~ A. K. Lovell
Tonks was exhausted, but she wasn't about to let that on to anyone, lest of all Remus.
She and him strode into the operation's temporary headquarters, which Spruner had set up for them just outside of Dublin. Heated voices echoed in the derelict hall, leaking from beneath closed doors at the end of the run down complex's corridor.
Their relief had finally came.
She and Remus had lain prostate on that cursed roof for nearly twenty minutes after the evil hoards had disappeared from the sky, when Spruner had landed rather noisily next to them, cursing rose gardens to the seventh circle of hell and back. Kingsley had thudded onto the roof next, explaining how they had been delayed en route by the sudden appearance of so many brooms, and had been forced to seek shelter in a garden of roses.
Apparently Spruner's quick landing had been less than precise, which explained the Irishman's pained expression when he had finally sat down.
Tonks pressed her palm flat against the door and it flew open, magically reading her palm print to grant her access. Such security was ironic, she thought, considering how anyone with an Extendable Ear could be privy to the entire conversation from the hall.
"Ever think of soundproofing the place?" She questioned, sliding into an overstuffed armchair in the corner. Stuffing bulged out of tears in the time stained fabric, and she plucked some to toss at Remus as he slid into the chair besides her.
"No need to sound proof Tonks." Tres said. He, amongst other members of the Hogwarts staff, had been port keying back and forth in shifts to the derelict apartment complex in an effort to bolster it's security. "If we soundproofed this it would arouse curiosity. So what you heard outside, oh perceptive auror, is actually the soundtrack to Casablanca."
She grinned at the brilliance of it, before getting back to business. She wasted no time rounding on Snape.
"There were no fewer than three dozen Death Eaters in that sky Severus. I thought this was supposed to have been a small assault on their part?"
Severus was so engaged in the business of interlacing his spidery fingers, cracking them in succession, that she silently congratulated him for his power to ignore others. For all the interest he showed she might as well have not spoken.
"Obviously something has changed Nymphadora." He finally said morosely. "But the question is, what?"
If she hadn't know better she would say the Potion's master looked contemplative.
Remus spoke up. "Well Kingsley and Spruner are out there now keeping an eye on the situation. But the Irish President and his family, and the diplomats are now all in that building. Voldemort's approach has obviously changed, but has his aim? Before it was too be a quiet attack, but that would not explain the enormous numbers Nymph and I saw."
Nymph? She scowled at him. A thought occurred to her.
"You know, before we assumed the attack would occur at the President's home, but if they attempted anything like that with the diplomats there..."
"It could feasibly injure the representatives." Remus supplied.
"Exactly. If Snape's intelligence was correct..." She ignored the glare the pale faced man shot her. "He-who-must-not-be-named wants to turn the Muggle nations against one another by pinning the blame for this planned assault..." She looked around for emphasis. "On Great Britain." She shook her head at the absurdity of it all.
"He can't afford to risk injuring any foreign dignitaries because it would be impossible to do that then. The logic would not stand up to scrutiny, so since the diplomats arrived early it looks like the Death Eaters had to change tactics."
Tres scratched his chin, leaning against an oversized grandfather clock that intermittingly chimed every other minute in quite an annoying manner. "Yes...Tonks brilliant. The Death Eaters presence indicates that an attack will occur. So we just need to figure out when and where..."
The door slammed open, stunning the room into silence.
Kingsley strode into the dilapidated room, alone. His eyes scanned their faces fearfully.
"We have a serious problem."
The door swung shut, it's solid thud reverberated heavily as he and McGonagall walked quietly into the Headmaster's office. Ron shot a questioning glance over his shoulder, silently asking what the hell had taken so long.
Harry could only look away, the weight of shame hung heavy upon his shoulders as his best friend's gaze hardened coldly into his back.
He had been foolish, and felt far too unstable to deal with anyone. His pounding head gave evidence to that.
He had lain in bed, moments before, drowning his conflicted thoughts in a Hermione like manner, forcing himself to read a book on animagi when Dean barged in. McGonagall was waiting for him in the common room.
He shouldn't have been surprised.
Harry slid into the farthest chair, distancing himself from his friends, yet unable to restrain a look at Hermione.
He had not been sure what to expect. Perhaps he had expected an emotional wreck of tear stained cheeks, or to witness her temper radiating as never before, but there was none of it. Instead she seemed relaxed, and had he not known better he would have thought she had just spent a long day curled up with a book in her dormitory. The only sign of tension he saw was in how her small hand lay clutched tightly within the confine's of Ron's rough palm, and there was not a trace of reddening cheeks amongst either.
Her calm countenance was terrifying.
He looked away, unable to stand her visible strength any longer. She was able to take all of this in, yet he could barely stand to look at her.
"Harry, I'm glad you could join us. I was told you had been unwell this morning." Dumbledore's voice was uncharacteristically severe. All he could do was nod in response.
"I'm glad to see you feeling more sound than." Dumbledore's eyes were oddly cold. "I'll get right to the point. The Grangers are alive, we have received intelligence affirming this."
"You mean Snape told you." Harry interjected.
Dumbledore nodded. "Yes Harry. Professor Snape did supply this heartening news. For as long as they are alive, there is hope."
Next to him Ron nodded feverently. Hermione continued staring blankly forward, as if analyzing some complex potions dilemma within her head. And knowing her, Harry realized, she probably was. Her cold logic was how she had dealt with horrible situations in their pasts.
"Harry I am going to ask you something, and if you are not willing, all of us will understand. But since your connection with Voldemort is somewhat unique, and since you have been progressing rapidly in your Occlumency lessons with me, I thought that, with your permission, we could experiment with it."
Call himself crazy, but the word experiment did not ring well. "What sort of experiment?" He muttered nervously, slinking farther down into his chair as Ron's expression dared him to say no.
