Chapter 3 : Scream
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“Spock or Doctor Who?” asked Emily.*
“Spock!” yelled Jenn.
“Which Doctor?” chorused Clio, Henry and Derrick.
“I don't know. Does it matter?”
“Yes,” replied the Whovian chorus.
“Fine. The one with the scarf,” Bernie said with a cackle.
“The Doctor,” said Henry.
“The Doctor,” said Derrick.
“That's a tough one,” said Clio with a grimace, earning groans from her fellow Whovians.
Bernie cackled again, “You're all weird.”
Clio pulled the letter from her pocket and read it for the umpteenth time.
“Again?” Charity asked. “Are you going to be up all night analyzing it?”
Clio glanced at her briefly before returning to the paper in her hands. She barely resisted her urge to sniff it again. It smelled a bit menthol-ish from riding in Mr. Doge's pocket all day, but underneath the medicine scent she had detected a seductively familiar hint of earthy musk. “What do you think he meant by 'I can't see you now'?” she asked.
Whatever Charity said was drowned out by Bernie's sonorous voice.
“If he saw you now he'd just want to fuck your brains out!”
“Bernie, language!” Jenn gestured angrily to where Hanna sat on the floor, levitating multicolored blocks into a tower.
“Sorry,” Bernie said with his impish cackle. “I, uh, mean he'd invite you to ride his broomstick, and you know you'd say yes.”
“Then he'd feel guilty and sh-”
Jenn glared at Bernie.
“-stuff afterward. So instead he decided to stay home and polish his wand like every other night.”
“I'm going to get ready for bed,” Clio said, refolding the letter. She suspected that Bernie's assessment of the situation was correct, although he'd guessed wrong about who would be inviting whom to bed.
“You need to move on, Clio,” Jenn said, a warning in her voice.
“I know,” she said, fetching her pajama shirt and shorts from the floor of her sleeping compartment on her way to the bathroom.
“I'm pretty sure Kowalski would be willing to tickle your snitch, if that's all you want,” Henry said. Clio swatted him with her shirt as she passed.
“Hey, if it gets him to stop playing that effing accordion for ten minutes, then I'm all for it,” Emily said.
“Ten minutes?” said Wyatt, spitting up his drink.
“I think that's a little optimistic, actually,” Krista replied.
“He probably wouldn't even stop playing,” Henry added.
Clio slammed the bathroom door before she had to see or hear their impressions of Eddie Kowalski trying to simultaneously play the accordion and make love. She had pressed both hands to her chest, thinking that she could scoop the pain out if only she had the right implement, when the screaming began.
“What's going on?” she yelled, bursting into the living room with her wand in hand.
“They're torturing muggles!” Sara screamed, still on her hands and knees from scrambling in through the tent flap.
Clio and Charity exchanged wide-eyed looks. “Who is?”
“They're wearing masks! They've got the caretaker and his family.”
The entire tent erupted as eight witches and wizards dove for their wands. Clio grabbed her sneakers and shoved them onto her bare feet as she ran for the exit. Everyone piled up around it, pushing to get through in single file.
“Derrick, you have to stay in here,” Charity said, her face paper white.
“Watch Hanna,” Wyatt said.
“We can't leave them here unguarded!” Jenn protested, in a voice with the power to compel even Bernie to obey. “Charity, you stay here and guard the tent.”
Charity nodded, holding her wand up like a sword.
Already outside, Clio stuck her head back into the tent flap. “I'm putting runes on the door!” she said, lighting the end of her wand and burning the protective symbols into the canvas. “The password is 'Mullet.' No one gets through here without saying that word. Stun anything that comes in without announcing itself,” she added, before running off into the night.
Every alumnus of the Mugblood and Enoch Banana houses had muggle friends or relatives and some amount of alcohol cycling through their bodies. They fanned out from their campsite like a swarm of wasps defending a disturbed hive, honing in on the horde of masked, hooded figures that thrust its way through the tent city. The campground's caretaker and his family hovered high over their heads, powerless to fight back.
“Those are children!” Wyatt raged, pointing to the two smallest figures floating as high as 60 feet in the air. Bernie raised his wand to hurl a curse at the closest perpetrators, but was stopped by Krista.
“No! If you break their spells they'll just drop them!”
