Lord Voldemort's grip on wizarding Britain tightens. Even Hogwarts is no longer safe as Death Eaters turn it into a battlefield. [Sequel to "The Path Chosen."]
Albus Dumbledore lowered his wand and scrutinized his work. It had taken nearly a hour of chanting, but every ward the school possessed were now fully activated. The ancient Ward-Stone in front of him flared up with a gentle green light and he could feel and hear the faint hum of magic as the wards powered up, drinking greedily from the seven Power Stones located in Hogwarts Castle, which themselves drained power from the three ley-lines crossing under the school.
Then came the explosions, loud booms indicating that the activating wards annihilated anything near the castle walls. Huge trees – many of which had stood there for centuries – were ripped from the earth and expelled with such force that they exploded midair. Then the cascading splinters caught fire alongside with everything else within the three yard perimeter, burning with such intensity that only ashes hit the ground.
Dumbledore sighed. He hoped that the new wards wouldn't claim any human victims, but at least no Death Eater could enter the school any longer. The safety of the children was his first priority and hopefully this would guarantee it.
A single flick of his wand caused the obsidian Ward-Stone to sunk into the altar of solid stone beneath it, hiding it even from the most observant seeker, the wards guarding it resealing with a soft hiss and a faint flash of azure light. The Stone was essentially the very heart of Hogwarts and only the current Headmaster knew its location. Even the previous Headmasters forgot the secret the moment they no longer held the office. It was imperative that the Stone would never fall into enemy hands as the one who controlled it controlled the wards as well as the multitude of powerful enchantments of the Hogwarts Castle.
Another swift flick summoned his purple cloak from the dusty corner to which he had discarded it almost a hour before. His free hand caught the zooming garment deftly and he was about to throw it over his shoulders when he saw a tiny spot of the purple fabric glowing faintly.
Curious, the ancient wizard thought and peered the colourful spot more carefully through his enchanted half-moon glasses that gave him the highly useful ability to see magic among other things. His blue eyes widened slightly in recognition. A Tracking Charm!
He had made no secret of that he was going to active rest of the wards... Was someone following him to find where the Hogwarts Ward-Stone was hidden? If so, who?
The unspoken question was answered when the only door to the room was slammed open and three short figures stepped in...
Severus Snape walked swiftly towards the Hospital Wing, his dark green cloak billowing behind him. The Potions master intended to check up on the escaped students, which was something most would consider off-character of him. Normally, this late at evening, he would have been either sleeping or experimenting in his private laboratory, but this day had been nothing if not special.
Dumbledore had told him that the escapees had been checked for all forms of mind-control and that their wands were confiscated just in case. Logically, they should be completely harmless even if they were abunch of Death Eaters in disguise, but as Evan's warning kept playing in his head and he decided to see the students himself just to be sure. He hadn't survived this far by taking excess risks.
He canceled the complicated Locking Charm on the door with a tap of his wand and stepped in only to freeze in shock. Soft hum of magic filled his ears and the air flowing from the room felt both electrified and hot, and the sickening – if very familiar – stench of freshly spilled blood reached his nose. His dark eyes widened as his gaze locked onto the hospital floor.
Somebody had drawn a complex runic Circle on the white stone tiles – hundreds of arcane sigils were arranged geometrically, so that they formed a large hexagon. Everything was inscribed in blood – probably mixed with some alchemical substance to enchant its magical conductivity. And by looking at the naked and disgustingly mutilated corpse of Madam pomfrey laying next to the Circle, he assumed it was human blood – her blood. Someone had used her life and magic to fuel the runes. Severus knew only one wizard who routinely used human sacrifices in his rituals...
An elliptical portal hovered a feet above the runic Circle, the edges of it glowing in bright blue light. On the other side of the portal he could see the Dark Lord's throne room – a sight that confirmed his worst fears. A second later the portal vanished in a burst of light, leaving only a few blue sparks of magic behind. The Circle below caught fire as the portal shutting send a violent spike of magic surging through the runic arrays. The blue flames died in seconds as they burned out the remnants of magic in the Circle.
