CHAPTER 96: The Wrath of Olympus (Part 5)
Manchester had fallen.
Of course, that was partly his fault, Titus would admit to that much. Unlike people like Ares he wasn't planning on leading the sheep that had decided to follow them, and utterly opposed to others like Achlys, he wasn't here to revel in the death and destruction. In Titus' eyes, the Dark Lord had given him a mission, and he'd delivered. The city was in flames, there were countless muggles littering the floor, and the Aurors had been driven out of the Ministry and forced to react to his attacks. A big part of his mission tonight was to prove a distraction for the Ministry, and he had done so.
He didn't do a perfect job, he'd admit as much. There were areas of improvement, things he could have done to escalate the situation or to keep it going for an hour more, at most. But he'd done a serviceable job, one that would please the Dark Lord - for the most part - keep his status in the inner circle, and gain praise from the others. And if that were the case, then what would have been the point of putting in that extra effort, taking that further risk, and wasting his time on his crew or this mission if the result would have almost been the same? It was as he told Theo many times: "You don't need to be the best, son. You just need to convince everyone else you are."
Besides, Titus Nott always considered himself a man who would never let down an opportunity. With the damage his father had done to their family, he didn't have the luxury of that, after all. And unwittingly, Lucius Malfoy had just given him the perfect opportunity to make up for the mistakes of his foolish father.
He knew it the moment he saw her. She was the reason why he'd gone back to the shadows, allowed his brethren to be captured and the attack to dwindle and extinguish itself before it was actually meant to. He had hidden in the shadows as Albus Dumbledore took care of Pyrites' fiendfyre monstrosities, stunned a few of his own Death Eaters himself when they weren't looking, and even taken down the Dark Mark. Everything to signal the end of the attack. Everything to have the Aurors put down their guards and consider it a win.
Of course, he wasn't idiotic enough to put down their work. Allowing himself to think of himself as infinitely superior to his enemies would only lead to him growing complacent, even if he didn't mean to, it would start affecting him on a subconscious level. He had put the places in the proper order, but it had still been up to the Aurors to actually end the threat to the city. And now that they thought they had got everyone, they began celebrating in the city centre. And Titus couldn't help but bask in the irony as he watched from the shadows. Still, the night was not over, and allowing himself to celebrate beforehand would be the death of him.
After all, the Aurors were doing just that.
"Settle down. Settle down!" There she came, immediately silencing the crowd with the anger in her voice. "Our job is not finished. Your brothers and sisters in other cities need you. So stop playing around and begin helping them."
"What about the city?" One of the Aurors asked.
"The Unspeakables are waiting on Dumbledore to finish up clearing the city of those… beasts," she said. "Once he's done they'll place their own wards around the city and begin obliviating the Muggles and fixing the damage that's been done."
Titus could tell from the sourness in her voice that it was not an optimal solution, at least not one she approved of. But with these matters, the Unspeakables had complete control. This would be a mighty mess to clean, something that Lucius must have considered when he came up with the scheme. Titus hadn't been let on much of the planning beyond his own role and found himself increasingly curious how they expected this quick fix to be permanent. Or if they actually hoped it wasn't. Either way, he needed to learn more about it. There could be an opportunity there, after all.
Bones began instructing her Aurors personally, separating them into six different teams and giving them each a respective city. Some began apparating away immediately, and when others were more hesitant and questioned what she would be doing, Bones sent them on their way without giving her a concrete answer. Soon enough, they had all left her and Bones wasted no time before she apparated away.
For a moment, Titus panicked, fearing that he'd lost his opportunity. Before he realised that she couldn't have left the city. Someone had to notify the Unspeakables, after all. And it wasn't long after that realisation that he knew where she had gone to, immediately apparating away.
He found Dumbledore pretty quickly, Pyrites' fiendfyre was large and destructive enough to find from the other end of the city. And, just as he'd predicted, she was there, helping Dumbledore as the two began taking on the beast. It wouldn't be long before the beast was fully extinguished, and with Dumbledore nearby he couldn't risk it. While someone like Amelia Bones deserved a more honourable death, Titus wouldn't be the one to give it to her. Conjuring a knife in his hand, Titus apparated behind the woman and jammed it into the small of her back. She tried to scream, but his hand was already covering her mouth and in a moment the two of them were gone.
