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Chapter 26 : Break-in to Azkaban
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Harry shook his head, snapping himself out of his momentary daze. He leapt to his feet and ran over to where Aberforth, Ron and Hermione were already standing, pushing himself off the black rock as hard as he could. The rapidly darkening, grey clouds were looking more and more unforgiving by the second, the waves of the North Sea crashing in to the rocks all around him. The cold wind seemed to penetrate Harry’s very bones as he clumsily traversed the rocky landscape.
‘We’ve got to take a short ride by boat!’ said Aberforth loudly, having to raise his voice so that he could be heard over the crashing waves.
Aberforth pointed to a small fleet of wooden boats that were about ten feet in length. Harry nodded to his friends as he followed Aberforth down a rocky path towards the boats which were tied together by a thick rope. Harry looked over his shoulder to see the only other aspect of the small, rocky island that proved that human life had existed there; a small, most uncomfortable looking cabin stood perched at the island’s highest point, just far enough so that it would remain untouched by even the highest, coldest waves of the North Sea. In every direction he looked, the only other thing that Harry could see was endless ocean.
‘Alright, you two get in first,’ instructed Aberforth as he held one of the boats steady. ‘We’ve got to endure this inconvenience just like Benjamin Lampard does. The enchantments used to shield Azkaban from any Muggle attention are extremely powerful. In fact, they are too powerful for one to appear inside the premises of Azkaban directly – by apparation, portkey or even the Floo Network.’
‘I guess,’ managed Ron as he climbed in to the boat, a large wave wetting his legs as he did so, ‘that prisoners are escorted there the old fashioned way? By foot, I mean.’
‘Exactly,’ answered Hermione, beating Aberforth to the punch. ‘There aren’t many who know its exact location either. It’s unplottable.’
‘Without being rude Hermione,’ began Aberforth, ‘we don’t have time for the lesson. Harry, you next.’
Aberforth climbed in after Harry, conjuring two paddles out of thin air which began rowing the boat through the waves. At first, Harry thought he might be sick as the boat continuously rose up and down, sometimes falling back down violently in the massive waves. However, after closing his eyes, he started to feel better, but clutched on to the boats side rather tightly. After the boat had travelled for a few minutes, Aberforth leaned in closer to speak, the left side of his face being drenched by a large wave causing him to momentarily hesitate.
‘Before we get there, I must tell you. Stay close to me at all times and follow my lead. We cannot make a mistake. Not a single one, or we’re done for. If we get separated or if anyone stops you, tell them you are here with Mosteban – me – to examine Wilhelm Hamilton – convicted Red Cap torturer and murderer. That’s why you are here along with us, Hermione.’
‘Once we get to Flamel, leave it to me,’ added Harry bravely. ‘I’ll ask him what we need to know and then we’ll get out of there as quickly as possible.’
‘Good idea, Harry. We need to be in and out before they even have the time to be suspicious of us. All of you practiced your Patronus charms? Just in case?’
Ron gulped and looked towards Hermione. Even though she was clearly the most brilliant of the three of them, the Patronus Charm was one that did not come easy to Hermione. The difficult piece of magic had been mastered by Harry years ago; by Harry’s own admission, it was probably the only aspect of magic that Harry could confidently say he was better at than his brilliant friend.
‘I think I’ll stick close to Harry – ah!’
Ron tried to dodge another wave but could not avoid it. Harry too was sprayed with the icy water which made him increasingly displeased as the minutes ticked away. He began to shiver uncontrollably as the wind stung his wet clothes, Hermione placing an arm around each of her friends so that they could cohesively share their body heat.
‘Flamel is going to be kept in the most heavily guarded quarters of the entire prison,’ began Aberforth.
‘Of course he is... wouldn’t want to make this easy or anything,’ muttered Ron.
‘You need special permission from the Minister of Magic in order to enter the quarters – dubbed by the authorities of Azkaban as the ‘Kiss Quarters’. I think you could figure out for yourself why it’s called that. There is a barrier at the one single entrance to the Kiss Quarters – a barrier that opens for seven minutes and seven minutes only once a day, every day to allow passage between the quarters and the rest of the prison. This is how we are to get in. In precisely sixteen minutes, this barrier will open. If we miss it, there is no conceivable way to enter the Kiss Quarters without experiencing an excruciating amount of pain followed by an extremely painful death.’
‘You certainly know a lot about Azkaban, Aberforth. Thank you again for helping us do this,’ Hermione thanked Aberforth earnestly. Harry felt awkward, watching as the image of Mosteban smiled slightly at his friend.
‘I’ve visited this place perhaps more than anyone else ever has. Most can’t take visiting more than once or twice. Place is just too dreadful to take.’
Aberforth paused as he squinted his eyes and looked beyond where Harry was huddled. Turning to the best of his ability, Harry looked around to see a figure suddenly appear – a figure that had not been there even two minutes ago.
‘There it is. Azkaban.’
Even though Harry could feel his neck tensing up at its position, he could not look away from the sight in his vision. Pictures in the Prophet could not do it justice. Azkaban was massive. It appeared to reach up to the sky itself, its triangular shape blocking out any sunlight that managed to penetrate the darkening clouds. Large waves crashed high on to the rocks surrounding the prison, the frothy white of the waves standing out amongst the sheer blackness that encompassed the entire structure. There were no windows, nor any personality in any shape or form. It looked empty – not of presence but of life of any kind.