Severus dared not to move – not when dozens of wands were pointed at him. The room was full of white-masked, black-robed men and women. Despite their expressionless, skull-like masks and concealing robes, he could recognise many of them: Pettigrew, Weasley, Dolohov, Flint, Turpin, Parkinson, Zabini, McDougal, the other McDougal and Quirke, to just name a few... It was more than he had ever seen at once sans a few of the bigger Death Eater meetings. Evans had been right... The Dark Lord was invading Hogwarts...
“Welcome, Severus. I was hoping to see you, and look, here you are.” Snape took a sharp intake of breath. He would know that cold, hissing voice from anywhere... It was the voice he heard his worst nightmares... And in every Death Eater meeting.
The sea of black-robed figures parted so that he could see the imposing figure of the Dark Lord standing on the other side of the room. Lord Voldemort was looking out of a large window overlooking the lake and so had his back turned at Severus.
The head of Slythering House had to admit that the window did offer avery good scenery, albeit it was currently wasted on him. The dark surface of the Hogwarts lake reflected the thousands stars glittering in the sky only partially covered by dark clouds. In the distance asingle fork of lightning flashed briefly into existence before vanishing without any trace but a faint, purple and blue afterimage burned into his vision.
“My Lord?” Snape asked quickly, trying to cover his nervousness beneath a mask of obedience.
After a few moments of extremely uncomfortable silence Voldemort turned to face the Potions Master, his gleaming blood-red eyes burrowing into Snape's. The moment their gazes met, mental claws clashed mercilessly against Severus' Occlumency barriers, and he instinctively reinforced them to maximum strength, abandoning subtler aspects of Occlumency in an attempt to deny the Dark Lord's access to his mind.
It worked and Lord Voldemort's mental presense withdrew, the crushing pressure vanishing from pressing against his mental shields. Severus almost sighed in relief.
Despite that the initial attack had failed the Dark Lord was smiling wickedly. “Well, well, well... Impudent, are you?” he asked softly and his wand arm moved in blur. Snape didn't have time to even blink before a nonverbal Cruciatus Curse slammed into him.
Waves of excruciating pain surged through his body and he dropped to his knees, screaming in inhuman agony. It lasted only for a few seconds although even the short time felt like an eternity. And when the pain vanished, it was quickly replaced by exceedingly violent Legilimency probes that tore into his weakened Occlumency shields.
Despite the use of the Cruciatus Curse and Lord Voldemort's impressive skills in mind arts, his mental walls held. This minor victory was a very short lived because as soon as the outcome of the mental duel was clear, something strong and invisible snatched his wand from his hand while his body rose from the floor, hanging helplessly a few feet above the floor.
“Well, just the fact that you continue to deny me confirms what Evans claimed,” Lord Voldemort said evenly, and Snape suddenly felt like invisible hands were choking him – something which probably wasn't too far from the truth. Air was forced out of his lungs and his vision begun to blur. “I don't need any further evidence.”
Severus tried to plead for his life but no sound except some inarticulate grunting escaped his lips because of the magical choke hold. Cold dread filled him. He knew he was about to die and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Still, the rage he felt at his impending doom wasn't truly directed at the Dark Lord. Rather, in the back of his mind, he cursed that bloody James Potter. It was all Potters fault that he had joined Death Eaters... It was Potters fault that he was about to die... Potter had even stolen his sweet Lily... All his fault!
“You are nothing but a filthy traitor,” the Dark Lord continued his monologue. “Fortunately for you, I'm in a bit of hurry, and so I'm going to deviate from my modus operandi and just kill you quickly. Goodbye, Severus.”
The tiniest flick of the Dark Lord's yew wand sent the Potions Master hurling across the room, and then through the large window. As the old glass panel shattered, the razor-sharp shards cut deep, but that was nothing compared to what followed a split second later when the newly activated wards manifested themselves. Severus' body was instantly ripped apart in flash of bluish light, his remains vanishing in a blazing conflagration, and finally the ashes were expelled from Hogwarts, scattering into the cool autumn wind.
