“Bienvenue en arrière.”
Eliza looked up, disoriented. As she took in her surroundings, she realized she was in a hospital room with her father, her wrists restrained to the bed. While his eyes were cold, at the same time, he looked impossibly tired.
”Queest-ce que je fais ici?” She asked weakly, her own voice unrecognizable, and she blinked to hold back her tears. Her mother was dead…and her own father had killed her. ”Papa?”
Her father spoke. “You have a concussion.” He raised a hand to stroke her cheek, but Eliza flinched away from his touch.
“Get away from me! Murderer!” She hissed.
Pulling away, Philippe’s eyes travelled to the slightly fogged over window. Outside, the rain had stopped, and the sun was peeking out from behind the slowly parting clouds. “Your mother was murdered, that much is true. But I was not the one to kill her. I am not a nice man, Eliza, but I would never hurt her. Of all people, she is the one who has always mattered most to me.”
Eliza snorted. “Excuse me for doubting, when I came to find you kneeling beside her, your knife buried in her chest!”
Her father flinched. “That is true – circumstances speak against me, but I swear to you, I did not kill my own wife.”
“Then tell me, Eliza said, struggling against her bindings. “Tell me your oh-so-believable story that I’m sure the Aurors swallowed up all too eagerly. What did you pay them this time, huh?”
“I didn’t pay them anything. We will know more after the formal investigation, but as of now, the Aurors believe the stab-wound killed her. There were signs of a struggle on the upper balcony, and they believe she was thrown off after she died, breaking her neck.” Philippe spoke in monotone, voice empty and unfeeling.
“And I’m sure you’re heartbroken,” Eliza spat sarcastically.
“Yes, I am,” was all her father said, and Eliza was so shocked she was unable to do anything other than opening and closing her mouth several times. “Believe what you want, Eliza, but I cared about your mother a great deal. Our marriage may have been arranged, and I may have wished for a son rather than a daughter, but this family means everything to me.”
Eliza sniffed, not able to believe him – but she wanted to, so badly.
“Explain what you were doing there, in that position, then,” she asked.
“I returned from work with Floppy at seven o’clock. I was a bit later than usual, since I’ve been working overtime, due to a project with the German Ambassador, who seems to have lost his memory of everything over night. I heard the sound of someone apparating, and thought it might be you, coming back from visiting your…friends.” He wasn’t completely able to hide his distaste over that word, not approving of Eliza’s circle of acquaintances in the least. “When I stepped into the manor, I realized how wrong I was. As I saw the bloody tracks, I followed them to the terrace, and found your mother.”
He inhaled sharply. “I-I didn’t know what to do. I tried to stop the bleeding, despite the fact that she was clearly dead already. I was afraid removing the knife would only worsen her condition, so I let it stay in… I don’t know how long I sat there, but then I heard you arrive and asked for Floppy to get you. The rest, you know.”
The grief that appeared on her father’s face was clear, and yet, Eliza doubted. The story was believable, but her father’s stories tended to be, and he was an extremely good actor when he wanted to. Could she really afford to buy this? Could she afford not to?
“You must believe me, Eliza,” her father pleaded. “I know I haven’t been a good father to you, and not always a fair husband to your mother. You know I don’t approve of your rebellious nature, or your friends. But I have tried my best to keep our family together, to protect us! You may not like me, but I am your father. And I will not have you hate me for something that was not my doing! Hate me for everything else, but not that.”
That, more than anything convinced Eliza he was telling the truth, at last. Those words, and the fact that her father had begged – that was something he would never do otherwise. “Je vous crois,” she whispered hoarsely, and her father’s expression turned hopeful. “I believe you, papa. And I’m sorry for thinking you were responsible. But I don’t believe anything can keep our family together anymore at this point. It is beyond salvation.”
For a moment, Eliza thought she saw tears appear in her normally stoic father’s eyes, but when she blinked, they were gone, his face back in its expressionless mask. “You may be right,” was all he said.
“Oh, I don’t want to go back to Hogwarts,” Mandy admitted.
The marauders were at platform 9 ¾ to wave Mandy off for her seventh year. However, Mandy wasn’t all that happy about leaving, despite being made Head Girl. She had had a lot of fun this summer, staying in Britain rather than going to visit her sister. But there had been a lot of sad things that had happened lately, and she wanted to be there for her friends. Also, she had a feeling they were all involved in something she wasn’t, and she was almost a hundred percent certain it had to do with the war. That scared her somewhat. She was afraid that if she went to Hogwarts, one of them wouldn’t be there when she returned.