They gaped, horrified, as the Death Eaters marched past and continued on. Something primal stirred Clio's blood as she watched the figures, all cloaked in black, part the crowd. They were a far cry from the monsters that had populated her imagination since childhood. She might have found their costumes comical if their victims weren't in real danger. She felt the anger burning through her veins like magma, threatening to erupt. Her wand responded with its own heat. The Death Eaters' crimes could not go unpunished tonight.
“Come on,” she urged, running to catch up to the mob.
“Blood traitors!” the lead Death Eater yelled in a haughty voice that his mask distorted. “You're all disgraces to wizardkind, running out here in muggle clothing!”
“You're nothing but cowards!” Bernie yelled back. “Why don't you show us your faces!”
There were other witches and wizards running alongside the rioters, as well. A few Ministry officials tried to stop the mob by listing all the rules they were breaking and the punishments for each offense, but that seemed only to egg them on. Some laughed, and a few actually clapped at the mention of jail time in Azkaban.
“These aren't even real Death Eaters! The real ones are all in Azkaban already,” Clio taunted. “What did you say to get off, that you'd been imperiused?” she yelled directly to the masked figure on her left. He turned his head towards her, momentarily distracted.
Emily kept up the verbal attack, “Does it make you feel all bad ass to levitate a few muggles? How pathetic.”
Fire shot out from one of the wands in the crowd, igniting a seemingly random tent. Emily clamped her mouth shut with a snap. Even Bernie kept his mouth shut, now. Several Ministry officials peeled off from the chase to contain the destruction. Several more burning tents followed. Clio felt glad that their tent was safely behind them.
Agitation began to build among the crowd. A few onlookers had actually swelled the mob's ranks in drips and drabs, following along behind and laughing at the man, woman and children as they spun overhead. An energy flowed through the crowd that was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. Clio ran along, swept up in it, feeding off of it, riding it like a wild beast that could turn on her at any moment and devour her.
“Aww, hell no!” Wyatt groaned, pointing to a familiar black flag marked with a skull and cross bones. “Who let them in?”
The Jolly Rogers continued to enjoy their reputation as the most controversial house on the Salem campus. Officially, they claimed to idolize the egalitarian ethos of eighteenth-century pirates. Unofficially, everyone knew them for what they were: neo-Death Eaters, Death Eaters-lite; poseurs who dressed in black, carved skulls on their skin and met in a heavily-draped, smoke-filled lounge to plan midnight bonfires deep within the swamp.
There were half a dozen of them here now, following along in the mob's wake, laughing and jeering at the Muggle family, ignored by the masked figures they desperately desired to impress.
Wyatt and Bernie might have picked a fight with the tagalongs if Jenn hadn't been there to separate them with a shield charm. She shamed many of the gapers into returning to their tents with a few snaps of her camera shutter and the power of her withering glare. Someday, Jenn might give McGonagall a run for her money, Clio thought.
“Callimachus!” Clio turned to see Bill and his brothers Charlie and Percy running along with the crowd from the Ministry, wands at the ready. “How come no one's stopping them?”
“Everyone's afraid they'll just drop the muggles.” Clio said, wishing once again that Remus were there. He would know what to do.
“You should leave this up to the Ministry, professor, you could get seriously hurt,” Percy said.
“There aren't enough Ministry officials here to stop anybody,” Bill snapped. “Do you really think you're accomplishing anything by shouting regulations at them?”
“No one's impressed that you can recite the International Statute of Wizarding Secrecy of 1689,” Charlie added.
“We need to strategize,” Bernie said, falling back on what he'd learned as a quodpot team captain.
“We should get ahead of them and set up a barrier,” Charlie said, thinking about dragons. “Stop them going forward, then surround them,”
“Brilliant!” Bill answered.
“We need to get clearance from the top Min-”
“Works with dragons,” Charlie replied over his brother Percy.
“And mum thought dragon wrangling wasn't practical.” Bill said. “Now, how do we set up a barrier?” Charlie cocked an eyebrow, and Bill nodded. “Oh, right.”
They split everyone who was actually trying to stop the Death Eaters into two groups. Clio wanted to run forward with the Weasleys, but Bernie and Jenn both stopped her.
“Come on Clio, you know you're way better with levitation than hexes,” Bernie said.
“Fuck you, Bernie. You think you know everything just because you won some stupid tournament!” she bellowed, barely able to contain the heat pulsing from her wand. Bernie turned without another word, storming after the Weasleys. Jenn's eyes fell to Clio's left hand, suspicions confirmed by the trail of smoke curling from her wand tip.