They landed nearly a hundred miles away, in one of the random forests he'd visited over the years and bookmarked in his mind as the perfect place for a dumping ground. Titus immediately pulled the knife out of her back, gently taking away the wand from her hand before abruptly letting her go. She crashed face-first onto the ground, covering herself in mud as she began to whimper and crawl away. And once she realised he wasn't following her, she turned around and looked at him defiantly. But she could do nothing to hide the fear and pain in her eyes.
Titus sighed deeply, using his wand to clean the knife before immediately vanishing it. "Madam Bones," he said mournfully. "I wish we had met in other circumstances, but alas, this could not be. But before you leave us, it's rather important to me that you know that this isn't personal. This is purely business."
She tried to open her mouth, but nothing except whines of pain came out.
Titus hushed her gently, walking to her and crouching right above her. "Don't talk, it'll only make it worse," he cupped her face and gave her a genuine, reassuring smile. "But don't worry, Madam Bones. You have no family left. There is no one left to mourn you."
Amelia Bones choked out a sob, and a tear began falling down her cheek as the light behind her eyes suddenly disappeared.
Ginny panted, already feeling her legs weak, as she followed Neville and her brothers through the castle. They'd been running over the whole place for a while now, going all the way to the teacher's lounge to retrieve their wands from Umbridge and then back down to where the Slytherins found them. Her mind was nagging at her, insistent on replaying the events from just a few minutes ago, but Ginny pushed them out of her head as she rushed to keep up with the boys.
There was nothing to think about. Nothing to discuss. Hermione was in danger, and she would be damned if she just stood by instead of helping her.
After what felt like an hour, they burst through the doors, Fred and George running ahead down the hill as Neville and Ron waited for her to catch up. "Let's go!" She yelled at them, not stopping for them as she kept on running. Ginny hated when they treated her differently for being a girl. As if just because she ran a little slower than the rest she would never catch up. As if she needed to be protected and kept in sight at every given moment. It was during times of stress like this that it affected her the most and made her lash out.
The two boys managed to catch up with her fairly quickly, and it wasn't long before they had reached the twins who had used their wands to break into Hooch's broom cupboard. They threw one at her the moment she arrived, right before doing the same for Ron and Neville. The broom felt right in her hand, as it did with all her brothers, but she could see the apprehension in Neville's face as he grabbed onto it. He had always hated flying, and it showed in those moments of hesitation before he put it in between his legs. "Come on," he said.
But the Weasley didn't follow along. It seemed it was now their turn to face their own doubt as the four of them looked at each other. They held their silent conversation, the type they'd done countless times before when they were with Mum or Dad. Are we really doing this? Everyone seemed to say at the same time, and even the twins - who most of the time seemed to think fear was an optional emotion they could turn off - were looking a little paler than usual.
"Well, come on!" Neville insisted, spurring Ginny into action as she climbed onto her broom and immediately rose into the air.
"You heard him," she shouted at her brothers, trying to put all the conviction she could into her face. And it worked, because after one last moment of uncertainty, the twins flew up as well, followed by Ron, and then finally, Neville joined her in the air.
The twins led them, flying over the castle, in between the towers, as they began flying east. Ginny sped off slightly and placed herself right beside Fred. "Where are we going?" She shouted, her voice barely audible through the air. "London's south!"
"You lot wanna fly to London?" Fred looked at her like they were crazy, and Ginny glared at him to cover her blush. "He's not going to make it," Fred commented, turning back to Neville who looked like he was barely hanging on to his broom as he followed them from behind. "Besides, we have a better idea."