“Well, your education is important,” Lily said, hugging her. “And you made Head Girl!”
Sirius rolled his eyes. “Yes. I’m dating the typical nerd.” But from the grin on his face, it was obvious he didn’t care.
“Oh, I just wish I had graduated with you guys!” Mandy exclaimed. “I don’t know what I was doing before I met you! Being at school, without you there – it’s going to be so weird!”
“Yes, we are quite addictive, aren’t we?” James teased.
Mandy nodded. “Definitely. Hey, is that Regulus?” She asked her boyfriend, pointing over his shoulder in the direction of the younger Black. “He looks so tired.”
Turning around, Sirius frowned. Mandy was right. He did look tired. “I’ll be right back,” he mumbled, leaving his friends to walk over to Regulus who had just said goodbye to his – their – parents. “Hi, Reg. Excited to go back to school?” Sirius asked, hands in his pockets.
Regulus raised an eyebrow sardonically. “Not really. There are a lot of better things I could be doing.”
Sirius pursed his lips, not really wanting to know what that might be. “Well, your education is important. And you’ll be safe from the war there,” he couldn’t help but add.
Regulus scoffed. “Safe from the war?” He asked in disbelief. “What planet do you live on Sirius? No one is ‘safe’ from the war.” He made quotation marks in the air with his fingers at the word ‘safe.’ “It affects us all.” His eyes darkened when he remembered his mission and the bloody way it had ended. He still had nightmares about it, and for the first time, he was beginning to wonder if he had done the right thing in joining the Death Eaters.
Yes, he was proud he had been able to help his Lord. Yes, he believed in what he wanted to accomplish. But he wasn’t so sure if the way the Death Eaters and You-Know-Who went about it was the right one. He couldn’t help but wonder if the power source the Dark Lord had mentioned was his true goal – to make himself immortal – rather than peace for the Wizarding World.
And the book that could lead him to it…there was something about it that made people obsess over the book, the Dark Lord included. Why else would people constantly take it from each other? Be willing to kill over it? Monique had been completely pleasant until he’d asked to hold it. And the sudden feeling of possessiveness that had taken hold of him when he was about to turn it over to his Lord – it freaked him out.
“Yes,” Sirius agreed. “Yes, it does. Look, Reg,” Sirius began, “I know we’re not on the best terms – don’t interrupt me – but you’re still my brother, and I love you. If…if you ever need me – for anything – I promise I’ll be there.”
Regulus stared, sudden affection for his brother that he hadn’t really felt since before Sirius started Hogwarts settling over him. Sirius was one of the good guys, and Regulus was sad he couldn’t tell him anything about his life anymore. But they were on different sides of the conflict. “Thanks. It…means a lot to me, that you say that.” From his expression, he supposed Sirius didn’t think he was sincere, for the older Black quickly spoke up again.
“I mean it,” Sirius said. “If you ever need my help…you have it, alright?”
“I meant it too,” Regulus said, slightly amused. “It does mean a lot to me.” He paused. “What I don’t understand is why? Yes, we’re brothers, but like you said, we’re not exactly close anymore. If something happens to me, why would that matter?”
It was Sirius’ turn to stare in confusion. “What do you mean, why would it matter?” He repeated incredulously. “Reg, of course it would! And it’s not just because I feel some sort of brotherly duty. It’s what people do! It’s what friends and family do! They help each other. I love you, Reg, and I don’t have any other reason than that. I don’t need any other reason than that.”
“Right,” Regulus said, voice thick. “Well, I should probably get on the train. It will be leaving soon.” He hurried of, and to Sirius, it seemed as if he couldn’t get away quickly enough. Was that a good thing or a bad thing? Did it mean Sirius had managed to get through to him, somewhat, at least? Or that Regulus thought he sprouted a lot of crap?
“Hey,” Mandy walked up to him. “I’ve got to board the train. But we’ll write, as promised, and we’ll see each other at Hogsmeade weekends, right?”
Shaking off his worry for his brother, Sirius smiled at his girlfriend. “Yes, of course.” He gave her a long kiss. “Have fun.”
Mandy grinned. “You too.” She paused. “Just not…too much fun, if you know what I mean.”
