"The first casualty of war is innocence."
~ A.K. Lovell ~
Somewhere, far off, somebody groaned.
And it was right about then, when the pain started, that she realized she was not dead.
Despite her pounding head, she had enough energy to be surprised.
Her eyes opened, to find a pair of pale gray eyes staring down at her, beneath a thick lair of soot.
"Were alive..." She groaned quietly, for lack of anything else to say to the boy she had tackled moments earlier.
The kid nodded mutely, an apologetic look on his face as he stared unblinkingly at her, holding up a chunk of her grayish hair.
Merlin I left my hair that color didn't I? She thought fuzzily, scrunching up her nose to let that part of her scalp re-grow.
Perhaps that was the wrong course of action, because she wound up with her bloodied chunk of hair on her face, black roots and all, a second later as the kid stared at her in mounting horror.
"Magic trick..." She grumbled, sitting up gingerly.
She wished she hadn't.
Hell on Earth surrounded her.
She had been in battles before.
She had been injured before.
Never before, had she realized what damage a homemade bomb could do, to such a small group of people.
"Merlin mercy..." She mumbled, clutching the boy's arm reassuringly.
For his part he continued staring straight at the ground, as if fearful to remove his eyes from the spot she had once occupied.
Shock, she realized, bringing up her free hand to wipe the moisture from her brow. She was startled when it came back blackened, flecks of already dried blood clinging to the soot she had wiped away.
Her eyes roamed, for lack of anything to do but sit as her bearings came back.
Order members moved eerily through the dissipating smoke. So slow she felt as if she were watching them in slow motion upon a Muggle VCR.
But what truly got to her was the smell. It was indescribable....
The boy had spoken, barely above a whisper. Only his close proximity allowed her to hear him as he spoke to the ground.
"It smells like them..." He added, falling silent after the clarification. It puzzled her, for wizarding fireworks smelled not of this.
But he would know better than I, she realized.
She had to move. She had to help them. She didn't know what was going on anymore. What had happened was fuzzy. Tackling the boy was last and first in her memory. But the Order members, every one of them who had been positioned elsewhere in the zoo, were there.
She couldn't just sit there.
She stood, pulling him up with her. She ached down to her newly forming marrow, the added pressure of his weight on her unsteady legs was unpleasant.
But the feeling of a warm, live body in her arms was not.
Not once did the boy take his eyes from the spot on the ground, even as she began carrying him towards the outer cropping of buildings.
Only one thought was on her mind.
Twenty nine Order members had been in the zoo...
They had still failed.
"Mummy..." Emily was whimpering now. She hated that she was. But if she didn't cry out how would her mummy hear her?
What if no one heard her?
The thought sent her into a fresh fit of tears.
The mean lady only laughed. "Do you miss your mummy little girl? Would you like to see her?"
Something was taunting about her voice. Like the boys on the playground at school when they pulled her braids, so she knew the lady was not sincere.
She stopped clawing her fingernails into the mean lady's arm long enough to reach up and feel her braids.
The crisscrossing pattern was still there, and she clutched onto that instead.
The mean lady had been dragging her since they had left the restroom, but now she stopped, shoving her in front so roughly that she lost her balance, stumbling to the ground with a terrified squeak.
She did not let go of her braid in time, and her knees hit first, before her cheek hit, skinning that.
She whimpered in pain, too afraid to call out like daddy had taught her if she were ever in trouble.
"Daddy..." She said softly, squeezing her eyes shut. Maybe when she opened her eyes he would be there.
"No not daddy. Mummy! You wanted to see her little brat, so here, LOOK!"
The lady yanked her by her braids, her whole head hurting until she moved, kneeling, but she was scared to open her eyes now. Anything the mean lady wanted was not good. She was never supposed to listen to strangers. She had tried not to go with her either, but she had been too strong.
"Open your eyes you little bitch!" The lady screamed savagely.
Pain shot across her eyelids as the lady scratched them with her long nails, and her eyes flew open.
Her mum lay less than half a dozen yards from her, looking like a risen ghost on Halloween. But beneath her purpled, raw face, blue eyes lovingly connected with her own. Something was wrong though, for her mum's eyes seemed unfocused, hazy....
The man with the silver hair kicked her face away.
"Mummy!" She screeched, horror struck, lunging.
"Ah, ah, ah, ah..." The mean lady cooed. "Little darling your mummy is busy now. Can't you see that?"
Emily kicked out at the lady, missing, painful tears stinging her eyes. The mean lady dug her fingernails into her arm, breaking the skin and blood welled from it, trickling down her arm so fast it frightened her.
"Let go! Let go! MUMMY!" She twisted, screeching, finding her voice. It was higher than she remembered.
Mummy needed up now, she needed air. The mean man was shoving her face into the puddle the rain had left the night before. Her mummy didn't like water.
"I swear in the name of MERLIN if you three don't KNOCK IT OFF I will do more than just BODY BIND YOU! UNDERSTAND!?"
Kalliandra couldn't profess to know Hermione well, but she was pretty sure the girl was livid.
A strange tickling sensation flooded her, and she found her limbs again. Kally was on her hands and knees quickly, but a wand was already in her face.
Such was the authority in Hermione's voice that she actually nodded.
Plus, all things considering, Hermione hadn't actually freed the Weasel or the Jackass yet, whom she figured Hermione had stunned when the Weasel had gotten her. So if the girl trusted her enough to not act the fool, she would not.
Angry as she was.
Hermione had crossed the room to stand right in front of Potter.
"Harry, so help me if you promise not to accuse, attack, or maim anyone in this room I will unbind you. And since you can't answer me I will assume you agree, because you do not want to know what I will do if you go back on the word I just made for you."
She wasn't sure she exactly followed what Hermione had said, but at any rate Potter was now moving his limbs testingly on the floor, and his first order of business had been to kick her chunk of hair, that he had ripped out, away.
Oh how she longed to slug him.
Ron was next.
"I can't believe you stunned me!" Ron grunted accusingly, standing to ruffle his hair.
