9- The Italian Breakout

“Eighty bottles of Butter-Beer on the wall, eighty bottles of Butter-Beer,”

“Shut up.”

“You take one down, gulp it all down,”

“Shut up.”

“Seventy-nine bottle of Butter-Beer on the wall!”

Ernie banged his head against the bars of his cell in exasperation. “You know, I knew when I first became an Auror that I might possibly find myself being captured,” He said as he stared at Lawrence. “But I never thought that it would be a fellow imprisoned Auror that would be doing the torturing.”

“I’ll have you know that I was praised for my singing at WADA.” Lawrence said defensively though with a small smirk.

“WADA?” Harry asked, finally taking his interest away from the small napkin map and towards the conversation after a full twenty bottles. “What the hell is WADA?”

“The Wizarding Academy of Dramatic Arts.” Lawrence explained in disbelief at Harry’s lack of knowledge on the subject. “It’s only the most prestigious Wizarding Drama School in the world.” Harry then caught a glimpse of Ernie rolling his eyes. “Now, now dear Ernest,” Lawrence said with a winning smile. “You may mock but I can tell you for a fact that if Albert hadn’t of convinced me otherwise, I could’ve made it.”

“Oh Albert told us all about your panto of the Fountain of Fair Fortune?” Ernie retorted deridingly as he caught Harry’s eye.

The heavy metal door to their cell block creaked open. So focussed was Harry on who was entering that he barely heard Lawrence’s muttering of how great his last performance as Sir Luckless was.

As per usual, a rounded, pale-faced man pondered in carrying a large silver tray containing the prisoner’s meals.
When the man knelt down to place Harry’s food tray through the gap in the bars however, he gave Harry a small wink and a familiar wide, cheeky smile.
“Enzo.” Harry whispered as he delved for the food tray. As the disguised Enzo went about sliding the other two their own meals, Harry examined the stew filled food tray and found a second fitted beneath it. When prised apart, Harry found that the second tray had been made much deeper than it appeared and, as opposed to being full of stew, held both his Elder and Holly wands, his Mokeskin Pouch and his Invisibility Cloak.

“Enzo, you are brilliant.” Lawrence said as he snatched up his own pair of wands.

“Yeh, thanks!” Ernie added.

Enzo beamed at all three of them. “Well come.” He said slowly.

“It’s welcome, mate.” Lawrence explained slowly after he’d re-pocketed his possessions. “But you’re defiantly getting there.” He added with a thumbs up.

“Okay Ernie, give it to him.” Harry ordered once he’d seen Ernie retake his possessions.

Ernie’s eyes darted between Harry and Enzo suspiciously. “Fine,” he said eventually. “But I want it back at some point.” And he pulled from his pocket his D.A Galleon and handed it out for Enzo to take.

“Enzo, I need you to give this to Bruno.” Harry said slowly as Enzo picked up the coin. “I don’t know if we’ll be seeing him again and if we don’t, you need to tell him it’s got a Protean Charm placed on it. I’m sure he’ll know what to do.”

Enzo stared at the coin for a second before his eyes and mouth widened with awe. It was clear that Enzo knew exactly what had been handed to him; not that this surprised Harry for it was well known that every member of Dumbledore’s Army held their Galleon in as high regard as any medal. Enzo’s eyes darted from the Galleon to Harry to Ernie and then back again before the suspended Auror pulled himself back up and said “Give Bruno” with a much more determined smile then he had previously worn. “Good luck, Harry.” Enzo said, outstretching his free hand through the bars between them.

Harry gripped the man’s hand. “Take care.” He replied as clearly as could without sounding too condescending.
Enzo then wished both Lawrence and Ernie the same fortune before leaving cell block with a final nod of encouragement.

“Right then!” Lawrence said triumphantly, as though they had already broken out, and he aimed his wand at the lock of his cell door. “It’s been five days, but I think I can-”

“Eat first.” Harry interrupted to the astonishment of the other two and he sat down to the legitimate tray carrying the bowl of stew. “We haven’t eaten since lunch and that wasn’t exactly what I’d call a full meal. So, come on. We don’t know when we’ll be eating again.”
In a manner that reminded Harry of his son James being forced to eat his vegetables, both Lawrence and Ernie slumped back down to the floor and began to eat.

