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While You Were Sleeping by Roots in Water
Chapter 5 : Battle
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 4


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The waves seemed rougher this time he appeared in his mind, as though they were trying to erase something from existence. They tore at him, trying to sweep him off his feet and drown him under the waves.

He struggled—he now knew that there was something strange, some foreign influence in his mind. His own mind wouldn’t attack him like this otherwise.

There was something else,
someone else in his mind and he wanted them out.

He raged, stomping and tearing through the waves, but they continued crashing against him in a never-ending stream.

He was soaked through, heavy and wet, and with each step the swirling water threatened to pull him under. He knew, though, that he had to keep fighting. To keep fighting was to weaken the opponent, invisible though they were.

But to keep on fighting was also to weaken himself and he could feel his legs straining, the growing desire to let them fall out from under him.

The pressure from the waves increased and several times he almost gave in and let himself fall.

But he didn’t.

He kept on moving forwards, kept on searching for some point, any point, that would allow him to give battle.

But no such point appeared and he was left to carry on until he fell, exhausted by the waves and swirling water.


*

He was organizing his paperwork when his watch began to ring and it startled him. At first he didn’t know where the sound was coming from – loud sounds weren’t welcome in a room full of tense Aurors and thus were rare – but his watch quickly began to buzz and he wouldn’t have survived as long as he had if he couldn’t tell when something moved near him.

Of course, he wouldn’t have survived as long as he had if he didn’t immediately think to rid himself of the watch and cast a containment charm.

What had happened to his watch? Had someone cast a time-sensitive spell on it?

The containment spell did little to blanket the somewhat shrill sound that was emanating from the watch and suddenly he remembered the purpose – and origin—of the spell and felt foolish.

He quickly undid the spell and picked up the watch, pressing a square button on its side that caused the sound to stop abruptly. He lowered his hand to pick it up and placed it in his pocket instead of returning it to his wrist.

He knew there would be writing scrolling across the screen with the location and time of the meeting and it would be unforgivable if the information was revealed through his carelessness.

The words “Sure that’s alright, Moody?” recalled Alastor’s attention to the other occupants of the room. He nodded to Willy, who had grown to be quite the Auror over the years, though he still depended on Mirabelle to remind him of his appointments, and looked up just in time to see his colleagues relaxing and putting away their wands.

“Too quick with his instincts,” Arthur Spence added, but Alastor didn’t pay him any mind. He was a sour and grim man who didn’t remind Alastor in the least of the red-headed Arthur Weasley he shared his name with. Unfortunately the man didn’t know when his thoughts weren’t welcome and continued to spout them. “He always overreacts and he’s going to kill someone that way one day.”

Alastor ignored him as he walked quickly out of the department but he listened to Willy’s angry response with a savage pleasure. Willy would stop Arthur’s comments for a time.

After he exited the department it was a short journey down to the atrium where he flooed home. It had been a few days since he had last flooed anywhere and he was careful to use a random floo—falling into patterns made it easy for assassins and kidnappers, a fact he was more than well aware of.

Mumbling the password he guarded his floo with so that it was inaudible to anything and anyone except for the ward itself, Alastor stepped into his home and relaxed slightly. He could feel that all of his wards were sound – there was no way to fake the manner in which he had layered them.

But he was still tense as he thought of his momentary forgetfulness in the department. He had rarely forgotten things before – a forgetful Auror was often a dead Auror. In fact, the only other time he could remember forgetting something was the incident that had occurred shortly after his chest injury almost twenty years ago.

And he had written that off as a side-effect of the injury, though the injury hadn’t been paining his head at the time. The Healers had assured him that this was likely the cause. Had they been mistaken?

And why had he forgotten what the ringing sound was for? It wasn’t the first time that he had heard it, not by a long shot. It was the alert that told him he was needed by Albus (after working together in the Order for several months Albus had managed to convince him to stop addressing him as his old professor).

There had already been many battles between the Order and the Death Eaters, many occasions where the Order had showed up to stop them from wreaking destruction and death on a place.

Already Alastor could see disillusionment on the faces of the Order’s younger members, including the faces of James Potter and Sirius Black, two Auror trainees (though he supposed that they would have graduated by now) he had taught in his last bout of paperwork duties and Auror training. Chunks of a blasted wall flying through the air had been responsible for that forced break – they had scraped off enough of his face that he was put on desk duty for three weeks and still had scars from it.

Still, he thought with satisfaction, I caught the scum who had been breeding runespoors in conditions not even worth my spit to be sold directly to Potion Masters.

The younger members dwelled on their losses, forgetting the battles they had fought and won or the battles they still had to fight. They didn’t realize, not yet, not fully, that not all battles could be won and still expected superhuman results. They set themselves for larger falls and fell every inch of them.

