“Look, there has to be a way out of here!” Tonks said desperately but she was met with little enthusiasm from the rest of the prisoners. They had returned from their meal with Voldemort some time ago, although none of them knew how long it had been since they had been escorted back to their cells.
"There is no way out of here, Miss Tonks, and everyone here is well aware of it!” Severus snapped at her. The tempers of those inside the prison were quickly becoming frayed and few of them were able to conceal their indignation with one another, except the younger of the party; Fred, George, Harry, Ron and Hermione tended to be ignored during the arguments which arose, all of which detailed any possible escapes which they may have. They were watched carefully however, and all of them were certain of it. There was no way that Voldemort would just allow them to stroll out of the castle alive, but some hope still remained within them. A small flickering flame in the darkness which threatened to engulf it.
“Of course there is! There is always an escape!” she snapped back at him and anyone else who dared to oppose her. “We just have to find it, that’s all.”
“I agree with you in the theory that yes there probably is a way out,” Remus said quietly, “but getting out would be incredibly difficult. I doubt that any endeavour to escape would be worth our time.”
“See, only you still continue with this vain hope!” Mad Eye contributed, “In the end it will be only yourself who gets hurt from this, unless you continue to voice your futile hopes and influence those younger than yourself.”
“I don’t influence anyone!” Tonks snapped back at him. “There is a way out though, we just have yet to find it.”
“Okay,” Minerva said, determined to put a stop to this in as calm and as rational a way as possible, “suppose there is a way out of the prison. That isn’t the issue! At the moment we are all trapped in separate cells. Dementors walk past every half hour, weakening most considerably. Before we can even contemplate any other route of escape we would first have to get out of these cells, without wands and without anyone on the outside. How would you propose we do this, Miss Tonks?”
There was silence all around them whilst each of them tried desperately to conceive any kind of plan which could get them out of there. Very little leapt into their minds which did not involve one of their own being outside their cell first. There was no way for the first of them to get out alone.
“The fact of the matter is that these cells suppress any magic within the individual. Not even wandless magic can be performed inside here and, because of this, there is no way to escape these cells,” Remus told them quietly.
“I hate to say it, but the wolf is right,” Severus grudgingly admitted, only saving any shred of dignity from his own contempt by insulting him as he said it. “Only someone from the outside of the cells may help us now.”
“And at the moment only Dumbledore is anywhere out of the cells who can help us,” Bill said thoughtfully.
“But he’s nowhere near us, he’ll be back at Hogwarts,” Minerva said calmly.
“There is no proof of that; he could have come to help us, to get us out of here!” Ron argued against her. She sighed at his response to her and briefly wondered why no one had put in a greater attempt to silence Miss Tonks before the situation had become so out of hand.
“See what you have done now, Tonks?” Mad Eye asked her coolly, “Now they have hope where there is none.”
“There isn’t any proof of what’s happening outside the prison though, for all we know Dumbledore doesn’t even know that we’ve gone,” Kingsley said quietly as he stared out of his cell and into the empty one opposite. It had once housed Filius and he felt a slight pang at his loss.
“Or he could know that we have and be coming to help us!” Fred said fervently.
“No,” Severus said coldly. “No one will come to help. Even if Dumbledore has realised we are not there and regained entry into Grimmauld Place he would then have to gain almost an army with which to storm this prison. It is very well guarded. Barren lands, forests, water, walls, Death Eaters, watch towers, age old charms, Dementors and Voldemort himself all guard the prison. Then there is the fact that we are in what can only be described as a maze! How many of you could so much as make it back to the main chamber of this place?!” Silence greeted his words as it had done to many other people that evening. It was beginning to dawn on all of them with each argument which was put forward that they would never escape that prison. They had reached their final place of death. They would doubtlessly be quickly forgotten; their deaths unnamed in the Prophet whilst Fudge adamantly went on about such dull and unimportant matters like the exchange rate between the Galleon and the pound.
“I hope you all feel very proud of yourselves,” Molly said quietly. “You have squashed any hope which may still have dwindled within these walls and without it Voldemort has already won.”
She was right, and with their words they had effectively brought all of them to the realisation, whether correct or not, that they would be killed there. They would never see the sun again. They would never see another human being again except for those few with whom they shared their fate. The last flickering of hope went out, and darkness consumed them.
No oars were present in the small wooden boats which flew silently across the lake towards the prison. The passengers within them were silent, each of them quietly scared but not one of them voiced their fears to the others. Many of them had faced large hoards of Death Eaters before, some of them had even come face to face with Voldemort and almost each and every one of them had entered the prison of Azkaban at some point, it was just that only Albus had the misfortune of doing all three at once in the past. Even then that had been many a year ago, and Voldemort’s power and influence had grown since then.
