Chapter 41 : Won't Back Down
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I sat, watching as the scenery passed before the window before letting out a small sigh. It had been my birthday yesterday. The ‘surprise’ parties and stacks of presents were presented as expected. It took 5 owls to deliver the array of new clothes from Francesco’s latest collection for all occasions, each more beautiful than the last. Antony sent me a box that played what I supposed was ‘our song’ when opened and it was filled with the most incredible and rare jewellery, 18 sets for 18 years, all individually hand wrapped and at the very bottom was a plain leather bound sketchbook, a handwritten note at the very front. David gave me a book on himself, Jack and all of Antony’s other close friends as a joke, there were plenty of others, even one from Dione and plenty from my friends in school as well the greatly anticipated party. Bridgett had told me how to find the underground passage down in the grounds and my party was held in the cavernous underground cellar. It was huge, an inter house event, everyone who was anyone was there, Bridgett sent over some band who I knew vaguely (or the lead singer at least) but they were met with hysterical screams, there was enough alcohol to take down a giant and all in all, I think it was pretty safe to say it was a huge success.
The feeling of opening Marie’s presents the next morning though had been a more sobering process. Francesco sent them at breakfast the next day with a hastily scrawled note telling me he’d see me in a few months because he was off to the Amazon rainforest to finish some of Marie’s work. I had to admit, the idea of Marie and Francesco struggling through the Amazon, surrounded by various insects, filth and other such things was a comical one. I didn’t think either of them had ever seen true nature before in their lives. It took me a moment to catch up with my thoughts, gently reminding myself that there was no such thing as ‘Marie and Francesco’ anymore. It was just Francesco. Francesco, mad as hatter, living for two.
I turned back to the interior of the car, looking over at Antony whose eyes were fixed on the road ahead. He looked exhausted, I doubt he’d slept a wink recently, I knew Marie’s death had affected him but I also knew that was just one half of it. He was worried. He didn’t like my files being on the Ministry’s system and the economic climate had caused the first loss for Noble’s since the muggle world wars (something that the wizarding world had, of course, been heavily invested in).
“Antony,” I said gently eventually.
He glanced over, breaking the almost statuette state he’d been in.
“Mmm?” He said absently.
“You look exhausted,” I said flatly.
“And you look hungover,” He chuckled.
“Is it really that obvious?” I said, pulling down the mirror.
“It’s more the fact that you wince every time we go over a bump,” He said.
“I’m never drinking again,” I breathed leaning my head back.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t see you yesterday, sending a package seemed a bit impersonal,” He said rubbing the back of his neck. I laughed.
“Don’t be stupid, plus we’re here now,” I said.
“You know before I used to actually be pretty pleased with myself when I got drunk, now I think I’m going off it a bit,” I said.
“There are bits of my time at school that I just really don’t remember...” He said.
“Lightweight,” I grinned, nudging him.
“Sadly yes,” He said.
“David was recounting fondly this morning of one of those incidents actually,” I chuckled.
Antony rolled his eyes.
“You don’t give those guys enough credit, the amount of times I’ve been given the ‘be good to him Iris’ talk, you’d be surprised,” I said.
“Well I don’t know why they’re bothering because it’s usually them who pose the biggest threat,” He said.
“They love you really,” I assured him.
“In fact I think they love you almost as much as I do, despite the blatant disregard for your dignity, they always speak of you with a great deal of affection,” I said.
Antony gave a ‘humph’.
“S’what you get for having famous friends Antony,” I chuckled.
The weather continued to alternate between sunlight; bathing the sunny country lanes and rolling hedges in glorious warm light and ridiculously heavy downpours.
It had just begun raining again as we finally pulled to a halt. The small pebbles spanned out to sand and from there to the vast expanse of water after it. It was a bit on the grey side that day but even I, with my somewhat irrational fear of the sea, could appreciate it was a beautiful place. We soon had no choice but to retreat to the small cottage nestled in the shrubbery.
"I'm so sorry, I checked the weather forecast for today, I..." He started as a distant rumble sounded, the gentle pitter patter of rain increasing as we slipped off coats and shoes.
"Don't worry about it. In any case, in all honesty; there's no way you could have got me in there," I said pleasantly. He paused before a rare mischievous looking grin moved onto his face.
"I bet you I could," He said, moving towards me.
I looked at him amusedly.
"I assure you Antony; you couldn't," I said.
He smiled, kissing my forehead before moving further into the place.
“Merlin I haven’t been here since I was a kid...want a cup of tea? You look a bit wet,” He teased.
“I’d love one. Has it been empty since then?” I asked absently.
“Pretty much, we used to come here on holiday but we stopped after a bit...the housekeepers live down the beach a bit though and they keep an eye on the place,” He said from the kitchen.
“We should be able to get the beach later though,” He said.
To be honest I didn’t much care, I loved looking at the sea and beaches, being in the sea was a different matter altogether. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but I had a somewhat irrational fear of the sea. In any case, the rain didn’t show much sign of halting and apparently the heating was broken so we ended up wrapped in blankets, Antony apologizing profusely as if he should somehow find a way to halt the bad weather.
“I kid you not Antony Noble, you apologise one more time and you can go sit outside or something,” I said in aggravation. He paused, looking at me almost worriedly. I rolled my eyes amusedly before unwrapping myself from the woollen blanket and crawling towards him.
