The alley was dark, and the only means Dorcas had of judging how close her opponent chasing her had gotten was by how close to target the spells were getting.
If the last spell that had singed the bottom of her robes was any indication, they were close.
To be honest, Dorcas didn’t even know who was chasing her; all she knew was that they certainly weren’t a friend. Being attacked from behind while walking alone in the dark didn’t usually indicate good will or a desire to get to know a person better.
This wasn’t the first time in the last few weeks that Dorcas had a mishap with Dark Magic while going about her everyday life. With the recent string of Death Eater attacks against the public, the Auror department was being scrutinized and shoved to the forefront, giving Dorcas a lot of unwanted attention.
She couldn’t stand the fingers pointed at her or the whispers whenever she went out in Diagon Alley lately; she had always been very fond of her ability to fly under the radar.
Even with the extra attention from the media and public however, Dorcas couldn’t understand why exactly she was receiving so much additional attention from the Death Eaters. Though some of her coworkers had been called a few nasty names and had some relatively harmless jinxes shot at them by those who disagreed with their stance against Voldemort, none of them had been openly attacked, especially not in the manner that Dorcas had.
She couldn’t help but notice she was being attacked yet again right now.
Dorcas counted herself lucky as a rather powerful orange jinx that she didn’t recognize and was pretty certain she didn’t want to learn came so close to grazing her torso that she was certain she would have a mark there even though it didn’t actually hit her.
She shouted a curse angrily in return, and swore under her breath when she realized that it wouldn’t even be close to on the mark. Deciding that this was not the place for the fight, she turned and continued to weave quickly down the alley, looking for a more open and well lit location.
Surprisingly, the hexes coming from the person chasing her helped Dorcas by illuminating a turn off into an additional, slightly larger alley that led onto a well lit, if not wide, road. Dorcas turned sharply and the absence of spells being shot in her direction made her think that perhaps she had lost her attacker.
Just as she was about to turn around and search for the person who had been following her (the stupidity of this action hadn’t quite sunk in yet), the wall behind her was blasted to pieces. Dorcas ducked, but didn’t quite manage to evade all of the pieces of falling brick, and a rather large chunk stuck her head with force.
Ignoring the blinding pain and blinking repeatedly in an effort to regain control of the situation, Dorcas’ vision managed to clear enough that she could at least mostly see. There was still some blood obscuring her vision (she was assuming that this blood was coming from the throbbing wound on her forehead and not some sort of internal bleeding), and Dorcas knew that even with her injury she was in better shape fighting on the street than she was in that black alley.
She heard another shout and turned sharply in the direction it came from, her self defense training from the Ministry kicking into full gear.
The figure in front of her was definitively male, if the height and broad shoulders were any indication. Even from this distance, Dorcas could tell that he was significantly larger than the average man, and considering the slight, petite frame of Dorcas, he would tower over her.
Dorcas narrowed her eyes in an attempt to get a clear view of his face, and he apparently noticed.
“Having trouble seeing there Meadowes?” The man had a dark, deep voice, and Dorcas tried not to be disconcerted that he knew her name. “Or is it just that you’re not particularly bright?”
“Hey, in the battle between looks and brains, maybe I lost out a bit in the brains department.” Dorcas quipped. “Though I reckon I’m still better off than you, not getting either. That must be bloody awful.”
“Now, no need to get nasty.” He said, but the dark undertone to his voice belied his true anger. “I guess I would be bitter too if all I had going for me was my filthy blood. Unfortunately, as a pureblood I wouldn’t know the feeling.”
“Blimey, you’re pureblooded too?” Dorcas feigned surprise at the “revelation”. “Well, that explains a lot. All those years of inbreeding were bound to take a toll on someone. Sorry you got the short end of that stick.”
Dorcas wasn’t sure if the next hex shot at her came so quickly and almost took her by surprise because of the anger behind it or if her reflexes were still off from the hit she took to the head. It was probably a combination of both.
Despite almost getting hit by that last hex, Dorcas felt better than she had since the beginning of this fight. She was finally back in her element when it came to fighting Dark Magic. Somewhere she could use biting words as a distraction, both taking out her opponent and having a little bit of fun at their expense.
Shooting a curse back in retaliation, Dorcas smiled when she saw it hit its mark dead on. The man’s smile slid right off his face as his entire body was overcome with itches. He immediately dropped his wand to the ground and began scratching furiously at his skin.
Dorcas couldn’t help but smile at the irony of him calling her
stupid moments ago.
She summoned his wand with merely a verbal protest from her attacker. He appeared unable to stop itching long enough to even put up a semblance of a legitimate attack. His lack of self control and skill in battle was honestly appalling, and Dorcas wondered if whoever sent him really thought he had stood any chance at all against a trained Auror.
