11- The Tale of Twin Paths

Harry, still weary from the previous night, almost fell as he Apparated into one of the many back-alleys of Paris. As friendly and as welcoming as Bruno’s hideout had been, the image of the boat Lawrence had been on vanishing before his eyes had haunted Harry all night, preventing him from sleeping.

Ernie, who had appeared beside him, hadn’t uttered a word upon hearing the news. Harry suspected that he felt guilty for being caught off guard and forcing Harry to leave Lawrence’s side and nothing Harry had said had made him think otherwise.

The two trundled down the man-hole at their feet and made their way silently to one of the French Ministry’s entrances. After nearly ten minutes of navigating the tunnelling maze and a further twenty minutes trying to convince the three French Aurors guarding the entrance they were in fact who they said they were, Harry finally found himself exactly where he wanted to be; face to face with Kingsley Shaklebolt.

“The name of your God-son’s father?” Kingsley asked Harry when he’d arrived at the complaint of the guards.

“Remus John Lupin,” Harry answered. “Werewolf and fellow member of the Order of the Phoenix who gave his life at the Battle of Hogwarts.”

“Stand down,” Kingsley grunted to the Aurors. “It’s him.” And Kingsley indicated for the two to follow him as Ernie gave the Auror guard a final menacing glower.
“It’s about time you returned, Harry.” Kingsley said as they crossed the sapphire lit hall of the French Ministry. “You were giving us quite a scare.”
Harry was about to retort when Kingsley held up a hand to silence him and it wasn’t until they’d reached his office when he spoke again. “I can’t imagine what you’ve been through, Harry. I’m sorry.”

Harry was caught off guard by this. “What… You mean, you knew?”

Kingsley gave a large sigh. “I found out last night when I received this from Minister Mulvenna.” And he pulled a small picture from the clutter on his desk and handed it to Harry who gasped at the sight of it. Sat staring back at him was Lawrence, bloodied, drenched and bound tightly to a chair in a dank looking cell but alive.

“He’s alive!” Ernie exclaimed.

“Once I received that, I was able to put two and two together.” Kingsley went on sadly. “Harry, you need to tell me everything that you discovered there.” And after taking a seat, he did and Harry went on for over half an hour about the deal Mulvenna had made with Mosby, their imprisonment and, finally, their escape.

“Then it is as we feared.” Kingsley said in a drained voice as he took the picture off of Ernie and stared at it himself.

“So what’s the plan?” Ernie asked eagerly as though the past twenty-four hours hadn’t happened to him. “Just a simple rescue? Or will we be forcing that hag into an early retirement as well?”

“For you Ernest, if you feel you are ready to forfeit the remainder of your leave, you will join the rest of your Aurors in patrolling. As for you Har-”

“What?” Ernie shouted, outraged. “I’m sorry, Minister, but if there is going to be any attempt at all to rescue Lawrence or to take out that traitorous cow I want-”

“We will be doing neither.” Kingsley stated, finally placing the photo to one side.

Harry and Ernie stared at him. “Kingsley, we can’t leave him there.”

“We can, Harry,” Kingsley said with closed eyes. “And we must. This photo came with a clear warning. If we leave them alone, they’ll do the same for him and we can’t afford to be marching against one enemy while we know another to be approaching our doorstep.” Harry desperately wanted to retort, to argue that Lawrence was worth the risk… but he couldn’t.

“So… so what is our next step?” Harry asked in a strained voice.

Ernie stared bewildered at the pair of them. “So that’s it, is it? We’re just going to move on and forget about him?”

“No one is forgetting anything, Ernest!” Kingsley stated, his voice rising with his temper. “Mulvenna will answer for what she’s done but now is not the time. Now, I’ll ask again, if you feel that you are no longer in need of your leave, to find Marlow for further orders, otherwise-” But Ernie had already stood up. He gave both Kingsley and Harry a final look of contempt that made his burned face appear even more twisted before storming out of the office with a slam of the door. Kingsley sighed wirily.

“He’ll come around.” Harry said consolingly. “We went through a lot last night.”

