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Chapter 17 : A Deadly Discovery
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As upset as Harry was for Ginny, Holyhead’s slipping record was not of the greatest concern to him when they had these infrequent and often short talks. Every time Ginny spoke of the team, the image of Davis’ handsome face and perfectly white and straight teeth sprung in to his mind and an instantaneous pang of jealousy rose up from his depths. Though Harry was sincere when he had told Ginny that he trusted her, there was still something about Davis himself that did not sit right with him.
It was on Valentine’s Day morning that Harry awoke with a start. He had a terrible dream the night before where in it, he saw the vivid image of Ginny and Davis cuddling together by an open fire, Davis stroking her hair as she opened all of the expensive gifts he had bought for her. Magically, he saw the cuddling Ginny and Davis ascend higher and higher and eventually out of his sight as the countless amount of gifts created a makeshift mountain that the two were perched on top of. It was when Ginny waved goodbye to Harry with a carefree smile that he had woken up, his head stinging slightly. After staring at the ceiling for a moment or two, Harry made the decision to get up, hastily pulling a warm sweater over himself as he left his room. As he crossed the landing, he looked up to see the door of Hermione’s and Ginny’s room slightly open, pausing for a moment to take a sideways glance at the ajar door. Harry leaned over the railing of the landing, hearing the muffled voices of Ron and Hermione from the kitchen a couple of floors below him. Glancing back at the room, Harry’s curiosity had already won him over.
He slowly paced towards the door, hearing a small creak as he gently opened it a few inches more. He saw Ginny’s bed all made on the far left of the modest-sized room, her desk mostly bare save for a few envelopes and a picture of Harry and herself. He felt slightly guilty as he continued to look around the room; he ran his hand along the chipped dark green paint on the walls. It was only when he had reached the end of their room and had made the decision to join Ron and Hermione in the kitchen when he noticed that one of the envelopes on her desk bore a name that instantly caught Harry’s attention. He brushed one of the envelopes off of the one that had caught his attention, picking it up and holding it out in front of him. In the upper left corner of the envelope, Harry saw that the letter had been sent by none other than the Holyhead Harpies assistant coach. Glancing back down at the desk, Harry noticed her litter bin that contained another four envelopes; all of them had the same name in the upper left corner – Davis McCoy.
Harry stood without moving even as he heard the muffled voices and footsteps that belonged to Ron and Hermione get louder and louder. He heard them reach the top floor landing, their voices stopping once they noticed that Harry was standing by Ginny’s desk. He still clutched the unopened letter in his hand, not really sure what to think.
‘Harry? What are you doing?’ asked Hermione curiously, but Harry did not answer her question, instead, posing one of his own.
‘Did you know he was sending them?’ he asked unintentionally coldly.
‘Who? Send what?’ Harry took a deep breath.
‘Davis has been sending Ginny some letters. Seems like he’s sent her a lot lately – are you sure you didn’t know?’
‘H-Harry I’m just as surprised as you are,’ replied Hermione defensively. ‘I never pay much attention to Ginny’s side of the room. I had no idea she was being sent anything!’ Harry tossed the letter on the desk, seeing it slide off and fall in to the waste basket in the process.
‘Well aren’t you going to open them then?’ protested Ron once he saw Harry toss the letter. ‘That prat is going behind our backs and sending love letters to my sister! To Harry’s girlfriend!’
‘Ron! Those are private! And come on, do you really think Ginny would initiate something like that? Seriously now.’
‘Well of course not,’ Ron replied loudly, ‘but I wouldn’t put it past him, Hermione.’
Harry looked to his bickering friends, recalling the conversation he and Ginny had a few weeks ago. He held up his hand silently but neither Ron nor Hermione saw it, prompting Harry to interrupt his friends.
‘Hold on you two,’ he said quite loudly stopping their conversation and closing his eyes tightly before speaking. ‘These...’ he said, indicating the letters in the wastebasket, ‘... don’t mean anything. They’re probably just – they are just talking about the Harpies and things like that... nothing to worry about.’
