Chapter 44 : The Sins of the Father
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After the incident down by the Herbology greenhouses, Cal had changed his routine with Nat to meet somewhere a little more secluded and a little less breakable. That being the Quidditch pitch. Of course, now their relationship was back in the open, it wasn't strictly necessary to sneak around at night, but neither could deny the thrill it gave, and the comfort of routine, and just the opportunity to spend time together far away from anyone else.
It had worked, and given Cal no reason to regret the decision - until now. He had been waiting inside the Ravenclaw stands, high up and just under the benches themselves, as expected, and was surprised when Nat was late. She was usually very punctual, so he assumed she had good reason to be tardy.
As it later transpired, she did. The route from Ravenclaw tower meant that, unlike Cal coming up from the dungeons and now under a Quidditch stand, she could see the Dark Mark in the sky, and had scrupulously decided to return to the common room, assuming he, too, would not be wandering the grounds.
But Cal had no idea anything was wrong. He could not see the Dark Mark, and assumed the problem was solely the usual dodging of prefects and friends.
He'd been enlightened only when an unwelcomely familiar voice greeted him from in the shadows, and two equally familiar figures stepped under the stands to join him. One - the tall, willowy shape of Idaeus Robb - he'd had the apparent pleasure of meeting less than a year ago, in the wild of Derbyshire.
The other he could not recall meeting in the flesh, but there was no mistaking the heavy build, the strong features, all so very similar to his own yet quite distinctive. No, Cal had never met Thanatos Brynmor, but even without pictures to guide him he needed no aid in recognising his father.
He'd gone for his wand, not really knowing what spell he was going to cast, mind empty - which was just as well, really, for Robb had waved his own wand with uncaring speed, and before Cal knew it his hands were empty, the now-glorified stick skittering into the dust to his left.
Then the three of them had stared in silence at each other for a long moment, Robb's wand fixed on him, his father's expression inscrutably conflicted. Cal had found his voice empty, gone, flown far away in the panic and confusion that sweated his palms, and nobody had taken any action.
So, overall, he was quite glad when footsteps thudded up behind him and Tanith and Tobias tore up the stairs to under the stands with wands raised. It was a most welcome interruption in this family reunion.
"Don't move!" Tobias bellowed, wand outstretched as he moved through the underneath of the stand, allowing wooden struts to block his body but not his wand from view of the two Death Eaters.
Tanith, a few paces behind as befit a student who wasn't a fully-trained law enforcement official, could have hit him. The opportunity for stealth was abandoned the moment they had to clatter across wooden floors in creaky and ill-maintained condition, but she still felt that 'Stupefy' was a much better greeting than under the circumstances an instruction to stay still.
She couldn't say she was entirely sure how she was going to stop the foreseen events unfolding. She'd counted, in the darker corners of her mind, on Gabriel's presence, which would in itself change everything. But he was unconscious, back in the common room, so it was just her. She, who was foreseen only barely conscious in a corner, and with no idea of how she'd get there.
So her plan was simple. Not be knocked out. And then... wing it.
It was not, she had to confess, a very good plan, with a life on the line. But it was awfully hard to think on her toes when confronted with two of the most dangerous men in Britain.
Robb's wand flicked to them with unexpected speed, and before Tanith could blink he was flanked by Brynmor. Without noticeable coordination or communication, Robb was focused on Tobias, Brynmor on her, and it was only that which had them focusing on their direct antagonists and spared them their own silent debate on who targeted whom.
"Constable Grey. Miss Cole. A pleasure." Robb gave them a curt, yet seamlessly polite nod. "I would ask you to not interrupt. This is a family matter. I'm just... security, shall we say."
"Yeah?" Tobias gave a short, humourless bark of a laugh. Even in the gloom, with the only light that of the moon and the stars and the sickly green creeping through the gaps in the wooden stands, she could see the clenching of his jaw, and the white in his knuckles from how tightly he gripped his wand. "Well, we're his security."
"I assure you, it's not needed," Robb replied. His own voice was smooth and calm, and he had every image of being in control. Considering his extreme experience compared to them, even though Brynmor was staring at Cal more than the armed pair, it was hard to consider that he was not the one in control.
