Chapter 8 : Year 1: The brothers
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“McLaggen,” Demelza Robins sighed while adjusting her robe. “You’ll be wearing a helmet anyway, no one is going to see your hair!”
McLaggen turned around with a sugary smile on her face. “Everyone in here knows that you’re completely oblivious when it comes to beauty, Robins, but…”
“That’s enough!” Ginny interrupted.
She grabbed McLaggen’s helmet, which lay on the floor under one of the benches and pressed it onto the girl’s head.
“What are you doing?”
The sight of McLaggen’s shocked facial expression made both Dean Thomas and Andrew Kirke howl with laughter, but before anyone had the chance to say anything else there was a knock on the door. A few seconds later it opened, and Madame Hooch peeked into the room.
“Miss Weasley? You have five minutes.” Her eyes swept over the laughing boys and McLaggen, who appeared to have become speechless. “Is everything okay in here?”
Ginny gave her the thumbs up and waited for her to close the door again. Then, she gathered her teammates around her and began speaking.
“Okay,” she said. “We know that Slytherin’s team isn’t what it used to be, but that’s exactly what gives them the upper hand. We know that they’re weak, and so we'll be too relaxed – we think that the game is already won.”
“Well, unless you’re as crappy as you were against Hufflepuff, the game is already won,” McLaggen muttered, shooting a sly look at Ritchie Coote, who had changed position to chaser and still had problems with his position game.
“Shut it, McLaggen!” Jimmy Peakes said while swinging his bat in a way that made Ginny think he was going to hit the keeper. McLaggen seemed to think the same thing, because her eyes widened as she took a step back.
“We are a team,” growled Ginny, who was beginning to lose her temper. She didn’t like to play when she was in a bad mood, and normally the noise of the crowd would be enough to get her smiling, but her teammates – at least one of them – was really getting on her nerves. “I don’t want to hear any internal squabbling, do you hear me? One more gibe from you, McLaggen, and you’re out!”
“It’s not like you have any alternatives,” McLaggen snorted.
“Do you now what?” Ginny said. “I’d rather play keeper myself than let you go on like…”
She interrupted herself when the door to the dressing room opened again. But it wasn’t Madame Hooch’s head that turned up in the doorway this time; it was a woman in her early thirties, who smiled apologetically when she realized that she had interrupted something. Her teeth were sharp white in contrast to her dark skin, and when she stepped into the room Ginny could see that she was both tall and athletic. She also realized that this was one of her childhood heroe - a person who had enriched her bedroom wall since she was a little girl, dressed in gold and dark green Quidditch robes. It was Gwenog Jones, beater and captain of the Holyhead Harpies.
“I’m sorry for interrupting,” she said as her gaze wandered between Ginny, whose cheeks were still flushed with anger, McLaggen’s messy hair and the other players, who were clenching their teeth and glaring at the keeper. “My name is Gwenog Jones. I’m here to watch the game.”
“I think we all know who you are,” Andrew said, smiling dazzlingly as he reached out his hand. “Andrew Kirke. I have to say that the hit you pulled off during your last game against Puddlemere United was… inspiring. I’m a beater myself, you see.” He held up his bat, as if to prove it, and smiled again.
Gwenog shook everyone’s hands. When she reached Ginny, she took a step forwards and mumbled:
“So you’re captain, eh? I overheard your conversation before, and I must say that you handled it well. Don’t let anyone walk over you.” She winked at her before raising her voice, so that everyone would hear. “Good luck out there. I played for Ravenclaw when I went to Hogwarts, but I’ve always enjoyed watching Slytherin get clobbered.”
“Harry, Ron!” Kingsley threw the door to Mad-Eye’s old office open and startled Harry and Ron, who had spent the last couple of hours reading yet another chapter of An Auror’s guide to theoretical duel technique (“Who came up with this? Umbridge?” Ron had muttered when Seyrod had handed them the books that morning.) Now, they lifted their heads from their books, surprised to see the Minister of Magic, whom they had barely exchanged one word with since had had assumed office. He was dressed in his usual midnight blue robes with embroidery of golden thread, and he seemed very stressed. “Come with me,” he ordered, and the two young men gladly left their work and hurried after him. He almost ran towards the head office of the department while he continued speaking.
