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Vital by Aderyn
Chapter 20 : Chapter 20
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 5

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image by me (laelia @ TDA)

Chapter 20

Tendrils of flame danced out from the doorway, searching for fuel.  Sparks drifted to land on Elena’s clothing and settle in her hair and yet she did not move.

A hand reached out and snatched Elena back, pulling her away from the inferno. She stumbled, suddenly feeling the sting of the tiny burns left by each touch of fire.

The same hands spun her around, so that she was facing a group of concerned faces. “What happened?” Corinne asked sharply. 

Elena coughed her throat, hoarse from the smoke. “The Lestranges are coming,” she said in a soft voice. She felt dazed, her mind as hazy and sluggish as the smoke-filled air.

She remembered she need to say more—about Simon—but at those words, the other Aurors broke out in anxious cries. “How do you know?” Frank demanded, looking dangerous.

“Two other Death Eaters called them,” Elena responded, still speaking slowly. “But—” She tried to tell them, again that Simon was still trapped, but the others talked above her.

Moody’s eye was moving so fast that Elena couldn’t make sense of where it was. How could he see anything if he didn't stop for a second to look at it? “I don’t see what the fuss is,” he growled, contorting his face into a grimace. “We outnumber them.”

The others, however, still looked perturbed. “These aren’t the kinds of numbers I like, Alastor,” Frank said, with a glance at Alice. His tone had lost some of it's earlier edge, but Elena still thought he seemed rather menacing.

“Elena,” Alice asked suddenly, not looking at her husband. “Where’s Simon?”

“Inside,” Elena tried to yell, but only managed a whisper. 

Slowly, the gazes of the four shifted towards the burning building. “What?” Corinne said in a toneless voice.

“I was supposed to get help,” Elena said, trying to explain why she had left him behind, but the words seemed foolish as she spoke them.

“They won’t fight here,” Moody continued, as if Elena had never spoken. “The Ministry will already come for this fire, I suspect. They’ll try to draw us away.”

Frank and Alice watched Moody with twin attentive gazes, as if awaiting orders. Elena, however, was able to catch Corinne’s eye. The other woman gave a slight nod at Elena and tucked a strand of her dark hair behind her ears.

“Where is he?” Corinne asked in a voice pitched lower than Moody’s.

Elena took a step away from the group. “Hiding in the store. I came to get help and the fire followed me. I don’t know where it started.” Her mind was starting to clear, her alarm for Simon's well being destroying the numbness.

Corinne nodded once and gestured to Elena to follow her. Then, without saying another word, she began to run towards the front of the store, though she was careful to avoid the flaming rear entrance. Elena gripped her wand tightly as she followed Corinne to the main street, ignoring the questions Alice and Frank called out. If they hadn’t cared enough to save Simon when she had first told them, she wouldn’t waste time explaining to them now.

Already, there was a small crowd of people a fair distance back from the store but none of them seemed to be doing anything to stop the fire, though, from the front of the store, it wasn’t so dramatic. Only a large plume of smoke gave evidence to its true severity.

Corinne stopped and looked around warily. “I don’t see the men who followed us,” Elena said, carefully examining the crowd. Of course, it was possible that they were inside, but more likely they had fled, deciding to let the Lestranges handle this fight.

“Alright,” Corinne nodded and looked at the building, as if deciding if it were safe to enter. She was silent, before turning to face Elena. “You know,” she said softly, “you don’t have to worry about Simon. He is going to be fine.”

The amount of care in Corinne’s voice surprised Elena. “Thank you,” Elena replied, almost wanting to hug Corinne. Hearing her reassurance meant that Simon had to be safe.

Corinne gave a small smile. “Ready?” she asked.

“Of course.”

With that, Corinne ran towards the door of the store. She didn’t bother with an unlocking spell, but rather blasted lock away into pieces. Elena ducked the fragments of metal and choked as a wave of smoke rolled out of the door.

Corinne didn’t hesitate to enter and with one last deep breath, Elena followed her inside.

She could see very little. Smoke clouded the air and it seemed that all the light in the building had been turned off, except a faint red haze burning in the distance. “Lumos,” she murmured and a ghostly blue light appeared near her outstretched hand.

