dumbledore stared long and hard into those hateful eyes, while the Champion observed the fear behind his. That's what I thought. The Champion then looked to Snape, who was eagerly reading through the testimonies with a furrowed brow.
"He's already on board," the Champion told the old man, his eyes returning to normal. "Two against one. We're doing this."
"Severus…?" Dumbledore all but whispered.
"Do they have similar information on the Russian Families?" Snape asked the Champion.
"I'll know soon enough, they're going to make copies and send them to me," the Champion replied, noticing that Snape looked conflicted. "Professor, we need this information, now more than ever-"
"How do we know this information is even real?" Dumbledore asked. "What if this is just another manipulation? These are dangerous people, Ronald, and they have schemes of their own."
"Well, the man who poisons and pollutes is sleeping not far from us," the Champion replied. "I will confront him once he is awake, and if that folder is telling the truth, then so are the Aurors."
"He's a bloody piece of work, I'll give him that," even Snape frowned at what he was reading.
"He is a liar, and now, I've caught him," the Champion walked over to the edge of the balcony, staring longingly at the street below. One more step, and then, silence… Beautiful silence… "He actually told me that he was helping those Merpeople because no Muggle-Born ever would, but he never once mentioned that they wouldn't even need his help if he weren't polluting their waters… He tricked Us…"
"Ronald, why don't we head back inside?" Dumbledore took a step closer, placing a gentle hand on the Champion's shoulder. "We can discuss this further-"
"There is no discussion!" Ron suddenly barked, smacking the old man's hand away. Stop putting your hands on me! "I have spoken, and that is that! You know what?! Fuck off! All of you! I want to be left alone! I don't want to hear your damn opinions! I just need you to do your fucking jobs before I rot away from the inside!" He fucking lied to Us! Tricked Us! Damn him, and damn Us!
The glass beneath their feet began to crack, but Artyom fixed it immediately with a wave of his wand, before rising to his full height. "You heard him. Time to go."
Dumbledore just stood there, his kind and understanding expression still in place. Stop staring at me like that! Stop it! No one should look at me like that! Not after all the things I've done!
"Ronald… I'm sorry he's hurt you, but do not make decisions with a broken heart… I have made that mistake before, and it never ends well."
"Leave…" Ron managed, his voice shaking as his eyes welled up. "Now…" Bury it… Bury it all!
The Champion drew in a shaky breath, his gloved hand trembling as it failed to massage his aching temple. It hurts… Why is everyone so cruel…? We hate it here…
Artyom moved over to the door, sliding it open before looking to Dumbledore and Snape. "Go. I will stay."
"Ronald, please…" Dumbledore pleaded, looking mad with worry.
The Champion sneered at the old man's sorry expression, before turning back around to face the skyline. "Leave the folders… We'll talk more once I'm back, I still have work to do." Someone has to save this shithole before it goes up in flames.
"You should come back with us-" Dumbledore tried, but Snape stopped him by raising his hand.
"Ron, Tracey is awake," Snape said, freezing the Champion in place. What…? What did he just say?!
"When…?" the Champion managed, slowly turning back around. "She… She's really awake? Is this a trick? Because if it is-"
"She is awake, my boy, thanks to you," Dumbledore smiled softly. Not thanks to me, I'm the one who put her in that coma in the first place. It was Octavia, she's the one who gave me the leaf. "We would never trick you-"
"Save it," the Champion stopped him, he had no plans of being tricked ever again. Can't trust anyone but Ourselves. We are truly alone in this fight, and We always have been. "When did she wake up?"
"Yesterday, news of it will be everywhere in a few hours," Snape replied. "Come with us, see her for yourself-"
"Artyom, go back with them and get London into her room," the Champion ordered. "No one goes in without her say so."
"Done," Artyom gave a nod. "I will return after."
"You don't want to see her?" Dumbledore looked baffled, while Snape just stood there, staring at the Champion as if he were a stranger. "Dear boy, this is most unlike you… What did they do to you?!"
Flashes of the battle between his past selves flashed through the Champion's mind, he could still hear the blood-curdling screams and the Entity's cruel laughter. No… No, I'm safe now… I won, and I escaped…
Ron closed his eyes and drew in another deep breath, trying his hardest to think of Tracey's laughter, but her gurgling on her own blood was all he could remember at this point. Merlin, I never knew Theo could scream like that-…
He suddenly felt two hands fall onto his shoulders, and when he reopened his eyes, he was met with Dumbledore's. The old man looked fiercely protective, much to Ron's surprise, before he suddenly pulled Ron into a hug, pressing the redhead's face against his beard. What is he-?
"Whatever has happened, Ronald, I am with you until the very end," Dumbledore promised, making Ron tense. Let go… Don't touch me… "Until the very end, my boy! Please, believe me!"
Silence fell over them, and Ron just stood there, utterly motionless and powerless. For what felt like eternity, Dumbledore held him in place, until his eyes began to grow heavier. I haven't slept since I woke up in that dungeon… I'm so tired…
"Come, let's get you to your bed," Dumbledore suddenly pulled back, and Ron nearly fell over. "Ronald!"
