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Chapter 41: The Whole Nine Yards
‘I haven’t been here in so long.’ Tobias’ gaze swung around the gloomy living room of the house he’d grown up in, the only light coming in from the street until Dimitri helpfully reached in through the door to flick the switch.
‘Now you can see it better,’ he said helpfully.
Tanith looked over at Tobias. ‘Good to be back, huh?’
‘Don’t get too used to it,’ said Will, going to the window and yanking the curtains shut. ‘We won’t be here for very long.’ He reached into his robes and pulled out an envelope, which he began to wave his wand over - one of his means, Tobias knew, of recovering messages which had been left at the various enchanted drop-points around the country.
‘Why, um, are we here at all?’ said Tanith.
‘Well, we do need a plan,’ Tobias pointed out. ‘We can’t just kick down the door to Canary Wharf and shout “honey, I’m home”.’
‘No, but it’s pretty open and shut with this rune.’ She brandished the marked stone. ‘We can apparate into the cell block, grab Cal, and apparate back out again.’
‘And you’re sure he’s in the cells down there? You don’t think Brynmor will have been keeping him in an office or somewhere he can keep an eye on him?’
She bit her lip. ‘I don’t think Brynmor wants to see him.’
‘Besides, the cell block? I doubt it will be empty. Element of surprise and four of us is likely to overcome guards, but we should be careful, and ready,’ said Dimitri. Then he looked towards the kitchen. ‘Tea?’
‘You’ve spent too much time with me,’ said Tobias with a smirk.
‘I’ll go,’ said Tanith, shaking her head and stepping through the open door in the kitchen. They could clearly hear her rattling around in there.
Tobias looked at Dimitri. ‘How about we -’
‘We’ve got to move,’ said Will, turning around from the corner with a brown piece of paper in his hand. ‘Everything’s going to hell.’
‘I’m getting reports in from all corners. The Dark Lord has headed for Hogwarts; rumours abound that Potter’s back and for some reason is going back to school, because nobody can think of anything more likely to set him off like that. And he’s bringing half of the MLE with him, and every Death Eater I’ve got the remotest track on. They’ve all been summoned.’
Tobias’ jaw dropped. ‘What the hell is going on?’
‘I don’t know,’ he said, ‘but everyone’s in an uproar; every source I have seems to think this isn’t just a field trip by You-Know-Who, but nobody’s sure. One thing that is for sure is that the MLE is pulling out of the bulk of its holdings and returning to London to be redeployed to Scotland. The only people who’re staying put, from my reports, are the units that the Ministry doesn’t fully trust. They’re being kept in the cold.’ Will gave a grim smile. ‘And some units are outright ignoring the summons. This deployment is splitting the Department down loyalist lines.’
Dimitri frowned. ‘Serious,’ he agreed, ‘but what does this mean?’
‘It means that the element of surprise is doubly on our side. If units are being recalled and then redeployed to Scotland, then there’s no way they’re going to expect something to happen in their cells, and be looking for it,’ said Will. ‘While they’re moving personnel around, we’ve got to make our move. Else by the time they’re done they might actually have someone watching the prison block.’
‘Wait, wait.’ Tanith, who’d heard everything from the kitchen, came through the door and lifted a hand. ‘This is crazy. I want to help Cal, but we have no idea what’s going on in there. We can’t just race off without a plan.’
‘It’s a better plan than racing in there when everything’s operating as normal and hoping for the best, and I was prepared to go with that one anyway,’ said Will, and for a moment Tobias wondered if he should try to stop him, as he almost certainly would have done if the situation was inverted.
But, again, he thought of Cal, and he had to agree that taking advantage of the chaos was their best chance. His friend’s best chance.
‘Will’s right,’ he said. ‘We might not have another chance at this, if all eyes are turned north.’
‘So...’ Dimitri looked around. ‘No tea?’
Tanith frowned, and Will lifted his hands. ‘If you don’t want to risk your neck, stay here,’ he said roughly. ‘But I’m going to save my son.’