Ginny gave him a questioning glance, but Fred only winked at her before flying past her and going to talk to George. Ginny rolled her eyes before letting Ron and Neville catch up to her and telling them what Fred had told her. Neville took it well, thankfully, Ron on the other hand looked more frightened by the minute. And Ginny couldn't help but feel for her brother, knowing that he wasn't nearly as afraid about something happening to him as he was about something happening to everyone else. She put a gentle hand on his shoulder, steadying him as his hands had begun to shake. "It's going to be okay," she told him, hoping she'd believe it if she said it. "We're going to get Hermione, and we're all going to get out fine."
Ron gulped but nodded, clearly more for her than for him. And though he still looked terrified, Ginny hoped her words would begin getting to him soon.
Looking ahead, she saw Fred and George had stopped abruptly and Ginny raised her hand, gaining the attention of Neville and Ron as she wordlessly slowed them down. "What's going on?" Ginny asked as the three of them stopped only a few feet away from the twins. George looked at the space in front of them with a face of concentration that almost looked foreign in his face.
"It's the wards," Fred said, answering for the both of them. "It seems that old Toad Face has raised the wards to their full potential. Must've noticed we skived off from the Great Hall."
"Or stole our wands from the lounge," George muttered, grabbing his wand and beginning to move it wildly, causing various runes and symbols he didn't recognise to appear around him.
"Can you get them down?" Ron asked urgently.
"We're not sure," Fred answered, sounding more serious than ever before. "See, most of the time the wards are raised, it's only for preventive means. Used to notify the Headmaster of people's comings and goings while warding out the truly dark magic or any dangerous creatures from entering. It's how we've managed to sneak into Hogsmeade through the passages or escape at night for a pint or two."
"You've gone out and haven't invited me?" Ron asked - more demanded.
Fred ignored him. "But now, the wards are fully up. And we're not exactly sure how or if we can take them down."
"We need to take them down," Neville said intensely.
"No, we need them down now!" Everyone but George turned to Neville, all of them a little wary. "If we can't get out of here, that means we can't help Hermione. And if that's the case then I shouldn't have let you convince me to let you come along!"
"They're down!" George suddenly shouted, turning to the group with a massive grin.
"What did you do?" Fred asked, flying closer and looking at the runes around George, only for them to disappear a second later. And it was only once she heard the surprise in Fred's voice that Ginny realised neither of them thought they were going to be able to get past them.
"No idea," George breathed out, nearly laughing. "I was just… I dunno… and then they kinda… well… fell!"
"We're going to have to try this again some other time," Fred said.
"Come on!" Neville shouted, flying ahead of them. Or well, Ginny wouldn't call it flying. More like gripping onto his broom as it advanced slowly. "Where are we going?"
Fred grinned at them, and once again, didn't say anything as he and George flew ahead. The twins loved to do that, puff up their own intelligence by keeping everyone else in the dark. It was something that always annoyed Ginny, especially now, but thankfully they didn't have to wait long before she figured out her plan. The group of them landed in Hogsmeade, the village looking a lot more unnerving with it being so dark and empty. All the shops were closed, and there were no lights coming from anywhere other than the Three Broomsticks.
"The floo!" Ginny exclaimed triumphantly.
"A more elegant solution than simply flying the whole night, am I right?" Fred winked at them before jumping up the steps and opening the door to the pub. The three of them followed the twins, with Neville pushing past them all as he rushed towards the fireplace. Ginny looked around the place as they followed him, thanking Merlin the place was alone. A few nosy adults there were all they needed to ruin their plans and maybe even snitch on them to Umbridge. Not even the barkeep was there to stop them from using the floo.
"Let's go," Neville urged them, grabbing a handful of floo powder and jumping up to the fireplace. "Ministry of Magic!" A blaze of green flames suddenly consumed him, and one moment later, he was gone.
The twins turned to them. "Alright," Fred began. "Whatever happens, I need you two to be safe."
"If you die, Mum will never let us live it down," George added.
"So stick together, and don't do anything stupid."
"And if Neville… loses it a bit… we'll step in."
"But you will not," George said seriously. "Stay safe, and if you see something. Run!"