Harry was thankful to exit the boat once they had arrived at the island a couple of uncomfortable, wet minutes later. Along with Aberforth, Harry leapt out of the boat as it drew close to the rocks, his left leg falling directly in to the shallow sea while his right rested firmly on the rocky isle. He pulled the boat closer which allowed Ron and Hermione to exit easier, Aberforth tying the boat up with a wave of his wand.
Harry looked upwards to view the daunting task that lay ahead. He was shaken out of his stare by Aberforth’s rough voice as he began leading the trio up a pathway that looked as if it had been carved out of the very rock in which Azkaban had been built on. Silently, Hermione passed Harry his Invisibility Cloak out of his rucksack that had been contained in Hermione’s bag. As he turned to face the leading Aberforth once again, he nearly tripped, catching himself just in time. Harry paused for a moment before continuing to traverse the difficult path, examining the differing, uneven levels of the jagged rock pathway a little more closely than he had before.
‘Slip that on – having one of us disguised may be of use,’ called Aberforth over his shoulder.
On command, Harry nodded at his friends and forced a meek smile before putting the Invisibility Cloak on. The wind’s strength had risen since their time in the boat. At points, it had grown so strong that it became a much more strained exercise to successfully navigate the already intricate path. Harry did not look up as he continued to ascend the rocky path, focusing on the next step before he took it.
‘Oh... oh my...’ Harry heard Hermione mutter behind him.
He had not even noticed it. As they continued to climb higher, Harry paused for a moment to look around him. On both sides of the pathway, starting from around where he was standing and leading all the way up to the prison stood headstones of all different shapes and sizes. As he looked higher up the path, Harry noticed that the headstones were closer together at the top of the rocky isle than they were at the bottom where they were spaced apart by a couple of meters.
‘Ah! Oh, sorry Harry,’ Ron muttered as he walked in to Harry’s back.
‘Come on! We’ve got to hurry!’
Harry looked back up the path to see the figure of Mosteban looking down at them. Moving doubly as quick, Harry began jogging up the path, nearly slipping at least half a dozen times but catching himself every time. As the prison drew nearer, Harry looked out in to the enormous, ominous graveyard. Many of the headstones looked chipped and eroded, looking as if they had been nearly blown away entirely. They stood crooked and lopsided, asymmetrical and disfigured, the names carved in to the headstones’ face were barely decipherable the further they jogged.
‘This is it now! We’ve only got one shot at this! Hermione, hand Harry the rest of your things!’
Harry’s stomach was doing repeated back flips as Hermione followed Aberforth’s instruction. Ron exhaled loudly, Harry looking to see his face had grown quite pale.
In the image of Mosteban, Aberforth examined them for a moment. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but closed it after a half second. Aberforth turned, examining the steel, bolted door before pushing it open, a rush of freezing cold air whipping by Harry’s face that made the outside temperature seem like summer weather. With one last look upwards at the incredibly tall structure, Harry faced forward and followed Aberforth inside.
The door closed loudly behind them once Ron had entered. The first thing that Harry noticed was the amazing height of the structure; if it was possible, it seemed to be larger on the inside than what it looked like on the outside. The validity of this thought was undoubted by Harry. A corner of the triangular base, directly under where they were standing featured no ceiling at all which allowed Harry to look upwards to the very top of the structure. Parallel to the open section of the structure, Harry could distinctly see each individual floor, a single torch making it easier to count off each one. He lost track after twenty, the structure extending too high for the eye to properly see.
‘Your names and your grounds,’ came a dark voice that made Harry jump.
There was a single, dark cloaked witch tending to a plain, black desk. Two burly wizards dressed in black stood on either side of a single archway, looking at Mosteban, Ron and Hermione blankly. There was nothing else of note for Harry to take in except the darkness that characterized the entire foyer. There was a lamp situated on the desk that emitted a more silvery glow than a yellowish one, the light making the witch’s face look all the more threatening as she stared in their direction. Harry placed a hand on the wall as he began to walk forward, an extreme cold and hardness like he had never felt before instilled in him at his touch.
‘Mosteban, Head Auror here to see Wilhelm Hamilton for questioning. My companions are fellow Ministry workers here to examine the specimen,’ uttered Aberforth without a hint of hesitation in his voice which echoed off the walls. He turned slightly and whisperingly muttered to Harry, ‘Six minutes.’
The witch looked down at her desk, seemingly perusing a collection of parchment. The sound of the witch flipping the page hit Harry’s ears much louder than normal, the overwhelming silence of the foyer maximizing the sound of even the smallest of noises.
‘Haven’t seen you in a while, Mosteban,’ the witch muttered without looking up. Harry waited for the witch to continue, but nothing else came forcing Aberforth to respond.
‘Busy as always.’ The witch raised her eyebrows.
‘I bet you are.’
Another uncomfortable moment of silence made Harry even more anxious. He twisted around to see that both Ron and Hermione were trying their best to not look about the prison’s foyer, feigning disinterest as best they could. Hermione grabbed both her shoulders and began rubbing gently.
‘I regret to inform you this but... you don’t seem to be on the list here, Mosteban,’ the witch said looking upwards.
‘I wouldn’t be,’ replied Aberforth stiffly. ‘The decision to make this visit was made at the very last minute.’ The witch turned slightly to her two male counterparts who continued to stare out at the three visible visitors.
‘Could I see your Ministry identification card then? All unapproved visits are normally rejected outright... but due to your placement on the Azkaban board of directors and as Head Auror... we can make an exception.’