As those trapped within passed into a strange state of grey; not entirely into the realms of the unconscious but definitely not awake, Albus and the Aurors shot across the water in silence. Glancing up into the sky, the headmaster smiled slightly at the stars up there, noting the constellations again. He was almost taken back to his schooldays into the Astronomy tower. It had been too long since he had last visited there and he reflected that he probably never would again. Something in the corner of his vision made him jerk his head sharply towards it, but the clouds moved slowly and almost deliberately over the top of it, obscuring whatever it was from view. Whatever it had been to catch his eye, it made him wonder whether the thirty Aurors present were all who had been sent to his service.
I have managed to recruit many Aurors to your service and thirty of them shall meet you this evening.
Amelia’s words wandered lazily through his mind and Albus smiled slightly. He was almost certain that more would come, although when and how would remain to be seen. She never had been one to put all her eggs in one basket, Albus reflected, and she would almost certainly have other Aurors to back them up, and others coming in from other directions. His company would be the first to arrive but the more he thought about it, the more certain he became that they would not be the last.
Around him, the other Aurors steeled themselves and looked more determined the nearer they came to the island in the middle. Their speed was slowing, although they were only just past half way to the other side of the water. Then, with a sudden jerk, they stopped entirely.
Albus was prepared for this, although he listened to the Aurors explaining their carefully laid out speech to him about the way in which they would enter the prison. He did not point out to them that it had been done before and Voldemort had been ready for them then; it would only shatter their spirit, which was being only barely held together as it was. There was only one other way into the castle and that was through the main chamber, which would not be the best and least obvious way to enter.
He supposed that various other operations were already in place from Amelia, mostly to distract Voldemort the moment they entered the prison grounds and he made a mental note to thank her for her kindness, should he escape this particular venture with his life in tact, although, once again, he doubted the probability of that.
He cast the Bubble-Head charm over himself as the other Aurors did the same and slipped into the water. He had the slightest chance of noticing Miss Bones wave her wand slightly as she slipped into the water and he wondered briefly what it had done before he slipped backwards into the water from the side of the boat, barely making a ripple in the water.
Glancing above him, Albus saw the boat race off in the direction of land the moment that the last of the Aurors entered the water. He could hear a faint noise from nearby but he merely assumed it was the boat leaving in the opposite direction. He did not recall that the boat had made no sound at all as it drove them towards the island.
The young Auror who had been the first to speak to him when he had arrived motioned to him to follow him deeper into the water and he did so, surrounded by the other thirty Aurors as he did so. It was difficult to distinguish anything in the gloom which surrounded them except each other, but the Auror in the lead appeared to know where he was going.
Albus felt a strange sense of something almost like the magical equivalent to electricity pass through him as they slipped through the magical net which surrounded the island. It had been put in place to alert the guards inside the prison of anyone who tried to get towards the island by any means, although it was greatly weakened now and Albus doubted that it was still of much use. He could tell that many of the wards around the place had either fallen or been demolished upon Voldemort’s entry into the place. Albus wondered whether Tom realised that he could just as easily made another prison for himself somewhere else in the country and given it much more secure warding and invasion alerts. He would not complain however, especially when their ineffectiveness may work in his favour.
They went deeper into the water after that, making sure that they were heading always in a straight line but it was some time until the small hole in the side of the island became visible to Albus and he sensed the tension in those around him increase as they neared it.
It was not only in the water that the tension was increasing however. In the main chamber of Azkaban, Lord Voldemort was pacing back and forth. The walls were lined with few Death Eaters and he was beginning to regret sending so many of them out that evening when he was getting a very bad feeling about the night which was far from over.
He reasoned that it would only have been a matter of time before Dumbledore came storming into the castle and, as the wards at the sea’s edge had alerted him, he had come through one of the more predictable ways. Thirty one ripples in the wards exactly. That meant Dumbledore had seen fit to bring with him only thirty other people, presumably Ministry Aurors he had borrowed from the office of Cornelius Fudge. Not that Voldemort was surprised; he would probably have done the same in his position but it was unlike Dumbledore to have come so unprepared, unless he was banking on his little protégé to do the dirty work.
Voldemort smirked slightly to himself at the thought. Harry had been kept under less than ideal conditions for the last week or so, not that Voldemort bothered to keep a track of time any longer; someone else usually did that for him. But Harry would not be in a state to fight, he would not have the strength – physical or emotional to take on the man who had imprisoned him for some time. No, he posed no threat and, as Dumbledore was quite adamant against killing him himself, he was of little threat also.