From his spot across the room, Harry stood boldly which appeared to answer his friends’ skeptical stares. Even though he did not quite feel exactly the same on the inside as he was showing on the outside, Harry tried to dismiss the very plausible questions that sprung to his mind.
‘Why couldn’t she just tell me about the letters?’ he thought to himself as he left the room with his friends, trying his best to think of other things whilst feeling his heart sink deeper in to his stomach. He wanted to uphold the promise he had made to Ginny more than anything, but at this point, he was finding it very hard to do so.
An hour later, Harry, Ron and Hermione had made their way through the long lines set up by Ministry security inside the Atrium. As usual, Harry and Ron bid Hermione goodbye as she got out of the lift when it had arrived at Level Four, Hermione letting out a deep sigh as the golden gate closed shut behind her.
‘Back to the lonely abyss,’ she said unenthusiastically as she smiled meekly back at the two boys, a dark cloaked wizard from behind Harry hastily exiting the lift just before the gate shut, setting off quickly down the hallway.
‘I told Hermione the other night that maybe it’s time she looks at some other options,’ whispered Ron as the lift began to descend.
‘How could they not have anything for her though, that’s what I’m trying to wrap my head around,’ replied Harry. ‘With a witch like her at their disposal, you’d think they’d take advantage of it.’
At the next level down, the lift stopped to let in a couple of more wizards. Amongst the Ministry workers who were piling in was Harry and Ron’s fellow Auror Florian Ducats.
‘Did you see the Prophet this morning?’ he asked once he had taken his spot beside Ron and had wiped his slightly sweaty brow with his sleeve.
Harry and Ron both shook their heads which prompted Florian to reach inside his golden yellow robes and retrieve what was presumably that morning’s edition of the Daily Prophet. He flipped through the first couple of pages before folding the paper in half and then in half again and handing it to Ron, pointing at the article he wished for them to see.
FUDGE PUTS PLAN INTO ACTION; ORDERS ORPHAN COMMISSION TO BEGIN IMMEDIATELY
In a bold and widely applauded move, Minister of Magic Rufus Fudge has implemented a new strategy to both narrow the search for the Ministry’s attackers and to help struggling magical orphans. The Commission sets to regulate, document and control all magical orphans and implement them in to a system of Ministry of Magic approved care.
‘The goal of the Orphan Commission that I am proudly announcing today is to stop the undesirable life cycle experienced by the orphans of our world,’ said the Minister in a statement made exclusive to the Prophet.
The inferior and general lack of institutions in the magical community to properly raise orphaned children has been a hot-buttoned issue in the past. Nine years ago, former Minister of Magic Cornelius Fudge attempted to implement a bill calling for the implementation of such a commission, but disagreement on what constituted a “magical orphan” in which the Ministry would be responsible of caused the bill to fizzle out. When asked why orphaned children were an area of concern to current Minister Rufus Fudge, the Minister gave a detailed and passionate response that resonated with the small band of reporters from the morning’s press conference.
‘A large percentage of orphans are handed a serious disadvantage due to the simple fact that they do not have their birth parents to guide and care for them. Many of these orphans, for example, quickly find themselves in a world of crime and pain, many of whom have little choice in the matter. It is well documented that a large portion of You-Know-Who’s Death Eaters were orphans from a very young age. It was these misguided and pathless children that You-Know-Who had preyed upon, taking advantage of their absence of morals and their desperation which we all know is an easily manipulative situation to be in. We believe this Orphan Commission will stop that cycle.’
As per the details, the Orphan Commission is to begin operations immediately. Ministry officials will be rounding up all magical orphans from orphanages and secondary care and will intern them at the Ministry for further processing. Mr. Fudge offered one last statement for the press conference ended.
‘For those still adverse to this Commission’s implementation, I pose only this. Our world’s greatest criminal was an orphan from birth. I’m sure I don’t have to mention who that terrible, terrible wizard was.’