Dumbledore smiled kindly. "The magic that connects you and Voldemort, Harry, is of an ancient form, better known as Transcendentalism. It is my belief, that if you were to be put into a meditative state, that one could enter your mind much like one enters the pensive of another."
He nodded, following as he avoided Hermione's large chocolate eyes, now focused on him.
"Often, when one attempts to penetrate another's mind through the use of Legilimency, traces of that person's memories are left behind. We call them residual memories Harry. What I want to do is to enter your mind, in order to see if he has left any residual memories there during his nightly assaults on your consciousness. Any recent ones may perhaps alert us to the rationale behind this mornings attacks."
Harry took it all in with silent revulsion. His mind was his only refuge, and it was bad enough that it was violated against his will almost nightly. And now he was being asked to willfully relinquish control to his last safe haven?
He hung his head, knowing there was only one decision to be made. If he was the Order's only way to divulge the comings and goings of Voldemort, than so be it. Some of his personal freedoms would have to be sacrificed.
Not to mention his friendships, he reminded himself, glancing at Hermione's face, her hope barely constrained within it. They would not get hurt on his account, he thought, but he'd be damned if he refused to offer help when he had the power to do so.
He met the Headmaster's gaze head on.
"You have my consent sir."
Remus stepped quietly to the side, a red haired boy bounced by in pursuit of a miniscule blonde toddler who giggled bubbly as she trotted in front of the small group of adults, congregated off to the side of the picnic area.
"This is a logistical nightmare..." He muttered quietly from beneath his disillusionment charm. Not that whispering was necessary. The noise volume here was enough to warrant a stampede.
"....the oldest standing remnant of mankind's fascination with the animal kingdom, Dublin's zoo was the first zoo ever constructed and remains standing to this day..."
He glanced at her outline disbelievingly. "You do realize that we are supposed to be looking for Death Eaters yes?"
"Au contraire Wolfy." He flinched at the name. "We are not supposed to be looking for anyone. We are supposed to be looking after the kiddies here to make sure none of them accidentally wander off while their wayward parents indulge themselves in the h'or d'ouerves."
He barely had time to wonder what sort of head trauma she must have had, that made her capable of thinking so light of the situation, before she was going on again.
"I mean what kind of seven year old has a birthday party with h'or d'ouerves?"
"The kind of seven year old who has a powerful daddy who Death Eaters want to kill." He reminded tersely. "How can you muse on the food selection at a time like this?"
"Because the smell of that cake is making me hungry." She grumbled, resuming her watch over the chaos the children were creating as they ran back and forth, vaulting over tables and knocking over servers. Remus had a headache just from watching it. He could only imagine how their parents must feel. No wonder they were by the h'or d'ouerves, it was safer.
It was also a logistical nightmare. Kingsley had been right about that. It was simply impossible to watch everything that was going on, and that itself presented a serious problem.
While the area the birthday luncheon was being thrown in was relatively small, it was far too spread out for his taste. Sandwiched between the Creative Instincts shop and a type of child's petting zoo called Pet Corners, the roughly thirty children in attendance were able to run into and out of both exhibits. A lemur exhibit stood between the two structures, obscuring his line of sight in that direction, and he found himself constantly apparating back and forth just to keep an eye on the children running around the small cropping of buildings.
Then there was the matter of the Galway sheep in Pet Corners, who were now engaged in a baa-ing competition with several of the more rowdy boys in attendance. A frazzled looking employee was holding a hand over his eyes in a manner that suggested migraine more than sun glare, and now a man with several large, covered bird cages was setting up in the center paved area, while the resident zoologist stood off to the side distracting the children from opening the birds cages while the poor animal trainer set up.
Then there were the President's security personnel who stood off to the sides, quietly observing young Emily Bothan's party, while a caterer was setting up an ostentatiously large pink cake that rivaled the size of the one he had seen at Lily and James'.
With the unorganized chaos that only a large group of seven and eight year olds could create, Remus had a sinking feeling that the President's security detail and the Order's small presence there would not be enough. There were an unfathomable number of entry and exit points to the area, at least as far as witches and wizards were concerned, and while he doubted that a Death Eater would suddenly apparate into the midst of this and throw a killing curse, he couldn't shake the leaded quality his stomach had taken on.
Tonks opened her mouth, undoubtedly to inform him of some fun fact that she was now reading off about the owls, when he clamped a hand over her mouth.
This was no time to be distracted.
Fas ipse introitus accedo deduco occlume....
Profound blue eyes bore into his soul, benevolent intent gleaming beneath unrecognizable half moon spectacles. His fingers clinging to the chair felt curiously numb under the powerful gaze...
Fas ipse, bene facis...
Something solid lingered upon his forehead, cool and hard now, pressing into his skin as the blue depths of ancient eyes blurred, merging with the walls...
Occlume accedo deduco...
His vision betrayed him. All distinctness of the world blended into solid swirls of color as the solid pressure on his forehead sunk in, his skin opening wide to allow entrance. A blind panic consumed him, the realization that the sharp point would irreparably damage his brain struck hard. His numbing body ceased to operate and he fought. His eyes lolled dangerously in his skull as he thrashed aimlessly...
Do not fight against me....
These words were different. They did not reach him through any auditory capacity he understood. Only the mystic mutterings of an indecipherable language reached his ears, and those words were growing distant. So far off....
Harry trust me...
These words were loud, clear. The only distinct thing he could cling to amidst the disorientation of the senses, whose functions were rapidly fleeing his grasp.
The voice pleaded now, cajoling him to relax as his eyes began rolling farther in their sockets, revealing the terrifying whites to the few witnesses in the room. Witnesses who were dear to him, he knew, but he could no longer see them...