For a second Tobias thought that she actually hesitated - then she scowled, and he realised that she’d just been so indignant at the suggestion that she’d been lost for words for a few seconds. ‘Don’t be ridiculous,’ she snapped crisply. ‘Of course I’m -’
‘Good,’ said Will, and stepped forward, yanking the rune from her hand. ‘Between the three of us we know the cell block. We get in there. We kick down the doors. We find Cal, and any other poor soul who doesn’t deserve to be in there. We get out. All while eyes are locked on Scotland.’
Tobias leant heavily on his staff as he reached out to also rest his hand on the rune. ‘It’s a plan,’ he agreed, and, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Tanith and Dimitri also reached out for the rune.
Then Will swished his wand, and the gloomy little detached house in suburban Surrey twirled away, everything spinning in front of Tobias’ eyes as was inevitable with any disapparation, and for a moment, just a moment he recognised the dark corridors of the cell blocks of Canary Wharf, its dank walls and worn paving stones and bad lighting -
And then they bounced. Not like they would have if they hadn’t broken through the anti-Apparition wards - no, then they couldn’t have left at all, then nothing would have happened. They arrived, briefly, ever so briefly, and then they were somewhere else. Somewhere bigger, somewhere better-lit, somewhere with polished marble floors underneath and a huge chandelier dangling from above, and doors all around and almost a score of figures gathered in front of them.
The main hall of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement’s Headquarters in Canary Wharf.
Right in front of a gathered array of Enforcers. And while Tobias saw Jacob Van Roden looking like he’d seen a ghost in the crowd, which turned as one in the direction of the ferocious crack that declared their arrival, he also saw the tall, gangly form of Bacchus Drake, and burly figure of Thanatos Brynmor.
And, beside him, head bowed, his son Cal.
Wands were pointed at them in the blink of an eye, some more willing than others, and the foursome froze as they were suddenly surrounded. Tobias half-lifted his staff before he realised it was too late, Will’s wand was extended and stayed that way, Dimitri barely had his raised, and Tanith did nothing more than look around, stamp her foot in an almost petulant manner, and curse, ‘Oh, bugger.’
‘What the hell are you doing here?’
That was Thanatos Brynmor, stepping to the front of the small mob of arrayed Enforcers, his expression aghast. He didn’t seem surprised, exactly - more outraged, and his gaze was locked on Tanith. ‘What the hell is going on?’
Drake stepped up next to him, shoulders squaring. ‘Nothing for it, Thanatos. They’re here. We can take them.’
Dimitri looked over at Tobias, eyes wide. ‘This is not... the cells.’
‘All authorised apparitions into Canary Wharf are being rerouted to the lobby so I can receive and then dispatch personnel where needed as quickly as possible. Emergency circumstances.’ Brynmor still looked furious, but his lip curled. ‘So it’s just not your day.’
Tobias’ gaze swung across the crowd and settled on Cal, who looked pale and worn. ‘Cal.’ His voice came out thick, and he could feel his bad leg shaking, his nerves making the injured muscles uncooperative. ‘Are you all right? He’s not hurt you?’
‘Of course I’ve not hurt him,’ sneered Brynmor. ‘He’s my son. You, on the other hand, Mister Grey, I have every intention of bringing harm to. This wasn’t how I’d hoped this would go down, but I’ll take it. And with the Dark Lord’s summons we don’t have time to do this properly, so I’m afraid this is going to have to be harsh, hard justice here and now.’
Will had been glaring with utter hatred at Brynmor for all this time, his lips moving - not with spells, but with words, rolling them over and over in his mouth. ‘You said... authorised apparitions,’ he repeated, voice barely above a whisper, and then he rounded on Tanith, eyes blazing. ‘You set us up.’
‘Will, what the hell are you -?’ Tobias half-turned, his own staff at the ready, but he wasn’t as quick as he might have been - because even aside from their having apparated into the middle of the enemy, something was wrong, very wrong.
