Chapter 3 : The Journey
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“I’ve been a wild rover for many a year…”
“So, how’d they take it?”
“And I’ve spent all my money on whiskey and beer…”
“Just my Dad. Mum’s elsewhere, as per. Probably organising the latest fundraiser.”
“But now I’m returning with gold in great store…”
“Oh, fun. Well, you’re still alive… Mister Ritter help you out?”
“And I never will play the wild rover no more…”
“Nope. Just me, versus the world. Dad backed down. But it… wasn’t pretty.”
“It never is with… Cal, will you stop that warbling? That’s a double negative and it doesn’t even make sense.”
Cal glanced back over his shoulder with a mixture of irritation and jubilation, already further ahead of them up the climb of this latest peak, practically dancing on the spot with a vigour and amusement neither of his travelling companions felt.
“Oh, come on, Toby!” he declared, turning around and throwing his arms out wide. “Enough of this moody bitching about parents or Irishmen. Holiday, you two!”
Tobias raised an eyebrow at his friend. “Some of these things are important. We can’t drop it all just because we happen to be in the middle of nowhere halfway up a mountain."
“Actually…” Tanith hefted her bag, looking at Cal and his clearly buoyant mood, “I think we can drop it all. Where else better to do that than the middle of nowhere? My Dad’s shut up about it. I doubt we’ll argue more than once on the matter until Christmas. As for the rest? Nothing we can change.”
She jogged up past Tobias, hopping up a small ledge of rock jutting from out of the side of the slope, and moved to draw level with Cal. “But with better singing, Brynmor.”
“And it’s no, nay, never…”
Tobias looked more than a little put out, though mostly hid his slight embarrassment by fiddling with a strap on his backpack. “Hey, I find it fun to plan the unsightly death of annoying Hufflepuffs… this is a holiday for me…”
Cal extended a hand towards his friend to help him clamber up the next sharp incline. “Then let’s do better holidays… No, nay, never, no more… Will I play the wild rover… No never, no more…”
Despite complaints, the song didn’t stop for another two verses, Cal’s not insignificant singing voice booming merrily through the echoing depths of the Peak District. Six miles only out of Kittering, and they already appeared to be far away from the clutches of civilisation. Peak after peak revealed nothing but more wilderness, and though Cal paid cursory attention to the map, he was clearly navigating more off the memory of years spent growing up in the area.
The sun was high in the sky, suggesting as much as their stomachs did that lunchtime was approaching, and though their packs were just as heavy as those of any Muggles looking to hike for two nights, their progress was good. Optimism and freedom were greater motivators than could have been planned, and they reached the top of this latest peak, the tallest they’d climbed over the last couple of hours, within a few minutes.
Tobias and Tanith hadn’t experienced much of the Peak District beyond that which they could see from the village of Kittering itself. As such, what they were now faced with was more than enough to shock and awe; that of the Scottish Highlands Hogwarts had introduced them to was more of sheer cliffs and sudden plunges, rather than the rolling peaks of Derbyshire.
“This? Every summer?” Tobias raised an eyebrow at Cal curiously, though his words were uttered in between slight pants for breath, where both of his friends seemed far less perturbed by the physical effort. “And you never mentioned it?”
“You’re both Southerners, and English to boot. I thought the wilderness scared you?” The Welshman wore an amused, challenging look on his face, before glancing at Tobias’ evident fatigue. “Want to take a break, boyo?”
A slightly defiant glance at the evidently more physically fit Tanith, who also looked faintly entertained by his state, had Tobias straighten up. “Nope. I’m fine. Just because I don’t tromp around hills every holiday and don’t have the crazy fitness regime from hell doesn’t mean I can’t cope.”
“I never thought Sussex was that challenging,” Tanith commented, hefting her pack and setting off cheerfully down the road.
“Grandparents in Yorkshire. Merry old house on the cliffs. Had a good few Christmases up there. I’m not outright soft, you know.” Tobias shuffled after his two friends, hopping over a few rocks to avoid tumbling down the hill.
“All that bookishness, never playing Quidditch, or even any sport?” Cal waved his hands dramatically. “How can we expect you to survive in the wilderness?”
“To be fair, I don’t play Quidditch,” Tanith pointed out.
“Yes, but what Cal means is that you have a semi-psychotic jogging regime, because the Aurors want more than just brainpower and spells. It’s what’s had Ariane and Melanie complaining about you waking them up in the mornings to do exercise. And something about you standing on your head…” Tobias stumbled a little on the undergrowth, but a quick, defiant glance to Cal stopped his friend from offering a helping arm.