A nervous, timid woman rose from her seat, slowly and quietly stating that not all orphans were bad, citing herself and the famous Harry Potter as examples.
‘Well... we have all seen how good he has turned out, now haven’t we?’ the Minister replied.
This is Maude Sylvester signing off for another day. Catch tomorrow’s column as each day I round up the day’s biggest news stories.
For a signed archive of Maude Sylvester’s infamous journalistic work – including her breaking story regarding the Auror Department killing and her weekly “How much DANGER is YOUR community in?” plot maps – simply mail in your request along with the designated fee to the address at the bottom of page 17.
‘Do you reckon she’s some sort of distant relative of Rita Skeeter or something?’ Ron asked once he and Harry had sat down at their respective cubicles.
‘Perhaps a great admirer... a pen pal even...’ replied Harry, tossing the edition of the Daily Prophet in to his wastebasket, letting out a deep exhale as he did so. Ron snorted and leaned back in his chair. ‘How can the public let something like this Orphan Commission fly,’ wondered Harry out loud. Ron regained his composure before replying.
‘Everyone’s running scared... what with these attacks on the Ministry and what not. It’s making people legitimately afraid.’
‘Yeah... I guess you’re right. Seems odd though. These are the very people that had undergone years of Voldemort and his Death Eaters and nothing like an Orphan Commission ever happened. People were going missing or being killed every day of the week back then. Now, after a couple of public attacks, people are running scared to the point where they are accepting things like this. You’d think they’d have a larger threshold for fear.’
‘It’s something against the norm,’ Ron put simply. ‘Dad was telling me the other day that when Voldemort was around, it was a world people accepted after a while... or at least a world that they understood. He told me it wasn’t like this... acting through the shadows. People at least understood what Voldemort was doing, even if it was terrible. This... is something no one understands. The who, what, why... these are things that the public doesn’t know. And that Harry... that is what people are scared of.’
‘And I guess we can’t tell the public that it’s the reemergence of the Death Eaters... until it gets worse, there’s no need to open up that can of worms just yet...’ Ron nodded slowly as he drifted in to his own set of thoughts. ‘The fear of the unknown...’ Harry muttered to himself as he shook his head.
For the next half hour, both Harry and Ron perused their folders of potential leads that was brought to them by their Junior Auror. After Harry had completely read his third long, drawn out report, his mind drifted elsewhere, his eyes going through the words on the page, but their meaning not making it up to his brain.
As Harry was beginning to feel his eyelids grow heavy, something literally shook him in his seat. Initially, he did not register what had happened, but after a second earthquake-like tremble nearly knocked him out of his seat, Harry suddenly stood up, kicking his chair backwards in the process.
‘Harry... what is that?’ murmured Ron who was grasping on to the sides of his chair tightly as a third, greater tremor knocked Harry’s desk light on to the floor.
All of the other Aurors in the department seemed to be on the same page as Harry was. There was a brief silence in the room, an eeriness as the quakes seemed to have subsided. As many of the Aurors began to whisper to each other in confusion, an extraordinarily loud, high-pitched siren began to go off in the Auror Department which prompted both Harry and Ron to cover their ears. After only a brief second of hesitation, Harry saw many of the Aurors quickly heading for the exit.
‘EVERYBODY! MAKE YOUR... THE ATRIUM IMMEDIATELY!’ called the voice of Williamson from behind Harry, his voice being drowned out periodically by the siren. ‘THESE FIREPLACES... BE SHUT DOWN! BE CAREFUL!’
‘What the...’ Ron started, but further speech seemed to escape him as a rush of Aurors whipped by him and Harry, knocking over Harry’s chair as they went.
‘LET’S GO!’ bellowed a confused Harry, Ron nodding as he quickly followed Harry to the exit.
‘Out of the way!’ shouted Richter who was closely followed by Blackburn, their wands raised in front of them. They powered and weaved their way through the conglomeration of Aurors who were making their way in to the hallway of Level Two, just as Harry and Ron were.