"You deserved it Ronald." Hermione quipped angrily, moving to stand between the three of them, in front of Dumbledore's desk. "Now if you three are done acting like first years I think we have some things to straighten out."
Ron was still gaping unintelligently. "But you stunned us..."
"And if I hadn't Professor Dumbledore would no longer have a head office." She stated simply. "Not to mention Kalliandra wouldn't have a head."
Kally took great offense to this but restrained her thoughts to a mere grunt. Potter and his twit friend were nothing without their precious little wands.
Ron turned to glare menacingly, straightening up to his full height, leading her to re-consider that last thought. They certainly did outweigh her...
A loud slam jerked her attention to Potter, who was staring right at her.
"Death Eaters don’t deserve a head." He growled, from his spot on the ground.
She arched her eyebrows curiously, forcing a cruel smirk. She wasn't about to let him intimidate her more than he had.
Hermione shook her head disbelievingly. "Harry don't be ridiculous. Kally can't be a Death Eater. She's a student and she's in Gryffindor for starts..."
"Pettigrew was too Mione."
Hermione's words died in her throat at Weasley's rebuttal.
"Not to be rude, or anything..." Kally finally snapped. "But if you are going to accuse me of things perhaps you could stop speaking in code so I could actually follow the conversation."
All eyes snapped in her direction.
"Unless you'd prefer to just curse me again." She added, shrugging painfully.
"I'd love to..." Weasley stopped short as a deeper, almost amused voice, cut him off.
"While I realize that my office was outdated, I had no idea the four of you were so interested in redecorating."
"Headmaster I can explain..." Hermione started.
Kalliandra interrupted her. "Remus?" She asked urgently, forgetting all else.
Dumbledore's mildly amused expression vanished. "I am not sure this is the best time to..."
"Lupin? Remus Lupin?" Potter's eyes darted around accusingly. "What does she know about him?"
Dumbledore's white eyebrows arched so high that they actually disappeared beneath his oversized hat. "I do not believe that is your concern Harry."
For Potter's part, he showed the first sign of intelligence since she had met him, and remained silent. Though the stiffening of his shoulder's and the thin line of his mouth revealed the extent of his anger.
"Her concern is as legitimate as is yours, Harry." Dumbledore added with a meaningful look, before crossing the room to place a fatherly hand on Hermione's shoulder.
Her entire body relaxed, her reproachful look vanishing as she crumpled in front of them, turning away for the shelter that only the high back of a chair could provide.
It wasn't until Hermione had disappeared into the chair that it hit her.
Something serious had been going on when she had entered, and perhaps that had something to do with
And for the first time since she had met Potter, she felt she actually deserved his punishing glare.
Kenneth Bothan squeezed the softball in confusion, understandably confused about why a group of 'wizards' had just handed him something so odd. He looked up at them, pain etched in his features. "But my daughter is still...."
Remus' heart went out to the President as his port-key was activated, causing him to disappear, mid-sentence.
It was a nasty thing to do to a man who's family was still missing.
"We're looking for them..." Remus whispered, hoping they would find them. A team, led by Spruner, had already been dispatched to search for the President's family, yet Remus had little hope.
It was one thing to stage an attack in Muggle-fashion. It was an entirely different thing to kidnap a Muggle in the old-fashioned way.
If the President's family were still alive, they had probably been taken elsewhere via portkey, and they hadn't the slightest of where to begin looking.
But he wasn't about to take that fact for granted, despite what Spruner and the others thought.
Remus intended to search every area of the zoo that wasn't already being combed, but first, he needed to find Tonks, if only to assuage his screaming nerves.
The relief he felt upon spotting her was incalculable. Silently he thanked God, the gods, whomever the maker was for that. Her endless dribble might annoy him to no end, but the thought of not having that annoyance was too much to contemplate.
It was something he did not want to contemplate.
She had to leave though. That was evident from the moment he spotted her, judging by the awkward gait she was taking. Even with her natural clumsiness the child in her arms would not throw off her balance that dangerously, so he knew she could not be in too good of shape. Her injuries from the battle in the Department of Mysteries were still healing, and now this...
She was so damnably headstrong that he knew she would not leave until she collapsed. And if there were Death Eaters still here, he wasn't going to risk her being harmed again. He had promised Sirius that much.
The name came crashing into her consciousness like a brick hurtled from a tenth story window.
She stopped, leaning hard against the side of the building, the boy, Patrick, still held tightly within her arms, as the name attacked her memory.
The blow to her head had driven certain details from her mind, but one had come back.
"You have to get them out of here!" She shouted suddenly, covering Patrick's ears as she screamed across the activity at Order members. "They could still be here!"
Such was the din that only Mundungus and Kingsley heard her. The pace of things was quick as Order members winked in and out of existence, transporting the Muggles to safety, but they needed to move faster.
Only she knew they were moving as fast as physically safe for the wounded.
But she had to do something. Those left couldn't wait any longer.
She shifted Patrick's heavy burden to one hip and dug in her pocket for her portkey.
"Patrick I'm going to get you away from here okay?"
The boy didn't respond. She was amazed to have gotten so much as a name from him in their short walk together, but she knew he had heard.
She set him down and withdrew her velvety pouch. She paused, letting it slide silkily through her fingers, appreciating the small reminder that there were pleasant things beyond this hell.
"Patrick, I want you to hold your hand out for me, like this." She took his hand, moving it palm up. "Now close your eyes for me, and I promise you'll be with people you know when you open them." She sincerely hoped it was not a lie. There was no way of knowing if those he knew had survived or not. But if they had, Order Headquarters was where they would be.
Patrick looked up blankly as she undid the string to the small bag.
"Just close your eyes." She said softly, watching his lids flicker shut. She smiled genuinely, tilting the contents of the pouch into his outstretched hand, glad that at least one child would be seen safely away.
As the grains hit his bare palm his eyes opened, barely registering surprise before he vanished.
She smiled wearily as Remus ran up to her.
He skidded to a stop, looking as worse for the wear as she herself must, his eyes scanning her disapprovingly. Odd as it was she suddenly felt like a student caught in the act of something disreputable.