Blue eyes flashed clearly in his minds eye. His eyes rolled one final time, narrowing onto a dimming blue glow in the back of his skull where they had last been seen...
Then there was darkness.
It penetrated his very being. It was so viscous he felt afloat in it. Like swimming upon a river of black tar that warmed his skin. The previous sensations he had once associated with his physical body had all left him, swept down river in the wake of nothingness.
He swam hard, or at least, felt he did. In this world of darkness nothing could be ascertained, not even the darkness itself for he did not feel that it was dark. He merely had a notion.
He stopped swimming.
He floated for eternity, consumed by the bliss known only to those who have never known anything at all, and he was content to remain forever so, adrift in the river of darkness.
The curiously pleasing sensation passed...
Pinpoints of light flashed from the river's depths. Before there had been no up or down, no sense of direction to associate with the river of nothingness, but now lights flashed up from the depths of it, bringing sensations of gravity to him once again.
Blackened water splashed violently in front of him, causing him to sputter and cough as it filled his lungs, yet he did not drown.
He began to sink.
The water engulfed him. A blindingly brilliant light rose up from the waters depths, and his body grew cold in the darkened waters. The deeper he sank the icier the water grew.
Screaming could now be heard. Horrible pain wrenching sobs were rising out of the light filled portal that he was sinking towards. He needed to save them, yet self-preservation screamed at him to swim away.
He fought. Yet the more he flailed his arms, the faster he sank. He frantically searched his feet for the bricks he was sure to find attached to them, but there was nothing to be found save for bare skin.
The light at the bottom of the river rose up to engulf him, the hellish sounds reaching a crescendo of pain as he crossed over...
He spilled out into a dimly lit room, his bones crunching painfully on the hard wood floor. He stood quickly, wavering dangerously as his frightened mind struggled to make sense of the impossible situation he found himself in.
Comfortable looking couches, adorned with well worn throw pillows greeted him. Besides him stood a wooden coffee table, sitting upon a woven rug, it's color robbed from it by the dim lighting. The screams of terror that had filled the room were, for the time, remaining silent.
He squinted in the dark light, running a hand through his miraculously dried hair, searching for those who needed him.
From the shadows two vividly red eyes peered towards him.
Emily Bothan smiled happily. Today was her day, and no one could take that away from her. Even her daddy had said so. Not those important men and women in overly serious business suits that had arrived that morning. Not the bratty girls from her primary school. Not even the evil gorilla that had grunted at her on the way in.
Nope. No one.
It was her seventh birthday and it was all hers, and to top it off she was at her favorite place in the world.
Her zoo of course!
Even though other people were often in it, her daddy had told her it was hers, and she knew he was right. It was practically next door to her house after all, and she thought it was quite nice of herself to let all those other people, on the days she was not there, to go and play with the animals like she was going to do today.
And she was going to play with the animals today. She sure was. No one was there today save for her and her friends, and daddy and mummy. It was all hers, and daddy had said a guy with pretty tropical birds was going to come and that they would sing for her.
She couldn't wait, which was partly why her over-active, childish bladder had her running for the restroom, her auburn hair flying behind her while her daddy's green suited friends with the sunglasses and earpieces followed in tow.
She wasn't sure why those men had to follow her everywhere, but at least daddy had left those overly serious men and women in business suits at their house today, which she thought was very nice of him. She hadn't particularly liked how they had stared at her when she had come skipping and singing through their meeting this morning. It was as if they didn't know that it was her day or something.
She practically skipped into the restroom, leaving the tall green suited guys outside, and dropped her perfectly small backpack to the ground as she found a particularly clean stall. She was a tidy girl, and only the cleanest would do.
Smiling she shut the door behind her, locking it just in case. Even at her tender age she knew that she really didn't need to lock it, because her daddy's friends in the dark green suits were standing outside the bathroom doors so no one else could come in while she was there, but her mommy was always saying a good habit is to practice habits, so she did as she was told.
Little Emily Bothan, kicking her feet from her place on the toilet seat, her mind alight with the excitement of what her special day was to bring, never heard the quiet crack the witch made as she apparated into the girl's bathroom.
And as little Emily Bothan skipped cheerily out of the stalls, past her guards in the dark green suits, and out into the bright sunshine on her merry way to her very own private birthday party, she never did notice the new addition that had been made to her small backpack.
Inside something quietly ticked.
"Your infuriating you know that." Tonks grumbled, rubbing her lips testingly.
Remus grunted in response.
Tonks would have glared, but the disillusionment charm nullified the meaning of such subtle gestures. Sometimes she swore that Remus did not appreciate her attempts to lighten situations. That man needed humor more than anyone, and it was humor that had kept her sane thus far in her often morbid line of work.
But come to think of it, the only one who had ever really understood that particular quirk of hers had been Sirius.
The thought of her cousin brought a hard edge to her thoughts, and had Remus been able to see her face clearly, he would have been frightened.
Perhaps it was this sudden anger brought about by his memory that sharpened her attention, but it happened quickly.
As did everything else.
Out of the corner of her eye Tonks saw her.
A flash of black hair, the cruel smile, obscured behind the milling people near Pet Corners...
Tonks whorled but Bellatrix was already gone.
"Tonks what is it?" Remus could be heard asking, but she had no time for responses. Her eyes traced across the gathering, following the path Bellatrix's had taken...
A child with red-tinged hair was skipping in front of a security detail, coming down a path that led from the restrooms.
Her blood ran cold.
"Merlin no..." She whispered, taking off at a run.
"Tonks!" Remus shouted, though she paid him no heed. Her disillusioned body smashed forcibly into a caterer who teetered precariously, nearly spilling his tray full of carefully cut cake slices. Never before had her heart taken on such a curiously fast pace. It pounded beneath her ribcage, threatening to break through as each pump attacked her insides.
