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Falls the Shadow by Slide
Chapter 7 : The Abyss
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2


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The next morning was greeted with a thumping headache. First from the alcohol, enough to make her regret having drunk it, and then from the thoughts that entered her brain along with consciousness. Dark thoughts, dark imaginings, of the impossible and unthinkable having happened...

 
Then Tanith had realised that these were memories, not thoughts, and she'd sat bolt upright in her bed.
This, too, had come with regrets. But she'd nevertheless hauled herself out of bed, found her dressing gown, and stumbled into Cal's room.

It was remarkable that his father had been thoughtful enough to put him to bed after beating him into unconsciousness. But it had saved Tanith the effort of doing that herself, with aching limbs, a burning throat, and a swimming head.

But her friend had drifted from unconsciousness to sleep. And he was probably best off that way.


So she had done the only thing she could think of doing: had dressed in her uniform and gone to work.

A thought had idly tugged at her for consideration of the idea that she should run - hide, flee the country. It hadn't been given much attention.

But she had nevertheless almost collapsed with relief when she'd entered the lobby of the MLE Department building - not quite up to braving their offices in the Ministry of Magic itself - and had found it empty except for Jacob Van Roden.

'What the hell is going on?' she hissed as she hurried over towards him, voice holding all of her quiet panic and intense confusion.

Jacob looked pale as he saw her, having evidently been pacing to and fro across the lobby. His breath caught before he could answer, and then by the time she reached him it looked as if he'd given up on words all together, and just stepped forward to pull her to him in a rather desperate hug.

For a moment all Tanith could do was stand there numbly, not really sure of how to react - then her hands reached around Jacob to hold him closer, and as she buried her face in his chest she could feel her shoulders beginning to shake treacherously.

Even when she spoke, her voice was unreliable. '...what's happened?' she asked again tremulously.

It took Jacob a few moments to gather his own composure, but he didn't let her go, mumbling only barely above his breath. 'Rufus Scrimgeour is dead,' he told her. 'There was a Death Eater attack last night and they murdered him. Pius Thicknesse seized the position as Minister of Magic with his emergency powers, only to promptly pardon all of the Death Eaters there and then, and have them arrest anyone who attempted to object.

'Every dark wizard in Azkaban has been let out and granted clemency. Many of them have been given high ranking posts within the Ministry as the previous holders refused to cooperate, or were found otherwise unsuitable. And the order has gone out for every Muggle-born witch and wizard to be arrested.'

Tanith's breath caught. 'Nat,' she whispered.

Jacob drew back, eyes widening. 'Where is she?'

'They got her last night.' Tanith chewed on her lip. 'Brynmor and Robb, Jake, they're out, they were waiting for us in our flat last night.'

'Cal?' Jacob frowned deeply.

'We fought them, he's still asleep at home - I checked him over, he'll be fine, but I didn't want to wake him... Jake, what the hell do we do?'

Tanith wasn't unaccustomed to fear. It had become a common ally, both before her Auror training and since. What she wasn't so familiar with was the helplessness which ran alongside this fear, the utter uncertainty and vulnerability.

'There's nothing we can do,' Jacob told her emptily. 'All international travel has been stopped. And I'm not - I'm not running.' He drew a deep, uncertain breath. 'Yaxley is the new head of the MLE,' he said at last.

'Mister I-treat-Azkaban-like-it's-got-a-revolving-door Yaxley?' Tanith asked sharply, pulling back with a start.
'That ain't his official title,' a voice came from the door leading down to the Auror office, and they both whirled around abruptly to see, standing there, the tall, broad figure of Thanatos Brynmor.

Tanith's lip curled and her hand came down swiftly to her holstered wand. 'You-'

'I wouldn't do that, Missy.' It was quite surprising when Tanith realised that, out of the four times she'd met Thanatos Brynmor, this was the first time it had happened in broad daylight. And the similarities between him and Cal were all the more startling. The size, for one. The bristly dark hair. The strong jaw-line.

The smile, on Cal reserved for when he was particularly pleased with himself for some joke or achievement or another. But on his father it took an altogether more sinister, vicious edge.

'It'd be a terrible idea if you went to try and kill your boss,' Brynmor continued, stepping forward and spreading his hands.

'My what?' Tanith didn't release her wand, but she did lower it to her side. It wasn't a conscious decision. Evidently some survival instincts had remained intact, however.

