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Shadowplay by dominique_fox
Chapter 28 : Twenty-Eight: The World on Fire
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 2

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“We’re out of time, Priestess.”

My stomach lurches at the familiar sound of Selwyn’s voice -- though we haven’t spoken for years, it instantly conjures memories of the Charms classroom; of discrete, friendly greetings in the corridors; of being helped to my feet after being hit with a particularly vehement Counterbalancing Charm.

Up until now, I haven’t been willing to accept that it’s been Selwyn. Not because I have feelings for him (or ever did). Not because I think he’s a particularly good person. I’ve been hesitant to believe that he’s the Tarot Killer because he always seemed so ordinary. I can even remember feeling sorry for him sometimes in our Hogwarts days, because he never quite seemed to fit in with the rest of the Slytherin gang.

But the moment I hear the voice, I know.

And maybe it’s the unwise combination of vodka and Pepperup Potion roiling in my stomach, but suddenly my veins are full of fire. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m a damn witch and could use magic, I would run at Selwyn across the alleyway and punch the guts out of him with my own hands. All along, this mysterious killer, this faceless monster pulling the strings from afar -- it’s just been this eejit from my Hogwarts days. Within a split second, Moody’s grand plan has slipped out of my mind and been replaced by a scheme of my own design.

If I bring Selwyn to Moody and his goons, I’ll never get a shot at him. Moody’ll take him straight to Dumbledore, they’ll interrogate him with Veritaserum and turn him over to Crouch, and then before you know it he’ll be shipped off to Azkaban, beyond the reach of my fists.

So I can’t bring him to Moody -- at least, not right away.

Bang -- another jet of light flashes through the air and hits the wall a few inches beside my head. But this time, I’m ready: in the split second in which Selwyn’s spell ignites the air and throws his silhouette into the light, I turn on the spot and Disapparate --

-- and appear right behind him. Before he can react, I’ve got a firm hold on his arm, and Disapparated again, bringing him along this time.

We arrive with a crack in the corridor outside my flat, and I immediately yell:

Expelliarmus -- incarcerous!

And Selwyn is thrown off his feet, his wand clattering away down the corridor, struggling against the tight robes that have wound themselves around his body. I stare down at his wriggling figure. He’s wearing a skeletal mask over his face, and a dark hood pulled down over his forehead. I bend down over him, and roughly push back the hood and rip the mask away from his face.

Herod Selwyn pants up at me, looking very different than he did in our Hogwarts days.

His hair is thinner; graying prematurely around his temples. His skin is as pale and dull as flour and glistens with sweat. His pupils are tiny black pinpricks against the blue of his irises. He stares up at me with them, still gasping for air.

“Been having fun playing your little games with me, have you?” I snarl down at him. “Stalking me around London? You know, I was actually a bit afraid of you. Thought you were some kind of monster.”

Very deliberately, I lift my right foot up off the floor and place it on his chest. I slowly shift all my weight off my left foot, and listen to him cough and splutter.

“But you’re not a monster,” I say, my voice calm, though my hands are shaking. “You’re just pathetic. How disappointing.”

“P-Priestess,” he gasps.

“Oh, shut up,” I growl. “You obviously know my name. Let’s cut it out with all the ‘Priestess’ nonsense.”

We both freeze as a door opens somewhere below us. A female voice calls:

“Everything okay up there?”

“Yeah,” I call back. “Sorry, Mrs. Boot.”

I wrench open my front door, and lift Selwyn’s body into the air using a Hovering Charm. He struggles and squirms in midair, as if he were drowning, but he’s ultimately helpless. After all these months of stalking down his quarry, he’s become the prey. I navigate him into the sitting room and then let his body fall onto the floor with a thump.

“I’ll hand you over to Moody eventually,” I reassure him, closing the door as I stalk into the flat. I’m feeling something I’ve never felt before -- it’s better than the thrill of the chase, sharper and more vicious -- the feeling of closing in for the kill. “But first we’re going to have some fun.”

“I won’t tell you anything,” he says, meeting my eyes with his bright blue ones. “The Dark Lord knows I am his loyal--”

“Now you’re just boring me.” I flick my wand at him, tossing him several feet into the air and bringing him back down again, hard. “Dumbledore’s people’re going to give you Veritaserum, actually, so I’m pretty sure you’re going to spill your guts to them. Like I said, I just wanted to have a bit of fun with you first.”

I stride over to his body and look down at him.