Well he had been a professor, she reminded herself, feeling for the source of pain on her head.
Remus caught her hand halfway there. "Let me see."
She shook her head. "Remus I'm fine. I just have a headache is all."
The look he gave her confirmed her thought that she must look pretty bad. "Come on, let's get you out of here."
Her brow furrowed reflexively and she winced from the surprising amount of pain it caused. "Leave? Remus no. Bellatrix is here."
Remus' face paled considerably. "Bellatrix? Are you sure?"
The look she shot quelled further question. He shook his head. "That explains why you took off...And here I thought they just planted a bomb and set it off with a timer..."
"No Remus. She was right behind Emily and looked far too happy. She was here. She might still be here. We need to get the rest of the Muggles out of here in case..."
His face turned determined. "No. Tonks your still recovering and are beat up enough as it..."
"Me?" She shot back incredulously. "Look at yourself Wolfy." No one was going to tell her she wasn't recovered. She was, and that was that.
He must not have heard her. "Where's your portkey? You can't just make another one..."
"I sent a kid back with it."
His jaw dropped. "You what? Why didn't you go with him Tonks!" He groaned, pulling her towards him. "Look, it doesn't matter. You can catch a ride with one of the other groups leaving. Your in no shape to apparate back."
"Remus I'm not going anywhere." She protested, yanking away. "My aunt did this and if anyone has a right to bring her to justice it's me."
His hazel eyes bored into hers, reading her. She hated that feeling. She had never spoken to him about it but Sirius surely had....
"No." He stated simply. "You can bring her to justice but it won't be today."
She stood her ground, staring back defiantly. "Remus I have no more time to waste arguing with you." With that she yanked her arm free and apparated at random within the zoo boundaries.
She re-appeared not far off, gasping for her lost breath, surprised at the considerable effort it had taken her to do so little.
"Merlin I need a long lie down after this...." She muttered quietly.
"That can be arranged dear niece...."
"Damn't Tonks!" He swore, the edge of panic gnawing at him as he took off at a run.
She could not have went far, not with that gash to the head. Gods she had looked worse close up than he had originally thought. And if Death Eaters were still here and she was caught...
She didn't have a port key, and he doubted she'd have the strength to apparate again.
"That can be arranged dear niece...."
She sucked in her breath shakily, drawing her wand as the first curse flew. Her exposed back ached as she dropped, shouting the shielding charm as it hit. The curse reverberated, rebounding violently against a metal chair, shattering it beneath the restaurant's trellis. The metallic clang shook the air, nearby sea lions groaning eerily as the disturbance reached their ears, even beneath the water.
Tonks' rose shakily, on-guard, shoving aside her weariness as the situation sunk in. For she could not leave. Not now.
A small girl wept bitterly, struggling vainly in Bellatrix's tenacious grip, unnoticing of the blood trickling down her arms, soaking her shirt sleeves...
Tonks unwillingly followed the girl's desperate gaze, where it lay fixated on the quivering form of a woman upon the ground, her body twitching from whatever cruelties had been bestowed upon her, coughing and sputtering as if half drowned...
Bellatrix smiled gauntly, contorting her wretched face into a vision from the most haunting of nightmares. Yet, her fright lay in the withering form upon the ground.
The recognition ran her blood cold.
Marie's auburn hair lay sprawled chaotically about her head, blending with the blood pooling in the puddled water from her considerable wounds. Her body twitched spasmodically now, like a fish freshly caught, lying upon a ship deck, gaping for breath wordlessly...
Carrion pigeons lingered, approaching the dying woman in cautious hops, their feet clicking upon the ground as they moved to investigate the rich, bloodied scent of death.
Emily let out an unearthly wail, accompanied by a fresh round of kicking.
Tonks shook with fury. "Let... Her...Go..." She gasped threateningly.
Bellatrix smiled even wider. "What do you care for these pathetic...." She yanked Emily's head back, evicting a shriek as her braid pulled on her scalp. "Muggles. They are even more freakish than you. But at least your traits could prove useful..."
"Useful to who Bellatrix? Your pathetic master?"
She had spoken with strength she did not possess, and her mind turned over the hundreds of ways the situation could go more wrong terribly wrong.
"...useful..." A voice, scarred from years of nightly haunts and horror rang mockingly in the still air.
He heard it, slowing to the point where he feared his own hesitation.
He could not risk being heard.
His ears perked, drawing forth oscillations of sound on the wind towards him, giving him direction another with purer blood would lack.
He followed it, his heart leaping as a familiar voice floated to him, beckoning him to the other side of the Lakeside Restaurant. He pressed himself flat against the building, terrified for her, sheltering from view as his senses quickly adjusted, blocking the foul stench rising from it.
His eyes strained, peering through the gap that permitted trash depository in all directions, and his heart froze.
Suddenly he was no longer sure where the foul stench radiated from, for around the corner he saw faces of death.
Bellatrix Lestrange stood before him, her once majestic face sunken, near holes framing her sockets. Dead black eyes lay fixated where he knew Tonks must lay. And a woman, twitching, dying....
He tore his eyes from her. There was nothing that could be done for Marie Bothan until Lestrange was silenced.
Tonks stepped into view, her eyes alight with fury, holding her cousin's corrupted gaze.
His eyes scanned the area, a shuffling noise had caught his attention, distracting him from the calm that had engulfed the two women. Scavenging sparrows took flight, vacating the area in a fluttering flurry of wings as power mixed with hatred radiated between them, thickening the air....
That was when he saw it. A coy grin crept across Bellatrix's destroyed face, and behind, where Tonks could not see, a head of silvery hair emerged, the death incantation partially formed on his cursed lips.
Remus sprung, screaming with a fury he had never before known. "STUPEFY!"
Malfoy heard too soon, sidestepping his curse as easily as if it were a mere stone, thrown by a toddler.
Remus rebounded as the sounds of Tonks and Bellatrix in full battle erupted, and he began throwing and casting every spell he had every learnt in earnst. Knowledge was not guiding him now, adrenaline drenched revenge was.