"Why are you here? Why the Dark Mark, who's been killed?" Tanith asked curtly, her voice as cold as the twisting in her gut. If they could focus on the bigger picture, maybe, on Death Eaters and... people who opposed them, maybe family wouldn't come in to it, maybe...
Robb's gaze flickered languidly to the light and back, and Tanith flinched as she thought Tobias might make his move on that moment. But the Death Eater's attention was back on them again quickly, and he shrugged. "I don't know who threw that up," he confessed with indifference. "That's not my job tonight, that's someone else's business. We're... off-duty."
"It's personal," grunted Brynmor, only now again with his gaze on Tanith, though she wasn't sure she dared kick off against Thanatos even when his attention was half somewhere else. She'd seen him in action and heard enough of his reputation to not doubt his reflexes, even with her training.
"Um... if it's all the same to you, I'd rather have them here for this when you try to butcher me horribly," Cal said, hands raised in defence and a semblance of surrender, voice a few pitches higher than Tanith was used to it being.
That was strange. Cal, scared. Not that she'd ever thought of him as fearless, but he'd always been so solid, so reliable, so ready to dismiss worry with a joke or with reason.
Then again, these weren't normal circumstances.
"Butcher you..." Brynmor stared, head jerking back at his son. "You don't... you think... I'm not here to kill you!" Incredibly, his voice was surprised, even indignant. "You're my son. I'm not going to hurt you!"
There was a long silence, as Cal nervously looked back at the other two, then over at his father. "So... why are you here? To catch up? Because I could have kept writing letters..."
Kept writing...? But Tanith didn't have time to wonder about this before Thanatos took a step forward, and Tobias' wand flickered, and Robb's was raised an inch, and then they were all stock-still again.
"There's business afoot in Hogwarts tonight. Everything should be different in the morn," Robb said, his voice quiet and still very calm. "But we're not here for that. The Dark Lord has granted us boons for our loyalty, for our time in Azkaban as so many of his followers hid."
Brynmor spat on the dusty wooden floorboards. "Cowards, scared of recrimination, not proud enough to declare their loyalty to the one who would make the world better. But we were different. I was different. Fifteen years in Azkaban." His gaze was again locked on Cal, and his son seemed to suppress a shudder.
"I accepted that," Thanatos continued. "But the price was that you, my son, grew up in the hands of the man who murdered your mother and sent me to prison. Brought you up to believe these corrupting ways. The Dark Lord recognises it is not the fault of youths such as yourself for not following him; you were fed lies your whole lives. It is because of my loyalty to him that you are not loyal to me."
Tanith jumped as a spark erupted out the edge of Robb's wand and dust flew up by the feet of Tobias, who had begun to edge around discreetly in what was intended to be a flanking manoeuvre. The Death Eater shook his head and tutted.
"We're being polite by not killing you. Don't give me reason to act. Again." Robb twisted his wand-hand, and the light glinted on the wood. "Your wand has taken quite a shine to me. I'd very much like to test my theory on its potency against you again."
Tobias made a low, angry noise in the back of his throat, and Tanith reached out quickly to place a calming hand on his arm. She could feel every muscle under the robe, taut with fury, but he subsided a little, and stayed still as Robb continued speaking.
"Thanatos here would like us to all remain... civil. Cooperative. Please, my friend, continue."
It was astonishing, Tanith couldn't help but note, how there was actually genuine consideration in Robb's voice as he spoke to the other Death Eater - though she dimly accepted that murderers had to have friends, too.
"The Dark Lord granted me a boon. That tonight we could come here to Hogwarts, when you're away from that dog Rayner, and that I could see you. For the first time properly, after all those years stolen from us." Thanatos hardly seemed to have noticed the interruption, gaze locked on Cal, and Tanith would have sworn she saw a glint of grief in his eyes as the starlight crept through the stand.
"You came here... through the toughest defences in Britain... to see me?" Cal sounded incredulous, and more than a little stunned.
"It's not your fault you believe what you do. It's Rayner's, and the Ministry's. I'm not... angry with you, son, that you never came to the Dark Lord. It's to be expected." Thanatos, in that moment, sounded exactly like what he was - a father - and not at all, to Tanith's ears, like he also was: a cold-blooded murderer. "You are fiercely loyal to these ideals. That's to be commended. You're just... just misguided!"