The faces of confused Muggles blurred past her, as if she were trapped in a long tunnel and they were outsiders, impeding her progress to the end where the small child was happily beginning to mingle. Sounds of protest were erupting behind her and those in front of her began stepping unknowingly into her path to see the source of the commotion, which was heading for them at a sprinters pace.
Besides her Muggles turned, searching for the source of the rasping gasps of breath she was now inhaling. Such a short distance... So many obstacles...
The child, Emily, for she recognized her from pictures they had been shown at Order Headquarters, had set her small backpack down on a picnic table and was rushing off, to where Tonks did not care, so long as she was away from what she knew to be in that bag.
Her relief was short lived, her heart lurching dangerously as several boys, whom she recognized as the ones who had been antagonizing the Galway sheep earlier, stopped their chasing pursuit of one another near the table where the bright red bag ominously sat.
She would never make it in time.
"Out of my way!" She screamed. Those nearest turned in her direction, their eyes alert as they darted in the direction of the disembodied voice. Her distraction had worked. She seized the chance as many froze in their tracks, and switched directions, vaulting over a picnic table, sending plates of mashed potatoes flying as she re-materialized.
Her stomach slammed into the table, knocking the breath painfully from her lungs as she seized Pandora's box and felt it shudder. With a final gasp she threw it sky high, knowing there would be no time to draw her wand to levitate it to safety...
A deafening quake roared above, sending hot, smoke-filled air speeding past her burning skin as she threw her body on top of the nearest child, knocking them both to the unforgiving cement with a sickening thud. Hellfire rained down, searing her skin, scalding pain attacked her nerves until her unearthly screams rang unrecognizable even to her own ears, while clammy hands grasped at her hair, yanking visible threads out until a warm red substance cascaded down, blinding her vision before the world winked out.
He awoke on the floor, his breath unnaturally steady for what he had just been through.
But it was not often that he met Voldemort and did not have his life threatened at least once.
On the contrary, he had been offered a compromise. Tell him the contents of the prophecy, and they would live.
Refuse long enough, and they would die.
Voldemort had promised they would not be the last.
A suppressed sob shuddered threw his body. Oh Merlin....
"Mate you okay?" Ron's head of red hair hung over him, eyes wide with fear, no longer holding the anger of earlier.
Harry could only shake his head as a wave of nausea overtook him. He rolled over and vomited across the floor, collapsing in a curled heap, clamping his mouth shut.
It was a bad idea. The rancid stench of it had him hacking again on all fours, the eyes of Ron and Hermione boring into his back with each shudder.
"Get... Get them out of here..." He rasped, waving off a hand Ron had placed on his shoulder. He rose his head to meet Dumbledore's steady expression. It was as if the Headmaster did not understand. If he did how could he look so calm? He had been there with them. He had seen everything. In the end it was Dumbledore who had pulled them both out before things could escalate into something worse than offered compromises.
It was as if something other-worldy had taken ahold. He found himself screaming, shouting, lunging towards Dumbledore. He wanted to hurt him. To strangle him. To do something. Years of repressed anger were coming out, and Ron was gripping him by the wrists, pinning them behind his back as he writhed about like an angry snake.
"Get them out of here NOW!"
"Harry calm down mate..." Ron's voice was shaky, scared even. As he should be, Harry realized, lunging so hard towards Dumbledore that he and Ron both plummeted to the freshly 'Scourgified' ground.
"You knew." He continued, no longer yelling. There was no need to. For his part, Dumbledore stood over them, as calm as ever, but the guilt hid in blue eyes as accusation dripped off his every word. "You knew they were in danger the whole time and yet you did nothing!"
"There was nothing to be done, as you well know Harry." Dumbledore's voice was infuriatingly calm.
"It doesn't matter. You could have forced them to go...." He continued, thrashing out at Ron. Ron let go, rolling out of the way as another of Harry's poorly aimed hits flew in his direction. "Let go of me Ron. I'm not going to do anything."
Ron stared at him like a gaping fish. Hermione had dropped into a chair, her own shoulder's shaking with repressed sobs of her own.
Harry took a deep breath, and a long, hard look at Hermione's shaking shoulders, before he turned to Dumbledore.
"After all I've never really been allowed to do anything have I Headmaster?" He no longer bothered hiding his sarcasm. His guilt at what his mere association had done to Hermione and her family became refocused as rage, and it was aimed at the one person who should have told him everything from the start.
Voldemort had guessed correctly that Dumbledore would propose looking for residual memories in his mind, so he had left one for them to find.
And found it they had. Complete with tortured images of Hermione's parents under the Cruciatious curse in their own living room. And as Harry had desperately fought to go to their aid, Dumbledore had held him back, reminding him that it was in the past, a mere memory they were witnessing. Harry had slunk back, but had been unable to adopt the cold detachment that Dumbledore possessed as the scene had unfolded.
The prophecccccy Harry...Join me Harry...Or thesssse Mugglesssss will be the firsssst of thosssse you love to fffffeel the true wwwwrath of Lord Voldemorrrrt.
He continued staring down Dumbledore, waiting for the Headmaster to say something he knew would not come.
Make no missssstake Harry. There are ssssome fatesss worssse than death. I can ssssee to it that thessse Mugglesss and your Mudblood loving friendsss meet ssssuch endssss themsssselvessss if you do not conccccede my ssssuperiority.
Dumbledore had looked on sadly as Voldemort than turned to deliver another wave of curses upon the Grangers. Harry had watched them writhe in pain upon the floor, Mrs. Granger's hair spread out limply, vividly reminding him of how Hermione had looked when she had fallen in the Department of Mysteries. That same fear he had felt for her life had returned full force.
"This has to end." Dumbledore had said quietly. "If only they had allowed us to remove them."