‘Of course she did. The rune was meant to deposit you straight into a secure cell,’ sneered Brynmor.
And the bottom of Tobias’ gut fell out as Tanith lowered her gaze to the floor, looking more cowed, more beaten, more weak than he had ever, ever seen her, and for a few seconds, just from her slumped posture alone, he could barely recognise her.
What did they do to you...
‘But she was supposed to abort. I sent you the message as soon as I received the Dark Lord’s summons, I told you to delay until this business at Hogwarts is over!’ Brynmor barked, and Tanith flinched as if the words were blows.
‘I tried,’ she said, voice weak. ‘I tried to delay them, they didn’t listen...!’
‘Brynmor.’ Drake’s hand landed roughly on his shoulder, but he shrugged it off. ‘It doesn’t matter, we’ve got them, let’s just end it and get to Hogwarts...’
‘If this had been a few minutes later, or a few minutes earlier, Bacchus, they would have arrived in the middle of the HQ with hardly anyone here,’ Brynmor snapped. ‘Her failure could have cost us the security of the MLE - and I will never abide failure!’
Then his wand swished, no words on his lips, no light sparking out the tip, no obvious magic coming from him - and Tanith jerked with a gurgle as a spray of blood burst from her throat like it had been slit with an invisible knife. With barely a stagger, barely a sound, she collapsed to the ground.
Tobias whirled around, his staff rising in his hands almost of its own volition, but though spells and curses were forming in his mind, so was pure rage, and terror, and there were no casting vocals as magic sprang forth from the tip of his staff. Just a scream.
But he wasn’t the only one screaming, wasn’t the only one casting. And it wasn’t just Will, shouting in desperation as he let off an array of curses; nor was it Dimitri, lunging to Tanith’s side, wand sparking with some sort of healing charm Tobias could only desperately hope the diplomat had mastered. Nor was it even the move of the MLE to defend themselves.
Bacchus Drake gave a thunderous yell of terror and anger, and turned his wand on Thanatos Brynmor.
Then chaos was in the air. Brynmor was sent flying back across the room before Tobias or Will could even bring wand or staff around to bear on him, and Drake, eyes blazing, was advancing on his fallen fellow Death Eater. The other Enforcers, astonished at the move, were still not too shaken to not defend themselves, to not cast their protection charms and counter attacks.
Until Jacob Van Roden brought his wand up to knock the Enforcer next to him spinning into a wall. The move was like the breaking of another spell, because then he wasn’t alone; two others in uniforms rounded on their comrades, members of the MLE who’d joined once to fight the people they now worked for, seeing their opportunity to, at last, fight back.
But that was just five of them. Five, against more than twice that number, even if they ignored Drake and Brynmor lost in their incomprehensible fight. Surprise was on their side, surprise enough that Cal could lunge at the nearest Enforcer and desperately wrestle him to the ground, punching and kicking and finally emerging from the brawl clutching victoriously at a wand - but the odds were still not on their side.
Tobias, knowing he couldn’t move quickly anyway, stood over the fallen form of Tanith, with Dimitri crouched over her, and threw up protective spells just a quickly as he threw out counter-attacks. But he couldn’t look back at them. Couldn’t stop to check, even for a second, if she was alive, if she was dead, what was going on.
He wasn’t sure he dared to, as fear and doubt gnawed at his gut, separate even to their desperate situation, as the part of his brain which wasn’t in this fight whirled away to make sense of it all.
What did they do? Did they get to your family? Did they...
Then Thanatos Brynmor threw a spell which struck Bacchus Drake in the gut, and the willowy Death Eater, for all his incomprehensible rage, doubled up and collapsed with a grunt and a gurgle and lay still on the marble. Brynmor staggered for a moment, getting his footing, before he straightened.