"I'm okay…" he lied, grabbing the railing for support.
"What are you just standing there for, you oaf?" Snape hissed at Artyom, who frowned at Snape before moving over and lifting Ron up like a baby. Tracey… I'm sorry for what I did to you… So sorry…
Daphne Greengrass' POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Greengrass Manor – Morning)
Daphne wiped her eyes one last time, before applying just enough makeup to hide the fact that she'd cried all night long. Grandfather and grandmother should be here any moment now… C'mon, Daphne, focus! You can cry when you come back!
Patting her cheeks in order to bring some of her colour back, Daphne put on her best smile before moving towards the door, her lengthy, silk dress fluttering behind her. Spinny was waiting for Daphne on the other side of the door, her eyes growing wider when she saw her Mistress.
"Mistress looks beautiful beyond description!" Spinny clapped her hands excitedly, having been the one who picked the dress.
"Thank you," Daphne replied, feeling more anxious than beautiful. "It's a bit… form-fitting… isn't it?"
"Mistress is a young woman now, and must dress accordingly!" Spinny countered, too caught up in her own excitement. So, mother picked this dress, then? She's certainly trying very hard to please these strangers… And from what I've heard so far, we shouldn't let people like them into our home. How would Ron feel? Isn't he a part of this household too? If they even look at him the wrong way, I'll have them thrown out of here in a heartbeat!
Deciding to keep her opinions to herself, for now, as to not ruin this reunion for her mother, Daphne silently began moving towards the main hall. Spinny followed after her, going on and on about how Daphne had grown over the years, but Daphne could barely keep her focus. Merlin, what's going to happen when Ron hears about Tracey's voice? And Theo… Oh, poor Theo… Tracey did so much to heal him with her words, but now, even that's gone…
Just the thought of Tracey was enough to make her eyes well up once again, the sheer cruelty of the Fates was truly unmatched, and it burned Daphne's heart out with resentment and bitterness.
Tracey had finally woken up, but now, she was refusing to see anyone, including Daphne, which hurt more than Daphne could bear. It was just unfair that even after getting her back, she was still lost to them… And I have to respect her decision, because she's the one who's lost her voice… I hope that assassin dies a painful death one day, as do his loved ones… Maybe I should spend some gold and find him? He had a scar on his nose and tanned skin, his descriptions were in every paper-…
"Mistress?" Spinny called, stopping Daphne in place. "Is everything all right…? Has Spinny caused offence-?"
"No, Spinny, I'm just… very tired… That's all," Daphne replied, shooting a smile at her Elf, who quickly smiled back. "Come, we mustn't be late." Jürgen could find him for me, I bet. I'll speak to him later, when mother and Astoria aren't around. I can't let this go, I just can't! Not after everything he's taken from Tracey! I'm going to take everything from him, and more!
As she descended the steps, she saw her mother and Astoria waiting for her below, both of them dressed to perfection. Mary was busy tying a silver bow in Astoria's hair, who immediately scowled when she saw Daphne in the more expensive, mature dress.
"I wanted green, mum!" she immediately complained, she'd been in a foul mood ever since news of Tracey had been shared with her. I'm just going to ignore her, or, I'm going to lose it this time. I just don't have the strength to put up with her foul behaviour anymore. She's never going to grow up, and she's never going to take any responsibility in this household. It's just all on my shoulders…
"Astoria, not today!" Mary snapped, her tone coming out much harsher than intended. "Just for one day, can you please…?" she trailed off, quickly wiping at her eyes. Mother… "Please, just behave yourself for one day-"
"Why aren't we with Tracey?!" Tori all but demanded, moving away from Mary and stomping her foot. "She's family! Not these random, pretentious-!"
"You are speaking of my mother and father, your own grandparents," Mary warned, her open palm rising just enough to silence Tori completely. "Just stop it, Astoria, or, I will recall your father, and he can deal with your growing attitude. Is that what you want?"
"No…" Tori muttered, her face pinching in defiance. "Fine… But I'm going to St. Mungo's right after-"
"Tracey is not taking visitors-"
"Then, I'll just sit outside her door," Tori countered, refusing to back down. You'd really do that? "I don't care! I want to be with her, not here!"
Oddly enough, Daphne felt her lips twitch upwards, despite Tori's lack of respect. Perhaps the little demon had a reason to be so riled up this morning, after all?
"I'll come with you, sister," Daphne promised, stopping just before taking the final step, and as such, towering over her mother and sister. "But until then, you will be nothing short of the perfect daughter today, or, I'll have Spinny lock you in the dungeons for the night."
"Excuse me?!" Mary went wide-eyed, while Tori cocked an uninterested eyebrow.
"Try it, go on," Tori challenged. "I'll shave you bald all over." And I'll just grow my hair back, after which I'll have your hands broken.
