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Chapter 1 : Prologue: A Hidden Order
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niika | TDA
Beads of sweat dripped from his dark brows. He wiped it away, but it was pointless. Because this sweat was the stubborn kind of sweat. The kind that one got while asleep with a fever that would not break. Or the kind one got when they asked someone on a date for the first time. The sweat kept streaming down into his face. He was running too fast, for too long.
He was anxious.
He had been running since he left the telephone booth outside the Ministry of Magic. It was the beginning of dusk and he had been told to appear like a Muggle jogger. Four miles into the run he reached the Thames River, where he donned a hooded jacket as instructed. The sky was swallowed in darkness by the time he had to cross the Vauxhall Bridge.
One mile left until he reached his destination.
He was thirty. He was at his prime. He could push through the last mile. He had to.
But the humidity was weighing down on him and the heavy jacket only made it worse. While it helped him blend in with the shadows cast by the South Lambeth Road light posts, it was chafing his thick neck and becoming more of a burden with each beat on the damp pavement.
It doesn't matter, he tried to convince himself. He knew better then to remove the hood. It was his shield and he needed it in order to seem insignificant on this night. If his mission required that, then so did his life.
As he continued to run down the street, breathing heavily with each step, he recalled what Dumbledore had told him two weeks ago about this mission. It had been vague enough: he was to protect. But the answers to who or what were left to his imagination.
He was to act the part of a Muggle jogger until he reached the crossroads of South Lambeth, Claphman, and Stockwell. Because no one would expect a Muggle to be on a magic mission, or a jogger to be anything more significant than just that.
Then once he reached his destination, he was supposed to stand and wait for a cue.
One that he wished he knew.
If his past missions revealed any answers: he would be looking for fellow members to gather information from, or he would see some sort of dealing between two wizards and had to record what he observed.
The fact that he didn't know exactly what he was doing put him on edge. Instead he focused on the street names and buildings that marked his purpose. He passed a market on his left and a garage on his right.
Off in the distance he spotted the yellow flash of a traffic light. He slowed his pace. That's when he heard the pitter patter of hard running on the pavement, coming from behind him. He hadn't seen a Muggle in the last half-mile. His heart beat sped up in fear. How had he failed to notice that he was being followed? Or pursued? They were close, if his hearing could be trusted to gauge distance.
The panic in his heart didn't show on his face. His dark blue eyes swept the streets, searching for any reflective surface that would allow him to see behind him, without turning around. Perhaps, he knew that person. Or maybe they weren't following him. Maybe they were the Muggle that actually took this route home every night. Maybe they didn't know they were trying to find him, like he didn't know who he was told to speak with them? Did this person need his protection?
There was one thing that Christoph knew: he wasn't going to gain answers by turning around prematurely. All the person, who was now jogging slowly a few paces behind him, could see was the back of his head. Which was covered by the gray hood. How much could they tell about him based on that or the way he ran?
Nothing, he hoped, nothing.
Only a few more feet and he had to stop, almost reaching his destination. He had no other choice but to follow his instructions. He was sent to protect something or someone or see something important. and he was not going to let this person get in his way. His wand was tucked in a band underneath his t-shirt, vertically aligned to his spine. He thought, I can grab my wand with my right and jab with my left in one good turn.Then he would shove the wand tip to their throat before they could do anything to him.
He looked up at the sky. The moon hung about three quarters in the air. He would be on time. No matter what. Looking ahead, he saw the intersection where he needed to stop. He picked up speed, trying to gain precious seconds that could change his life. He wanted more distance, more reaction time, between him and the other runner.
But they picked up speed and jogged in his shadow. He stopped running abruptly and turned, ready to attack. The other runner tackled him, throwing two thin arms wrapped around his neck. Christoph's Auror instincts kicked in. He yanked at the arms, breaking their grip. Then rolled his body, shoulder first, forcing his attacker to spin with him and take the majority of the impact with their fall.
He hit the ground hard. His left side scraped upon impact. Bleeding was inevitable. He rolled over quickly, taking the moment of his attacker's fall to get his wand out and see if anyone else was there. His attacker whimpered. He didn't care.