Sirius chuckled. “Don’t worry. I’ll take it easy.”
“You, take it easy?” Mandy snorted. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Laughing, Sirius sent her off towards the train, waving at Mandy along with his friends as it began to move away from the station, Mandy just getting on before the last of the train doors closed.
As it disappeared out of sight, Sirius suddenly felt really lonely. He had gotten used to having Mandy around, and he agreed with her: A year with her at school, and him away from it…it would be weird.
“I will see you this Christmas.”
Eliza forced out a smile. “Of course.”
”I hope I will not be getting any more owls about you being in detention again,” her father continued. ”You don’t want to disappoint me, do you?”
Eliza quickly shook her head. ”No, of course not.”
”Now, hurry along, or you will miss your ride.” He kissed her cheek. ”Je t’aime, my darling.” He spun around, apparating away.
”I know,” Eliza whispered to herself, staring at the spot her father had just vacated. For the first time, she actually believed it. But it wasn’t enough. Like she had told her father at the hospital, their family was broken.
Her mother was dead.
She felt empty, and she needed to do something. Needed to have some sort of purpose in her life. She needed to do something for her. She just didn’t know what. She just knew she couldn’t be at Beauxbatons and pretend everything was fine and dandy.
”Les étudiants, entrent dans le chariot, s’il vous plait!”
Eliza turned to look on the giant carriage, quickly being filled with students. Attached to the carriage were beautiful Abraxan horses, which would fly them to the French school.
“Eliza!” Suddenly her muggleborn friend she’d stayed with for several days this summer, Julie Garceil, was there, hugging her, followed by Sophie Blanche and Audrey Lambert, two other close friends. “We heard about your mother. Nous sommes si désolés.”
Eliza smiled weakly. “Merci.”
“We should probably get on,” Audrey commented. “Or the carriage will leave without us.”
Eliza wanted to say something: That she had no intention of returning to Beauxbatons, but the words refused to come out.
“You will feel better once we reach school,” Sophie said, her and Julie grabbing one of Eliza’s arms each, practically dragging her into the carriage with them, Audrey following at a more sedate pace. “You’ll see.”
The moment they entered, the door swung closed, and the Beauxbatons carriage took off for the skies.
“Non,” Eliza moaned weakly, sinking down onto the floor, not carrying about the looks she was certainly getting from the other students. “I-I can’t...I must leave.”
Her three friends exchanged worried looks.
“Que se produit ici?” A stern voice said, and Madame Maxine, the Headmistress of Beauxbatons appeared. Several students looked startled, not aware the Headmistress rode in the carriage with them, nor why. “Mademoiselle de Mort, why are you on de floor?”
“She does not want to return to Beauxbatons, Madame,” Julie said hesitantly.
“Dat is ridiculous,” Madame Maxine huffed, pulling Eliza up easily, settling her down on a nearby seat. “Come ‘ere, child. Now, I know things ‘ave bin deeffecult for you,” she said, “but not return to school? What would that accomplish? Your father has asked me to look after you especially this year. He was worried you would do something stupid.” Her expression looked pinched. “Eet seems he was correct.”
“You should be with your friends,” Audrey added gently. “Let us be there for you, Eliza.”
Eliza didn’t answer, only looked out of the carriage window, aching for something she could not explain. “Quel est le problème avec moi?” She whispered. “I feel empty, Madame Maxine.” Tears appeared in her eyes.
“Eet ees understandable, after what you ‘ave gone through, childe,” Maxine patted her shoulder with a large hand.
“I’m certain you will feel better once you get back to your normal routines,” Julie said. “Is that not right, Madame?”
“Oui. Your ‘eart, child, is broken. But eet will heal.”
“I wish I could have your faith,” Eliza mumbled, eyes staring down at her lap.
At 7 o’clock sharp, Lily nervously used the Ministry elevators to descend to level nine, the Department of Mysteries. As the grille slid open, Lily found herself standing in the beginning of a bare corridor, aligned with flickering torches. At the end of the corridor, there was a plain black door, and hesitantly, she began to move towards it.
Suddenly, the door opened, and a beautiful blonde woman stepped out. “Lily Evans?” She asked serenely, and Lily nodded hesitantly.
“My name is Aurora Lovegood, and I am going to be your partner down here, as well as your mentor,” the woman – Aurora – said, smiling.
“It’s very nice to meet you, Ms. Lovegood,” Lily said.