“So.” I say quietly. “Did you enjoy it, yeah? Chasing me around London? Pinning Edwin Napier up to a wall, like an insect on display? Making Johnny Hartford do your bidding?”

Selwyn breathes hard, but says nothing.

“You’re going to go to Azkaban, Herod,” I tell him, kneeling down with one knee on either side of his body. “And you’ll probably die there. But Azkaban’s only punishment for doing the crimes. I’m the one who’s going to punish you for enjoying them.”

I lift up my fist and sink it into his face -- so hard I’m sure I’ve bruised my knuckles -- then snap it back and punch him again -- and again -- and again. And there’s blood pouring out of his nose and he’s wheezing through it for breath, but I don’t care, it feels too good, and my fist is coming down again.

“How’s your friend Barnabus?” he gasps between punches, making me freeze.


“Your friend,” he repeats, grinning, though the whole bottom half of his face is covered in blood from his nose. “Barnabus Cuffe. I’ve been following his career. It’s been very impressive -- but I’m afraid it might all go up in smoke, tonight.”

I sit back, gaping at him. “What?

Before Selwyn can respond, something hits the grate over the fireplace with a bang that makes us both jump.

“O’Keefe,” calls Moody’s voice, full of edge. “You in there?”

“Hmm?” I look from my bloody knuckles to Selwyn’s battered face, thinking fast. “Er, yeah, I’m here.”

“What in bloody hell happened?” he rasps, knocking on the grate again. “Will you let me in? You were supposed to report back to us if--”

“Look, Moody, I don’t want you to overreact,” I say slowly, rising to my feet. “But I may have taken a small, er, detour off the original plan. Not that it wasn’t a really brilliant plan -- one of your finest, really -- but I just figured--”

“O’Keefe.” Moody’s voice is deadly calm. “If Herod Selwyn is in your flat…”

Wincing, I flick my wand at the grate, which opens. Moody prowls out into the sitting room, and around the sofa, and comes to a stop and the sight of me standing overtop of Herod Selwyn’s faintly struggling body. My heart beats very quickly -- partly in anticipation of Moody’s wrath, and partly because of what Selwyn’s just said.

“I Disarmed him out in the corridor,” I say, jerking my head at the door. “Left his wand out there. Sorry about that.”

“You’ve done a lot of stupid things under my watch, O’Keefe,” says Moody incredulously, staring down at Selwyn’s bloodied face. “But I never thought…”

“Full of surprises, amn’t I?” I say with a little shrug, already stumbling away toward the fireplace. “Come to think of it, you know, I think I’d better be going. Places to be, and all that. Catch up with you later.”

The last thing I see before I’m whisked away by the green flames is Moody’s mouth opening -- not in anger, but to laugh.

I can tell something’s wrong the moment I arrive in Barnabus’ fire. The grate’s shut, but I can hear scuffling noises, and see a strange, flickering light through the small holes.

“Barnabus?” I yell. “You there?”

The scuffling noises stop. I hear heavy footsteps approaching the grate.

“Aislin?” says Barnabus’ voice. The grate is thrown open -- I stumble out of it, and come face-to-face with Barnabus. His face is sweaty, his hair is strangely free of pomade, and his eyes are wide with terror. His sitting room is in a state, as well: there’s a leather suitcase lying open on the floor, surrounded by various antiques and valuables. “What’re you doing here?” he shouts, lunging at me and pushing me back toward the fireplace. “You’ve got to get out -- the whole place is on fire!”

Evading Barnabus’ arms, I dash over to the window and look down at the building below. Sure enough, there are flames licking up and down the first few floors of the building, contorting before my eyes into the shapes of chimaeras, raptors, snakes. Fiendfyre.

“Shit,” I stand frozen for a split second, then turn and bolt back over to Barmabus. “Barnabus, get out of here. Go to James and Lily’s -- tell them to get some people over here.”

“But, what…” Barnabus’ hands fly up to his head, pulling on his hair. “There are Muggles down there, Aislin. And I’ve got all my stuff in here and--”

“TO HELL WITH YOUR STUFF,” I shout at him, shoving him hard in the chest. “Get out of here right now, and get James and Lily!”

White-faced, he nods, and scrambles into the fireplace, and disappears.

“Right.” I hurtle through the flat, down the corridor, and onto the stairs. I’ve never seen Fiendfyre before, never heard of a Countercurse for it -- yet I plunge down the stairs, straight into the heart of the fire. The air grows hotter and thicker with each step, and every inch of my being screams for me to turn around and run away. But I can hear screams a little ways away. I keep running.