“Van Roden made it pretty clear that they expect a certain physical fitness. You never saw a fat Auror, right? At least, not until they ended up behind a desk.” Tanith shrugged, eyes turning skywards, soaking in the beams of the afternoon sun. “I look good on paper. I know my record reads well. I just now have to make sure I can hack it in person. Entry interviews are at Christmas. If I don’t get an offer then, it doesn’t matter how good my NEWTs results are.”
“Mm. Job applications. The big wide future. We have to think about that crap?” Cal looked dimly dubious and distinctly unhappy.
“I thought you were going to hit Muggle Relations?” Tobias asked, one eyebrow raised.
“Well… yeah. But I didn’t do so well on Muggle Studies last exams. Fact that I know all of this shit means bugger all. They want a good Muggle Studies NEWT, is the thing.” Cal rubbed wearily at his brow. “Of course, I know what’s on TV these days, who’s top of the charts, and how to buy a tin of baked beans down the supermarket. Muggle Studies will teach me the finer points of Wordsworth and Shakespeare. What use is that in Muggle Relations?”
“Use enough to get you the necessary NEWT?” Tanith asked, not entirely provocatively.
“No, go not to the Lethe; Neither twist wolf’s bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine…” Tobias mumbled under his breath.
“No Shakespeare. No bloody Shakespeare!” Cal raised his hands defensively.
“That was Keats, actually…”
“I don’t care. There’s a reason I got bugger all for the literary studies. I don’t care.” Another shrug from Cal. “So, even though I could do the job, no Muggle Relations for me. I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do.”
“See if you can get another Careers Consultancy session. Maybe there’s something with the Ministry?” Tobias raised his eyebrows helpfully. “Your dream job will be out there.”
“When the Caerphilly Catapults come calling for me to sign up, then I’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’m expecting drudgery and a nine-to-five office work. And preferably not with the Ministry.” Cal’s brow furrowed. “Why’s it always about the Ministry? Quite frankly, I’d rather work in a pub.”
“Ministry can… send me where I want to go. International Relations is going to send me to far more interesting corners of the world than anywhere else until the Clarion’s hiring for an international correspondent.” Tobias shrugged, though it was a slightly weary shrug.
“Ah, it all comes out. We settle for the jobs we can get, instead of chasing dreams.” Cal’s smile turned wry and lopsided.
“I’m chasing my dream job,” Tanith protested. “Besides, Grey, you join the Office of International Relations, it’s going to take years before you get out of dealing with ambassadors in London. Globe trotting comes later.”
Another shrug from Tobias. “I can wait. It’s going to take you three years out of Hogwarts before you’re out on the beat.”
“Point.” Tanith cocked her head slightly at Cal. “And why don’t you?”
Cal faltered. “Why don’t I what?”
“Go for the professional Quidditch thing.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “They headhunt. You know that. And if I’m not on the Quidditch team, then there’s no way they’re going to see me to want to recruit me.”
“You might stay on,” Tobias pointed out. “Urquhart’s not Montague. He’s got more brain cells.”
“Compared to before or after Eddie was addled?” Tanith wondered out loud.
Tobias had the good grace to look embarrassed. “I meant… before. Since he got out of that carnivorous toilet he can’t even fly in a straight line. But Urquhart’s smarter than him anyway. He knows you’re good.”
“And Montague did bring you on board the team for the last match when he kicked out Goyle and Crabbe,” Tanith said.
“Right, after Tweedledum and Tweedledee screwed up.” Tobias nodded with agreement, then raised a hand to deflect the glare of sunlight falling down on his eyes as the afternoon stretched on and the sun began to hang lower in the sky.
“Urquhart will have to keep you on. He’s got no reason not to.” Tanith gave Cal a slightly smug, but encouraging smile. Then she paused, and blinked at Tobias. “Tweedle-what?”
“Um, Muggle literary reference.”
“Urquhart does have a reason: Malfoy,” Cal muttered bitterly, interrupting the otherwise inevitable bicker regarding the pros and cons of Muggle literature. His pace had picked up, moving into an automatic march where his feet took over and his brain detached itself from his body, prompting him to be walking considerably faster than his two friends, both of whom were forced to scurry somewhat to keep up, Tobias straggling distinctively more than Tanith.
“Malfoy’s not that…”
“He’s still reliant on bribery to keep him where he is,” Cal reminded a protesting Tobias. “Urquhart does indeed like having his shiny toys, courtesy of the Malfoy family.”