The air was terribly hot, and drops of sweat already ran down the length of Elena’s spine. She made out Corinne’s shadowy figure a few feet ahead, but she could not see any details: it was simply too smoky.

“Ministry for Magic!” Corinne shouted, her wand pointed at her throat to amplify her voice. “Put your wand on the ground and step forward slowly.” Her voice sounded unyielding, and compelling. Elena wanted to recoil and do exactly what she said, at the same time. But she had to wonder why Corinne was being so formal. They were coming to rescue Simon! He wasn’t an enemy.

There was a shuffling sound that Elena could hear even over the dull crackling of the flames.

Corinne had heard it to: “I said step forward.” The spell sent her words careening throughout the building.

Elena moved closer behind her, trying to get a good look through the suffocating smoke. “The fire isn’t spreading,” she said softly. She had watched the flames in the back corner of the store and if anything, they seemed to be diminishing. Perhaps, they had only been a distraction, or something aimed at anyone trying to leave the building, rather than an actual attempt to burn down the building.

However, even if the fire proved little danger, the smoke would eagerly fill that role. It was a double edged sword that blinded and choked. Even after casting a small spell to clear her lungs, Elena yearned for fresh air.

The shuffling sound stopped. In front of Elena, Corinne took a step forward. She appeared little more than a shadow, haloed in red from the dying flames.  “This is Ministry for Magic,” she said again, in a loud and clear voice. “Put your wand on the ground and come forward slowly.”

After another moment, Elena realized that no one was going to come out. She thought of Simon. He hadn’t been hiding near the fire, but perhaps he had tried to follow her out. Perhaps in the confusion he had escaped some other way. Or he could be unconscious from the smoke. Or, worse, the Death Eaters had found him.

But they had heard a sound, Elena was sure of it. Whether it was Simon, or some other person, she couldn’t be so certain.

Corinne still had her wand raised, but was now slumped. It was apparent that she had thought that her command would have some response as well.

“We need to search,” she said in a low tone. “Do you know the spell to help you breathe?”

“Of course.” Elena was a Healer, after all.

With a flick of her wand, Elena felt air wash through her lungs again. The spell was an elegant one. It filtered the air around the caster for a short period of time. She could have used a Bubbled Headed Charm, but that was both cumbersome and ridiculous. The only problem with her simple spell was that it didn’t follow her. She would be able to breathe clean air only in the locations where she had cast the spell.

Corinne nodded in approval. “You take the left side.” She indicated towards the part of the store farthest from the dying fire. “If you find anyone who needs help, don’t shout. Send up green sparks.”

“And if the Lestranges arrive?” Elena had to wonder how Corrine would account for that danger.

“We’ll be done searching before that.” Corinne would have sounded utterly sure of herself to most people, but Elena had known her long enough to realize that she was not entirely confident.

Elena nodded once and stepped through the smoke, down one of the precarious aisles. She was close to where she had hidden with Simon previously. Was it possible that he was still there?

She barely bothered to search under other pieces of furniture, instead practically running towards the back of the store. She saw the table, with its long tablecloth, through the smoke and fell to her knees. Her heart was pounding as she ripped the curtain away. But there was nothing, no sign that the two of them had crouched beneath the table only minutes before.

All of Elena’s energy faded and she sank back onto her heels. She had been so sure that Simon would still be here hiding. The alternatives were just too impossible. She hadn’t been gone for long—he couldn’t have left the building that quickly. And the other Death Eaters couldn’t have found him—where could they have taken him? There would be a sign of struggle.

Wordlessly, Elena cast the spell that cleared the air around her. She needed clean air so that she could think.

After a moment of rest, she stood. She should still look around the area. Perhaps Simon had shifted his hiding place. Yet, as she looked at the chest of drawers, the ancient carpets, the tall lamps and the sinister gargoyle, all balanced haphazardly on various end tables, she could see no place to hide.

But Elena felt that time was running out. She no longer cared if this building was full of traps. She just wanted to find Simon and get out of the suffocating air. They no longer had time to search in this pile of junk. Elena took in a breath of purified air and raised her voice: “Simon!” she shouted. “Simon!”

She listened intently, but heard no response. “Simon!” this time her voice cracked, turning the last of the word into an airy shriek.