Ginny's screams had already died down many minutes ago, probably because she had yelled her throat raw and beyond, and now only pitiful whimpering left her lips anymore. She wasn't even thrashing around madly due the excruciating pain, just twitching lightly as if she was feeling cold. Her brown eyes that had once been so full of life were now glassy and unfocused, holding no spark of life, no indication of any sentience behind them. Trails of blood and saliva dirtied her cheeks but she appeared not to notice. Hell, she didn't seem to notice anything at all. She was even laying in a pool of her own puke and piss. The smell was terrible, but Harry paid it no attention.
He released the Cruciatus Curse and almost instantly missed the invigorating feeling of Dark magic rushing through his veins. To remedy this he turned towards the prone, unmoving form of Lord Lucius Malfoy, and a single jab of his wand send a vibrant blue Eviscerating Curse at the unconscious enemy wizard. The Malfoy Patriarch's stomach exploded in a spectacular fashion, showering the room in steaming guts, cooked meat and boiling blood, all the while Harry almost shivered in ecstasy as he was once again immersed in the sweet power of the Dark Arts. He briefly wondered why had ever been so stupid than to even try to limit his usage of Black magic... There was nothing better than the Dark Arts. Nothing!
Someone clapped softly.
Harry reacted in an instant. He spun around, the Killing Curse leaving his wand tip with an absurd ease, significantly faster than ever before. He had skipped all the complicated wand movements and even the two word incantation, and gathering enough will to kill had taken only the briefest of moments instead of over a second it had used to take. Still he was apparently not fast enough as the black-clad man managed to sidestep the twisting bolt of sickly green light, albeit if barely.
“Fast,” the red-haired man exclaimed softly as he straightened himself. Harry refrained from casting more spells as his uncle had no weapons drawn and obviously wanted to talk. Still he was sorely tempted; why should it matter if the bastard was stupid enough to come front of him defenseless? Why should he care about tenets of honour when Death Eaters did not? Besides, he really wanted to kill that worthless bastard of a man... “But then again, black magic /does/come easy for all those suffering from the Dark Arts Syndrome.”
“Don't be a fool, Daniel,” Harry snarled angrily, keeping his wand pointed at the dangerous Muggle, wisps of dark smoke curling upwards from its tip alongside with an occasional spark. Those sickly green sparks were a visible reminder of the deadly Dark magic the wand had spat just a second ago...and Harry longed to cast more. “I'm in the complete control of my mental faculties, thank you very much.”
“Of course you are,” the man agreed, although the young wizard didn't like his humorous tone, his eyes narrowing out of anger. “And you may lower your wand. I'm not here to fight you, I'm here to help you.”
Harry almost snorted in blatant disbelief. He wasn't convinced – not by a long shot – and his wand stayed exactly where it was, not wavering even a little. “Help me? How?”
“Firstly, I'm here to give you this,” Daniel said and lifted his left hand. The man held a wand between his thumb and index finger like he was offering it to him. Harry's eyes widened a fraction. He knew that wand... It was his wand... His original wand. He wanted it.
A quick Summoning Charm ripped the wooden stick from his uncle's fingers. Normally wands couldn't be summoned from enemy hands as they were intimately linked to the wizard or witch's magic which would instinctively resist any foreign interventions – just like wizarding children did accidental magic to protect themselves. Summoning a wizard's wand required the spell to overcome the enemy's power, which was nigh impossible with a simple Summoning Charm for even the most powerful of magicians. But as Daniel was a pathetic, magicless Muggle, it was absolutely no problem.
Harry caught the flying wand with his silver hand, his artificial fingers tightening lovingly around the holly stick. He could instantly feel the familiar, inviting warmth and the pulse of invigorating power beneath his fingertips. Eleven inches of holly containing one phoenix tail-feather... No other wand could even begin to compare... Ever.
“I see you like it. Good, hopefully it will aid you in your quest,” Daniel said with a small smile. Harry couldn't say whether it was sincere, but when it came to it, he truly didn't care. His uncle was just another enemy to be exterminated. Another worthless fucker serving the Dark Lord. The shared blood meant nothing. If anything, it would be a pleasure to remove the shameful stain from his bloodline. “My second gift to you is a piece of information: The Dark Lord is currently in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“Really?” Harry asked and sheathed the nine inches of holly with a basilisk heartstring core, moving the wand he had just reacquired into his flesh and blood hand. What was Daniel playing at? “What is he doing there? I doubt he went to his alma meter just to reminiscent good old times.”