'Mister Yaxley - indeed, our new head of the MLE - has appointed me in charge of the new Dissident Detection Division. DDD, isn't that an easy acronym to remember?' Brynmor clapped his hands together with some satisfaction. 'A large portion of the old Auror wing are being reassigned as Detectors.'

Tanith blinked at him, the coldness in her gut only increasing. She had expected to come here to find herself imprisoned at worst, kicked out at best. One thing she hadn't considered was the idea that she was going to be expected to stay working for the Ministry.

Suddenly Jennifer Riley's attitude of the previous evening didn't seem so outrageous. It did, though, feel like it had happened a lifetime ago.

She drew a deep breath. '"Detectors" is a silly word.' It was also a silly thing to say, but truth be told she couldn't think of anything else.

'And now you're one of them.' It was such a simple, good-natured rebuke that Tanith couldn't help but again be reminded of Cal, and she repressed a shiver. 'You and Van Roden here. And a few of the others.'

'Detecting dissidents.' Jacob's voice remained empty, and Tanith glanced over at him. It was clear he recognised Brynmor, but then his face had been plastered all over dozens of wanted posters in and arond the office. She didn't think he'd met the man in the flesh before. 'What's that going to entail?'

'Just what it says,' Brynmor countered. 'Hunting down dissidents. Those who stand against the state, against the rule of the Ministry. They are opposing the cultural and social growth of the British magical people and they bring danger and death with them. I thought you two had been Aurors?' He smiled, and this one was not a smile like anything Cal ever wore. It was altogether more unpleasant, more vicious, and it certainly didn't reach Brynmor's eyes.

Hearing him echoing the sentiment which had previously been so freely uttered about people like him was enough for a fresh shiver down Tanith's spine.

'What happens if we don't want to be members of the DDD?' Jacob asked. Tanith was not used to lacking in nerve, but she could not help but feel relieved that he was asking questions she couldn't quite bring herself to.

'In times of emergency the MLE Department has the authority to reject resignations,' Brynmor said, and the irony that the escaped convict was quoting legal procedure at them was not lost on Tanith. 'I wouldn't try to run away, either, for a Ministry official to go AWOL is a matter of serious import. It's the kind of thing we'd have to get families involved in.'

Tanith's shoulders tensed, and her head snapped up. 'You wouldn't-'

'Then don't run away,' Brynmor countered calmly. 'It really is as simple as that.'

She hesitated. 'What's happened to the Muggle-Borns? Why are they arrested?' She knew why, of course, but there seemed to actually be some pretence of legitimacy from the Death Eaters and this coup d’état. Granted, she doubted it would last, but they'd bothered to pardon their membership, bothered to keep Thicknesse as the Minister instead of just declaring Voldemort the Lord of Britain. It was probably just to keep international relations calm, but the pretence was there.

'Because they are not witches or wizards,' Brynmor said, raising his eyebrows. 'New evidence and studies have proven that magic can only be inherited. It is impossible for a child to be born with magical capability without at least one wizarding recent ancestor.'

She squinted.'...then where do you think they got it from, the Easter Bunny?'

'They stole it.' Brynmor didn't even look like he was bothering to pretend to believe this. 'They stole their power off trueborn witches and wizards. It's horrible, really, they should be locked up.'

'You think eleven year-olds stole magic?' Jacob stared at him.

Brynmor turned sharply to face him, and Jacob ended up taking a step back, so suddenly tall was the Death Eater, and even in the bright summer sunlight abruptly dark and intimidating in stature. It wasn't a spell, but with just a look Tanith could feel her spine turning to jelly, and she could only suppose that a man did not survive Azkaban for fifteen years without some serious mettle.

'I think I will do what must be done to save wizarding society,' Brynmor thundered. 'If that means removing those who stand against our very way of life, I will do it.' He scratched his nose, the anger fading somewhat, but his deep frown remained even as his voice turned threateningly flippant. 'I don't think we have much more to discuss. It's a weekend. You should both be at home. I'm a manager, I have to work on a Saturday, but how about I see you both bright and early on Monday?'

They didn't reply, either of them, just turned to go, heading for the big doors that led out into the streets of London, from where they would have to apparate back to Diagon Alley.

But before they got there, there was the squeaking of shoes on over-polished floors, and Tanith looked over her shoulder back at Brynmor, who had a certain expectant expression on his face.

'One moment, Cole,' he said, and she stopped, turning not without a small amount of apprehension.