But Kingsley seemed to ignore this. “You need to see something Harry.” He said, rising from his chair and indicating Harry to follow.
The two left the handsome office and made their way through the maze-like Ministry and towards the Auror Department of the French Ministry. It was eerily quiet. Compared to the noise and bustle of the rest of the Ministry the Auror Office was all but abandoned, so busy were they with current affairs.
It was a very dignified looking Department, in Harry’s opinion, with emerald and silver lining the walls and large, varnished wooden cubicles that each housed a workspace the size of a small office for every one of their Aurors. Even the posters of the Dark Wizards that normally scattered an Auror Office were encased in glass frames that appeared to have notes written about each Witch and Wizard in question on the casing.

“Down here.” Kingsley directed in a flat tone as he indicated a large grey patch on the carpet in the corner of the Office. Kingsley waved his wand and the grey patch rolled itself up into the corner revealing a staircase beneath it. Following Kingsley’s lead, Harry climbed down the wooden staircase and found himself in an underground prison that immediately put him in mind of the cells of the Italian Ministry. These cells however at least had a metal-framed bed and a wall to cover up the lavatory and washbowl in each of them.

The prisoners within stared as Harry continued to follow Kingsley until they reached the only lockup with what Harry assumed was an Auror standing guard. Peering inside, Harry saw a Chinese man sitting up on his bed against the black stone wall. He was gaunt with his black hair and beard a frizzy mess and bandages wrapped tightly around his left leg from knee to ankle.

“His name is Fan Chen. I don’t know whether you heard during your captivity but Meng Jour attacked the Giant Sanctuary three days ago.”

Harry’s head spun so fast to face Kingsley, he felt his neck crack. “What?” Harry asked ignoring the pain.

“He caused the mountain overlooking the main canyon to crumble into it, burying the majority of them alive. Too few survived.” Kingsley added with a dark tone. “This one was caught in the avalanche and we’re assuming he’s thought dead by the others. Which is lucky for us because he’s got some rather interesting things to tell you, haven’t you Fan?”
The man turned at the sound of his name and stared at Harry. “Auror Cheng Qian here will translate for you.” Kingsley finished with a nod to the weedy looking man standing guard.

Harry stared at Fan. “Alright, start talking.” After receiving the order from the Chinese Auror, Fan began to talk.

“After killing his mother, Meng had a meeting with two of Mosby’s war council. They were dumpy looking,” Fan detailed, looking dreamily towards the wall opposite him. “Twins I believe they were.”

“The Bowton twins.” Harry said with a glance from Kingsley.

“We met them in Denmark.” Qian translated as Fan continued. “They had a large army with them; with over three-hundred Wizards and Witches at their command, and that was after they ordered a number of them to go with Meng to replace those he’d lost at the Polish Ministry. Not that it made a difference to the twins; the Wizards and Witches only made up part of their numbers.”

“What do you mean? What else have they recruited?” Harry pressed cautiously and as Qian translated the question, the dreamy look on the prisoner’s face turned to that of a man who had just seen his worst nightmare come true. And the answer hit Harry before Fan could reply.

“Dementors. Hundreds of them. Hungry, desperate and angry.” Fan shivered where he sat as the memory came back to him.

“Have the German’s been informed?” Harry asked Kingsley. “If they’ve got a fresh army and a horde of Dementors coming their way then-”

“The Germans have been informed.” Kingsley interrupted. “But they haven’t noticed any fresh fighters coming in nor have they had any contact with even a single Dementor. And this,” Kingsley continued as he pointed to the shivering Fan. “Is information that could easily be nearly a week old.”

“So why haven’t they attacked?” Harry finished. “Unless the German Ministry isn’t their target.”

“But then what is?” Kingsley asked as he turned back to Fan.

“He doesn’t know?” Harry inquired to the Chinese Auror besides him but he merely shook his head sadly.
“We’ll head back to your office.” Harry stated to Kingsley. “I need to get a better look at that map of yours.” And half an hour later, Harry found himself staring at the board-game like map as though the pieces that were placed atop it would give him answers if he looked hard enough.

“We’ve toyed with the idea that he could be making a bid for the American Ministry.” Kingsley explained as he poured Harry a steaming mug of coffee from the kettle on one of his many shelves.