Biting her lip to try to stop the tears that started to form in her eyes, Elena looked down at the ground. A red and blue Persian rug carpeted this section of floor, though it was full of moth holes and other signs of age. There was no need to panic, she assured herself. She just needed to find Corinne and help her search. Two people together might be able to locate Simon.

When Elena looked up, filled with renewed resolve, she almost screamed again. Standing in front of her was Simon.  Or at least, part of him. His torso was visible, but his legs seemed to have vanished, leaving him hovering. As Elena watched, substance seemed to return to the rest of his body and the invisibility peeled away.

Finally, Elena lifted her face back to meet his eyes, warm and brown. She felt such a profound relief that she couldn’t think of what to say. Part of her wanted to scold him, part of her wanted to cry, part wanted simply to collapse.

With a level expression, Simon lifted his wand towards Elena’s chest. “What was the last thing that Marcus Gordon said?”

Elena realized that he was questioning her, the same as Moody had done earlier that day. “Albania,” she said softly.

Simon nodded and lowered him wand. “What are you doing here?” he asked finally, in a rather cold tone.

She frowned. “The fire…” Had he not noticed it? That was ridiculous.

“You need to leave!” Simon grabbed a hold of her shoulders. “You shouldn’t have come back!”

Elena stepped back, tears stinging her eyes again. “I thought you were dead!” she snapped at him. “You’re being so stupid with your life. You don’t need to sacrifice yourself at every turn.”

“I’m an Auror,” Simon said darkly. “I can fight off a fire myself, I think. You, on the other hand, should have thought before coming back here alone. What if the Lestranges had been waiting?”

Elena clenched her fists, feeling her nails bite into her palms. “I can’t believe you think that I’m that idiotic. You heard when we first came inside.”

“Heard what?”

“Me,” Corinne said, stepping around the corner and rolling her eyes. “Honestly, do you two want to have the whole town hear you arguing?”

Simon looked shocked to see her, so shocked that Elena had to wonder if perhaps he had not heard Corinne after all. “What are you doing here?” he managed after a moment.

“I didn’t come alone,” Elena said, before Corinne had a chance to respond. “I called for help. Moody, Frank and Alice are all here.”

“That was smart,” Simon admitted slowly, still looking confused.

Elena had had enough of his surprise. “Stop it,” she shouted. “I came inside to save you, not to hear you belittle me! I can’t understand why you still think that I’m so incompetent.”

Corinne rolled her eyes again, though her relief at finding Simon was evident. “Save your arguing for later,” she said, wiping a drop sweat from her forehead with the back of her hand.

“Corinne’s right,” Elena said, turning her back on Simon. “We need to leave.”

“You know the Lestranges are coming?” Simon told Corinne.

She nodded. “So I’ve heard.” Her tone was dry. “Though, I don’t think we want to have to deal with them in a half burned building. So if you don’t mind, we can re-join the others outside.”

Elena started to move, retracing her steps. She was done talking to Simon. She had been so worried about him and now he seemed ungrateful. She had been trying to save him. Why should he be so angry? It only took a moment, however, for her anger to be replaced with misery. She had thought that he cared about her, but perhaps she had been wrong.

They had neared the door when it flew open. Alastor Moody stood on the doorstep, looking terrifying. His face, normally rigid and scared, was stone, and his eye surged wildly around. “Outside!” he ordered in a growl, casting severe looks down at Elena, Simon and Corinne.

Without another word, Moody gestured towards the door with his wand and marched them out of the building. He didn’t stop until they were down the steps of the building and stood amongst a bed flowers that decorated the garden in front of the store.

“What were you thinking?” he demanded of Corinne, once they had stopped walking.

She looked up at him, defiantly. “We were trying to find Simon.”

“With the racket you were making,” Moody snapped, “the whole of the town heard you.”

“I doubt that,” Corinne said bitterly.

Elena had to admire her audacity. She could tell not everyone would dare to talk to Moody as Corinne did. Though it was almost amusing to hear Corinne arguing with Moody when a moment ago, she had reprimanded Elena and Simon for their noise.

Simon was standing as far away from Elena as possible, against the opposite railing of the stairs. He was looking away from her as well.

