5- A Fighter’s Coward

“Mani in alto!” The tallest and oldest of the seven surrounding them shouted. “Mani in alto!”

“Easy!” Lawrence shouted back as he carefully placed his wand on the ground in a show of surrender. “English?” He added. “Anyone speak English?”

The eldest man who had shouted at them smirked to himself before saying in a gruff, throaty voice “So, it was you who kept trying to set up a Portkey to our Ministry’s doorstep.”

“That’s right.” Harry said in a brightly polite tone that did not suit the situation. “And who might you be?”

The man advanced on Harry, though he daren’t even blink when he got almost nose to nose with him. He was a tall man with a sharp, square jaw line and hazel coloured eyes so bright that they were close to being golden. Although despite his athletic physic and fair hair, Harry couldn’t fail to notice the wrinkles beginning to spread across his face. “Bruno Calogero,” He said proudly. “Deputy Head of the Italian Aurors and Chief of the Border Control.” The man’s eyes then found Harry’s scar.

“Oh thank goodness.” Harry said in an exaggerated relief. “So I won’t need to hex you and your men. But now that you’re here you can escort us to your Minister and make sure we get up to no funny business.”

The man named Bruno laughed. “I’m glad that you said that.” He said. “Because those were my exact orders.” Bruno then nodded to his fellows who advanced on the three Aurors. “Your wands.” The Chief Auror said, outstretching his hand out palm facing upwards.

“Of course.” Harry said, delving his hand into his robes and handing over his Holly and Phoenix feather wand, the Elder wand that sat beside it remaining untouched.

Harry heard a sigh of frustration from Ernie as he too surrendered his wand and watched as an Italian Auror picked up Lawrence’s wand while two others surrounded Lawrence himself. However, as Lawrence raised his arms in surrender, Harry noticed the tip of a crooked wand hidden within the sleeve of his robes.
Bruno gripped Harry’s shoulder tightly with his wand free hand and turned on the spot.

When they reappeared, Harry found himself and the others on the edge of a large and mostly deserted sand coloured courtyard by the side of a long and winding river. As he looked around, he noticed that the courtyard was surrounded by a brown, red-roofed circular building that had no entrance or exit that Harry could see. Although, as soon as he noticed this, a pair of witches walk through the stone of the building as easily as though they were ghosts.

“Cleaver, very cleaver.” Harry said to himself and Bruno noticed him watch as another Wizard walked through the wall. “You know, we have a similar system for the transportation of Hogwarts students. I take it we’re waiting for transport to take us from here to the Ministry.”

Bruno did not answer but instead held his hand out over the river before them. At once a long, dark red gondola rose out from the water.
“In.” Bruno ordered to his three captives and they obeyed silently taking the middle of the three seats. “You two with me,” He then said, pointing out two of his Aurors. “The rest of you back to your patrol but send word every quarter hour, they might not have come alone.” He added with a sideways glance at Harry before getting into the front of the boat himself.

The moment the Deputy and his Aurors had taken their places, the boat began to move unaided away from the courtyard. After a few minutes of sailing apparently unseen down the river Harry noticed that they were heading towards open water. Sure that a vessel such as this would do poorly in such conditions, Harry leaned over the side of the boat and craned his neck towards the direction they were sailing in. The moment the river came to an end and met with what could very well have been the Adriatic Sea, an island some three or four miles ahead of them popped into existence.
Only one stronghold stood upon the island though it was so large and wide Harry doubted that another building could stand with it. The Italian Ministry was yellow bricked and castle-like with four thick, rectangular towers surrounding the main structure.

They eventually made it to the wooden docks of the island where they were ordered out of the gondola by Bruno. When the two other Aurors guarding them had stepped off the vessel with them, the gondola sank back into the water and, Harry suspected, returned to the courtyard to be ready for its next passengers.
“This way.” Bruno ordered and Harry, Lawrence and Ernie followed with the two other Italian guards at their heels.

Walking through a large gateway, they made their way towards the main tower of the Ministry by going through what was, in Harry’s opinion, a very well decorated courtyard. The several kinds of flowers and plants that surrounded them flooded the square with colour and smells that sat pleasantly in Harry’s head.
At their approach, the large pair of oaken doors at the base of the tower swung open for them and revealed what could only be described as a cosy hall. The walls were lime-green and ordained with a large number of portraits and landscapes and every windowsill and table that they passed at least one ornamental statue or flower-filled pottery. Lining the walls to either side of them were several pairs of dark-brown doors while the wall directly opposite was where the marble stairs leading to the higher levels resided.
At the wave of his wand, a pair of dark-brown doors nearest to them opened up for Bruno and Harry realised that they were lifts.

Bruno stood to one side and indicated his three prisoners to enter. They obeyed and, as the doors closed at Bruno and his men’s entrance, Harry found that the lifts were just smaller versions of the main hall.