“Possibly,” Harry replied. “But America doesn’t pose that big of a threat to Mosby. Ambrose saw to that. No…” And Harry stood up from his kneeling position to stretch his legs and rub his eyes. “No. Imagine it, your biggest plan to cripple your enemy has just failed. Your allies might be questioning you, perhaps even to the point of believing that you can’t win. If he has won over the Dementors then that might buy him some time but fear won’t keep his rule together permanently and he knows that. His next target needs to be a big one, a Ministry for sure, but one that will both help his war effort and show his worth. He needs to demonstrate that can he can beat us, he needs to prove that he can-” The idea sank unpleasantly into Harry’s mind as his eyes fell upon the large red piece that lay on Russia. “He needs to prove that he can finish the job.”

Kingsley stood there, still holding the two mugs of coffee. “How can you be sure?”

“Because we wounded him when we thwarted his plan to set the Ministries against each other.” Harry explained, his mind wiring. “Everything had been laid out for him but he still couldn’t do it, the key to all but winning the war was just snatched from under him and that must’ve stung. He’s a proud man, he still hasn’t forgiven the Ministry for labelling his anger issues; why else would he come out of hiding and march into an open war when Selwyn came calling? But we hurt both his pride and his reputation when we rescued Chingis’ daughter and you just try and tell me the Russian Ministry isn’t a sitting duck at the moment.”

Kingsley had turned a shade paler as he said “They’ve been protective about what they’ve suffered but after the amount of fighting they’ve been through on their border, I can’t see them fending off a force the likes of which Fan described.”

“You need to raise the alarm.” Harry ordered. “And get a message to Berkoff, he needs to be warned!” But Kingsley looked sadly at Harry.

“And who exactly do we raise the alarm to, Harry?” He asked. “Like I said before we can’t afford to go marching one way and show our back on an enemy coming at us. And with so few of the Ministries with us on taking the fight against this Alliance, we can’t afford to spend the resources we do have on a fight we might not even win.”

Harry stared at him, gobsmacked. “Are you genuinely suggesting that we let this invasion take place?”

Kingsley looked from Harry to the map in the middle of the room. “You’re to go to Russia.” He started. “Bring Berkoff up to date with what we know and tell him that he needs to retreat when the time comes both from the Bowton’s invasion force and from the front-lines on the border.”

“And let them take Russia?” Harry pressed.

“And allow our strength to remain untouched for when we take Mosby head on.” Kingsley reiterated. “We take back London, the rest will either lose their nerve or scatter. But that plan still needs time, Harry, time and support that we still don’t yet have and I’d rather lose this fight then lose this war. So, will you go?”

Harry considered this and suddenly he realised that he was actually beginning to miss imprisonment. “Fine. But I don’t see why it should be me, surely a message or-”

“Berkoff ignored your council in the past,” Kingsley explained. “And it proved ignorant of him. If he is to take this order from any of us, it would be you.” Harry nodded. “Thank you.” Kinsley said finally handing Harry his now lukewarm drink. “I will contact Berkoff and arrange transport now. I’ll also let Ginny and the others know that you’re safe.”

“No point.” Harry said as he took a sip. “They won’t believe you.”

The cushion Portkey that arrived for him less than twenty minutes later appeared in Kingsley’s office with a faint pop.
“I’ll update you the moment I speak with Berkoff.” Harry reassured.

“Sign your reports off as Sirius.” Kingsley added. “Let me know it’s actually you this time. And remember, this is diplomatic mission only, you do not stay there to fight. Understand?”

Harry looked at him, tight-lipped, every fibre of his being urging him to tell Kingsley that he’ll fight off as many of Bowton’s men as he can and then some. But instead, Harry gave Kingsley a single nod before gripping the cushion.
Immediately, the Portkey yanked Harry away from Kingsley’s office, away from the French Ministry, and pulled him into a large luxurious room.

“Harry Potter.” Said a voice glazed in a thick Russian accent from behind him. Harry turned around to see Berkoff Vadim, his long black moustache frayed somewhat and his eyes sporting heavy black bags beneath them, standing ceremoniously nonetheless at his desk. “And to vat do I owe this last-minute pleasure.” And he indicated the seat opposite his own desk chair.
Harry accepted the invitation before he began to talk.