"You said so yourself, mother, we have to make a good impression, and I won't let this family become a laughing stock because you don't know how to raise your own daughter," Daphne ignored Tori, choosing instead to address the woman she was already doing such an unsavoury favour for. "And before you bring up father, know that I'm his Heir, and the future of this family. You don't tell me what to do anymore, I tell you what to do. Do you understand? Or, should I have Jürgen make that clear for you? Whose side is he going to take? Mine, the future Head of the Greengrass Bloodline, or, you, who only has a modicum of power, but only because of father?" There, let's see her try and stop me when I want to leave, now.
Everyone had gone perfectly still, including Tori, and Daphne found herself staring her own mother down. Don't push me today, I'm not going to be your punching bag after everything I've been through. Not for another second.
"…I see…" Mary said eventually, straightening up her dress and not bothering to hide her hurt. "…You sound so very much like Ron, now…" There's no greater praise than that.
"Good, because Ron is powerful, and I'm going to follow his example from now on, in everything," Daphne said coldly, moving past them both. "Astoria, come. You as well, mother. Let's get this over with, I have better things to do with my day than kiss the arses of the very same people who've spat on this family for well over a decade." I should never have reached out to them… This is all my doing, and now, I have to sleep in the bed I've made, as Ron likes to say. From now on, researching future partners should be my priority. I'll get knowledge first, and then, I'll get power. Power enough to keep my friends safe. Blaise. Tracey. Theo. Millie. Even Pans. They're going to need me, and I'm not going to fail them. Not ever again.
Stepping into the greeting room, Daphne made sure that she was at the front and in the middle, joined by Mary to her right and Astoria to her left. Jürgen and his lot were closing down all the fireplaces save for one, and when he saw them, he sauntered over with his monstrous teeth on full display.
Daphne shuddered at the sight, but she quickly recollected herself. He's truly frightening, even the sight of him could intimidate most. And his eyes are so beady, and he looks at us like we're… not people…
"Don't you all look perfect?" Jürgen greeted in German, making Tori giggle. "Especially you, my little Lady."
"Thank you," Tori gave a curtsy, making Jürgen snigger. "How was your morning, Jürgen?"
"Is everything in order?" Daphne cut in, and for a moment, Jürgen's eyes travelled towards Mary, before fixating entirely on Daphne. Merlin… Stop smiling, please.
"Yes, my Lady," Jürgen laughed, almost as if he were mocking Mary, having understood what was going on. "So, you're giving me orders, now?"
"Is that going to be a problem?" Daphne asked simply, her negative emotions giving her more strength than she knew she even had. Would Ron back down, now? No, he'd stand his ground, even if he was at a disadvantage.
"Gold is gold," Jürgen shrugged. "I have my men out on patrol, and I'll personally be with you for the day. No offence, my Ladies, but I do not trust these people." Then, we're of the same mind.
"Make sure you show them your teeth, Jürgen," Daphne said, making Jürgen laugh once again. "I want them to know that they need to pick their words very carefully the moment they enter. And if they insult Ronald Weasley in any shape or form, which they very well might, I want you to make a note of it and tell me after."
"If that is my Lady's command, then how can I refuse?" Jürgen responded, giving her a nod. "Anything else you need me to do? I can have their private affairs looked into while they're here, get us leverage in case we need it. They'll be distracted, there's no better time for it."
"Yes, do that, please," Daphne immediately felt a little better upon hearing that. "Thank you."
"At once, then," Jürgen turned on his heel, signalling one of his men over. "I've got a different job for you, Athens, come with me."
Once Jürgen had departed, Daphne drew in a deep breath and began staring at the only active fireplace.
"Daphne, what has gotten into you today?" Mary finally asked, her voice soft and motherly, now.
Daphne didn't bother with a response, giving her mother a taste of how it felt to be neglected constantly.
"I like it," Tori commented, much to Daphne's surprise. Is… Is she grinning at me? "When are we going to see Tracey, Daphne?"
"Once they've settled in, we'll go," Daphne promised, unable to bring herself to even smile, now. "Though, they should be here already… What's taking them so long?" Don't tell me that they're going to make us wait on them… They really have no respect for father, or, his kin, do they?
Millicent Bulstrode's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Bulstrode Manor – Breakfast)
"Millicent, dear, you've not even touched your plate," her mother reached over and patted her cheek. "And Merlin, you're burning up! Robert! She's been like this ever since she came home! Please, let's just take her to St. Mungo's, I'm beginning to dread!" Why are they acting like I don't know about their crimes? Do they think I'm stupid too? Probably, and I don't blame them, I've always been slow. I should just accept that about myself before I hurt more of my friends-…
"Pumpkin, what's the matter?" her father asked gently. "Are you not feeling hungry?" Hungry? Like those children you threw in those mines to die from malnutrition and abuse? No, I'm not hungry… I don't even know what hunger is… I've never experienced it, not even for a second.