Harry looked up at Aberforth. For a split second, he wondered if their mission had hit an unexpected snag, but he was set at ease as Aberforth dove in to his cloak’s inside pocket. He walked over to the desk quickly, setting down the purple piece of parchment for the witch to examine. Glancing over the desk, Harry could see Mosteban’s name inscribed at the bottom of the card.
‘Thank you, Mosteban,’ she said quietly, handing back the card. ‘Next I must ask you and your companions to hand over their wands. As you know, we do not allow wands beyond the foyer.’
Aberforth nodded his head, turning to Ron and Hermione and holding out one of his hands. They both glanced at each other worriedly as they handed over their wands to Aberforth who in turn, handed theirs and his own to the witch.
‘Bowles – escort Mosteban and his following to Wilhelm Hamilton’s cell. Level twenty-six.’
Bowles gave a short nod before turning and leading them through the archway. Harry glanced back just before leaving the foyer altogether and saw the witch placing the wands in the top-most drawer of her desk, her head firmly entrenched in to the piles of parchment that littered its entire surface. As they entered the corridor, Harry jumped as he heard Aberforth’s voice being spoken directly in to his ear.
‘We’ve got to move!’ he whispered.
‘I know – we’ve got less than five minutes now,’ replied Harry. However, Aberforth was not done.
‘That’s not all...’ he muttered, eyeing Bowles who was many meters in front of them.
‘What do you mean?’
‘It won’t be long until they find out that the wand I gave them... obviously wasn’t Mosteban’s. It was mine. Don’t look as if you’re rushing though – that will further tip them off.’
As he wondered what else could possibly make their infiltration more difficult than what it already was, Harry shivered, putting on a brave face even though he knew Aberforth could not see him. His exhale was defined by an uncontrollable, choppy, stutter, the cold penetrating his entire body.
Aberforth walked briskly through the wide corridor. Harry trailed behind, trying his best to quickly glimpse at a rather curious and extremely misplaced sight. Lining the corridor was a series of doors which looked as if they were out of focus. They appeared wavy and grainy, a small light shining through the tiny window at the top of the door, many of which featured tiny black curtains shielding the inside of the room from view. One such door did not have this curtain. Though he could barely make it out, he thought that he saw a four-poster bed adorned with scarlet and gold sheets as well as a roaring fire and bright yellow painted walls.
‘Rooms for workers who are on extended stays,’ muttered Hermione as she noticed Harry’s momentary curiosity. ‘They are charmed to block out the enchantments and subsequent effects placed on the prison. They can have quite the effect if one is to stay around for a long period of time.’
As he listened to his friend, Harry took a right down a narrower corridor. Caged-in, blinking, silvery lamps were positioned every so often on the corridor’s ceiling, illuminating his friends in front of him every few seconds before their images plunged in to darkness once again. He heard a whispering conversation between Aberforth and Ron up ahead of him but could not make out what they were saying. However, Ron looked over his shoulder at Hermione and in turn, Hermione did the same to Harry.
‘Four minutes,’ she whispered to him, her wide eyes looking ghostly in the blinking light just as she spoke.
‘In here,’ came the rough voice of Bowles.
He was indicating a single, square-shaped, small platform with only a single, broken-in-places railing lining the perimeter. Bowles stepped aside to let Aberforth, Ron and Hermione on to the platform. Harry had to be quick to step on to it after Bowles had done so, grabbing on to Ron’s arm to pull him closer to his friends and away from Bowles.
‘Level Twenty-Six,’ he muttered tiredly.
Instantly, the platform jolted as it sprung into movement. Higher it rose, Harry becoming increasingly dizzy the further they travelled. Through his squinted eyes, Harry could barely make out each level as it whizzed by; at one such level, inside the cell closest to their platform, he could have sworn that he saw a chained body that was missing both of its legs. He became disoriented as he clung on to Ron, looking up at Bowles who looked as if this method of travel was as exciting as taking a ride on Teddy Lupin’s broomstick.
‘Here we are.’
Harry looked upwards, thinking to himself that they had barely travelled to the half-way point of the prison, though it was impossible to tell for certain. He peered out on to the floor, seeing that the same silvery light illuminated portions of corridor. The nearest cell to the platform was empty of human presence, but not of the web of thick, iron chains that were linked together and bolted to the wall. Heavy looking bars separated the cells from the corridor. A single silvery torch was situated every so often along the passage, the light from each torch coming in varying degrees of brightness. A blood-curdling scream echoed in the distance, the silence swallowing up the noise before it could linger.
‘Well?’ asked Bowles gruffly. Aberforth coughed, taking a sideways glance at Ron before replying to Bowles’ uninviting invitation.
‘I believe we’ve made a mistake...’
‘Mistake? Whaddya mean?’
‘What I mean is that... Wilhelm Hamilton has been moved to the Kiss Quarters. Would you lead us there?’ Bowles was shaking his head before Aberforth even finished.
‘Can’t be done. You either come with me now, or you leave Azkaban at once. Hamilton is just down the way. Decision is yours.’
Harry was breathing heavily as he searched his mind for a way out of their predicament. ‘The barrier is closing at any minute’ Harry thought to himself as he looked around him for inspiration.
‘I am the Head Auror and –’
‘I don’t care what you are!’ retaliated Bowles. ‘When you’re inside these walls, you listen to me! Not the other way around! One more second of hesitation and security will be here to sort you out! Understand?!’
‘Stupefy!’ Harry could not resist any further. His spell hit Bowles in the chest, knocking him backwards by a few feet, his body resting unconscious in a heap.
‘Harry!?’ came the squeal of Hermione.
‘There’s no time to stall, Hermione!’ roared back Harry.
