In early January, just two days before Charlie was due to return to England to see his father and attend an Order meeting, Poppy stood in her kitchen, preparing dinner while Fleur, who after hearing about Mr Weasley's complicated hospital stay had decided that she might like to become a Healer one day, read, So You'd Like To Be A Healer: A Career For The Puzzle-Minded, and Bill kept her company.

Poppy was excited for Charlie's return. Since her time at the Sanctuary had come to an end, she had missed him more than ever before.

And she wasn't just excited to see him - she was excited for what else would occur.

Just before she left, they had decided that it was time to speak to his parents and (mainly for Charlie) Bill, who was still threatening to set Poppy up with one of his friends, about their burgeoning relationship. If their reaction was positive, she would then tell Ginny. Charlie had laughed at her fear, but Poppy, having seen Fleur's negative reception by the female Weasleys, felt like this was needed.

For the millionth time since she'd returned to England, Poppy bit her lip and smiled, getting lost in the memory of Charlie.

She looked up from the bowl of salad she was prepping when she heard a faint buzzing.

Poppy wondered if it was coming from within the flat but Fleur, who lay on the sofa, her feet on Bill's lap, didn't move or acknowledge that anything was amiss.

Poppy was beginning to think it was coming from one of the neighbour's flats, when she felt an unusual warmth on her thigh.

Slipping her hand into her trouser pocket, she removed her Auror bracelet - they were supplied with solid silver necklaces or bracelets depending on personal preference and were meant to wear them at all times if on active duty. While Poppy had never been called in before, she carried it in her pocket to try and form the correct habit ahead of her completing her qualifying year.

She frowned, staring down at the moving letters and numbers, which were rearranging themselves quickly into a line of text.

"Oh shit," Poppy said loudly, shooting Bill a terrified look.

Grabbing her wand, Poppy waved it and her combat robes zoomed out of her room. Another wave and she was dressed, twirling her wand to tie up her hair.

She was by the door, slipping her feet into her boots when she finally realised that Fleur and Bill were at a loss for what was occurring.

"We've been called in. You need to warn everyone that something's happening," Poppy said to Bill, shooting a look at Fleur. "I don't think K or T will have time to."

Fleur would have rolled her eyes if the situation hadn't been so serious, Poppy was sure of it, but instead she stood and said, "What is it? Is it You-Know-Who?"

"I don't know," Poppy replied, ignoring Bill's startled expression which was aimed at Fleur – Poppy knew not to underestimate Fleur and what she knew.

Poppy continued; "But if they've called everyone in, I'm guessing it's bad."

"Go," Fleur said, nodding to the door. "Come back safe," she called as Poppy wrenched open the door.

Under other circumstances, Poppy would have laughed as she heard Fleur's voice behind her, chiding Bill - "Please. I am not stupid, Guillaume. Now go as well. Warn the others."

The Ministry was eerily quiet when Poppy apparated into the Atrium, but she was prepared for this - she was sure that the commotion would hit once she made it to the Auror offices themselves. And she was right - the moment she opened the door, she was confronted by a wall of sound - voices calling to over another and talking frantically over each other, papers swooshing and flying around the room, thumps and scrapes of chairs and tables as people rushed around.

Although it looked as though most of the Aurors weren't there (she assumed they were already on their way to the prison), the office sounded as though there were hundreds inside.

Poppy slipped in, closing the door behind her. Not knowing where to start, she made her way towards her latest Auror-manager, Gawain Robards.

When she reached him, he looked her up and down, and Poppy felt pride that instead of telling her her uniform was wrong or nitpicking as he usually did, he simply nodded. "Wand out. Let's go."

"Where?" Poppy asked, hurrying to catch up with him.

"Azkaban," Gawain answered.

Poppy swallowed thickly and joined a small team of Aurors by the door. They were all holding onto what looked like a large plate.

Around her, other small groups were assembling, holding onto similar odd items. One person in each team held a pocket watch, and Poppy was just thinking of how they would know who would go first, when Gawain shoved her roughly and glared, nodding to the plate.

Poppy grabbed hold of a small sliver of the silver just as her group began to port away, and managed to hold on for the uncomfortable and disconcerting journey, barely breathing as she readied herself for the Dementors.