It was then that Harry had found out the truth. The Order had approached Hermione's parents months before, offering them shelter from Death Eaters. They had refused. Not only that, but they had forbidden Hermione from ever returning from Hogwarts. There had been much that Hermione had not told them over the years concerning her exploits with he and Ron.
Hermione had defied them. It was how she was here. She had not only lost her parents approval because of him, but now she very may have lost them. And all because she had come to call him friend.
What kind of friend places one they care for in such danger.
He shook his head disgusted with himself. The wave of anger passed and understanding replaced it. Dumbledore was right. They could not force the Grangers to let them help them. No spell in the world would be strong enough to have safe guarded their home if they had not given their consent for such a protective spell to have been placed.
One could say the blame lay with the Grangers.
But really, the blame lay with him.
Ron approached him cautiously, and this time he backed away before his friend had a chance to extend a friendly gesture. He found himself on the other side of the Headmaster's desk from him. Ron's hurt, confused eyes broke away as a muffled yell resounded outside the office door.
A loud bang, a shout, and the door flew open.
Kalliandra stood there, her face an unreadable mask as her eyes fixated on Dumbledore. She strode forth, oblivious to their presence, her eyes alight with something he himself recognized, yet could not pinpoint....
She stopped short of them, flinging a small object across the room abruptly. Morning sunlight reflected from it, burning his eyes as he followed it's long arch towards Dumbledore, unable to pull his gaze away from it's flight as a swift blur of long fingers clasped it.
Dumbledore held it steadily, his weary figure revealing no trace of the reflexes his ancient authority had shown a second before, and raised a gaze to Kalliandra, his eyes flashing with the anger of coldest steel.
It was only then that he recognized the object opened in Dumbledore's hand, to be the hallmark of Kalliandra's vanity: Her compact. Harry craned his neck, catching sight of a blurred image flickering within it.
Pavement, reddish masses...
The pain in his head grew stronger at the realization that it did not reflect the reality of the room they all stood within.
It was a two-way mirror.
His eyes met her flashing ones.
"Find them." She whispered.
"Tonks..." He whispered. He had thought he had witnessed horror before. He was only now learning how wrong he had been.
The memory of what he now stood amongst would forever remain burned into his memory.
She had taken off so quickly, his own reflexes had not been fast enough, yet he had made it halfway across the small area when the sound, louder than the sonic boom of a jet engine, had knocked them all to the ground.
He had fallen, grabbing as many as he could, taking them with him, praying the extra few feet's distance from where the bomb had went off in the air, to where they lay on the cement, would make the difference.
Now he found himself, battered, bleeding from far too many places, unable to distinguish his own blood from the others. He rolled over, the bright sun peeking through a break in the gray sky, causing him to squint testingly into the light. The destruction sprawled about him stood in stark contradiction to the pleasant hues it was now bathed in.
For a moment he wondered if God were laughing at his failure to protect those here. But only a cruel God could take pleasure from such torment.
He reached out, seeking human contact as the silence was broken by the first stunned cry. He shook the unresponsive child, receiving nothing. He shoved himself up quickly, rolling the young boy over.
He wished he had not.
A wooden splinter from a picnic table had pierced the child's throat. Blood pumped out slowly from a still spasming artery, a gurgling sound emitting from the throat.
He held back his sudden revulsion at the sight. The child was already gone. No wizardry or Muggle medicines could fix this.
He stood up, frantically searching for life, ignoring his own wounds as he pulled a large splinter from his arm. The pain he should have felt was replaced with numbness at the sight.
Scattered around the area many were moving, getting up, and crying for others. Some seemed stuck between shock and horror. One of the security guards was actually ripping his clothes off, tearing them into shreds as he bandaged one of the wounded.
He was not the first to have awakened.
He scanned the other children near him. No adults had impeded his way when he had chased after her, so he had taken only children down with him.
His heart flooded with relief as he saw the others stirring slightly. They would live, but they would have scars that not even the strongest of threads could suture.
The dying child had been a victim of bad luck.
And those responsible would pay with their lives, he swore it.
He moved quickly, not removing the disillusionment charm as he moved closer to the Tamarin exhibit. It had been a free standing caged display, and it was where Tonks had been, he had cast his shielding charm in her direction.
The upper bars of the exhibit were melted, bent in at odd angles. One Golden Tamarin lay caught between a bent in bar and an artificial branch, shrieking in pain. An endangered species, he thought, hoping Tonks would not see it, knowing the pain she would feel at the sight.
He continued moving. The damage to those here, on the ground, seemed lessened here somehow. The injuries of those unconscious were not as severe as those who had been injured near him.
His shielding charm had at least meant something to some of those here, he thought, stepping through a puddle of growing blood. There was no helping the man it pooled from. He had been a member of the President's security detail. He could tell by the uniform the man had on when he had bent down to check. But the man's pupils had been unresponsive when he had pried open his eyelids, exposing them to the intermittent sunlight of the day. This man's head injury had brought about brain damage of the severest kind.
Remus turned as the cracks of apparating wizards erupted around him. His wand was drawn, prepared for a duel he lacked the strength for.
"Mother of Merlin..." Came Kingsley's familiar voice, flooding Remus with relief that it was the Order members arriving. They had been patrolling other areas of the zoo. It was no wonder they had heard the commotion. People probably had heard it back at the Aras an Uachtarian.
"Remus, you alright?"
He wasn't sure who had asked because the Muggles were starting to look for the disembodied voices now talking, but got out a weak yes.
"The President? His family?"
"I'm not sure." He said weakly. The Order had made them memorize pictures of them, so they could identify Emily, Marie, an Kenneth on sight. The last he had seen of Marie and Emily had been just before the explosion. They had been far from the center of it, so they had probably received the least of it.
"Start a search..." He heard someone ordering. He continued picking his way through the wreckage, searching for survivors.