“Please, call me Aurora,” Aurora requested. “And it’s Mrs. But try to only use it if you are absolutely certain we are alone.”
Lily frowned in confusion. “How come?”
“Well, as I'm sure you're aware, not many know what being an Unspeakable means. The reason for secrecy is unfortunately necessary, since a lot of what we do here can be fatal to the very existence of the world itself,” Aurora explained. “And just knowing someone’s name gives you power over that person.”
“But aren’t the people working here trustworthy?” Lily wondered out loud.
“Goodness, no,” Aurora shook her head, laughing slightly. “Usually, Unspeakables work alone, rarely in teams, except for when they first begin here, like you, or when dealing with an especially delicate area of experimentation and research. Don’t trust anybody. No one here knows a lot about each other, if anything at all. Not all Unspeakables have honourable intentions. While everyone down here wants to learn as much as possible, don’t count on the fact that it’s just for the sake of knowledge, rather than using that knowledge. Imagine what would happen if the information gets into the wrong hands?”
Lily shuddered, and Aurora nodded. “You understand already. Good. Now, the best thing to do would be to come up with codenames to use in the company of others. My codename is Dawn.”
“I’m not sure what to pick,” Lily admitted.
“It doesn’t have to be an actual name,” Aurora said. “It can be the name of an animal, a flower...you can pick a boy’s name, or call yourself ‘lamp’ if you want to, but I recommend choosing something you can live with.”
Lily giggled. “That may be a bit too much.” She frowned. “...Ceres,” she finally decided. “My codename shall be Ceres.”
Aurora let an eyebrow rise. “The Roman Goddess of growing plants and motherly love? Interesting choice.”
Lily – Ceres – blushed. “You know your Roman mythology.”
“Of course,” Aurora grinned. “So, tell me, what made you pick Ceres? Are you a fan of plants, or do you carry secret dreams of having children anytime soon?”
“Well...” She thought of that time in the SCBU with baby Elizabeth, and how she’d tricked James into believing she wanted eight kids. She might have been joking about that (two or three was fine with her), but she hadn’t joked when she said she wanted a baby before she turned twenty-five... “Kind of.”
“Does your mentor know your real name?” Lily wondered.
“He used to,” Aurora said. “But after an apprenticeship is finished, the mentor is obliviated of the student’s real name, just as the student is obliviated of the mentor’s. Only the codename remains. The memory charm is so thorough that we can’t even recall the looks of the person, just hints of what he or she might look like.”
“But the people at the work-fair at Hogwarts...won’t they know my name, and everyone else’s who join the Department?” Lily asked, confused.
“Oh, those people.” Aurora snorted. “No. They think they’re Unspeakables, but really, they’re just puppets. They only believe they are important – nothing they do is actually a part of the great Mysteries down here and don’t have much of an impact on anything. They give the Head of the Unspeakables a list of potentials after every yearly work-fair, and he evaluates them. The people given an ‘okay’ are assigned a mentor, who contacts their new student. The fake Unspeakables don’t even get to find out who are chosen, and I’m sure they believe we pick out a lot more than we actually do. In point of fact, you are the only new apprentice here for ten years. I was the last.”
“It was you who ‘dropped’ that note at the Leaky Cauldron,” Lily realised, and Aurora smiled, nodding.
“It was,” she agreed. “I will get you a cloak and robes of the kind I wore that day. They’re the standard clothing for an Unspeakable, covered in protection spells and obscuring charms to keep people from seeing your face.” Aurora looked down on her wrist-watch to check the time. “Well, we should probably get moving. There are a lot of things I have to talk you through today. Tomorrow, all the other Unspeakables will arrive.”
“You mean it’s only you and I here?” Lily was astonished.
“Yes,” Aurora answered as she walked down the corridor to the plain black door at the end, Lily hurriedly following her. “It’s another thing we do to protect your identity, and mine, since we’re both here as ourselves today.”
She opened the door, and Lily’s eyes widened as they entered a circular room lit up with candles, burning with blue flames. Twelve plain black doors with no handles suddenly began to revolve rapidly. “How do you know which door is which?” Lily asked, feeling herself become dizzy.
Aurora smirked. “You don’t. Once they start to spin, it’s almost impossible to determine, unless you’ve worked here for awhile. Until you’re more used to this place, you’ll have to hurry through the right one while they’re standing still.”
