Chapter 29 : Born to Die
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I can see but once I was blind
I was so confused as a little child
Born to Die – Lana Del Rey
Gideon's patrol was relatively uneventful. Then again, Hogsmeade patrols generally were. One of the only times he'd ever had any trouble was when a few Hogwarts students had snuck out of school for the day. He'd let them go; their troublemaking ways had reminded him of his and Marlene's school days.
Of course, Hogsmeade had also been the site of his wife's death. That patrol had gone horrendously wrong...
He returned to his flat – his third in six months – to find a tearful Araminta waiting for him.
"What's happened?" he asked sharply.
Even in her emotional state, she drew her wand, and pointed it at him shakily.
"I swapped Hengist of Woodcroft with an Agrippa, now what's wrong-"
"Ask me the question!" she said in a hysterical voice.
"Just do it!"
He sighed, aggravated. "What did you want to be when you were younger?"
"Dragon breeder," she said in barely a whisper, her voice cracking.
She let her wand fall to the floor, and sank into the chair behind her. He crossed the room and knelt down in front of her.
"What's wrong? What's happened?"
She closed her eyes, her hand over her mouth, and shook her head.
"Please, tell me..."
She took a deep, shuddering breath.
"Oh, Merlin, I'm so sorry, Gid, it's my fault, it shouldn't have happened..."
"I'm sure it's not your fault-"
Her hands gripped her hair agonisingly. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm herself.
"It – it's Arieda..."
Gideon's heart turned to lead.
"What ... what's happened?" he whispered.
Though he had a horrible feeling he already knew.
"We ... we went to find her this morning ... me and Fabian ... she hadn't turned up for Auror training ... we went to her flat ... only, they'd gotten there first..."
He didn't need to ask who she meant by 'they'.
"No," he murmured, burying his head in Araminta's lap. "Oh, Arieda..."
Her face swam into his vision, so young, so innocent ... she had always been like a sister to him, long before he'd married Louisa; he'd always sworn to do what he could to keep her safe, and now he had failed her...
"I'm sorry," Araminta said chokingly. "It's my fault, if you hadn't lured them to yours then they wouldn't have been so mad, and you did it because of me..."
"No," he said firmly, raising his head to look up at her tearstained face. "Don't you dare blame yourself, it wasn't your fault, she was one of their targets anyway ... if anything it was my fault, I should have been looking out for her, I should have been protecting her, I could have stopped this-"
"How, by being her bodyguard? You ... you couldn't ... they would have been too determined ... and then you'd just have died as well..."
Her words, spelling out Arieda's fate so clearly, were more than he could take. He wanted to stay strong, for Araminta, but he couldn't fight back his own tears any longer. She slid off the chair and sank to the floor beside him, enveloping him in her arms.
And instead of one of them trying to keep their emotions at bay and comfort the other, this time they cried together, mourning the loss of a woman they had both loved and needed so much.
From then on, time passed in a blur for Araminta. She hadn't realised just how much she'd relied on Arieda to keep her spirits up. Now she was gone, she had little to spur her on, to keep her going. She had Gideon, of course, but he'd been through so much already, and there were only so many times he could pick himself up and dust himself off. Together, they endured the pain, but there was little else they could do for one another now.
The Dark Lord hadn't summoned her again, which was a relief, as she really didn't know how she'd have handled another interrogation from him. She was also relieved to not have to see any of the other Death Eaters, especially Bellatrix.
Her peace was short-lived though, as Bellatrix Apparated into her flat one morning late in September.
"We're going to Gringotts," she announced by way of a greeting.
Araminta stared at her numbly.
"I have to go to work..."
"Not this morning, you don't," Bellatrix replied promptly. "Come on!"
"Why do you need me?"
"Because," Bellatrix smirked, "you speak Goblin."
Moments later they were passing through the Leaky Cauldron. Bellatrix had had Araminta Disillusion her – that was one of her strengths – and her silhouette was barely visible as they headed towards Gringotts. Araminta's stomach was churning, her intestines tying themselves into knots. She had no idea what Bellatrix planned for her to do, but she was certain she wouldn't enjoy it.
They reached the bank – and Araminta ground to a halt.
Somehow, the Death Eaters had infiltrated already. The goblins were being held at wand point, the Aurors on patrol lying dead just inside the door.
"Take the spell off," Bellatrix ordered.
Araminta removed the Disillusionment charm with a shaking hand. Bellatrix then took her by the elbow and led her across the main hall to where Dolohov stood, his wand at the head goblin's throat.
"We want to get into some of the vaults," Bellatrix stated, "and they won't tell us how to get past their security. They need persuading."