Millie just stared silently at their vast dining table, all of her favourite foods had been cooked up, enough to feed a small village. Why do we need this much food on this table? There's only three of us… And… It's always been like this, when I think about it. We live as though we're royalty, but we're not. We're just… people…
"Robert, maybe she's coming down with something?" her mother started, twisting the knife in Millie's ribs. Stop pretending like you don't know what's wrong! Stop playing me for a fool!
"You sell people into slavery…" Millie finally whispered, her hands trembling beneath the table. "You are… You're both horrible people…"
Without even looking, she could tell that her parents were cut deeply by her words, and that they were just staring at her, utterly dumbfounded. How can you call yourselves loving parents, when you've orphaned hundreds? How can you even call yourself human? Ron was right about them; he knew just how morally corrupt they were… I'm such a stupid cow… I threw away my best friend for nothing…
"May I be excused?" Millie stood up, hiding her hands behind her back. "I'm not hungry-"
"How dare you speak to us like that, Millicent Bulstrode?!" her mother suddenly barked, always quick to lose her temper. "We are your parents, and you will show us the respect that comes with such a title! After all we've given you… How dare you?!"
Millie flinched, her face scrunching up before she started sobbing out all her hurt. I'm horrible too, just like them! All of my clothes, my entire life, is built on the backs of other people! Ron was right about them, but I was too stupid to understand! Why am I like this-?!
"Anne, leave us," Robert ordered, his expression calm and cold.
"Robert, she has no respect-!"
"Leave. Us," her father commanded, silencing his wife.
Millie shrunk even further, feeling her heart beat inside her throat. I've made him angry… Her mother shot out of her seat, looking both hurt and angry at the same time, before she stormed out of the dining room, barking at one of her elves to attend her. She's always yelling at them, like they're nothing. Ron would never speak to Marty like that, ever. He respects Marty-
"Sit down," her father ordered, and she did so without even thinking. "Now… Do you want to explain yourself to me? What was that just then?"
Millie found that she couldn't even open her mouth, all she could do was sniffle and let out weak whimpers. Her father stared at her for a few moments, and then, his shoulders sagged and he let out a long breath.
"Pumpkin, I'm sorry, I shouldn't speak to you that way…" he apologized, pulling out his handkerchief as he moved closer to her. "Come, let me clean you, then we can talk."
"Okay…" Millie managed, trembling as her father gently wiped away her tears before kissing her forehead.
"I'm sorry, I won't yell, I promise," he whispered. "But, pumpkin, you need to talk to me, okay? Because I think your friend Ronald has been whispering lies-"
"Don't!" she suddenly found her voice again, moving away from him as if he had the Dragon Pox. "Don't you start acting like I'm stupid too! I know you did this! You even wanted me to spy on him, father… How could you ask me that?! How can you ask me to betray my friends?!"
"Because he is not your friend," Robert tried, keeping his promise. "And Werewolves… My love, they're not people… They are animals who infect and destroy lives by the thousands. At least, in those mines, they can't hurt our kind. They can't orphan our children…"
Millie felt as though reality had slapped her right across the face… No, actually, it felt more like reality had beaten her bloody with a Beater's bat. They're not people, he says… By all the Gods…
Millie found herself jarred in place, her body trying to move but only managing tremors. I… I have to run away from here! They're ment-… They're mental!
"Listen, Millicent, times are changing," Robert leaned forward, his expression hardening. "I know you're young, but I was your age when my own Lord Father began teaching me how life really works in our broken, twisted world… Just look around, all these men I've hired are here to protect us from people like Ronald Weasley. He wants to destroy everything we are; he wants our family and friends to be paraded through the streets in chains. That, my love, is his true goal, and he is using you for that goal. I know this is hard to understand, or, even believe, but he will undo us all if we give him even the slightest opportunity-"
"He's not the one who murders children… You and mother are…" Millie just came out and said it, feeling her heart shatter into a million pieces. "You… are a liar… And you've made me into one too…"
Robert blinked, slowly leaning back in his chair, his expression weakening until he hid his gaze. I'm right, aren't I? All these strangers marching about our home… You want to give them to the Dark Lord, so he can kill people like my friends… People like Ron, who actually want to do good for others, despite the suffering they themselves must endure every single day… We're on the wrong side of this war, just like last time.
"You were always such a sweet girl…" Robert muttered, looking decades older. "And you are right, I am a liar… But all that I do, I do for you, pumpkin… You're my entire world."
Millie sobbed again, wiping at her eyes until they felt raw. So, it's all my fault?
"I… I want you to stop… I don't want you to hurt anyone, okay…?" she knew she sounded pathetic, but what else could she do? "Please, dad… For me…?"
Again, he could not meet her gaze, and right then, she knew that he wouldn't, not even if she asked him to. Why?! Why are you doing this to people you don't even know?! Don't we have enough already?!
"If… If you don't stop, then…" Millie started, but her tongue turned to lead when she saw unshed tears in his eyes. "Dad… Daddy, please! Please-!"
"Okay…" he suddenly muttered, closing his eyes. "Okay, no more Werewolves-"
"Send these men away too," Millie begged, and he went wide-eyed immediately, fear flashing all across his face.