He had told them to continue looking forward, focusing on what they had to do the next time. It was the only way to get through a business where people died.

If they continued to fall, they would drown.

Look forward – it was a piece of advice his own Auror trainers had given him and it had stood him well through the years.

Alastor brought the watch out of his pocket and placed it on his table, knowing that time could be of the essence.

Across the screen scrolled the words “Hogwarts. Five thirty.” Alastor had been expecting the location – Hogwarts was the fall-back location when no other could be secured in time and this meeting hadn’t been scheduled – and when he saw the time he was pleased, once again, that he had insisted on a charmed watch instead of being notified via patronus like Albus did for many of the other members of the Order. The patronus messenger, as handy as it was, was even less private than his watch and could reveal information if he received it in front of someone else. At least the alarm on the watch could be made to seem as though he had simply set a reminder for himself.

At least, it would look that way if he didn’t react like he had in the department.

Shaking his head and wondering if he had reacted like that because he hadn’t been getting enough sleep, he got up to change out of Auror robes. He couldn’t show up to the meeting in them, especially not if they were going to fight like he suspected they were – he tried to keep his presence as unidentifiable and low-key as possible.

Albus had provided them with “battle robes” that fit in a similar fashion to Auror robes – Alastor had suggested he do this after learning that almost everyone in the Order had only the regular cut of robes. He didn’t want them fighting in the ungainly things – they probably would have tripped on the damn things and gotten injured or even died.

Whipping a cloak around himself – though the Impervious charm did a good job of blocking the rain that had been pouring lazily down from the skies for the past several days, it did nothing for his warmth and a cloak didn’t use his magic like the Warming charm did – Alastor walked out of his house and into the rain. He smiled at the feeling of the wards sealing behind him.

One quick jump later – he had gotten used to the awful, stomach-wrenching feeling of Apparation long ago because it was arguably the favourite and definitely the most useful of transport for Aurors – he was firmly on the ground just beyond the gates of Hogwarts. Several other people were already there – Alastor could see the curly head of Hestia Jones from where it was almost hidden under an umbrella and the dark heads of Sirius and James from where they were huddled with Peter, Remus and Lily. He could also smell Mundungus Fletcher and moved out of the wind’s path. There was no need to stand in the path of that stink.
Alastor had taken it upon himself when the Order began to learn the names of each of its members and their relationships with each other – ignorance had been the cause of many deaths and he didn’t plan for it to be his.

A few others appeared before the gates opened and Alastor was acutely aware of the fact that, should any Death Eater have been tipped off about this meeting or simply put on guard duty outside of Hogwarts, they could be picked off easily. They were standing targets and no one was doing anything.

He growled and cast a shield charm over everyone – if they weren’t going to protect themselves, well, he wasn’t going to let them die while standing near him. It wasn’t a good thing to have their army dwindled down to one (or two, counting Albus). He ought to have a word with Albus about opening the door more promptly and increasing the security of his group.

Almost immediately after he thought that the gates opened and everyone hurried inside. The meeting, like every other one held at Hogwarts, would be held in the Great Hall since it was large enough to seat them all and near to the doors closest to the gates.

The Great Hall still looked the same as it had when he went to school and he suspected that it would look the same many years down the road unless some great tragedy occurred there. The walls had seen too many minor incidents happen in front of them to be worried about a few more and the ceiling was beyond the reach of most.

The only noticeable difference was the seating arrangement—instead of the four House tables a single table was placed in the center of the Hall. Seated at its head was Albus, who gestured for them to sit. As they hurried to do as he asked, he started to speak.

Wasting no time, are yeh, Albus?, Alastor thought.

“Thank-you for coming on such short notice. Unfortunately I only have grave news with which to greet you. I myself have only learned of it recently.” His voice echoed in the Hall much like Headmaster Dippet’s had and it had the same effect of causing everyone to hush immediately.

“The Death Eaters, as you know, have been growing bolder in their attacks and I have received word that they plan to ambush Variety of Vials as they receive their supplies tonight. As many witches and wizards don’t have the time or ability to brew potions, this would severely cripple their access to them while it wouldn’t affect the Death Eaters or their families since they have other means of gathering their potions.”

Alastor heard Sirius cough “Snivellus”, which he thought was a reference to a long-time feud he had going with Slytherin student and old year-mate Severus Snape, who was reported to be a great hand at Potions. He hoped the boy didn’t think he was being subtle and was satisfied to see Lily hit him in reprimand—hopefully she would convince them (since he knew that Sirius and James were as thick as thieves and very often acted alike) that carrying on with a silly, stupid feud wasn’t worth their lives.

Mundungus asked, as he almost always asked, where Dumbledore got his information from and Dumbledore replied in the same manner he always did (and it was a manner Alastor approved of – there was no use in allowing your secrets to be spread far and wide): “That, my friend, is something you needn’t concern yourself with. Only know that they are trustworthy.”