'Yes? Sir?' Tanith had long had practice from school at injecting one single word with as much hatred and disrespect as was possible. She called on all of those Hogwarts lessons now.

'My good friend Robb is going to be working with us, but his particular priority is dealing with dissidents abroad who might be working against the government from there and would need hunting down.' He tilted his head very slightly. 'If you get any valuable information, you will be sure to cooperate with Mister Robb, no?'

Tobias. Tanith's heart thundered in her chest, and she drew a little, shocked breath before she straightened up and nodded. '...of course I would, sir.'

'Of course you would.' Brynmor's smile didn't quite reach his eyes. 'Don't worry. Any of these individuals will be brought to justice. The harshest justice.' Then his smile broke, and looked halfway pleasant in a way which was a mockery to all pleasantries. 'Have a good weekend.'

They left without being stopped, apparated to Diagon Alley without thinking. Tanith had just gone straight to the office that morning, but now she wanted to see, wanted a clearer idea of what was going on.

A lot of it she had missed in the dark the previous night. The broken windows. The scared faces hiding behind curtains. All of the shops were closed, some just with shutters down, others looking as if they had been too vandalised to even think about it. A robes shop Tanith knew had been owned by a Muggle-born witch was now just a burnt-out husk of a building.

Even Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes was shut.

Jacob came to a halt as they reached her door, turning to face her. 'Do you want me to come up and see Cal?'

She hesitated. 'I think... actually, with Nat gone? I think he'll need everyone around him right now.'

Jacob actually looked a little relieved, and she realised he had probably been asking for himself as much as for her. He lived alone, and it couldn't be a pleasant sensation to sit without company over the coming hours, days, as news and facts and changes trickled in and the future was so uncertain.

They trooped upstairs, past the doors to the solicitors' office which were locked - though that was not so unusual on a Saturday - and eventually into the familiar confines of the flat.

The curtains were still drawn, the lights still off, and all was absolutely silent. One of the small coffee tables was still tipped over, and a picture on the windowsill near where Tanith had been thrown against the wall was smashed.

She hadn't really stopped to tidy up that morning.

And she didn't stop now, not even pausing to take her coat off as she hurried towards Cal's bedroom. She waited only long enough to give a tentative knock before pushing the door open and stepping in.

It was dark, but she could see the shape above the covers, just where he'd been left the night before. Tanith glanced over her shoulder and nodded at Jacob, who padded over and followed her in; she'd administered what first aid charms she knew, but he had always been better at it than her.

The tip of Jacob's wand lit up as he ran it over Cal, from whom the only motion was the deep, rhythmic rise and fall of his chest for which Tanith was still eternally grateful. She wasn't sure what she'd have done the night before if somethin had seemed seriously wrong.

'He's just sleeping. It looks like your charms stopped him from having a concussion or anything.'

Tanith nodded, before reaching over to touch Cal's shoulder gently. That didn't elicit a reaction, and she couldn't help but be dimly amused at how, when the world was making her feel like she couldn't cope with doing anything but tentatively,  Cal would still sleep like a log.

So she shook him, as she had dozens of times before to wake him, both in this flat and when she'd wanted something from him in school. 'Cal! Cal!'

He made a small noise of protest, his eyelids fluttering but not opening, and a meaty hand reached out to bat weakly at hers. 'Don't wanna go to Potions...'

It looked like she was not the only one to feel somewhat nostalgic from the gesture. 'You're not at school, Cal...'

Then she felt guilty for having reminded him of this, as Cal's eyes abruptly snapped open, first seeing nothing, then locking on her. He sat up sharply, looking dimly like he regretted it but doing nothing more than grimacing, and his eyes widened.

'What happened? Where's Nat?' He grimaced more as recollection seemed to set in, and then he sagged, leaning forward to bury his face in his hands.

'Azkaban,' he said mournfully, the word itself sounding like a death sentence when uttered aloud. 'Azkaban, and Death Eaters, and my father, and... and holy crap.'

It took some time before Cal looked up, and when he did, his eyes were no more clear, no less afraid, no less overwhelmed than before. He gave a distraught sniff, and looked between the two of them. 'What are we going to do?'

Jacob sighed, sitting on the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped. Whatever strength he had been in possession of earlier seemed to fade, and the older Auror eventually just shrugged. 'I... I don't know.'

Tanith looked between the two of them, two of the strongest people she knew, and just the sight of their despair was enough to have her almost join them in it.