‘Harry? What’s going on?’ asked Florian from somewhere in the crowd behind Harry.
‘It’s Fudge’s alarm!’ replied an elderly Auror from Harry’s left. ‘Someone has probably broken in to the Ministry and tripped the security alarm.’
‘Must be pretty serious to have to evacuate the entire Ministry,’ said Ron amidst the chaos. Nearly every door along the second level’s corridor was opened and countless witches and wizards were pouring out at every conceivable angle.
‘This place is a mad house!’ chimed Harry as everyone around him came to a momentary stall as yet another door along the hallway opened, letting out another half-dozen Ministry personnel in to the already crowded hallway.
No one in the hallway seemed to have an idea as to what was going on. By the time Harry, Ron and Florian had found their way in to one of the extraordinarily crowded lifts and had begun to ascend, the blasting, deafening alarm had already given Harry a headache. As he rubbed his forehead, Harry noticed a small purplish light on the lift’s panel that read “EE.”
‘Emergency Express,’ pointed Florian with his head. Due to Harry, Ron and Florian’s sardine-like treatment inside the crowded lift, Florian had lost use of his limbs as they were planted stiffly at his side. ‘All lifts go directly to the Atrium from every floor to get everyone out as soon as possible – there’s no stopping along the way. Once they reach the top, they continue upward in to the storage area to make room for all of the others that come up from underneath Level One. There’s about a dozen lifts for each shaft.’
‘What in the world is going on here...’ whispered Ron to which Harry shrugged, equally as confused.
The alarm had somehow grown louder as Harry and Ron poured out in to the crowded Atrium. Lifts all around them were opening their gates, letting witches and wizards out, the lifts then quickly ascending upwards and out of sight. To his horror, Harry saw that amongst the crowd were countless Healers who were treating many witches and wizards who looked to be unconscious while others were coughing up some sort of greenish steam in fits. Just a little further up, Harry could see a small, makeshift hammock floating in mid air behind two Healers, an unmoving witch laid out in an odd position that made her body look as if it had been broken in many places. Appearing beside the floating hammock were undoubtedly a couple relatives of the injured, evidenced as a young witch (who barely looked old enough to attend Hogwarts) let out a bone chilling shriek that made Harry’s arm hair stand on end. Some of the candles situated on the wall of the circular hall of lifts had gone out while others were flickering.
‘Everybody! Make your way to the Atrium in an orderly fashion please!’ barked a purple robed Ministry worker from somewhere inside the Atrium. ‘The fireplaces have been deemed safe to exit through! Please! Go straight home and be careful!’
Harry was shoved hard from behind after the official had finished, his head roughly slamming in to the shoulder of the tall wizard in front of him. Stunned for a moment, Harry could taste a trickle of blood; he touched his nose and felt that it had erupted upon impact. Seeing this, Ron handed him his handkerchief, Harry quickly cleaning up the mess as he shuffled towards the Atrium. He was knocked into from behind again, Ron nearly falling over as the crowd behind them roughly jostled for better position.
‘Hold back you lot!’ yelled the tall wizard from in front of Harry.
‘This is crazy...’ muttered Ron in Harry’s ear. ‘Harry... start asking around – see if anyone knows what’s going on.’
As if on cue, an older, short wizard with a pointy grey beard, wide, bright blue eyes and a panicked expression literally flew in to their sight. The old wizard was being jostled from every which direction, but he found a safety gap between Harry and Ron as he could comfortably stand between them without being directly pushed.
‘You haven’t heard?’ the old wizard managed, doing a double-take as he realized that he was standing directly behind Harry Potter.
‘No we haven’t,’ replied Harry, turning his head around as much as he could as he continued to press forward. ‘We were down on Level Two – we’ve got no idea what’s caused all this.’
‘Oh... well you wouldn’t have heard then,’ the old wizard muttered, his eyes growing wide as Ron squished the old wizard close to Harry, Ron being pushed from behind yet again.