‘You treacherous bastards!’ he hollered, and his wand snapped out to throw a curse in the direction of Jacob, Cal, and the other two Enforcers, who’d all banded up on their side of the lobby in the hope they could defeat superior numbers by attacking them from two directions. But Brynmor’s spell was strong and his aim good; it crashed into one of the Enforcers’ shields only to break through and drop him instantly.
Brynmor whirled towards them, and Tobias instinctively threw up a shield charm, anticipating an attack. But it wasn’t him Brynmor was roaring at, despite the times they’d clashed, the months Brynmor had spent chasing him. No, his eyes were locked on the one man in the room he had reason to hate even more: Will Rayner.
Will didn’t stop for some dry retort; just turned to face Brynmor like he’d been expecting it, and the sheer impact of the two throwing huge, swirling curses at each other at the same time came with a flash bright enough to almost blind everyone. By the time Tobias had blinked back the spots in front of his eyes, Will was getting to his feet several metres away, Brynmor advancing on him.
But that left him, Tobias, completely alone in protecting not just himself, but the twitching form of Tanith on the ground and Dimitri who was still struggling to stop the bleeding, cursing and muttering in a long train of incomprehensible Russian which only briefly surfaced into English.
‘I cannot do this with curses every five -’
The next spell from one of the Enforcers still loyal to Brynmor dashed off Tobias’ protection spell, but it staggered him and he took a step back - onto his injured leg. The one after broke through, crashing into his shoulder, and with a yelp of pain he was driven to one knee, clutching his staff for support as much as defence.
No. He gritted his teeth and tried to stand, even as he fought to bring his defences back up, but his bad leg refused to cooperate, the muscles weakened and exhausted. Get up. Get up. I will not die here, I will not let them die here, I will not die here because I am a crippled fool. But try as he might, he couldn’t stand.
And then the front doors to Canary Wharf exploded inwards.
Not just the doors, blown off their hinges and shattered into a spray of splinters and chunks of broken wood. But masonry with it, bursting inwards, and glass, enough to shower them in at least a fine spray of debris, and as the dust rose around them, choking and blinding, not a person in the lobby of Canary Wharf didn’t stop to stare.
For there in the open wreckage of the doorway stood over half a dozen witches and wizards, and at the head of them, wand in hand, supremely smug smile on his face, stood Gabriel Doyle.
'You might be thinking,' he said, sounding rather pleased with himself, 'that we have excellent and astonishingly serendipitous timing. And you'd be right.'
‘We just got to blow open the front of Canary Wharf,’ said Katie Bell, stood to his left, wand in hand with an expression of distracted fascination. ‘That. Was. Awesome.’
‘Less gawping at our work, less smugness,’ said Jen Riley on the other side, her own wand pointed at the ranks of Ministry loyalists. ‘Let's get to work.’
And the fight, with the Lions of Britain hurling themselves into the mix, suddenly became a good deal more in their favour. Tobias found himself with Jen at his side, throwing curses at the Enforcers in a perfect rhythm with his protective spells as if she’d practiced this with him a thousand times, Tom Everard bolting to take over from Dimitri in his efforts to heal Tanith.
The only two who hadn’t faltered in their battle had been Brynmor and Will. Still locked in their conflict, and the only way the Lions’ arrival had affected them was that now Will was magically lifting chunks of rock and debris to hurl at the Death Eater. Back and forth they went, spells sparking out, neither seeming to care or notice how the rest of the fight went.
And certainly Brynmor did not. He didn’t react as the Lions fell down onto his loyal men, he didn’t react as, one by one, they were taken down or began to see how the fight was going and threw down their wands. He kept his gaze locked, focused, on the man who’d killed his wife.
Not every fight could end because someone was particularly more clever or fast, or because someone made a particular mistake. Sometimes you could blink and miss what turned the tide of a fight. Sometimes a move or spell one man had blocked a hundred times could, that hundred-and-first time, be his undoing. And as the Enforcers, one by one, fell or surrendered, Tobias turned to the heated battle just in time for Brynmor to flick a sly, swift curse across the distance between him and Will - and this one broke through.