Using her own wand, Dorcas tied her attacker up in ropes and approached him quickly, eager to get a better look at his face. In the back of her mind she registered that Mad Eye would kill her if he saw her doing this right now, approaching a conscious attacker with no backup.
To be honest, Dorcas wasn’t concerned. She highly doubted that this imbecile was capable of wandless magic. He was barely capable of doing magic with a wand. A Slytherin, no doubt.
Leaning close to his face, Dorcas’ thought that he was a Slytherin was confirmed. She remembered this man, or more accurately, boy, from her years at Hogwarts. He had been sorted into Slytherin during her third year. She was a bit disconcerted, however, that she couldn’t remember his name. Dorcas had memorized all of the powerful pureblooded families.
“What’s your name?” Dorcas questioned, but he merely spat in her face. In response, Dorcas delivered a particularly vicious kick to his ribcage.
“I asked you a question.” She stated simply, and prepared herself to kick him again before he waved her off, attempting to gather his breath to answer.
“Wilkes.” He muttered simply, gasping. Dorcas gestured for a clarification. “Marius Wilkes.”
Dorcas nodded simply, satisfied. That explained why she didn’t know who he was. The Wilkes family, though pureblooded, was far from rich and powerful. They lived in extreme poverty now due to a sequence of extravagantly useless patrons who had meandered away the family fortune.
However, that still didn’t explain how someone like Wilkes, who was neither extraordinarily talented nor from a powerful family, had managed to get an in with those currently running the Death Eaters. Dorcas yanked the sleeves of Wilkes’ robes up, and was surprised to see no Dark Mark on his arm. If he wasn’t a mercenary of Voldemort, then what was he doing here?
“Oi, Wilkes, if you’re so pureblooded then why don’t you have the mark of your beloved Lord yet? Or is the Wilkes family finally so hard up for cash that you’ve started taking dirty muggle money off the street and you just got me confused for an easy target?” Dorcas questioned sharply, and a look of complete disgust overtook Wilkes’ features. He spat on the ground dangerously close to Dorcas.
Anger flooding her, Dorcas pushed Wilkes to the ground and stepped on his throat.
“Now, I thought you had already learned your lesson about spitting.” Dorcas said sweetly, nudging his ribs none too gently with her foot. Wilkes winced. “Let me put it in plainer terms for you. Next time you spit at me, you’re going to be spitting out teeth. Are we clear?”
Wilkes simply nodded.
“Good.” Dorcas replied, smiling when she noticed that Wilkes was still squirming around on the ground in an effort to relieve himself of the itching. She saw her opening to find out what was going on, and she was going to take it.
“I’m feeling generous today.” She informed Wilkes simply, and he eyed her warily. “How about we strike a little deal? You tell me why you tried to attack an Auror, and I’ll take that itching curse off?”
Wilkes looked for a moment like he was going to resist her, and Dorcas scratched the side of her nose delicately and slowly, sighing dramatically at the relief it was giving her. That was all it took to break Wilkes. Dorcas couldn’t help but think how pathetic he was.
“Fine.” Wilkes said sharply. “I’ll tell you, just please for Merlin’s sake take this damn curse off.” Dorcas waved her wand and the itching disappeared. Wilkes sighed in relief.
“Who are you working for?” Dorcas demanded, not even giving Wilkes a chance to speak of his own volition. “What were you going to get out of attacking me?”
“Honestly, you haven’t figured it out Meadowes? Wilkes asked cockily, and Dorcas shot him a warning look. He adjusted his attitude immediately. “Voldemort sent me.”
Dorcas looked at him, confused. If Voldemort had sent Wilkes to attack her, why didn’t he have the Dark Mark? In fact, all of the people who had come after her recently had been without the Dark Mark. If these men were working for Voldemort, why hadn’t they taken the symbol of allegiance?
“You’re a challenge Meadowes.” Wilkes responded to Dorcas’ silent question. “A rite of passage or an initiation challenge. As you already pointed out, I’m not from one of the richer or more powerful pureblood families. So in order to be accepted as a Death Eater and finally stand a chance at elevating my position in life, I had to show a little ambition. I had to prove myself. As did all the other men who have tried to take you down over the past month of so.”
“So, in order to join the Death Eaters a new member has to kill me?” Dorcas questioned, and Wilkes shook his head. “So if Voldemort doesn’t want me dead, what does he want from me?”
“To torture you for information. It’s not a secret that you are incredibly powerful, or that you hold important positions in both the Aurors and whatever group that stupid nitwit Dumbledore is running. Few single individuals have as much intel as you do, and all of them were considered dramatically more difficult to capture. Of course, that was before 3 people have been arrested and sentenced to life in Azkaban for attacking you. Surely I’m going to be the last one, not only because now you know the plan, but also because it is too dangerous. You are running through all of the Dark Lord’s new recruits.”