“It’s not so safe to cosy up to the Malfoy family these days,” Tanith murmured. “Lucius has wound up in the bad place, you don’t want to get tarred with the same brush.”
Cal finally came to a halt, so suddenly that even further behind him as the other two were, they almost walked into his back. Tobias, instead, stumbled on some uneven ground and would have fallen if he hadn’t been embarrassingly kept upright by a far more sure-footed Tanith.
“Urquhart’s got a chance to do something different. Sure. But who was the last person to do anything different in Slytherin House?” Cal turned around, smiling humourlessly. “Oh, wait. I remember. His name was Tobias Grey, and he got shafted horribly for it when it cost him his Prefect badge, his girlfriend, and the Head Boy spot.” Cal gave an exaggerated shrug. “So forgive me if I figure that other people are going to be a lot more careful before they act out of type in this House. After all, the rest of the school still aint interested in what a ‘bunch of snakes’ do. Leopards changing stripes.”
Tanith winced. “Cynicism doesn’t suit you, Brynmor. Leave it to the pros.”
“It’s not cynicism when you do it, Tan, since you, like the others, took that snakeskin and made it your own.” Cal’s expression was dark as he turned to carry on walking.
Tanith paused, glancing at Tobias. “I thought you were meant to be the one who gets pissy about Slytherin’s image?”
“I am. But I get pissed on principle. Cal’s recognising what will hit all of us at some point – it’s not just about what the rest of the school thinks. Everyone calls it a bastard, it looks like a bastard, it sounds like a bastard – eventually, that snake’s going to be a bastard. And we’re at the receiving end of that bastardry. It’s not that much fun.” Tobias rubbed his shin a little ruefully, trying to regain the dignity lost from his lack of grace in this wilderness environment.
“The stereotypical Slytherin is the product of the masses holding those preconceptions of what a Slytherin is,” he continued. “The individuals might be wankers in the first place, which is what annoys us – blame the rest of the school for the fact that these wankers end up revelling in their faults, and make the image of being a bastard part of what defines them.”
“So you’re blaming Dumbledore?” Cal asked from ahead, sounding finally amused.
“I always blame Dumbledore. Second year, remember? You know how many points I scraped together on those Herbology essays?” Tobias sounded indignant.
“You know how much I got from actually behaving myself in front of McGonagall?” Tanith’s voice was rueful.
“Then the decrepit old fool took it all away and gave it to his Gryffindor favourites. We won that House Cup fair and square. And it went downhill from there.” Tobias pinched the bridge of his nose. “Bloody Potter.”
“Don’t blame Potter. It’s been like this way before him,” Tanith pointed out.
“Bloody rest of the entire bloody school?” Tobias raised an eyebrow.
Brief consideration from Tanith. “Yeah. That’ll do.”
Talk was limited after that as they carried on with the hike, spending another few hours mostly focusing on their progress and the sights and sounds of Derbyshire Peak District. Despite Tobias’s relatively poor progress compared to his more physically fit companions, they still covered a good distance, and there wasn’t much light left in the sky when they came to a patch of low ground near a small copse which Cal declared to be perfect as a camp site.
Setting up tents was where Tanith’s previous ability to take the trip in stride faltered and Tobias’s lesser hardiness was counterbalanced as the two far more Muggle-familiar boys set about erecting the pair of small canvas constructions as Tanith goggled with bewilderment at instructions and offered unhelpful suggestions.
“Guy ropes,” Cal finally declared at her with exasperation as he began to hammer one of them into the ground, “tether down the top of the tent, instead of the pegs which just keep the bottom down. So it won’t blow around as much in the wind. They are not devices to be used when you’re out on the pull.”
Tanith just shrugged at this. “I’m sure I could learn to lasso,” was all she said.
She was much less difficult when it came for hunting for firewood, and by the time darkness fell utterly, they had a sufficient pile of wood that could keep a campfire going for hours on end through the cooking of dinner and later into the evening. Cal spent a good five minutes trying to use a cigarette lighter to make the kindling light before Tanith finally extracted her wand and pointed it at the campfire with a bored utterance of “Ignito”, causing the flames to magically catch erupt.
She glanced across at the sausages Cal was grumpily impaling on a kebab stick. “I could cook those too, you know.”
“Fire’s bad enough. You know magically cooked food tastes awful. Any idea what magical fire’s going to do to these sausages?” Cal muttered a little resentfully.