It pounded into Will’s gut like a sucker punch, doubling him over with the impact. There was a loud grunt of pain and the audible crack of ribs, and the Unspeakable staggered, winded, the fight knocked out of him if only for a couple of seconds.
A couple of seconds could prove a lifetime. And even as Tobias turned, trying to get his staff up in time, Brynmor’s wand was lashing out for another attack, an attack that would surely finish the defenceless Will off, an attack Tobias wasn’t remotely quick enough to defend -
Then the red sparks of a Stun smacked Brynmor in the back. There was no grunt. No stagger, no registering of surprise or shock at the impact. He just went stiff, and keeled over.
And, on the other side of the lobby, Cal lowered his stolen wand with an expression of grim satisfaction.
If any Ministry loyalists had been fighting on against the overwhelming odds, they didn’t keep on fighting at the sight of their commander beaten.
The moment the last curse stopped, the moment the Lions and friendly Enforcers began to take wands off their enemies and ensured they weren’t going to be a threat any more, Tobias whirled on the spot to look down at Tom, bent over Tanith. ‘Is she -’
‘I’ve stopped the bleeding,’ said Tom, not looking up, and Tobias saw that his and Dimitri’s hands were covered in blood. ‘She’s going to be okay-’
‘Let me go - let me through!’
Bacchus Drake had recovered from whatever Brynmor had done to him, but instead of fighting back, even though his wand was in hand, he was pushing away the Lions who’d come to him, and staggering desperately towards them.
And as Tobias stared at Drake, falling to his knees at Tanith’s side - and at Tanith herself, prone and unconscious on the floor - realisation twisted in his gut and then exploded with bright, liberating clarity, and a mixture of satisfaction and dread. ‘That... isn’t Tanith.’
‘No, mate.’ That was Cal, walking over through the crowd of Lions and Enforcers tying up and securing the loyalists, one of Will’s arms slung under his shoulder so he could support the smaller man. His eyes were tired, but exhilarated. ‘This was all a trap to get you here. It’s Ariane.’
Tobias stared back down, and though there was a brand new worry worming its way into him, he couldn’t help but feel almost... relieved. Had he known, on some level, that something was wrong? Was that why he’d been so hesitant, so withdrawn, why everything had felt unreal? Had there been some part of him which had known it was wrong, even if it couldn’t identify why, since she’d passed the tests they’d set?
Did it matter, since she’d almost led him to his death anyway?
‘Bloody hell,’ was all he managed to say. Then he turned to Cal and, mindful of his own leg, mindful of the fact he was still supporting a rather bleary-eyed Will, stepped over to hug him. ‘I’m so damn glad you’re all right, though. We were afraid Brynmor would...’
‘He wouldn’t do anything, mate,’ said Cal, clapping him on the back as they pulled apart. ‘But he was happy to let you think he would, if he thought it would get you here. Since you didn’t come for Tanith when she was in prison.’
‘No, we didn’t. But we didn’t think she’d be murdered at any moment. But we were told about you....’
Cal’s forehead crinkled. ‘I didn’t think you’d come.’
Tobias rolled his eyes and punched him on the shoulder. ‘Of course we came, you knobhead.’
‘Right.’ That was Jen, walking up to them. ‘All of these loyalist Enforcers have been tied up, and Brynmor is shackled up tighter than something called Fort Knox, according to Richard.’
‘And I got onto the Canary Wharf communications orbs,’ said Jacob, who’d walked up with her, and was looking particularly relieved. ‘I’m calling in all the Enforcer and Detector teams Brynmor and Yaxley didn’t summon back. You know, the ones who’re on our side.’
Tobias grinned toothily at them. ‘It’s good to see you. Both of you,’ he said sincerely, and his eyes fell on Jen. ‘But how the hell did you know to come here?’
She jerked a thumb in Gabriel’s direction. ‘Ask him. He’s the Seer.’
‘You’re the what?’