“We have received a new tip about the whereabouts of the Lestrange brothers,” he told them. “As you know, they’ve been spotted here and there lately – at first they seemed to linger around London, but then they headed farther north. It wasn't until the tip we got today, however, that we realised that they appear to be moving towards Hogwarts.”
Ron met Harry’s eyes and saw that his face was a transcription of his own. They were thinking about the same thing: Hermione and Ginny.
“We have to go there now!” Ron said as he felt the panic grow inside of him.
He tried to reason with himself. It wasn’t like Rodolphus and Rabastan Lestrange could just wander onto the school grounds! After all, they were two of the most wanted Death Eaters who had not yet been caught, and McGonnagall knew it. She would never let… but, another voice in his head reminded him, Sirius Black had managed to break in to the school unnoticed when Professor Dumbledore was headmaster…
“We are understaffed,” Kingsley said. “The Auror Department suffered the most during the war, both under the reign of Pius Thicknesse and during battles. We lost many of our best men and women. You knew a few of them – Tonks, Alastor… Anyway, we could use your services this afternoon. You are not fully trained Aurors yet, and if you feel even the hint of a doubt, if you don’t feel ready…”
“We’ll do it,” Harry interrupted him, and Ron mumbled affirmatively.
In that same moment, they reached one of the large head offices of the Auror Department. Kingsley held the door open for them, and the two boys stepped inside. A large, oblong table surrounded by high chairs took up most of the room. The walls were bare and there were no windows. As he stepped over the threshold, Ron got the feeling of walking through something damp and cold, and he shivered. John Dawlish, who was sitting at the table next to Michael Seyrod, smiled at Ron’s reaction.
“My work”, he announced proudly.
“It’s a security check,” Seyrod explained. “You can’t enter this room in disguise or without permission.”
“It’s just like Gringotts,” Ron said, recalling the sight of Hermione, who had been disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange, transforming back into her normal self when they reached the underground of the bank.
“Okay,” Kingsley said. “We don’t have much time for planning. If the Lestrange brothers really are heading for Hogwarts, we have to get there before them. Here is what we’ll do: Dawlish and I will try to catch up with them. Seyrod, bring the boys and head straight to Hogwarts to guard the entrances. And inform Minerva, of course.”
“You are…?” Seyrod looked hesitant. “Kingsley, you’re not an Auror anymore, you’re the Minister for Magic! Are you sure…?”
“And had we had more than two fully trained Aurors available I would have stayed behind,” Kingsley said. “I realise that this is not included in my duties anymore. I wouldn’t have let the boys come either, if I’d had a choice. Go on now, Michael, there is no time to discuss this.”
“So which entrance do you reckon they’ll take?” Ron asked while scurrying after Harry and Seyrod through the corridors of the department towards the fireplace that was connected with the one in Professor McGonnagall’s office. “The Shrieking Shack?”
“That one has been blocked,” Seyrod said.
“Honeydukes?” Harry suggested.
Seyrod shook his head and stopped in front of the fireplace that would take them to the school. “Every known entrance has been blocked,” he explained. “You go first, Ron.”
Three “Hogwarts!” and flames turning green later, the three of them were standing on the rug by the fireplace in the headmistress’ circular office, brushing ashes off of their robes. Ron looked around the room. The last time he had been there Snape’s portrait had hung on the wall behind the large, antique desk. It had now been moved to join the other old headmasters and headmistresses and make room for Professor McGonnagall.
“Minerva is not here,” said Seyrod, who had already started moving towards the exit.
“What else did you expect when you chose to come during the last Quidditch game of the year?” said a familiar voice, and everyone turned to face Albus Dumbledore’s portrait. The old man, whose long, white beard and pale blue eyes seemed to glow in comparison to the dark colour of the wall behind the painting, smiled at the guests. “One may say it’s just a game, but it’s always been more than that to Minerva.”