“I’m sorry Antony but I refuse to believe that you’re stuck inside with a stunningly beautiful girl (as observed by not only herself but several beauty magazines) and you have absolutely nothing better in mind then to apologise about the bloody weather?” I said.
He looked at me, a lop sided smile playing on his lips before giving a chuckle.
“As an occasionally awkward sort, I’m afraid the weather becomes a frequent subject of conversation,” He teased, pulling me onto his lap.
I chuckled, kissing the tip of his nose.
“Don’t worry; it’s a very British affliction,” I said, moving my arms round his neck. He smiled before kissing me.
The sheets surrounded us, creating an almost nest like feel, as if we were only the two people in the world. I closed my eyes briefly, listening to the light pitter patter of rain against the window and the rhythmic swell of the sea until I felt Antony shift, moving an arm around me. I turned towards him, smiling slightly before kissing him gently. As moments such as those often are; it was short lived. Moments later there was a loud insistent wrapping on the window that faced out on the beach. I rolled over, lowering the sheet to see a large grey owl. I breathed a sigh, pushing the covers further down.
“Looks like you’ve got a visitor,” I breathed.
He let out a breath before sitting up, pulling on some trousers and moving towards the window, pulling it open, allowing a great breath of salty air to whistle into the room. He untied the scroll of parchment and I watched intently as his expression crumpled into a frown before he moved back across the room, picking up his wand, conjuring his patronus moments and striding into the next room.
He reappeared while I was redressing, a pained look on his face.
“I’m so sorry, I th...” He started.
“What’s wrong?” I said warily, more preoccupied by his expression...he looked so...I don’t even know but it made my skin prickle.
He ran a hand through his hair letting out a long breath.
“The evidence has gone missing,” He said.
“What evidence?” I frowned.
“I...you know about Eridanus, it’s hardly a secret, there was an inquest but nothing came of it. We managed to pin down a few others though; high profiles in the ministry but...well it’s gone missing, all of it,” He said.
I was silent for a moment before speaking.
“But you’re not a lawyer,” was my rather pathetic contribution.
“I was providing the funding, in any case I have contacts and the Order provided all the extra evidence, we were working as a half way point, Nobles is a large enough corporation to be able to maintain secrecy, The Order’s too vulnerable by itself, it needed to go through the usual legal system and it wasn’t strong enough but...it’ll be fine, we’ve got back up plans, plenty of them,” He said as he gathered his clothes, redressing as he did so.
“Antony...are you in danger?” I said.
He looked up at that, looking at me properly, giving me a small smile before moving forward, his hand sliding up against my cheek.
“I promise you; you have absolutely nothing to worry about Iris,” He said gently.
I just looked at him, studying him closely.
“Let me come with you...wherever you’re going,” I said.
He shook his head.
“The safest place for you is Hogwarts right now, nothing’ll happen but it’s better to be cautious...I...I’m sorry, I’ll write to you this evening when everything’s settled down,” He said returning to his hasty packing.
I just stayed where I was, a sort of fear rising in me despite my trying to squelch it.
“Maybe I could help?” I said. He shook his head.
“I promise, they can’t trace anything back to any of us and no one knows enough of the details to be able to provide them with any useful information, the files are encrypted...I just need to transfer the funds and close the account, it’s a precaution, that’s all. If anything this is what we needed. It was heavily guarded, all magic leaves some kind of trace, with a bit of negotiating we’ll have immediate evidence,” He grinned kissing my forehead before moving into the next room.
We left the car in its space beside the house and despite his best efforts most of our clothes ended up simply staying where they were; the housekeeper could pack and send them on later if need be. He flooed me to the Three Broomsticks and by some odd twist, as time went by the more excited he appeared. I didn’t understand and I felt stupid for not doing so, I’d shut myself off from everything so long that I found myself clueless and that frustrated me. I only had time to say I loved him before he'd left, the third owl bearing yet another summons, swooping back out after him.
There was a party that evening down at the green, I spent ages on my appearance before dinner but in all honesty, it was simply to keep myself occupied. All the girls were lounging over my bed...and Katy’s (I doubt she would have a approved in the slightest but that’s the beauty of well placed absences) talking idly about things and the night ahead. I couldn’t stomach it though, I was so anxious I was sick with it. I went down to dinner in an almost dream-like state, sitting myself down beside Hemera as usual.
“You’re back early,” Hemera remarked when she saw me.
I didn’t say anything, piling some food onto my plate.
“Yeah...Antony had to leave,” I said vaguely after a time.
“Oh...are you alright?” Lily asked.
“Yeah, fine, I’m just...tired,” I said struggling momentarily to come up with a relevant complaint to account for my behaviour.
“My dad’s always being called out for work,” June said sympathetically.
“Same, both my parents missed Christmas this year,” Tamsin contributed matter of factly.
Surprisingly, this did very little to reassure me.
I munched my way through the contents of my plate until the sign I’d been waiting for came. The moment the owl landed I felt the iron band constricting my chest release, a great relieved sigh sounding from my lips as I pulled the letter away, tearing it open, taking solace in the familiar slanted curls of Antony’s handwriting. I sat for a moment, feeling my beating heart slow, an unnecessarily large sense of relief pulsing through me. I didn’t even really know what I’d been so worried about; it was Antony we were talking about, he wasn’t an idiot.