‘Come on! We don’t have much time!’
The commanding voice of Aberforth sprung them in to action. Aberforth began to sprint down the corridor without a moment of hesitation, Harry glancing at a nearby prisoner whose ethereal eyes turned in their direction as they whipped past.
‘Shouldn’t we take the lift?’ called Ron.
‘It won’t be long until they discover we’re imposters!’ replied Aberforth. ‘They can track the magic in this place, you know! They won’t work! Nor will any other magic brought in from the outside world! This way!’
Harry followed Aberforth aimlessly, his heart pounding in his chest. The silver flamed torches were not bright enough for Harry to properly navigate the corridor of cells. Instinctively, he illuminated his wand tip, Ron and Hermione making way for Harry to run in front of them so as to better lead the way. He jumped slightly as he looked to his right, seeing a chained prisoner hang lifelessly in his small cell.
After only a few more seconds, Harry could see a dull light emerge from the end of the corridor. As it drew nearer, he realized that they had reached the end of the prison, the open part of the triangular structure extending from the ground where they had entered, to the very top of the building. The dull grey light of the day penetrated through the openness of the structure’s top, lighting the corner of the prison ever so slightly
‘Hermione did you pack the brooms as I requested?’ asked Aberforth breathlessly as he glanced upwards over the railing.
‘Y-Yes. Of course I did!’ replied Hermione who was gasping for breath.
Harry dove in to Hermione’s bag, feeling around for the brooms which he miraculously found in good time. One after another, Harry lifted two brooms out of the bottomless bag, handing one to Aberforth.
‘Just follow me! Hermione – get on!’
Aberforth mounted the broom and just as Hermione had leapt on, he kicked off the ground and flew over the railing, flying upwards to the top of the building. Harry did the same, Ron clutching Harry around his invisible waist as they followed Aberforth.
Harry could barely keep his eyes open as he ascended, the coldness of the air stinging his eyes. Managing to see through the small puddles of water that obstructed his vision, Harry saw Aberforth make an abrupt left turn, landing on a level only a few away from the top. A few seconds of flying more and Harry had reached the same level just as Aberforth was helping Hermione off of the broom. Harry hovered beyond the railing, waiting to be helped through the very narrow opening on to the level. Suddenly, Harry’s broom jerked forwards, nearly throwing himself and Ron off.
‘What the –’
Ron’s surprise was interrupted by yet another, much stronger jerk. Aberforth looked up at them, his eyes growing wide as he leaped forward. Harry felt the broom go limp, as if all life had been sucked out of it in one single swoop. Harry’s stomach rose from its normal position to his throat in a split second, his eyes growing wide as he watched Aberforth running towards them, slowly appearing higher and higher from where he and Ron were falling.
The arms of Aberforth clutched on to Harry’s who impulsively grabbed on to Aberforth the moment that he and Ron had begun to fall. Ron let out a yelp as the broom stick fell out from beneath them, ricocheting off the iron and concrete walls with a dull noise. Struggling with every ounce of strength he had, Harry clutched on to Aberforth’s outstretched arms. The great weight of Ron beneath him made Harry feel as if he was going to lose grip of Aberforth at any second.
‘Harry!’ yelped Ron, gripping Harry tightly.
‘Hermione! Come help me pull them! Ron, you hold on tight!’ came the struggling yet instructive voice of Aberforth.
Harry was looking directly up at Aberforth as he said this, the railing mere inches from Harry’s quickly tiring, outstretched arms. Harry began to feel the strength of his arms slowly draining away. Holding his breath and with a great pull, Aberforth and Hermione rose Harry up over the railing, Harry giving everything he possibly could, his eyes squinted in effort. Hermione grabbed Ron’s arms to help him up after Harry had fallen back on to hard ground.
‘Thanks,’ panted Harry as he rested for only a split-second, picking himself up to his feet quickly.
Breathing heavily, he leaned over the edge at the sound of distant voices that seemed to be coming somewhere from the depths below. The voices were growing louder and with increasing vigor.
‘They know we’re here! They must have detected that Stunning Spell, Harry!’ said Hermione breathlessly after she had made sure that Ron was alright. ‘Other than wand magic which is impossible to restrict, there won’t be anything we could use to evade them once they come looking for us. And you’re the only one to have a wand anyway, Harry!’
‘We’re done for!’ yelped Ron.
‘We’re almost there now! The barrier is just down the way!’ interrupted Aberforth, growlingly.
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Aberforth ran as quickly as their legs would carry them down the corridor. Though they were all having trouble catching their breath in the cold air, they trudged forwards, knowing that barrier that would allow them access to the Kiss Quarters would close at any second.
‘Here!’ came Aberforth’s voice abruptly.
He had come to a stop after taking a left down a side corridor that was much narrower than the main one. A prisoner who was lying on the cell’s floor was muttering to herself in variable loudness with no pattern whatsoever, but Harry took no notice as he followed Aberforth. A black door frame took up the entirety of the corridor only a few paces in, a single torch hanging on the wall to the left of the frame. Though there did not appear to be anything obstructing their entrance, Harry could tell there was something unique about it, tossing off his Invisibility Cloak and resting it on his arm. Aberforth was apparently thinking along the same lines as he considered the frame.
Seizing Hermione’s bag from Harry, Aberforth plunged his hand in to its contents, retrieving a single book from its insides. He took a couple steps forward, pausing before tossing the book lightly at the barrier. In a near-blinding flash, the book vanished in to an ocean of white flames, the strong smell of burnt parchment entering Harry’s nostrils. Aberforth swore loudly.