Ron and Ginny nodded, and after the twins looked at them thoroughly, almost in the way that Dad did when he got all serious about something, they nodded to themselves. Fred stepped in first, then George. Ron gave Ginny one last meaningful glance, and then he was gone too, leaving her alone. She took a few moments, breathing in and out carefully as she squared her shoulders. And then, she grabbed the floor powder and headed into the fireplace.
"Ministry of Magic!" She shouted, her world engulfed in green.
And then it all went wrong.
Before she could see anything beyond the fire, she heard it. The screams. They sent chills up the back of her neck, stopping her heart for a moment before she sprang to action. She went to her holster and pulled out her wand. The flames cleared, and the first thing she saw was the red light that hit her right before her wand was yanked out from her hands and thrown across the atrium.
"And, Miss Weasley," a chipper voice sounded through the screams, and Ginny immediately stiffened as she recognised it.
She turned towards it and watched in horror as she saw a group of Death Eaters, twenty or even more, standing there. Waiting for them. But it was only when she saw Hermione that she felt her breath literally being taken from her, as she swirled on the ground and screamed that awful sound while another Death Eater danced and laughed over her, all while holding a red curse that seemed to pierce her very heart. She couldn't bear to look at her friend and turned to the centre, where one Death Eater sat. Their leader. And Ginny Weasley didn't need to be told who he was. His voice had haunted her for nights on end.
"Now, now, Artemis," the Death Eater waved her off. "We do need Miss Granger to walk with us. If only for a little while."
"And after?" The Death Eater - Artemis - almost pleaded.
"Do not test me," the Death Eater said, his voice hard and serious this time.
Ginny looked around her and watched her brothers and Neville standing there in shock. They didn't have their wands, most likely having been disarmed as she had. But it was their faces that worried her more, they were all looking at her like she was already dead. And Ginny couldn't help but think so as well.
The Death Eater - Malfoy - cleared his throat, and the five kids turned to him at once.
"Shall we begin, then?"
Harry heard the loud crack before he even felt the ground. It was deafening, shaking the entire flat. Or maybe that had just been his body as it unceremoniously fell to the ground. He gritted his teeth, forcing himself not to make a sound of pain as he pushed himself off the ground. But before he could manage to fully pick himself back up again, his body began convulsing violently, and his knees crumbled under him again. He writhed on the floor, feeling as his veins burned his insides and his body spasmed in reaction to it. It kept on for a few seconds, and the more Harry tried to force his body to stop the harder to control it got. But eventually, it settled back to its slight, yet noticeable, shaking.
Fucking Cruciatus after-effects. He had felt them lightly in the days after Halloween, but this was to a whole other level. It was clear Dolohov had had much more practice with it than Graham had.
Forcing himself up, Harry's eyes met with Regulus'. The bastard had watched the whole thing. Fuck. Harry sneered, but instead of the contemptuous, I-Told-You-So look Regulus had mastered, there was nothing but concern in his eyes. "How the fuck are you still standing," the portrait breathed out. Harry tried to come up with something clever, but as he did, his body began shaking again and Harry had to focus on not falling face-first into the ground. And once that small bout passed, he couldn't find the energy to do anything but ignore the portrait.
He stumbled to the kitchen, keeping himself standing by leaning on the counter while using his free hands to browse the cupboards and pull out a bunch of salves and potions he had saved for moments just like this. Nothing he drank would spare him from the Cruciatus after-effects, Junior had taught him as much in his fourth year, but there were a hundred other things wrong with him besides that at the moment. Harry didn't browse to see which potion was for what, he could drink all of these and still have the need for more. So that's what he did, chugging the potions one after another, even as his whole body disapproved. While doing so, he took off his trench coat and ripped at his shirt, not wasting time as he began applying a few different salves on his shoulder - the bright red scars the fiendfyre had left him still clearly visible and aching. And though the salves stopped the pain, somewhat, the savage scar remained. Harry hadn't been sure if fiendfyre left permanent marks before tonight. He didn't expect to get the answer like this, though he really should have.
"What happened out there?" Regulus finally said, having been gaping at him for the past five minutes.