“Ah!He has many little things to do there – like killing Albus Dumbledore, annihilating most remaining members of the Order and gaining an almost impenetrable base with a large bunch of very valuable hostages in one go. Not to mention that it will be aterrible blow to the public morale.”
“Impenetrable?” Harry repeated incredulously. “Since when has the damn castle been impenetrable? Last time I checked most people could simply walk into Hogwarts without any interference from the supposedly strongest wards in Britain.”
“Since Dumbledore activated the offensive wards that had been kept dormant for safety reasons,” stated his uncle calmly. “Pity that the Dark Lord was already inside when he did that.”
“Oh yes... That kind of defeats the purpose,” said Harry with awicked grin. “And before I forgot- Prurico!”
The Dark spell shot forth from the wand's tip, the auburn streak rocketing through the air, aimed with impeccable precision at the man's chest. Daniel didn't have a snowball's chance in Hell to avoid the deadly spell. That didn't stop him trying, though, but in the end it was futile.
The Skin Shriveling Curse blasted against black dragonhide, the bolt of magic exploding into a glowing red mist with a loud sizzling sound. Daniel sailed backwards, propelled by the extra power pumped into the Dark spell, the eerie auburn light seeping into his dark armour. Then a hard stonewall interrupted his abrupt flight and the man thumped on the floor.
It was the time to end this, Harry decided and pointed his wand at the prone figure. He would have his revenge –he would to slaughter every Death Eater he could find even if it killed him. “Avada Kedavra!” the young wizard screeched, his blood-red eyes burning with relentless malice as he channeled his hatred, fury and pain into the worst Unforgivable. As expected, Dark magic eagerly answered to his unbound killing intent, bringing forth waves of pleasure as it surged through his body and mind into the wand.
There was a brilliant flash of sickly green light quickly followed by aloud crack and finally by an explosion as the Killing Curse hit the wall.
Harry sniffed haughtily while the shower of stone shrapnel hit him and was deflected by the weak force field continuously projected by his enchanted clothing. Porkey again... What a coward! Next time,Harry swore in his blood-lust hazed mind, I will kill him!
Then a small yelp shifted the young wizard's attention back to Ginny who had acquired a fetal position on the floor. Her body was still spasming lightly, and she had even restarted her pitiful whimpering and moaning. Harry pointed his wand at the witch. If he couldn't kill his uncle, he could at least remove some other deplorable Death Eater. “Ictus.”
The bright yellow jet of a Penetrating Charm shot out Harry's wand and then tore through the prone girl's chest, spraying ample quantiles of bright blood onto the dirty floor. Her body stopped moving, tightening for a second before going completely limp.
Harry chuckled faintly before turning away from her and walking out of the wrecked room. His work here was done... It was time to seek more victims...
It was time for him to revisit Hogwarts.
A bright, yellow shield swirled into existence with mere moments to spare, two roaring curses impacting it in a brilliant display of light and sound. The bolts of light were deflected towards the ceiling, hitting it a split second later and showering the duellists in smouldering shrapnel.
Barely a second later a twisting jet of sickly green light tore a gaping hole through the brightly glowing shield only to dissipate harmlessly against a large armoured figure made of solid stone that had suddenly appeared into the Unforgivable's path with a nearly inaudible pop.
A barrage of lesser – if still very deadly – curses and hexes hammered against the quickly rupturing shield with an immense force and and it was clear to all four duellers that the shield wouldn't last more than a second under the heavy strain. It was already quickly unravelling around the opening ripped by adreaded Killing Curse.
An elegant swirl of Dumbledore's wand animated the over two metres high stone knight he had conjured a second previously and it charged towards the three attackers, hefting its huge sword in a threatening manner. Then the shield finally lost its integrity and burst into thousands tiny sparks of leftover magic that fell slowly towards the floor and the conjured knight didn't manage to take more than a few steps before two greenish-yellow bolts of light slammed into its chest, exploding the figure into a cloud of grey stone dust.