‘Wh-What is it, Aberforth?’ pleaded Hermione as Aberforth swore again.
‘Bloody hell! Well... Let’s get out of here. We’re done. The barrier is back up and it won’t come down again until tomorrow.’ Aberforth turned, walking back out in to the main corridor.
‘But we –’
‘No, Hermione! We tried our best, but if we don’t want to call this place our permanent home, I suggest you follow me now.’
Harry felt helpless. He could not believe they had come all this way only to fail. As Ron and Hermione began to reluctantly follow Aberforth, something was tugging Harry back. It could not end like this. His mind raced for a solution until something sprung to mind. ‘How could I have not remembered this sooner?’ he thought amazed at his own forgetfulness.
‘Hold on,’ muttered Harry, examining the door frame.
‘Harry, it’s useless!’ implored Aberforth. ‘It will take them time to find us, but I assure you they will! There’s no getting through the barrier once it’s up!’
‘I think I might have a solution.’
‘What are you talking about, mate?’ asked Ron curiously. Aberforth glanced down the corridor, exhaling impatiently.
‘When I paid a visit to my vault in Gringotts,’ began Harry slowly, ‘I got something that I thought could have come in to use in moments like these.’
Harry reached in to his sweater to retrieve it. Hermione gasped, placing a hand over her mouth. Ron’s eyes grew wide, a small smile forming on his face as he examined what Harry was showing them. Aberforth walked back down the narrow corridor to get a closer look at what Harry was holding, shaking his head in disbelief.
‘Harry – you didn’t... that’s not the –’
‘ – Elder Wand? Yeah, it is Hermione. Might as well give it a try, don’t you think?’
Harry turned his attention to the barrier with the most powerful wand in the world pointed directly at it. He heard Ron mutter ‘Brilliant’ as he thought of a spell to use. Knowing who stood with him at that moment, Harry thought it best to openly defer the spell choice.
‘Any recommendations?’ he asked, still focused on the barrier.
‘Try Confringo,’ answered Hermione immediately. ‘A powerful enough Blasting Curse would be your best bet.’ Aberforth nodded his approval, placing his fingers on his chin as he watched Harry closely.
‘Alright, here goes.’ Harry felt slightly awkward as he rose his arm, Elder Wand in hand. He pointed it firmly at the door frame, uttering the curse clearly and quickly. ‘Confringo!’
The force of the spell’s impact knocked Harry back a few paces. Hermione and Ron shielded their eyes as a great white light temporarily brightened the corridor. When Harry looked back up, he saw that the door frame had been completely severed, much of it seemingly disintegrating upon impact, a few sparks still rising from bits of the frame. Aberforth gently pushed him aside, plunging his arm back in to Hermione’s bag and pulling out another thick book. He tossed it lightly at the frame. The soft thud of the book falling to the floor through the frame told them all they needed to know.
‘We’re in business! Brilliant, Harry,’ muttered Aberforth who gingerly stepped through the now destroyed barrier.
Harry let Ron and Hermione pass him, but as his friends stepped through the partially disintegrated frame, the sound of voices caused them all to pause, listening for the source of the voices once again.
‘They’re coming. There will be lots of them and they will show us no mercy, I assure you of that,’ said Aberforth resolutely.
‘Is there any other exit back to the main portion of the prison from the Kiss Quarters?’
‘No, Harry. There’s not. This barrier is the only one,’ replied Aberforth.
‘So we could be boxed in, is what you’re saying? Cornered?’
‘Exactly. Almost certainly, in fact. They will catch up to us in... minutes. The only way back out through this exit is if we –’
‘Fight our way out.’
Harry knew exactly what Aberforth was meaning. He saw all three of his companions glance at Harry’s Elder Wand, Ron gulping as he examined it.
‘Well here,’ said Harry quickly, diving in to his pocket. ‘Someone take my regular wand. Might as well split them up – no use in me having both wands. Even if it doesn’t work for any of you in the way it works for me.’
‘We should split up too,’ agreed Aberforth after taking Harry’s regular wand.
‘Er – why’s that?’ asked Ron hesitantly, rubbing his cold arms. Harry could see his exhale being illuminated by the silvery torch light.
‘The Kiss Quarters have a circular quality to them,’ spoke Aberforth rapidly. ‘If we go in both directions, we can locate Flamel quicker. And since time is of the utmost importance... I strongly suggest we do locate him, get what we need from him and get out of here.’
‘Agreed.’ Harry nodded, tossing Hermione her bag.
‘Ron, you come with me. Hermione, you and Harry start down that way. Don’t wait for us if you find him. Get the information first and then come retrieve us by continuing in the same way you came. If you are intercepted by Azkaban guards... get out first. We’ll do the same.’
Ron looked to Hermione and then to Harry. After a split second, he gulped, nodded, and resumed his position, following Aberforth down one of the two opposing corridors.
‘No time to stall! Go!’ added Aberforth.
Harry looked to Ron who glanced over his shoulder at Hermione and himself. Harry heard Aberforth mutter ‘Lumos’ to which he did the same, the Elder Wand’s tip bursting in to light the moment Harry had finished the incantation. Wordlessly, Harry set off in the opposite direction as Aberforth and Ron, Hermione matching each one of Harry’s quick steps.
‘We’re all going to be fine,’ muttered Harry as they set off.
‘Is that wishful thinking?’ asked Hermione, her voice cracking. Harry did not respond.