Harry opened his mouth, about to pant an answer, but where the fuck could he start? The Death Eaters? The Fiendfyre? Dolohov? It all happened so fast, and it was all too much for him to process. Everything had blended together, clouded by a fog that made them seem like a far-off dream he'd had days ago. Everything was clouded… everything but that feeling he got when he looked into Dolohov's eyes right before he disapparated. He still couldn't describe it, not well, not thoroughly. The only thing he could really say was that there was a wrongness about it, something that disturbed him unlike anything else. The only thing that had come close to it had been that night, nearly five years ago, once he realised that Montague had been playing him all along.
"It's a set-up," Harry gritted out, grabbing his wand from the counter before he slid back down to the ground. He was hiding, for some reason, he couldn't bring himself to face Regulus properly, but he would never admit it. Besides, Dolohov had fucked up his legs, and he rather fixed them sitting down than standing up. "The whole fucking thing's a set-up."
"For what?" He heard Regulus' voice. "The Ministry? A way to keep them busy to stop whatever they're actually doing?"
"It isn't just the Aurors," Harry said before suddenly groaning in pain as he began fixing his bones, hoping he didn't spend all of his magic on it. "They want me here. They want me running around the city."
"You?" Regulus repeated. "Don't get me wrong, you're not… a non-threat. But why would the Death Eaters want you specifically here?"
"I'm telling the truth - FUCK!" Harry shut his eyes, forcing the tears of pain back inside as his entire body began convulsing again. Gripping the cabinet behind him, Harry rode through the wave for a few seconds before his body stopped. "Dolohov wants me here. He could have killed me, but instead, he ran off and all but begged me to follow him. There's something else at play. A reason behind these attacks."
"D'you reckon Bedivere was right? With the whole Department of Mysteries business?"
"I don't know what to think," Harry growled out as he cast the final spell that righted his ankle. He'd fixed most of the damage, but he still wasn't supposed to move. Bed rest for three days, Mister Potter, he could hear Madam Pomfrey's voice in his head. But he didn't have the luxury of that. Instead, Harry forced himself up and downed a combination of strength and pepper-up potions. "I don't know if that was really Bedivere anymore. For all I know, it could have been Junior under polyjuice. Or some other fucker trying to trick me. What if Dolohov wanted me to find out, rush to the Department of Mysteries, and get fucked there as well!"
"A little paranoia is more than healthy, Harry," Regulus said carefully. "But don't let it drive you mad."
"It's not," Harry replied coldly, finally walking around the kitchen and facing the portrait. "There's something here I'm not seeing, and I won't allow myself to get played. Not again." He turned down to his wand and played around with his magic, pushing it to and from the wand, feeling the resistance right near the spot where it would be too much to overcome. He still had a little bit of magic left in him, a few more spells he could push through the wand, but not enough for the night. In a fit of rage, Harry threw Black's wand across the room, It crashed against the wall and clattered on the ground, but Harry still felt unsatisfied.
"So what are you going to do now?"
Harry ignored the portrait, opening one of the drawers and pulling out one of the largest knives inside. It wouldn't be nearly as effective as the other one, this was a kitchen knife, not a fighting blade, but it would do. After a few seconds of thought, he grabbed one more knife and jammed it into the holster with the other one.
"You can't seriously be thinking of going back out there," Regulus exclaimed. "You can barely walk."
"If the Death Eaters want me here it is because they don't want me somewhere else." Harry picked up Black's wand. "Staying in here - hiding - would only be giving them the satisfaction."
"And getting yourself killed won't?"
Harry bent down, grabbing his trench coat from the floor and putting it back on. "Only if I die."
Before Regulus could say another word, Harry disapparated once more and landed on one of the rooftops outside. He scoured the city, trying to tune out the screams and chaos around him as he began looking for his target. But the city was large, and by the time he decided to suddenly apparate nearby, it could all be over. He couldn't afford to just wait around. Pulling out Longbottom's cloak from his pocket, Harry covered himself with it and apparated a few rooftops away.
