Chapter 23 : the end (part two)
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-Rose: Langdon End
This went against everything I had ever done, everything I had ever known.
“Are you ready?” Scorpius said, and my stomach twisted in fear.
“As ready as I’ll ever be,” I said, and he squeezed my hand, and tapped me on the top of the head, my Disillusionment charm washing away with that warm trickle down my back. I did the same for him, although he was pretty opaque now anyway, and quickly solidifying. We waited a couple of extra minutes as the transparency was chased down my arms and off my fingertips, but we both knew we were just delaying.
“Come on then,” I said. We couldn’t put it off any longer.
Scorpius shot a vase and it exploded into a shower of pale dust as we ran down the corridor, feet thundering. I was singing.
“There once was a wizard called Michael Finnegan...”
I twisted and ran backwards, and shot a Blasting Curse at a dresser, but I missed and it only skimmed it, sending up a burst of splinters.
My voice was getting hoarse, but I persisted. “He grew whiskers on his chinnegan...”
I whipped my hand up and shattered a chandelier, throwing up my hands over my head to shielding myself from the falling glass, and Scorpius was knocking lamps and china ornaments off a chest of drawers. He picked up a tiny statue of a phoenix and threw it had against the wall, where it shattered against a portrait of a stately woman in blue with pearls in her hair, who shrieked and ran out of the frame, scattering a few matchstick people and birds from the landscape next along.
“The wind came out and blew them in again,” I half-sang, half-shouted. “Poor old Michael Finneg-”
I was slammed forward as finally someone came to see what we were doing. Our plan was simple, and hopefully effective. Carrow would definitely be banking on Scorpius and I being together, and everyone else together was just hearsay and hopes.
He didn’t know if we’d been successful with meeting up with my cousins, and then, the others could decide not to join us on this mission. And the title of ‘most likely to break into the headquarters of a secret bad man’ had definitely been earned by Scorpius and I through our exploits.
I picked myself up and scrambled behind a grandfather clock.
“CARROW!” Scorpius yelled, twirling on the spot. “Come out come out, where ever you are!”
I dodged a jet of light, and shot a curse back into the gloom. I couldn’t tell if it hit anyone or not. My heart was hammering in my chest and I had never felt more alive. This was so bloody crazy, I told myself. I spread my hands out on the scuffed floor, feeling my fingers tremble. This was crazy.
“Come on,” he shouted. “We just want to talk!”
Basically, Scorpius and I were trying to cause as much of a distraction as we could by blowing stuff up under the pretext of wanting to sort the whole thing out diplomatically, while James and the others were getting in as quietly as possible and splitting up to look for Lorcan and everyone else before meeting up with us. Scorp and I were acting desperate, but then, we were. This was our last shot, our only shot.
“If you want to talk, then why are you firing?” yelled a voice from the end of the corridor. “Put down your wands!”
“You put down yours!” I called back, sending a warning shot over their heads. They retaliated, and their spell exploded against the wall behind us a lot lower than mine had.
There was silence for a minute.
“They’re probably talking about what to do next,” Scorpius said, dropping down next to me. “And marvelling that we apparently don’t care if we die.”
“Oh shut up, you agreed to this,” I hissed.
“I’m calling peer pressure.”
I elbowed him in the side.
“What are they going to do?” he asked, squishing up against the wall next to me. “Jesus Rose, you could have picked something bigger to hide behind.”
“Well not everyone has legs like a bloody giraffe,” I said, noting how his knees stuck out from behind the clock. “If I was them, I’d push on. Try to get us alive, see if we really did want to talk, but no worries if we die.”
Scorpius risked a look around the clock, and clambered awkwardly into a crouch. “I’m going to suggest we keep moving then. Loop around and see how far we can lead them without being caught?”
I thought about it for a second. “I can’t think of anything better,” I said, and stood up, keeping myself in the shadow of the clock. “After you?”
Scorpius launched himself out into the corridor, running as fast as he could. I was close on his heels, my feet pounding. We’d barely gone ten feet when the first spell was sent spinning after us, but I erected a hasty Shield and it merely rebounded off, hitting a couple of pictures who screamed shrilly as their frames caught alight.
The corridor ended in a door, and Scorpius wrenched it open, tumbling through, and I followed, pausing only to slam the door behind us. We found ourselves in a large living room quietly lit with oil lamps, with low, pale sofas and equally short tables, the décor not unlike what I remembered from Louisa’s house- Ford Abbey. I was breathing heavily, and nearly tripped on the edge of a heavy rug. Scorp snatched one of the lamps up and threw it onto one of the couches, and it exploded into flames just as Carrow’s men opened the door. I grabbed Scorpius’ hand and pulled him into another room, curses flying after us- most of which were non-lethal, I realised from the shouting. I was right.
We were in another lounge area, the only difference seeming to me was that this one’s primary colour was green, and it had a piano. Was this all that big houses had? Sitting rooms in different colours?