“Ufficio del Ministro e del personale.” Bruno ordered and at once the lift juddered and began to rise. Mere seconds later it returned to a halt and the doors opened onto a long corridor lined with more doors. As they walked down the corridor, Harry noticed many of the workers who passed them do a double take at the sight of him and even the portraits, who judging by their plaques were of past Ministers for Magic, began craning their necks to get a better look at the scar that sat on his forehead.
They stopped at the end of the corridor where a door with Ufficio del Ministro per Magia: Alice Mulvenna engraved in thick golden letters sat.

Bruno knocked rapidly on the door and it opened. The Minister for Magic’s office was much larger than any Harry had seen before with the same manner of décor as the rest of the building that Harry had seen only with large silver filing cabinets lining half of one side of the wall and an enormous bookshelf taking up the other half.

Minister Alice Mulvenna sat at her desk, illuminated by the window behind her, with two Aurors by her sides. Her long dark-brown hair was platted and her chocolate coloured eyes were as sharp as Harry remembered but her naturally porcelain like skin possessed a twinge of waxiness to it and it was clear that she had used a rather large amount of makeup to cover up the shadows under her eyes.

“Signor Potter,” Mulvenna said flatly as she looked up at the three British Aurors. “I was expecting Kingsley to something like this though I must admit, I wasn’t expecting him to send you.”

“I hope I’m not a disappointment, Minister.” Harry said with a small bow of his head.

“That would depend upon the reason for your… trespassing.” Mulvenna replied without a hint of the curtesy that Harry had shown.

“I think we both know why I’m here.” Harry said. “To finish the discussion we had back at the British Ministry, remember? The day Selwyn attacked.” The Minister’s lips grew thin as Harry said this. “Minister, Mosby is on the warpath and the Confederation must unite. Even if it doesn’t join it, the Italian Ministry must support the fight.”

Harry noticed that the Italian Aurors around them grew uncomfortable at this and a few of them caught each other’s eye. He also noticed Ernie eyeing the Auror in front of him whose robe pocket was full with the wands taken from them.

“As I have said before, I will not involve my Ministry in a war that does not concern it.” Mulvenna stated.

“Your Aurors and Enforcers have hunted Naldo Rosario and his Gold-Hounds for years. He has now become one of Mosby’s most powerful allies so if anyone would have wanted to see him finished,” Harry then gestured to the Aurors surrounding him. “I would have thought it would be you. I already know that at least one of your Aurors is in favour, having done so much for the cause against the Alliance himself. Perhaps it would sound better coming from Enzo himself if he’s available.”

At the sound of Enzo’s name, the Minister’s face seemed to harden and she got up from her chair and turned towards the window with a huff. “Enzo is not available. My brother has said and done more than enough to earn his suspension.”

“Your brother?” Lawrence exclaimed and even Harry found himself scanning what little he now saw of the Minister’s face and comparing it to what he remembered of Enzo’s.

“He always was one to run headfirst into a fight but after humiliating me in front of our entire council and spreading his warmongering among the rest of his Department, I had no other choice.” Harry couldn’t help but notice Mulvenna’s voice break as she spoke.

“Minister, may I ask if it is true that you have been advising the rest of the Confederation against taking part in any offensive movement?” Harry pressed.
Mulvenna turned around to face Harry.

“What I and other Ministers for Magic have discussed is not the concern of the British or the French.” She snapped back.

“It does when it includes a war that involves us all!” Harry retorted staring deep into her eyes.
“What is it that you fear, Minister?” Harry pressed. “Why are you so against fighting?”

“What do I fear? What a moronic question!” Mulvenna spat at Harry. “I do not wish to see the people whose safety I’m in charge of die and their livelihoods destroyed!”

“I’m sorry Minister but Aurors under your command have already perished at the hands of the Alliance, haven’t they?” Harry said. “Another Auror alongside Enzo fought and gave his life at the British Ministry invasion and your guard at the Confederation meeting in Scandinavia were killed without a second thought by Marius’ men.”

“The Auror who fought for you in London did so of his accord.” Mulvenna said, though the shakiness in her voice had returned. “It was tragic to lose him as it was my guard and I even grieved when I believed Enzo to be dead but that is still not enough to risk the lives of my people and go to war over.”

At this Harry noticed Bruno’s eyes lock onto his Minister.
“And what makes you believe Mosby will stop at three Aurors?” Harry pressed. “And, forgive me, but you did not answer my question.”
Harry glowered into Mulvenna’s eyes and he could see the pressure getting to her. “Minister?” Harry went on with narrowed eyes, his heart fearing what he would see in the Minister’s eyes. “What makes you believe Mosby will leave you alone?”
As soon as he said it he saw the reason in the Italian Minister’s eyes. Though not as clearly as he would’ve done if he’d used his wand to perform Legilimency, he saw Mulvenna’s mind think back to a contract written on a piece of parchment with her signature on it. The sight of it made Harry feel as though he had had the wind punched out of him.
“You… you signed Mosby’s contract?”

Both Ernie and Lawrence’s heads snapped to look at Harry and Harry heard Bruno gasp to himself. Harry’s hand dived for the Elder wand within his robes with Lawrence and Ernie swiftly following suit.
With a shake of his sleeve, Lawrence’s second wand slid into his outstretched hand and aimed for the Aurors behind Mulvenna. He hit one of them with a Full Body-Bind Curse before turning his wand on the second and striking him with a jet of red light in the stomach.