"Wands out!" Gawain shouted when their feet landed on hard, blackened ground. His voice was almost drowned out by the sound of the sea crashing against the rock they were standing on, and…

"Are they cheering?" one of the Aurors asked, turning around. "Oh shit."

Poppy turned also, immediately seeing why the Auror had broken protocol and sworn. Her eyes widened as she took in the scene.

Poppy had seen Azkaban in photos before, but she'd never been to visit - there'd never been a need to. Now she knew why it wasn't one for fresh recruits.

She'd been prepared for the Dementors and the small island. But not for the scale of the fortress like building which seemed to rise from sea to cloud with no end in sight. Nor for the darkness that seemed to emanate from it, and certainly not for the amount of windows, and the number of hands and arms waving from them.

And then she realised that the roar of the sea really wasn't that loud. It was the roar of cheers and stomps and claps and screams that melded into neverending noise.

"Let's go!" Gawain shouted, and Poppy made herself move now, running after him. She had no idea where they were going, no idea where the entrance was, but she knew she needed to stay with the group lest she get lost in the worst of places.

"It's not cold. I don't feel… why isn't it cold?" Poppy asked no-one in particular.

When the Dementors had come to Hogwarts - when they'd been on the train, when they'd interfered with the Hufflepuff-Gryffindor match, and when she'd walked past them to get to Hogsmeade - Poppy had felt an unnatural chill which had penetrated her inside and out, fogging her senses and her mind.

"They've gone," someone replied. "The Dementors have gone. They're not here!"

"Keep your mouth shut!" Scrimgeour snapped, when they met him at the door to Azkaban. His hair was wild and he looked more like a lion than Poppy had ever seen before.

"They've not gone," Scrimgeour supplied with a glare set on his face, turning with Poppy's group and leading them inside. "They're just not doing anything."

Poppy wanted to ask; 'What do you mean? I thought just being in their presence made you feel something?' but she kept her mouth shut and her question was answered for her when they reached the middle of the fortress and Poppy looked up.

There, high above them, were a handful of Dementors floating eerily through the middle of the prison. They were so far away that they looked like pinpricks, but Poppy could still see their cloaks trailing after them as they were illuminated by the sky above. Poppy stared past them. She had never thought that there would be no roof to the prison.

"What's she doing here?" Scrimgeour grunted, and Poppy looked away from the sky to see that he was staring at her.

"Got to the office before most of the department," Gawain replied, staring upwards still, "suited and booted. Deserves to be here."

Scrimgeour hummed in reply and waved his wand, summoning a dozen brooms from nowhere.

"You know the drill. First ones here get the good jobs," Scrimgeour said, though his grimacing smile did nothing to reassure Poppy as she took the broom and began her ascent, staying close to her group as she tried to ignore the way the prisoners screams and shouts grew louder and more horrid as they moved upwards.

Poppy knew, of course, that they would - the more dangerous you were, the higher your cell in the block. Sirius had explained that to her once. She hadn't had the courage to ask where he'd been kept.

Finally, they reached the level where the Dementors were - the topmost -, and she felt her energy and happiness drain from her in one fell swoop. She wondered why it had only just happened, and then she noticed that the Dementors moved not towards the prisoners, but towards their small group.

"Patronuses," Scrimgeour commanded, and Poppy did as she was told, steadying herself on her broom as she tried not to look down.

Around her, barriers of silver emanated from wands, and for a moment she thought hers wouldn't appear. It wasn't as if she had practised much recently, but then she thought of Charlie and of their Christmas together, a shield sized silver barrier appeared before her.

The effect was immediate. The despair and depression she had begun to feel seeping into her bones was replaced with a welcome warmth.

"Thank Merlin," one of the Aurors whispered next to Poppy, before raising her voice to ask, "What's going on then? And where are the rest?"

They dismounted on a small ledge. The rail that was in place to stop them from falling hundreds of feet down to the ground didn't look too secure, but Poppy tried to put that out of her mind.

"Through here, and no idea," Scrimgeour replied, reaching to grasp the handle of a large steel cell door next to him. "But if any of you speak of this, you'll be-"

"Fired, done, yeah, we get it," the outspoken Auror replied, earning a laugh. But her smile dropped when Scrimgeour opened the door and they were confronted with… an empty cell.

Well, almost empty. There was a patch of cloth in one corner, a bucket in another. A small plate of mouldy bread sat in the middle of the floor by the door.

