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Chapter 78 : Comrades In Arms
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Remus angled his Nimbus down and made his casual way down. He stepped off the broom and the Patronus hurried over, holding its ears and tail in a rather agitated way.
“Remus,” Sirius said, through the dog’s mouth. His voice was quiet, as if he didn’t want to be overheard. “Remus, it’s- the Serpent Sworn, they’re here. The Ministry’s under attack. Mad-Eye’s missing, so’s Robards, and most of the other Aurors. I’ve got Marlene with me, and Dora’s with Hemsley and the other trainees, but we’re it, Moony, and I think we’re in over our heads. I need you to get Harry to a safe place; home’s best, but otherwise Arthur’s family could look after him for the afternoon, I’m sure, or even Snape – and then I need to to rally whoever you can. Dumbledore first, and thenthe teachers, Hagrid, Bean, Dung-”
“Dung’s in Azkaban,” another voice – Remus assumed it was Marlene’s – said in the background, and Sirius swore.
“Damn, right. Erm, Em, and- just anyone, Remus. Please.” It went silent for a bit. “Let me know when you get this, so I know you and Harry are safe.” His voice cut off, and the dog gave him an anxious look before fading.
“Was that Padfoot?” Harry asked, pulling out of a steep dive to hover at Remus’ head height. . “What’s going on?” Remus re-mounted his broom.
“Nothing,” he said. He felt guilty, everything was working out for the best. Remus nodded at the Snitch in Harry’s hand. “Let that go, why don’t you, and we’ll see who can get it first.” Harry stared at the place where the dog had disappeared, and then his mouth set into a grim line and he threw the Snitch into the air.
* * *
“Should have brought my mirror,” Sirius growled under his breath. “Stupid!” He shook his head and took a deep breath. “We can’t just sit here and wait; it’s time to move-”
“As soon as we do, Lupin’s going to reply,” Marlene said. “And his bloody wolf will give us away-”
“It’s been ten minutes,” Sirius said, sounding worried. “If he was going to reply, he would have.” Marlene bit her lip, and then nodded. The pair of them crawled out from under the stairs, where they’d been hiding in the shadows, and crept back into the large, empty room that was the examination room. “Two of them,” Sirius breathed.
He’d gone very quiet and was staring through the examination room door. It was closed, so Marlene wasn’t entirely sure how he was looking through it, but she trusted him.
“One there-” He pointed off to the left, where the other doors would be. “-and one by the stairs. Finite.” He blinked once, and then his eyes refocused on her.
“I’ll get the left,” she said. Sirius was faster, and they’d need the element of surprise. “How are we going in?” Sirius gave her a look – eyes fixed on hers, one eyebrow slightly raised – that she knew from their old days fighting together. It meant ‘are you ready?’. She nodded. Sirius crouched and slid his wand tip under the door.
“Caligo,” he whispered, and Marlene couldn’t see what the spell’s effects were, but she heard a confused noise on the other side of the door, which Sirius opened. The room was filled with thick, white fog, and she could hear scuffling, and attempts at spells. “You’ve got ten seconds,” Sirius said, and then she felt him shrink, and fur brushed her hand before he was gone.
“Homenum Revelio,” she breathed, and Sirius and the two Serpent Sworn lit up. She headed straight for the person on her left, who was trying to alleviate the fog with wind charms. With such poor visibility, she didn’t like her chances of landing a hit with something as precise as a Stunner, or a Body Bind.
Five seconds. Her target – a man, if the coughing was anything to go by – did something that made his wand glow for a second, showing her where he was.
Incarcerous, she thought, slashing her wand through the air. There was a yelp from behind her and she started to turn her head to check on Sirius, and then forced herself to watch her target’s general area.
You can’t see Sirius through this, and you’re just as likely to hex him if you try to help. Deal with yours, then help him if you can.