A flash of light caught on Lucius' cold grimace.
Remus froze. It couldn't be....
Lucius had already turned and bolted.
With a last glance towards where Tonks and Bellatrix dueled, he took off in pursuit, gasping, panting as the pursuit led through winding paths, animals screeching in their wake.
Caution had been thrown to the winds as he reached the lake, spotting Lucius on the far side, arms crossed, patiently waiting.
Instinctively he smelled it, what awaited on the other side, for their scent had drifted to him upon the wind.
How appropriate, he thought, the memory of what he had seen flashing through his mind. With that thought Remus growled, apparating aside Lucius.
Remus raised his wand, anticipating the need to hold the other at bay.
Only Lucius seemed disinterested in fighting. In was a feint. It had to be. And his eyes scanned the area for some sort of unseen malevolence.
He spotted nothing, and it disturbed him.
Lucius had his back completely to him, walking to stand beside the rough iron bars that concealed the artic tundra area. A pale arm reached out, tracing the metal encasement carelessly.
"Lupin, I was half afraid your weak side would hesitate to come. Were all too familiar with your weaknesses where those wretched Muggles are concerned.."
"The only wretched one here is you Lucius." He countered, eyeing him appraisingly.
Surprisingly Malfoy grinned. "Is that so?" He cocked his head to the side tauntingly.
Remus moved, side-stepping around uneven pavement, loath to remove his eyes from the hint of fang he now saw.
It was unnatural....
"Wretched am I? And saintly are the Muggles then? The Muggles who hate you...."
Remus shook his head. He did not have time for this.
Lucius crouched down, his hand beckoning a pair of gleaming eyes forth from the brush beyond the caging. Low snarls informed him that other wolves lay await just beyond his vision. The pack had come forth.
"You know Remus, the Dark Lord has power beyond your wildest dreams, and he does not hate you anymore than your brethren do."
Lucius ran his wand along the cage bars, a flash of hot fire searing them, melting the bars into non-existence.
He found himself hard pressed to ignore the magic he had just seen. Searing was a lost art, yet Lucius had performed it as easily as rudimentary levitation.
In the distance roused growling could be heard. It wouldn't be long until the wolves found their first tastes of freedom.
Lucius spoke on. "You see Remus, you are different than the others. And to serve our Lord is to remember your blood Remus. Serve him and he will give you what you most desire..."
"Oh?" He countered. "And what's that?"
"Acceptance." Lucius growled with finality. Behind him a gray wolf, fangs a glint in the light, prowled. It hovered in the newly formed gap, waiting...
Lucius looked upon the wolf, smiling as if pleased.
"Or perhaps for one as ashamed of his blood as you have proven, a cure, to your ailment."
"Any cure he has to offer would be poison." Remus spat.
The wolves were filing out now, one by one.
"So you say." A triumphant grin crossed Malfoy's features. "But tell me this werewolf, do your precious mud blood lovers welcome your kind with open arms? Would they reward you for your services as my lord will? Or will they shun you as they have continually done so?"
The wolves began circling Lucius protectively, hackles raised threateningly towards him...
Remus did not waver from the power he felt radiating before him.
Malfoy's cold gray eyes glinted maliciously, approaching him with purposeful strides, his canine convey in tow. His words, as deliberate as his steps, came as he reached a hand down, gently stroking the alpha-male leading the pack.
"Join us Remus. Do not make the same mistake your blood traitor friends did."
He shook his head, staring defiantly, unafraid to reveal himself as he spoke truer words than he had ever before uttered.
"I would rather die."
A cruel grin split Malfoy's face as he withdrew from the wolf's thick fur, releasing it from whatever spell it had been under. The animals' lips curled back, snarls reaching a crescendo as it shot away.
"Then you shall!"
Electric blue blazed from mahogany tip suddenly, and he dove to the side, thrusting his body toward the ground faster than gravity allowed. His shoulders plunged into the rough pavement. The spell seared above him, exploding in the underbrush beyond.
Metallic hell resounded as another bar ripped free from the caging, growls erupting near the impact as more wolves roamed free.
Remus rolled upright, crouching, the stunning incantation on his lips as he aimed....
He wasn't fast enough.
Electric blue exploded painfully on his chest, filling his vision with hazy forms. The impact lifted his body, flinging it to an abrupt halt upon the pavement yards away. His eyes lolled unconsciously, vaguely registering snouts circling, many more creeping closer....
Malfoy's eyes danced cruelly, the carnivorous canines parting as he came forth to hover above his fallen opponent. Icy eyes fixated on the beasts, reflecting the warmth within, and the freed wolves cowered.
Canine fangs grew, pricking Lucius' lips as they extended at will from his mouth, the blood trickling down his chin tempting the beasts to attack, to come closer... They cowered... Their fear invigorated him, perhaps even more so than the deaths of the filthy mud bloods, yet these beasts he could use...
He crouched to the ground, his pupils narrowing into vertical slits, yellowing....
"You will get your wish blood traitor. Only your friend's first...."
He smiled cruelly as a single growled word left his throat.
Emily's world upended as the mean lady discarded her, thrusting her so violently away that she somersaulted hard on her head.
Her body was shaking so much she barely pushed herself up, tears blinding her. She didn't like being thrown.
"Mummy..." She whispered, spotting her some feet away, and began crying harder.
Her mummy was no longer twitching....
She crawled, her skirt catching on something and tearing, and she stumbled onto her elbows, ripping the skin a bit more. Her shirt, she realized, was already stained by the cuts on her arms.
Suddenly they stung a lot more, and she crawled, unable to stand from fright till she felt her knees reach the puddles her mummy lay in.
She fell on her, hugging her mum tightly with both arms, burying her face in her chest.
She expected her mum to stroke her hair like she always did when her tears fell, only her mum's hand lay in the shallow cold water. She couldn't like that.
Emily lifted her hand and placed it on her stomach. She slept like that, she had seen her. Surely she must be sleeping. Her mum had to be tired. She'd had a bad day too, and Emily wanted her to rest.