Tanith smiled impishly. “More than your non-existent ‘real’ fire was going to do. Christ, Brynmor, you were half a step away from rubbing two sticks together back there.”
Cal had the good grace to look a little sheepish. “I considered doing that, but figured it would be taking…”
Tobias’s voice was low and urgent, and they glanced around to realise he wasn’t sitting with them around the now merrily-crackling fire, but was standing a little way off, in between the tents and staring in the direction of the peak they had descended to reach this little secluded campsite.
“Did you hear that?” he hissed, not turning around.
“Hear what?” Tanith didn’t bother lowering her voice, irritation clear. “Don’t tell me you’re getting the wilderness heebie jeebies now, Grey, because…”
Then she heard it too, echoing across the Derbyshire peaks. A low, mournful, long howl, enough to send a shiver up her spine and bring panic bubbling in her stomach.
“That was a reply to the first one.” Tobias’ face was stony as he finally turned, striding towards them, still keeping his voice low. “And the first one was closer than that.”
“Wild dogs?” Tanith’s voice was impossibly hopeful.
“Not around here. Not like that.” Cal’s expression, too, was coldly deadpan. “Only one thing makes a noise quite like that.”
“And look.” Tobias turned again to point, not at the hill this time but the sky, where a bright full moon lay amongst the glittering stars of a bright, clear summer night. “It’s open season.”
“What the hell are werewolves doing all active out here?” Tanith stood, wand in hand, eyes scanning the darkness. “Reports were coming out of Death Eaters rounding up the Dartmoor packs, but that was weeks ago…”
“They usually stay quiet in Derby.” Cal was standing, putting away the food, shoving belongings back into bags. “I guess the Death Eaters might have moved on from Dartmoor to here. Or they’re just feeling pissy today. I don’t want to hang around and find out.”
“No.” Tobias’s voice was a little empty, a little absent-minded. “That would be bad, wouldn’t it.” He turned around. “Let’s just apparate out. Grab what we really need, and go. We can come back for the rest when it’s, you know, day time.”
“Right.” Cal grabbed his bag and hefted it. “Wallets? Keys? Watches? Important things?” The list was rattled off at a slightly panicked rate.
“Wands?” Tobias raised his, jaw set in a way which made it clear that he was just as terrified as Cal felt, but not showing it half as much. “Back to Kittering, out of the way. We can all find Cal’s back garden?”
“Piece of piss.” Cal raised his wand and closed his eyes, brow furrowed with concentration. “Away from here it is…”
Tanith, who had been staring at her wand with a focused air since before Cal had been gathering belongings, suddenly started out of her concentration and raised her head, eyes meeting Cal’s. “Wait! Don’t! There’s a Displacement…”
Then Cal winked out of sight, disappearing promptly with the standard lack of pomp or circumstance of a disapparation.
“…Aura…” Tanith’s eyes were wide as her voice trailed off, and she turned to Tobias. “Oh, fuckity fuck fuck.”
Tobias took a few moments, swallowing hard. “There’s a what up?” His eyes were fixed on the spot where Cal had been.
“You never read up for the extended apparition course, did you.” Tanith’s voice was empty, and with a small hint of panic creeping in there.
“I got my license and was happy for it. You know it makes me nauseous in the first place. Extended would have been stupid.” Tobias’s voice was level – aggressively level, emphatically level.
“A Displacement Aura’s a dampening effect on apparating. Works like the anti-apparition charms used at Hogwarts and such. But it’s a temporary thing, usually an emergency thing pulled out by the Department of Magical Transport at our request – I mean, Aurors’ request.” Tanith shook her head at how easily that presumptuous comment had been made, but didn’t linger on the thought before she continued.
“Blocking out apparition… that’s a big thing. Major thing to make it impossible. Can’t be brought up quickly. So if they want to stop someone apparating in or out of an area, to capture criminals on the scene and the like, it’s a Displacement Aura they put on the entire area,” she finished.
Tobias closed his eyes. “Tanith, you’re beginning a ramble worthy of me. The legal implications and usages are fascinating, but what does a Displacement Aura do?”
Tanith’s eyes dropped. “It raises the chance of being spliced… and makes sure you’ll almost certainly not end up where you want to be. You certainly won’t make it out of the area of the Aura, but will probably appear somewhere randomly inside it. It’s just a… stop-gap method to prevent escapes. It’s not infallible.”
“So Cal is…?” Tobias raised an eyebrow, his previously level voice quavering just slightly in a way which made the panic in her stomach bubble up afresh.
