Chapter 33 : Those Who Defied the Dark Lord
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When we left the Three Broomsticks, the usually crowded High Street was oddly empty. With a sense of déjà vu I looked around, half expecting to see a dementor gliding towards us.
“Where is everyone?” I asked Octavius.
“Dunno,” he said. “It’s cold, so everyone’s probably inside.”
There was one other group of people in the street, and one of the guys walked over to us. “Did you hear about You-Know-Who?” he asked.
“What about him?” asked Octavius.
“Someone told me he’s here.”
“Here in Hogsmeade?” I asked skeptically, raising an eyebrow. People were always thinking Voldemort was around, and this would be a silly place for him to show up. But it would explain why no one was outside.
“That’s what I heard,” he responded. “I don’t know how true it is, since I heard it from someone who heard it from someone – you know how that goes – but we’re going to go inside. You probably should, too.”
Octavius and I followed the group of people and ended up back in the Three Broomsticks again. I kept watching out the window to see if Voldemort would come strolling down the street. When I looked back at the table, Octavius was busy talking to someone else – quite flirtatiously, I noticed. The group we’d come in with were all busy in conversation about someone I didn’t know, and I felt very isolated – my heart wasn’t really in this Hogsmeade visit. Octavius noticed, however, and asked me in a whisper if I wanted to leave. He moved his chair out as if to join me, but since he really seemed to be enjoying his afternoon with the people at our table, I gave him an encouraging smile and departed alone.
I was considering just heading back to the castle early and doing my homework, which I had been trying to avoid by coming here in the first place, when I saw Charlotte walking with Lester in the street. I was surprised to see Charlotte in Hogsmeade, because last I’d heard, she had other plans for the day.
Voldemort was still nowhere to be found, so I ran out the door of the Three Broomsticks and up the street to greet Charlotte. But just when she turned her head and saw me, Lester looked up too. He pulled something out of his pocket, shoved it at Charlotte’s arm, and the two of them disappeared.
I stared at the ground where they had just disappeared, intent on finding them again; something seemed wrong. Maybe it was the rumours about Voldemort that I’d just heard, or maybe it was just that I was wary of whatever Lester did, but I felt uneasy.
Suddenly I heard a scream coming from the abandoned building at the end of the High Street. The building had been empty for a couple of years since the apothecary previously there had gone out of business, and there had been plans for another shop to move into the building, but nothing had happened yet. And now, from the sound of it, Charlotte was being tortured in there. I stood rooted to the ground, staring at the building without an idea of what to do, while scenarios flew through my mind. It might be Voldemort in there, if the rumours were true. I could be tortured as well if I ran after her. I could be too late if I tried to find help. But then I heard the scream again and without another thought I ran frantically towards the old apothecary.
I burst through the door, panting, and as the wooden door swung wildly on its hinge and crashed against the wall, several faces turned to stare at me. My heart almost stopped when I realised who was in the room. Charlotte was backed up against a wall, clutching her side in obvious agony. Lester and another Death Eater were standing beside her; I couldn’t see the other person’s face behind the mask, but his wand was still in Charlotte’s face. In addition to Charlotte and Lester, there were a few more people in cloaks and dark hoods… and Voldemort was there.
“Well, if it isn’t a little family reunion,” said Voldemort. His voice was high and cold, and just hearing him speak made me feel as if the temperature in the room had dropped ten degrees. He was watching me with red snakelike eyes, and I couldn’t take my eyes off him for fear that he’d kill me if I turned around. “How touching. So you’ve both come to join your brothers.”
I felt a surge of anger at his taunt about Nathan. “Why are you torturing her?” I asked. I put my hand in my pocket and grasped my fingers tightly around my wand so I could defend myself in an instant if anything happened.
“She deceived me,” said Voldemort simply. “I’m trying to decide what to do with her.”
“Let her go!” I suggested uselessly. Voldemort only resumed looking at his wand, brushing off a speck of dust.