But she wanted her to wake up more.
"Please mum..." Emily had her mum's other arm and was shaking it, taking a close look at her mum's face for the first time since she had gotten there, and she did not like the odd tint around her lips. Maybe it was lipstick, but she had never seen her mum wear that color before...
Emily hurt everywhere, her hands stung, her knees stung, her elbows throbbed. She had shaken her mum so much that the skin on the back of her own hand had been torn off, ripped against the concrete. She was soaked too, having splashed water onto her mum as well. It had to be making her cold, and she didn't want her mum to be cold like she suddenly was.
Emily stopped hyperventilating, swallowing like her daddy had showed her to do when upset, and marveled at how wet one could get from so little water.
"GO TO HELL!"
Emily jerked away at the noise, wiping her freed hair from her eyes. Her braids were ruined now so her hair was in the way. The cruel lady had yanked them so much pieces had come out. Her mummy would be so sad when she woke.
And now the cruel lady's willowy form was towering over the nice one...
"You heard me...." The nice lady on the ground yelled, just before the mean lady's sharp pointed shoe collided with her stomach. Nice lady let out a whoosh of breath and a loud cough, as the shoe came back again.
Emily hated that shoe. It had kicked her mummy too.
"No..." She whimpered, shaking her mum again. "No..." The nice lady was the only one who could help her mummy. She couldn't. She didn't have enough band aids to fix the cuts on her mum, but maybe the nice lady did. But if the nice lady got cuts too....
Emily stood and ran, attaching herself to the cruel lady's leg as it reared back.
"Emily no!" The lady on the ground gasped. She just had time to wonder how this stranger knew her name when the mean lady's hand struck her face hard, nearly sending her away again.
She dug her short fingernails deep. This lady had done it to her, now it was her turn.
The lady had her braid and was yanking her up. It hurt. It hurt so bad that she was seeing little black stars. She wanted it to stop.
Emily opened her mouth and bit down on the mean lady's leg, just as the mean lady's body stopped attacking her and went limp.
It was then that Emily realized that she did not like being smushed. Particularly by people who were heavier than she was, or by people in big, pointy black boots.
Lucius Malfoy stood before the others, a proud smirk tainting his normally severe features.
"It is done my Lord." He informed, bowing deeply. "We will see the fruits of our labors shortly." Behind him the wolves growled, displeased at their new captivity. He had taken some, for his Lord could find uses for their particular talents.
Others he had left free to roam. All the better to finish off any stray Muggle children who may have survived.
"Bellatrix is not arrived."
Lucius shuddered at the note of displeasure he heard.
"Were we not to leave those too weak to fend for themselves behind my Lord?"
A slithering sounded besides him, and he froze, Nagini's fangs gently brushing against his cheek before pulling away.
"I will see to it that she is taken care of Lucius. You may go."
Lucius rose, bowing once more before his Lord's presence, then sweeping proudly from the room.
The transformation of himself was almost complete, and he had other business to attend to.
Tonks gaped in shock, stars swimming before her vision.
Could it really be that easy?
Emily's whimpering yanked her back to the harsh reality of the situation, and she scrambled to unearth the girl from Bellatrix's limp form.
The killing curse...
She had never before used it, and yet she had expected to feel something more...
Or at least something, only she did not. Where there should have been feeling she felt only emptiness.
As she looked at the prostate figure, yanking her heavy booted leg off of Emily's torso, she felt only disgust.
By the Gods what if she had hit Emily instead?
Emily's arms flailed, fighting off an invisible foe as Tonks pulled her free.
"Shh...It's okay now. It's okay..."
This little girl had saved both their lives, she realized, cradling the child's bruised face in her shoulder. Emily's arms seemed so thin, so fragile, and her tiny hands squeezed her around the neck tightly.
Tonks started shaking. How damnably reckless had she been to fire an Unforgivable in the vicinity of such innocence?
Tonks found herself hugging the child just as tightly, needing to feel the warmth radiating from her. She murmured promises that they would get help for her mother and sent warning sparks into the sky to attract help.
She must have collapsed after that, because the next thing she remembered was Emily's frightened pleas for her to wake as Kingsley revived her.
"Headmaster the..." Snape marched through Dumbledore's door, smacking Crusantheus on the way in, only to stop short as the destroyed shelving nearly tripped him.
He was quick to recover, throwing a stern look towards where she and Potter remained seated on the floor. "Headmaster I suggest we speak outside."
The Headmaster did not look up. He had been showing Hermione some Muggle game called cat's cradle for the past few minutes, and for her part, she had seemed interested. "That will be unnecessary Severus. Anything to be said on the matter can be said in front of these students. I trust them implicitly."
She heard a distinct snort from Potter's direction, but was in no mind to pay it any heed. For a change her attention was riveted on Professor Snape, in hopes that he would alleviate some of her frustration. Dumbledore had flat out refused to answer her questions, choosing to remain perched atop his desk, preaching patience.
Snape stiffened. "Very well. The rest have arrived at London Headquarters and Spruner has dispatched a faction to dissuade the Muggle Press."
Dumbledore nodded. "Then that is where we must go..."
"Is Remus there?" She interjected, containing herself no longer.
Snape was furious. "Your impudence is unspeakable girl..."
"That will be enough Severus."
Snape stopped mid-stride, clenching his fist upon closed air. She could see his disappointment. He had been hoping to close it around her head.
"Harry, Kalliandra, you two may come...."
"What about us!?" Now it was the Weasel's turn to be bold.
Dumbledore paused, considering the red head's request with a long stare down his bended nose. "I would perhaps, feel better Ron, if someone were to stay here with Hermione."
Weasley's mouth opened, to emit further protest, but it was too much rebellion in one day for Snape.
"Ten points from Gryffindor, Weasley. If you argue with the Headmaster again it will be detention."
Weasley's jaw snapped shut like a viper.
"Well now that that is settled...." Dumbledore said, giving Hermione's shoulder a squeeze. "We must make haste."