“Not here? He could be on the other side of the Peak District, or he could be over that hill. I could do a Locator Spell…” Tanith looked down at her wand, raising it and frowning as her brain ran through the incantations.
Tobias’s eyes widened as a fresh howl echoed through the hills, coming from the northwards direction they had headed from on their journey earlier. “Later?”
Tanith scowled. “But what about Brynmor?”
Tobias grabbed her by the upper arm. “That’s closer. That’s definitely closer. Those things are coming this way, and it’ll take even both of us working together at least a minute to draw up the Locator Spell. So bugger our dinner and our tents, and let’s get ourselves somewhere hidden. We won’t be any use to Cal if we’re eaten by werewolves. Especially as it sounds like a Displacement Aura pretty much confirms that this is Death Eater activity, not just a random pack.”
Tanith tugged at his grip faintly, eyes fixed on the hill and direction they and the howling had come from. “But Cal will…”
“Cal will take care of himself.” Tobias’s grip became firm, and he dragged her around to meet his gaze with a strength and determination she hadn’t quite realised he had. “Tanith, we have to get out of here.”
“I’m not…” Her voice trailed off as yet another canine noise sounded, this one less of a howl and more of a growl, near enough for them to hear it and less of a loud call across the moors than a brief communication – or a threat.
Tanith froze, glancing in its direction, though she could still see nothing in the gloom. “Huh. Cal will be fine. Don’t you think?”
“I do, indeed, think.” Then, with a speed and resilience he hadn’t displayed in the earlier exertions of the day, Tobias tightened his grip on her arm and set off in the direction of the outskirts of the copse at a dead run, dragging her along in his wake.
“Werewolves… what do they hunt off? Scent? Sight? Sound?” Tanith panted slightly, scurrying, and this time needing to struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of Tobias’s long legs, even though his firm grip on her arm meant that he wasn’t going to let her fall behind.
“Anything and everything. They might be creatures of almost pure instinct when it’s a full moon, but there’s still a brain in there more intelligent than most animals out there. They still have deductive reasoning and an intellect to fuel that instinct, and that power,” Tobias said, his voice haggard from running, concentration, and sheer fear.
“So are you sure woodlands are a better idea than a wide open area?” Tanith asked, ducking under a branch as they erupted into the small copse, thick undergrowth around their feet, tugging at her ankles, twigs in her hair, brambles in her face.
“Wide open, we’re easily noticed and it’s a game of pure speed. I don’t want to try to out-run a werewolf. Here… well... it’s not much better, but it’s something.” Tobias’s free hand came up to push back a branch in her way, going headfirst through a bush himself as he cleared her path.
“Toby, I’m not an invalid, I can fend for myself – don’t slow yourself down,” Tanith spat, yanking her arm out of his grip and leaping deftly over a fallen log that he had to take a split-second longer to clamber over, even without dragging her in his wake.
“Making sure we don’t get split up. That’s the worst thing that could happen right now,” Tobias said, not pausing in the mad dash, side-stepping a stump neatly.
“No, the worst thing that could happen is that we could get mauled to death – is that a light?” Tanith skidded to a stop, Tobias almost crashing into the back of her and staggering to keep his footing at the sudden deceleration before he glanced over at the gloomy patch she was peering at.
“That’s a Lumos, or a torch,” Tobias hissed, brow furrowed. “Thank God.” He stepped over in that direction, stopped only when Tanith grabbed his elbow.
“Are you crazy? You were right when you said a Displacement Aura means that we almost certainly have Death Eaters on the loose. What, you think it’s a wizard on a midnight stroll?”
“It might just be a Muggle. At the very least, strength in numbers. And if it’s a Death Eater, we’re probably screwed anyway.” Tobias pulled away, nodding in the direction of the light, and with fearful reluctance, she followed as he jogged towards it.
There was a small clearing in the copse, just of a few trees and some turf free of brambly undergrowth or deceptive roots, and indeed a figure standing there holding an illuminated wand. But as they emerged from the trees to face them, the light revealed more of the scene to them, and it certainly wasn’t optimistic.
It was a man, one of the tallest and broadest they’d ever seen, his long wand upraised and emitting a faint red light which certainly wasn’t a Lumos spell. The ground around him had symbols burnt into it which were glowing that same red. He had a large wolf pelt across his back, the front paws tied around his neck and the animal’s head resting above his own skull; beneath it was a set of ordinary wizarding robes. But most peculiar of all were the gloves he wore – novelty Muggle oven mitts, by Tobias’s guess, brown and fuzzy and with stylised dog-like claws at the end, giving the man no small difficulty in holding the wand.