Charlotte broke the tense silence. “Are we in the Shrieking Shack?” she asked. I could hear her voice shaking, and it scared me even more than Voldemort did. Nothing ever unnerved Charlotte.
“No,” said Lester conversationally, as if he had not just transported her into a dimly lit old building full of Death Eaters and Voldemort. “Other end of the street, where the old apothecary used to be.”
There was another silence. The Death Eater in front of Charlotte was staring at me (at least I thought he was – his mask made it hard to tell, but he was facing my direction now), and Voldemort was looking between me and Charlotte. “Well, I don’t want to interrupt,” I said lightly, “so I’ll just get Charlotte and be off.”
“You haven’t come to join?” said Voldemort. “Think of it – power you can’t imagine. People would respect you. You could be great.”
“I’m not interested,” I said. “People already respect me. I’m great enough, thank you.” The hand gripping my wand was shaking.
Charlotte seemed to be more at ease now that she was no longer being tortured, and her confidence returned. “Yeah, what makes you think we’d want to join you?” she said insolently to Voldemort, defiance etched on her regal face. “You believe you’re so great, don’t you. But no one actually thinks you’re a big deal except you and your misguided bunch of losers. And those masks are hideous. If you think I’m going to wear that, you’ve got another think coming. I guess they’re not as bad as your face, though. What happened there?”
“Not the time, Charlotte,” I pleaded. She was going to get herself killed if she said things like that.
“I shouldn’t have trusted your choice, Avery,” Voldemort told Lester. “This is not what I asked for. We have no use for her. Kill her.” The first Death Eater who was not Lester raised his wand.
I screamed “Expelliarmus!” and Disarmed the Death Eater, giving Charlotte time to run. She grabbed my arm and we started running. I had inadvertently put myself between her and the Death Eater who was supposed to kill her, and he’d already picked up his wand again. Another Death Eater blocked our path, and we stopped. But the first one just pointed his wand at us, and didn’t use any spells.
“Hastings! Now!” said Voldemort. I looked up at him as I heard my name, then realised he hadn’t meant me at all. The Death Eater threatening us was Nathan. I felt physically sick. At least if I vomited it would be on Voldemort’s feet.
But Nathan wasn’t doing anything, not with me standing so close to Charlotte. I stood in front of her, blocking her from Nathan’s reach. Nathan sighed, as his disguise was useless now. “Get out of the way, Melanie,” said his voice from behind the mask.
“Don’t you dare kill my friend, Nathan,” I said, outraged. It was the first time I’d seen him after unleashing my opinions on my family the past summer, and I had finished pretending long ago – it was all out in the open now. I knew how to stand up for myself now, and I wasn’t going to cave in to Voldemort bullying my brother around.
“You hear that, Nathan?” Charlotte asked aggressively from behind me. “I am one of your sister’s best friends. If you kill me, you’re going to be hurting her more than you’ll hurt me.”
Nathan seemed to deflate and lowered his wand slightly. He couldn’t do it. Voldemort was not pleased, and raised his wand at Nathan.
“No!” I cried. As angry as I was with Nathan, I wouldn’t watch Voldemort kill him. No one was going to die in here today if I could help it.
To appease Voldemort, Nathan aimed an Avada Kedavra at the window about three feet above Charlotte’s head. It blasted a hole in the window and showered us with glass.
Charlotte fired back with an Impediment Jinx. And before we knew it, we were engaged in a battle with Voldemort and four Death Eaters. I couldn’t remember the most important things we’d learned in Defence Against the Dark Arts and resorted to using the same few spells over and over, but it was working to an extent. We were still alive, after all.
There were only two of us and five of them. Voldemort didn’t seem to be doing much fighting, but even without him helping his Death Eaters we were still outnumbered two to one. I took to hiding behind the stone columns and aiming my spells from there. “Stupefy!” I cried from my hiding place.
The nearest Death Eater spotted me when the red jet of light zipped from my wand, and aiming her wand at the column protecting me, shouted “Reducto!”
