Chapter 4 : Into the Clouds
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“I don’t need to run over this again, do I?” Mad-Eye called to the assembled Order members. “We Disillusion ourselves. You follow me to Potter’s house. We talk more when we get there. You fly by broomstick, and if you can’t fly, you ride a Thestral. Any questions?”
There was a general murmur of assent and Athena picked up her broomstick.
“Nice broom,” Fred observed, coming along beside her.
“Thank you. Dad gave it to me for Christmas last year.”
“Lucky. How was playing Chaser last year?”
“Good. Took a bit of getting used to, but I got far less injuries.”
“Quidditch is no fun without injuries,” he said with a wave of his hand.
“Granted,” she conceded, raising her wand and casting a Disillusionment Charm on herself.
“It’s not Quidditch without a—you’re not here anymore.”
“I’m still here.”
“I forgot how good you are at those. Can you do mine?”
She obliged, rapping him sharply on the head with her wand, and he vanished from sight.
“Whoa, where did I go? Hey George, check it out, I’m invisible!”
“You are not,” George responded, jabbing him in the ribs.
“Quit fooling around,” Moody barked. “Weasley, why aren’t you Disillusioned?”
“I’d never be disillusioned with the Order, Mad-Eye, you should know that.” George sauntered away, casting his own charm as he did so.
Athena had done some weird things in her life, but being Harry Potter definitely took the cake.
“It’s one of those things that if you think about it, it scares you,” Hermione whispered, absently cleaning the pair of glasses Mad-Eye had given her.
Athena nodded emphatically. “Raises a few questions.”
“That don’t need answering.”
“Exactly. You’re going by Thestral, right?”
“Yeah, with Kingsley. You’re with your dad?”
“Of course. He wouldn’t let me go otherwise.”
“You don’t think we’ll run into Death Eaters tonight, do you?” Hermione asked worriedly.
“Of course we will,” Athena replied matter-of-factly. “There’ll be at least a few floating around, but as long as the false trail has gone out, they won’t have everyone in the clouds waiting to ambush us.”
Hermione didn’t look too comforted by this. “How can you be so calm?”
Athena shrugged. “I don’t know. You’ve fought Death Eaters more than I have, and you didn’t end up half-dead on the floor of Hogwarts last time you did, so logically speaking, you should be the calm one and I should be freaking out.”
“You weren’t half-dead.”
“No, you’re right,” she agreed. “I was three-quarters dead.”
“Stop gossiping and lets get moving!” Mad-Eye bellowed in their direction.
“Stick close to me,” Carcius warned Athena as they kicked off into the air. “It’s too still out there. Makes me nervous.”
“Right.” She couldn’t share in his apprehension, feeling a confidence she could only attribute to the Felix Felicis. The sleepless night was beginning to catch up with her, though, and she felt a twinge of anxiety at the thought that if they were attacked, her defences would be compromised because of it. Instantly she began scanning the area more intently, gripping her wand with one hand, and—
“Dad,” she said in a low voice, “Over there, in the clouds.”
At that moment, the heavens erupted in flashes of light and yelling voices. Out of nowhere dark shapes whizzed towards them, surrounding them, scattering the Order members.
“Fly!” Carcius bellowed, wheeling his broom around and tearing through the darkness. Athena followed him, ducking sharply as a jet of green light shot past her and flinging a curse over her shoulder. She had no idea whether it hit, not daring to look back as she followed her father. Curse after curse was flung her way as she ducked, swerved and blocked, no longer able to tell where she was or which direction she was going. Only the glowing tail of her father’s broomstick ahead told her she was going the right way.
“It’s the real Potter!” she heard a voice yell. “He can fly, it’s the real Potter!”
She sped up, spinning as she plummeted downwards. When a glance over her shoulder told her the Death Eaters had mimicked her descent she pulled the broom upwards as sharply as possible—a move she had perfected on the pitch last year—and shot upwards again, watching as the Death Eaters pursuing her spun out of control and fell to the ground below.
What seemed like seconds later she ploughed through the defences surrounding Selwyn House and landed haphazardly in the courtyard.
“You’re alive!” Lucinda cried, running out of the house with Artemis close on her heels.
“Yes,” Athena observed. “Yes, I am indeed.”
“We were ambushed,” Carcius said tiredly, sending the brooms back into the old stable on the opposide side of the courtyard. “I have no idea who got out safely.”
“You’ll soon find out,” Lucinda said, holding out an old iron. “This leaves in twenty seconds.”
“Who’s back?” Athena asked immediately upon arriving at the Burrow.
“Only Harry and Hagrid are back so far,” Ginny replied anxiously. “Poor Harry – Hedwig’s been killed.”
“Hedwig? As in his owl? What happened to her?”
“I don’t know. Did you see anything of the others, Athena?”
She shook her head. “Dad and I were out of there pretty quick. We had a few tailing us, but they crashed to their deaths.”
“Has anyone missed their Portkeys?” Carcius asked Molly.
She nodded. “Ron and Tonks…Fred and Arthur…”
A knot tightened in Athena’s stomach. No, just because they had missed their Portkeys didn’t mean anything. The timing hadn’t allowed for an ambush and resulting battle, it was inevitable some of them would be missed.
She glanced at Ginny, feeling a rush of sympathy. It was all right for her, she didn’t have family out there in the clouds, but Ginny had three brothers and a dad who hadn’t come home yet. Knowing words would be useless, Athena simply joined her in her silent vigil in the yard.