I looked up to find everyone watching me and I smiled, pocketing the letter before resuming my food.
“So I’m guessing everyone’s going tonight?” I said.
“And Hemera darling, don’t think I haven’t noticed the ‘sudden’ onset of your supposed cold,” I said amusedly. She looked at me, groaning.
“I...” She started.
“Come on Hemera, it’ll be fun,” Andy said nudging her gently.
“You know you want to,” I pouted.
“Fine,” She grumbled.
I couldn’t help but grin before joining a conversation with Elsa and June.
I ended up washing off my makeup and starting anew when I returned to my room. I didn't know why but I felt...good. Happy even, after all, I had plenty to be happy about, I was young and good looking, I was in love and engaged to the loveliest bloke I'd ever met, I didn't have to worry about money, my life after Hogwarts wasn't riddled with prospective deatheaters and I'd slept solidly last night and the night before and the night before that too.
There were people out there who wanted to be me for God’s sake, I had a sort of glamour to uphold.
I wrote back to Antony, smiling as I leant against the window sill, watching the broad wings disappear out of view as my owl sailed over the spires of Hogwarts. I was Iris fucking Tear for Merlin's sake and there were only months left until my time at Hogwarts came to an end indefinitely. I should have been spending my night in the stone cottage on the beach with Antony and I won't pretend I wasn't disappointed by the change of plan but I knew damn well who he was; he couldn't throw everything to the wall just for me and he was right; I couldn't for him either.
I took my time dressing but I was pleased with the result and the reaction as I moved into the common room.
I knew I looked good.
"Wow Iris," June said standing up as I came towards them.
I smiled, allowing them all to give me the once over before speaking.
"So girls, are we going to get going or not?" I said cheerfully.
I hadn’t even vaguely realised that tonight was to be considered an actual event, usually The Green was limited to 7th years only, 6th years if they had the right contacts but that night it was the best of the 5th to 7th.
I was surprised to see Ace lurking at the corners, watching on in a detached way, absently swirling the contents of the bottle in his hand. I hadn’t spoken to him in months, we were strangers again and those few weeks the year before seemed like a distant dream; he wasn’t the bloke he used to be, he was detached from everyone and naturally rumours had begun to circulate. From what I’d glimpsed he wasn’t that drastically changed; he was still having it off with June Hunt and some other dyed blonde monstrosities, not to mention some 6th year who was obviously dutifully filling the hole that Leda had left behind. She followed him hopelessly yet, from what I’d seen, got just as much out of it.
He wasn’t standing by himself for long though; Regina Polar from Ravenclaw soon appeared with her diving v neck that left little to the imagination and her cleavage decidedly more free than it ought to be. I watched them absently as he chuckled at something she said, speaking with a slight shake of his head. She gave a pout and moved closer...
“I just don’t get what happened to him,” a voice sighed beside me.
I turned, frowning at Ali.
“What?” I said.
“Tom,” She breathed. It was all I could do to refrain from rolling my eyes.
“Tom’s a...” I started.
“Tzwat. If you want a real bloke Alz, you come over here and I’ll give you a proper shag,” a voice slurred. I looked over with an eye roll at Elliot who already had his arm round some other girl.
“Drunk already?” I said.
“And if you ever wanna give up money bags...” one of the others started.
“I certainly won’t give you a call,” I supplied disdainfully as he leered at me, from where he was half standing, half slumped against his friend’s shoulder.
“Awww don’t be a bitch Iriz, he waz only being friendly,” Elliot chuckled.
I rolled my eyes, looking at him amusedly.
Having nowhere else to go and no direction other than shagging far more than they ought to, Elliot and the rest of Ace’s old friends had ended up forming a kind of alliance with ‘The Girls’, after all, a group of perpetually randy blokes with the greatest congregation of slags was a match made in STD heaven. Without Cane they’d lost their menacing reputation and had instead been dubbed with the same ‘good time guys’ title as The Marauders.
This gave them more time to concentrate on their libidos and childish wars with the aforementioned foursome.
“How comes youz getting married anyway?” Elliot frowned at me.
“Because,” I said.
“Becauze what?” He said swaying slightly.
“Because I love him,” I answered.
“I fought you and Ace waz into each other ‘cause you waz like this,” He said mashing his hands together.
“Yeah! What happened with you two?” Kim cried. I disliked the idea that she thought it was alright for her to talk to me nowadays...bloody wannabe.
“Nothing,” I said.
“S’Cane, he’s a bastard, he’s fucked in the head I swear it,” Elliot nodded.
“Why did you hang out with him for so long then?” I asked.
“Dunno,” He shrugged.
“S’best to know what he’s up to,” He said.
That was probably true. I glanced back over at where Ace was, or had been rather. Now Regina simply stood alone looking a little peeved.
My attention soon wavered however when a loud cheer went round from the across the small fire in the centre of the clearing.
Most of the group I sat with started pairing off after a bit so I migrated over to The Marauders although it wasn’t much different to be honest, Lily and James were pretty into each other, Hemera had actually disappeared off with Andy and Remus was conversing with a Ravenclaw girl (who I knew for a fact, fancied the crap out of him). Not for the first time recently, I felt a little out of place.
I sighed, running a hand through my hair before turning only to go straight into Sirius.
“Where you going?” He said.