"Mummy..." He whorled at the weak sound. It was coming from behind the Tamarin's display and he raced quickly, finding two children, twins from the look of them, on the other side. They sat right up against the cement bottom of the display, one girl coughing unhealthily, her face covered in soot and blood.
He dropped to their sides, disillusioning himself so they could see him. The cement base had provided them a shelter of sorts against the blast, and he silently thanked the zoo designer for that.
Two identical pairs of brown eyes stared up at him, and it took him a second to realize that he had appeared out of thin air to them. "Magic trick." He said in what he hoped was a reassuring voice. "I'm Remus. What are your names?"
The one covered in soot spoke first, feebly coughing. "E-eliz-za-zabeth...My si-si-ister...."
"Carolynn." The other child supplied. "Is my sister going to be..."
"She's going to be fine honey." He reassured her, not entirely knowing if he had just lied or not. "Now Elizabeth, can you tell me where your bleeding, okay? Can you do that for me?"
Carolynn was suddenly tugging on his sleeve, pointing frantically at something above.
He followed the direction of her pointed finger and nearly pulled away in revulsion.
Elizabeth's face was covered not in her own blood, but the splattered blood of an unlucky Tamarin that had been smashed between the cage bars by a blasted off tree limb.
Yet the child was still coughing weakly.
"Liza got hit..." Carolynn said, her small voice matching her small frame. "Tree came out of there and..." She smacked her hands together in a way that made Remus flinch.
"Ly-lynni pu-pull-lled me o-o-out..." Elizabeth got out, pointing at her chest with one hand. "It hit me he-ere. It hu-urts."
Dear God, he thought. The child had a chest injury.
He immediately reached for his portkey to St. Mungos. Each Order Member on assignment had been given one for such emergencies, and this was one he was ill-equipped to deal with.
It was only then that he realized that the entire side of his cloak had been torn off, taking the port key and his two-way mirror pocket watch with it.
"When did this appear?"
Dumbledore's voice had been soft, commanding, wielding barely repressed rage as Kalliandra's quivering voice broke.
"A moment ago. I came as soon as I saw."
"Good." His attention redirected towards he and Ron, moving toward where Hermione sat, taking in the change of events slowly. His expression killed all questions he had thought of asking.
"You three are to stay here. Do not move for anything. Understood?"
Ron and Hermione seemed too rattled from Harry's behavior only moments before to respond, so he nodded for them. Dumbledore rose, his robes billowing behind as he strode towards the door, Kalliandra on his heels.
"Kalliandra stay here as well. I trust they have other ways of contacting you."
Her jaw set firmly, she nodded.
"Good. And I will be needing..." Dumbledore raised a hand and a chain rose up from beneath her robes, a glittering ring hung eerily from it. He curled a finger, as if beckoning her towards him, and the chain snapped from around her neck, hurtling towards him across the short space separating them. She visibly flinched at the separation.
The Headmaster's eyes hardened onto her. "You are not to go anywhere, nor are you to attempt anything. As of right now nothing can be done for him. Do you understand?"
She didn't respond, her narrowed eyes conveying her thoughts as she stomped her foot in anger. "I can..."
"You can get yourself killed trying. You are to stay here." With that he turned, the door slamming behind his departing figure.
All eyes turned towards where she stood, her shoulders heaving with exertion. She must have sprinted here... He thought as a bead of sweat trickled gently down her forehead. It was such an odd observation, for his mind still rung with pain from Voldemort's parting words...
A taste, Potter, of things to come....
"What's going on?" Hermione's soft voice tore the hellish memory from him. He could only stare blankly towards her, not knowing whom the question was directed at.
Kalliandra's soft breathing drew his attention her way again. Her angled hair hung limply, framing her face in shadows. "I don't know." Her words seemed deliberate.
"You expect us to believe that?"
Harry glanced at Ron, the anger evident in his voice made him realize that Ron was about to take his frustration at his own actions out on her.
"Do you have any idea what your interrupting?"
"Ron..." He warned, noticing how tense her arms were looking, how taut her expression had become. Her expression was one of a trapped animal. Hopeless desperation etched across her features....
"What the hell is..."
"I said I don't know!" She shouted loudly, turning to storm to the other side of the room. She was rummaging through things, searching for something he knew not what.
"Now what are you doing?" Ron growled huffily when the noise of her clatter filled search had nearly reached his own wits ends.
It was then that he doubled over in pain, the room fading away as he fought off the image of slit like eyes that taunted him even in his waking hours. The pain was vivid, harsh, and he had to fight to keep his eyes open.
Ron and Hermione were already there, he could see them, he tried to hold onto their faces. Holding onto what was really there had helped him fight it off this morning....
Kalliandra sat down as well, her eyes unreadable.
Then Harry sensed something from Voldemort that he had never sensed before.
Kalliandra's image burned into his memory, he felt Voldemort digging through his mind, searching...
Only for a change he was not bothering to hide what information he was searching for.
Harry collapsed forward, panting for breath as Voldemort receded, leaving his mind free once again. Only one word lingered on his lips, and he looked up, spitting it with venom as he glared towards her.
"My lady I have to advise against that."
"Then what do you propose? We keep her with us until one of those bas..." Her mum stole a look at her, stopping mid-sentence to lower her voice until she could no longer hear.
Emily was scared.
She didn't like being scared. And she especially didn't like it when the big people started talking in hushed voices. It was never good.
Just like loud noises. Those were never good either.
She started crying again. Her mummy had grabbed her and ran like that. Her mummy had never done that before.
She didn't understand, so she was crying. Her mummy was there in a second, trying to shush her but she couldn't stop. She wanted to be a big girl like her mum, but her friends and daddy were over where that loud noise had been. What if no one had grabbed them and ran them away like her mummy had?