And Araminta, as Bellatrix knew only too well, was particularly gifted at persuasion.
But as she looked down at the goblin, looked into his eyes, she knew that even she would have no chance here. The goblins may have been neutral once, but the Dark Lord had slain too many of their numbers for them to give in now.
"Are you really stupid enough to think that mere persuasion will get you into the vaults?" the goblin sneered in his own tongue.
"What did it say?" Bellatrix said sharply.
Araminta didn't reply to her.
"They will kill you if they don't get the answer they want," she told the goblin in the same language.
He raised his head defiantly.
"I would rather die than give away such secrets," he said. "You can kill every single one of us, but you still won't succeed."
Her reply was interrupted by a scuffle at the doors.
"Aurors!" Bellatrix cried.
Dolohov released the goblin, who dropped to the floor, and he turned to face the wave of Aurors flooding into the main hall. Araminta made as if to turn round, but Bellatrix yanked her back, conjuring up a hood and a mask.
"You're not blowing your cover," she hissed. "And don't you dare think about leaving, either; you can fight this time."
She darted off, to engage Fabian in a duel.
Araminta sucked in her breath sharply, but didn't have much time to ponder over her predicament as she was forced to duck to avoid a Stunner. She span round and saw that her attacker was Sirius. She groaned, and raised her wand to conjure a strong Shield Charm. It blocked the barrage of spells that he sent her way, giving her a couple of seconds to try to work out what she could do.
She was a perfectly adept dueller, and was sure that she could match Sirius, but she really didn't fancy taking any chances, especially not when he was so anguished. But she couldn't think of any way to give away her identity to him, without any of the Death Eaters discovering that she wasn't their woman.
Luckily, Sirius helped her out. The last of his barrage of Stunners broke through her Shield, forcing her to duck and the sudden movement dislodged the mask just enough to show him it was her. His eyes widened slightly in shock, and in his moment's hesitation, she replaced the mask.
He sent another stream of spells her way – but they were ever so slightly weaker, ever so slightly off-target, and her job became slightly easier.
She was half-aware of what else was going on around her, aware of Gideon duelling Dolohov, a duel that seemed to be merging with Fabian and Bellatrix's. She tried not to let any of it distract her from her own duel.
But as the number of robed figures duelling the Prewetts increased from two to four, and then five, she found it harder and harder to concentrate. And then Malfoy felled Dawlish. Sirius whirled round, ending their mock-duel, to take on Malfoy before he too joined the duel against Gideon and Fabian. Araminta was left duel-less, and unable to tear her eyes away from the scene before her.
One of Dolohov's spells caught Fabian's left arm. He let out a cry of anguish, but continued to fire spells at his opponents fiercely with his right, while holding the injured arm limply at his side. One of his spells met its target, and the hooded figure slumped to the floor. Now it was Bellatrix's turn to let out the scream, as she turned upon Fabian furiously.
Araminta could tell what was to happen a split second before it did, and raised her hand to her mouth to mask her scream as the green jet hit Fabian squarely in the chest; he fell to the floor like a marionette whose strings had been cut.
Gideon let out a heart-wrenching roar, his spells escalating in frequency and power, fuelled by the anger caused by his brother's death, hunting for revenge, and Araminta knew he would not last long without backup, yet everyone else was struggling in duels of their own, and she could not bring herself to move; it was as though she had been placed under a Body-Bind.
It seemed to happen in slow motion. Araminta could see it coming, but was powerless to stop it, as Gideon twisted to dodge a spell, ducked, weaved – and then was caught by a second green jet from Bellatrix's wand. The force of the curse threw his head back and his arms up; his wand spun out of his right hand into the air, landing several feet away, as he fell to the ground beside his brother.
It was as though the spell had been broken; Araminta stumbled forwards across the main hall, speeding up into a desperate run, as a terrible scream rent the air, and she was half-way towards him before she realised it was her own scream, that tears were streaming down her cheeks, and she was shaking with emotion, and as she fell to the floor beside Gideon she gave in to her tears, letting out a stream of racking sobs.
"Gideon," she murmured through her tears, pulling her head into his lap, "please, please, be okay, please, wake up ... please, you can't be dead-"
She choked over the word, stroking his cheek gently, before slapping it as though it would awaken him.
"Please, you can't leave me, I need you, I love you..."
His eyes stared up at her, glazed, unfocused, and she gently shut his eyelids, oblivious to the scene around her, the retreating Death Eaters, the Ministry enforcements arriving too late to save Gideon and Fabian. And then she let out a scream of anguish, of rage, before she broke down again, falling across his chest, ignoring the cries of her name from the others around her, and wishing that someone would take her too, so she could be with Gideon once more.
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