‘There was some sort of explosion. A couple levels down from here.’
‘Explosion? What sort of explosion?’
‘Some sort of... toxic gas or something has been released in to the air,’ the old wizard managed amidst his wheezing breaths. Ron and Harry briefly glanced at each other. ‘I was on the level that it occurred on. Luckily my office is directly off the lifts so I was able to get out right away. But there are many still down there I reckon... Ministry personnel were going down there as I came up... saved a couple from my view. But I heard one of them say the gas has grown too strong for any charm. They’ve got to round up their entire force in order to collectively blow that gas away.’
‘That could take... minutes,’ struggled Harry.
‘And unfortunately,’ the old wizard wheezed, ‘judging from what that gas has done to people already,’ he pointed to a set of wizards who were coughing up more of the translucent green steam, ‘that might be too long... poor souls.’
‘What floor did you say you were from anyway?’ asked Ron after a brief pause.
‘I didn’t. I came from Level Four.’
It only took a split second for Harry and Ron’s hearts to sink; they instantly stared at each other, the old man peculiarly looking up at each of them as they did so.
‘Hermione...’ whispered Harry. Ron nodded, his eyes growing wide.
‘Let’s go,’ said Ron forcefully to which Harry agreed.
‘Wh-Where are you...’ the old man began, but neither Harry nor Ron heard the rest of what he said as they fought their way through and against the large crowd.
Harry’s heart was beating fast as he thought of Hermione, hoping that she had got out. He knew it was futile to ask the Ministry workers if they had gotten her out; by the time the Ministry workers found out, it may be too late for them to save Hermione if she indeed still was down on Level Four. Having no idea what they were going to do once they got down to Level Four, Harry followed Ron as he aggressively pushed a couple of wizards out of the way, the wizards tumbling backwards which elicited an angry response from all those affected. However, just then Harry remembered something.
‘WAIT RON! We can’t use the lifts!’ he called. Ron paused looking over his shoulder. He knew immediately that Harry was right.
‘Bloody hell... The lifts are in express mode.’
‘They only come upwards without going back down,’ panted Harry as he and Ron both stood along the wall, outside of the crowd.
‘What are we going to do Harry? That’s Hermione down there!’ said a panicked Ron breathlessly, his eyes searching the room for any possible answer to their dilemma. Harry too was stumped, but he remembered something he had heard last year in the Auror Office on one of his first days of orientation.
‘The stairs!’ he bellowed, tugging Ron in the direction he wished to go.
‘This place has stairs?’ inquired Ron who was genuinely surprised.
‘I heard Doncaster and Williamson speak to each other last year. A sort of failsafe to any emergency. An alternate route to and from the Levels. This way!’
Harry ran as fast as he could around the perimeter of the hall of lifts, fighting his way through the outskirts of the crowd in order to reach the stairs. Finally, he saw the gap between two of the lifts, the gap barely wide enough to fit both Harry and Ron at the same time.
‘It’s in here!’ said Harry.
It only took them a few paces to reach the door at the end of the small gap in between the lifts. The door was a dull grey, its golden handle being roughly wrenched open by Harry, Ron shutting the door quickly behind him. Inside the stairwell, the noise of the Atrium was almost fully drowned out.
‘Come on,’ said Harry quietly.
‘I had no idea there were stairs here,’ said Ron quickly as he followed Harry down the steps two at a time. ‘Now Harry... what are we going to do when we get there?’
‘Er... not sure yet,’ replied Harry after a few seconds of serious thought, his hand holding on to the wooden railing of the purple-walled stairwell.
‘Would the bubble-head charm work?’ asked Ron as he and Harry strode past a door that read “Level Seven”.
‘I’m really not sure. You heard what that man said. All charms are apparently ineffective against the toxin.’
‘Could we use more than one? I remember Hermione saying once that more layers of the charm can increase its effectiveness. Something about wizards doing that for deep sea dives.’