“So... How does Tom control you?” asked Dumbledore softly as he sidestepped two glowing jets of light that zoomed by him with, almost hitting his swirling green robes. The old man's speed belied his age and he was almost radiating magical power – his aura seemingly engulfing the whole room in its pressurizing and electrifying embrace. A swift flick of his wand send a pure white bolt of light whizzing through the air, leaving a trail of bright sparks after it.
“Its Lord Voldemort to you, Headmaster. But no, he doesn't really control us,” one of the two girls hissed angrily while deflecting the brilliant jet of light towards the ceiling with a simple, but expertly performed, Protego, causing yet another fiery rain burning fragments of wood to descend upon the four skillful duelists.“Essentially we are him.”
Dumbledore's blue eyes widened a fraction while his wand worked furiously, ashimmering purple shield appearing out of the blue and casually absorbing a barrage of Dark curses aimed at him. “Eidolons then, I see. Tom must be getting quite desperate to use and endanger his precious Horuxes in this manner.”
“Desperate?” snorted the piece of Voldemort's soul sharing Darren Harkiss' body while slashing his wand vertically, unleashing a column of liquid amethyst fire at the ancient wizard. “It's you who should be desperate, old man. How do you think you are going to defeat three Dark Lord's in a duel? You can hardly challenge one Lord Voldemort!”
Having no time to bring up a good enough shield, Albus swayed into his right, letting the searing flames travel past him. The heat was unbearable, but his enchanted robes protected him from any serious harm and he suffered only a few minor burns. His wand flickered and two other bolts of light were turned back at their respective casters in a bright flash of orange light.
“You are forced on defensive, unable to mount any good offensive,” drawled someone looking exactly like Hermione Granger as she batted the rebounded hex away from her. “Or perhaps you are simply unwilling to harm our sweet, innocent vessels. Whatever the reason is, you will not leave this room alive. Your time is over, old man. You are merely a relic from the past that will soon be forgotten; buried in the sands of time.”
A twisting ray of electric-blue light hit a circular shield of solid bronze that appeared in front of the Headmaster and was deflected downwards, hitting the floor a yard from an enemy witch's feet, ripping up floorboards with a loud sizzling hiss and setting them on fire, bright lightning snaking briefly around the shards. He could distinctly smell the sharp stench of ozone. The next second saw apulsating yellow bolt hitting the shield, melting it in a split second and blasting the molten remains towards Dumbledore only to be intercepted by an invisible, protective screen.
“Tom never understood the power of love and it seems that you are making the same mistake,” said Dumbledore sadly while sidestepping an uncoiling ribbon of purple light. “Or perhaps the mistake was already made for you. In any case, I do hope that you would see the error of your ways, but we all know that it's just a forlorn hope of an old, weary man.”
A quick jab of Headmaster's wand hurled a burst of innumerable burning arrows towards two Eidolons standing close to each other, forcing them to erect shimmering shields. While the flaming projectiles were deflected into random directions with series of echoing clangs, the third Eidolon flourished her wand, liquid silver spurting out of the wand tip and forming into a sleek silver spear that rocketed towards Albus. The aged sorcerer instantly threw up a Proteus shield but unfortunately for him, the spear went straight through the hastily conjured barrier and grazed him, ripping his favourite green robes and cutting a bleeding gash on his left side.
“Love?Love is nothing,” said 'Sereille Higgs' loudly after she had drawn the first blood. “Power is all that matters and love most certainly doesn't give it to you! No, it robs it from you. Love is useless, power is everything!”
Blazing jets of light sailed across the large room as the four duelists traded deadly curses, lethal hexes and powerful charms. Despite being severely outnumbered the ancient wizard was holding his own against his younger, nimbler and more mobile opponents. He had partaken in countless duels and battles, and was a veteran of two bloody wars. Being outnumbered was nothing new to him. If anything, it was all too common.