It froze Millie's blood, to see such an expression on her powerful father's face, because deep down, she knew exactly why he was afraid. They really are for the Dark Lord's army, then…
"I'm sorry, my love, but I cannot do that," Robert said, clearing his throat and sitting up straighter. "I will never look at another wolf again, but do not… Do not ask me to leave my family unprotected, not when our enemies are circling us."
"What enemies?! Ron?!" she demanded, hysterical. "Or, you mean, him…? The Dark Lord…"
Robert blinked, and then, horror began to dawn on his face.
"Millicent… Don't ever say something like that again, I beg you… Don't ever bring up his name in this house, I… No, you must not-!"
"I know he's back! And I know you're building him his army!" she shot out of her seat, she had to get away from this place. "You're giving him the means to kill people I care about! Can't you see that?!"
"Millicent, please!" Robert's voice boomed, filled with fury and fear in equal measure.
"Look at you, daddy! You look terrified at the mere mention of this monster! And you want to bring him into our home-!"
"Enough!" Robert slammed his large fist against the table, making the whole thing shake.
Millie let out a small scream, covering her ears and sobbing just as loudly, before she turned around and just started running.
"Millicent! No! Come back!" I won't hurt my friends! I won't hurt innocent people just so I can live in a world ruled by that psychopath! I have to get away from here!
However, just as she reached the door, it swung open on its own, and a tall man with blonde hair and sharp, handsome features stepped into the room, towering over the trembling Millie. His orange, cat-like eyes found hers, and within them, Millie saw pure malice. Her stomach dropped to her feet as he smiled at her, his skin as white as snow and his canines as sharp as knives. Vampire…? No, his eyes…
"Oh? Have I come at a bad time, Robert?" the man spoke in one of the softest voices she'd ever heard, and yet, Millie promptly felt her blood turn to ice. Who…? Who is this…? Is he…? Is he a Death-Eater too?
"Get away from my daughter!" her father hissed, and Millie suddenly felt herself being pulled back. Dad?! "Who let you into my home, creature?!"
"I go where I please, fat man," the pale man's eyes never left Millie's, his smile growing steadily. "What a plump little daughter you have, my friend… Full of blood and fat… No, she'd be terrible for my figure, I must refuse your offer." Offer…? Full of blood and fat…?
"I'll fucking kill you, Vampire, with my bare fucking hands!" Robert roared, holding onto Millie so tightly that it hurt. "David, get in here, you incompetent-!"
"David is dead," the man said ever so gently, stopping Robert short. Dead?! "Sorry, I didn't have breakfast, and he was awfully rude to me. Surprisingly, however, he tasted very sweet. The world is better off without him. Don't you agree, Millicent Bulstrode?" He knows my name…? And he murdered one of dad's men and ate him…? Oh, Gods… I… I feel sick…
Millie began feeling faint, not having eaten properly nor slept since the Hogwarts Express. And then, all she heard were her father's screams as she collapsed, and the cold laughter of the Vampire, which echoed all around her until the darkness fully took her.
Theodore Nott's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Nott Manor – Late Morning)
"Come on!" Theo groaned, pulling at the Mandrake Root. "Come out, you little-"
Ear-splitting screams filled the air just as the Mandrake was ripped out of the soil, but Theo had become an expert at handling this particular plant, quickly plopping it into a prepared pot.
"There, there, I've got you," Theo chuckled, covering the crying plant with warm soil. "Isn't that better? Fresh nutrients will help you grow big and strong."
The baby Mandrake sniffled, closing its eyes and shuffling about in its new home, before finally sinking into the soil completely. Perfect. Twenty-nine more to go!
Standing up and wiping his brow, Theo smiled at his garden, it was more beautiful than ever, filled with plants and birds from all over the world. His own perfect piece of heaven, his only remaining link to his beloved mother. I wish you were here, mother. I wish you could see this place. His smile faltered, but he didn't let it fall.
Instead, he pushed Tracey's earphones further into his ears, listening to 'Don't Stop Believin'' by Journey, a favourite of Tracey's. I won't stop believing either, because one day, Tracey and I are going to walk these gardens together, hand in hand… And I'm going to tell her how I feel about her. How I truly feel-…
"Son?! Have you gone deaf?!" came his father's voice, shattering his pretty little dream into a thousand pieces.
Without thinking, he ripped the earphones out and hid the Walkman behind his back, turning to face the frowning old man. "Father… You scared me…"
"I tried calling several times, son…" Cornelius sighed out, his eyes not failing to notice what Theo was hiding. "What is that?" Shit! Now, what?!
"Um… It's just a music box," Theo all but whispered, feeling ashamed of himself all of a sudden, but not understanding why.
"A Muggle music box?" his father asked plainly, but Theo could see the disapproval behind his eyes.
"It… It belonged to Tracey…" Theo confessed, showing his father the Walkman. "I kept it, to remember her by." I'm not apologizing for keeping her close to me.
