Chapter 1 : Prologue: A Hidden Order
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All you recognize is J.K. Rowling's property. I do not claim to own them by writing this story. Everything you don't recognize: characters, plot, etc. are mine.
Epic chapter image by niika @ TDA!
Beads of sweat dripped from his dark brows. He wiped it away, but it was pointless. The sweat kept streaming down into his face. 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. 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 looked like a muggle jogger then. 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 sticky 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 hooded jacket. 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 for that matter.
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 could reveal 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. So he started to focus 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 of a traffic light. He slowed his pace to a light jog. That's when he heard someone running 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?
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 real muggle that 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 trying to protect. Was this the person who needed his protection?
Yet there was one thing that Christoph did know: he wasn't going to gain anything by turning around prematurely. All the person, who was now jogging as slowly as he was, 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. He had no other choice but to follow his instructions. He was sent to protect something or someone and he was not going to let this person get in his way. His wand was taped to the inside of his shirt, vertically aligned along his spine. He could grab it with his right hand and punch the person with his left hand as he turned. Then he would shove the wand tip to their throat before they could do anything to him.
He looked towards the sky and noted that 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, ready to attack. Before he could turn around, the runner tackled him from behind. Two thin arms wrapped around his neck and pulled him to the pavement. Like he learned in Auror training, he instinctively pulled at the arms, trying to loosen their grip. As he fell down to the ground, he turned his body to the side, which forced his attacker to spin with him and take the fall too.
He hit the ground hard. The left side of his face was scraped upon impact. He knew bleeding was inevitable. He rolled over quickly, taking the moment of his attacker's fall to break their hold on his neck and get his wand out. He heard his attacker whimper. But he didn't care.
He got his wand and was surprised it wasn't broken. Scrambling to where his attacker was still laying, Christoph trapped the cloak covered body with his left arm around their neck, and pointed his wand out towards the intersection.
He had his attacker pinned, he knew it. They were hurt, moaning, probably bleeding like he was, and were much smaller than him. They weren't a threat. He checked for their back up. He knew that their partner could kill him if he was careless again and did not search the clearing.
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. Only lights were aglow outside of the few shorter buildings, homes maybe, apartments and families.
No one was outside. From what he could see, no one was anywhere. It was just him and his attacker, and they were on the ground. His attacker was still moaning in his ear, but he wasn't going to let his guard down, he knew better.
"C-chr…" His attacker coughed, chocked. They reached their hands up, grasping, clutching- trying to escape.
He paid them no attention. He was 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 from the Order. He pointed his wand towards their covered face. He could see the dark gush of blood against the black material. With one whisper and a quick flick of his wand the cloak was removed, revealing the bleeding woman's face.
Panic rose in his eyes and his mouth dropped in horror. "Why are you here? Why did you follow me?"
"I had to know where you were going…I wanted to know…" Her eyes were sincere.
He couldn't control his heart from pounding loudly in his ears and chest. His hands began to fumble as he tried to stay alert and focus on his task, but take care of his loved one. "You aren't safe here. Why did you do this?"
Quickly, Christoph looked for a hiding spot. He found a small niche behind them and shoved her into the dark passage. He pushed her up against the wall so she could regain her balance better. He scanned her face to make sure the wound was only minor. If he had hurt her, he would forever feel guilty.
Blood was slowly trickling down her face and her beautiful brown eyes were surrounded by caked red smudges. The fall had caused her to scrap her head, above her left eye. Every other part of her face was the same as he always would remember and love: small features, big cheeks, visible laugh lines, and a cute double chin.
"I'm not safe here! What about you? And why wouldn't we be safe here? There's nothing but a run down orphanage out here!" Her eyes became alit with anger.
With her words, he 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 code names," he tried again. She continued to stare at him with fury in her eyes, like he was a stranger or something she despised. He could tell that she didn't know what she got herself into. 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, 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 barmy 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.
He 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, 'N-O', and she stormed out of the alleyway without another word.
Before he could move to stop her, to protect her, she screamed. Christoph ran from their hiding place, but what he saw scared him. His wife was paralyzed, struck by horror, but not by anyone's curse.
In the few moments that passed, the whole crosswalk was brought to life.
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 hide her. As he grabbed her hand and tried to run away, a flash of light filled the intersection. He felt his whole body being 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 couldn't see. He could hear laughter, marching, and more screaming. But he could not see. 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.
Timidly, he tried to open his eyes, but his vision was still fuzzy. Blinking rapidly, all he could see was a giant roaring red and orange blur that was consuming the street, one building at a time. Half of South Lambeth had been eaten by fire and the black cloaks were nowhere to been seen. He began to panic.
He needed to stop the fire. He looked all around him to try and find his wand. But he didn't feel anything remotely stick-like. 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 sat still on the pavement. The growing heat was starting to make him sweat. He looked around and yelled again, "Claire? Claire?
"Claire! Where are you?"
He couldn't distinguish between the different sounds. He couldn't see anything, but bright fiery blurs consuming all darkness.
He didn't know what to do and Christoph couldn't help but think, Where was my protection? Where was my backup?
He knew it, he had failed.
Thoughts? Constructive criticism?