Harry looked over his shoulder. Already, the tiny light from his own wand held by Aberforth had been consumed by the darkness, nowhere to be seen. He held the Elder Wand out a little further, the light from it (combined with the dull silvery glow from the torches) allowing Harry to briefly see the prisoner’s faces as they passed. One such prisoner was looking up at them from a crouched position. His youthful face told Harry that he definitely was not Nicolas Flamel. He had to tear his eyes away from the crouched prisoner as he crawled pleadingly to the cell’s bars.
Harry looked over at Hermione who visibly shivered, making himself do the same. His legs felt extraordinarily heavy, feeling as if they were somehow apart from his own body and that he was dragging them along with him as he peered in to the cells quickly. Harry rubbed his head in pain; the headache that began upon his entrance in to Azkaban had grown exponentially in the last minutes. It was as if the environment of Azkaban fatigued and took more out of them than a normal environment would, Harry feeling as if he would pass out at any second as he navigated the darkness. Here, there was no such thing as a momentary shiver. Cold was constant. It bathed Harry to the point where his lungs would pain him with every breath he took of the cold, poisoned air.
‘H-Harry,’ he heard Hermione mutter.
Harry turned, looking at his wide-eyed friend who was pointing to something above them. The torch lights were all flickering. In only seconds, their silvery glow fizzled, ultimately extinguishing themselves, plunging them in to complete darkness save for the Elder wand’s tip. As they paused, Harry and Hermione’s heavy breath was the only sound they could hear, a rustling noise reasserting themselves back in to the moment.
‘I think that... H-Harry I think that –’
‘They know we’re here,’ Harry said more to himself than to Hermione. ‘C’mon!’
Harry grabbed Hermione by the arm, trudging forward while wincing at his own leg’s tiredness. Rapidly, Harry turned the wand urgently towards each cell. Many of them were empty, chains, bits of rock and rubble being the only things occupying the majority of the cells. Beyond the wand’s tip, Harry could barely see anything. His heart beat quickened at the sound of a rattling noise coming from the distance. Harry realized that the Kiss Quarters’ passage was beginning to circle, evidenced by the fact that he and Hermione were beginning to walk closer to the cells’ bars, not realizing the passage was not a straight corridor any longer.
‘How long is this place?’ Harry thought to himself. ‘Where are Aberforth and Ron? We must be getting close to them now... aren’t we? I hope the Dementors haven’t got to Flamel already...’
Peering in to yet another cell, Harry grimaced in frustration. He let out a soft gasp of pain, his lungs feeling as though they would pop out of his chest.
‘AHH!’ came the muffled scream of Hermione.
Harry pointed the Elder Wand to his right where Hermione had been. He had just missed what happened. There was a sudden movement coming from her direction. The sound of her magical bag falling upon the ground further directed Harry to Hermione’s position.
‘Har – mmmmph!’
Hermione’s muffled noise made Harry jump. He turned to his slight left, the horrifying image of Hermione filling his vision. Through the bars of his cell, Rabastan Lestrange had a firm grasp over Hermione’s mouth, holding her in place, her back against the bars. Harry rose the Elder Wand to Rabastan’s dirty, smiling face, his eyes bloodshot and gaunt, his beard scraggily.
‘Seems as if I have... stumbled in to your friend’s acquaintance,’ Rabastan sneeringly whispered.
‘You let her go. Let her go right now!’ said Harry quickly. Rabastan raised his eyebrows mockingly.
‘Azkaban security measures prohibit any sort of magic entering the inside of such a cell from its exterior. So forgive me... but it seems as if the only way you can save your little friend here is by physically overpowering me,’ Rabastan said in a rushed, charismatic whisper. ‘Now... though my nutrition and exercise has been... let us say, lacking to say the least during my superfluous time here, I extend the dare to you... to pry her from my two hands. Carry on, if you so choose. Or lose your chance at locating Nicolas Flamel... and continuing your parents’ foolish work... for all time!’
‘Shut up.’ Harry did not have time for Rabastan’s verbose. He winked at the strangled, suffering Hermione though he knew she had probably not seen it. ‘Stupefy!’
The Elder Wand’s curse met perfectly with Rabastan’s snarling face, knocking him backwards. Harry heard a couple of glass bottles break from nearby, but did not take an extra second in examining the fallen contents of Hermione’s bag. He pulled her to her feet, thankful at the Elder Wand’s extraordinary power.
‘Are you alright?’ asked Harry. Hermione nodded, rubbing her neck soothingly.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said quietly. ‘I didn’t see him there.’
‘We probably should have been more aware.’
The sudden sound of footsteps from not far off caused Harry and Hermione to break in to a brisk half-run. Harry tripped, grasping on to Hermione as he felt the strength from his legs diminish further. As he righted himself, Harry stopped abruptly as his hand came in to contact with a cold, hard surface, catching him off guard.
‘It’s... It’s some kind of door...’ muttered Hermione breathlessly.
Harry jerkily waved his wand over various parts of the surface blocking their way. He felt the surface from one side to the other, realizing that from cell to cell, the door covered the corridor. He nodded to Hermione, the two pushing against the door with everything they had. It would not budge.
‘Bloody hell,’ whispered Harry in between heaves. ‘It’s not moving!’
He tried to step back from the door in order to catch his breath, but horrifyingly, Harry found it hard to un-stick his hands from the door’s cold surface. He tugged, softly at first, but once he realized they were not coming off, he pulled hard, feeling as if his skin was peeling off his palms.
‘Just do it all in one motion! Fast! AH!’