“You.” The address was to one of the Death eaters who stood at the edge of the room, staring blankly out of his mask, surveying the room. “I want sixty Death Eaters into the bottom passageways, and I want them there now.”
He was asked no questions and the Death Eater he had spoken to was already out of his sight. It was a nice feeling; to know that he was intimidating to all who looked upon him and to all he graced with his presence. It was not a nice feeling to know that one of the most powerful wizards in the world was currently trying to break in through the basement, but that was of little consequence once the Death Eaters would be done with the Aurors. They would be cramped into too little space; they would not have the necessary room to overcome the amount of people he had sent in their direction.
Malfoy left the room in an instant. He was already regretting the fact that he had attended the meeting that night and that he was now to go down into the lower levels of the prison with fifty nine other Death Eaters as quickly as possible did very little for his happiness. However his happiness had never been high on the agenda of the Dark Lord and his wishes were to be obeyed at any cost.
As soon as he had been out of Voldemort’s sight, he ran as quickly as he could down to a smaller set of rooms and chambers underneath the main one, in which Voldemort spent most of his time. Down there he found almost a hundred Death Eaters, masked like himself, socialising and talking idly with one another. There had been a meeting earlier that night and, as with the end of every meeting, most of those who had attended had retired to the second level of the prison.
It took very little convincing to get just over half of them to follow him deeper into the prison and, when they reached the area in which they knew was soon to be invaded, they lay in wait. They were not waiting for very long.
The Aurors and Albus stopped as one as they stepped through the small cave into the dim light of Azkaban. It was strange that even the lower sectors of the castle would have been bathed in light when there were less than a score of people actually imprisoned in the place. Time was not given over to thoughts as movement was noted nearby. It stood to reason that Voldemort would have been able to detect their entrance into the prison and would naturally have sent many of his men to challenge them. Albus briefly wondered how many he had sent before they were attacked.
Screams, shouts and yells echoed around the deserted corridors as the Death Eaters and the Aurors fought as hard as they could. Despite the fact that they were outnumbered two to one, those on the side of Dumbledore could not help but feel more heartened when the headmaster took out almost ten Death Eaters with one curse, albeit regretfully.
There was a loud crash as five men were flung down the stairs and into the cave beneath by Miss Boot, who, unlike Dumbledore, was not at all regretful of the fact that five people who had just tried to kill her were now suffering quite badly.
“What the hell was that?!” Alastor said, sitting up in his cell suddenly. The rest of those around him stared at him, mostly with raised eyebrows and sceptical expressions on their faces.
“A figment of your imagination perhaps?” Severus suggested coolly.
“It sounded like a crash,” Alastor said, straining his hearing for anymore sounds which might come his way.
“We all know you’re a few Sickles short of a Galleon, Alastor, there is no need to carry on proving it,” Minerva said icily. Their moods had all been somewhat squashed by their earlier squabbling and none of them were feeling particularly warm towards any of their fellow prisoners.
“Say what you will, I’m certain that I heard something then,” Alastor said, carrying on listening into the silence which surrounded them.
“Don’t be thick, Mad Eye, there’s no one here,” Ron said boldly. He was in what was possibly the most grim and depressed mood of everyone there, and seeing as there were two sets of bars and a corridor between him and the eccentric ex-Auror, he thought himself in a position to ridicule.
“Don’t you dare speak to me in such a manner!” Alastor shouted back at him.
“I’ll speak to you however I damned well want!” Ron yelled at the top of his voice.
“I SWEAR TO MERLIN WHEN I GET OUT OF HERE, BOY!”
“You’ll hit him with a stick!” Cried one of the twins, and Harry believed it was George.
“You’ll sing to him until he cries!” Fred suggested.
“You’ll teach him to Samba!” George laughed. It was the first time that the sound had been heard in the corridor for a long time and it resounded around the building, almost unnaturally.
“SILENCE, ALL OF YOU!” It was Molly’s voice of reason which finally cut through the shouting and the ridiculous responses.
“Footsteps,” Hermione said softly, although everyone heard her. Silence followed her remark as everyone listened to the distant noise which could so easily have been footsteps walking towards them.
“Right, so when she suggests footsteps she’s perfectly reasonable but when I hear a crash I’m delusional?!” Alastor snapped, but no one responded to him.
“I think she’s right, I think someone’s coming,” Charlie said quietly as the noise of numerous feet treading the cold stones beneath them got louder and more frequent; more people were joining the original walker.
Dumbledore walked quickly down the corridor towards where they had heard the original shouting and one burst of laughter. He doubted that he was mistaken when he believed the final yelling to be from Molly Weasley, no doubt directed at her twin sons. As soon as he had finished with the few Death Eaters who still clung to their lives or their consciousness, he had set off towards the sound. The rest of the Aurors had quickly followed in his footsteps when they saw him walking away and now twenty eight people made their way towards the Order of the Phoenix; the other three lay with the Death Eaters, their glazed eyes staring up at the ceiling, seeing nothing.