His expression was one of utter confusion as the two youths burst out of the undergrowth in front of him, and the entire scene would have been enough to stun them into silence or amuse them into laughter had, when he lifted his head, they not been able to recognise him.
Not that they’d ever met him before – not in the flesh, anyway. But they’d seen his face plastered across newspapers over six months ago, at the mass Death Eater outbreak from Azkaban, with some of the most notorious figures in wizarding history pictured for all the world to identify. His face had been one of the ones they’d studied the most intently, one of those which had stood out for them, and it had been nothing to do with his actions or his history, but instead, who he was.
Yes, they knew the man standing in front of him. And his name was Thanatos Brynmor, father of Caldwyn Brynmor.
“What the bloody hell…” Brynmor stared at them with utter confusion, wand drooping a very little in the weak, mitten-y grip. Then he grasped it more firmly, raising it and pointing it at them. “Don’t move, squirts.”
Tanith stared for a moment, the recognition just sinking in. Beside her, Tobias had frozen oddly – not with fear, for she could recognise that in him. This was something else entirely, something she couldn’t quite identify. But there wasn’t really time to consider that with the third or fourth most dangerous man in the country pointing a wand at her.
“I told you so,” she said to Tobias, not averting her eyes from Brynmor, and forcing levity into her voice. It was that or throw up. “Boy, did our day just get worse.”
“Yes, yes it did.” Brynmor scowled, looking more irritated than threatening – though the wand held by a Death Eater compensated for any loss there. “Sit down. Both of you. I’m not done here. Any movement, and it’s all over.” He jerked the wand downwards, and they complied, stiffly.
There was a moment of silence as Brynmor stepped back, pulling the pelt further around his shoulders and over his head, and began rapid, deep incantations that Tanith didn’t recognise. His wand came down, the red light burning sigils into the ground, and as he did so, more howls around them could be heard, louder and, if possible, more vicious.
Then Tobias straightened up, his expression deadpan and set hard in a way she didn’t recognise. “Why not just kill us?”
Brynmor didn’t look up, and paused only in his incantations as he continued burning glowing symbols into the ground with his wand. “I don’t murder children.”
Tobias’s jaw tightened. “We’re both seventeen.”
“Oh sweet Merlin, Grey… shut up, or I will kill you before he does,” Tanith gasped between gritted teeth, elbowing him hard in the side. “Now’s not the time to antagonise the nice Death Eater man.”
“Doesn’t really matter. I was lying; I do murder children.” Brynmor did glance up as he finished the last of the sigils, then raised his wand, jerking it for the red light to shoot up into the air, through the trees and into the night sky. “But I usually need a reason.”
“We’re interfering with your ritual to infuriate the wolf spirit within the lycanthropes and further bind them to the dark magic within You-Know-Who?” Tobias asked coolly. But there was an emptiness to his voice Tanith hadn’t heard before, something cold and dead.
Brynmor gave a dark chuckle, and she felt Tobias flinch inexplicably at this. “Interesting theory. But you’re wrong.” He shrugged the wolf pelt off his head, and pulled the ridiculous oven mitts off his hands. “You’re not interfering. I’m quite finished.” He peered into the sky for a moment, scowling. “Now, if Robb’s done his job…” The last part was a mutter, one Tanith didn’t care to think much about. For the first time, she was glad Cal wasn’t around.
Then Brynmor looked at her, and she flinched visibly. “Do I know you?” he asked, brow furrowed. “…well, not you. I know your nose. What’s your name?”
“I don’t care – family name.”
She swallowed. Lying sounded pretty dumb. “Cole.”
Brynmor’s eyes narrowed. “Relative of Daedalus Cole?”
“He’s… my father.” Brynmor had probably dined with him at the big Death Eater gala balls her father had thrown spinelessly back in the First War.
A chuckle from Brynmor, another flinch from Tobias. “Really? I guess this is my lucky day. Daedalus Cole’s daughter, walking right into my lap, so to speak.” His smile twisted, and the big man’s humour took on a somewhat more sinister twist. “Definitely not going to kill you, girl. Well.” He shrugged. “Not yet.”