“Gryffindor versus Slytherin,” Phineas Black added afield his frame. “Our team might not be what it once was, considering how few of our students returned to school this year…”
“… but you never get tired of hoping to see Gryffindor defeated.” Snape met Harry’s eyes for a few seconds before he bent down his head. Harry couldn’t help but wonder if it was shame he had seen in his old teacher’s black eyes – shame over knowing that he knew the deepest of his secrets.
Seyrod had stopped just inside the door, and a wrinkle formed on his forehead as he cogitated. Ron flung out his arm, suddenly infuriated.
“So what are we still doing here?” he asked. “We have to get to the Quidditch pitch!”
“No,” Seyrod said. “We have to stop them before they get in. We have to figure out how they’ll try to get in, and make it impossible – before they get to an unprotected crowd full of innocent children. Kingsley’s order, Ron.”
“And what if they’re here already?” Ron yelled. “My girlfriend is in that crowd, and she’s probably not too focused on the fact that two Death Eaters who wish to see her dead are heading straight towards her. And my sister… my sister is flying on one of those broomsticks, and I’m not sure if you remember this, but she’s the daughter of the woman who killed Bellatrix Lestrange! They’ll go for her first!”
Harry watched Ron’s enraged face as realization washed over him. Could that be why the Lestranges were heading to Hogwarts in the first place? For Ginny? To avenge their wife and sister-in-law?
“And Miss Weasley will definitely not be focusing on any Death Eaters,” Phineas Black mumbled while scratching his chin, which was covered by grey beard, “because her eyes are set on the trophy cup… But perhaps we’ll stand a chance if what they are saying is true. If any of those Death Eaters can knock that little weasel off her broom… she scores as often as the other players blink, that girl.”
Harry and Ron made a simultaneous movement towards the door, ready to rush down to the Quidditch pitch when Seyrod took a step to the side to block the doorway.
“You’re still in training,” he said. “I’m your superior, and you’re going to do what I tell you to do. We’re out on a mission, and this is not the right time to get personal. Our job is to protect as many people as…”
Ron interrupted him by pushing him vigorously to the side. Before he had got back up on his feet, the boys had rushed out of the room, down the spiral staircase and off towards the Quidditch pitch.
“That never would have happened to me,” Phineas Black continued gibbering, “but then again, us authority figures were more respected in those times..."
Out by the Quidditch pitch, Hermione stood up and cheered when Luna – who had finally convinced Professor McGonnagall to let her comment the game – mumbled “Oh, well done, Ginny,” into the microphone. For once, she had paid enough attention to the to notice the fact that Ginny had just given her team the lead by wrong-footing Slytherin’s keeper and easily sending the Quaffle through the middle goal post. Hermione turned her eyes to the scoreboard. 30-20.
“Ouch, that was brutal!” exclaimed Neville, who was sitting next to her, making her turn her attention to the players again.
Demelza Robins’ hands covered her nose, and one of the Slytherin beaters lowered his bat with a smug smile on his face.
“Did you see that, Hermione?” Neville asked. “Did you see, Madame Hooch? She wasn’t even holding the Quaffle!” he added in a louder voice.
Hermione gasped when Demelza lowered her hands and disclosed her bloody face. “Oh, someone has to help her with that,” she said anxiously. “Neville, it’s allowed to substitute a player, right?”
“And you’ve gone to these games with me for seven years,” he answered and shook his head. “No, substitution is not allowed, even if the player is too injured to finish the game. There have been exceptions, though. There was a game between England and Wales in 1987 that lasted four days. The players would have fallen off their brooms if they hadn’t been substituted.”
“But this is just a scratch,” said Nigel Wolpert, who was standing on Neville’s other side. “All she needs is a short break to wash the blood off – look, Ginny is asking for a time-out.”
He pointed his finger, and Hermione turned her head. Sure enough, the Gryffindor players were already forming a circle around Ginny and Demelza on the grass below the goal posts. Andrew helped wash Demelza’s face with his wand, and Luna proclaimed:
“Oh, look everyone. Maybe something will finally happen between Demelza and her secret crush. Wait a minute… which one of the players is still up in the air?”
She pointed up to the sky, and everyone turned their heads back to look. Two dark-clothed figures were still circling around high above the stands, but they weren’t dressed in Slytherin green and silver nor in Gryffindor red and gold. Hermione’s eyes narrowed. Who were they?