Naomi giggled with excitement as her Gwenog Jones figure flew through the air of her room. The figurine of the Holy-Head Harpies Quidditch Captain soared around the pale-blue bedroom almost as quickly as the real one had at the Quidditch match that day. Even if it had been just a friendly match as the commentators kept reiterating, Naomi didn’t care for it had been the first match she’d been to in ages and she’d loved it. The roaring of the crowd with every goal and fowl, watching her favourite team captain slamming a Bludger into the face of an opposing Chaser, witnessing the Holy-Head Harpies’ highest score tally to date of over two-thousand points; it had been bliss.
Not that she didn’t understand the reasoning behind the lack of matches she and her parents had been going to. She knew all too well that there were bad people out there, on the move and destroying everything in their path.

Naomi leapt and caught the figure in one hand before it could crash into any of her things and alert her parents to the fact that she wasn’t actually sleeping.
Deciding it safer to remain in bed should either or both of her parents come to check up on her, as they had started doing more and more frequently these days, Naomi scuttled underneath her duvet and let loose the flying figurine under her quilt.

As her mind relived every second of the match, she began to remember just how disinterested her father had been. Not that he looked bored but more glazed over, as though his mind had been elsewhere. Naomi knew that the Holy-Head Harpies were far from being his favourite team, in fact she and her father often joked about it, but he had always enjoyed watching the matches with her in the past. Her mother had explained that the Ministry of Magic had been working him too hard but Naomi had never understood why they would be so harsh on a member of Magical Maintenance.

Her eyes growing heavier with each circle Gwenog Jones completed, Naomi eventually snatched the figure from mid-air and had snuck out from her covers to place it back into the drawer of her bedside table.
Naomi had just crawled back into her covers when three loud bangs thundered from the front door of the house. The noise jumped Naomi with shock though it was the sound of her parents below that made her feel uneasy.

“Liam, who-?” Her mother started but from the sounds of it Naomi’s father had cut her off.

“Just stay in the dining room until I say, just in case, okay?” Her father ordered. Curiosity getting the better of her, Naomi leapt out of bed and peered out of her bedroom window. Added to the usual sea-side view from her window was a tall figure indistinguishable due to the black cloak concealing him.

“Password.” Naomi’s father asked the figure from behind the closed door.

“Come now, Pryce,” The man outside said in a cold, callous voice. “Must two old friends go through such formalities?” Her father did not answer. “Open the door, Pryce. Now.” The man warned and a bolt of fear struck Naomi to her core.

“We don’t have to do this Mulciber.” Her father responded, boldly.

“After the way you made me look a fool, I think we do.” Without another word, the cloaked man raised his wand arm and there was a flash of purple light along with an explosion that shook the whole house.
Naomi toppled backwards onto the carpet before crawling for her life under her bed. Her wand was placed atop her bedside table but the fear caused by the crashes and bangs of the fight below seemed to have paralyzed her from reaching for it.

“Isabel! No! Get back to the- AGH!” Her father rang out in pain as the final ear-splitting crash echoed through the house.
Naomi stared wide-eyed at the door. No, her father couldn’t lose. Surely there was no way that Liam Pryce, one of the strongest and bravest men Naomi knew, could be beaten.

“No! Please, I beg you, I beg you!” Her mother’s voice rang out. Every inch of her body shaking, Naomi crawled out from under her bed and reached out for her wand. “We’ll give you whatever you want, do whatever you need-”

“Quiet woman! Stupify!” The man shouted and her mother fell silent.

Naomi crept towards the door and silently prised it open. She could see the hallway where the fight had taken place through the banisters of the landing. The cream-coloured walls were now decorated with burn marks and craters. Her father sat up against the wall, his dark face covered in blood though still blinking up at his attacker. The hood of the man named Mulciber had fallen off of him during the fight revealing the shoulder-length jet black hair and the pale, flat face.
Naomi wanted to attack, to curse the man who’d hurt her father. But the mere sight of the Death Eater froze her to the spot like a statue. She tried to think of something that could help, some spell that she’d might have learned during her first and only year at Hogwarts. But her wand never left her protective hold and all the spells she knew of seemed to have been jumbled in her mind from terror.