"Misguided?" Cal's eyes widened. "Misguided to think that half the wizarding populace ought not be brutally killed just for their blood?"
Thanatos' expression didn't so much as flicker. "You seemed a lot more understanding of the arguments in favour of the Old Ways in Idaeus' letters to you in autumn. I hope you haven't just closed the door as you opened your mind..."
"No, I saw sense! Saw that listening to you is to listen to a psychotic criminal!" Cal exploded, hands throwing into the air - but, wandless as he was, nobody twitched in reaction to even this sudden movement.
"I'm your father," Thanatos said calmly, and Tanith saw Cal flinch. "I expected you to react like this. I don't expect it to be easy, but... if you just agree to listen, a little, we can leave tonight, and I can explain things to you..."
"There's nothing to explain!" Cal snapped, hands dropping by his side and clenching into fists. "You kill. You murder. That is the end of it."
"Necessary losses for the greater good," Thanatos argued, with a hint of desperation - then he made a noise of loud frustration, turning away with a scowl. "Damn them! Damn them all!"
Tanith kept her wand fixed on the big Death Eater, trying to keep half her attention on the silent, continuous stand-off between Robb and Tobias to her left where they both stood stock-still and didn't flinch. But beyond Robb, Thanatos Brynmor continued to rave in absolute anguish.
"Fifteen years, and you... they've turned you in to this Muggle-loving weakling who'd see our way of life turn to dust..." Thanatos' eyes were shut tightly as he turned back to face them, expression contorted with grief before he shook his head and looked at Cal again. "Caldwyn. Please. Come with me, away from Hogwarts, and I'll explain it all. Your friends will be unhurt, they're both of good stock, they'll see sense in time..."
Cal's jaw dropped, then closed, then opened again as he tried in absolute shock to form whatever words he could summon in response to this. When he did speak at last, his voice was hoarse and empty, and he shook his head. "I'm... I'm sorry," he said, and sounded like he meant it. "I can't, I won't, but I..." His gaze met Thanatos' uncertainly. "I didn't know you so much as cared."
Thanatos' jaw clenched. "You are my son," he said fiercely, but with audible grief in there. "Are you sure that there is nothing...?"
Astoundingly, he didn't sound aggressive in his defeat. Not even angry, or hostile. Just defeated.
Cal had to have heard this too, because he just shook his head mutely, and looked for all the world like a son who's just disappointed his father and never wanted to.
A groan of raw anger escaped Thanatos' lips, and Tanith almost tried to Stun him there in pure shock and a good degree of fear, holding off only because she knew what a fight would lead to. Then one of the Death Eater's huge fists was thudding into one of the stand's wooden supporting struts next to him, and it felt for a moment like the whole construct shuddered.
But the school had built the stands more sturdy than that, even though they shook around them. And even though the benches above them creaked ominously, the structure stayed intact.
Still, Robb's gaze flickered instinctively upwards, and in that moment, Tobias made his move. Wordlessly a spell erupted from the tip of his wand, a spell which Robb only barely parried in time - and then chaos erupted.
Brynmor fired, Tanith ducked and hid herself behind another of the struts before throwing back a blasting curse, and before she knew it the air was filled with magic. Cal went diving off under cover, unarmed as he was, and to her left, Tobias and Robb were locked in a fierce duel of spells, parries, ripostes, back and forth and flashing in the dark, Robb with the advantage of experience but Tobias seeming to be fuelled by pure rage enough to make it even.
Tanith, however, felt more terrified than angry - terrified for herself, terrified for Gabriel's vision, and so she relied more heavily on her legs than her wand, bobbing and weaving between the wooden struts as Brynmor threw spell after spell at her, and she threw back almost as many which he parried with disheartening ease.
Then on her next dodge she stumbled, and ended up staggering into the spell which Brynmor threw sharply after. She had the briefest moment of clarity and realisation as she went flying through the air, before she thudded with agonising force into the wooden wall at the end of the stand some ten feet back.