‘Yeah I guess that would work... but the layers would probably slowly erode... we’d still have to be quick,’ stated Harry as he leapt the last four steps on to the Level Six landing.
Once they had reached the Level Five landing, Harry and Ron could begin to see the translucent green steam as it was slowly rising upwards. At first sight of it, Harry felt the steam enter his nostrils. He had to pause in order to cough violently, the steam making his entire head feel as if it was burning. Without having to touch his face, Harry could feel that somehow, the green smoke had reopened the small gash underneath Harry’s nose, a fresh trickle of hot blood making its way down in to his mouth.
‘You alright Harry?’
‘Yeah. It’s probably a good time to put that charm on now,’ he grimaced as he wiped some of the fresh blood off of his chin.
Both Harry and Ron produced their own Bubble-Head Charms over and over until their vision was nearly impaired by the numerous, translucent bubbles around their heads.
‘We find... WE FIND HERMIONE AS QUICK AS POSSIBLE,’ shouted Harry after he realized that the strength of the bubbles around his head had drowned out his normal volume of speech entirely. Ron nodded after originally not being able to hear his friend.
‘ALRIGHT HARRY. BE SURE TO GET OUT QUICKLY!’
Harry nodded, looking down at the descending steps in front of him, hoping that their idea would work. He took a hesitant step downwards, quickening his pace when he realized that the charm seemed to be doing the trick for the time being. Still, the quickly growing strength of the greenish gas coupled with the bubbles around their heads was making vision increasingly difficult. It was only a tap on his shoulder from Ron that Harry realized that the door to Level Four was a good ten feet from where his hand was groping for it. He could see the smoke billowing out from all sides of the door frame. With a deep breath, Harry followed Ron in to the hallway after he had opened the door.
The entire hallway was filled with smoke to the point where Harry could not see what was a mere few feet in front of him. To make matters worse, the outside layer of their charm seemed to be dissolving, giving off the illusion that Harry’s eyes were blinded by sweat. Harry wiped the liquefied outer layer of the bubble from off his face in order for him to see better, but in doing so, Harry saw a horrifying sight. His hand was beginning to blister, small green blotches slowly beginning to form along his arm. He only needed to briefly glance at Ron to see that they needed to move fast.
Each of them took a side of the hallway, kicking open the doors hard and scanning the insides of the room as fast as they could. Harry’s wand tip burst in to light as he used a Lumos spell, the light aiding him in his search. Once Harry had opened and unsuccessfully searched through his third office, his heart beat began to quicken. He had locked eyes with Ron as he met him back in the hallway and even though the bubbles around their heads obscured their vision of each other, Harry could clearly identify a large tear dripping down the side of Ron’s face as he grimaced in pain, kicking open a fourth door hard.
‘DIFFINDO!’ Harry screamed as he blew open his next four doors with consecutive curses, overturning the chairs in the next office.
He could hear Ron yelling Hermione’s name to the point where each scream seemed painful for Ron to muster. Harry thought he had found her in his fifth office, but instead, he discovered a much older witch who had been knocked unconscious. He quickly guided her body down to the end of the hall towards the light that signified where the stairwell was. He could no longer see Ron anymore but he could hear his calls for Hermione from up ahead.
‘What if... if we can’t find her,’ thought Harry painfully as he entered his sixth room, again finding two wizards that he did not know with no sign of Hermione. ‘No... no, no, no. Don’t think like that Harry! We’re going to find her! She’s probably already got out... we... we just didn’t see her.’
But no matter how much Harry told himself that she got out, he still kept looking for her. He too began calling out Hermione’s name as he quickly guided the two wizards’ bodies down to the end of the hall. He could see his hand was beginning to grow violently green in places but he did not care. His friend was in danger and he was not going to stop until he or Ron found her.