He traversed the city, taking his time with every apparition as he tried to run as little as possible and instead, remained still, perched over the ledges as he watched the madness below. His magic was fleeting, but apparition was something that didn't require a wand. It didn't require any effort because it was the last thing he could still do without forcing his magic through what sometimes felt like an impenetrable barrier. He would rather throw Black's wand and fully depend on his apparition and knives than waste it all on useless, weak spells and run the risk of depleting his magic to the point where he couldn't apparate anymore. Still, the potions could only do so much, and though apparating took as much of a magical toll as laying down took a physical toll, his body was battered, bruised, and burned, and he wanted to conserve as much of his energy as possible.
Crossing the city was harder than he expected. Every time he saw a Death Eater, he wanted nothing more than to apparate below and spill their guts. Every time he saw a group of muggles running for their lives, trying to escape from their tormentors, his body literally ached as he turned on the spot and landed far away. And though he tried to ignore them, there were sometimes when he couldn't. Sometimes, he'd curse himself even as he'd apparated into the street and killed the Death Eaters or grabbed the muggles and apparated out of there.
They set the game, and you willingly play it, Bedivere's voice rang in his head every time he failed.
Yes, he did. And even now, when he was trying to get control of the board, he couldn't help but fall into a couple of pitfalls along the way. Perhaps someone else would have managed to ignore it, someone like Blaise or Pansy or Daphne, but he couldn't. Not for long, anyway. But controlling himself and shaking off the overwhelming hatred he felt for Dolohov was hard enough. It was taking every drop of willpower to not switch his focus to him, and if that didn't give Harry a break from his occasional failings, he didn't know what did.
He crossed a couple of Aurors along the way too, and after ten minutes passed with no luck, he was starting to get desperate enough to confront them. They already thought him a murderer. They already wanted to send his arse to Azkaban and wipe their hands clean of it. But the few confrontations he had with them had ended up in fights where Harry had been forced to apparate away and hide back under his cloak until they were gone. And as much as he wished there wasn't, there was still something deep in his mind that didn't allow him to torture or kill them for the information.
More often than not, he hated that voice inside of him more than any of his classmates.
Thankfully, it wasn't long after that that Harry found him. Rufus Scrimgeour and the rest of the Aurors had taken base a few streets away from the Tower of London. Harry apparated nearby, sticking to the edges of the camp, underneath his cloak, as Scrimgeour barked his orders, his arm in a sling and face twisted into a nasty growl.
"What do you mean you left her alone back there?" He exclaimed. "Get back to Manchester and stay with Madam Bones, now!"
"Yes, sir," one of the Aurors rushed off.
"The rest of you," he snapped, earning the attention of the other Aurors. "We've cleared the central boroughs, but the bastards have spread out to the outer ones. Apparate to the edges of the city and start closing in, with the others pushing them out, you'll have them surrounded."
"Get out there and bring me those bastards!"
The Aurors rushed off, some apparating on the spot while others huddled to discuss strategy as they walked away. Either way, soon enough Scrimgeour had been left alone as he looked down on a map of the city, with nearly half of the boroughs already crossed off as he pondered in silence. Harry hesitated for a moment, trying to come up with a way to approach the Auror. Scrimgeour was bigger than him, there was no way Harry would beat him in a physical fight. And even if he did, starting the conversation that way wouldn't lead to Scrimgeour saying anything. He also didn't want to waste what little magic he had left on this. Leaving him with only one option.
"Scrimgeour," he shouted, taking off the cloak and quickly pocketing it before the Auror could see it.
Harry was on guard as he approached, but he was still surprised by the speed and ferocity Scrimgeour had as he quickly turned around and hurled a curse at him. Harry apparated away, his instincts kicking in as he forgot everything he had just concluded and immediately landed behind Scrimgeour, kicking him behind the knee before jumping onto his back. "I'm not your enemy," Harry gritted out, but before he could say anything else Scrimgeour pulled him off his back and threw him on the ground. Harry groaned, clutching at his shoulder before he saw Scrimgeour from the corner of his eye and scattered off, dodging the curses Scrimgeour had sent his way.