"I think I'm going to head up," I breathed.
"It’s barely started, don't leave," He pouted.
"I'm tired and everyone's drunk," I said flatly. He chuckled.
"Good point that...I'll walk you up," He said.
"Thanks," I said, wrapping my jumper further round me.
"It's weird isn't it? I mean all this," I said motioning at random.
"It just...feels like everything is about to change," I said as he moved to his feet.
"I know," He nodded.
"My best mates pretty much already settled into married life," He said. I chuckled as we started back up to the castle.
"I feel old," I admitted.
"Well you're already something else, aren't you? After this you've already got things set out for you," He said.
"Yeah, Moody's still working on my not joining the ministry...I think Antony probably is too...dunnowhat they're worried about really, my visions have pretty much faded now," I yawned absently.
"Really?" He said.
"Yeah, I feel kind of blind but I like it at the same time, it's nice to not have so many things invading my thoughts all the time," I said. He opened his mouth before closing it again, obviously deciding against whatever it was he was about to say.
I pretended not to notice.
"Everything's going to change isn't it?" He said quietly after a while of walking in silence, the moonlight bathing the grass with a damp shimmer.
"I guess it is...let's try and keep in touch, what with everything going on it's best to keep your friends close," I said vaguely.
"What're you doing after school?" I asked. He shrugged as he dug his hands into his pockets.
"I'm gonna be an auror, move into my place properly...nothing much has changed," He admitted.
"Us living together would have been cool, potentially nightmarish but cool nonetheless," I smiled.
"We only would have ended up arguing all the time," He shrugged.
"I know but I'm starting to think I must just like arguing with you or something," I teased. He laughed.
"Can't say I'd be surprised," He said nudging me gently.
"Can't say I would be either," I admitted with a light laugh.
"So what about you?" He asked almost politely but it only made the slight strain more apparent.
"I don't know, I don't even know where I'm going to live. I could stay at Marie's but it's too big for one," I shrugged.
"I don't think I'd mind having my own place until I get married, I want to do things in order," I said firmly.
"In order?" He laughed.
"Yeah, you know 'the forever home', I think I want a place in town, there's already another country house aside from Noble Hall but I want to start anew, you know? I want it to be ours," I said.
"Wow Iris," He chuckled shaking his head.
"What?" I said.
"The 'country house'?" He said, lips quirking. I snorted.
"Darling I've always been an upper class snob even before I had the money or the class," I said. He laughed.
"You'll spend the rest of your life worrying about colours and coos," He warned.
I smiled slightly at that.
"I don't care, as long as I have Antony I honestly don't," I said with a small smile.
"In any case, it's what I do best," I said.
"What about The Order?" He said.
"I'll still join," I said glancing at him amusedly.
"You know Sirius if I didn't know, I'd think you were trying to stop me," I said.
"I am," He said simply, chuckling slightly.
"It's not working," I said.
"Not even if I promised to sweep you off your feet (marauder style)?" He teased.
"After watching all you lot have put Lily through over the years?" I said quirking an eyebrow.
"Oh I'd do it 10 times better," He said. I laughed.
"And then what would happen?" I said.
"Well it'd go on quiet a bit, even after you'd fallen completely head over bloody heels for me but then I'd ask you to marry me," He said.
"Oh really?" I said.
"Yup, I'd do it properly," He said.
"And you'd say yes," He put in.
"Naturally," I breezed.
"And then I'd marry you and you'd go bloody crazy seeing me in a tux of course," He said.
"How could I resist?" I said amusedly.
"And I'd think you looked pretty decent in your wedding dress, obviously everyone'd go on about how great we looked together," He said.
"They'd have to be blind not to see it," I chuckled.
"I'd be pretty happy when we finally got married, you'd be ecstatic; jumping all over the place and shit, then we'd move into our place..." He started.
"What so I don't get a wedding night?" I said feigning shock.
He sent me a sideways look, a huge grin sitting on his lips.
"I don't kiss and tell love," He said. I laughed.
"Hmm, intriguing," I said.
"Oh I know. Anyway, few years down the line we'll have kids, quite a few of them, people'll be begging to use our kids for ads and crap like that, we'll have a dog maybe too, and our kids'll be friends with James and Lily's kids and Remmie if he's got round to it, and Pete too if he's been allowed to leave home..." He said. I laughed.
"Do I have any say in the amount of kids we have," I said.
"Well love, I do try and hold you back but you're all over me all the time," He said innocently.
"God, how could I forget?" I gasped. He smiled.
"And then we'll grow old together and we'll take walks with the dogs (they'll be really old and pretty fat by that point) but we'll be happy and I'll love you and you'll love me...and the kids...and the dogs...and the house," He murmured. He had that twinkle in his eyes he hadn't turned on me in a while, it was a clear night and silvery light caught the angles of his face, highlighting the features I knew so well as we came to an unconscious halt in the shadow of the castle.
"You forgot to include the random arguments," I murmured back.
"They won't matter, they don't really matter now," He breathed, his hand sliding down my arm, taking mine in gently in his by our sides.
I just looked at him.
"You're wooing me ,aren't you?" I said.
"I am, is it working?" He said, his breath tickling my nose as he spoke.
I didn't say anything for a moment before speaking.
"Maybe a little," I said.
"Good," He said.
"I think you'd actually like Antony if you got to know him," I said absently.