“I would think you'd want to help keep those people from falling to their deaths,” she said in her hardest voice, then took off after Bernie. Wyatt and Henry followed her, while Clio reluctantly joined the second group as it prepared to hem the Death Eaters in on the sides. She stayed near the front with Emily and Sara – and Lisa Ganderson, of all people, who'd run up with some of the other Raven's Claw alums.
“I'm surprised to see you here,” Clio spat at the diminutive blonde witch.
“You think I'm not just as disgusted by this display as you are?” she spat back.
Up ahead, the front guard was dividing into pairs. “We don't want to stun them, because the muggles will fall, so instead we're going to make a lightning fence,” Charlie called out.
“A what?” Bernie asked, speaking for everyone who had no idea what he was talking about.
“Use the Fulgura Charm in groups of two, one to cast, one to ground. We'll do it in staggered intervals,” Bill said. “Percy, you can go back with Callimachus if you're so worried about her,” he added with a wink.
Percy shook his head, looking suspiciously pale beneath his freckles. “Mr. Crouch is going to be very disappointed,” he murmured.
The pairs dropped to the ground at five-foot intervals, First Bill and Charlie, then Wyatt and Bernie, then Henry and Percy (who was still trying to talk the others into leaving) with Jenn at the end, still snapping pictures even as she prepared to stun anyone who made it through the gauntlet.
“Sir, it's not too late for you to move to a safe distance,” Percy said, just as Henry extended his wand and sent a bolt of blue lightning directly across the Death Eaters' path to him. Percy caught it with his wand and held on. Having a task to concentrate on finally shut him up.
“Thank God,” Bernie muttered.
“Look who's talking,” Henry muttered in reply.
The Death Eaters saw the blue jets of lightning arc from three pairs of wands well before running into them. They hit Charlie and Bill's first, and decided to fight. Clio didn't catch the whole scuffle because she was concentrating on controlling her wand, which was spitting golden sparks.
She heard a rough voice shout, “Sectumsempra!” and from the corner of her eye saw Bill's wand arm spill blood without having been touched. He gritted his teeth, together with Charlie maintaining the lightning stream and sending the entire front row of Death Eaters into spasms as they were pushed forward from behind. The scent of burning hair wafted over the crowd. One of them fell forward onto Charlie, clutching at his shirt and ripping it halfway from his body.
“Charity would have liked to see that,” Clio murmured.
“Hey, here they come!” Lisa cried shrilly in her ear, jabbing a bony elbow into her side. Clio looked up in time to see the caretaker's wife float by, tumbling forward and back like a beach ball at a concert. She counted the wands held aloft, all waiting to catch the four captives. There were three wands for each. Her friends were probably being slashed to ribbons, and she wasn't even needed here.
If there had been only one or two wizards in the Death Eaters' way, they would have charged right through, but after barely shoving past the first line of lightning and seeing two more ahead, a few tried to turn back the way they came. Meanwhile, more Ministry officials had arrived to prevent their escape. Other Death Eaters split off to the sides, but more onlookers had already closed in, and prepared to stun them as soon as the muggles were safely on the ground.
Clio's wand smoked and sparked, shaking in her hand. She closed her eyes, concentrated on still water, and felt her wand begin to settle. Suddenly, more screams rose up in the distance. Her eyes flew open as an uncanny green glow spread overhead. Everyone, masked and unmasked alike, looked up to see a glimmering skull stretch itself across the sky. Clio had only seen the Dark Mark in pictures, and had never expected to see it in person. It distracted her now for a moment, and her wand arm drooped. Inexplicably, the Death Eater mob all stopped cold and disapparated.
Clio jumped forward as the Death Eaters began to vanish. They would have allowed the muggles to drop to their deaths if there weren't wizards in place to arrest their falls. The muggle woman dangled directly overhead, held aloft by hers and two other wands. There was one Death Eater very close to her, a big oafish one, who moved half a step slower than his counterparts. His first attempt at apparition had failed.
“Ganderson, have you got her?” Clio asked.
“Of course I have her,” came her exasperated reply.
There was no time to weigh her decision. Clio ran and leapt at the slowpoke, throwing her arms around his neck and her legs around his back.
Someone screamed her name, but she didn't turn to see who it was. She held on for dear life as she felt the familiar pull in her stomach. She and the Death Easter disapparated together, and for a moment she felt nothing.
When they came to earth again, he immediately began thrashing, trying to throw her from his back. Clio was outmatched, and she knew it.