Silencio. Alohomora.” Harry muttered two hours later and his and the other’s bar doors swung open silently. “Right, Disillusionment Charms, now.” He ordered and before he knew it both Lawrence and Ernie had tapped the tops of their heads with their wands and took on the colour-scheme of their background, chameleon-like.

Harry threw on his Invisibility Cloak, pulled out the map-drawn napkin and opened the cell-block door. Although Bruno and Enzo had spent much time talking Harry through the hastily drawn map the eve they had come to talk, Harry understood all too well that doing it for real would be infinitely more challenging.
As the other two were merely camouflaged where Harry was completely invisible, Harry led the way down the brown stoned corridor, his Elder Wand raised before him.

Turning onto the steep stone steps that led up to the ground level, Harry braced himself for what he knew they would soon face. Two guards stood at the top of the stairway, both leaning against the wall on either side of the staircase’s archway. With a wave of his wand, Harry muttered “Imperio” and the two Auror guards stood to attention.
Making his way up, Harry poked his invisible head around the corner to make quite sure that they were alone. “All clear. Move.” He whispered to the others and they sped their way towards the exit as quietly as possible.

Creaking the heavy wooden door open, Harry peered around to find themselves in the Ministry’s flowery courtyard. But they were not alone. Harry cursed his luck as he spotted Alice Mulvenna and nearly a dozen others wandering the courtyard. “Wait here.” He whispered to his two Aurors before sneaking his way towards the group.

“Minister, with all due respect, should anyone discover our imprisonment of Potter-”

“You think I don’t know what’s at stake?” Mulvenna snapped back in a hiss as Harry got close enough to overhear. He wandered at first why they were speaking English before realizing that this was clearly a conversation that they didn’t want to risk being heard.
“You really think that I don’t understand what holding Kingsley’s favourite pet a prisoner could bring to us?”

“But the longer he stays, Minister… Surely… Perhaps…”

“Perhaps what exactly, Eugene?” The Minister sparked, her brown eyes narrowed and Harry found himself wandering what exactly Eugene was thinking.

“Perhaps, sending him to… to Mosby…”

“Fool.” Mulvenna hissed in such a way that made the other members of her party stumble back in surprise at the viciousness. “We’d be at war the whole Confederation and I will have peace no matter the cost. No, I’ve been trying to find someone to modify his memory.” Harry’s heart thundered at the sound of this, his head bubbling with anger. “But with our best Memory Moderators so on the fence about this whole thing, I fear asking any of them to do it.”

“I’ve often been praised for my memory charms, Ministro.” A middle-aged Witch pointed out eagerly. “I would be more than happy to-”

“No!” Mulvenna said again with that same anger and frustration as before. “No, if it is to be done then it must be done properly by a professional who knows what they’re doing. We cannot afford even the slightest chance of Potter regaining his memory.”

A sour pleasure crept into Harry at the thought of Mulvenna’s face when she discovered Harry’s escape.
The group continued their way towards the large oaken doors that would bring them to the pier as Harry, after making sure that that was in fact where they were heading, rushed back to the others.

“That rotten bitch.” Lawrence hissed once Harry had told them of the conversation he’d heard. “I say we go out there right now and let the whole Ministry know the truth.”

“And risk running into her supporters?” Ernie replied. “No, we need to stick to the plan.”

“They must be gone by now.” Harry murmured as he peered from around the doors. The courtyard was empty. “Come on.” The three silently sprang from their hiding place and moved swiftly towards their only exit.

They were less than half a yard away however when the doors reopened. The scrawny looking Witch who had offered her Memory Charm services was striding her way towards them, her wand drawn. Harry noticed how pale she had gone since her Minister’s rejection and the cautious scan her eyes gave the courtyard while they could do nothing but stand there like deer in headlights.

Harry raised his wand, though what he could do without drawing the attention of anyone nearby he did not know.

As she made her way towards the tower Harry and the others had just escaped from, she froze as her eyes landed on the blurs that were Lawrence and Ernie.

Silencio.” Ernie hissed just as the woman had begun advancing to see what exactly the distorted figures were.
There was a loud creaking noise as the doors began closing again.