Fine, Elena thought. He could sulk if he wanted to. She didn’t care if he was acting like a child.  So instead, she looked around the street. There was a crowd of people some feet back from the building, apparently watching the smoke.  None of them were doing anything to stop the fire themselves, but rather gathered as if to gossip about the spectacle. She had to wonder if the Ministry had been notified. If they had, that might explain why Moody had ordered them to leave.

A moment later, Frank and Alice appeared from the group of observers across the street and strode quickly back towards where Elena stood. Both of them nodded at Simon before addressing Moody. “I don’t think anyone bothered to tell the Ministry,” Frank said. “We’ve assured them that this is all under control and they seem to believe us.”

“Good,” Moody grunted.

Elena knew she should be discussing with them, but she instead stared at the street, watching the crowd of people begin to disperse. The day had grown dark with heavy clouds and she shivered at the wind that seemed to descend from the clouds. There was a certain peace to this stormy weather. She relished the clearer air and the coolness after the steamy interior of the store.

It was the type of day where sound carried far, and thus it took her a moment to realize where the screams were coming from. But more important was what had elicited the cries. A few stragglers across the street were pointing up into the sky, staring in awe before scattering.

Elena ran several steps out into the middle of the street and looked upwards. Hanging above the store was a monstrous skull. It sat in the clouds, illuminated as if made of tiny stars. Out of its mouth flicked a smoky green snake, with glowing eyes. Elena’s heart flew into her mouth. Every witch and wizard in Britain knew this sign and what it stood for. Only the closest supporters of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named knew the incantation for the Dark Mark. Elena didn’t know when it had been cast, but knew that they had only minutes, perhaps, before they were attacked.

Elena tore her eyes away from the sign in the clouds and looked at the others. Frank, Alice, Corinne and Moody were still talking quietly to each other. Simon, was off on his own, making a point, it seemed, not to look at Elena. She wished, for a moment, that he would glance over at her, and that he could reassure her that this sign meant nothing. But he didn’t look, and he didn’t lie.

Elena instead moved quickly back to the larger group of Aurors. By now, they had reacted to the screams, but none had bothered to look up at the sky. “The Dark Mark,” Elena said.

Around her, five heads gazed upwards at the sky. “Merde,” Corinne cursed in French. One by one, each lowered their heads and turned to Moody. He was the senior Auror, he would know how to handle this situation.

There was a pause as the man considered. “Be ready,” he said at last. “We want one of them alive.”

As he spoke the last words, columns of smoke accompanied by loud cracks descended from the sky. It was all for show, but somehow this arrival was more chilling. The three appeared in a triangle formation, flanked a moment later, and less spectacularly, by two other men.

Masks glinted out of the receding fog and the robes were trimmed with dark green. At once, the three arrivals began to fire spells at the Aurors. Elena was shoved towards the back of the group by Corinne, but she tried her best to protect the others all the same. The Mark had brought a new influx of people, perhaps too interested in seeing if it was a hoax or not to be properly afraid and run.

The two lesser Death Eaters now faced them and shot spells into the crowd.

In the fray, it was almost impossible to tell, but Elena thought with horror that the spells sent at the civilians were killing curses. A jet of green light hits its mark and a man crumbled to the streets. People had abandoned any hope of order and were running, and shouting, though a few attempted to fight back. Now they knew, without a doubt, that there was real danger: this was no tasteless prank.

Frank and Corinne looked ready to engage one of the Lestranges in a one-on-one duel; however, Moody raised his wand suddenly. “Inside,” he barked, pointing to the building.

There was a tone to his voice, a certain calmness that made Elena obey without thinking. She scrambled up the steps, not bothering to cover her retreat. Others scrabbled up the stairs next to her, at a somewhat quicker pace. Elena saw Frank pull Alice through the door and watched as a gust of smoky air was vented out of the building, up towards the skull in the sky.

The air around them seemed to contract and grow darker, as if all the light in the street were gathering into a single point by Moody’s wand. Elena didn’t see it expand, but felt the strange sensation as the ball of light expanded into a brilliant flare. Even with her back turned, the light was disorienting, and she felt herself slip on the stairs.

Moody, despite his leg, vaulted over her, as if he were unaffected by his own spell of distraction.