With his wand at the ready, his relief that it wasn't broken evident on his face, he scrambled to pin his attacker to the ground. Apparently they had worn a cloak, as they laid on the ground covered in it. They were hurt, moaning, probably bleeding like he was, and were much smaller than him. They weren't a threat. He pressed his left forearm into the person's neck, successfully pining them, and pointed his wand out towards the intersection, checking for their back up again. He knew that an unseen partner could kill him if he did not search the clearing. He wouldn't risk such carelessness.
He looked back down South Lambeth, to see if anyone had been following them. All he saw was the change from red to green in the lights and some liter in the streets. Claphman and Stockwell were just as vacant. Everything stagnant, anticipating. Buildings lurched over with their height, appearing like dark shadows falling into the sidewalks. Lights were aglow outside of the few shorter buildings, homes maybe, apartments and families in danger of this small thing whimpering and scrambling beneath him.
No one was outside. From what he could see, no one was anywhere. It was just him and his attacker. His attacker was still moaning, but he wasn't going to let his guard down, he knew better.
"C-chr…" His attacker coughed, choked. They reached their hands up, grasping, clutching- trying to escape.
He tried to ignore it, waiting for his signal; the reason for being there in the first place. If he was going to meet another member, maybe they could take his attacker in for questioning. Maybe they could get some answers of out this person. Maybe…
"Chr-ristophh!" They screamed, straining their voice. Wriggling their body, shifting their weight. Trying to breathe.
"How do you know my name?" His question was edged with shock.
"Look-" they wheezed.
Reluctant, he lifted his arm from their neck. His attacker's breathing was rapid, seeking air. Christoph did not want to kill someone that the Order could get answers from, or someone that could identify him from his running. He pointed his wand towards their covered face. He could see a dark smudge of blood against the black material. With a grimace, he flicked his wrist quickly, revealing a woman's bleeding face.
Panic rose in his eyes and his mouth dropped in horror, he almost cried out, but kept his voice low, not forgetting his mission, "Why are you here? Why did you follow me?"
"I could have killed you!" He hissed, more upset with every second his heart raced. He couldn't control his heart from pounding loudly in his ears and chest, muddling his thoughts and emotions.
"I had to know where you were going…I wanted to know…" Her eyes were sincere.
"You aren't safe here. Why did you do this?" His hands fumbled as he tried to stay alert and focus on his task, but take care of his loved one. "Can you get up?"
She nodded, but looked torn between anger and confusion and on the brink of tears.
Quickly, Christoph looked up, for a hiding spot between alleyways. He found a small niche behind them and shoved her into the dark passage. He placed her carefully against the wall, to help her regain her balance better. He scanned her face to make sure the wound was only minor. If he had hurt her, he would feel guilty forever.
Blood was matted on across her forehead. The fall had caused her to scrape her head, above her left eye. Every other part of her face was the same as he always would remember and love: small nose and mouth, big wide cheeks, visible laugh lines, and a cute pointed chin. Which trembled with emotion.
"I'm not safe here! What about you? And why wouldn't we be safe here? There's nothing but a rundown orphanage out here!" Her eyes glittered fiercely. He found them hard to look at. Christoph looked out towards the intersection again. There was nothing besides a handful of lights on. Maybe they were safe. But he wanted her out of sight. He would never live with himself if she became a target because she followed him.
"I'm supposed to be here. I am supposed to be protecting someone." He turned back to her. He was close to her face, staring deep into her eyes, trying to express all that he could not say.
"Who? How?" The blood did not cover up the incredulous lift of her eyebrow.
"I-I don't know yet, I'm waiting for a signal." He looked back out towards the clearing. Still there was nothing. No sign of anyone, no sign for him to pick up on.
"This is absurd, Christoph!" She shoved him off her and moved away from the wall. She wiped the blood away from the corner of her eyes with force. Then she ripped the cloak off.
"Use code names, please, love." He moved to wipe the rest of the blood off her face, to touch her, to hold her, and keep her safe. She brushed his hand away from her and took a step back.