The door opened and about nine men spilled in, spreading themselves out, wands raised. There was a door behind us, but would we be able to get to it? The slightest movement would get them to curse us- I couldn’t look behind me to see where Scorpius was. I was standing behind a sofa though, and my hands were hidden. I wiggled my fingers to get his attention, and then pointed downwards, and started a countdown. Five, four...
“We just want to talk, that’s all guys,” I said genially, watching their faces carefully. Their wand arms were steady, their faces hard. Two, one... I dropped, flattening myself onto the floor and heard a thud behind me as Scorpius mimicked me.
“Confringo!” I shouted, shooting the spell under the sofa and causing the skirting board to blow up behind them, sending splinters at their legs. Then I was on my feet, protected by the distraction, and still holding my wand out, yelled “Protego!”
My Shield blossomed from the end of my wand, and I grabbed Scorpius from the floor and dragged him through the door. Another lounge. Where the hell are these rooms coming from?
“I don’t think they’re Fraternity,” Scorpius panted. “I didn’t recognise any of them.”
They weren’t part of the Fraternity? We dodged through another door, coming out into a dimly lit corridor. That explained why I’d incapacitated a woman outside, but it only posed the question of who they were. “They can’t be Aurors,” I wheezed back, swinging around a corner and pulling Scorp with me.
“Hired muscle?” he said, catching up and running alongside.
I nodded, too out of breath to agree verbally. These months of being in hiding had seriously taken its toll on my fitness and I couldn’t keep this up for much longer, and by the looks of things, Scorpius was the same.
“We need to find somewhere that we can hold down,” I said. “Somewhere defens-”
My words were cut off as another spell slammed into my Shield, pushing me forwards, but I managed to stay on my feet, and luckily my barrier held. There was shouted swearing from behind us, and I allowed myself a vindictive smile.
“Through here,” Scorpius said, skidding to a halt and opening a door. I barrelled through after him and found myself in a huge library. It was lit softly with gas lamps but their glow was broken up by the tall bookshelves which towered up to the ceiling. The room seemed to leech away the light with the dark panelled walls and stacked with books bound in cracked leather or stained cloth. I took a second to absorb the silence, to try to calm the blood roaring in my ears. Scorpius disappeared behind a bookshelf, and I followed him, my footsteps silent on the floorboards. I’d just lost sight of the door when I heard it open, and people thunder in.
“Where are they?” a gruff man’s voice said.
My mouth spread into a wide grin. This is what I was good at- sneaking around in the quiet and the dark. I listened. Judging from their footsteps, they’d gone down the centre aisle, whereas we’d veered off to the left. I pointed at the floor, indicating for Scorp to stay where he was, and I tiptoed back so I could see the door. There was a hulking shape there, waiting. They’d left someone to guard the door, so we also had to assume there were people on every exit.
“How many is there?” Scorpius breathed in my ear when I came back to him.
“About nine,” I whispered back, but put a finger to my lips.
“Do we have a plan?”
I tapped my lips with my finger, raising my eyebrows. Did he not understand the concept of being silent? Apparently the men did though- no matter how much I strained my ears, I couldn’t hear any footsteps.
“What do you want me to do?” I turned to glare at Scorpius, but he only shrugged apologetically.
“You can shut up,” I whispered, rotating my ankles, checking my shoes. They were laced up tightly, and wouldn’t give me away. “You take out the guard at the door, and then take his place. I’ll go through the library and weed out the guys. By then we should have given James and the others plenty of time.”
“You want me to just stand at the door?” Scorpius said, outraged, and I winced at the volume of his voice.
“No, hit anything that you see moving, and for Merlin’s sake don’t get shot yourself,” I told him, starting to glide noiselessly away. He grabbed my arm.
“What if I hit you?” he said, and I could picture his expression- a worried furrow between his eyes, his mouth slightly open. I kissed his cheek.
“You won’t see me,” I said, and watched him disappear into the gloom.
I stayed where I was for a moment, allowing myself time to calm down. Adrenaline was all very well, but I needed to be silent, deadly. Emotionless. I pushed all my feelings aside, and concentrated. My biggest giveaway was going to be the spells I cast, so I needed to make sure I could get away quickly and quietly. I retied up my hair, pushing a few stray strands behind my ears, and took a deep breath. I had eight to deal with.
The first man was alone, and I crept up behind him easily, my footsteps silent and my breathing light. He didn’t even see me until I was right in front of him, and by that time, it was too late. The second man was a little harder- he held out his wand in front of him, lumos lighting the tip as he slunk around the corners, always keeping his back to a wall. I couldn’t surprise him- his death would be obvious, and surely bring others to his aid.
I had an idea. I scaled a bookshelf, carefully climbing until I reached the top, and then lay down on the wood, keeping my head down to avoid the chandelier. Then I shot a Blasting Curse at the man below me. I ducked back just in time to avoid the debris, and then, I waited. I didn’t have to wait long. It was barely thirty seconds before there were pounding feet echoing, and then three men below me lit their wands. One bent down, and picked up the second man’s wand, the tip of which was still feebly glowing.