Gabriel turned, expression only a little sheepish. ‘Oh, yeah. I’m a Seer. Had a vision. Saw all this. Realised now was the time. I’ll explain later. Don’t complain, we just came in and saved your arses. Not to mention we’ve secured Canary Wharf, to boot.’
‘No matter what happens at Hogwarts,’ said Jen, raising her voice to the gathered Lions and allies, as Cal went to Gabriel’s side to clap him on the back cheerfully, ‘we’re cracking this place like a nut. I want their security records destroyed and I want everyone in the cells let loose. Even if Thicknesse’s Ministry is still standing when this is over, I want his security infrastructure screwed.’
‘Speaking of Hogwarts,’ said Katie, coming over, ‘I want to go there. I promised you ten minutes; you’ve had fifteen.’
‘All right,’ agreed Jen. ‘Take who wants to go; I’m going to stay and work with the MLE on our side to mess things up properly here.’
‘I assure you,’ said Jacob, ‘there’s a whole lot of us who’ve been sitting on our hands for a year who’ll love to do a bit of leg-work after so long. We’ve been prisoners in our own right.’
‘Speaking of prisoners,’ said Tobias, ‘where’s the real Tanith?’
Cal made a face. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘I didn’t even see her; they just had me brief Ariane so she could play a good enough imposter to lure you here.’ His expression creased with guilt. ‘I didn’t want to, mate, I swear - they were going to kill Nat if I didn’t...’
He clapped his friend on the shoulder. ‘It’s all right. I understand. And all’s well that ends well.’ Tobias turned around to face Bacchus Drake, who by now had the head of his daughter - who still, disconcertingly, looked like Tanith - cradled on his lap as Tom ran through further charms to make sure she was stable. ‘How’s our victim of Thanatos Brynmor’s petty and vindictive nature, Tom?’
‘She’ll live,’ he said. ‘I’d love to get her to Saint Mungo’s, but I don’t think we’re going to have that pleasure. She’ll need rest.’
‘Let me take her home,’ said Drake in a low, empty voice. ‘I have no intention of fleeing, I just want to make sure my daughter is going to be all right.’ At last he lifted his gaze - only to glare daggers at the shape of Thanatos Brynmor, being lined up on the floor with all the other incapacitated and bound Ministry loyalists, unmoving. ‘That psychotic bastard...’
‘You can go,’ said Tobias promptly, ‘so long as you tell me where Tanith is.’
Drake looked up, eyes wide. ‘I don’t know! I don’t, that was Brynmor’s job, this whole scheme was his...’
‘All right, he’s all yours, Jen,’ said Tobias, not caring right then if he was to be locked up or let go, and he turned on his heel to storm towards the body of Thanatos Brynmor. Right then, though he still had to lean heavily on his staff, the ache and pain in his leg didn’t even seem to matter.
When he got to Brynmor, he could see the Stun had worn off, but he was bound too tight, from neck to toe, to do anything. All he got was the man’s dark, beady, hateful eyes glaring up at him.
Tobias lifted his staff and rested the tip of it on his throat. ‘Hello again,’ he said in a low, pleasant voice. ‘You should know that you’ve lost. Canary Wharf has fallen. I’m alive, despite your best gambit, in no small part thanks to your own petty, vindictive need to punish Ariane Drake for her minor failure. Reinforcements are flocking to Hogwarts to help Harry Potter against You-Know-Who. And you’ve been beaten, not just by Will Rayner, but by your son.’
He leant down, and couldn’t deny that a small part of him was relishing this opportunity to, for once, confront the man who’d killed his father and be the one in control. An even smaller part of him was pointing out that he’d just need to lean, a little, on his staff - just put his weight on it, on the man’s neck, and justice could be...
‘But it’s not over,’ he continued, over the little voice in his head. ‘And so I’m only going to ask you this question the one time, or things will go very ill for you. Because I imagine I’m not the only person here who wants to take a chunk or two out of you for the things you’ve done.
‘Where is Tanith Cole?’