But she could not. They could not.

She drew a deep breath. 'I know what we're going to do,' Tanith said quietly, and gave a small smile with rather forced confidence as they looked over at her in confusion.

'Fight.'







'It is, as they say, home sweet home,' Dimitri said as he pushed open the door and stepped into the large apartment. Tastefully and modernly furnished, it was decidedly expansive, the floors lined with thick, plush carpets and the walls littered with artwork that Tobias didn't even begin to recognise.

Stepping into the room behind him, Aurora drew a deep breath. 'This is one of the Ambassadorial family suites,' she said, sounding somewhat reverent.

'Technically it is the suite set aside for the British Ambassador,' Dimitri said chirpily. 'But since Ambassador Clint has had his own residence for some years, and now the Federation will not be granting full hospitality to any British emissaries, then it was thought that the two of you could use it.'

Tobias wandered around the room, gaze scanning the pictures especially - old, moving wizarding portraits presumably Russian in origin - and let out a low whistle. 'That's quite an insult to Britain.'

'That we are giving two political refugees the hospitality we would give an ambassador? Yes, it is.' Dimitri grinned toothily. 'It was judged... appropriate.'

'I was surprised,' Aurora confessed as she began to pace the room, 'that the Federation took our side so effectively.'

'There were records,' Dimitri said, 'of the fight in the embassy, and the fight in the flat corridor. If the Death Eater had lived, or if Ambassador Clint had not been intercepted, then it is thought likely those records would have been destroyed. But you were fast enough, and so they were not, and so a man in a Death Eater mask trying to kill you on behalf of Ambassador Clint was enough to send him, and not you, back to Britain.'

'For which we're rather grateful,' Tobias mumbled. 'Considering reports coming out.'

It had been a few days since that desperate night. In that time the two had been put under security which was practically imprisonment as the Federation did their best to figure out just what was going on with Britain, and their ambassadorial service.

But it hadn't taken long before the reports had emerged. In dribs and drabs and with nothing substantial enough to justify international action, but it had become clear that people were fleeing Britain, and that the insurrectionists in that country had just become an illegal government.

Most of mainland Europe had welcomed refugees with open arms and begun to close its borders against wizarding Britain. Some corners of Eastern Europe, still struggling themselves against dark magic, had remained rather more neutral. Russia, somewhat further emerged from its dark history, was a little more judicious. That they would still accept foreign communication with Britain was expected, as it would appease the more traditional elements of their society, but the decision had been rapidly made that they could not hand over any political refugees.

'Your friends in high places have helped,' Dimitri admitted. 'I do not think that a message from the French ambassador hurt at all.'

Aurora glanced over at Tobias, eyebrow raised. 'I meant to ask you about that,' she said levelly. 'What did you do to make the French love you? Surrender?'

Tobias rolled his eyes. 'Funny,' he said dryly, before patting his pocket. 'No. I was as surprised as you. But it looks like I will need to send my mother a letter of thanks.'

Dimitri frowned. 'Your mother?'

'I thought she worked at Gringotts?'

'She does.' Tobias gave a lopsided smile. 'And is apparently more influential there than I figured, or at least has contacts who can write to the French Council of Magic to make a plea on her behalf.'

'The French have no love for dark magic,' Aurora mused. 'I suppose they would have welcomed any opportunity to make a public fuss against the Ministry.'

'Still!' Dimitri grinned. 'I am just glad you are not being sent back there.'

'I can't deny I'm quite chirpy myself.' Tobias nodded, looking around the room. 'This is some place.'

'Yes!' Dimitri nodded, then moved to the centre of the room. 'It has the latest in developed magical kitchens, fully stocked. The view is of the park, but it can be enchanted to give you a view of anywhere in the city. Three bedrooms - the master bedroom, the guest bedroom, and I am sorry that the third is made ready for children, though I assume that would not be too much of a problem for you.'

'I think we'll manage,' Aurora said dryly.

'Yes. I will continue to liaise with you both, too.' Dimitri nodded firmly. 'Since I am the most familiar with modern British politics in the department I have still been posted to monitor this situation and to continue to keep you and the Federation appraised of what is going on.'

'Good. I'd hate to have to get used to a whole new enthusiastic Russian,' said Tobias.