“Hello?! Is there anyone out there?!” Miss Boot shouted down the corridor. They knew that Voldemort was aware of their entrance into the prison and it was of little use hiding themselves now.
“Here!” shouted Kingsley, being the first to react the unexpected voice down the corridor. The sound of feet became louder and louder at a much quicker rate than before and it appeared that those who were trying to find them were now running in their direction.
As the Aurors ran towards them the Order shouted louder, reason being lost to relief. They never considered that with the noise they were making that Voldemort would easily realise his Death Eaters had lost to the Aurors who invaded his prison.
Voldemort was now fully aware of this as screams of delight reached his ears from the very depths of the prison. His already narrowed eyes narrowed further and he ordered the Death Eater closest to him to his side. He pressed the Mark on his arm and suddenly more of them were instantly summoned to his side. They appeared in spurts of one or two but soon there was a large crowd of people stood around him. Voldemort opened his mouth to order them down into the deeper part of the prison but the words never left his mouth.
A thunderous crash reached those who embraced and sobbed into each other’s shoulders down with the Aurors and Dumbledore. Harry found himself holding a rather emotional Tonks and spent half his time comforting her and the other half watching Ron who was avoiding Mad Eye with all the evasive power he possessed but upon the crash reaching the Order, everyone froze.
“Time to go,” said the young man whom Dumbledore had been unable to place. He had since discovered his name: John Clarke, and he was now leading the Aurors down the corridor, closely followed by the Order, most of whom were unwilling to let go of one another.
“What was that?” Albus asked of Grace Boot whilst part of him rebelled against knowing the names of those who had accompanied them. There were already three of them who would not be leaving the prison that night, and three of the Order had been lost, he noted whilst his eyes ran over the familiar faces. It seemed inappropriate for him to use the names he had used when the Aurors had been his students. They had been under his care and the reminder of that served to trouble him when he knew that more of them would be killed before the night was out, perhaps all of them. He did not want to know that they were real humans, with real families waiting at home for their return. He did not want to think of the three families which would grieve that evening for those three who had already lost their lives. Instead he concentrated on the answer to the question he had asked of young Miss Boot before his thoughts had taken over.
“It was around fifty other Aurors crashing through the ceiling,” Grace replied casually with a slight smile. Everyone had their wands out, the Order included who had their own wands returned to them by Dumbledore, who handed them over with the knowledge that they had been entirely forgotten at Grimmauld Place, and he had merely to gather them back up.
“I’m surprised that Fudge lent so many of his Aurors on such a task,” Minerva said to her and Grace smiled at her old professor.
“He is unaware of the fact that every Auror in the Ministry is here this evening,” she replied. The Order within earshot were rather shocked at the revelation that Dumbledore had managed to get so many people on his side at such short notice.
“It’s true,” John clarified, “but then Madam Bones is amazingly efficient. Thirty of us came with Dumbledore through the caves and the underwater passageway. Fifty three through the ceiling from hecilopters,” Harry smiled slightly at his misuse of the word, “whilst another hundred or so of the fittest, most able Ministry officials are coming in as fast as they can from the main shores round about now, since the other Aurors should have distracted You Know Who by now.”
Most of them could not believe that more than two hundred people had been brought into a potentially life threatening situation just so that the fifteen or so of the Order could get out of there.
“Well when you’re dealing with You Know Who, you need to take precautions,” Grace said when asked as to why so many people had been sent. Harry wondered whether this was the real reason, or whether they hoped to defeat Voldemort once and for all with their small army that evening.
He glanced up at Remus who walked by his side and the elder man offered him a small smile, one which he could not return.
“We’ll be fine,” Remus said quietly as they easily navigated the labyrinthine passageways and corridors towards the main chamber, although part of him dearly hoped that they might get lost and miss the fighting between the Aurors and the Death Eaters.
Sadly, this was not to happen and the cells came to an abrupt halt, as did their movement. The chamber doors were broken and splintered in several places. One of them was hanging off it’s hinges and a moment later a Death Eater was flung through the other. The Order and the Aurors took a deep breath as they walked forwards, through the doorway and into the chamber beyond to face Voldemort and his army.
A/N: I have a plan! Well basically I've stayed up writing for a few hours last night and finished the whole thing now, all it needs is a little touching up. Today is Monday so chapter seven will appear on Wednesday and chapter eight will appear on Friday meaning my story won't be AU for one whole day! Hurrah! :o)
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