I hurriedly cast a Shield Charm and fled from the Death Eater who was chasing me. Fiery sparks filled the room. A Killing Curse whizzed by me and I narrowly avoided it by ducking behind a pile of rubble. Nathan was aiming spells at the walls and slowly destroying the building, but I never saw him attempt any curses on Charlotte or me. Two of the stone columns had crumbled now and the roof was falling in. If we couldn’t get out of here soon, the roof would fall and kill all of us anyway.
One of the Death Eaters seemed to be enjoying himself and exploded a large hole in the roof, then cried out “Morsmordre!” Smoky green light erupted from his wand, but I couldn’t stop to watch and ran out of the way of the debris raining down upon me.
“Not now, you idiot,” said the Death Eater nearest him. “Don’t get excited.” It sounded like Lucius Malfoy, one of Nathan’s best friends, but I couldn’t tell for sure. Lucius’s only distinguishing feature was his long blonde hair, which I had used to admire when I was younger, but the Death Eater was wearing a hood.
Years ago, I had tried so hard to impress Nathan’s friends so I could play Quidditch with them. But now, Nathan had more intimidating friends, and I was no longer just his kid sister. I was fighting for my life.
I heard more shouting from outside and then loud footsteps on the floor like several people running. Who would come blundering into a building like this right now? I could only hope it was Aurors here to save us.
The door banged open again and Sirius appeared, closely followed by James and Lily. All three of them had their wands out. A spell nearly hit Lily the instant she stepped in, but she ducked and ran in to join the fray. James ran after her, knocking down a Death Eater with the Body-Bind Curse as he went.
Sirius remained where he was standing. Our eyes locked; I just stood there staring at him for a few seconds as spells whizzed around us in the room. The expression on his face was a combination of relief and shock and something else I couldn’t identify. Then he ran towards me and I rushed forward to meet him. He threw his arms around me so tightly I could hardly breathe – like he never wanted to let me go again. We forgave everything instantly. All that mattered was just that he was here; we could talk later. “What are you doing here?” I asked.
He let go his grip slightly, but he was still holding on to me. “You ran into this building, and just now I saw the Dark Mark appear over it. What was I supposed to do, just keep walking and ignore it?”
“There’s a Dark Mark over this building?” I asked, overcome with terror. I gripped his shirt even tighter and looked towards the hole in the roof.
“Yes. I didn’t see anyone dead when I came in, though.”
“But… but what were you doing coming in here? You could have died! If there’s a Dark Mark…”
“I know. But I thought something had happened to you, and though we haven’t been on good terms for a while, I couldn’t stand to lose you. Things like this make you realise what you care about… what’s important to you. And that means sticking with the people we have, because you never know what’s going to happen, and… I love you.”
Of all the things he could have said at that moment, that was the last thing I was expecting, and I laughed, then felt badly about it. “I’m sorry, it’s just that… Sirius, I love you, but your timing is awful. Can we continue this when we don’t have Voldemort breathing down our necks?”
He grinned. I had missed seeing that, but didn’t have time to dwell on it now. “Yeah, that’s a good idea,” he said. “For now, let’s go fight Voldemort.” We finally let go of each other, then he grabbed my hand and we leapt out from behind the pillar, wands ready.
Sirius took down a Death Eater with a powerful Stunning Spell. Lily was fighting two Death Eaters by herself, and James was battling Voldemort. Over the din of spells crashing off things I could hear what sounded like Voldemort trying to get James to join him as well, because he was a pureblood. Obviously that was never going to happen.
I let go of Sirius and took one of Lily’s Death Eaters and repeatedly tried to blast him into the wall, but then I realised it was Nathan because he refused to fight with me and he went back to attack Lily. So I went after the other Death Eater instead.
There was a crash and a cry of pain, and I looked back to see Sirius on the floor. His leg was bent at an odd angle, and Voldemort had stopped duelling with James to come talk to Sirius. James was helping Lily fight against Nathan.