The fog cleared and she saw her Serepent Sworn – it was a man – member struggling to free his wand hand and torso from the ropes she’d conjured. She Disarmed him, sent another set of ropes his way, and then cast a quick Body-Bind and flicked her wand to send him floating up to the ceiling, where she cast a spell to make him stick, like some sort of bizarre insect cocoon.
She spun, ready to deal with whatever might have happened over her shoulder, but needn’t have worried; Sirius had a bloody lip that he healed even as she watched, and his Serpent Sworn member was stretched out like a star, with his arms and legs attached to the walls and ceiling by what looked like some sort of variation of the Stickfast Hex.
“Nice,” he said, eyeing the man she’d dealt with.
“You too.” She glanced at Sirius. “What now?”
“Try not to spend too long at the scene of any crime,” he said. He grinned briefly. “Otherwise, you’re found in a smelly corridor with dung on your hands-”
“Nice analogy,” she said.
“It’s not an analogy; one week into first year that actually happened.”
Sirius looked nostalgic and then gestured for her to follow him. They made quick work of the training rooms; each loaded a small kit of healing supplies, and a bottle of distilled water from the potions cupboard into a small bag. Sirius started to shrink his, but Marlene shook her head.
“It protects our backs,” she said. Sirius nodded and then waved her over to the disguises supply cupboard. “What?”
“I suppose we know where the gits got their Polyjuice Potion from,” Sirius growled, lifting a flask. He uncorked it, and tipped the flask. Two drops of lumpy, grey liquid dripped out and splashed on their shoes, but that was it. Examination of the other flasks revealed the same. Sirius looked like he wanted to examine more, but Marlene put her hand on his shoulder. He looked surprised by the contact.
“We have more pressing matters,” she said pointedly. He nodded and the pair of them made it back out into the main room, and then crept toward the staircase that led to the broom cupboard. She couldn’t hear anything, and was sure that Sirius would have said something if he could have, and so they didn’t dawdle. They moved quickly up the stairs, cast another fog charm under the door and into the broom cupboard, and when that caused no spluttering or noises of surprise, they were able to open that.
There was a single Serpent Sworn guarding the outside and Marlene Stunned her before she could even gasp. Sirius caught her before she hit the ground and dragged her into Proudfoot’s cubicle, where the pair of them promptly secured the witch to the desk with a set of ropes, a Body-Bind and a Sticking Charm. Her wand went into the desk drawer, two cubicles over; the one next to it was mostly splintered furniture and scorch-marks.
“You were right,” Marlene said. Sirius glanced at her. “It’s deserted up here.”
“Yay,” Sirius said, without much enthusiasm. Marlene quirked her mouth to one side. She didn’t really like the implications either; it meant the rest of the Serpent Sworn were probably lying in wait in the Atrium, for the rest of the trainees. He sighed. “You’re going to think I’m mad,” he said.
“We need to get to the Atrium,” Sirius said.
“Why?” Marlene asked calmly.
“The Floo,” Sirius said. “I need to speak to Harry- I have to make sure that he’s-”
“All right,” Marlene said. “Let’s go.”
“All right?” Sirius repeated.
“That’s what I said,” she told him, striding toward the lifts. “It’s like you said in your Patronus, Sirius... we’re it. The Ministry’s under attack and we’re all that’s here.” She hoped Lupin had received Sirius’ message and was fetching Dumbledore and the Order as quickly as he could, but they couldn’t rely on that. “And we can’t just hide here until this all goes away. I wasn’t about to walk into a trap, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go to the Atrium.” Sirius watched her until the intensity of his stare made Marlene uncomfortable and she cleared her throat. He slowly tore his eyes away. “So,” she said, “erm, shall we go?”
“Sure,” he said, in a very polite tone.
“Okay,” she said. They stood there and watched each other warily for a few more seconds.
“Stairs’ll be guarded,” Sirius said, and this time it was him who cleared his throat. “And the lifts aren’t working, apparently, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use them.”
“What do you have in mind?”
Sirius’ idea turned out to be a set of silver rungs, which grew out of the side of the stone shaft the way roots beneath a large tree might. Sirius went first; it was his idea so she assumed that he had some idea where he was going, and wasn’t going to add ‘lost’ to their current list of problems.