“Run.” Harry ordered in a whisper and they all bolted towards the doors. Harry glanced a look to see that the woman had cried out for help only to then realise that she had no voice to call out with. The moment Harry turned his attention back to the nearing doors however, there was a loud bang as though a firework had been let off in the courtyard.
The three of them looked back to see a jet of white light flying into the air before bursting with a second, even louder bang.

The arranged warning signal, Harry knew, to alert the rest of the Ministry to danger. Bruno had informed them about this, though Harry had asked to move on thinking that alerting Harry Potter’s whereabouts would be the last thing one of Mulvenna’s loyalists would do. It was clear though that they had encountered one of Mulvenna’s loyalists that was most easily startled.

Before the sound of the second explosion had finished reverberating around the courtyard, two guards charged through the doors, reopening them.
The woman silently pointed towards where Harry, Ernie and Lawrence were with a shaking hand mouthing her orders.

The moment one of the guards spotted the hazy outline of Ernie, Harry knew that there was now no other option.

Stupify!” The jet of red light sent the guard back through the open doors.
His partner was quick to aim his wand at where the spell had come from but Ernie was quicker still and froze him with a Body-Bind Curse.

Protego!” Harry heard Lawrence cry. Harry glanced around to see that Lawrence had deflected a curse sent by his would-be memory modifier. Others were entering the courtyard from the surrounding building and towers, some terrified at the warning with others looking determined with their wands at the ready.

“Go!” Harry ordered and the three forced their way through the doors. Harry spotted an empty gondola off a pier with nothing but three guards standing between it and them.

“Lawrence, seal the doors.” Harry bellowed as he advanced on the three with Ernie beside him. Ernie blocked the oncoming hexes allowing the still invisible Harry to send one right back. A flash of white light sent one of the men flying into the water. Stunned at what had just happened, one of the guards looked desperately for where the spell had come from before taking one of Ernie’s Stunners to the face and collapsing to the ground.
The final guard, now realising that he was outnumbered, backed away slowly not daring to strike.

Expelliarmous!” Harry cried and the man’s wand flew out of his hand and joined his first partner in the water.
Harry pulled off his Invisibility Cloak and indicated for Lawrence and Ernie to get in the nearby boat leaving the final guard to stare at Harry in an odd combination of fear and bewilderment.

“Do you know who I am?” Harry asked, pointing at himself as he stowed his Cloak back into his robes. The guard seemed to understand as his head shook up and down vigorously. “Good, be sure to tell all your friends.”
Leaving the remaining guard startled, Harry leaped into the long, dark red gondola. He was just about to tap the edge with his wand when the doors to the Ministry’s courtyard exploded into a burst of fire and smoke.

The Minister loyalist had clearly found her voice again for she was now screaming orders at those around her. Spells of all kinds were raining on them now and it was all Lawrence and Ernie could do to deflect and parry the bombardment as Harry got the boat moving.

“Can’t you make this thing go any faster?” Lawrence bellowed as a curse just missed him. Harry attempted to tap the edge again, the way he had done with the German boat that had taken him to Azkaban, but the vessel would go no faster. One of the spells struck one of the towering edges of the gondola sending splinters everywhere and allowing Harry to see their pursuers calling more gondolas up from the water’s depths.
Ducking an oncoming jinx, Harry aimed his wand and cried “Confingo!” And a jet of purple light zoomed over the water and collided with one of the summoned boats and exploding with the force of a bomb. As black smoke and splinters flew into the air, Harry could see that two more boats had been called up and were now being boarded.

“How far before we can Apparate?” Lawrence asked as he continued to repel the barrage.

“When the Ministry vanishes!” Ernie yelled back. “We’ll be out of the enchantment’s range then.”

“Apparate the first chance you get!” Harry ordered when a spell from one of the chasing gondolas collided with their own, turning one end of it into splintered debris.

Protego!” Ernie cried, pointing his wand at the point where water was now flooding through. A transparent shield appeared from nowhere and stoppered the flow.

“We’re going to be sailing on splinters if we don’t do something about them!” Lawrence shouted as he deflected a second boat-aimed curse.