As if sensing this, a small compartment rose forth from the surface of his desk. Dumbledore waggled his wand and it's contents, a small velvety bag, levitated into his hand where he began kneading it's contents curiously.
"Ms. Granger," He said, continuing his odd inspection. "You may stay here as long as you wish. Today my office is yours. You are also exempt from classes for the day."
Hermione nodded miserably as Dumbledore stalked between them, beckoning them to rise.
Kally scrambled to her feet as quickly as the books surrounding her would allow.
"Professor Snape I trust that you will see they are unbothered."
Snape grunted unhappily.
Dumbledore choose to ignore it. "Now, hold out your hands." He said, as Potter came to stand before her.
She extended hers besides his own outstretched one, careful to not touch his skin as a pale violet dust poured out, moving as within an hourglass. She watched it flow down, ignoring Potter's dangerously green eyes, which dared hers to look back.
The grainy substance felt cool against her hand, and some spilled over from Potter's into her own as he shifted in place. Asides from that, he was unnaturally steady.
Her instructors had once prized her for steadiness. Yet, next to his, her hands shook as if in a quake. It was not a pleasing thought.
"Now shut your eyes..."
Hypnotic, she thought, obeying. A slow tickling graced the nape of her neck, beneath her missing lock, a growing tug behind her navel reminiscent of a port key, only gentler...
As easily as she had slipped into it, she slipped out, her eyes snapping open in a cavernous foyer. She blinked hesitantly, noting Potter's lack of surprise at the dark paneling surrounding them.
"Interesting port key." He commented, tilting his hand, allowing the sandy material to run freely. The violet grains separated in flight, perhaps wisped away on invisible air currents, but none reached the ground.
"A safer medium was necessary." Dumbledore commented, startling her. She had not seen him arrive. "Rather than just touching something, we have been trying to find more creative ways to activate port keys. It makes it harder for those we do not trust to decipher their true usage."
Her hand absently went to her neck, tracing where his ring should be, right as a loud clatter reached her ears. She jumped slightly, tracing it's origin to behind a closed door at the far end of the foyer.
"MUDBLOODS! BLOOD TRAITORS!"
The thunderous voice crashed through the stifling atmosphere, and she whorled, two hand's steadying her as she nearly knocked into Potter.
"THE NOBLE HOUSE OF BLACK WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS! IT SHALL CRUMBLE UPON ITS FOUNDATIONS BEFORE IT ALLOWS MORE OF THOSE FILTHY MUGGLES ENTRANCE..."
His hands stiffened around her shoulders, and she shrugged cautiously away, noticing his face contorting into something so full of hate that she froze in response. His eyes darted around her, towards the screaming woman, pulling at the edges of her portrait with such veracity that the curtains framing it blew as if caught in a mighty breeze, and she swore his eyes flashed with more than anger.
Something about it evoked a memory better left buried, and perhaps that was why she whorled on the screaming creature.
"SHUT UP WILL YOU!?" She screeched back.
The portrait caught sight of her, black eyes widened. "MUDBLOOD! OUT! OUT!"
Kalliandra smiled grimly, grabbing a paperweight from the nearby entrance table. She tossed it once, getting a feel for it's weight before she hurtled it across the room, it's thick glass shattering, lodging within the canvas. The woman's wrinkled face recoiled from the tears, clawing at her own skin now, screeching something about her beauty, though Kally could see none.
"TREATUROUS MUDBLOOD! YOU AND YOUR FILTHY MUGGLE PARENTS CAN ROT IN...."
She launched herself over the short table and had closed the distance between them in an instant, her own skin tingling dangerously. The creature lashed out, unable to shred her skin as she knew it must desire. "Never again will you say a word, you disgusting creature, about them. Not if you prefer your precious canvas to remain intact." Kally hissed, staring directly into the vile woman's face.
Kally's skin felt aglow, vibrating rhythmically as she glared into the long dead woman's face. The horrible portrait blinked, her screams silenced for the briefest of seconds as something akin to comprehension shone upon it's face.
The woman flew, disappearing behind her rusting frames.
Kally shut her eyes, inhaling deeply as a calm silence once again engulfed her.
"Let it be." Dumbledore's soothing voice came to her.
She nodded, rubbing the back of her hand across her cheek, wiping away unshed tears.
The kitchen and surrounding rooms had been set up as an impromptu field hospital, which was how he found himself propped up against a wall, his chest searing painfully.
The blast Lucius gave had left a blackish welt across his sternum. Angelina Johnson, in her first year of healers school, had been quick to strip his shirt from him, applying a soothing balm to the burn. So now he was left feeling slightly exposed, wondering how 'soothing' the balm was, for the pain in his chest was growing worse, spreading through his very bones till they resonated with a dull ache.
His only relief lay passed out on a makeshift bed in the corner. The gash to her head had proven second only to her exhaustion, which had thankfully been the worse of the two injuries, and with the aid of a forcefully administered sleeping draught that was being taken care of.
At least that was what Angelina thought. She had also muttered something about keeping them both in for observation, but he wasn't too keen on leaving Tonks anywhere out of his sight.
At least she's okay, he thanked God silently. Had his shielding charm not worked...
He shuddered. She could have been in the third triage room.
Where those beyond help lay...
At least she was safe. The fact that she had been placed with the most inexperienced healer here was a testament that her injuries were not severe.
It was thoughts like these, running through his head when the kitchen door swung open. It had been motionless for some time.
The door swung in exuberantly, nearly taking out Angelina where she stood. Kalliandra saw this, catching it before it had a chance to smack where the healer in training stood, massing orange paste into the burned scalp of a child.
For Angelina's part, she spared not a glance, not deterring from the careful ministrations her hands made upon the child's wounded flesh.
Kalliandra stood, framed in the dark doorway, emotion flicking across her young face. It lasted a heartbeat, her familiar mask re-emerging so seamlessly that he marveled if it had ever fallen at all.
Remus could not fault her. The young woman had seen more heart ache than the most seasoned of aurors.
It was, perhaps, even more heartbreaking than anything he had yet seen that day.