"I am Claire and you are Christoph. I don't want to use code names for my own husband, damn it! Or our children for that matter. I'm sick of all this absurdity!"
"Please, use speak softer, someone may hear you," he whispered to emphasize the dire nature of their surroundings. She shut he mouth, but she stared at him like he was a stranger, or something she despised. Any minute they could be caught or killed, why doesn't she realize this?
"If you could follow me, then we aren't safe." He took a deep breathe.
At least she was hidden now, and not knocked unconscious from the fall. But he didn't know what to say that wouldn't make the situation worse. He knew that she had to leave and that he could explain all of this to her later. When they were home, when they were safe, when he could tell her everything she wanted to know without potentially being killed for it.
"You need to go home."
"I need to go home! Have you lost your mind?" She paused, considering the possibilities, but her emotions took over her. Her voice rose with intensity as she screamed at him, "Who would be following you, Christoph? Tell me! I am your wife! When I'm tucking in the children alone at night, they are asking for you and I don't know what to tell them anymore!"
She stopped abruptly. Her voice echoed out into the intersection. Tears started to form in the corners of her eyes. She shut her lips tight, waiting for him to respond to anything she had said.
As guilt slowly washed over him, Christoph has no idea what to do or say to console her. She thought he had abandoned their family. But he was trying to protect them the best way he could by fighting for Dumbledore's cause.
Claire continued to look at him, begging him with her eyes to leave with her.
Christoph did not move or speak. He knew his mission was important. He knew their lives were in jeopardy, especially their son's. He. was sworn to secrecy. He could not tell her anything right now, no matter how hard he tried. She would have to understand later.
"Come home with me?" She whispered, pleading one last time.
He looked at her, she was shaking. Heartbroken. But there was nothing he could do. He shook his head slowly, signaling no, and she stormed out of the alleyway. He moved to grab her and but before he could move to stop her, she screamed. Christoph stepped out into the clearing behind, feeling an air of intensity and rise of panic.
In the few moments that passed, the whole crosswalk was brought to life.
His wife was paralyzed, struck by fear. And, thankfully, not by anyone's curse.
Black cloaks had Apparated from everywhere and one huge mass was forming in the middle. The center cloak was fluttering and swirling in the wind that was created by the multiple Apparations. This cloak was larger than the others and seemed to fall to the ground in a way that suggested the person was hovering or flying mid-air.
He knew who they were, the Death Eaters, but he did not recognize the figure hovering in the middle. Either way, no one seemed to notice him or Claire and he took that as his opportunity to Apparate her home and then come back to fight the Death Eaters. As he grabbed her her, a flash of light filled the crossing. His body lifted in the air. Then he smacked against the brick wall behind him.
Christoph slid to the ground, his hands empty and his head pounding in pain. He tried to open his eyes, but his vision was blurry. He could hear laughter, marching, and more screaming. But he could not see, everything was fuzzy and muddled around him. He shook his head and tried to rummage around for his wand or wife.
He didn't find either.
"Claire? Claire!" He screamed. He was flustered and moved his arms about him. He could feel the cool pavement scratch his fingertips, he could feel debris, and he could suddenly feel heat so intense that he grew afraid.
Blinking rapidly, and feeling the back of his head, checking for blood or sign of concussion. Red and orange blurs colored his vision. He began to panic.
He smelt smoke. He felt around the pavement, but he didn't feel anything remotely wand-like or his wife's figure. He panicked even more and his thoughts grew morbid.
If he couldn't find he wand, then he couldn't stop the fire. If he couldn't stop the fire, then he couldn't protect himself, his wife, or the people who were screaming. He herd so much screaming! when did everything grow so loud? Laughter, alarming, pops, and wind, and ringing. Constant ringing.
He crawled along, yelling, "Claire? Claire? Claire! Where are you? Answer me!"
Christoph couldn't help but think, Where was my protection? Where was my backup?
He felt his failure deep in his bones.
Thoughts? Constructive criticism?
Everything HP-related that you recognize is J.K. Rowling's property. I do not intend any copyright infringement by writing this story. Everything you don't recognize (characters, plot, etc.) are my head canon. Hope you enjoyed!
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