"Nah, I wouldn't like him on principle," He answered easily. I laughed.
"That's not very fair," I said.
"I know, it's terrible but unfortunately life isn't fair," He said.
"Life's whatever you make it," I breathed. He shrugged.
"This isn't anything real Sirius, you do know that don't you?" I said in his ear.
He looked at me, a smirk playing on his lips.
“Really?” He said.
“Yes really,” I answered.
He brushed the tip of my ear with his nose.
“Are you sure?” He said.
“Positive,” I said feeling his lips trail along my jaw, until they skimmed my bottom lip. I stopped him there, moving my fingertips against his mouth.
“I’m serious,” I said quietly but forcefully before moving left and side stepping him.
“Night,” I whispered before beginning to walk.
~ * ~
I arrived in the deserted, dimly lit street, the silence only interrupted by the occasional crack of another arrival.
“We can’t fuck this up, Ace,” Cane breathed under his breath. I looked to my side, watching him for a moment before nodding slowly.
“I know,” I breathed. If he’d wanted to say anything else he didn’t get the chance because slime ball arrived, oversized robe flapping, greasy hair stuck to his face. He didn’t even break stride, icing Cane as he slid his wand smoothly from his pocket.
Cane turned to watch him, his lip curling slightly before he moved to where he’d stopped a little way from us, the silvery form of his patronus standing before him. It was eerie, the steady constant hum of the streetlight seemed unnatural despite the fact that it was the closest thing to it there. It was a pretty ugly place; dreary grey buildings stood tiredly side by side, obviously mostly disused and that was it - a pock marked road, two stretches of parallel pavement and a large warehouse. There was a light on somewhere down the road but no one seemed to take much interest.
My nerves were on fire. I couldn't tell if that crawling feeling along my spine was fear or something else.
I remember once, my Uncle Jimmy won this horse off a bloke in the pub. I remember sitting on the fence with a bunch of my cousins as it was led to the isolated patch of green behind the house. It was nervous as fuck but for some reason that came back to me now, it's eyes rolling back in fear (spooked by the sounds of the market nearby I guess) and it's jittering, jerky movements...but I wasn't a horse and that wasn't the world I lived in any more.
I couldn't go back now; not to listening to the shit my brothers had to say about me leaving or my dad's gruff silence; I'd left once but this time I meant it, this time I wasn't going back.
Tonight was the night, the decider, make or break time. I could be marked, take it all on my shoulders and fucking BE somebody, somebody more than just what public opinion made me to be or I could continue like I had; the fucking muggle born, scared that someone'd find out and whether they knew it or not it'd matter soon and I wanted AND needed to be on the right side.
Self preservation with the promise of glory, that was it a bloody nutshell.
I dug my hands into my pockets as we all stood there waiting. I bet they had about as much idea WHAT we were waiting for as I did.
"Excited?" Alecto said, her high wheezy voice cutting sharply the silence around me.
Excited made it sound like we were a bunch of mates going for a pint down the pub before a match or something but I guess in a way I was.
"I guess," I shrugged nonchalantly.
"I..." She started, seemingly pleased that I was responding. I could see she'd tried a bit of make up again, didn't do much for her though, I'd have to be bloody desperate (of the 5 years in solitary confinement variety) to tap that.
I tuned out as she was speaking, my gaze wandering down the street again. Cane told her to shut up after a bit and we returned to standing in silence which I soon came to realise was worse.
"My my Cane, I was under the impression these FRIENDS of yours were all too eager to see you again," Snape said innocently.
Cane turned to him, dark irritation etched into every line of his face, his face contorting when out of the oppressive silence, about a dozen black shadows, hurtling through the air, flying about us and whipping up a wind that blew my robes flat against my body. I stood still, bracing myself as the Carrows stepped closer to each other. The streetlight went out with a crash of breaking glass.
It was only by the moonlight that I saw the shadows had solidified into figures, I barely had time to react when I felt my arm wrenched and twisted painfully behind my back, the hard thin wood of a wand coming to lie across my throat.
My eyes darted around to see each of the others similarly restrained by dark cloaked, silver masked figures, the bright round moon causing an ethereal light to reflect of the smoothed angles, casting strange lights on the street around us.
"State your business," a calm voice said as one walked towards the semi circle.
"How dare you touch me!" I heard Cane snarl. The figure turned before chuckling.
"Release him," He said easily, rolling his wand absently between his fingers.
The person holding me, relaxed their grip slightly, only fractionally and hesitantly but I pulled my arm forward with enough force for them to have no choice but to release me.
"...and the others too," He continued as an afterthought.
"Orpheus," Cane nodded, smoothing his slightly ruffled robe.
"Cane," He answered with an equally formal nod.
I rolled my shoulders, flexing my hand in irritation as I tried to shake off the dull ache. Bastard, I could take the git behind me anytime but that's what I hated about magic. You couldn't just size someone up and throw a punch; you didn't know if they were messing with your mind or capable of casting spells silently or just bloody mental with a wand, it required more thought than I could be bothered to give in the heat of a moment, fighting used to be physical.
Despite that I still gripped the wand in my pocket.
S'what you fear that you need to embrace the most, they say, I was pretty average with a wand and perhaps if the deatheaters worked on the basis of actual skill levels than I wouldn't bother but it was just like any other fascist organisations; built with hypocritical bums as the support on the ground who just enjoyed exercising the power they have to fuck up other people's lives.