His father's features softened, however, much to his shock. Um… He's not bothered by it?
"You saw her when she…" he trailed off, clearing his throat. "Same as your mother." Oh…
Theo felt his chest tighten terribly, his father rarely ever mentioned his late wife, and whenever he did, it was usually during his drunken rants about wiping out Muggle Kind down to the last babe. Yes, I saw… And I'll never stop seeing it…
"Both times, I wasn't there to protect you…" his father gave him a sorry smile, making Theo even more uncomfortable. "Some father I am, hm?"
"You couldn't have known, father," was all Theo could manage, shifting in his spot. "Um… I still have a lot of work to do, so-"
"Not today, my son, because today…" his father waved his hand, Conjuring a copy of the Daily Prophet as he began to smile. "Today, you need to be with your friends. With Tracey." What…? "Here, read for yourself."
Theo rushed forward, snatching the paper out of his chuckling father's hands and reading the title, only to feel his heart skip a beat. 'Heroism and Nobility Rewarded: the Bravest Girl in Britain'… Theo quickly skipped down to the first line, his eyes nearly popping out his skull when he read the words: 'Tracey Davis, the courageous young witch who sacrificed it all for her best friend, has finally conquered her coma, and returned to the world of the living'.
Theo just stared at the paper, reading the same words over and over again, until his eyes were so blurry that he couldn't even see. Tracey… You came back… You really did it… Gods, thank you! Thank you!
"Theodore? Oh, son…" his father stepped forward, taking Theo by the cheeks and wiping his tears away with his thumbs. "No tears today, either. Please, Theo, smile today. Be happy again?"
Theo swallowed thickly, trying very hard not to break into sobs of relief. All he could muster was a weak nod, sniffling and releasing a shaky breath. And then, for the first time in forever, Theo smiled.
His lips trembled, but his eyes were full of hope, and he couldn't wait to lay them on her again. To watch her as she went on and on about her favourite parts of the Muggle World, Theo could listen to her for hours on end and never once did he feel the need to interrupt her voice, so full of life and laughter.
"I… I have to go…" Theo took a step back, wiping at his eyes as he began moving towards the Manor, only to be stopped by his father's hand. "Father?"
"Shower, first," his father laughed, actually laughed. "What will she think if you show up covered in dirt? And put on something more suited to your status, you're still a Nott." Dirt? This kind of soil costs a damn fortune-… No, it's okay, it doesn't matter right now! I have to go!
"Okay, shower, then Tracey!" Theo rambled, clutching the Walkman to his heart as he broke into a sprint. Please, Gods, don't let this be a dream! Don't take her away again!
One Short Shower Later
Theo nearly fell down the stairs in his hurry, but managed to find his footing as he charged past the spooked Elves, all of whom pleaded with him to slow down. No time! Out of the way!
Bursting into the greeting room, Theo spotted his father waiting for him by the closest fireplace. Um… He's not coming with me, is he…?
"Ah, that might've been the fastest shower you've ever taken," Cornelius chuckled, his merry mood was… strange, given that he had never approved of Tracey, nor her heritage.
"I… I don't want to waste any time, that's all," Theo said, feeling butterflies in his stomach. "Do I look presentable, now?"
Cornelius studied Theo's fine, colourful robes, smiling and giving him a nod. "Just one more thing, and you will look perfect."
Theo approached his father, wondering what he could have meant, but he didn't have to wonder long, as Cornelius produced a small, black box from his inner pocket.
"Your mother…" the old wizard started, only to stop himself, his ever-present grief hiding behind his eyes. "Open it."
Theo accepted the gift, opening the box and going wide-eyed at the gleaming, silver ring inside, his eyes transfixed by the ominous, yet beautiful, black gemstone on top. "Father, is this…?"
"It belonged to your grandfather, on your mother's side, and she planned to give it to you the day you went to Hogwarts," Cornelius told him, staring at the ring himself. "I… I could not bring myself to part with it, but… I want you to have it, as it was always meant for you. Not me."
Theo didn't know what to say, but he knew already that he'd never take this ring off, not even as he slept. It really belonged to her? It's magnificent, just like she was…
"Thank you, father, I don't know what to say," Theo carefully plucked the ring out of its case, before slipping it onto his left index finger.
The band tightened, much to his surprise, becoming a perfect fit for him. This stone… It's strange…
"You've noticed, haven't you?" Cornelius began to smile. "This strange gemstone is the only one of its kind in the entire world, because if your mother's stories are to be believed; then this dark gem was a gift from the Heavens."
"The Heavens?" Theo blinked, unable to take his eyes off of the gem.
"She told me that when she was still a child, a meteorite crashed near her father's villa, and upon investigating the crater, they found a glowing rock with an even more fascinating crystal at the heart of it," Cornelius told him, making him go wide-eyed. "Her father fashioned his signet ring out of that crystal, he believed it to be a sign from the Gods that his Family would prosper until the very end. Your mother had the same dream for you, Theodore, as do I."