It turned out to be a good assumption. Several minutes and more rungs than Marlene could count later, they’d gone up, walked along a flat part, down, but not very far, walked again, and then had started a long climb up. Marlene had no idea where, in the bowels of the Ministry they were, but Sirius led with confidence.
Marlene’s arms ached, and Sirius was getting tired too; he almost slipped and kicked her, but managed to catch himself in time. A low hum started up, and Sirius stopped. Marlene grabbed his shoe instead of a rung.
“What’s that?” Marlene asked, but thought she knew the answer.
“Climb,” Sirius said stiffly, and scurried up the rungs. Midway up was a tunnel that had a flat floor, and they flopped down on that and waited; Sirius flicked his wand to vanish the rungs, as he had been doing every time they reached a new part of the shaft. After about a minute – and Marlene was glad, both for the delay and the fact that it had allowed her to rest her arms a bit - the humming increased in volume, and became a rattling noise. Then the lift plummeted down the shaft they’d been climbing. It thankfully, hadn’t turned into the shaft they were sitting in.
“Glad we weren’t down there,” Sirius said, peering over the edge. His voice echoed down, but he’d spoken quietly enough that it didn’t get far. Marlene nodded.
“Where do you think-”
“Level Two, probably,” Sirius said. “And I’ll bet whoever’s inside it is looking for us.” He flicked his wand and more rungs appeared in the vertical shaft. “And, either Wellington and Yaxley were lying, or the Serpent Sworn have got someone from Magical Maintainence helping out.”
The climbed in silence after that, but it wasn’t far; only to the top, and then into another horizontal part that led to a pair of doors. Sirius did whatever he’d done on Level Two to look through the door and see if there were people about; he frowned, his eyes unfocused, and gestured for Marlene to go ahead. They pressed themselves into the corners, on either side of the doors and then Marlene took aim.
“Silencio. Aperio,” Marlene whispered, and the doors slid openwithout a sound.
Sirius was the one to glance out first, and the one to leave the lift tunnel first. Marlene took a deep breath and followed him out into the open.
The Atrium was a mess. None of the damage was irreparable, but it looked bad; chunks of the floor had been blasted out, and several of the fireplaces on the far side had caved in. There was a large puddle of blood near the security checkpoint counter, and the glass from the visitor’s entrance telephone box was lying in glittering pieces on the floor.
Marlene wondered if the trainees had been here, or if the destruction had been caused by the Aurors and Serpent Sworn on their own.
“Keep watch,” Sirius told her, gesturing for her to stay where she was. “I’m going to try to get through to home.”
“Be careful,” she said.
Sirius stayed close to the wall, looking grim; she wasn’t sure if it was because he’d grown up, or because he was genuinely worried this time, but Sirius no longer strolled into dangerous situations as if he had nothing to lose. Once, he might have sauntered right through the middle of the Atrium, whistling.
Marlene kept her eyes on the doors, on the other lifts, and on the fireplaces, for any sign of movement, and her wand raised and ready in her hand. Sirius stopped at the first fireplace in the line, and threw a handful of Floo powder into the grate. It flared green, and in that moment, gave everything away.
Two figures - a man and a woman - painted gold, stepped out of the fountain. Marlene hadn't even noticed them because they'd been standing so still, but she took notice now; they were advancing on Sirius, wands raised. Marlene flicked her wand and the floor rose up to cover Sirius' back. Then, she Disillusioned it, so that he'd be able to see what was happening when he came out of the Floo. The golden people, thankfully, didn't notice; they were watching one of the nearby fireplaces, and the reason quickly became apparent; two others stepped out.
There was no flash of green, so they hadn't Flooed, but whether there was a secret passage, or they'd simply been waiting in the shadows, Marlene didn't know.