“I know quite a few members of your family,” Voldemort said to Sirius, who glared up at him, clutching his leg and gritting his teeth. I couldn’t tell if it was from pain or anger. But I was sure that if he’d been able to stand up, he would have run over and attacked Voldemort. Still with his eyes on Voldemort, Sirius reached out for his wand, which was a few inches away from him on the floor.
I attempted to Stun Voldemort but he deflected the spell without even looking. One of the Death Eaters – the one I thought might be Lucius – moved in to fight with me. I Disarmed him and then sped away to help Sirius, who was crawling along the floor in pain.
Lucius wasn’t Disarmed for long; a spell grazed my shoulder and I felt searing pain, and looked to see a deep gash dripping blood. Instantly, Sirius, his face set with a fierce rage, leapt up but then collapsed once more on his leg. “Get away from her,” he bellowed at Lucius as he lay on the floor. “I’ll kill you!” He reached across the floor for his wand again, but Lucius had got away. I ran over to Sirius.
“Melanie,” he said, eyeing my shoulder with concern.
“I’m all right, Sirius,” I assured him. I grabbed hold of him and attempted to get him away from Voldemort.
“What are you doing?” he demanded.
“I’m getting you away from there so you don’t get killed! You can’t fight with a broken leg!”
“It’s only my leg. I can still help!”
“You can’t even stand!”
“I can’t sit here and watch,” he insisted. “I’ll be damned if I’m just going to stay safe while Death Eaters attack my girlfriend.”
I sighed; it was pointless to resist, because I knew he’d try to get back up and keep fighting if it killed him. I crouched down and he put his arm around my shoulders, and helped him stand up. He was hopping on his good leg, grimacing in pain, but determined. I remained by his side, because he wouldn’t get far on one leg, and we shot spells at Death Eaters together. And he was right – despite his painful leg injury, he was fighting admirably. Nothing could stop him.
Sirius hit a Death Eater with a Stunning Spell as I simultaneously cast a Leg-Locker Jinx. “Nice one, Melanie!” said Sirius as we watched the Death Eater keel over, unconscious, his legs like a board. I grinned at Sirius. We made a great team.
Charlotte was across the room battling with Lester. Both of them looked furious. And Voldemort was now fighting James and Lily. I had never truly appreciated just how talented the two of them were at Defence Against the Dark Arts. I watched in awe as they fired spell after spell at Voldemort, standing their ground impressively, silhouetted by the blaze of red and green lights between them and Voldemort.
More commotion came from the doorway and I looked over to see three people. For a split second I feared they were coming to back up the Death Eaters, but the newcomers were not masked. One, I was stunned to discover, was Frank Longbottom, who had left Hogwarts several years ago. The other two were older and I didn’t recognise them. But they ran right into the battle and fought with us against the Death Eaters.
Voldemort had had enough of people running in to help us out. “You four were supposed to get me into Hogwarts, not alert the whole world that we were here,” he said angrily to Lester. “I should have known, after your foolish plan last time that sent two people to Azkaban.” He Disapparated without another word and left his Death Eaters to continue the fight.
“He’s gone!” cried one of the newcomers. She looked back at the other two.
“Watch out, Dorcas, another Death Eater behind you,” said Frank. He and the other wizard, a man with a square jaw and thick blond hair, hurried to find the other Death Eaters and apprehend them before they disappeared as well. Dorcas turned around and battled with Nathan.
Sirius let go of my shoulder and sat down on a crumbled column, holding on to his leg. His shoe was covered in blood. But still he fired spells at Death Eaters, despite not being able to walk.
Charlotte came stumbling around a corner. “Lester’s been Stunned, he’s unconscious,” she panted as she ran over to me. “Who are all these people?”
“Aurors, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know, but I’m glad they came – they scared Voldemort away.” I looked back into the main room. The Aurors, James, and Lily were still fighting the Death Eaters while Charlotte and I hid, hearts pounding. And my head was spinning, but we couldn’t stay here forever. “Should we go back and help?” I suggested.