“That’s Joseph’s,” he said.
“Shit man,” another said. “He’s been exploded.”
I bit back the revulsion, the guilt, the knowledge that I did that- and dropped another Blasting Curse. I didn’t hide this time, I got up and ran, lightly flying over the tops of the bookshelves, leaping and running away from the havoc and death I just caused. I stopped when the bookshelf ended, and stood at the end for a while. I could see the door, where a hulking figure stood. Scorpius.
As I watched, he moved- only infinitesimally, but I noticed, and then his arm came up and round in a sweeping motion, a silent rope of emerald coming from the tip. It wrapped itself around a figure and knocked him to the ground. Scorpius ran over to the figure and checked his face, before giving the whip a flick. The figure gave a jerk and there was a terrible crack, and then stillness. The rope dissolved, and Scorpius went back to the door, guarding.
I stayed up on the bookshelf for a little while longer, counting on my fingers. Scorpius had two, and I had got rid of... five. The number made me shudder, but there was only two more to go.
The seventh man was easy to find, as I stayed on the bookshelves, using my height as an advantage. I dropped almost noiselessly behind him as he blundered around, his feet loud and breathing heavy. It was almost painful. I got closer, ready to strike the killing blow, and then I was grabbed from behind, a hand over my mouth before I’d even remembered to scream. My wand almost slipped from my grasp, but I managed to shoot a wordless curse over my shoulder, into the last man’s face. He let go with a low growl, and then I was tackled by the noisy man, who knocked me clean onto the floor, my wand skittering out of reach. The silent man pulled me up, punching me in the gut and I staggered backwards, holding my stomach.
“I’ve got her!” the noisy man said, grabbing onto my wrists and pulling them behind my back, holding them tightly, straining my shoulder muscles.
“Shut up,” the silent man hissed. “Her friend will hear you, if he hasn’t already.” He smiled at me. “And you, don’t even think about making a sound.”
The man behind me shifted his grip up my arms, so his hands clamped my elbows painfully together. But at least that meant I had my hands free. He’d hastily jammed his wand into his pocket, so he had both hands free to incapacitate me, and I neatly twisted the wand out and aimed it at his stomach, whispering the first curse that came to mind.
He fell with a thud to the floor, and I barely had time to roll my shoulders before the silent man was there. I punched him, tiptoeing so I could reach his nose and it broke, blood spurting out. I followed it with a roundhouse kick, expecting him to be winded and in a lot of pain, but in return I got a box on the ear, hard enough to knock me back on the floor and daze me. I sluggishly aimed the wand at him, but he twisted away in time. I kicked him, my foot connecting with his groin and he winced, but it didn’t slow him down. Before I knew it, he was on top of me, his hands around my throat, the balls of his thumbs pressed painfully into my windpipe.
“Scorpius!” I wheezed, my hands scrabbling desperately at the vice-like grip around my neck. “Help! Scorpius!”
My vision was going, black spots dancing in front of my face. My lungs felt like they were on fire, there was nothing to breathe, nothing I could do... I was completely helpless. My hands fluttered towards the man’s face, but I had no strength left, I couldn’t hurt him.
“Scorpius!” I tried one more time to make a sound, but I wasn’t even sure if I had said his name. Then, there was a jet of green light, and the hands left my throat. The man slumped on top of me, his chest in my face, and I didn’t even have the power to push him off. He wasn’t breathing. Then the man was pushed off, and Scorpius appeared. He forced me into a sitting position, pushing my hands up behind my head, letting me rest and cry into his shirt. I was as helpless as a rag doll, concentrating only on the flow of air into my lungs. When I had recovered, I tried to find my wand, but Scorpius pressed it into my hand.
“Are you okay now?” he asked.
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to compose myself, but my throat was sore and voice hoarse. “I told you to stay by the door!”
“Yeah, you’re welcome,” Scorpius said, heaving me to my feet and keeping a supporting arm around me. “Homenum Revelio,” he said, and after a pause, shook his head. “That’s everyone gone. We should be able to meet up with the others now.”
He looked at me, concerned. I realised I was gently massaging my throat. “Are you okay?”
I brushed his concern away. “Fine. Let’s go then.”
He started to walk away, his wand lighting the bookshelves and his face, which was furrowed into a frown. I jogged to catch him up, even the slightest exertion meaning I gasped for air again, and slipped a hand into his.
“Thank you,” I said breathlessly. “You just saved my life.”
There was a pause, and then he squeezed my hand, his fingers rough and warm in mine. “I never want to have to again,” he said quietly.
I stopped walking, pulling him to a halt, and tiptoed up to reach his lips, pulling his face down to meet me. His kiss was gentle, his mouth soft.
“I love you.”
For a second, I wasn’t sure who had said it, but then I realised that I had my eyes closed and my heart was pounding and my mouth was dry. Scorpius kissed my cheek, his stubble rough, and I opened my eyes.
“I love you too.”
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