My intention wasn't to reach the top of the pile or any crap like that, I couldn't be bothered with politics and I liked being in control but I wouldn't exactly call myself power crazy. Power crazy was standard if you wanted to climb the top of the heap, that, being a tad delusional and occasionally referring to yourself in third person.
I couldn't help chuckle slightly to myself.
The third person thing was enough to drive you mad...Cane did it every so often...naturally he'd go far.
"We apologise for the formalities but you never know," Orpheus said lazily, a small smirk pulling on his lips as his gaze swept over us.
Orpheus Nero, a friend of Cane's father, Hemera's uncle, was in his mid 30's at the latest with the same blonde hair, slightly squared jaw and grey eyes. Cane easily reflected the same haughty air as him though, despite the eveness of his tone Orpheus’ eyes were steely as they ran over the boy before him, his tone was clipped and too polite.
“We don’t have time for this, they’re due to arrive in a matter of minutes, timing is everything, too long a wait and he’ll be suspicious,” a more business like voice interrupted before a second man strode into the middle of the semi circle, this one taller than the first.
“It’s simple, wait for directions, do not move until we tell you to, don’t allow your mask to be taken and remember; you are on your own-you fall behind and that’s that. We only need to extract information from a...source but the Order are likely to be on hand and I can no longer guarantee an easy exit...you couldn’t have picked a better day, really,” He said as we were each given a silver mask. The silvery light shone onto the smooth flawless silver mask and I couldn’t help turning it slightly, watching it interestedly before fastening it as the others had already done so. It was cool against my face, I felt it wrap itself into place after a moment or two and it no longer felt as if it had ever been an external object at all.
“Eridanus,” Orpheus said, turning that same mocking expression to the tall man beside him.
Eridanus gave him a brisk nod.
“I expect you will follow orders this time, Orpheus,” Eridanus said loftily.
“Whatever do you mean?” Orpheus replied somewhat innocently.
“I mean that if Bellatrix can contain herself than you can too; kill any in your way, contain torture to the target,” He said.
That unnerved me slightly, how easily they went on about it, how casually they talked about murder. It didn’t settle for long though and I turned my attention to the brief, a kind of anticipation building up in me. This was what I’d signed up for.
We travelled silently along a shady back alley to the main warehouse, eventually positioning ourselves in the sheltered outer wall, a two story high window spanning from the ground where we could see in through the empty window panes.
The silence was suffocating, only broken briefly when a large rat ran across the toe of someone’s shoe. It got no further than a metre before it was struck by a streak of green, falling silently to its side where it remained. It wasn’t the last to die that night but I thought of the order as something like that rat.
They’d had a ‘tip off’ from a source they already knew and trusted, she’d only turned recently but she’d agreed to get them to the warehouse that night. In all honesty I had no idea exactly who ‘he’ was and the longer it went on, the less I cared. It started like a thirst, part of me hoped there’d be a slip up, that it’d escalate and I’d finally have a chance to bloody DO something. I got what I wanted.
We’d been there no more than 5 minutes before the echoing footsteps sounded, two sets of shoes hitting the dusky floor and I edged closer to catch a glimpse of the two. One a tall man, broad shouldered in a suit, the other shorter, curvy and decidedly more feminine.
The mans footsteps seemed uncomfortably loud as he stepped into the shadow of the building. "You're late," the small figure said in a soft voice. I was kind of surprised to realise that it was female.
I leant forward, straining to hear them.
"I'm sorry," He responded politely.
"I got held up," He said.
"Did you bring the money?" She said. He nodded before producing a small suitcase, seemingly out of thin air.
I watched as the woman took a step forward.
"How much are they paying you Rebecca?" He said. She paused.
"Pardon?" She said.
"I...this is a dangerous business and no one's on your side," He murmured urgently.
"Please," She said stepping forward and reaching for the suitcase.
"Really..." He started.
"You don't understand," She whispered.
"I do, really, what have they got over you? We both know you're not a murderer," He breathed.
"I am. I know you don't want to believe it but I killed him, there's no secret to it," She said.
"I can help you, if you let me, I can..." He started.
"Don't, please. We were friends a long time ago, don't waste your time on me, I'm not innocent," She said, taking the suitcase and passing him a small file.
"I want you to be at my wedding," He said gently.
She'd already begun to walk back out towards the street but she stopped at that, remaining perfectly still, utterly silent before she turned.
"Run," She said.
"What?" He said.
"Get out of here, apparate n..." but moments later a streak of light struck her squarely in the chest and she crumpled.
I was stationary for a moment, staring at the crumpled figure, partially bathed in light until I felt someone push past me. A shout erupted followed by several explosions of light.
I didn't even have time to finish that thought as a hex narrowly missed my shoulder. A thrill ran down my spine as it flew past, singing the shoulder of my robe and causing one of the crates behind me to explode.
I looked down, trying to wrap my head around exactly when it had been that all this people had arrived. It was a bit like the suitcase; appeared out of nowhere.
I'd only just wrapped my head around the idea of the blossoming battle below when I saw an unmasked appear to my right out of the corner of my eye. I didn't think, I guess I didn't need to, my wand hand simply did it all for me, they were done before I'd even registered the action, crashing into the crates behind.