When Poppy edged closer, she saw what looked like a small handmade doll by the cloth. "Is that a doll?" Poppy asked quietly. "And is it made of… hair?" The sight made her nauseous.

The other Aurors around Poppy began to whisper urgently to each other.

"There are ten missing by our count. All this level. Shacklebolt is trying to get something out of the Dementors as we speak," Scrimgeour said gruffly.

"Well what're we doing then?" someone else asked.

"Cell checks starting here. Work your way down. Then crowd control," Scrimgeour replied in a growl.

"Shouldn't we be outside looking for them?" Poppy asked, louder now. "In the surrounding area, I mean?"

"You don't think this is the surrounding area?" Scrimgeour snapped, and Poppy stepped back, a shiver of fear running through her when her bottom hit the top of the railing. She steadied herself quickly.

"Not really," Poppy said, trying to keep her voice level. "Most of the Dementors are gone. The ones still here are focussed on us, not the prisoners. I think the people they were keeping in these cells have gone. I just don't think we'll find them hiding in the lower floors."

"And when did I hire you to think?" Scrimgeour replied.

"Poor buggers," another Auror said loudly, stopping the argument in its tracks as he peered over the railing.

Over the rail, Poppy could see the small figures of an assembly of Aurors, making up approximately two of the groups who had been huddled around the portkeys in the office. Knowing that ten prisoners were missing, she didn't think that the thirty of them would be enough to tackle the issue. But she stayed silent.

When Poppy heard a chuckle, she turned to the Auror who had spoken, seeing that he had a grin on his face.

"You'll learn in time," he said, "the dangerous ones are the most fun. You get to go down level by level, seeing who's got information and who's hiding the fugitive. That's the thing. They say there are no breakouts at Azkaban, but ever so often a prisoner or two runs into another cell and the alarms go off. Get here early and your time'll get taken up with all the dangerous ones who haven't spoken to anyone in a while and just want a bit of company. And if your time's taken up you get…?"

At Poppy's blank expression, an Auror she knew, Daunting, laughed and said, "Overtime. Double pay. The last escape paid for a lovely holiday to Guernsey with the wife. She still goes on about that one."

"This doesn't scare you?" Poppy asked, looking around at the older wizards and witches. "That they're just out there now? And aren't you disappointed that we aren't the ones going after them?"

"This isn't the war," another Auror in the group said. "Like Daunting said, they'll be down in the lower cells, hiding out. The lower they are, the less the Dementors affect them. It's still bad, but not as awful, you know?"

"Who exactly do you think helped them to simply… leave?" Scrimgeour asked over the Auror, his cheeks reddening with each word.

"I- well, someone," Poppy said, realising that she couldn't exactly say, 'it was probably Voldemort.'

"Black," the outspoken Auror from earlier replied, sending Poppy a nod as her eyes widened, as if she'd not thought of it before. "She's right you know. If Black helped in the escape, we're not going to find anyone here."

"Maybe so. But the checks will continue. We can't take any risks. I'll speak to Shacklebolt, see where the last sighting of Black was," Scrimgeour replied, and then he was off, limping to the rail which he jumped over, mounting a broom on the way down.

Poppy swallowed thickly but smiled sheepishly when Daunting patted her on the back.

"C'mon," he said, passing her one of the pieces of parchment Scrimgeour had given him, "let's split up. Here's who we're looking for."

Poppy's eyes widened when she saw the list of names, and it was sure in her mind then - this was Voldemort's work - the parchment read like a who's who of his most sadistic followers.

Hours later, when they had searched every inch of the prison and not found the escaped convicts, Poppy stood guard on a small ledge, a door either side of her. The cells were each just over an arms' length away so the prisoners couldn't reach out and touch her, but Poppy still struggled to keep her composure as the inhabitants shouted and made noises at her.

Poppy stood by herself, hands clasped in front of her, wand held tight, poised for the first sign of actual trouble. Despite her fear, she kept her face expressionless, her eyes darting up, down, right and left as she took note of where her colleagues were.

It felt as though they were waiting for something, and Poppy could only imagine that it was for the news to break. Otherwise they would have left over two hours ago when they'd figured out the extent of the escape - why else keep all of the Aurors present if not to show that they were making a concerted effort to right their wrong and contain the other unescaped convicts?