“Hadrian, please…” Her father croaked.

“Oh so it’s Hadrian now?” The man snarled angrily. “Trying to tone down the formalities, are we? Well too little, too late, Pryce. Avada Kedavra!”

The moment the jet of green light made contact with the chest of Liam Pryce, Naomi spun on the spot and made for her bedroom. If she could just get back into bed and wake up again, wake up from what had to be a nightmare, maybe everything would be alright again.
Naomi flung open her bedroom door and ran inside only to find herself in a large handsome room decorated with golden-framed pictures with a wide round table placed in the centre. The attendee Ministers for Magic all sat staring at her as she stood face-to-face with Marius Yvault, his knife and wand both drawn and his dark brown eyes filled with blood-lust.

“Ah, Naomi.” He said in the soothing voice that still tingled fear down Naomi’s spine. She attempted to raise her wand but her arm appeared too heavy to do so. She stepped back but that merely gave Marius a reason to advance on her. “Naomi Pryce.” Again that same tingle ran throughout her body as her back pressed up against something solid, preventing her from retreating any further.

“Naomi!” Marius repeated, though not in the same voice. Naomi stared at the thin-faced assassin closing in on her and noticed how fuzzy and distorted he and his background looked. “Naomi, can you hear me?” And darkness consumed the scene.

It took Naomi a few seconds to piece together what was going on. The solid force she was pressed against was soft and comfortable and the voice calling her name was oddly familiar. It had an accent to it, not Russian though very similar, although from where exactly she couldn’t think. She attempted to see through the darkness to try and spot who was talking only to realise that her eyes were shut tight.
“Supreme Mugvump? Can you hear me?” And bit by bit Naomi’s eyes opened. Staring down at her was a tall, middle-aged man with a pair of bulging cheeks and a large round nose. “Oh, thank heavens, you’re avake!” Gal Chingis exclaimed happily.

Naomi attempted to push herself up but her muscles felt incredibly weak. “Easy.” Chingis said as he helped her to a more upright position. “The replenishment potions we’ve just given you vill take some time to kick in.”

“Where… Where am I?” Naomi croaked.

“You are currently at my house.” Chingis explained. “In my attic to be precise. But not to fear, my wife vas an extraordinary Magical Physician.” Naomi tilted her head to the side to see him point towards a short plump Witch working over the figure of Caitlin Tyrus.

“Ty… rus…” Naomi’s voice cracked.

The seemingly unconscious Tyrus smiled at the sound of her name. “Beat you by over twenty minutes.” She replied in a similar hoarse voice.

Relief seeped through Naomi’s body as Tyrus spoke and she couldn’t help but laugh. “No one likes a show-off, you know.” Naomi retorted before turning back to Chingis. “Minister, your daughter..?”

“Is completely fine.” He answered with an emotional look on his face. “She has been very vorried about you since her return. She’s desperate to meet you.” Naomi gave him a smile when he continued “And addressing me as Minister is now, I fear, inaccurate.”

“They got rid of you!” Naomi exclaimed, her voice returning to its usual quality. “But everything you did, you did for your daughter, surly-”

Chingis raised his hand for silence. “I resigned, Supreme Mugvump. Dere vere those who felt, as you do, that my actions vere… understandable if nothing else. However, I found dat I could no longer look my employees in de eye after all I had put dem through.” The joyful expression that had sat on Chingis’ face dropped somewhat. “But my replacement is more den competent enough for de position and has even asked for my services in advising her.”

Naomi smiled up at him. She could feel the effects of the aforementioned potions kicking in; the strength returning to her muscles, the fogginess in her head clearing.
“That’s great.” She said.

“Thank you.” He replied. “But I fear my job now is to bring you up to speed vith vat has been happening,” He then pulled from his pocket a small golden piece of parchment with writing scrawled all over it and handed it to Naomi. “And den discuss vith you vat vill happen next.”

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