Ernie kicked the Auror in front of him in the back of the knee, sending him kneeling to the ground, and snatched the three wands from his pocket. Turning with the three wands in hand, Ernie aimed for the Auror who had drawn his wand on Harry and cried “Expelliarmus!” The overwhelming spell from the combined wands struck the man’s wand and turned it to splinters in his hand.

Bruno, obviously stunned at everything that had been said and done in the past five seconds, did not even attempt to draw his wand leaving Harry to aim at his Minister without challenge.

“You didn’t take their wands? You useless man!” Mulvenna screamed at her astonished Deputy Auror.

“You actually signed the contract? After everything they’ve done? After everything they’ve promised to do?” Harry was angry now and the urge to strike the traitor down was paramount.

“I signed to save my Ministry from anymore needless bloodshed. You think I want to see my Ministry in the hands of Dark Wizards like Britain or turned to rubble like Romania or Poland?”

“The Polish Ministry fell because of the Confederation’s lack of support.” Ernie chimed in through gritted teeth and Harry could tell that his desire to curse the Minister was just as strong as his own. “Because you convinced them to stay behind their walls. Meng Jour destroyed their Ministry because you were too scared of there being an enemy of yours.”

“Do you have any idea what Naldo Rosario has done to this Ministry and its people?” Mulvenna cried out. “All these years of terrorizing us with that Gold-Hound gang of his and now he’s joined forces with a larger, more powerful organization. No, I won’t have it, I won’t have any more death!”

“You think the killing’s going to stop?” Harry shouted back. “You think just because it’s not happening on your doorstep that’s it’s not happening at all? There are whole armies fighting and dying out there while you cower away behind your desk! Innocent people being used and abused by the very power hungry psychos you’ve gotten into bed with!”

The door to the room burst open and Harry turned to see what must have been nearly twenty Wizards and Witches rush in to their Minister’s aid, their wands all raised. Harry didn’t dare start a fight against these odds. He dropped the Elder wand and raised his hands, still glowering at the Minister, with Ernie and Lawrence doing the same.

“Ministro?” One of the Wizards surrounding the three trespassers asked.

“I… I’m fine.” Mulvenna said in a cracking voice. “Bruno… Bruno!” She bellowed, breaking the Deputy’s wide-eyed stare at Harry.

“Uh, si, Ministro?” He asked, regaining himself.

“Take these men to the dungeons.” Mulvenna ordered. “And for goodness sakes search them!”
Bruno stared at her for a moment before finally drawing his wand. While a number of the surrounding Witches and Wizards began patting Lawrence and Ernie down, Bruno outstretched Harry’s arms and riffled through his pockets. After handing over Harry’s Invisibility Cloak and Mokeskin Pouch to a nearby Wizard, Bruno than took aim with his wand and ordering the three captives out of the room.

The Ministerial workers that accompanied them stayed so close to Harry and the others while surrounding them that he saw nothing of their long journey down to the depths of the Ministry until they finally reached a rickety looking black door. Bruno opened it and indicated the three prisoners to follow. The room they entered was pitch black but for the light from the hall that led to it and contained a dozen black barred cells.
Harry was led into the first on one side while Lawrence and Ernie were put into adjacent lock-ups on the other.

Once the cells had been locked with a wave of his wand, Bruno turned to those who had accompanied them and appeared to send them away. They did so obediently, leaving the Deputy Auror alone with his prisoners.

“You don’t agree with your Minister’s deal, do you?” Harry said. It was more of a statement than a question.

“I… I had no idea…” Bruno admitted. “I had my doubts about us not taking part but… this…”

“Bruno, I need you to do something for me.” Harry said. “Bring me Enzo, I need to talk to him about his dear sister.” Bruno nodded sadly and was about to leave when Harry held him back. “Wait, can you send word to the French Ministry?” Bruno turned and stared at Harry.

“Signor, that would be traitorous to my Ministro’s wishes. I… I-”

“It can’t be more traitorous than what that cowardly cow’s done.” Lawrence spat as he sat on the thin mattress was to be their sleeping quarters.

Bruno looked from Lawrence to Harry. The colour that had drained from his face upon learning of his Minister’s actions had not returned.
“Look,” Harry started. “If you can, tell them what’s happened. Tell them what Mulvenna’s done and…” Harry took a deep breath. “Send a message saying ‘I’m sorry, Ginny’. She’ll… she’ll understand.”

Bruno didn’t say anything immediately but instead considered Harry. “You will be fed three times a day at eight o’clock, one o’clock and half past six. Lights go out at ten.” He then waved his wand and the candles within the cells were alight with flame making them the only source of light once he closed the door behind him.

“So, how long do you think we have before she sends us to Mosby?” Ernie asked as he took a seat on his own uncomfortable mattress.

“She won’t.” Harry stated as he examined their new living quarters. “She can’t send us to him or the Confederation will label her an enemy and she won’t be able to convince them otherwise then and with everything we now know neither can she release us. We’ve put her in a very difficult situation and because of that she’s stuck with us.”

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