Another appeared seconds later and this time was even easier than the last as my mind kicked into gear, a sharpness piercing the numbness that had proceeded it.
You know duelling in school wasn't like it was in real life. I don't think anything any of them could have prepared me for it.
It was better.
I felt fucking alive.
They were faceless to me and it didn't matter as I flawed another one, a short laugh ripping itself from my throat before engaging with another. This one was trickier, they were faster than the others had been, he'd obviously had time to get fired up. There were only a few of us on the balcony, the crates made it more cumbersome than it otherwise would have been but it was an advantage too.
With my fists my greatest advantage wasn't how often I hit, it was how hard. My uncle Eddie'd taught me how to fight and he'd always claimed the best way to take them down was to do it quickly, before they'd got into a rhythm. If you could knock the living daylights of them early then the rhythm would be knocked out of sink and they'd be slower and you'd be less likely to tire yourself out with too many rounds.
Admittedly this'd done absolutely fuck all because I'd ended up fighting some great bloody mountain of a bloke who'd've needed a bloody bulldozer to take him down.
In this case though, it worked, I wasn't fancy with my wand work, I wasn't hugely skilled but it was difficult to keep up against a heavy barrage of attacks. He couldn't attack because he was on defence. The force of the spell was what did it eventually, he ended up tripping over his own feet and knocking himself out when he fell backwards.
I stood panting for a moment, my right forearm stinging from an earlier hex, my jaw aching faintly too before I moved down the steps to ground level where most of them were. It was about even then, it was easy to see which sides were which even in the chaos, the masks shone.
I slid forward, recognising both of the Carrows squat forms, I intercepted the spell rocketing towards them, taken into the ebb of the ongoing battle.
I shot spell after spell, eventually finding myself standing side to side with Cane of all people. He was elaborate with his hand but fast enough to be a daunting opponent. I watched as he repeated the same spell three times over, binding 4 different people in constricting ropes that snaked around them, squeezing like a large snake. Several dropped to the floor, their wands falling abandoned by their sides and at first they'd struggle wildly, thrash around, try to shake them off but their efforts would grow weaker as they gasped for breath...I looked a way after a bit, a bitter taste forming in my mouth until I engaged another one.
Cane was the first to kill that night.
Their numbers began to slowly dwindle after a bit and the more they did, the harder they went down. Then all of a sudden they retreated, a voice yelling for them to get out of there and fall back and they did. I stood, panting heavily, blood dripping steadily down my arm, it was deep I think but the adrenaline hadn't worn off enough for me to care. In any case most of the stuff staining my robe wasn't mine.
"Cowards," Eridanus snapped angrily, firing a spell off at random. I looked at him. I couldn't see a scratch on him aside from a a split at the side of his robe.
My stance changed, relaxing ever so slightly when nothing else came hurtling towards me.
"Well done newbie," A bloke to the left of me chuckled pulling off his mask. I looked over, watching as a few of the others did the same.
I opened my mouth to speak, a grin slowly beginning to form on my lips when a shout interrupted us. We all turned in time to see a light illuminate a distant corridor leading off, large shadows playing briefly across the wall.
Eridanus replaced his mask before striding over, apparently in no great hurry but we followed anyway.
We arrived in time to see Orpheus strike the man onto his knees, blood immediately darkening his robe, his hands already tied behind his back, head hung. There were two others with him, both masked but Orpheus' face was bare.
Eridanus came to a halt beside him, removing the mask to reveal a smirk of his own.
"My my, aren't we in a pickle?" He said mockingly.
The man remained silent, breathing heavily but somewhat laboured too.
"The thing that fascinates me is your naivety, after all this time and you really thought you stood a chance," Eridanus continued before tapping his wand.
"Now we'll start this nicely, if you tell us what we need to know then there'll be no need for anything further, if not then we'll...help you along," He said. Orpheus crouched before him, his wand pointed on his chest, pulling the mans head back by his hair before speaking.
"Where're the files?" He said lightly, almost pleasantly.
The man didn't say anything.
Orpheus' expression shifted before he reached forward, grabbing a fist full of his hair and jerking it backwards forcefully.
"Tell us or we'll torture you until you do," Eridanus said.
"I couldn't tell you even if I wanted to," He said. I was surprised at how calm he sounded. His voice sounded familiar actually.
"I'm sure you could if you tried," Eridanus drawled.
"-and I wouldn't if I could," He finished looking straight up at Eridanus.
"Oh how noble," Eridanus drawled.
"Rebecca sold you out you know, for that money...you knew it was a set up, didn't you?" Orpheus said.
He didn't say anything.
"Didn't you?" Orpheus snapped, pulling his head further back.
"She's of no use to you, she was supplied with false information anyway," He said.
"He'll kill her," Orpheus said nonchalantly.
The man didn't say anything for a moment before speaking again.
"Of course, if you really cared, you'd give us the information and we'd let you both free," Orpheus continued. .
"You know as well as I, that's not going to happen," The man said after a moment.
"It could do, if you participate," Orpheus answered evenly.
I appreciated then how good Orpheus was at what he did. He was a believable actor, the master of dispensing hope, dangling freedom JUST out of arms reach, lamenting the fact that he couldn't lower that prize to your level but naturally he could if you gave what he wanted. In any case, people inevitably wanted to believe what he was saying.