Though it now made much more sense why she in particular had been targeted recently, Dorcas now had a new confusion on her hands.
Admittedly, Dorcas had to agree it made sense why she was being attacked, but after the first few recruits had failed, if Voldemort had wanted her so badly, wouldn’t he have sent a group of his more experienced Death Eaters after her? Though Dorcas liked to tell herself otherwise, it was doubtful she could take on Bellatrix, Malfoy and the Lestrange brothers all at once by herself.
Then again, Voldemort probably knew it was a long shot that he would be able to torture information out of Dorcas anyways. She had suffered through various encounters with other Death Eaters, and had even taken a Crucio from Bellatrix back when they first got out of school, but never had she shown the slightest inkling of giving up any of the invaluable information that she knew.
So not only would she be high risk to the Death Eaters attempting to capture her (Dorcas may not be able to win the fight against Malfoy, Bellatrix and the Lestrange brothers, but she had no doubt she could inflict her fair share of damage), but she would be of little reward.
This train of thought couldn’t help but bring Dorcas to the issue at hand. She wouldn’t give up any information about her organizations, but Wilkes had apparently spilled everything he knew with only an itching hex used against him. Dorcas couldn’t help but be suspicious about his motives for telling her the truth, even though she couldn’t see any way that this could be a trap, unless they were trying to lure her into a false sense of security.
“That makes sense.” Dorcas replied simply, nodding in understanding. “Now what I don’t understand is why you just were all too willing to tell me all of that.”
Wilkes laughed, and it was a soft kind of laugh, the kind filled with pain and a touch of madness.
“Look at it from my perspective Meadowes. My options are limited. Ultimately, I could go to Azkaban for attacking you and live out the rest of my miserable life there, or I could try and lie and escape and be killed by the Dark Lord for failing at the mission. The only plus side to either of these alternatives is that I’m not being given the option to carry on my pathetic family name and put another poor kid through the torture I’ve had to enjoy.” Wilkes looked at Dorcas simply, and she almost felt sorry for the guy.
“So, if you hate your own existence so much Wilkes, why choose a slow, painful death in Azkaban over being murdered by Voldemort?” Dorcas questioned, and Wilkes laughed hollowly again.
“Oh Meadowes, I wish I could live with the naivety that you have.” He said and Dorcas merely glared at him. “If you think my death at the hands of the Dark Lord would be any less slow and painful than one in Azkaban, you’re deluding yourself. And also, as much as I may hate my life and myself, I feel no particular desire to die either. Going to Azkaban is the best means of preserving my own life.”
Now it was Dorcas’ turn to laugh.
“You’re a Slytherin through and through I see.” Dorcas responded. “Self preservation at all costs, even if the ultimate cost is your sanity.”
“You hit the nail on the head. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t such a stereotype.” Wilkes replied quickly, and Dorcas couldn’t help but realize she was almost chatting amiably with a man who had been attacking her moments before. She had to get her head back in the game. It was time to do her job.
“Come on Wilkes, up you go, time for Azkaban.” Dorcas said cheerfully, and it felt only slightly forced. Wilkes was much too large for her to actually attempt to lift up manually, plus even she could admit it would be dangerous to get that close to him and would almost completely eliminate her upper hand. If in a struggle she lost her wand, Dorcas would be in a whole world of trouble. Muggle fighting had never been her strong point.
Levitating Wilkes back to the Ministry turned out to be harder than Dorcas would have imagined it to be. Firstly, she had to cast a Disillusionment charm on him (because it would be positively disastrous if they managed to have an entire battle in an alleyway and not get caught, but a Muggle saw her levitating him through the streets). Secondly, he was much larger than she anticipated, and the Disillusionment charm certainly wasn’t helping her with judging how sharply she could take corners without him hitting his head off of a wall of some sort.
In the end, he let out more than one barely muffled groan during the 10 minute walk to a safe apparition spot.
Dorcas apparated the pair of them back to the Ministry, and wasn’t actually the least bit surprised to find Mad Eye there, sitting at his desk, head in hands, analyzing evidence and possible strategies for future attacks. He was deeply engrossed, but in typical Mad Eye style, there was nothing he could be paying so much attention to that he didn’t notice someone appearing out of thin air.
“Meadowes!” He barked. “I thought you took the night off for once.” Dorcas gestured behind her with her head, wondering how Mad Eye hadn’t noticed the large, bound man with her.
“A girl just can’t walk home safely anymore these days.” She quipped. “No matter what I do, I just keep making more and more Death Eater friends!”
Mad Eye was at her side in an instant, scanning her quickly for a potential injury. When he saw none, his attention turned to the man with her. The first thing he did was pull his sleeve up and notice the lack of Dark Mark.