“Jumping onto this guy's back was quite possibly the stupidest thing I've ever done,” she thought, not more than ten seconds after doing it. She clenched her wand tightly in her left hand, but couldn't concentrate on a proper spell as she was hurled first one way then another. Instead, she dug her nails into the right side of his neck and grabbed at his hood with her teeth.
He roared in pain, redoubling his efforts to shake her, and succeeding only in throwing the hood from his massive blond head. Three of her nails ripped from her fingers, pulled out so fast that she didn't feel anything at first, and only realized what had happened when she saw the blood.
The Death Eater brought his wand hand up and began shooting hexes at her blindly over his back. His aim was terrible and they missed her repeatedly, scorching the ground instead. Clio, realizing that one of these times he may get lucky and actually hit her, gathered her senses enough to respond with a shield charm.
Shields she could do, and patronuses; defensive spells. She could dodge, block, outrun. But even in quodpot she had never been any good at offense.
Safe for the time being, Clio clenched her teeth against the pain throbbing through her fingers and grabbed at the edge of his mask with her free hand; clinging tightly to him with her legs. He whipped his head violently away, stumbling, falling to the left and landing on her as he tumbled to the ground. His weight pressed painfully into her left knee, forcing it toward the ground at an odd angle. She yelped in pain, and a burst of bright gold flame shot from her wand into the side of his neck, setting his cloak alight.
Fire was the best weapon she had, and even in the best of circumstances she had very little control over it. His high-pitched scream might have made her laugh, if the heat from the fire hadn't also finally spurred him to break free of her grip. His lunged forward with so much force that he tore her wand out of her hand. She lay defenseless on the ground, left leg crumpled under her body, knowing that she needed her wand if she hoped to survive.
“Accio wand!” she cried, just before he whirled and fired yet another curse. Her wand shot toward her, ever faithful despite its willful streak, but this time his curse finally landed. Her wand bounced off of her outstretched hand a fraction of a second later, and fell to the ground. She'd been body-bound. Her wand lay mere centimeters from her fingers, but it may as well have been miles away. She couldn't pick it up. She concentrated on calling it, repeating accio wand, accio wand, accio wand in her mind. It jumped off the ground and hit her splayed fingers again and again and again, but she was unable to grasp it.**
Laughing, the big blond Death Eater brushed the last of the flames from his clothes and stooped to collect her wand. It discharged a last lick of flame, burning his fingers. He swore as he dropped it, was about to stomp it into the ground, then thought better of it and pulled out a soiled handkerchief to pick it up and insert it into a pocket of his charred robes.
“Crucio,” he muttered, pointing his own wand at Clio. She would have screamed if she could, as a flash of intense pain, like a drill biting into her spine, swept over her body. Instead, tears streamed silently down her cheeks. She thought again of the Mediterranean, of cool blue-green water washing over the heat of the pain and quelling it.
“Crucio” he said again, frustrated that her petrified state kept her from screaming and writhing on the ground. Even though most of his face was a mystery behind that mask, she saw the annoyance written on his furrowed brow and downturned mouth. Wanting to laugh, and not being able to, she concentrated on the only parts of her body that weren't in pain at the moment: the tips of her toes. The pain subsided.
He approached her then, heavy boots trampling dry grass and kicking up dust. She held her breath and tried her best to make her eyes vacant. The dead and unconscious weren't any fun to torture, were they? He spit at her, missing her eye and getting her ear. She felt the cold wet ball of slime oozing along her ear canal and fought the bile that rose up her esophagus in response.
Behind his head, the nearly-full moon loomed bright white in the wide open sky. They had apparently apparated to a deserted moor. The moonlight was too bright for her to make out any familiar constellations.
He kicked her hard in the side, sending her rolling over on to her stomach. She waited through an interminable stretch for his next attack. She heard a whiplike crack overhead, then nothing. It was with great relief that she realized he'd disapparated. She let out her breath and took in another, sneezing out the dust that infiltrated her nose with the warm night air.
In her mind, Clio screamed. In reality she lay flat on her belly: mouth, nose and eyes in the dirt. She had no wand, and no one knew where she was.
* The original Doctor Who series was created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber and Donald Wilson. The series Star Trek and the character Spock were created by Gene Roddenberry.
** I don't know for sure that the Summoning Charm could work without a wand in hand, but suppose it is a well-matched wand and the hand is in very close proximity to it? Since phoenix feather wands are known to occasionally act on their own accord, I like to think that this scenario is possible.
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