She Stunned the golden woman, missed the golden man and managed to paralyse one of the Floo people before any of them spotted her- she ducked out of sight at once - and managed to buy Sirius a few seconds; they all looked around, and even exchanged a few quiet words. But then the golden man fixed his partner with a flick of his wand and continued toward Sirius. The Floo people did the same, and Sirius had his head in the fireplace and probably couldn't see or hear a thing that was going on behind him, thanks to the flames.
"Sirius!" she shouted. Four heads turned toward her. The golden man flicked a hand and the Floo people continued toward Sirius, while the others headed for her. She ducked a hex, and something else exploded on other side of the room, on the invisible wall she'd created to protect Sirius.
"Expecto Patronum!" she gasped; she didn't have a happy memory, just a strong desire to survive this, and to survive this she needed Sirius. She focused on his face and her lioness appeared and vanished almost instantly; it knew what she wanted.
The next spell - one she didn't recgonise - caught her in the side. She felt something tear and doubled over, gasping. Warmth pooled at her side and her surroundings flickered and then a golden arm wrapped around her neck and a hand found the bag she’d loaded in the training room. Using both, the golden man started to pull her backwards, while another hand – probably belonging to the woman - tugged her wand out of her grip.
* * *
"The brat's fine," Kreacher said. "Perfectly safe."
"And Remus?" The floor rumbled under Sirius' knees, which were back in the Atrium. He almost pulled back, but he still had things to ask. Kreacher just shrugged. "Have you seen him?"
"Oh, yes, Kreacher has seen him," Kreacher said.
So he's out getting backup, Sirius thought. I hope...
"I need to talk to Harry," Sirius said. "Quickly, Kreacher, I don't have a lot of time!" Kreacher shifted, and Sirius frowned. "Now, Kreacher." Kreacher wrung his hands.
"Is- Is Master Sirius ordering Kreacher to fetch Master Harry?" he asked, his eyes not quite meeting Sirius'.
What in Merlin's name is going on? Sirius wondered. "Kre-"
A bright, silvery shape appeared behind Kreacher, who followed Sirius' gaze, shrieked and backed away. The lioness planted her glowing feet on the kitchen floor, and snarled.Logically, it could only belong to Marlene, but last time he’d checked (admittedly, nearly ten years ago) her Patronus had been a dog...
Now’s not the time, he thought, as it snarled again. Kreacher whimpered, and Sirius looked at the stairs, hoping, praying, that Harry was safe before he yanked his head out of the fireplace. His head spun, and the fire roared in his ears and then he was back in the Atrium, slumped against a wall that had appeared Merlin-knew-when.
He turned quickly and was startled to see that not only was the wall he'd been leaning against invisible, but that there were two people on the other side of it, people in dark cloaks. Marlene was struggling weakly with a pair of golden people - Sirius assumed they were Serpent Sworn, but couldn't be sure – on the far side of the room.
The pair advancing on him slowed when they saw he was watching them, and one flicked a jet of very distinctive green light in his direction, as casually as if it had been a Summoning Charm. It exploded against the barrier - which Sirius was now VERY grateful for - with enough force to make the ground tremble.
Sirius didn't waste time; he pointed his wand at the figure on the left, muttered "Gelius," and then moved his wand slightly so that it was angled at the figure on the right instead. They dove out of the way, but the spell still hit their foot, and they crumpled, groaning. Their wand rolled away, and they reached for it, and then withdrew, clutching their leg; Sirius' Skin Freezing Charm would keep them distracted for a while.
The other figure glanced at their fallen comrade and then sent three spells at Sirius in quick succession; none were green, so he hoped they were all blockable. He cast a Absorbant Shield Charm, let that take two of the spells - he staggered as the second one hit, because whatever it had been was strong - and then twisted his wand and changed the type of Shield.
The third spell ricochetted and Sirius sent one after it, a Finger Twitch Charm - they were so simple that they were hard to block - and, as he'd hoped, the Serpent Sworn blocked the rebounded spell, but was hit by the second one; he or she dropped their wand, and Sirius sent it soaring away with a well placed Wind Charm, and then transfigured the top foot of the stone floor of the Atrium into water, and then retransfigured it into stone. His opponents wobbled; the first was still hunched over in pain, the other was up to their calves in stone, stuck in the position they'd been in when they reached for his wand.