Lifting her wand, Aurora stood completely still for a few seconds. Then, a bright blue light streamed out of her wand, hitting one of the doors which flew open, though they were all still revolving. “Come on.” Waiting until the door was in front of them, Aurora and Lily stepped through, the door slamming closed behind them.
“This is the room we use for spells and potions research, and where you will be spending most of your time, I believe,” Aurora began. “A lot – but not everything – of what we come up with in this section of the DoM, tend to become accessible for the public. This door,” she pointed to a black door to the left, “leads to the experimental chamber where we test everything out. It is also accessible from the circular entrance chamber.”
“What about the other doors we saw? Where do they lead?” Lily asked.
“Each door leads to a new chamber, each one designated to different fields of knowledge. They contain the fundamental explorations of the fields that are the primary cornerstones in what being an Unspeakable is all about, what we’re trying to find out. You’re not ready for either of them yet, but once you’ve been here awhile, you might get reassigned to one of them.”
Lily nodded. “Could you give me an example?”
Aurora pursed her lips. “Well...time, for one thing. Death, and prophecy are a couple other examples. That’s really all I can tell you – all those fields are more or less common knowledge outside of the Department. The Hall of Prophecy is even accessible to the public, if one of the prophecies there is meant for them, that is. As for the Time Room, well, it’s where people get their time-turners. Of course, those rooms contain a lot more – not that they know that.”
“And death?” Lily asked hesitantly.
Aurora’s expression darkened. “That too, used to be accessible to the public, but it’s not anymore. It was once used as an execution chamber, because of an object inside that is irremovable. It sort of goes with the decor.”
“The Veil of Death...” Lily breathed, and Aurora gave her a startled look.
“You’ve heard of it?”
“I read about it,” Lily offered.
“Does death interest you?” Aurora asked.
“Not especially,” Lily admitted. “The opposite of death is life, though, and that does.”
Aurora smiled. “Then, if you’re ever ready for a reassignment, I think I know which room I should put you in.”
“Yeah, which one?” Lily asked, green eyes lighting up.
“That, I’m not telling you,” Aurora grinned. “Now, there are a couple more things we need to talk about before I show you the project we’re going to be working on. First, you may tell people what you work as. The secrecy is kind of a giveaway in any case. But under no circumstances are you to tell anyone what you work with, understood?”
“Good. The second thing you need to know is that what we do here, especially once we get to the experimental stage is lethal. It might kill you. It probably will, someday. The more invested you get, no matter the steps you take to ensure it doesn’t happen, it might. I’ve only been here for about ten years, and sometimes, I am startled by my own obsession about what I do – and it scares the Hell out of me. But I can’t stop. It’s the curse of seeking knowledge, I suppose. Are you okay with that?”
Lily frowned thoughtfully. “Yes.” She finally said. “I’m okay with that.”
Aurora nodded. “Alright then. If you do survive to retirement, or decide you want to quit, you will have your memories erased of what you’ve learnt, and the Department keeps all records of it. All you’ll remember is that you’ve done something truly worthwhile, and maybe glimpses of the what - but never the why. This is usually the step most Unspeakables don’t like.”
“I can understand why,” Lily agreed. “If their reason for doing this is to gain knowledge, and then have that knowledge ripped away...it must be awful. But I realize why it must be done, and it is fine.”
“You’re very mature for your age,” Aurora noted. “Alright. Let me show you our project. Usually, the only magic that goes into a potion is that from the ingredients and your own natural, unconscious magic that makes it work – it’s why muggles can’t make potions, even if they did everything else right, and why potions made by Squibs are rarely useful. They don’t have enough magic to charge the potion. Our project is to come up with a way to use spells – actual spells – to heighten potions’ effect.”
“Like a combination of a healing salve and a healing spell?” Lily questioned.
“Exactly!” Aurora beamed. “It’s highly volatile to try, though. If you throw a spell into a cauldron with a potion, even if the potion does the same thing as the spell...well, usually, the reaction is quite...unpredictable. There’s something about the combination of ingredients and magic that don’t work all that well together. We must find out what it is that causes it. And once we have the reason...”
“...We’ll be able to figure out how to avoid the negative effects, and make the combination of potions and magic work,” Lily finished, nodding in understanding.
Aurora smiled broadly. “I think you will be the perfect partner.”
The bell above the door jingled invitingly and Samantha looked up, grinning widely at James and Sirius. “Hello and welcome to Mystical Records!”