Harry looked up from the shield-filled gap to see that the two gondolas were not only crammed with people all aiming their wands at them but speeding towards them at an alarming rate.
“Lawrence, keep their spells off us!” Harry ordered, thinking wildly. “Ernie, Blocking Jinxes on my mark! Now!” Just as a volley of silver lights crashed into Lawrence’s shield, Harry and Ernie aimed their wands and cried “Preoccupo!”

Harry felt a large invisible force fire from his wand and watched as the gondola closest to them crashed at speed into the solid yet unseen barrier. As the front crumbled into pieces, all those on board were flung through the air and into water.
Seeing what had happened to their fellows, the second pursuing vessel swerved around the wreckage and the now paddling passengers in order to avoid the same fate yet continued their assault.

“Same again Har-” Ernie started when a jet of dark blue light struck him in the shoulder of his wand arm. He was flung like a ragdoll over the side of their boat and fell out of sight with a loud splash.

“Ernie!” Harry cried and without a second thought he threw himself towards the edge, took in a deep breath and jumped into the water.
The crashes and bangs of the fight all but vanished, as though Harry had suddenly gone deaf. It was bitterly cold compared to the warmth of the air above but he thrust his arms and legs as quickly as he could nonetheless. Although the Disillusionment Charm forbad Harry from seeing Ernie clearly, it was difficult to not spot the dark red cloud of blood emanating from where the spell had hit him.

Harry swiped for him and grasped a handful of the hem of his billowing robes. Pulling his friend towards him, Harry wrapped his free arm under Ernie’s uninjured one; his blood now surrounding the two of them.
Looking up, Harry spotted the shadowy figure of their gondola and had just kicked off when there was a muffled boom and the shadow vanished.

Fear struck the very core of Harry’s heart as he searched for any sign of Lawrence. All that caught his eye though was the second shadow of a boat creeping above them.
Anger boiled in Harry’s head as he aimed the Elder Wand upwards and thought Reducto.
There was a flash of white and a cascade of large bubbles but Harry kept his eye on his target and watched as the entire thing was rocked to one side and capsized.

Taking his chance, he swam upwards as quickly as his legs would allow, taking note of just how many Wizards and Witches he would be surfacing with.
The warm air of the surface hit Harry’s face as he and Ernie emerged. Harry scanned around, hoping to see the scarred yet beaming face of Lawrence. But the only faces Harry could see amongst the wreckage of his gondola were strangers to him. He did a full three-sixty turn at least four times, Ernie’s head still lay on his shoulder, but couldn’t even spot the camouflaged blur that would be his fellow Auror anywhere. What he also couldn’t see, Harry noticed, was the Italian Ministry of Magic.

More and more heads were beginning to turn in his direction but he couldn’t go, not without Lawrence, not without the man with which he’d suffered so much of this ordeal with.
A nearby Wizard had removed the water from his eyes to get a better look at Harry as he spun around for a sixth time. As the man waved for the others and pointed at him, it sank unpleasantly into Harry what had to be done. Ernie was losing more and more blood every second spent waiting and Kingsley had to be told, had to be informed of the latest treachery committed by Minister Alice Mulvenna.

As the man’s shouts resonated in his water-clogged ears, Harry closed his eyes and turned once more. The water around him seemed to vanish and was replaced by nothing but air. So disorienting was this that, under Ernie’s added weight, Harry collapsed face-down to the grassy ground beneath him.

As Harry lay there, exhausted and panting, he heard voices cry out to one another. No, Harry thought desperately. Not more fighting. No more.
A firm hand gripped the arm that had been supporting Ernie, forcing Harry to turn onto his back. Bruno was looking down on him.

“I see you ran into some trouble.” He remarked offering a hand. Harry lifted up his arm, which felt like a lead weight, and took Bruno’s assistance. “Wait, your friend, Lawrence…”
As Harry was hoisted to his feet, he slowly shook his head. “I’m sorry.” Bruno said and Harry could tell from his tone that he could sympathise. “Come, you must be freezing. We’ll see Ernie is looked after. You’re safe.” Although Harry went with Bruno and the two others carrying Ernie between them, he couldn’t help but think that nothing could be further from the truth.

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