"Coward!" the second one spat as Sirius tucked his wand away, bowed into Padfoot and took off across the floor; Marlene was being dragged now, toward the telephone box entrance.
"Stop him!" one of the golden people ordered, and the second one - a woman - released her hold on Marlene's wrists and rounded on Padfoot. He dodged two spells - nasty, crimson looking ones - and then ran straight into a third, which-
What? he wondered.
He could see Marlene. He liked her. Her not believing his innocence and the whole tying to kill him issue hadn't helped things much, but he still, Merlin-help-him, liked her. Silly, he told himself, and then wheezed a doggy laugh from where he was lying on the ground; Silly was what Harry had called him when Harry was a pupp- baby. Harry was a baby, not a puppy. Or had been. Makes sense because he's a wolf, too, Padfoot thought, or will be.
He stood up and shook his coat out; it itched a bit, so he paused for a scratch. Two people were watching him, one – Marlene, who he liked – was fighting to get free. The other woman – the shiny one - had a stick raised in his direction and Padfoot’s breath caught.
She’s going to throw it, he thought, and his tail wagged. Only she didn’t; she held it at a funny angle, and said a spell. Light burst out of the end, toward him, and his tail stopped wagging. He shot out of the way, and took shelter behind the desk where the wands were usually checked. Wands were useful, only he couldn’t use them as a dog. Dogs couldn’t use magic, or at least Padfoot couldn’t yet. He wondered if it was possible. He whimpered as another spell came whizzing toward him, and scampered out of reach, ears back.
She lifted the stick again, and he really thought she might throw it; his ears pricked again, and he stepped forward cautiously, tail swinging from side to side.
Fight this, Sirius’ voice said, from somewhere in Padfoot’s head. Padfoot didn’t mind fighting; he and Moony and Prongs had used to fight all the time – play fight, obviously, but there had been a few times where-
Marlene drove her elbow back into her captor’s side. He grunted and she got free, moving awkwardly, but quickly, over to the other woman, who she punched, retrieved her own stick from- Padfoot barked excitedly, hoping for a game.
“Here, Sirius,” she said, snapping her fingers at him. She was bent over in an uncomfortable way, her arm pressed against her side. Padfoot started forward toward her, only to have to move as a spell exploded by his paw. He whimpered and backed off. The shiny man had recovered, as had the woman, and one was heading for each of them.
Padfoot! His own voice snapped.
Padfoot barked, because he was Padfoot, that was what his friends had named h- and so did the Patronus Padfoot who’d been living in his head since the Dementors Draught. That gave him an idea. He barked at Marlene to go, and she stopped trying to beckon to him and turned and ran. Padfoot clung to his idea – thoughts weren’t staying in his head very well at the moment, and hid again, behind the wand check desk.
Then, he dove into his head, guided by his Patronus. His head was a strange place; there were odd strings draped everywhere, like spiderwebs, and he suspected if he brushed one, it’d drag his thoughts in a completely different direction.
Confundus Charm, he thought, ducking under one of the lines. He made it – with the Patronus’ help – to his cell in his mindscape of Azkaban, where he kept his wand. Then, he lifted it, concentrated, and thought, Finite.
The webs withered and vanished into nothingness, and Sirius forced himself to wake. He woke as himself, as a human, and found the golden woman crouching over him, wand pressed to his throat. He kneed her in the back and she toppled forward, over the top of him, and he grabbed his wand out his his pocket and conjured ropes, which wound around the golden woman, like snakes.
He left her there, and went in search of Marlene, who was gone. He hurried over to the lifts, and was hit by a spell – thankfully it was only a Wind Charm, which pushed him out of the shaft, so that the golden man could re-emerge. Marlene wasn’t with him. The golden man watched Sirius pick himself up off the ground, and sent him soaring away again, with another flick of his wand. Sirius landed hard on his side and gasped, winded, and then crawled toward his wand, which had landed a few feet away.