She sniffled loudly, burying her head in her mummy's shoulder as her mum pulled on the door for the twelfth time. She had been counting. Counting always made her feel better. And pulling on door handles must make her mummy feel better, otherwise she wouldn't keep doing it so often.
"It's not getting any more locked than that. If you keep pulling on it someone outside could see the door move."
Her mum let out an unhappy noise and hugged her to her chest. Emily disliked the overly serious man in the suit even more for upsetting her mum more. Couldn’t he see that pulling on doors made her feel better?
Her mum set her down, looking over her head at the overly serious man. "So we should just wait here like sitting ducks then? Is that what your suggesting?"
The man didn't bat an eye. Not that she could tell, he still had his sunglasses on. "My lady I am just suggesting that you both are safer in here than out there."
"And if another one of those things is around?"
Right then Emily noticed how watery her mum's eyes were. "Mummy your crying." She noted aloud. Then she remembered daddy telling her that it wasn't always a good thing to say everything you think aloud.
Her mum dropped to her knees and smiled kindly at her while the overly serious man went on about structural integrity things. Her mum brushed some of her brown-red hair behind her ear.
"Evan, if you think we are safest here I will trust your judgment. I'm sorry for being difficult..." Her mum was talking over her head now.
"My lady it is nothing to be concerned about."
"What if they get in?"
"I have thought of a...precautionary measure for young Miss. Emily."
Emily turned with her mother, in time to see the overly serious man gesture towards an open door at the end of the bathroom. The dark within it scared her.
She looked pleadingly at her mum. She really wasn't going to put her in there was she?
Her mum picked her up. "Pumpkin...Honey mummy needs you to do mummy a favor. Can you do that honey?"
Emily nodded, sniffling only a little, not liking this at all.
"That's my girl." Her mum smiled a bit, carrying her to that open door. Emily looked into it cautiously, and did not like what she saw. It was a scary closet. It was dark, wet looking, with odd looking grass-like things growing in the corners. But worst of all it had looming things with long wet tendrils hanging from them. They looked like large human stick figures with dangly white hair, only with no arms or legs.
She turned to her mum wide eyed and frightened.
"Honey mummy needs you to go in the closet okay? And I need you to stay there. Can you do that for me sweetheart?"
Emily stared at her. "Mummy that closet is scary."
"Please honey." Her mum pleaded. She kept looking at the overly serious man who had now drawn a gun. Emily didn't like guns. Her mum cupped her chin and turned her back so she was looking at her. "Please Emily this is very important honey. I promise I'll take you somewhere extra special if you do this for me okay?"
A thought struck her. "Mummy what about my party? If I go in there I'm going to miss it."
At this her mum let out an odd noise and covered her mouth. It was a long while before her mum spoke again, only now there were noises outside and her mum's voice sounded more urgent.
"Please honey. Well have you another party darling. Just go in there and no matter what you see or hear stay there. Please honey do this for me?"
Emily swallowed bravely and entered the dark.
Kaylens looked clearly bewildered, but he wasn't fooled. "What does he want with you?"
Hermione rather looked like she had had too much for the day. Ron however was looking between he and Kaylens quizzically.
"YOU! What does he want with you?" He yelled it with such force that all three of them jerked away. Kaylens seemed the least fazed of the three and shook her head as he pointed at her.
"What does who want with..."
"VOLDEMORT!" Ron flinched, but he didn't care. What he noticed most of all was that Kaylens had not flinched. Only a rare few could take his name in stride as she had.
Most of them were Death Eaters.
"Voldemort, Kaylens. Voldemort. He was here, just now, inside my head." He stood, drawing his wand as Hermione sucked in her breath, tapping his head exaggeratedly with his free hand. "Only the second I saw you, Voldemort saw you too. And you know what Kaylens?"
He had backed her around the desk. She was taking slow measured strides backwards, and he found it strange that she had made no attempt to draw her wand. She hadn't stuck him as someone who would simply tolerate a wand being waved in her face in stride.
Everything made sense now. Her sudden appearance at Hogwarts. He'd bet his Firebolt she was not a transfer. The way she never flinched at Voldemort's name. Her association with Malfoy. Her fake innocent game all the time when she pretended she didn't know what anyone was talking about.
"You’re a Death Eater aren't you." He practically hissed, lunging.
She dodged, placing an easy chair between them as he began circling. His eyes were alert, watching for any attempt she might make towards her wand, which he could see tucked into her robes.
"Harry please what are you..." Hermione pleaded, standing as if to move between them.
"Shut it Hermione." He growled. "You don't know."
Ron had already drawn his wand, looking between the two of them as if waiting for one to make a move.
Kaylens glared, skirting in front of the bookshelves. "Potter your utterly mad."
Harry let out a vindictive laugh. Suddenly he did feel rather mad. "If I'm so mad, why aren't you answering the question?"
She shook her head, eyes darting between he and Ron, who's wand now lay pointed at her as well. "Hard to answer a question I don't know the answer to."
"Your either a Death Eater or you aren't!" Ron blurted savagely. "So are you, or aren't you?!"
They were each on either side of her, pinning her into place behind a small table with several dusty books. Even the paintings were awake now, no longer bothering to feign sleep as their darting eyes followed the unfolding scene.
"Ron...Harry... Let's just settle down and talk about this for a minute." Hermione said placatingly, her own wand out.
Ron threw a look over his shoulder. "Hermione didn't you hear a word Harry said? He had another vision." He turned back, poking with each word towards Kaylens, sending sparks flying with his wand. "She's....a.....Death...Eater....MIONE! Get that through your head."
Kaylens looked more like a trapped animal than before, her hands clutching at the edge of the small table"I suggest you back off." She muttered. "There are more important things going on right now than determining whether or not I'm a Death Eater."