Hermione fell backwards as she pulled her own hands off of the door. After three pulls, Harry did the same, stumbling backwards. As he retrieved the lighted Elder Wand, Harry noticed that his palms were stained in red, blood slowly dripping down his wrist and on to his forearm.
The Elder Wand sent a barrage of light blue light towards the door. It flew open with a bang, its heavy impact reverberating around them. It slowly began to close once again due to its momentum, Harry and Hermione quickly slipping through.
‘How are your hands, Harry? I think I’ve got some Flesh-Renewal potion in my bag somewhere...’ muttered Hermione, sifting through her bags’ contents amidst the tiny light.
‘I’m fine. Keep looking for Flamel!’ whispered Harry. He could have sworn that he heard voices from somewhere around him in the darkness but his own voice did not allow him to hear properly.
‘Do you hear that?’ asked Hermione as they continued to charge forward.
‘I thought so...’ replied Harry quietly.
The pair looked in to a cell that housed a laying prisoner who was facing the wall. His extraordinary height allowed Harry to move on to the next. An abrupt, even colder chill suddenly embodied the entire passageway, Harry looking down at his breath that he could now clearly see. Subconsciously, he slowed, the stinging pain of his hands being temporarily forgotten as he felt a presence surround him.
‘But I can feel that... can’t you?’ Hermione nodded as they both came to a full stop.
The silence might as well have been a scream. Harry felt as if he could feel a change erupt from his insides, his skin crawling as he stared at nothing and everything all at the same time. Then, as if it was out of a nightmare, the outlines of two black figures emerged around the bending corridor, seemingly out of the concrete walls themselves. A tiny, single light from behind the two figures illuminated Harry to the fact that a narrow passage actually had intersected through the middle of the circular Kiss Quarters. All happiness was drained out of Harry as his feet stuck rooted to the spot. Two large Dementors had emerged in to the corridor, a contingent of wizards and witches following close behind.
‘Quiet! Nox,’ whispered Harry.
The Dementors were leading the way in the direction that Harry and Hermione were heading in.
‘They’re headed for Flamel!’ whispered Hermione in Harry’s ear.
Harry’s mind was racing. He was sensing so many different feelings at one time that he could not possibly think straight. The correct idea that Harry was searching for would never come. Harry felt his stomach turn and his lungs seize up as the two Dementors paused, slowly turning around to face their followers in a single, gliding movement. They had sensed the two intruders’ presence.
‘What is it? Do they see them?’ Harry heard a whispery, deep voice mutter from the darkness.
‘They’ve noticed something. Look!’ answered a witch.
The Dementors glided past the group of Azkaban security and towards Harry and Hermione. Harry was jumped back in to reality as Hermione seized his arm.
‘Put this on!’ whispered Harry, quickly handing Hermione the Invisibility Cloak.
She clumsily put it on as Harry retrieved the Elder Wand from his pocket. The Dementors were getting close now. The overwhelming, emotionally draining aura of the Dementors was in full effect, making Harry dig deep for a happy memory. He closed his eyes, imagining a setting sun, an empty field and a bushel of flaming red hair.
A brilliant, bright white stag burst from the end of the Elder Wand. The impact of the Patronus hit the Dementors with such a force that it knocked them down the corridor and out of sight in a single flash. The entire corridor was illuminated for a split second, the darkness encompassing its entirety as the Dementors flew out of sight.
‘THEY ARE THERE! I SAW ONE OF THEM!’
‘Move Dickens to the side and out of the way!’
The sudden appearance of half a dozen illuminated wand tips made Harry’s heart skip a beat. He could make out at least two of the Azkaban officials who had been knocked down by the force of the departed Dementors. They stirred, being helped to the side of the corridor while others set forth, wands held out in front.
Harry leapt to the side, nearly hitting his head on a cell’s bars to escape the trio of curses. The Azkaban officials strode forward, shooting more spells in Harry’s direction that just missed his head. Sparks showered over him as the cell’s protective enchantment stopped the curses. Harry aimed the Elder Wand.
‘STUPEFY!’ he bellowed.
His own conjured jet of red connected with all three members of the Azkaban guard. They flew backwards, crashing violently in to the bars on the opposite side of the corridor. Harry shot off another spell as more of the officials ran forward.
‘Lumos. Hermione! Where are you?’ Harry asked aloud as he rose to his feet, pointing his wand at all of the Azkaban officials who lay about the dark corridor motionlessly. All eight of them were downed, feeling the effects of his bolstered stunning spell.
‘I’m right here! Harry – this way!’
Hermione slid off the Invisibility Cloak and began running forward.
‘Are you alright?’ beckoned Harry.
‘Fine! Flamel mustn’t be far!’ called back Hermione. ‘They wouldn’t have exited out of that particular secret passage otherwise!’
The cells whipped by as Harry ran as fast as he could. Both he and Hermione looked from left to right, the Elder Wand being their only source that allowed them to see. Harry had no idea how long the powerful Stunning Spells would last on the Azkaban guard. All he could do was control what was in his own hands.
‘C’mon where is he! He must be around here somewhere! He must!’
He nearly moved on to the cell on the opposite side of the corridor when something deep inside him made him stop. A single figure was sitting cross-legged on his concrete bed, looking down in to his lap. The man was nearly bald apart from tufts of hair around his ears and his great beard stretched just past his chest. As Harry moved the Elder Wand closer to the bars, the man looked up, the light reflecting in his bluish-grey eyes.
‘It’s good to see you... Harry Potter.’