Poppy thought a lot over the course of the next few hours, there wasn't much else to do. She noticed people being relieved from their posts here and there, and thought a few times that she would be too, but when she wasn't, she assumed it was either that she had been forgotten, or she was being tested. And she didn't want to bring attention to herself if it was the latter so she stayed in place.

She had her duties of watch over the Department of Mysteries entrance to thank for her being able to stand for so long - but even so, her legs almost fell asleep a few times. She cast minor non-verbal pinching spells on herself every so often and they shocked her enough for her limbs to remain awake.

Otherwise, pure stubbornness prevailed over her want to leave.

More hours passed, and slowly Poppy stopped thinking about the convicts in the cells beside her, and instead began to think of the incoming war, and what the escaped convicts had done to the two Aurors, Frank and Alice Longbottom. And that the Longbottoms had been Pure-bloods. Poppy wondered if they would use her as target practice, as fake-Moody had said.

More time passed and slowly Poppy stopped thinking of anything at all as her focus remained on the door of the cell opposite her for two minutes, then she checked up and down her row, and then back to the cell.

And every time she looked up and saw the Dementors flying high above her, she felt fear and terror begin to clamp its grip around her heart and she returned to counting the minutes.

"You know they're taking bets, right? On if you're going to go to the toilet?" Tonks asked, shocking Poppy slightly - she hadn't even heard her approach. "Sorry, pretended to be Jenkins," Tonks said proudly, screwing up her nose to turn her hair from white to pink. "Snuck up on you."

Poppy shrugged. She was too tired to say that she wouldn't have noticed anyway - she'd been staring at a rather bored looking Kingsley for the past minute.

"They're all asleep," Tonks said quietly, checking the cell closest to her. "The excitement must've tuckered them out."

Poppy turned her head slightly, nodded and let out a long sigh, but otherwise stayed silent.

"You alright?" Tonks said, narrowing her eyes. Poppy shrugged and Tonks smiled, "You'll be happy to hear that Scrimgeour said I'm to relieve you so you can go home."

Poppy nodded and finally let her arms drop to her sides. With one last look around, she turned and walked past Tonks as if she barely knew her. Which, to their workmates, was true.

"Meeting tomorrow. Seven," Tonks whispered, but Poppy didn't register the words until she had left the main part of the prison, and by then it was too late to thank Tonks.

"Press outside," said a gruff voice as she passed a small group of Aurors at the main exit. "Apparate anywhere past Barok."

"Thanks," Poppy said, nodding.

Sure enough, she had barely taken a breath of the cool night's air when the darkness was illuminated by what seemed like a thousand bright orbs.

"Ah, Jacobs!" shouted the unfortunately now-familiar voice of Cornelius Fudge.

A moment later, Poppy found herself standing next to the Minister for Magic, nodding along as he officially announced that the Ministry were so confident that the escaped convicts would be rounded up soon, that they had stationed their newest Muggleborn recruit at the prison itself. "And as a testament to her work ethic, she was one of the first here, and the last of that cohort to leave!"

If Poppy hadn't have been so tired she would have laughed, or questioned why no one relieved her. Or wondered if that meant that Kingsley had gone home and come back in the time she was stationed by those cells.

But she was dead on her feet, and so she forced herself to stand up straight and once the cameras had stopped flashing, and the journalists had decided she really wasn't going to speak, she was ushered away and pushed towards Auror Barok, who stood at the edge of what Poppy assumed was the anti-Apparition ward.

"Finally made you leave, eh?" Barok asked, crossing his arms. "Not sure I could've lasted all night in there, but credit where credit's due. You do know trainees don't get overtime, right?"

Poppy forced the corners of her lips up into a grimace. She hadn't known that, but it added to her annoyance, and finally made her react. "Well that's great," she said, glaring at her feet.

"Sorry mate. Maybe they'll make an exception," Barok said, with a small knowing smile. "When're you next on shift?"

Poppy opened her mouth to say something, but instead she frowned. "What's today?" she asked. Barok informed her and she sighed and said. "Working again tomorrow then."

"Sleep and a lot of food and you'll be right as rain," Barok said, nodding sympathetically.

"Thanks," she muttered, before she stepped through the wards and Apparated to her road.

Just minutes later Poppy stumbled into her flat and made it to the sofa before her legs gave way. She was asleep before her head hit the cushion.