She felt ribs crack at the impact, her head snap sharply against the wood. All the air flew from her lungs and her vision exploded before her eyes as she slid to the floor - or, rather, thumped to the floor, and was fairly confident her arm broke in the landing.
So this is how I end up a pile on the floor, she thought, with disturbing detachment - though detached thought was easier than movement, and far less painful as she writhed weakly, insanely trying to disentangle herself from the uncomfortable twist of her body - as if discomfort was somehow worse than the agony of moving.
"You son of a bitch!" she heard Tobias bellow, and idly realised the spell-casting had stopped. Of course it had. Gabriel hadn't mentioned anyone casting at each other yet, had he? They must have stopped when she went flying...
She couldn't see properly, not with the world spinning before her. But if she tilted her head despite the pain... and squinted into the gloom... she could see a twirling vision of four silhouettes standing in the dark.
"Don't worry, Grey," came Brynmor's now rather dull yet angry tones. "She's not dead. I'll show you."
There was a brief, strange surge of pleasure at identifying the point where Gabriel's vision had begun, like getting an answer right in class. Then Brynmor's voice thundered through the stands, and any concept other than blinding pain flew from her mind as her scream of agony was ripped from her torn throat.
She flailed in pain, despite that this made it worse with the injuries, but as if fighting against the invisible tendrils of the spell might do some good. And yet it continued, assailing every inch of her, ripping apart every sense of coherent thought or feeling or notion other than utter agony.
Except for one string of hope, which persisted because she knew it had to happen - that Cal had to dart into the darkness, ignored as he was, had to snatch up his wand from the corner it had dropped in, had to turn it on his father, had to shout...
And the pain stopped - or diminished, at least, for that sort of agony couldn't abate entirely in one instant, and there was still the twisting ache of her broken body she could barely move.
But she had to. Had to do something. Her wand was in her hand, and she could just about raise it - but forming the words of a spell was too much, and wordless casting impossible with this much pain to break her concentration. She could do no more than just writhe there, unable to speak, unable to cast, and just... watch.
Watch, as Cal killed Tobias.
"I am going to kill you." This, however, was Tobias, his voice low and absolutely determined, and through the gloom of the silhouettes and Gabriel's description, she could half-see, half-imagine what was happening.
Brynmor on the ground. Tobias over him, wand as unwavering in his fury. Robb to one side, his wand on Tobias, and then Cal, his wand on Robb. A stand-off where if one moves, someone dies.
Just not in the way any of them, at that moment, could expect.
Then it began.
He'll taunt Tobias…
"What?" Brynmor said with false innocence. "She's not dead. I showed you. A spot in the infirmary and she'll be fine."
He'll taunt him about Annie…
"Oh, yes. But that Mudblood of yours? She's very dead, of course," Brynmor continued, as if he'd only just remembered, and with a darkly mocking edge to his voice. "I don't know why you're so furious with me, it was Robb here who cast the Killing Curse..."
And she could imagine, without seeing, the twist of fury on Tobias' face, even as Robb and Cal would stand there impassively, for now, both of them focused on the moment, on the job, on trying to stay alive as their two friends raged at each other.
"Shut up! I don't care! You're as bad as each other, you murderous filth!" Tobias shouted, grief and rage ripping his voice apart.
"Filth?" Brynmor sounded genuinely offended. "I'm not filth! She was filth! She was vermin to be wiped off the face of the magical map! She was the one who didn't belong! We did the world a favour in eliminating her!"
There was a moment of sputtering in anger before Tobias snapped again. "You lowly, murdering, piece of shit..."
And, as Gabriel had told her, there was a spell. Not the Cruciatus - could Tobias do it, she wondered? Probably, he sounded angry enough - but something enough to make Thanatos Brynmor yell in pain, and for...
...and Cal will remember that Thanatos is his father, after all…
"Tobias! Stop!" Cal sounded shocked, and a little disgusted, and even confused. In the gloom, Tanith could just about see his wand flicker very briefly away from Robb and towards Tobias.
I have to stop this. Have to stop this. Before it's too late.
She moved weakly, and this time, as her hand groped blindly in the dark, seeking purchase and strength, she nudged against something that moved. A tiny box against the wall she lay next to, and in the sort of dumb curiosity of one not thinking straight, she knocked it back towards herself.