The golden man didn’t attack him; he’d pulled out a Sidekick that he must have taken from one of the Aurors, the same way Mad-Eye’s imposter had had his Sidekick.
“My three are down, but I’ve got one of the trainee lot here. A few helpers’d be nice. Oh, and- a girl jumped.” Sirius didn’t recognise the golden man’s voice, but his heart sank. “Right down the shaft.” Sirius didn’t hear the response, but he almost had his wand, and once he had that, he’d be able to get rid of this bloke and hopefully find Marlene. “Dunno. She slid and ended up in some little side bit.” Another incoherent response, and Sirius’ fingers wrapped around his wand, but he didn’t attack, not yet; he needed information and he was getting it by listening. “Of course not! I’m not going to run around in those damn tunnels; girl could be anywhere-” He dropped as Sirius’ silent Stunner hit him.
Sirius was running toward the lifts again, before the golden man had even hit the floor. He had to find Marlene and make sure that she was okay, and then the pair of them could sort out what to do ne- The lifts opened, just as he reached that side of the Atrium, and a group of four stepped out. Sirius gave the lift shaft a grim look, and then changed direction, heading for the stairwell on the side.
He yanked the door open, locked it behind him with a spell, and hurried down the stairs, out onto Level One, down a corridor, around two corners and then unlocked and pulled open an office door at random. He shut the door behind him, turned around, and then staggered backward, horrified.
* * *
“I thought you were a Hufflepuff,” Florence said. Sirius had been right about the ambush, and most of the trainees were now scattered throughout the Ministry in groups of four or less. Tonks and Florence were on their own, for now. Merlin knew where Hemsley’d got to. Tonks just rolled her eyes. “Now’s not really the time for you to discover you’ve got trust issues.”
“You killed someone-”
“A murdering lunatic!”
“You still killed him, all right, and then you did something to make Fletcher take the fall for you,” Tonks whispered back. “You’ve obviously got connections that helped you stay in the Program-”
Florence looked momentarily guilty, and then defiant, and then wry.
“I’m obviously loving that decision now,” she said, gesturing around.
“Obviously,” Tonks said, with a tiny smile. She smothered it as soon as she could. “But I’m not sorry for being a bit suspicious given everything else that’s going on!”
“Whatever,” Florence said, rolling her eyes. “So, what? I have to stay in front of you, because I might kill you from behind?”
“Just keep moving,” Tonks snapped. “And keep an eye out for any of the others.”
“I was doing that already!”
“Shh!” Tonks said. She tapped Florence on the shoulder and gestured to the stairs. “This way.”
“Why?” Florence asked.
“They’ve got to be keeping everyone somewhere,” Tonks said.
“Or the bodies.” Tonks ignored that.
“The only place in the Ministry big enough and secure enough for that is the holding cells,” Tonks said earnestly. “If we can go down there, and get everyone out again, then we can make plans and work out how to best approach this-”
“Or, we could find whoever’s in charge and-”
“And what?” Tonks asked, suspecting she knew the answer. “Have a repeat of the Greyback incident?”
“They’re not exactly playing a game,” Florence said. Tonks had to agree with that, at the very least. “Blackburn’s dead, weren’t you listening? I’m not saying that we should go on a massacre here, but if it’s them or us...”
Tonks said nothing. She just led Florence downstairs, and grew a very small set of eyes on the back of her head so that she’d know if Florence tried to attack her. She didn’t think she would, but then, she hadn’t thought that tiny, bubbly Florence could have it in her to kill – and in a rather brutal way – the most feared werewolf in the last few centuries.
“Stop,” Florence said, as they passed the courtroom where Sirius’ trial had been. “I can hear something.” Tonks stopped at once, and her Sneakoscope started again. She wrapped her hand around it to muffle the sound, and couldn’t help but wonder whether Remus had known what he was sending both her and Sirius into.