“It looks very nice in here, Sam,” Sirius whistled appreciatively. “Have you had many customers yet?”
“More than I hoped for actually,” Sam admitted. “I’ve gotten a lot sold already, and I have gotten several requests for music I should consider obtaining for sale.”
“And the wizarding section?” James wondered.
“Not that many visitors,” Sam said. “Just a couple, but I expected that.”
“Where’s Wormtail, by the way?” Sirius asked, jumping up on the cashier desk, face to face with Samantha, legs dangling.
“He went out around lunch. He hasn’t been back since.” Samantha bit her lip. “I don’t think he’s all that excited about the store. And – “ she hesitated.
“ – And what?” James asked. “You can tell us. Pete can be a bit thick sometimes.”
Samantha sighed. “I don’t know. Things aren’t all that great between us right now, to be honest. Things have been a bit…strained. I just have a feeling he’s mad at me for something.”
The doorbell jingled again and Peter stepped in. “Having fun, gossiping about me?” He asked sourly, and Samantha blushed.
“Hey, now, that’s no way to treat a lady,” Sirius protested, jumping down from the counter. “She’s a bit troubled, that’s all.”
“Talking is the best way to maintain a relationship,” James nodded wisely. “You ought to try it, Wormtail, rather than bottle stuff up.”
Peter’s left eye twitched in annoyance. “Don’t stick your nose in it,” he muttered, pulling a hand through his hair. “And you shouldn’t be talking about our relationship to others,” he told Samantha, ignoring her wounded expression at his angry tone.
James and Sirius exchanged looks, both concerned about Peter’s, to them, rather uncharacteristic behaviour. “Look, Pete – “ James began, but Peter held up a hand.
“I meant it. It’s none of your business.” He glanced at Sam. “Sorry I’ve been in such a bad mood lately. I’m just stressed. Hopefully, now that the store is open, things will calm down a bit.”
Samantha looked down, nodding. “It’s okay,” she said quietly. She felt slightly guilty. She knew she hadn’t been all that attentive to Peter lately. James was right: The two of them really did need to sit down and have a long conversation. The problem was that Peter’s moods around her since graduating seemed to either be pleasantly cool, or angrily seething. Plus, whenever she wanted to talk, and he didn’t like the topic, he’d change the subject.
“How was your day at work?”
Like now. Samantha sighed to herself.
James and Sirius groaned in unison. “Exhausting,” Sirius moaned. “Mad-Eye is truly mad. Did you know the first thing he and the other Aurors did when we stepped through the door, was attack us?”
“Moody wasn’t even the worst,” James told Peter and Samantha. “Alice went all ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ on us! I’d hate to know what she’s like in battle when she’s actually pissed off. I can see why she and Frank are Moody’s favourites.”
“Yeah, I’ve never even heard of half the spells that came out of Frank’s mouth. Not to mention all those cast silently!” Sirius agreed. “It made me realize how much we have left to learn.”
“It’s worth it, though,” James said. “If it means we can protect those we love, and those who can’t defend themselves.”
Peter had to refrain from rolling his eyes. Enter James Potter, the hero who can do no wrong. What did he want? A standing ovation for being a knight in stupid shining armour? It wasn’t like he’d been in a real battle. It was all talk. Peter sighed. He didn’t know where all these negative feelings were coming from. Actually, he did. Years of pent-up frustration from being seen as the ‘weak’ link in the chain of friends who didn’t appreciate him enough.
It was only now he realised it, though. James was right about one thing – he did bottle things up. He just doubted talking would solve anything. The Death Eaters had the right way of things. They didn’t use any flowery words that were meaningless in the grand scale of things. They took action.
He still wasn’t sure if he could full out join them though. Fear wasn’t a good enough motive. Was anger and jealousy towards his friends? No, Peter realised. It would certainly be part of it, just as fear of what might happen if he said no.
But he also needed more – a better reason. A Gryffindor reason, so he could truly feel he’d joined the Death Eaters because it was the right thing to do, the noble thing to do, not out of pettiness. If he took that step, there couldn’t be any doubt, and there certainly would be, if he betrayed his friends just for getting one up on them.
He definitely didn’t need them haunting his conscience and make him waver. No, if he did join the Dark Lord, he needed his friends to be out of his life forever. He did not need them sitting on clouds in his mind, being generally annoying, sprouting ethics of right and wrong, heads surrounded by golden halos.