“Meadowes, it appears all you have lately are wannabe Death Eaters. If you’re gonna keep bringing them in, the least you could do is try to catch some of the real ones.” Mad Eye replied, and Dorcas rolled her eyes.
“I would, but you see, it appears that I have become a right of initiation.” Dorcas informed him, and Mad Eye looked at her quizzically. “Apparently to become a Death Eater these days, one of the requirements is capturing me and bringing me to Voldemort. I’m very popular.”
Mad Eyes laughed genuinely, and Dorcas wondered for a moment if she had ever seen him do that before.
“Well, that explains why the Death Eater numbers have been halted for the time being. Meadowes keeps capturing all the recruits before their dizziest daydreams can come true and they can kill Muggles for fun.” Mad Eye said, and Dorcas fought to suppress a smile, because the topic really wasn’t funny.
“I know, I know I’m ruining everyone’s good time.” When Dorcas spoke, the sarcasm was obvious in her voice. “What I don’t understand is how many of them I have to stop before I am worthy of a full blown Death Eater. I mean, what does a girl have to do to get a good duel with Bellatrix these days? Is she that in demand?”
Mad Eye smirked and shot Dorcas a look that clearly told her to be careful what she wished for.
“Well don’t just stand there girl.” Mad Eye ordered her, back to business. “Get this pathetic excuse for a human off to Azkaban and then drag your sorry arse back here to finish your pile of paperwork.”
“Yes sir.” Dorcas replied, trying to keep a serious tone in her voice, and failing spectacularly. Mad Eye scoffed at the respectful name coming from his favorite recruit’s voice. Dorcas turned, grabbed Wilkes by the arm and prepared to apparate them to Azkaban.
“Meadowes!” Mad Eye yelled at the last second, and Dorcas stopped on the spot. “Next time you get personally attacked, you’re going to get escorted home every evening by your own personal detail of Aurors, so I suggest you start being a bit more careful. I won’t have any other choice, I certainly don’t have time to replace you.”
Dorcas scowled as Mad Eye knew she would, and flipped him off as she apparated away.
Dorcas slowly but surely built up a reputation as one of the most dangerous duelers in the ministry. Within a month she brought in 3 previously unsuspected Death Eaters, and she could feel the pressure building on her.
She hardly ever got to go home anymore, never mind to visit Amber. Though it didn’t feel that way, it was probably for the best. Dorcas was a dangerous person to be around these days.
After one particularly late night shift at the ministry, Mad Eye sent her home when he found her asleep standing up next to the most wanted board. She had been studying the faces, trying to think of a way to catch some of the more notorious Death Eaters.
It was also probably for the best that Dorcas had been sent home. She was exhausted, hadn’t honestly slept in days, and she had to be up early in the morning. It was her first day off in months, and she had promised Amber she would take her out for the day.
Her plan was to get the little girl a pet owl. She was almost 7 now, and her reading and writing was finally good enough that she was able to send Dorcas letters with little assistance from their mother. Dorcas wanted to ensure that she would be able to write to her whenever she wanted, and her mother wouldn’t have an excuse to delay their correspondence.
Amber was going to be so excited, but Dorcas knew her mother probably wouldn’t be pleased. She thought that Amber’s reliance on Dorcas was unhealthy, but Dorcas didn’t think that was the case. Amber had been born in Dorcas’ sixth year at Hogwarts, and in all honestly, Dorcas had practically raised the little girl. They had always had a close bond, and her mother was merely jealous. All Amber wanted was to be a carbon copy of Dorcas.
Dorcas sighed when she thought about how long it had honestly been since she had seen her sister face to face. If she had to guess, it had been about a month and a half, a far cry from the everyday visits they had in the not so distant past. Sure, they talked on the telephone a few times a week, but it wasn’t the same. There was nothing like the feeling of a hug from her little arms, or her little lips kissing Dorcas’ cheek.
The guilt washed over her when she remembered how upset Amber had seemed on the phone the night before. She missed Dorcas, and while the guilt for her seeming abandonment hurt Dorcas immensely, she couldn’t convince herself it wasn’t for the best.
This visit with Amber tomorrow was going to have to hold her over for a little while. The war was going in full swing, people were disappearing every day, and Dorcas knew she was on the short list. Not that many people could claim important positions in both the Auror Corps and the Order of the Phoenix.
The last thing on Earth Dorcas was going to do was risk Amber.
She might have been a damn good Auror, but even she wasn’t stupid enough to think she was invincible.
But whenever Amber was involved, Dorcas had to be invincible. There was no other option. So Amber couldn’t be involved.
Dorcas wasn’t naïve enough to think she would never fall. The Aurors were a dying breed, and she was too feisty and reckless to think she was going to make it through.
She couldn’t, however, bring herself to care.
A/N: Please review !