Charlotte’s long dark hair had come out of its ponytail, and she brushed a loose strand off her sweaty face. I gasped when I saw what was on her wrist: the gold and sapphire wristwatch. How in Merlin’s name had she managed to get hold of that?
“What is that, Charlotte?” I asked, pointing to the watch.
“This? It’s Lester’s. He snapped it on my arm to take me here. Portkey.” She eyed my shoulder, which was bleeding profusely, and took out her wand.
“That’s the watch that made Remus unconscious in the trophy room last year,” I told her as she clumsily applied a bandage to my shoulder; it took her two tries to get the spell right in our state of terror.
“Lester said he and Snape and Mulciber used it to practise spells and curses; they must have left it in the trophy room the day Remus found it. I didn’t think anything of it when I first saw it. But I was wrong. They were going to use it to bring He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named into the castle today. You’ve lost a lot of blood, Mel…”
“And you knew all along?” I asked, disgusted. “You knew they were going to bring Voldemort in?”
“Of course not,” said Charlotte. “Lester told me all of this when we were walking through Hogsmeade this morning. I’ve been playing along, pretending to be interested so I could find out what he’s doing as a Death Eater. But I must have acted too well, because he didn’t tell me where we were going today, he just took me here… he really thought I wanted to join.”
We heard a shout and turned to see one of the Death Eaters on the floor with his arms bound behind his back. “Good one, Sturgis,” said Dorcas. “Keep him there while I get this one.” She tried to tie up another one, the one I thought was Lucius, but he spun and Disapparated before she could finish. The ropes cascaded from her wand out onto the floor where Lucius had vanished.
The Death Eaters were giving up! Charlotte and I ran back in to help. “Where did you leave Lester?” I asked Charlotte. “We should get him tied up as well so he can’t escape back to Voldemort.”
“Back here,” she said, and we hurried into an alcove in the back. No one was there. “He was here,” Charlotte insisted. “I should have tied him up when I Stunned him, I just didn’t think of it.”
“He can’t have gotten far, he was unconscious for at least a few minutes,” I said. Joining the others, we went back into the main room to look for him.
We were so close to victory over the Death Eaters; we had already driven Voldemort and one Death Eater away, and captured another. It was a great feeling. But all I wanted right now was to be done fighting.
Frank, Lily, and James were chasing Nathan. He didn’t put up too much of a fight, although he released the ropes on the other Death Eater, who re-entered the battle, much to Sturgis’s dismay. Contrary to when the fight had begun, the Death Eaters were now outnumbered, but still hanging on. The Death Eater who had previously been tied up tried to Apparate away at least twice, but had to stop each time when curses were aimed at him mid-Apparition that would have Splinched him.
With my attention on this battle, and my attempts to stop Nathan and the other Death Eater before they got away, no one noticed when Lester reappeared. But he did, using the battle as a distraction – he snuck up behind us as we were preoccupied, and we only noticed him when suddenly Dorcas fell down and lay there unmoving. Frank went to her aid as the rest of us continued fighting, and Lester ran about the room, ahead of the rest of us as he cast curses haphazardly in every direction. The previously tied up Death Eater finally succeeded in Apparating.
“She’s all right,” I heard Frank shout from behind us. Charlotte and I were trailing a few feet behind Lester as we chased him, but we were gaining on him. I turned his leg into wood as he ran, and he stumbled on it, but without any delay he faced us. A jet of white light shot out of his wand and hit Charlotte, blasting her backwards into a column.
The spell seemed to go through her, and the column collapsed as if in slow motion. I screamed. Charlotte fell to the ground with the impact of Lester’s spell, and the pillar crumbled on top of her with a reverberating, booming crash. Dust rose up in an immense, ominous cloud around her, and she was completely obscured by debris.
I do keep leaving evil cliff hangers, don’t I… Sorry about that. Thanks for reading!
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