The more people who knew of the source – most likely a spy in Voldemort’s ranks—the more danger the source was in.
And the source had never led them astray before, though Alastor was always prepared for the time that they did. After all, one could never be certain about the character of a person they had never met. Or, for that matter, one that they had met. Everyone was hiding secrets and those secrets could mean the death of someone.

The planning of their strategy went quickly and efficiently—over the months they had been fighting together they had learned how to plan without arguing and how to settle a disagreement without spending too much time on it. It helped that everyone was aware that time spent in the Great Hall was time spent away from the defense of Variety of Vials. While the attack would take place at night it was still possible that people could be in the area and their hesitancy now could mean their deaths.

But Alastor was careful that they didn’t hurry in such a manner as to overlook a flaw or forget an idea. He was respected enough that they didn’t try to harry him when he went over the plan one last time before they left – surviving almost thirty years in the Auror forces lent you some credibility.

They were taking no more than ten witches and wizards, including Albus. The end of the Diagon Alley in which Variety of Vials was situated was narrow and blocked on three sides by short, squat buildings with flat roofs. Every single person accompanying them tonight was known for their adaptability, a must when fighting in such a confined space.

Behind the building that ended the lane lay a larger field, contained by a low stone wall. Beyond it lay only a scraggly patch of land with pathetic weeds struggling to find purchase in it that faded out into a flat land. It was so far into the Alley that no one had bothered to build a business on it and thus it lay unused year after year. The end building itself had originally been a restaurant and the field a part of its patio. However, the restaurant had gone out of business years ago (few who wandered that far into the Alley were looking for a meal) and the next owner had shrunk the building in an attempt to decrease the rent he’d have to pay (it hadn’t worked). The field had never been cared for after the restaurant had been abandoned and it was covered in weeds who were having more success than their counterparts beyond the stone wall. Alastor told everyone that while it was preferable to keep the fight contained to the area immediately surrounding the store, if they had to move the fight they should move it to the field instead of further up Diagon Alley.

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that they thought the location of the fight ought to be moved and Alastor cursed as he ran after the fading figure of Sirius.

Always reckless, he thought. And Lily, along with James, had not been allowed to participate in the battle, so there was no one there to restrain him.

It seemed as though the Death Eaters considered the destruction of the shop of more importance than they had thought for more Death Eaters continued to appear. Or perhaps they were waiting for something to happen, someone to appear…

Alastor thrust his mind away from the speculations – he had always known that during a battle you had to concentrate on fighting if you wanted to survive. Focusing on something else, no matter how important it seemed at the time, would lead you to be distracted at a key moment or to miss a vital clue. No—he would leave the puzzling until after the battle, when everyone was safely away from the main point of danger.

As one of the most experienced fighters there Alastor took it upon himself to fight on of the most dangerous Death Eaters: Evan Rosier.

The fight that followed his replacement of Remus Lupin as Evan Rosier’s opponent was one of the most brutal he had ever fought. Rosier moved with a lightening quickness and had a wide range of spells in his repertoire.

Evan as he dodged Rosier’s spells, spells he knew would cut him up quicker than a hippogriff takes offense at an insult or spill his insides onto the muddy ground of the field, he had to contend with poor vision and the poor aim of everyone else on the field. He was not only evading Rosier’s spells but also those of Wilkes and Crabbe and Nott.

He also, in a rare spare moment, cast shielding spells over his comrades but the majority of his attention was centered on his fight with Rosier. The others would have to depend on themselves.

Unfortunately his wooden leg wasn’t very solid on such a slippery surface (the mud kept trying to suck his feet under and keep them there) and it seemed as though Rosier knew this. He didn’t curse aloud because he didn’t have the breath to waste, but he was frustrated. The ground was too wet to dry with a simple spell.

And there wasn’t enough time to dry it, even if it was possible. Rosier cast charms to make the ground even more slippery and kept Alastor’s attention on the spells he sent at him, quicker and quicker. Alastor noticed Rosier’s technique, of course, but he was kept busy in the dance of defense and retaliation.

Rosier’s strategy finally succeeded when Alastor was forced to avoid three different spells from three different directions at once. He stepped, leaning at an angle to keep the first spell from hitting him, and his foot couldn’t keep its grip on the ground. He fell, and Rosier’s cutting spell flashed before his eyes.

His eyes were closed for no more than a second but when he opened them blood was already pouring down his face. The pain wasn’t as great as some he had experienced in the past, though. A nose was nothing compared to a leg.

It did, however, hurt much more than the other nicks Rosier had given his body.

A cruel, triumphant smile crept slowly across Rosier’s face and he laughed.