Theo gently stroked the gem, which had a strange aura about it… It felt as though it was trying to pull him into an abyss, to consume him. "I'll never take it off, I swear it, father. I'll cherish it always, just as I cherish her memories."
His father reached forward and stroked his cheek lovingly, pride written all over his face. "You're my heart, Theo…"
Theo blinked at that; his father sounded so frail all of a sudden. Is… Is something wrong with him-?
"Now, off with you," his father gestured towards the fireplace. "Go on, this old man won't keep you from your friend any longer."
"You're not that old," Theo sniffled, getting teary eyed again.
"I am…" his father simply whispered, and just from his tone, Theo knew that his father would be drinking heavily tonight. "Take care of the ring, please. And don't let anyone else touch it, ever."
"I'll protect it with my life," Theo vowed, looking towards the fireplace, but unable to move.
"I… I'm scared to see her…" Theo admitted, feeling vulnerable, but more excited than ever before. "Is that strange? I mean, she's my… dear friend…" he trailed off. Fucked that up royally, didn't you?
"Well, your 'dear friend' is no doubt far more afraid than you are right now," his father replied. "Be there for her, and let her be there for you."
"She is Half-Blood, and if she'll make you smile again, to write to me again, as you used to, then…" his father didn't finish, simply patting his shoulder. "Oh, stop being a ponce, boy! Go on!"
Theo laughed at that, bringing a smile to his old father's face. "Thank you, father. Thank you!"
Rushing over to the fireplace, Theo prepared the floo for St. Mungo's, all but leaping through the flames, his anxieties forgotten thanks to his father's approval. I'm coming, Trace! Just you wait for me!
Albus Dumbledore's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Four Seasons Hotel, New York – Early Morning)
"He's hiding something from us," Snape finally broke the silence, both men were watching over a sleeping Ronald. "Something has happened, Albus, I can feel it."
"As can I, Severus," Albus nodded, wiping the sweat from Ronald's creased brow once again. "He's having a nightmare, the poor boy."
"I imagine he has many, judging by those bags under his eyes," Severus said, pinching his hooked nose. "If I didn't' know any better, I'd think he was a corpse." Yes, me too…
"Our bags are not so easy to miss either, my friend," Albus pointed out, neither of them had slept a wink. "What are we going to do about Sebastian?"
"Nothing," Severus replied, and when Albus looked to him to elaborate, he simply shrugged. "We need his gold, and he already knows too much. Casting him out now would be a fatal error, I believe."
"That's not what I meant," Albus clarified, looking back to Ronald. "What are we going to do to keep him in one piece after Ronald wakes up? This confrontation Ronald has in mind… It worries me."
"Oh… I don't know about you, but one chair in the back was enough for me…" Severus said icily. Chair?
"I don't understand-"
"Never mind," Severus sighed out, slowly rising to his feet. "Forgive me, Albus, but I need rest… My leg… It's-"
"I understand, please, go get some sleep," Albus smiled tiredly. "I will watch over him."
Severus gave a weak nod, limping towards the door. "I'll relieve you in a couple of hours."
"Two hours is not enough, Severus-"
"Don't lecture me, insomniac," Severus drawled, leaving immediately but careful to close the door behind him without making a sound.
Silence filled the room once again, with the occasional whimper from Ronald as he jerked about in his sleep. Albus reached forward and stroked the young wizard's hair, shushing him until he became peaceful once again. I am here, my boy, and I will not leave you in the dark. I promised myself that you'd have a future, and this is the one promise I will not break. All will be well, Ronald. All will be well.
The redhead suddenly shot up, making Albus jump as he screamed in terror.
"Ronald!" Albus quickly moved to his bedside, grabbing the boy by his arms. "My boy, you were having a nightmare-!"
"NO! DON'T HURT ME! GET AWAY FROM ME!" Ronald screamed, thrashing about before shoving Albus off the bed. Gods, my back…
The door burst open, and Severus came rushing in, only to stop when he found Albus groaning on the floor. "Albus!"
"I'm okay…" Albus quickly got up, moving towards Ronald once again, but freezing when he saw the poor boy curled up against the head of the bed, clutching at his blanket for dear life as he shook like a leaf and muttered to himself like a madman. No…
"Ron, it's us," came Severus' voice, he had moved to the other side of the bed within a heartbeat. "It's okay… Everything is okay, it was just a dream-"
"No… No, no dreams…" Ronald whimpered, twitching and pulling the blanket closer. "It was real, they tried to take it all from me… But I killed them… I fucking tore them to pieces… But they're still here… They're still within me… I can feel them crawling in my mind…"
"…Who…?" Albus managed, exchanging a slow look with Severus, who looked just as disturbed. "The prisoners?" Is this because of guilt?
"The prisoners… Me…" Ronald managed, before he turned his head and cracked his neck, his eyes becoming crimson and toad-like. "Us…"
Severus immediately stepped back, while Albus forced himself to remain perfectly still. No, I cannot fear him! I cannot let them twist him any further! Fate! She's done something, I'm convinced of it, now!