A few flights down the stairs, I meet a group of six or seven people running in the other direction. There’s a Muggle woman sobbing -- a small boy peering curiously out of his dad’s arms -- a witch who I’ve seen around St. Mungo’s.

“Let’s get to the roof,” I tell them without introduction. “Is everyone out of the flats, or are there more people down there?”

“This is all of us,” says the witch.

“Right,” I nod. “Go on, then!”

I let them run ahead of me, and then bolt up the stairs after them, searching desperately through my memory for any relevant incantation. But nothing occurs to me -- and even as we run, the stairway below is growing brighter and brighter, and I can hear strange hissing and growling sounds echoing up from the bottom floors, as if the fire were speaking to itself.

Protego,” I yell, pointing my wand backwards over my shoulder, though I’ve little hope that the Shield Charm will be of much use. Some of the Muggles are sobbing. The hissing grows louder.

A door opens somewhere, and James, Lily, Remus, and Peter materialize on the stairway up ahead of us. James dashes down the stairs, his face battle-ready as I’ve never seen it before. He pushes past the Muggles and past me, with the others on his tail.

“Get them up to the roof!” Lily yells to me as she passes. “You should be able to Apparate away from there!”

I nod, and continue to shepherd the Muggles up the stairway as James and the others charge into the fire -- trying not to spare a thought for the fact that Remus is among them, not to imagine what fate might await him in those flames. Soon, we reach the top floor of the building.

“Hands over your heads, everyone,” I shout, and point my wand at the ceiling, blasting a wide hole straight through it. I conjure a rope ladder, and they start to climb up it, one by one. They move so slowly, I want to scream in frustration. Finally, I’m clambering up the rope ladder and out onto the roof of the building, where the others are cowering.

“Okay--” I stumble over to the St. Mungo’s witch. “We’d better take them to St. Mungo’s. One at a time, start with the youngest.”

The witch nods, her eyes wide and frightened, and we both lunge into the crowd, Apparating and Disapparating again, leaving the confused Muggles in the lobby of St. Mungo’s. Each time I Apparate back onto the roof of the building, the light has grown brighter -- although the sun has still not started to rise -- and the hissing louder. Soon, there are only six Muggles left on the roof… then four… then two…

We arrive in the St. Mungo’s lobby with the last of the Muggles, who have formed a huddle and are looking out at their magical surroundings in utter bafflement, many of them still sobbing. I turn to the St. Mungo’s witch again.

“You’ll have them taken care of?”

She nods.

“Okay.” I turn on the spot, and I’m back on the roof -- and James, Lily, Remus, and Peter are all standing around the edges of the rooftop, fiery monsters leaping all around them. A few others have joined them, but there’s no time for hellos. I hear someone yell “Expungo Maleficum,” over the roar of the fire -- so I dash over to the edge of the roof, raise my wand against the flames, and shout the same.

A bluish-white, glassy, shimmering something begins to emerge from my wand. As I watch, the nebulous substance converges into the shape of a gigantic lion. It leaps into the fray with the Fiendfyre, dueling the creatures of flame.

“Expungo Maleficum,” I yell again, and more of the glassy stuff materializes this time, forming shapes of phoenixes, bears, charging elephants. More and more witches and wizards are joining us on the rooftop, more blue-white animals joining the fight against the flames. But still, the flames are closing in, leaping over the edges of the roof -- and the circle of fighters is being pushed back into a tighter and tighter group. The building trembles below us, threatening to collapse at any second. Remus is on my one side, I can feel his body brushing against mine, and I wish I could spare a moment to say something to him before we perish together in the flames.

Then there’s a loud crack and Albus Dumbledore is towering over us all, the reflections of the flames burning in his eyes. I’ve never seen Hogwarts’ Headmaster look so fearsome. He raises his wand, waves it over his head, and more of the blue-white stuff shoots toward the flames as a tidal wave, washing over the edges of the building and straight down the sides, dissolving the Fiendfyre in its path.

And then the night is dark again, except for the ghostly, green shape of a skull and snake hovering high above the building: the Dark Mark.

There are various pops and cracks as the witches and wizards on the rooftop begin to Apparate away. In the confusion, someone grabs me by the elbow, and suddenly I’m being whisked away to another place.

A/N: SO MUCH ACTION. Sorry the chapters have been short lately, but I figure slightly shorter, quicker updates are better than long ones that take forever? Please don’t forget to review!

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