Never one to lose an opportunity, even if it came at a moment of pain for him, Alastor slashed his wand in a motion that caused a large slit to appear across Rosier’s wrist. The laughter cut off abruptly as blood began to spurt from the wound – Rosier knew as well as Alastor that his wound was more fatal than the one he had given Alastor.

As he cast a series of spells to hurriedly heal the wound (though it would need more serious medical attention – later), Alastor took the chance to cast a quick sealing charm on his nose to contain the blood as well as place a spell on Rosier that he wouldn’t feel and wouldn’t leave any physical trace.

Then, as suddenly as he had placed himself in the fight, the fight stopped. Careful, cautious, his wand still trained on Rosier, Alastor quickly noticed the changed, charged atmosphere on the field and knew what must have happened – Voldemort had arrived. An almost unnoticeable flick of his eyes told him that he was dueling with Albus and that the Death Eaters were taking this as an opportunity to flee. Alastor had also noted, very much to his satisfaction, that the Order had more than been holding their own.

Alastor didn’t allow himself to relax when Rosier left the battle field, though he did permit himself a small smile. Rosier would be getting a surprise soon, perhaps even the next day. It was best, after all, to move swiftly.

Voldemort, however, wasn’t backing down in the slightest. He seemed to relish the opportunity to fight Albus and Alastor wondered if that had been the purpose of the battle from the very beginning or if Albus had lured Voldemort out here all by himself. If he had, Alastor had warned him beforehand.

Alastor had seen Voldemort duel several times before in skirmishes just like this and he looked the same as he always did – tall, shrouded in black with pale, pale skin. His magic, which swirled with abandon through the air, felt the same as it always did as well, but Alastor wasn’t taking that as a confirmation that Voldemort had come here without a new weapon.

If Albus needed his help, he was ready. Until then he would keep an eye on the rest of the field. It would just be stupid to fall down while on watch for someone else simply because he hadn’t bothered to guard himself.
His fight with Albus lit up the field and Alastor was once again impressed with Albus’ abilities, though he did find some of his moves a tad flashy. He could have made a fine Auror, had he chosen to go down that path, and the department would have weeded that ability out of him.

Finally, when almost all of his Death Eaters had fled and the Order members were closing ranks around him (though none had yet thrown a spell at him), Voldemort pulled back, cackling. Albus lowered his wand as well, refusing to strike a (somewhat) defenseless opponent. Alastor, on the sidelines, was frustrated at this appearance of fair play. He also wondered why Voldemort had stopped the fight.

“You think you’ve won, don’t you, old man? My forces have retreated, I’ve stopped fighting.”

Albus didn't react to Voldemort's in an obvious manner, which angered Voldemort.

“This belief is as stupid as your determined following of the Light, Dumbledore. And I’ve finally decided that you’ve gone too far to ever see the dark.” Alastor almost snorted at that—Voldemort made it sound as though he had graciously allowed Albus to continue the fight up until this point while in actuality the forces had been pretty evenly matched and he knew that Albus was more powerful than Voldemort. Voldemort just didn’t have any of his principles and thus had a greater range in tactics.

“There will be no more holding back. There will be no more restraint. And soon, very soon, all of you will be no more.” Voldemort’s grin stretched across his face as he turned to face the Order and it was a chilling sight. “Starting with a very, very select few.” His gaze wandered lazily over them, never focusing, and Alastor could see some freeze as his eyes swept over them.

Voldemort laughed once more – a high-pitched sound that cut through the night sky – and vanished with a sharp crack, leaving the field in darkness.

Ala
stor was already moving before the sound of Voldemort’s apparation had faded. He had counted heads while Voldemort was talking and knew that no one had died – thankfully – but he needed to know if anyone was injured too badly to apparate themselves out. Marlene was favouring her right leg but she argued that she was capable of doing it by herself and Alastor left her.

He waited until it was only him and Albus left on the field before he apparated back to his home. If the darkness of the night was any indication, it was past midnight and he had to be up early in the morning for work. He knew that the battle would be discussed at the next meeting but everyone had long ago agreed that it did no one any good to rehash the events while everything was still raw and they were tired.

He lowered himself into his bed after swallowing a blood replenishing potion and casting a disinfecting charm on his nose—his bed wouldn’t be hurt by a little grime—idly thinking about the excuse he would give as to why he knew where Rosier was. The tracking spell he had placed on him was a very precise one and it would lead them straight to him.

Albus had warned him all those years ago when he had agreed to help him, to join his cause, that it would not give him glory – it was a task that would most likely leave him unknown and un-praised. But this wasn’t something that troubled Alastor – if anything, his father’s death had shown him that life spent in service to the public was a path only for those who didn’t require rewards and recognition for their efforts.

Alastor had been in service long before Albus had approached him about the Order and he hoped to continue to do so long after the war effort was over.

And the next service he would perform would lead to the capture of Evan Rosier.


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