Dimitri's grin broadened. 'Everything we can provide for you, we will. We shall keep the kitchen stocked, provide laundry services, and other day-to-day support. Unfortunately anything else you shall have to provide yourselves. For now, also, you are requested to not leave the city of Moscow or your statuses as political refugees will have to be re-evaluated.'

'I wasn't planning on going sight-seeing,' Tobias agreed. 'But I have a horrible feeling the Ministry is going to have tried to seize all of our assets.'

Aurora snorted. '"Try", here, is the operative word. You think the goblins of Gringotts are going to let the government interfere with their accounts?'

'Good point.' Tobias sighed.

Dimitri nodded. 'You both know where you can find me if you are needing anything more. It seems I am here to be your... whipping boy, yes?'

There was a smirk from Aurora. 'Some things don't change, then.'

'It would seem not.' Dimitri smiled again. 'I will let you both get settled in,' he told them, before turning to leave.

Aurora sighed once he was gone, moving to collapse on one of the large, over-stuffed sofas. 'At least that part's over.'

'I'm hardly relaxing,' Tobias said with a wince. 'This could still change at any moment. I don't fancy being deported directly to Azkaban.'

She shook her head. 'The Russians aren't in the habit of bowing to dark magic-supporting governments. We'll be fine. The problem would just be if they'd have let Clint take us before they knew what was going on.'

'Ugh.' Tobias rubbed his forehead, still pacing across the floor. 'Did I really vomit on him?'

'Considering the pain you must have been in, from the state of you when we got you to hospital,' Aurora said, watching him move, 'it's not so surprising that you did. I was surprised you didn't pass out first.'

'Invigoration charm,' Tobias said, giving a lopsided smile. 'When I was down in the corridor.' He looked away, gaze torn towards the impressive vista of Moscow that was beyond the windows.

'Clever.'

His expression went wistful. 'A trick learnt from an old friend.'

'I suppose that's why you collapsed at the end, anyway, pushing through that.' Aurora straightened a little. 'Really, Tobias, sit down. You'll wear a hole in the carpet.'

He stopped, and realised he was still pacing quite intently. There was a moment, then he nodded sheepishly, going to sit next to her on the sofa. 'Sorry. I just... don't feel like this is over.'

'We're still in a foreign country, at the whims of their government, because our home nation would have us locked up at best if we went home.' Aurora bit her lip. 'I think this is far from over.'

Tobias leaned forward, scrubbing his face with his hands. 'And what? We just sit here?'

'Well, hopefully,' Aurora began, 'our example will filter out and allow or encourage other refugees to flee. I intend to work on my contacts here in Russia to try to get them to do everything they can for Brits leaving the country.'

'So we help people run away?' Tobias said, with no small amount of frustration as he drew his hands down across his face. 'That's our great solution?'

'It's not like we're going to be able to fix Britain single-handedly. Or double-handedly,' Aurora pointed out gently. 'But we certainly can't do anything to fix it from Moscow.’ She lifted a hand as he straightened up. 'And you are not going back there.'

Tobias stood again. 'Why not? I reckon we could sneak into the country, it can't be that hard - I don't think the Death Eaters would know how to supervise Muggle transport routes if they wanted to!'

'And then what? You get yourself captured and killed?' Aurora leapt to her feet also, but unlike him her voice wasn't raised - just calm, level, and absolutely determined. 'How is that going to help matters?'

'Funnily enough, I wasn't planning on that happening.'

'As opposed to all the people in Azkaban right now who were?' she challenged quietly. 'Tobias, listen to yourself. There will be people in Britain right now, on the run, or working from the inside, to do something about this government.'

'And I should be there with them!' he interjected, throwing his hands in the air in frustration.

'And be what? Just another person on the run? When you're one of the only people here,' Aurora pointed out.
'What good is being here?'

'It's all the good you make it.' Silence met her words, silence as Tobias scowled at her and as Aurora drew a deep, thoughtful breath. 'Dimitri is finding out all he can. He will tell us when there's news, you can trust him. You know you can.'

'And what can I do with that-'

He stopped as she lifted a hand, expression somewhat impatient, and for the first time Tobias actually felt like a child. So far she had always trusted him with respect, with courtesy, and treated him like an equal even though he wasn't sure he was.

But, finally, the weight of her greater age and presumably wisdom was being brought down on his shoulders, and he couldn't help but feel sheepish.