“Why is he pulling out his wand?” Neville asked.
He sounded as uncomprehending as Hermione felt. One of the men above them held out his wand. He waved it, and in the next second the deep red sheets that hung from Gryffindor’s bleachers had caught fire.
It took only a few short moments for panic to erupt amongst the Gryffindor students. Hermione fell helplessly when someone pushed her from behind, and she reached out her hands, hoping to be able to break the fall. She squeezed her eyes shut when she saw the ground come closer; it felt like falling in slow motion. At first, she didn’t even feel the pain – she just heard the sound of her body hitting one of the wooden steps and Neville’s cry from somewhere above her: “Hermione!”
Ginny and the rest of the Gryffindor team had turned their heads back to search the sky once Ritchie Coote had made them aware of the figures circling around above them. In the corner of her eye, Ginny could see flames spread at breakneck speed across the Gryffindor stands, and she pulled out her wand.
“What are you doing, Weasley?” McLaggen asked.
Before Ginny had the chance to turn around and spit out an answer, she could see the two men turn their brooms around and head straight towards them. She stopped in the middle of her movement and raised her wand, ready to defend herself against an attack.
“Did I hear the name Weasley?” one of the men said.
Ginny’s wand slipped from her grasp and she could see it fly through the air along with the others’. It seemed like every other person around the Quidditch Pitch was too focused on the fire to even know that something else was going on there. The fire was already covering the entire Gryffindor stands and half of Hufflepuff’s, and it wouldn’t be long before it had reached the other two as well. Students were running towards the opening between the Slytherin stands and the dressing rooms – which wouldn’t be an opening much longer, Ginny realized, because the fire was forming a high wall around the quidditch field, and that was the only way out.
“She does have the looks of a Weasley, doesn’t she, brother?”
The voice made Ginny jump. She had turned her attention away from the two men long enough for them to be able to land a few yards away from the team. Demelza took a step forwards and stopped on Ginny’s left side, and Dean walked over to her right. Ginny lifted her head and looked at the men. They were in her parents’ age, and their hair and beards were black. She had seen them several times in the Daily Prophet and during the Battle of Hogwarts the year before. It was Bellatrix Lestrange’s husband and brother-in-law. Ginny gulped.
“We heard what your mum did, sweetheart,” Bellatrix’s husband – Ginny couldn’t remember if he was the one called Rodolphus or Rabastan. He smiled, showing of a row of crooked, yellow teeth, and Ginny shivered.
Ear-piercing screams could be heard from the other end of the pitch, but Ginny didn’t dare tear her eyes away from the Lestrange brothers. Her heart was beating fast, and she clenched her hands tightly to stop them from shaking and revealing how scared she was. Bellatrix’s husband took a step towards her, which made Dean grab her arm and step in between them.
“Will you look at that, Rodolphus?” laughed the other brother. “This boy is trying to be a hero – isn’t it just adorable? I would suggest stepping aside, kid. We’re not here for you.”
“You’ll have to kill me first,” Dean said flatly. His voice was firm.
Ginny could not bring herself to move, let alone talk. If she had been able to utter a single word she would have protested, but she couldn’t seem to do it.
“Oh, that’s tempting,” Bellatrix’s husband said. “But you’re not dying today. You are going to live to tell Mama Weasley how her daughter screamed and writhed in torment… to tell Harry Potter how the life faded from his little girlfriend’s eyes…”
The two brothers raised their wands in an almost simultaneous movement. Rabastan waved his wand, and Dean was thrown to the side. At the same time, Rodolphus pointed his wand at Ginny and yelled: “Crucio!” In the next second, Ginny was lying on the ground, writhing, as a burning pain, stronger and more violent than anything she had ever felt before, rushed through her body.
A/N: Reviews are always very welcome! To those of you who have reviewed this story so far: thank you again. You really make my day, and your tips are very helpful.
I'm sorry for the delay in updating this story. I've been on holiday, and I hope you'll forgive me! I had a bit of a writer's block before writing this chapter and I'm not sure how I feel about the result. If you'd let me know what you think, I would appreciate it very much.
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