Harry shook his head, stepping closer. "Oh no Kaylens. Whether you’re a Death Eater is very much a topic I'd like to explore further. Unless you can offer another explanation for why your lovely master was so surprised to see you here."
She shook her head. "Master? Potter your madder than I thought...."
"He's not going to be too pleased with you is he?" Ron queried. "Consorting with Dumbledore after all. What happened? Offered to help him out with today's attacks, then had an attack of conscious? Or did you just simply lose your nerve?"
Her eyes grew wide and her posture slumped slightly. "Attacks? What attacks happened? Where?"
"Like you don't know." Harry accused.
Kaylens knuckles were practically white as she squeezed the desk harder. "For the last time I don't know what hallucinations you are having...."
"Everyone just STOP!" Hermione screamed shrilly. "There's enough going on without us fighting each other too!"
"Each other? Hermione when has she ever been apart of we?" Ron countered.
"Since she came here!" She yelled. "To Hogwarts! Everyone here is in this together!"
"She's friends with Malfoy Mione! Or have you forgotten...."
"Maybe she sees something that we DON'T RONALD!"
"What do you three have against him?"
It was so quiet that only Harry heard. But then again, he hadn't been foolish enough to withdraw his eyes from her.
"For starts he's a Death Eater." He hissed, his voice holding menace meant for her alone to hear.
"Then I suppose it would be better to be a Death Eater than to be like you." She snarled.
"Stupefy!" He screamed savagely, the red light flew from his wand towards her.
Kaylens upended the table, dropping behind it, creating a barrier as his spell struck fast against the shelving. Bookshelves collapsed, raining texts down as a cry of pain echoed behind it.
Direct hit... He thought, lowering his wand toward the center of the table's surface, preparing to blast threw her impromptu barrier. She would pay for her allegiances...
The books struck her, their edges painfully ripping into her skin. She ignored the sharp sting and flung her back against the wall, bracing herself as she kicked the small table with her legs, sending it skidding forward across the floor to where Potter and his damnable wand stood.
He dove to the side, his legs nearly swept from beneath him as Hermione screamed something unintelligible. He hit the ground awkwardly, his wand skidding from his hand. She lunged, sliding into him with a right hand to his exposed ribs as he reached for his weapon, kicking it farther out of reach as grabbed her hair, pulling her to the ground with him.
A fistful of her hair tore free in his clutching hands, her vision burned white with pain as she unleashed a loud curse, kneeing him hard in the stomach as they grappled on the floor. He might be bigger than her but was apparently unschooled. He doubled over, practically in the fetal position upon the floor, exposing his own head as the wind was knocked from him.
I'm not the only one with long hair... She thought angrily, grabbing the black mess and yanking it back, a poorly aimed curse narrowly missing her.
Pain erupted in her skull. The elbow had caught her right above the temple, her vision swimming dangerously as Potter threw himself forward, scuttling desperately on all fours towards his wand...
"Damn!" He swore loudly, lunging forward, his hand closing around the reassuring texture of his wand when her weight came crashing down upon him, bending his back painfully.
He groaned, throwing his weight to the side, rolling her underneath, straddling her waist as he pinned her arms with his elbows, using his weight to his advantage as she thrashed angrily.
"STOP IT!" Hermione was screaming hysterically now. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Ron fighting her off. "Your going to hit..."
"THAT'S THE POINT!" Ron yelled.
He had not breath to spare for their argument.
Kaylens stopped thrashing. For the briefest of seconds he wondered if Ron had finally stunned her, the kind thought was torn from him as she unexpectedly threw her weight, lifting her legs and bottom from the floor and thrusting backwards, sending him somersaulting over her, his own weight betraying him as he rolled uncontrollably away.
He scrambled to grab his footing when several voices rang out at once.
He fell to the floor. Petrified. Just as Kaylens had done mere feet away, her expression frozen in something akin to mild annoyance.
She whimpered, burying her face into the mop. She didn't care that it was unsanitary anymore. She couldn't take the silence, and the mop was her friend. Her mummy had said so.
But her slightly damp friend was unable to drown out her mother's own whimpers.
Her mother's whimpering rose, her feminine voice reaching pitches even Emily had thought impossible.
The sound of the bathroom door slamming open competed with her mother's cries, and the stranger spoke in that weird language again.
Emily heard another thud.
For a moment the light from the door reached her, infiltrating the dark closet in little streaks that snuck in beneath and around the door, brightening the closet for her.
The door slammed shut, and her friend the mop rattled as did the floor beneath her feet.
She clung to the damp, cottony strands, pushing them in front of her face, squeezing her eyes shut. Her mummy would come back for her. Her and the overly serious man would not just leave her.
She whimpered again, repeating her mothers words to her.
No matter what you may see. No matter what you hear...
Over and over in her head she repeated it. Before long she found herself whispering quietly. She jerked, startled when she realized someone may have heard her, but in doing so he shin bumped again the metal rack behind her. The one she had not yet seen.
The loud clattering behind her as bottles of cleaning solution crashed to the floor frightened her far too much.
She opened the door and bolted, tripping in the light over a large heap on the floor.
Sniffling, slightly hysterical Emily shoved herself up, nursing her skinned knees gingerly.
It was then that she discovered what she had tripped on.
Mister overly serious man lay prostate on the floor, his features forever frozen in an expression of fury, his eyes wide open, staring sightlessly at the lavatory ceiling.
She opened her mouth to scream, for even a child recognizes death, but no sound came forth. Her voice had frozen, as had her muscles. The only thing she seemed capable of doing was shivering, as she found herself doing despite the warm, stifling air of the room.
"I was wondering when our little princess was going to join her party...."
As the hands clenched around her, Emily suddenly found her voice.
Photograph courtesy of the previously mentioned public domain site for photographs. Accreditations can be found on my personal website.
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