If he betrayed them, there could be no return.
“GET DOWN!” Caradoc Dearborn shouted, and Buffy threw herself to the ground, looking up just in time to see the apartment complex they were trying to protect blow up, bricks and glass raining down on them.
“Damn it,” she muttered, scrambling to her feet, wiping some soot of her face. The series of attacks, on the wizarding and muggle world alike, had begun five days ago, after an exhausting second day at St. Mungos.
The floo had flared up, and Dorcas Meadows had poked her head through, alerting her and Remus about an attack in Edinburgh. The attack on Edinburgh had been followed by an attack on Belfast and Cardiff. Then, thankfully, there had been one day with no attacks. But yesterday, Voldemort and his Death Eaters had begun once more, targeting several places at once, scattering the Aurors and the Order to different places around the countryside. And today, they were still trying to protect those places, not having slept a wink.
The Order and the Ministry had managed to thwart Voldemort at most of the places, but the attacks were still flaring in two cities: Plymouth, and London, where Buffy currently was, with about half the Order.
“This is quite different from slaying vampires,” she muttered to herself as she jumped back to her feet, immediately knocking an approaching Death Eater on his ass with a punch to the face. “Or maybe not that different,” she added, regarding her fist and the unconscious wizard.
“What are you standing around for?” Marlene McKinnon yelled at her from behind some trashcans she was using as cover. “We’re in the middle of a battle!”
“Kind of noticed,” Buffy yelled back, weaving and ducking a volley of flashing curses, a couple of which were green. Buffy knew to avoid those – she had already died once in her lifetime, thank you very much, and that was quite enough.
Somersaulting across the scorched ground, she landed nimbly on her feet behind one of the Death Eaters. Grabbing his arm, she pulled it backwards, out of its socket, and was rewarded with a yell of pain.
“BUFFY, WATCH OUT!” Dorcas Meadowes yelled from her place further down the street, holding her own against two Death Eaters.
Quickly grabbing the Death Eater whose arm she’d just dislocated, Buffy used him as a shield against the killing curses flying her way. Throwing the now dead cloaked figure at them, knocking them over, she summoned and snapped their wands, taking time to wave cheekily before running out of harm’s way.
She was feeling exhilaration flow through her veins, her inner Slayer loving the fight. It had been so long since she had been in an actual battle: The vampires she’d run into so far in this world weren’t any fun, and demons were about as close to non-existent as you could get. This was the first challenge and physical exercise she had had in a long while.
Jumping down to crouch beside Marlene, she pulled out her own wand, firing in one direction, while Marlene fired in another. “You’re quite impressive, you know that?” Marlene asked, while stunning a black-robed figure casually.
Buffy beamed. “Thanks.”
“You’re also insane,” Marlene added pleasantly.
“How are you doing, girls?” Caradoc asked, running past them and firing off several spells in rapid succession.
Marlene and Buffy exchanged looks. “Girls?” They both echoed, eyes narrowing.
Caradoc apparently realised he’d said something stupid, for he quickly ran further into the centre of the battle – far less afraid of the Death Eaters than he was of two angry witches.
“We’ll show him girls,” Buffy muttered while sending a spell up to the roof of one of the buildings in the alley still standing, hitting the Death Eater there who toppled over, to his death.
“You’re sort of scary,” Marlene noted, and Buffy grinned. Her answer, however, was interrupted by several cracks of apparition as Aurors, including Frank and Alice, arrived at the site. Looking at each other, the remaining Death Eaters apparated away.
Buffy frowned. “Well, that was anti-climatic.” She was doing her best to ignore the sick feeling in her stomach that had appeared now that the battle was over and her adrenaline had worn off: She had killed human beings today – she hadn’t been firing any lethal curses, or personally snapped anyone's neck – but the actions she’d taken, using a human as a shield, and stunning someone standing at the edge of a roof, had lead to their death.
The newly arrived Aurors turned her around to give her an incredulous look.
“What?!” Buffy exclaimed, forcing up a carefree mask to cover up her uneasy thoughts. She could feel bad about it later, but now was not the time. “I’m just saying.”
“AVADA KEDAVRA!” Someone shouted, and James quickly conjured up a fluffy pillow to intercept the Unforgivable, knowing the resulting explosion of the item when the curse made contact, would hurt him less, than say, a metal plate.