Elena tried to scramble to her feet and felt a strong pair of hands lift her upwards. Simon took her hand and pulled her up the remaining stairs and into the building. She was still disoriented and couldn’t see his face, but he put his hand on her back as he pushed her gently through the door.

As soon as it had closed behind them, Moody began growling protective spells. Elena recognized the power behind his voice as he cast charms to prevent entering, dark magic and detection. Simon squeezed her hand quickly, and then drew away, pausing only briefly to touch her shoulder. Elena wished he had stayed but instead turned to Corinne. “What are we going to do here?” she asked.

“We’re trying to draw them away from the civilians,” Frank said. “And we hope that the Ministry will show up soon, with backup.”

“They’ll spend all their energy trying to get into this building,” Alice added.

“Won’t they just run?” Elena didn’t understand why barricading themselves was the safe option.

Corinne laughed dryly. “Because they’ll get in eventually. We don’t have time to cast strong enough spells, and they know it. They want to kill us. They have us trapped here, they won’t just leave.

Elena winced. So they were making themselves bait. It wasn’t the most attractive option, but it was better for her, she supposed. She would last longer here than out in a fight.

“Elena,” Alice said, after a moment of conference. “Come with Frank and me. We’re going to guard the back entrance.”

Elena would have preferred to stay with Corinne and Simon, but wasn’t going to contradict the others now. Besides, though she wanted to be assured of the safety of Simon, she didn’t want to have to actually interact with him.

Despite the fire that had raged recently, the building was not destroyed. The flames appeared to have been magical, for though they had scorched the contents of parts of the store, all the walls were still intact. Alice led the way to the back door. They paused only briefly when they saw the body of the owner. He still lay slumped over the counter. Carefully, Alice reached over and closed his eyes. With a sad smile, she brushed a piece of hair out of his face. Frank had to gently pull her away from the man and led the rest of the way to the back door.

The door was black, the handle still glowing slightly from the receding heat of the fire. Alice conjured up a chair and sat down while Frank cast more protective spells on the door. “That should hold them off a bit longer,” he said after a moment. The door now had ribbons of blue that crackled across it, physical representations of protection that now lay on it.

“Do you want to sit, Elena?” Alice asked, offering her the chair.

Elena wanted to be polite, but realized that she was exhausted and in fact did need to sit. She sank gratefully into the armchair, and almost had to laugh. She was about to defend this building against siege in a plush chair: the thought was ridiculous.

With a wave of her wand, Alice conjured up a small, blue sofa and sat down onto it. Moments later, Frank took a seat next to his wife. “We’ll stand up when they start attacking,” Alice said with a small smile. “But I’m sure that all their effort is concentrated on the front door now.”

“Will the others be able to hold them off?” Elena felt a twist of worry in her stomach as she craned her head to try to catch a glimpse of the front door, but she couldn’t even hear, much less see them.

Frank put his left arm around Alice’s shoulders, but kept his wand hand free. “They’re evenly matched,” he said solemnly. “Moody is probably the best Auror of his generation. And neither Simon nor Corinne is half bad.”

That was only a slight comfort. “If we outnumber the Lestranges,” she clarified, because it seemed as if Frank were forgetting the other two men, who had initially attacked, “Why didn’t we duel them? Why hide?”

“We might be able to duel them, but if a Ministry team gets here, they can capture them. We need them captured, so that they can be questioned about my father’s death,” Alice said softly. “Otherwise, the best we can hope for is trying to stay alive. You shouldn’t underestimate them—ever.”

Elena bit her lip and closed her eyes, trying to hear outside of the building, but could not make out any sound of battle. “Alright,” she said, feeling helpless.

“I’d tell you not to worry,” Alice said with a small smile, “but that would be a lie.”

Elena appreciated that honesty. “I’m sorry that we were so careless,” she said with a sigh. It was her fault, after all. She and Simon hadn’t bothered to check for traps when searching the room.

“This might be our only chance to capture them,” Frank commented, with a hint of a threat in his voice. “Whatever you were searching had to be important, or we would never have drawn them out into the open.”

Alice looked up at her husband, “But Bellatrix is mad. She isn’t one to consider discretion.”