The healer moved, the young girl's face disappearing from sight behind a back of long black hair. Oddly, she felt relieved. Such innocence on such a face had shaken her.
How innocence could have remained upon that soot covered face, half a head of hair missing, despite the horrors she must have seen...
She would never know.
Her own had been lost too long ago.
She turned away, unwilling to contemplate such fruitless things.
"You okay Professor Lupin?"
Potter's voice was unnaturally flat, yet it drew her attention to where Remus sat, looking worse for the wear, on the dirty floor.
Remus smiled a bit, looking pained. "That depends on whether your housemate over there decides to hurt me or not."
Potter's shoulders re-stiffened.
"Well at least you have an excuse for ignoring me this morning." She countered, ignoring Potter's hurt look. "For a second there I thought you were trying to get rid of me."
His shoulders shook slightly, as if containing laughter for fear of hurting himself. "Ah, the peace I would get!"
She crouched down besides him while the healer said hi to Harry.
Dumbledore walked over. "Good to see you Remus. I deduced that it would be pointless to try and keep these two away, but perhaps we should ask your care-taker for the moment if visitors are allowed shall we?"
"Visitors no." The girl called Angelina countered. "Helpers yes. Come to think of it, you three, move him to another room. I constantly feel like I'm going to step on him..."
"She'll be a regular Madam Pomfrey in no time." Remus muttered wryly, pushing himself up.
"Remus how are you really feeling?" Kally asked, noting how much he was sweating for such a small task.
"Truthfully..." He said with some strain. "Like my bones are being eaten from the inside out."
Harry had crouched down to heave a arm under Remus' shoulder. Catching on she did the same and they hoisted him up.
"You groan like a girl." She muttered.
Remus grunted in reply, and she had to smirk at the look Potter shot her behind his head. Who would have known Potter was capable of looking thunderstruck twice?
"You three go ahead, perhaps to his old room on the second floor?" Dumbledore proposed. "I will be along in a moment, I need to check on things here."
Potter and her grunted under Remus' surprising weight, and after much effort managed to get him up the stairs, depositing him within the confines of a frighteningly cheery room and it's plush, flowered armchair.
Harry's brow scrunched up. "You know Lupin..." He said, between breaths. "You look like hell."
"Absolute hell." He added, letting Kaylens slide away onto the floor exhaustedly.
Professor Lupin chuckled slightly, wincing only a little. "You know, that’s an uncanny impersonation of Prongs. He used to say the same thing every month after the full moon."
Harry threw a sidelong glance at Kaylens, who seemed remarkably unsurprised.
"I know he's a werewolf if that’s what your wondering." She muttered crisply. Her tone softened as she turned to Remus. "And he's right. You do look like hell."
Lupin waved a hand, somewhat drunkenly around them. "It's the room. I tell you, frighteningly cheery. Has this effect on me..."
Harry was startled. Lupin sounded like he had just run a marathon.
Harry shook himself, hiding his concern with false cheer. "Your right Lupin, I never did think pink was your color."
Lupin chortled. "Well Sirius did. His idea of a joke, really, when I stayed here..."
Lupin paused, catching his breath, as Kaylens stood, covering him with a throw blanket. He smiled and rubbed the chair fabric. "Haven't been able to get rid of these cursed flowers since."
"Well that gives me a few re-decorating ideas now doesn't it?" Kaylens commented, dropping back to the floor.
"Redecorating?" Harry asked, somewhat against his will.
"Gods no..." Remus muttered.
"And just think Remus." Kaylens continued, an uncharacteristic playfulness in her tone. "If your still ill who will be at your house to stop me?"
Lupin turned a horror filled face to him. "Don't let her near my place Harry."
Harry felt utterly baffled.
Lupin seemed to notice, waving his hand to change the subject. "In a bit I think I'll sleep. Then would you mind checking on Tonks for me? I'm a bit worried... Never know what she'll get herself into..."
Harry started. "What's wrong with Tonks?"
Lupin sobered. "There were attacks this morning. She got banged up..."
For the thousandth time, he felt chilled. How many attacks had there been? "Are you talking about the ones on Hogwart's families?"
Kaylens shot him a curious look.
Lupin shook his head. "No, a different one. Were keeping it quiet and off Fudge's radar, so the Muggles are being treated here by our healers...."
Harry wanted to question him further on details, but resisted the impulse.
"Wouldn't St. Mungo's be better?"
Lupin nodded. "Normally. But the extent of the injuries Harry..." He clutched his ribs, his face cringing till the wave of pain passed. Harry stared at Lupin's chest where the blanket had slid down. The dark spot seemed bigger....
"The injuries Harry, are either minor, or untreatable, even by wizarding standards."
"Lupin your chest, you should have that looked at again..." He suggested, disturbed by the further discoloration. He was positive now that it had spread.
"I'm fine, really... Just bruised up is all... Probably why I look like hell, eh?"
Kaylens frowned skeptically. "Remus what gave you that bruise?"
"A spell. Really, you two are worse than ole' Pomfrey..."
"What sort of spell?" Harry interjected. He trusted Angelina, but he had seen how many people she had been caring for. She could have missed something....
"No clue. Never seen it... It only knocked me out..." His voice lacked conviction.
"Professor Lupin try to remember, what was the incantation? Who said it?" He asked urgently, sounding like Hermione again.
Lupin groaned. "Don't remember and Lucius Malfoy."
Harry felt chilled. Lucius Malfoy was never harmless.
"Who is that?" Kaylens asked, her eyes turned on him questioningly.
"Just the worst of the Death Eaters." He supplied angrily. Until now he had been able to ignore his fury at her. "I'm surprised you don't know. Too low on the totem pole still?" He finished scathingly.
Kaylens' mouth parted slightly, shame and surprise in her gaze.
Surprise like that was hard to fake.
My God.... He realized.
She didn't know what a Death Eater was...
Lupin had started waving his hands around again. "Now Harry that's no way to talk to a lady.... Your supposed to be a lady's man Har... Your father would be mad at that... Talking to a pretty lady all mean..."