“There’ll be people looking for us,” Tobias growled, his voice low and rumbling and harder than she’d ever heard it. “People who know we’re out here, and will want to find us when they hear of what’s going on…”
“That’s nice… I intend to be far away from here.” Brynmor peered at the sky again, brow furrowed. “Where is he…”
“Rushing off for the next big plan of evil?” Tobias asked, not without a hint of irony in his still-cold voice.
“You are becoming a slight annoyance,” Brynmor stated, pointing his wand at Tobias. “And while I am currently planning on leaving you unconscious in a ditch when myself and Miss Cole here head for sunnier climes, push my buttons and you might not be doing it with all of your limbs. Got me?”
As Tanith’s stomach churned again, Tobias stood up sharply, wand slipping from out of his sleeve and into his hand with a speed she didn’t know he was capable of. “You’ll be taking her no goddamn…”
A flick of the wand from Brynmor, a lazy and entirely unconcerned gesture, and Tobias keeled over backwards, stiff and flat on the ground and evidently subject of a petrifying spell.
“Which limb’s your favourite?” Brynmor demanded of Tobias’s wildly moving eyes, moving to stand over the immobile student. “Blink once for arm, twice for leg, then we’ll move onto left and right. I want to know, so I can be sure to spare that one when I’m done. Just to play nice, you know?”
Tanith stood, but slowly as the wand was flickered in her direction, her hands in sight and certainly not going for her own wand. “Please… look.” Her stomach churned again, and she swallowed. “Leave him alone, and I won’t be any trouble, okay? I’ll co-operate. He’s no use to you, no threat to you.”
“Bear in mind that you’ll co-operate whether you want to or not,” Brynmor pointed out coolly, stepping away from the immobile Tobias, scowling again at the sky. “But we might have a wait, so I’d be obliged if you could at least co-operate by keeping your mouth shut in the meantime.”
Tanith nodded slowly – and then hated herself for opening her mouth immediately afterwards. “But just one thing… me? My father? He’s a nobody. A fop. Why do you… why do Death Eaters care?”
Brynmor blinked at her. “You don’t know?”
“He didn’t pick a side in the last war… hasn’t in this one…” Tanith’s voice was weak and confused.
“Spy networks and annoying agents might not make for standing up and publicly declaring his allegiance, but I know he’s no friend of the Dark Lord’s. That makes him a foe.” Brynmor stared at the night sky for a few more moments, then raised his wand yet again to send off a fresh set of red sparks.
“We should move.” Brynmor’s wand moved once more, this time levitating the frozen Tobias off the ground. His eyes were still moving with a wild anger, fingers twitching faintly even through the spell, but he was truly locked in place.
Tanith took a step back. “I thought he was a waste of time?”
“Oh, I’ll dump him in a ditch – alive, don’t worry – once I’m ready to leave. Someone might stumble across him here, though, and that won’t do at all if we haven’t made our speedy departure, love.” Brynmor gave her a wink devoid of any kind of genuinely warm emotion, but which was reminiscent enough of one of Cal’s expressions to make her shiver.
“Nrrrr…” Tobias’s lip curled a very little, but with his jaws clenched and the rest of his body not co-operating, that low growl was the only noise he could quite make.
“So you just come with me, lass, and we’ll be out of here nice and quickly. You don’t want to catch a cold in the Derbyshire night, do you?” Brynmor gestured towards the undergrowth as he made his way towards it, Tanith moving along beside him as he dragged the levitating form of Tobias in his wake with a simple wave of his wand.
“Won’t we have to worry about the werewolves?” Tanith asked, unable to now keep the distinctive waver out of her voice as they emerged out of the small copse into the open expanse of this corner of the moors.
“Not at all. They shouldn’t look twice at us. If they do, I can send them packing without a word.” The light at the end of Brynmor’s wand glowed a faint red as he raised it, enough to illuminate his face in a devilish fashion and send a flurry of furry footsteps in the area skittering in the opposite direction.
“And can I be dismissed so easily?” a familiar voice rang out, right before darkness blacker than the night enveloped them, sending Tanith’s heart leaping up into her throat.
There was a loud curse from Brynmor, though all that she could see of him was the red tip of his wand. “Ritter! You fool, you’d try the same trick twice?”
Footsteps sounded behind her, fast and firm. “Last time, darkness was so I could make my escape.” Something whizzed past her ear, and she heard it hit the ground not too far away, and far closer to Brynmor. “This time, flight is not my intention.”
Whatever her tutor had thrown past her glowed, even through this pitch darkness, with a sudden white light, enough for her to see the small orb lying on the ground. Then it crackled with that same light, until it swept about the orb and focused together to shoot out in a bolt in the direction of the red glow.