Surely not, she thought, but couldn’t quite convince herself; it seemed like an ominous present, given the current situation. He wouldn’t let us walk into this... either of us... would he?
“This way!” Florence hissed, grabbing Tonks’ arm. She pulled her into the courtroom and they both ducked down behind a row of spectator benches. Only seconds later, one of the Serpent Sworn entered; Tonks flattened her head and made her neck grow so that she could peer over the top of the barrier without drawing attention to them.
It was a woman – men’s robes didn’t fit that way – but Tonks couldn’t see her face because it was hidden by a hood. She muttered something, and a swooping sensation brushed over Tonks and - if Florence’s expression was anything to go by – Florence as well.
“There you are,” she said, turning toward them.
“Bombarda!” Florence said, flicking her wand at the floor in front of the woman. It exploded, and Florence pushed Tonks toward the door with a desperate, “Move!” Tonks ran, grateful for her Balance Boots; she’d probably have tripped and got herself killed without them. Florence yelped behind her, and Tonks turned and saw her on the ground. She started back but the woman had already reached Florence, taken her wand and pulled her into a sitting position by her ponytail. Florence winced as the woman’s wand jabbed her throat.
“Put your wand down, or she dies,” the woman said. Tonks locked eyes with Florence. “Don’t try anything,” she said, in an almost bored voice. “Drop it.” Tonks hesitated. “Now!”
“No!” Florence said, her eyes widening, “Tonks, run!”
Relashio, Tonks thought, and the Serpent Sworn’s hand jumped off Florence’s hair. Florence crawled away – Tonks stepped forward to help her – only wathc as a kick caught Florence in the side. Florence didn’t seem bothered – she, like Remus, probably experienced worse pain on a monthly basis – but she still doubled over reflexively, and that gave the woman enough time to glance at Tonks, and then at Florence, and jab her wand. Florence collapsed without a sound.
“No,” Tonks said, her hand jumping to her mouth. Tears prickled in her eyes, but she quickly morphed her tearducts away; the last thing she needed was to not be able to see. She took half a step toward Florence.
“I told you to put your wand down,” the woman said, advancing on Tonks. “And now, you’ve killed her.”
Tonks waved her wand in a circle, and the benches in the room came to life, running around on their stumpy little legs like wooden sheep. One leaped over the barrier and charged the woman, and the others were quick to follow. She shrieked and blasted one away, but the others bounded forward. Tonks glanced at Florence, who was very still, and knew there was nothing she could do.
She turned and ran, leaving the Serpent Sworn woman at the mercy of the benches.
They’re not exactly playing a game, Florence’s voice said. ... If it’s them or us... Tonks, run!
Florence’s voice echoed in her head, all the way down the empty corridor. Already, it had taken on a haunted quality that Florence had never had in life, and it wasn’t helped by the Sneakoscope’s whistling. Tonks’ concentration slipped and her tearducts came back; fat, salty tears dribbled down her cheeks and all she wanted was Remus, or her parents, or Mad-Eye or Sirius.
She wiped impatiently at her eyes and sniffed as she rounded a corner – headed for the lift to the holding cells – and knocked into a solid figure. Her boots kept her on her feet; it was the man that toppled over, despite him outsizing her significantly. She Stunned him and hurried into the lift, which was open. She slammed the doors shut with a spell and jabbed the button to go down.
The lift shuddered and then dropped, and Tonks put her wand in her pocket for just a moment, so that she could wipe her eyes and try to pull herself together. The lift stopped with a groan, and to Tonks’ horror, the entire level was dark. She could hear sobbing at the end of the corridor, where she knew the cells were, but couldn’t see more than the tiniest sliver of light under a door. She gave herself cat eyes, so that she’d be able to see anyone moving about in the dark, and as they adjusted, they landed on a figure mere feet in front of her.
Then, a fist came soaring toward her, before she could give herself armoured skin, or change her face shape to avoid it. Tonks felt pain just above her ear, and then nothing at all.
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