‘Are you... are you Nicolas Flamel?’ asked Harry, taken aback by the quiet voice of the man.
‘Indeed I am,’ he whispered again.
Harry stared in to his eyes for a moment. Something in them told Harry that this man was to be trusted. They had found him – at last.
‘Harry? Harry is that you?’
The voice of Ron came from much closer than Harry had expected. Turning rapidly, Harry saw Aberforth leading Ron, his own wand lighting their path.
‘You found him?!’ asked Aberforth, turning to Flamel who considered him.
‘We er... need to be quick,’ began Harry quickly. ‘We need to ask you some questions.’
Harry could hear a series of footsteps coming from down the corridor.
‘Fire away, my boy. I suggest you be quick.’
Flamel struggled to his feet, glancing down the corridor and in to the depths of the darkness. He did not smile. Harry wanted to make it as simple as possible.
‘We need to know where the Eye of the Posterus is. We need to know how to get it... before anyone else does.’
‘The Eye?’ asked Flamel, clearly taken aback. More footsteps made Harry’s feet tingle in anticipation.
‘Yes, the Eye,’ furthered Aberforth impatiently.
‘The Eye of the Posterus... is hidden in a place far from any human’s knowledge.’
‘We need to know where it is! Please, sir. It’s incredibly important,’ pleaded Hermione.
Flamel snapped out of his own thoughts, blinking twice and facing the group in front of him.
‘I knew this day would come... not exactly when, no... but once I learned of its uncontrollable and potentially destructive powers... I knew it would be sought after... that it would be the cause of murder...’
The footsteps were getting closer now. All four of them turned to look down the corridor this time. They seemed to be only seconds away.
‘They’re coming for us,’ whispered Aberforth.
‘I’ll head them off,’ answered Harry frustratingly without thinking twice. ‘I’ve got the wand – here... give me the Invisibility Cloak.’
‘Be careful, Harry,’ said Ron fearfully as Hermione handed Harry the Cloak.
‘We need more time to get out – get every bit of information you can!’
Harry’s demands were met without protest. Both Hermione and Ron watched as he slid the Invisibility Cloak on and disappeared in to the dark corridor. Harry set off in to a run, making his footsteps as inaudible as possible. Having needed to take deep breaths even when not running, the pace that he was setting was causing severe internal pain. His lungs felt as if they were being stabbed by a thousand knives with each breath he took. The senses were dull – without a light, Harry could barely tell which way was up, down, left or right.
A flurry of footsteps caused Harry to abruptly stop, exhaling a little more loudly than what he had wanted. The footsteps seemed to be moving away from him. Another set of steps caused Harry to hold the Elder Wand aloft. The stunned bodies of the Azkaban guard were nowhere to be seen and he was sure that this is where he had left them. They were close.
Harry stopped just feet away from the big, heavy, concrete and iron door that had caused the skin of his palms to peel off. Harry considered the door for a moment, not wanting to endure the same pain twice.
‘I’m going to need to pull it open,’ thought Harry as he walked slowly towards it. ‘Is there a spell that I could use to –’
Before Harry could register what had happened, he had been knocked to the cold, hard ground. His head smacked hard against the floor. He felt something in his face break. A dizzying set of images met his mind; he could not think straight but felt the pain of what had occurred. He looked upwards to see the image of five swaying doors. Slowly, the five became one, the pain of his entire head rushing back to him in a matter of seconds after the shock of the collision had worn off. Stepping out from behind the door was a dark figure. Harry could taste blood now. The figure crouched down to his left, Harry having a hard time balancing his aching head so as to focus on the figure more closely.
‘I do apologize for having to put you down with such a... nasty display,’ the voice hissed. It was only now that Harry realized that his Invisibility Cloak had flown off after the impact with the door. ‘But I’m afraid... I cannot simply let you or your companions get in the way of the Lord Voldemort’s plans.’ Harry squinted his eyes – the face of Rabastan Lestrange was looking him straight in the eyes.
‘Y-You!’ managed Harry. The Elder Wand had been thrown out of his hand during the collision.
‘Yes, me!’ replied Rabastan, pushing his knee hard in to the side of Harry’s face, making him burst out in pain. Rabastan took no notice, speaking rapidly. ‘Before I forget... I do want to thank you for two separate reasons. One – please tell your female friend there... thank you. Why? For dropping that wonderful concoction of Firewhisky and billywig stings out of her bag which has allowed me to free myself. I had no idea that particular delightful combination had the ability to deter the strength of the bars! And two... To you... for taking down the entire Azkaban guard! Without that, I would not have been able to retrieve some of their wands before they woke... and therefore, enabled me to arm my fellow locked up comrades after I free them. The very same comrades that you yourself put away! Ironic isn’t it? You jinx me from behind and leave me for imprisonment... now... I consider us even.’
With one last kick to Harry’s face, Rabastan stood up, tilting his head to hear the sound of distant footsteps coming from the darkness. He sneered at Harry, pointing three wands that he had picked up off of the downed Azkaban officials in Harry’s direction.
‘See, I would kill you now... but after enough time in this place you’ll be begging for the Dark Lord to destroy you... once he returns. And that would give me such grand satisfaction! And thanks to yourself, I am now assured that event will most definitely occur in due time! Petrificus Totalus!’
Though Harry could still feel the excruciating pain in his face and entire body after being blasted by the heavy door that he regretfully had left ajar, he could do nothing about it. Harry went rigid, watching as Rabastan ran off down the corridor towards the Death Eaters, towards Flamel and towards his very goal that Harry so desperately wanted to stop.
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