Harry's hand itched for his wand, but couldn't bring himself to actually use it. So instead, he apparated away, but Scrimgeour had been ready, turning around and predicting his attack so well, that before Harry's feet even hit the ground, he felt Scrimgeour's wand dig into his neck. "Give me a reason," his voice shook with anger. "I beg you." And Harry didn't have to look into that man's eyes to know he was ready to use it. Perhaps he wouldn't kill him, Scrimgeour didn't seem the type, but all the humiliation and anger he had suffered on the hands of Harry for the past year had reached their boiling point and were currently controlling the Head Auror.
"I'm not one of them," Harry said slowly, rising as Scrimgeour pressed his wand deeper into his neck. "I'm trying to stop this."
"Yeah, right," he scoffed. "And I'm supposed to believe that. I suppose that little stunt you pulled earlier was just to convince me of this, was it?"
Well, at least Harry wasn't the only one who'd gone paranoid tonight.
"I'm not," he forced out. "I need to know what the Death Eaters are planning."
"Why do you care?"
"Look," it was hard to keep his anger in check. So very hard. But he didn't have a choice, and if something had always proved to be a good motivator, it was survival. "You don't like me, I get that. You don't agree with what I did, that's fine. But we're on the same side, here. And if you don't listen to me, your night is about to get a whole lot worse."
"You can sing your song to the Wizengamot tomorrow, Potter," Scrimgeour growled, turning him on his back. But right before he could handcuff Harry, Harry apparated a few meters away.
"I'm not lying here, God damn it!" Harry snapped before ducking under Scrimgeour's curse. "You need to listen to me!"
"You're under arrest, you bastard!" Scrimgeour launched another couple of curses, which Harry managed to roll out of the way. And when he stood up, he finally pulled out his wand and trained it on Scrimgeour. Both men, only feet apart, were about to launch a curse only to be stopped when someone suddenly came running around the corner and screamed Scrimgeour's name.
"What?" Scrimgeour snarled, keeping his wand trained on Harry as both froze. Scrimgeour looked murderous, something that was far from an aid to the poor rookie, who seemed only moments away from pissing his pants as he looked between Scrimgeour and Harry desperately. Harry had the brief thought of using the distraction to retaliate, but he knew whatever he managed to cast would be too weak to fully put Scrimgeour down, and the man would surely react faster than any of the other Death Eaters he'd faced tonight. Besides, it wasn't a bright idea to piss him off more. "WHAT?" Scrimgeour shouted again.
"I-It's Hogwarts, sir," the boy squeaked out. "It's under a-attack!"
Scrimgeour narrowed his eyes, finally turning his gaze from Harry as he levelled a glare at his subordinate. "What?" He whispered carefully.
The rookie looked like he wanted to say something, but the words were stuck in his throat. He could only look back and forth from Scrimgeour to Harry as the both of them were now glaring at him.
"It's them," Headmaster Umbridge, one of the Aurors told her as she rushed through the hall. "We've found them."
Before this evening, Dolores had never had the honour of meeting Elijah Montague. She had heard of him, as most people in the Ministry had. The young man was more than clever, he was hungry, and he had proved it since the moment he left Hogwarts. After the war, the Montague name had been fully tarnished, with most believing it had nothing more to do than fade into history as many of the disgraced families did. The fact that Elijah had managed to bring his family's reputation back from the dead was a feat that very few people would have been able to accomplish, one that had earned her respect, as well as the respect of most of the Wizarding World. However, she couldn't help but feel slighted by his sudden appearance in the castle.
His words, his actions, had sent the entire school into a frenzy, one that she doubted her teachers would be able to stop. After everything they had gone through this year, and the years before, their fear was completely understandable. It was the reason why she had left the Great Hall as quickly as she did, ordering the other professors to deal with the students and make sure they all remained inside. As much as the action would inevitably lead to them complaining about her further, it was necessary. Mister Montague was right in his suggestion, raising the wards was the only sensible option. Even if Dumbledore himself so wished, it would take him hours to fully breach them once they had been put into place. Any attack these faux Death Eaters may attempt would be immediately thwarted.