'You are in an unique position here,' Aurora told him. 'From here we can react as the information comes in. Perhaps feeding that information to people who would be fighting on the inside. Helping refugees is no irrelevant goal. Working to try to get other countries to lend aid - that's something we could never do from in Britain. No, I don't know what the answer is yet, but throwing ourselves in danger is not it.'

Tobias looked down at the handsome burgundy carpet, and felt rather silly. 'I wasn't intending on dragging you back with me.'

Aurora gave a small smile. 'I can imagine not. But I would have gone with you all the same. I can't exactly let you throw yourself into mortal danger on your own, can I?'

He nodded, shoving his hands in his pockets, and felt his mother's letter there. He should reply, really. Short as it had been, she had still taken the time to write to tell him she was well, that Gringotts was making sure she could stay in France, but that she didn't have the freedom to come and see him right now and she doubted he had the freedom himself.

So for now he would stay in Russia and his mother would stay in France. But, at least, this meant his family were safe. His paternal grandparents were Muggles, and they wouldn't be affected by what was going on. Their son the wizard was long dead. Nothing would drag them into magical matters. And his mother's family, the Harts, were a good, pure-blood family. Their one aberration of a daughter had been suitably disowned and was out of the country. They would not be the first family to have a blot on their record - there were few pure-blood families that did not - and so Tobias doubted they would be in danger.

He also found it hard to care, considering how they had treated his mother over the years.

As such, that only left a handful of people whose health he was concerned about in particular still in the country. Doyle was abroad. He mostly hoped Nat was well for Cal's sake. But Cal himself... whatever Cal's father would do was probably not set to be pleasant. But he would not be harmed, Tobias was confident. That just left...

Tanith...

What would they do to an Auror? Would her family name be enough to keep her safe?

Tobias' hand clenched by his side. 'Damn it,' he muttered, head bowing. 'I just... I hate standing by and waiting.'

'It is the hardest part,' Aurora agreed gently. 'But then... I perhaps shouldn't lecture you. In the wars I have served behind desks, or trying to help from abroad. You, on the other hand, left school to join the MLE.' She gave a small smile. 'You should be lecturing me on what to do.'

'No, I... you're right.' He lifted his head unhappily. 'I just want to be there. With my friends. I feel like I'm abandoning them.'

Her hand reached out to rest on his forearm, and slowly the tension in his shoulders faded for him to unclench his hand. 'That's because you're a good friend,' she told him gently.

Tobias looked down at the hand on his arm, then lifted his own to cover it, gentle and apprehensive. 'I left them behind before for... what? Duty?'

'That doesn't make you a bad friend. It makes you a good man.'

He gave a short, humourless laugh. 'That part I'm even less sure of.' Tobias frowned, running a hand through his hair. It had grown in the time since he'd left the MLE, losing the edge of the short, professional, almost military trim. Now it was back to about as whispy as it had been before he'd left Hogwarts, and he knew that it didn't help him look more respectable.

Then again, neither did the arch in his nose from when Cal had broken it, and from when he'd cast his spell to fix it only rather poorly. He could have fixed it. But it had always served as a strong reminder of what happened when he let his fear get the better of his trust.

'Thank you,' he told Aurora at last, lifting his head. 'I know I get... wound up. I know I over-think some things sometimes. It's been a while since I was around someone who could help sift through that.'

She gave a small, tight smile. 'I think I would be doing plenty of panicking myself if you weren't here,' she confessed with a shrug. 'And, to be honest, I'd be dead if it weren't for you. That Death Eater would have got me.'

He just shrugged, but she cut him off before he could express further modesty. 'Truth be told, it's been a while since I've been in any kind of fight. Since I've needed to cast with my life on the line. I'm rusty.' Aurora hesitated. 'No. I'm untrained. There's no way I could have fought through the pain you did that night. There's no way I'm as fast as you.'

'I'm not the fastest,' Tobias insisted, still thinking of Tanith. Whilst he could dance rings around her when it came to theory, when it came to potions, even when it came to single, complicated spells and raw power, when it came to wits, and speed, and sheer guts and ingenuity, he would never fancy trying to take on Tanith. Not again.

'But this might not be the first time we end up in a fight,' Aurora pointed out. 'So I had best practice.' She tilted her head a little. 'I practice better with a teacher.'

'I'm not the fastest,' he repeated, but it was with a certain wry, dawning awareness. 'But I'm what you've got.' Tobias sighed, and nodded. 'Alright. I'll teach you. We'll train. I just hope... I hope we don't need it again.'


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