“After her master died? She’s been careful. She doesn’t want to go to Azkaban.” Frank shook his head. “But all I’m trying to say is that this may be our only chance to capture the murderers. If we waste this, then they probably won’t try to attack us again. We may never find them.”

Elena considered that. “I’m probably wrong,” she said slowly, “but I feel as if this all leads to something bigger. The Minister died saying the country where my brother was killed.”

“Elena,” Alice said gently. “I know that it seems tempting to make those connections, but don’t expect to find anything. I’m so terribly sorry that your brother is dead, but it’s very possible that my father was delirious at the end. He didn’t know what he was saying.”

“This was all supposed to be over.” Elena thought of the joy and celebration at the end of the war. People had thought that life would be golden again, filled with prosperity and happiness. Instead, Elena had felt only more pain. At first, there had only been monotony at work, but it had quickly morphed into this nightmarish search for a murderer. Elena had not been expecting this complex web of deception, of search, of danger and even of romance. This was not her life. She was not prepared for this shadowy world that had enveloped her, erasing all that had happened before. Could she go back to being a Healer now that she had seen how much danger still lurked in the world? Would they let her? Would there even be a job to return to, if they did not succeed in stopping the murderers?

Alice leaned against her husband’s shoulder. “It was,” she said in a voice that spoke of regret. “In November, we both decided to work less to take care of Neville. We wanted him to have a parent around, because we hadn’t been there for him during the war. I wouldn’t have come back to this,” she indicated to the glowing door with her wand, “if it hadn’t been my father who was killed.” She pressed her lips together, probably realizing that now it was again possible that little Neville would have no family.

Elena again felt a twinge of guilt. It was her fault that the Minister had died. Not directly, of course, but he had been under her care when he died. She might have saved him and the Longbottoms could have stayed with their child.

“After this, it will be all over,” she said, trying to convince herself that it was true.

Frank kissed the top of Alice’s head, and Elena wished again that she had been asked to guard the front door. She felt like she was intruding on the couple.

She would have tried for a new topic of conversation, but a shout from the front of the store kept Elena from any more thoughts along that line. She jumped up from her chair, and was about to run to see what the matter was. The voice could only have been Simon’s.

“No!” Alice jumped to her feet and grabbed Elena’s arm. “They’re probably trying to warn us.”

Frank was on his feet, shoving the sofa aside and pacing in front of the door, his wand trained on the handle. Alice moved to his right side, having made sure that Elena was not leaving.

Unsure of what exactly to do, when the time came, Elena moved to Frank’s left. She could probably cast Protego against them, but beyond that, she wasn’t sure how to repel an attack. She wasn’t even sure what form the assault would come in. Perhaps, they would only try to weaken the protective spells. Then, there was nothing Elena could do because she was utterly ignorant of such difficult magic. However, they hadn’t told her to stand off to the side, so there had to be something she could do to help.

The room seemed to grow darker, while all the fleeing light concentrated in the enchantments of the door. Elena could hear nothing, expect for the breathing of the others around her. Her eyes watered from staring so hard at one spot on the door. It was only a matter of time.

It was only because of the silence that Elena recognized the pattern of footsteps. Someone was coming closer. After a moment, they stopped. Elena stopped breathing, but there was no more noise. She glanced sideways, to make sure that Frank and Alice had heard as well. Alice almost seemed to be trembling with anticipation, while Frank had turned to stone as he waited.

Suddenly, there was a sound much closer than before. A hard, insistent sound. A knock on the door. Once. Elena felt a shock throughout her body. Twice. She clenched her hand, ready to attack. Three times.

Beside her, Frank exploded into action. “Expulso,” he roared, slashing his wand across the door. The spell seemed to pass through the wood and Elena heard a crunch a moment later as a body collapsed onto brick.

Sweat ran down Elena’s forehead, dripping into her eyes. The door began to spark with energy, red and green threads of light joining the blue momentarily, before dissolving. Alice closed her eyes and put her wand next to the door. Her lips moved as she sent reinforcing ribbons of blue light into the door. With each new surge, the number of red and green streams of light diminished, but it was a constant struggle.

Frank narrowed his eyes and occasionally flicked his wand towards the door, issuing a silent spell towards an unseen opponent.