He was ruthless though, he toyed then destroyed them, reduced them to nothingness.
“You know if I were the dark lord, I’d keep her around. Useful...exactly my type actually,” Orpheus said, eyes glistening, his last few words falling with malice.
The man looked at him, seemingly studying him for a moment.
“I’m afraid you’ve misread me Orpheus, it’s a little childish, don’t you think?” He said almost amusedly.
“I wouldn’t waste my breath Orpheus, move,” Eridanus said in a bored voice, sliding his wand smoothly as he strode forward, hitting the man kneeling man with the cruciatus curse moments later. He tried to keep it in at first but an additional kick to already broken ribs was enough for the cry to burst from newly parted lips, falling to his side, his body contorting sharply.
“One of you, over here,” Orpheus barked at the group of hooded masked spectators at the edges. I was glad of my own mask.
Amycus went forward, wheezing excitedly before hitting the figure with another spell.
It grew to something resembling feeding time at the zoo; a frenzy of activity, nervous excitement washing in great waves.
“Where’re the files!” Eridanus snarled after calling a halt to the proceedings.
I thought he must’ve been bloody mad not to tell them but he didn’t say anything, his side rising and falling heavily.
I guess it was just that night that his luck had run out.
I watched as they tortured him relentlessly, eventually building up a sort of detached glassy surface, you could almost hear it when he snapped. Bruised, bloodied and exhausted he promised to tell them anything, everything, if they’d call it off, just for a while longer. There was silence, heavy breathing all round as if it had been a true matter of physical exertion for all involved as we waited for him to speak. The silence stretched on until Orpheus drove his foot forcefully into his side, just a little nudge to get him going.
“Where’re are the files?” Eridanus breathed softly, crouching before him.
The man struggled for breath before speaking.
“Destroyed.” He said.
“YOU’RE LYING!” Orpheus roared in frustration, kicking him again, harder this time.
“I find that hard to believe,” Eridanus growled, grabbing a fist full of his hair and pulling sharply until their faces were level when distantly shouts were raised, we all looked round, watching as lights began to filter from the main hall like structure to the corridor.
“The Order!” Eridanus cried.
“You lot, go!” He snapped, motioning to a group of 10 or so people, myself and the rest of the ‘newbies’.
Most left immediately and I turned to leave when several things happened almost simultaneously.
I noticed that the ties that had kept the mans hands behind his back were severed, Eridanus’ wand was flying unguarded dangerously close to him...and then suddenly these two factors had merged to one, Eridanus was lying flat on his back and a split second later a powerful green light powered through the space, hitting the man squarely in the chest with enough power to send him sprawled onto his back, landing with his head just before my feet and there, with his last breath stolen from his lips lay Antony Noble.
The scene erupted into chaos, another killing curse traversed the space hitting the figure who’d sent the first as Eridanus jumped to his feet, released a echoing snarl, sending another curse at the already unmoving corpse of the man who’s reactions had been so quick and his will to serve so powerful that he’d killed the person he thought would pose a threat to the furious man standing between the corpses, chest heaving.
There was little time to dwell on it though as Order members seemed to appear in great heavy waves out of nowhere, stripping masks as they went. It was panic stricken and disorganised, we were heavily outnumbered and it wasn’t long before our numbers dwindled further.
My mind stammered, incapable on focusing on anything as the imagine of those wide open eyes stared up at me, glassy and distant. I tried to shake the crushing feeling of guilt but it bit and knawed on my heels, demanding my attention before reinvading my mind, sitting hauntingly before my eyes; opened or closed.
“FALL BACK! GET OUT!” I heard Eridanus roar over the clamour before he disappeared, many of the other following shortly in his wake including Orpheus. I went to follow, keeping my eyes peeled on the advancing Order members when I tripped over one of the bodies. I gave a start, scrambling back, my hands and robe dampened by the crimson pool seeping from Antony’s head wound.
“ANTONY!” I heard a voice cry before someone dropped to their knees by his side, abandoning their wand as they let out a dry cry. I watched as they keened, shaking him and with it my stomach wound itself tighter into a heavy awkward knot, my heart thumping in my heart.
Iris'd go mental.
I saw the way she looked at him, heard the way she spoke about him, she'd crack and it wouldn't matter whether I'd been holding the wand or not. The worst thing about it was I deserved it and what’s more I knew it. I didn’t notice that he’d noticed me until I felt a spell brush my shoulder followed by a loud almost war like cry before he launched himself at me. I was too numb to do anything more than deflect them, scrambling back out of his reach, sending another spell to keep him at bay before apparating.
Iris was going to fucking kill me.
It's been way too long and I am really REALLY sorry for that, I never forgot about this story but it kept getting put at the back of my to do list and when I finally had time my muse died a horrible and melodramatic death. I'm sorry.
Onto the actually chappie, it's err...not great and a bubbling mass of cliches and I DID NOT WANT TO KILL ANTONY OFF but unfortunately, it's for the sake of The Dreaded Plot so unfortunately it was the chop for him. I'll also apologise in advance for the general iffiness of it all, half of it was written just now and it's pretty early/ late (whichever way you want to look at it!) so I'm sorry if it doesn't make sense but I thought it was better to finally have something up than another year of nothing! I'm going to stop rambling now but if I do have any reviewers left, forgive me? ...and the next chapters prewritten? :D
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