Remus and George appeared, the glow of the Portkey revealing George’s bloodied face in garish detail.
“Mum!” Ginny shrieked, and in seconds a crowd of people were crowded around him, carring him into the sitting room and laying him down on a couch. Remus, eyes blazing with purpose, dragged Harry and Athena into the kitchen, pointing his wand at Harry and asking him what Athena supposed was a security question. Apparently satisfied with his answer, he turned on her.
“What was Athena Selwyn’s Boggart in third year Defence Against the Dark Arts?” he demanded.
“The Imperius Curse,” she replied coolly. “I would appreciate it if you removed your wand from my face.”
“We’ve been betrayed,” he said simply, turning on his heel to interrogate Carcius. “What was the name of your brother?”
Athena sucked in her breath. All she knew of her estranged uncle was that he had become a Death Eater, and her father never spoke of him.
“Antigonus Selwyn,” Carcius replied heavily. “I hope you have a good reason for dredging up that kind of thing.”
Athena Kahlan Antigone Selwyn.
She wasn’t sure whether that answered old questions or asked new ones. But there were more pressing matters than the reasons behind her name at this point.
Hermione, accompanied by Kingley Shacklebolt, was the next to return and Athena, not prone to displays of affection, nevertheless threw her arms around her friend in relief.
“Is Ron back?” Hermione asked anxiously, having hugged Harry.
Ginny shook her head, and Hermione bit her lip, pacing up and down the yard.
Athena maintained her vigil with the other teenagers as the rest of the Order slowly trickled in. Unable to stop herself, she hugged Fred when he came through the door, and it flashed across her mind that he held her longer and tighter than he should have.
She stepped back, embarrassed, and instantly melted into the shadows in the corners of the room. Would it be like this forever? She walked briskly back outside, not wanting to face the questions lingering in the air inside. Eyes trained on the sky above, she hugged her knees and tried to make sense of everything.
Things had happened fast last year, she couldn’t deny that. Maybe it was because from the beginning, she knew things wouldn’t work out with Fred Weasley. They were fine in the summer holidays, when he had bribed George to work extra hours so he could spend time with her, and she helped them with the shop, and the gulf of differences between them wasn’t so obvious.
She wasn’t used to his openness; he wasn’t used to her distance. He tried to understand her, understand the motivations behind what she did and the reasons why she kept him at arm’s length, until she decided she couldn’t make him try anymore. It was their first Hogsmeade weekend, in October. She’d met him at the Three Broomsticks, but instead of staying there, they’d walked around the village while she talked. She hadn’t allowed him to speak, but the fact that he hadn’t tried told her that every word she said rang true. When she’d walked away from him that afternoon, she’d had every intention of steering clear of any romantic involvement for the rest of her time at Hogwarts.
She hadn’t counted on Cassian.
Cassian, Head Boy and Captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team, had begun talking to her after they were both selected for the Slug Club. There was something in his dignified, self-assured manner that had attracted her to him from the start, but for that reason she rejected any advances he made, to the point she was deliberately and unneccessarily rude to him whenever he tried to talk to her. She didn’t know when the pattern of his polite inquiries and her testy responses had given way to debate and banter peppered with razor-sharp wit, but it wasn’t long before she began to look forward to their interaction. Being in Ravenclaw meant she’d never been short of intelligent conversation, but it was Cassian’s ability to sidestep her subtle methods of undermining her opponent that drew her attention. He was more than a match for her, and though she hadn’t spoken to him much at all before that, she felt as though he understood her – the first person she’d come across who did.
She was startled out of her reverie by the arrival of Bill, who swept past her without a word on his way into the house. Feeling a wave of dread, she followed him inside, stopping when she heard his words.
Carcius and Lucinda were silent that evening, sending Athena to bed as if she were a child.
“I’m part of the Order,” she said. “Whatever you want to talk about can be said in front of me.”
“Go to bed, Athena,” Carcius said tiredly. “Please.”
Not wanting to argue, she turned and left, nearly walking into Artemis in the hallway.
“What’s going on?” Artemis whispered.
“Moody’s dead,” she said briefly. By some unspoken agreement, she and Artemis crouched outside the door to listen to their parents.
“This is bad,” Carcius said heavily. “I don’t think…the others don’t realise…without Dumbledore and Mad-Eye, we’re nothing. The Order’s nothing.”
Athena and Artemis exchanged horrified glances. Their father was always the positive one – realistic, but positive. He would never give up on the Order, but to hear him talking like this…
“It’s only a matter of time, Carcius,” Lucinda said quietly. “The resistance is crumbling. The Ministry will fall. It’s a question of when, not if.”
“I know. Maybe…we should get the girls out. Send them to Beauxbatons.”
“Athena would never go. She’ll want to stay and fight.”
“She’ll be killed,” Carcius said flatly.
“She’s survived this long.”
“Barely,” Carcius replied, and Athena knew he was referring to the Battle of Astronomy Tower a few months ago where she’d nearly been killed by Dark magic.
“It’s too late,” Lucinda said. “We’re all in too deep, the Death Eaters will only ask questions if we send the girls to Beauxbatons. Their only hope is to keep their heads down and hope for the best.”
A/N: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to update this story, this chapter's been giving me a lot of trouble. Hopefully you can expect more regular updates from now. I love reviews, so let me know what you think!
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