"Stop? Why should I bloody well stop? He as good as killed Annie! He just tortured Tanith!"
It was a small box, the type which was padded inside so something fragile could be placed within safely. Her fingers, numb with pain and having difficulty being guided as the world continued to swim in front of her, fumbled with the lid.
Look for the box...
"I know, I know! And... and we'll get the Aurors, and they'll be locked up! But you don't need to hurt him, he's... damn it, he's still my father!"
There was a note inside the box, and with her unbroken arm, the one not holding the wand, she weakly picked it up and brought it near her face.
"And he killed my father, damn it!"
Tanith squinted, through the pain and her swimming vision and the gloom, and tried to read the words in an oddly familiar handwriting.
Underneath the note, she now saw, was a tiny glass vial which held what could only barely be a mouthful of green liquid.
"I did?" Thanatos Brynmor sounded honestly surprised. "When did I do that?"
If possible, Tobias sounded even more furious. "August twelfth, nineteen-seventy-nine! You and two other Death Eaters murdered a house of wizards, then lay in wait for the Para-Healers - then you murdered them, too!"
Her grip was weak as she tried to get the potion out, but she managed to drop it on her chest. The hand holding the wand would be all but useless - and she didn't want to let go of the wand in case she couldn't pick it up again. So she fumbled with the stopper, not easy one-handed at the best of times. Beaten and bloody in the upper levels of the Quidditch stands in the dark was not the best of times.
"So was your father in the house or one of the Para-Healers?" Brynmor gave a short bark of laughter. "I did like lying in wait for them. They always came along so dutifully... but they were cautious, so I couldn't do it too often. Well worth it when I did."
"Toby! Calm the hell down! We'll send for Aurors, we'll..."
"Shut up, Cal! Just... just shut up! You don't know what he's done, it never happened to you...!"
She got the stopper out, and just managed to not pour it over herself - but her hand shook monumentally as she managed to get it to her lips, and drink the whole thing down despite the burning in her chest.
It was like pure adrenaline into her veins the moment she swallowed, like her body fizzed and crackled with energy. The pain was still there, her limbs still twisted, but she could think through it, move through it with enough will force, enough need to...
...and he's been brewing Invigoration Draughts; probably wants to pull some all-nighters...
Tobias was still shouting now, and Cal was shouting back at this point. Her hand holding the wand came up; she wasn't sure she could stand, but cast? Maybe, yes, maybe she could cast.
But cast what? Stun Cal, so he didn't attack Tobias. But then Robb would overcome him. Stun Tobias - and Cal would be beaten. Stun Robb - that would make it worse, then there'd be only Cal to keep Tobias at bay, Robb's wand wouldn't be a worry...
No, she had to do something different, break the moment...
Her eyes landed on the large pile of drapes towards the front of the stand, Ravenclaw colours tidied away outside of a game, ready to be pulled out for the next match.
Her wand shook a little as it came up, but she could point enough at the pile of cloth for her needs. To speak hurt - but she could push through it, push through it just enough to mutter "Incendio."
Dry and warm, the drapes were infinitely flammable. Fire erupted immediately from the end of the stands, overwhelming the shouting wizards and already spreading to the wood of the stand.
Dully, Tanith wondered if setting fire to something while she couldn't walk was a good idea.
There was a shout of a spell from Robb and Tobias went flying back, landing on the floor with a thump and a sputtered curse. Robb adroitly dodged a curse thrown by a surprised Cal, and before he could follow up with another, before Tobias could get to his feet, Robb was pulling Brynmor to his feet and they were running from the flames, down the steps.
They could have given chase – but they didn’t. She heard Cal bellowing at Tobias to do something about the fire, and then his bulky form was over her, silhouetted against the light of the flickering flames, and he picked her up with surprising ease.
Being moved so was incredibly painful, of course, almost overwhelmingly so. Thus she was only barely aware of being jolted around as Cal ran for the stairs; of Tobias in his wake throwing water behind them at the rushing flames to suppress it; of the Dark Mark still glinting in the sky with ominous emerald. Then she slipped into blissful, deep unconsciousness.
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