Kaylens looked equally confused. "Remus what..." She said, scrambling to her feet.
Lupin suddenly relaxed, closing his eyes.
"Lupin your acting off." He said, not liking how still he had gone.
Kayelns seemed equally upset, her delicate hand already upon Lupin's sweat soaked brow. "Potter I think we should get Dumbledore." She frowned. "It's strange but there's no fever...."
Lupin's body went rigid.
He and Kaylens exchanged a look.
She looked panicked.
"Remus..." She whispered.
His arm jerked up, nearly striking her across the face.
She caught it, holding onto his arm more for her own protection than his, while he thrashed, his eyes closing and opening as rapidly as his mouth...
Lupin's back arched in the seat, his head supporting him as the bruise widened, spreading across his chest, darkening his skin...
Harry had begun to pace during their conversation, and found himself far enough away to be out of reach, yet close enough to see it.
Lupins pupils were narrowing into vertical slits, yellowing....
"Kaylens get away from him!" He shouted, lunging, tackling her around the waist as Remus' leg shot out. They clattered to the floor together, and Lupin's leg caught him hard across the stomach, driving the wind from him with a short grunt.
He gasped, his body entangled with her long legs, and he found himself unable to move.
A menacing snarl resounded from the chair, and Lupin's hands curled around the armrests tightly, veins bulging grossly.
He found himself transfixed, frozen as claws extended from those hands, shredding the fabric...
He snapped out of it.
"Move!" He wheezed, grasping her by the shoulder. He staggered to his feet, yanking her with him. They barely made it to the door before Lupin had sprang from the chair, his ribs cracking in their violent outward expansion, his snout turned upwards in a silent howl.
They ran, bending floorboards beneath their pounding feet, the first howl echoing threateningly throughout the corridor.
"Potter! Potter wait!" Kaylens ripped from his grasp, nearly tripping them both.
He grabbed her roughly, the staircase in sight. "What the hell is the matter with you! In about five seconds a werewolf, NOT Remus is going to be on you! Got that?!"
She stared, ashen faced. The dim candlelight played across her features, casting their fiery reflection within her frightened eyes.
"He'll follow us."
"Bloody hell." He realized. She was right. There was a makeshift hospital set within the first floor walls, filled to the brim with people if the kitchen had been any indication.
They'd lead him right to them.
Kaylens tensed under his hold.
He held her about the wrist and pulled her closer, protectively, listening to the sound of claw on wood, racking his mind for an idea.
Around the curve, less than a dozen paces from them, a snout emerged.
His breath caught in his throat, watching Lupin's nose work. It was searching for their scent, cautiously around the corner.
It had not yet seen them.
The glinting fangs caught the candlelight before he recognized the pain in his arm to be from Kaylen's tight grip. He caught her eye and she nodded in understanding, and they began moving with cautious backward steps.
His foot reached the top stair first, just as Lupin's entire head appeared.
The werewolves lips peeled back, unleashing a low, soul-shattering snarl.
Kaylens nails dug into himn.
It reared back on it's haunches and sprung.
"Run!" Harry yelled, flinging her about the waist down the stairs, placing himself between her and Lupin.
He heard her hit the stairs, thunkering down to the first landing with a short yelp of pain, just before the entire weight of a two hundred pound beast came crashing onto his chest.
Kalliandra caught the hand rail, clinging to it long enough to slow her descent. Her arm twisted behind until her shoulder protested, and she tumbled to the hard landing with a thick thud.
She coughed painfully, disturbed dust rising several inches in front of her, when a tangle of arms and fur plunged past, centimeters from her face.
"Potter!" She rolled over to see Remus' curved back smash against the sharp edge of the stairs. They skidded down the stairs, Potter on top, letting out a howl of pain as a claw lashed out, latching into his shoulder like a grappling hook. The werewolves hind legs dug into the stairs, his body pitching free, rolling haphazardly to a halt at end of the flight.
Kally felt sickened. A smear of the blood, pooling from his shoulder, had reddened the stairs in his wake.
She froze mid-thought. The werewolf had risen, it's powerful body undisturbed by such small injury, and it hovered on the flight between them, separating them. A brawny forepaw lashed out at the banister, shredding it to slivers, shards flying at her till she ducked under her own hands, protecting her face from the splintery debris.
A sick, frothing sound met her ears. Remus was salivating from the mouth, his drool puddling beneath him, soaking the wood as he looked between them, choosing his target.
He turned towards Potter's defenseless body.
The edge to her voice shook him awake like no clock ever could.
He had to move, he thought dazedly, his skull ringing. Only the lower half of his body seemed curiously numb.
He gritted his teeth, damning the searing strike that had shredded his shoulder muscles. His legs were tingling now, and he clambered to his knees with considerable effort.
Tail bone injury, he realized, just as he caught sight of the werewolf sauntering towards him.
Before instinctual alarms had time to go off, something smacked against the creature's curved back, bouncing off into the wall.
"Hey werewolf!" Kaylens hollered, hurtling her other shoe, striking it directly on the snout.
It threw it's head back, snarling at her, baring it's teeth.
She was already sprinting up the stairs, the werewolf bounding after her.
He drew his wand, screaming for help, throwing every curse he knew at it's back, missing as it disappeared after Kaylens swift figure.
He fought his way up the stairs, leaning heavily on the railing, conscious of the sounds now calling to him. But it was the air, the air that had his attention. It was growing thick again, his hair standing on end prominently as he slipped in his own blood, reaching the top corridor...
"Kaylens!" He screamed, feeling the stifling air pressing harder against him.
He fumbled, tripping onto the ground where he crawled weakly. Footsteps could be heard, stalling behind him.
As suddenly as it had begun, the pressure lifted.
He clambered to his feet, rounding the corner.
The very air seemed to reverberate here, gold flecks of light dancing within it. He was so taken off guard he nearly tripped.
Kaylens lay beneath him, drained of color, her chest too still.
Feet away lay the werewolf, unconscious and panting.
Thank you to Ichigo-Pan/Mousie-Chan for the amazing picture!
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