Elena felt utterly unsure of what to do. She had no idea how Frank’s curses managed to slip through the door without destroying it: she had no idea that such a thing was even possible. Alice seemed so deep in concentration that Elena dared not to ask how to help. Frantically, she looked around, the small storeroom and strained to hear sounds from the front of the store, but she noticed nothing of use.

She could only watch as the red and green threads in the door grew more and more frequent. Alice was turning grey, and her hair seemed limp with sweat.

“They’re all attacking here,” she muttered. “I don’t know how much longer I can renew the spell.”

“I’ll help,” Elena said, kneeling down as well.

Alice whispered an incantation, and Elena nodded. She tried to say the words silently, as Alice did but did not manage anything, other than a few blue sparks. After another attempt, she managed a blue thread, so tiny and short that it barely seemed to counter any attacks.

It was a repetitive process: think the spell, hope that it had some result. Elena was sure there was some nuance she hadn’t understood from Alice, but there was no time to ask.

Frank still was on the offensive, but it was clear that he had not managed to do any real damage, because the assault did not lessen. If anything, it became more brutal. Elena saw tendrils of black fire join the attack and felt a numb feeling fall over her body.

She could not think of anything other than the spell now. Any thoughts of Simon or Corinne, of her family, all faded from her mind. This was the kind of intense concentration required for only the most difficult healing.

Thus, it took her a moment to realize that more of the red, green and black lingered on the door than before. She glanced over at Alice, to see what had caused the enemies’ sudden gain and saw the other woman slumped on the floor. With a cry, Elena moved to her side, feeling for a pulse. Had a spell managed to get through, or was it exhaustion that had caused her collapse?

“She’s alive,” Elena said, dropping Alice’s wrist. There had been a pulse, albeit a weak one.

Frank looked down, a tortured expression on his handsome features. “I can’t—” he said, before wrenching his attention back to the door. If he stopped, then the protective enchantments would fall.

Elena didn’t bother with the usual diagnostic spells. She didn’t have time to figure out the best path of treatment, she just had to choose one. “Rennervate,” she said, casting the typical waking spell. Alice’s eyes fluttered and her finger twitched. Elena wanted to discover what had caused her collapse, but saw with horror that the door was more red than blue now. Alice was alive and that would have to do for the moment.

She raised her wand to begin renewing the spells when there was a flash of green light. The door shuddered and buckled, as if trying to hold off a barrage of spells. The light faded rapidly, and when it did Elena was shocked to see the door still in one piece. However, it was now a black piece of wood and retained not even a hint of blue light. Elena blinked her eyes, the after image of the green still seared on her eyes. She reached her hand forward, to touch the door, leaning her weight on it to check that it was still solid.

Behind her, Elena heard a series of dull thuds. She turned her head and saw Moody, with his wooden leg, looking grim. He hand his wand raised, and pointed at the door. His electric blue eye spun in its socket, taking in the scene.

In the next instant, the door flew open, moving out from Elena’s hand and she tumbled forward, suddenly off balance. She caught a glimpse of black, feminine shoes on the steps outside the door. A golden mask clattered down on the steps. Elena had only a second to recognize what is was before her hands collided with the wooden landing and she could push herself back into the store.  

As she twisted around, she saw Moody, outlined in the doorway. His cloak billowed behind him; his face was dark and ominous. His wand shifted so it was pointed to the now-open door. Elena saw the spell before the words reached her ears. The bolt of green light that danced through the air was a beautiful thing: letting off tiny sparks and wound twinges of gold. The Auror’s rough voice had roared two words: “Avada Kedavra.”

Note: I'm sorry that writing this chapter took so much time! I meant to have it finished sooner, but I ended up redoing a lot of it. Also, it's my longest chapter yet, at 6k--sorry about the lenght! But, I've been made a trusted author, so that means, hopefully, that in the future you don't have to wait so long for me to post new updates. Also, I just wanted to say thank you to anyone who is still reading this story. This is the 20th chapter, which is huge, for me. I've never had a story this long. Also, with this chapter, Vital is over 80k in length, probably also the longest story I've written, ever. So thank you for helping me along this far!


Translation from the French-- Merde: Shit

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