Harry came to the end of the hallway, the hall splitting off in two different directions. Without seeing a trace of Ron, Harry quickly set off down to his right, blasting the slightly ajar doors open with more curses of his own. He was beginning to feel helpless as he searched another office to no avail. He quickened his pace, flipping over the desk of the next room as he felt a tear drop down in to his mouth, leaving a salty taste behind.
‘HERMIONE! WHERE ARE YOU? HERMIONE!!!’
‘HARRY! HARRY THIS WAY!’
Harry’s eyes opened wide as he heard Ron’s voice calling from somewhere behind him. He ran for the door of the office quickly, tripping over the desk as he ran. Upon getting up, Harry could make out Ron from down the hallway as he slowly made his way towards him. There was something in his arms.
‘I FOUND HER!’ he yelled.
Harry was instantly relieved at Ron’s words, but his momentary state of thankfulness was quickly overcome by fear. As Harry met Ron back where the original hallway sectioned off in two directions, Harry could see a green-faced and surely unconscious Hermione being held in Ron’s arms. Harry could only hope that they were not too late.
‘GO! QUICK!’ he yelled at Ron.
Harry led the way back down the hallway, blasting apart the door that led to the stairwell with one swift stroke of his wand. Back inside the stairwell, Harry ran up the stairs, taking off his own bubble-head charm with his wand and turning to face Ron who let Hermione down on the stairwell once they were out of range from the gas.
‘She’s in bad shape Harry!’ panted Ron once he had taken off his own bubble-head charm, a mix of tears and sweat making his face appear shiny. ‘She’s still breathing but... that stuff’s not doing her any good.’
‘We need to get her to the Healers. Right away,’ replied Harry. He was no Healer but upon looking at Hermione’s greenish tinged, scaly and sweaty looking skin, he knew she was in a dire condition.
‘Let’s carry her together. Careful now,’ said Ron, lifting her upper body up.
Then, a set of running footsteps caused Harry to drop Hermione’s lower body back down on the stairwell. Curious, he ran down a couple steps and glimpsed back out in to the hallway of green smoke and listened, but the footsteps had stopped. He could see a bright light from somewhere deep in the hallway; it was getting brighter with each passing second. Finally, Harry realized it was coming right at him.
The spell slammed into the stairwell, severing the metal connection so that the section where Ron and Hermione were completely collapsed, falling downward. Narrowly escaping the blast, Harry had jumped downward towards the green smoke. Looking behind him, he saw that the entire section that he had previously been standing on had been wiped away completely, a broken piece of curved and broken metal now standing in its place.
‘Are you alright Harry?’
‘Yeah, I’m fine!’ Harry took a moment to view the situation, quickly scanning the damage to the stairs in front of him. ‘I-I don’t think I’ll be able to get back up to you from here Ron, so you go on with Hermione! You need to get her to the Healers right away!’
‘OK, Harry. What was that?’
‘No idea. I think it’s safe to say someone else is down here. The important thing is to get Hermione to the Healers. Then get a group of them to come down here and help anyone else we may have missed. I’m going to see whose down here...’
‘Harry be careful!’ said Ron as he picked up Hermione. ‘I’ll see if I can send some Aurors down too along with the Healers!’
‘I’ll be alright. There’s another stairwell at the end of the hall. But don’t worry about me – you get out of here. Make sure Hermione’s OK. Go. NOW!’ shouted Harry as he used his wand to produce the Bubble-Head Charm once again.
Ron did not need any more prodding to leave, Harry hearing the echoes of his quick footsteps as Ron made his way back up the stairs towards the Atrium. Harry’s heart began to beat fast once again as he cautiously made his was way back in to the smoky hallway, looking each way for who had sent the curse. He could hear his own footsteps as he slowly walked forward, his wand raised in front of him. He glanced in each office as he went past, illuminating his wand in order to see through the greenish fog.
Something was telling Harry that whoever had sent that curse at him was not only the one who had created the deadly gas release on Level Four but he was fairly sure that they had something to do with the attacks on the Ministry over the past few months. Focused, Harry scanned the area in front of him, watching for any sudden movements. Then, a dark shadow appeared from not far in front of him, a burst of bright light quickly getting brighter as it made its way towards him.