Even this seemingly impenetrable darkness was pierced for a moment as Brynmor let out a distinctive yelp, his body now visible as the white energy crackled over him for a moment before it dispersed.
A few seconds, a gasp from Brynmor, then his wry chuckle. “…what’s that? A Shocking Orb? A child’s toy?”
“Yes,” came Ritter’s calm drawl. “But it did pinpoint your location quite nicely, didn’t it?” Then there was a crunch of the sound of flesh on flesh, a solid blow landed, and a grunt which was definitely Brynmor’s.
There was the sound of struggling for a few seconds, impossible to extract any valuable information from, until finally Brynmor’s voice echoed through the dark. “Impedimenta!”
There was a thump, the sound of a body hitting the ground, just as the darkness around them began to disperse. Tanith’s hand came down desperately for her wand, which was sticking out of her pocket, as silhouettes became visible.
Her tutor was on his knees on the muddy ground, moving with a sluggish speed of the spell that had hit him. Brynmor stood over him, wand in hand and pointed at his opponent, blood streaming from his nose but otherwise apparently unharmed.
“You took your little toys to a wand fight again, Ritter? It might work for a getaway, but in a scrap?” His booted foot came back to kick Ritter in the stomach with a sickening crunch, enough to send the Slowed squib onto his side with a grunt of pain.
Tanith’s hand came up, clasping the wand, anger running through her stomach and ready to lash out at the unprepared Brynmor. But before she could open her mouth to utter one of the many spells running through her head, Tobias’s voice echoed across the greenery firmly.
The Blasting Curse hit Brynmor straight in the shoulder, exploding with a slight spark and sending him staggering sideways, away from Ritter, and clasping at his arm with a yelp of pain.
“You filthy, low-down, murdering bastard…” Tobias’s voice was cold and hard and firm as he strode towards Brynmor, expression completely dead-set, his wand entirely at the ready.
“Grey? Let’s not get too close,” Tanith interrupted, her own wand also pointed out at the staggering Brynmor as Ritter slowly staggered to his feet with the effects of the curse wearing off.
Brynmor’s eyes flickered between the two wands pointed at him, and then at the belt Ritter wore with an array of bulging pouches with mysterious magical contents. “Guess there is a little spark in you, squirt, after all,” he stated flatly at Tobias, before swishing his own wand downwards at his legs. “Celeritus!”
Then he was off, running away into the darkness of the night with a magically enhanced speed. Tobias swore loudly, running forwards a few paces and throwing a Leg-Locker Curse at Brynmor’s retreating figure, but the Death Eater easily side-stepped with his sudden great speed.
And then he was gone, leaving the three of them standing outside the small woods at the foot of a high Derbyshire hill.
“Altair!” Tanith’s wand dropped and she moved to throw herself at her tutor, wrapping him in a large, needy hug. She felt the tall man grunt with as she impacted, and she reeled back quickly, hands upraised as Ritter clutched at his ribs. “Sorry!”
“It’s… fine…” Her tutor’s clear eyes were twinkling with faint amusement and relief, but his forehead was creased with a combination of pain and surprise. “I’m just… glad to find you both here.”
“How did you find us, sir?” Tobias asked, tearing his gaze away from the spot where Brynmor had disappeared, and padding over to the other two.
“Your friend Caldwyn made it to the Auror post at the outskirts of the Displacement Aura. He’d been lucky; he apparated very close to it, and managed to find his way there,” Ritter began, still rubbing at his bruised ribs.
“Cal’s okay?” Tanith asked eagerly, but not without a certain grimace after the close encounter they’d just had with their friend’s criminal father.
“He’s fine.” Ritter raised a hand calmingly, looking at her. “He let us know where you had camped. When the lycanthrope activity reared its head in the Peak District, your father sent me to talk to the Magical Law Enforcement officers monitoring the situation. They managed to enchant a Portkey to take me to this location.”
“The Aurors didn’t think us worth rescuing themselves?” Tobias asked, with a slight sneer of irritation on his lips.
“Ironically, the Aurors were hunting for the Death Eaters responsible. We never calculated you’d be right on top of Thanatos Brynmor himself.” Ritter pulled a pocket-watch out, flipping it open and reading it briefly. “Speaking of which, we should Portkey back to let the Aurors know. They’ll want to tighten their search.” His other hand moved away from his ribs to pull out a rolled-up newspaper, which he waved at them. “One of you two should be able to use your wands to activate this, correct?”
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