She would have done so by now and reassured the students, had it not been for that group of children that had decided to challenge her authority today of all days. Dolores couldn't stop the venom from her thoughts, being stuck in a castle with rowdy, irreverent children had done nothing to alleviate the hatred she held for them. But even then, she couldn't simply close off the wards and leave them out in the cold, especially if Montague's warnings were true. More than it ruining her career in the aftermath, these students were under her care, and as much as she might hate them, it was her duty to make sure these students remained living and whole before the term ended, and they went back home.
Thankfully, they wouldn't prove to be a nuisance for longer as the Aurors she had sent to make the rounds around Hogsmeade had finally found them and brought them to the gates. Still, Dolores wasn't as naive as to let them inside on the Aurors' word alone, not with Montague's warning. Dolores nodded to the Auror that had just given her the news before ordering him and three more to follow her. It didn't take her long to exit the castle and begin walking down the path to the Entrance Gates of the grounds. They were far, and Dolores wished she could have taken a carriage, but organising one would have only cost them more time - the one thing they didn't have.
The Aurors kept at her pace, though she could tell they wanted to rush ahead. And as she looked to the night sky, seeing the purple comet illuminate the night, a pit formed in her stomach. It had only been a few hours ago the solar eclipse had ended. Dolores didn't usually believe in such things as divination and astronomy, most of the time thinking those branches of magic as vague and coincidental. But with how her night had been turning out, the two celestial events were much more ominous than the usual full moon or rare comet.
She saw them as they reached the gates, the group of four Aurors that were surrounding the group of students, looking around warily. "Your actions tonight are inexcusable," Dolores snapped at the group no sooner than she had arrived, her ire only exacerbated by the bored look on the students' faces. "You will all receive detentions for the rest of the term, twice a day," she added, looking disdainfully down at all the students before she pulled out her wand and began tapping into the wards. She began lowering them if only slightly, just enough to let humans through. And once they were down and the gates had opened, she pulled out a list.
"Dodderidge, Aariz," she began calling out their names. One by one, the students began raising their hands and crossing through the threshold where the other Aurors were waiting for them. She kept her eyes glued to the parchment, ignoring the looks the students were giving her as she tried to maintain her composure, and quickly enough, she had finished with the list. All students accounted for. Only, there was still one left standing outside the grounds, waiting for her to call their name. Dolores got closer, trying to see the boy's face, but, much to her irritation, he was covering it with the hood of his cloak. As if trying to hide his identity would excuse him from any punishment.
"Name and House," Dolores instructed shrilly, crushing the parchment in her hand as she fought her anger.
The student didn't answer with words, instead, he took his hood off and Dolores was met with two startling green eyes. But before she could do anything else, the boy raised his wand and screamed, "Confringo!" The curse hit her abdomen right before it sent her flying away. Dolores crashed on the ground, barely able to breathe as she felt blood start soaking the inside of her robes. She looked up and gasped at what she saw, a massive duel had erupted as the students began to attack the Aurors. It was the element of surprise that was to their advantage, as the sudden attacks from everywhere had left many Aurors on the ground while the few that still fought were barely managing to survive.
Suddenly, Dolores squeaked and ducked to the ground, managing to miss the flying corpse that would have hit her had she stayed upright. It landed only a few feet beyond her, and as she turned back to the losing battle in front of her, her mind was made. Dolores groaned in pain as she forced herself to crawl, reaching the fallen Auror who looked at the sky with unseeing eyes. And before she could doubt herself, Dolores plunged into his open stomach and began covering herself with his blood and guts. It was only after she was fully covered that she sent the corpse flying away a few meters before dropping dead on the ground, making sure to keep her head looking down.
It was only a few seconds after that that she heard the spells stop, and her surroundings were consumed with a dangerous quiet.
"What now?" One of the students asked.
"Now we go join our classmates," the voice of Harry Potter said, and Dolores felt the blood drain from her face as the ten students walked over the corpses of her Aurors and began heading straight for the castle.
That's it for this chapter, thank you all for reading!
Welcome to the GRAND FIFTH-YEAR FINALE! Sit back and enjoy, we're going to be here a while ;)
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