‘Stupefy!’ Harry yelled after he had ducked out of the way, the spell that had been sent at him crashing in to the wall somewhere behind him.
Harry saw the shadow grow dimmer, the loud echoes of their footsteps growing fainter. Harry pushed himself up and tore down the hallway, trying to listen closely for the perpetrator’s footsteps over the sound of his own. He turned left down the hallway but as he did so, a jet of bright light was already being sent his way. He narrowly avoided it, slamming himself in to the wall in order to avoid the curse, Harry looking up to see the shadow running down the hallway once again.
Harry sent his own set of spells down the hallway, the light of his spells aiding him in identifying how far up ahead the shadow was. In the distance, Harry could see the faint outline of a door frame; a second later, the door was wrenched open by the shadowy figure, filling the first few feet of the hallway with light before it was absorbed by the fog.
He got to the end of the hallway, slowing down right before he walked through the door, unsure of which direction the shadowy figure had gone. He looked upwards, unable to hear any footsteps or see any trace of the shadowy figure. Harry looked downward, unsure of which direction to go. If he was wrong, he could lose the figure entirely. Pausing, Harry quickly listened for any sort of clue as to where the figure had gone.
Yet another bright light caused Harry to suspend his thoughts. He tried to escape the spell and almost did so, but the spell made contact with his left shoulder and knocked him backwards in to the stairwell. He was momentarily paralyzed from the curse, but through his immobilization, Harry could see the shadowy figure descending the steps as he glanced over the stairwell railing. After a moment, Harry painfully picked himself up, quickly running down the steps and quickly escaping the poisonous, green fog that had leaked out on to the stairwell.
After Harry had gotten down to Level Three, he heard the sound of a door open and close loudly. He quickly glanced down to see that the Level Two door had been propped open. Having no idea why the perpetrator wanted to submerse himself deeper in to the depths of the Ministry, Harry continued past Level Two, his shoulder still sore and his skin becoming increasingly irritated by the green gas.
He wrenched open the door leading out on to Level One where the Minister’s office was located. Seeing that the stairwell had ended, Harry knew that this door was where the perpetrator had gone. It did not take Harry long to identify where the perpetrator was as once Harry found himself in the main hallway, he found himself literally face to face with none other than Rabastan Lestrange who stood only feet away from him.
‘Potter,’ growled Rabastan. His long, wet-looking dark hair blended in to his black robe and he wore a mixed expression of anger and playfulness as he held out his wand in front of him. Harry’s eyes opened wide in shock; for a brief split-second, Harry locked eyes with Rabastan, a curse coming to Harry’s mind as he began to raise his wand.
Rabastan was too fast. Before Harry could speak the incantation, Rabastan pointed his wand directly at Harry, sending three, quick, consecutive stunning spells right for him. Harry was able to escape the trajectory of the first two, but the third hit Harry in the same shoulder as before, knocking him through one of the doors of the hallway and in to an office.
Harry saw the room spinning all around him, the excruciating pain in his shoulder masking the pain he felt as his green-charred skin felt as if it was on fire. Breathing heavily, Harry stumbled as he tried to get up, holding his shoulder with his wand hand. He managed to reemerge through the broken door he had crashed through, but he saw no sign of Rabastan. Looking around, Harry noticed that all of the paintings lining the room had been hit by a curse from Rabastan, the portraits all but destroyed. However, to his immediate left, one destroyed painting still bore one of its occupants. In an upper corner that had not been destroyed by a curse sat a small, brown-haired, polka-dotted dressed girl who was quivering with fear.
‘He’s gone, Mr. Potter sir,’ she squeaked. ‘He hit us all with curses and then... then... he just disappeared.’
Harry sunk to his knees in pain, looking around at all of the broken portraits as they began to fall to the ground in pieces.
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