He was tired. Exhausted, actually. Over the last few days, he’d been sent to participate in forcing the Death Eaters attacking around the country to retreat. As he and Sirius were ‘newbie-Aurors’ their orders were to stay at the Ministry for the majority of the battles, but as Order members, they were expected to be there. Which meant that he was always thrice as tired as the other newbies, who had only now been called out, when the worst part was over.
But despite his exhaustion, at least he was still alive.
The battles hadn’t been anything like he’d expected. Oh, he’d known it would be no game. He’d know it would be bloody, and painful, that it killed people. He’d read about the consequences, physical as well as mental. But nothing could have prepared him for what the reality was like.
It only heightened his determination. Pushing away his exhaustion and the pain from his broken ankle, the burning in his throat, and the blood dripping into his eyes from a head wound, he threw himself back into the fray.
If his presence could save people from dying; if it could keep his friends safe, he would gladly withstand every torment the Death Eaters could throw at him.
Every pain, every injury...it was worth it, if it meant the world was a better place when it was over.
James was amazing, Lily thought, seeing her husband jump back into the fray, despite his obvious exhaustion. She’d always known he was good at spellwork, of course, but this was something else.
“JAMES, DUCK!” Sirius yelled, and Lily quickly woke up from her thoughts as horror overcame her, when a barrage of spells travelled towards James in lightening speed. Though he did manage to duck, the spells hit the brick wall behind him, and it crumbled, burying him underneath the debris.
“JAMES!” Lily yelled, green eyes wide, her heart stopping in her chest for a second.
“You can’t help him now, Lily,” Remus was suddenly there, expression grim, left arm hanging limply. “Focus on getting out of this battle alive, and then we help him.”
Lily nodded, realizing that just because someone was good at fighting, didn’t make them invincible. It just made them bigger targets. Turning her grief into rage, she pointed her wand at the group of Death Eaters responsible for James’ fate, and, before the cloaked figures could react, the street below them exploded, burying them in dust and chunks of asphalt.
No one messed with her husband.
“WE MUST RETREAT!” Edgar Bones yelled at Alastor Moody. “MORE DEATH EATERS KEEP POPPING UP!”
“We can take them,” Moody answered grimly, spells flying out from the end of his wand.
“WHERE THE HELL IS OUR BACKUP?!” Benjy Fenwick yelled, desperation in his voice.
“In London, I imagine,” Gideon Prewett replied cheekily.
Edgar glowered at him. “This is no time for your jokes, Prewett.”
“Who said I was joking?” Gideon answered. “Since they’re not here, they must be there - “
“ – Or maybe somewhere else, if there’s been another attack,” Fabian, his brother, finished.
“Merlin, let’s hope not,” Samantha said, barely standing upright as she approached them, sinking down against the door of the building they were using as cover. “Have any of you seen Peter?”
“No,” Moody grunted. “Have any of you seen Potter or Black? Merlin knows all the other Auror recruits are useless...”
Samantha gulped. “I think I saw Sirius, Remus and Lily head towards the other end of the street. James...” She sniffed. “...I think he’s dead.”
Moody and the other Order members head’s snapped around to stare at her in horror. “WHAT?” Edgar hissed. “How?!”
“H-he got buried beneath half a building,” Samantha said, lips trembling.
“Alright,” Moody said. “Just keep it together girlie. He might have nothing more than a scratch on him. Potters are known for being resilient.”
“Yes, I’m certain he’s fine,” Gideon comforted. “And I think we’re weathering down those Death Eaters.”
And it seemed to be true – the Death Eaters seemed to be tiring, and there were a lot less than just a couple minutes ago. Noting the hole in the street and the bloody limbs from dead or unconscious Death Eaters sticking up, Fabian exclaimed: “Who the Hell managed that?”
“Lily, I think,” Samantha said. “She was sort of pissed.”
“Good thing she’s on our side, eh?” Sirius joked as he approached, pale-faced, ducking the spellfire being exchanged between the Order and the Death Eaters. “Lily and Remus are handling the Death Eaters further down the street. Peter’s there too. I think there are only a couple dozen or so left in total. We outnumber them now.”
Moody was about to answer, but in that moment, Voldemort himself appeared, along with thirty more or so Death Eaters.
“...You were saying?” Samantha asked Sirius weakly.
Benjy whimpered. “We could really use that backup.”
Published: 02/04 -16