"Ronald, look at me," Albus whispered, slowly reaching out, but stopping when the young wizard's demonic eyes turned in his direction. "It's okay, it's just me. You know me, don't you?"
Ronald just stared, before giving a shaky nod. "Headmaster…"
"Yes," Albus forced on a smile. "And that's Professor Snape, we're both here. You are safe, now. Nothing will harm you while we're here."
Albus began reaching forward again, until finally, he had his hand on Ronald's shoulder, giving it a paternal squeeze. The boy's eyes slowly returned to their blue selves, his face twisting before he broke into heart-wrenching sobs. Albus moved closer, gently pulling Ronald closer until he was safely tucked into Albus' side.
"Let it out, dear boy, let it all out," Albus whispered, his hold tightening. "We are here, and we are not going to leave you behind. You are not alone, Ronald, and you never will be again. That is our promise to you."
Albus then looked to Severus, who was just watching Ronald with a fallen expression. We have to put him back together, Severus, before it's too late. We have to save him from those… Those demons!
The Champion's POV
Tuesday 23nd March, 1994 (Four Seasons Hotel, New York – Morning)
He'd told them everything, in the end, and they had listened in utter silence as he had described the trial Fate had put him through, and how he had destroyed Ronald Weasley in order to save the Cycle from him. By the end of his tale, both men looked not only shaken to their cores, but entirely disgusted by Fate's cruelty.
And as for the Champion, he simply felt hollow all over, as if he didn't have any organs in him, only his bitter hatred for himself and for everyone around him. He felt drained, hopeless, and utterly alone, despite his company.
"I… have no words…" Dumbledore finally said, still holding onto the Champion. "I am so sorry, Ronald-"
"Don't call me that…" the Champion cut in, finally feeling strong enough to move away. "That's not Us…"
"It is you, my boy," Albus urged, looking to Snape for help.
"She's trying to take your soul, Ron, don't let her," Snape whispered, he was sitting across from the Champion. "She's no different than the Dark Lord, and you have to fight her-"
"Fight her?" the Champion blinked, and then he shook his head. "…No… I've made a deal with her in order to save Ronald Weasley. I serve her, and she sets him free at the end of this-"
"And you?" Dumbledore asked, he had tears in his eyes, which hurt to see. "Don't you deserve peace too? Are you not the one who's fighting? Please, Ronald, I beg you, don't let her take your name from you as well… Please, don't…"
The Champion averted his gaze, he couldn't bear seeing Albus Dumbledore weep for him, not when he knew that he didn't deserve such kindness. Monsters don't deserve kindness; they deserve to burn.
"Listen to me," Snape leaned forward, catching the Champion's eyes. "I gave up my name, my soul, once, and to this day, I regret my decisions… I will regret them until my dying breath, but you still have a chance to be better. Resist her-"
"You realize she's in this room, don't you?" the Champion asked them, stopping Snape, who quickly looked around. "She chronicles all of your lives, every single second of them. She… They are Gods, whereas we're just… nothing… I'm nothing-"
A sudden jolt of pure agony shot up his skull, causing him to scream and clutch at his head instantaneously. My fucking skull! Voices began echoing inside his mind, in tongues and dialects that he'd never heard before, and as he shut his eyes tightly, those very same voices began begging and sobbing, followed by another jolt of pain. GODS! My head! It hurts so much! What is happening?!
"Ronald! What's wrong?!" Dumbledore already had his wand out, but the Champion couldn't hear him over the mounting screams in his head. "Severus?!"
"I… I don't know!"
There were billions upon billions of screams, until all the Champion could hear was white noise. The pain began to subside after that, however, when he reopened his eyes, he found himself standing in a lush forest. What… the… fuck…? Where am I…?
"Headmaster?" the Champion looked around, but all he saw were tall trees and thick bushes. "Professor Snape?!"
"Find us…" a voice whispered inside his head, and the Champion immediately reached for his wands, only to discover that he was unarmed. "Find us, Champion, and deliver us from darkness…"
"Who are you?" the Champion hissed, clawing at his temple. "Get out of my fucking head!"
"The sky will fall… The earth will rot… Darkness will consume us all…" the voice warned, followed by a blood-curdling hiss. "Find us, we await thee… The Mountain awaits thee…" Mountain? Are these… the Sages?
"Show yourself," the Champion's eyes flashed red. "Who are you?!"
"He lives within thee," the voice hissed. "His power shall undo his Curse… Find us…"
The Champion blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself inside his room again, only now, Ravenclaw Ron was hovering behind a startled Snape. You… You fucking cunt, where the fuck have you been-?!
"We have a fucking problem, mate," Ravenclaw Ron looked manic, almost as if he was terrified for his life. Huh…? "We have a big fucking problem!"
Author's Notes: Oh, damn, more problems for Ronnie?! Oh, yes... So many more!
Hope you guys enjoyed that, and please don't forget to subscribe to the official Doctor Who Youtube Channel!
See you soon!