“Power is nothing but a dangerous illusion,” said Albus Dumbledore gently, almost in a whisper, a flick of his wand batting away a few incoming curses. “It is a mere temptation for wizards and witches... Something that can all too easily fall apart beneath your greedy fingers when you least expect it. And even when you think you have it, it is not true; power always controls you, not the other way round. Love, on the other hand–”
“Cut your philosophical spiel, Dumbledore!” the other wizard in the room snarled heatedly and a Dark curse shot forth from his wand tip, the iridescent jet zooming through the air, aimed with impeccable precision at Headmaster's chest only to be deflected towards the ceiling a second later. “You are just saying that by seeking power we are putting ourselves into situations where we must act in certain ways to keep the power we have acquired. If you didn't know, that's something called causality, and it holds true in everything else too. Our choices do cage us despite what they are. You just have to take a look at yourself if you need any confirmation. At least by seeking magical and political power rather than fickle love, one can have some real rewards. Love is far flimsier than power and it makes people disgustingly weak. I'm not a weakling.”
“You misunderstand the true meaning of strength and weakness,” countered the old Headmaster sagely, while a horizontal sweep of his wand conjured six large hounds made of glistening, almost liquid-looking metal in a bright flash of bluish light. “There is a huge difference between the weakness of one unable to defend oneself, and one unwilling to. To be truly strong is not to have the most magical strength, or the most followers, or even the most knowledge.”
The metallic dogs lunged forwards their heavy footsteps causing small tremors and leaving noticeable dents to the wooden floor. Their inhuman, pupil-less eyes were glowing pools of molten rock and the low-pitched growls leaving their throats were chilling. A flurry of powerful spells intercepted their furious charge and the hounds were ripped apart, melted and pulverized like if they had just stepped into a giant blender, but still one of them managed to get through, sinking its wicked teeth into 'Hermione's' thigh, blood flowing freely through the beast's clenched jaws.
The young witch screamed ear-piercingly as the hound shook its head violently, the sharp teeth ripping her black school robes and tearing the tender flesh beneath in the most painful manner. Then a jab of another Eidolon's wand Transfigured the last remaining metallic beast into a harmless puffskein. The wounded witch crumbled on the floor and the fluffy puffskein was caught between the collapsing body and the hard floor, and subsequently become a wet smear on the floorboards.
“True strength is the volition to face conflict when it is forced upon us and challenge it,” Dumbledore continued, a thick cloud of pale-blue mist bursting out of his wand tip and quickly travelling towards the three Eidolons. “Whether one is strong enough to prevail against the odds is not important, for it is the act of resistance that strengthens you, not victory. And love is by far a better reason to fight than an unquenchable thirst for power.”
'Sereille'and 'Darren' quickly moved out of the spell's path, but the wounded witch couldn't move fast enough with her mauled leg and was soon enveloped in the mist. Dumbledore knew what the spell felt like: Aterrible coldness seeping into you body, constricting waves of panic and the distinct emptiness at the sudden loss of power. The girl screamed as the curse rapaciously devoured her magic, her strength waning in a split second. She lost her consciousness almost instantly after.
The retaliation came quickly in the form of a furious barrage of distinctly Dark and violent curses shot by the remaining two Eidolons. The powerful curses impacted loudly against a protective purple dome that surrounded the aged sorcerer just in time for him to avoid an extremely painful death.
The mass conjuration/animation combo and the advanced magic-eating spell had left him momentarily weakened and so the purple Contego shield was shattered in seconds under the relentless barrage of black magic, a bolt of pulsating light slamming right into Dumbledore's stomach.
His enchanted robes took of the edge off the Dark hex but it wasn't nearly enough. A terrible, twisting pain pulsated through his torso and he dropped to one knee. The world spun wild circles around the aged wizard and he could feel the coppery tang of blood on his tongue. His wand – the 'unbeatable' Elder Wand – was quickly yanked from his fingers by something invisible, the wand hitting the floor a few yards from him and rolling even further, while glowing neon-green ropes tightened around him, causing him to collapse on the dusty floor.
He could see 'Sereille' smiling fiendishly as she leveled her wand at him and hissed the incantation of the Cruciatus Curse, “Crucio!” The disgusting spell hit him and it felt like he was stabbed by amillion white-hot knives. The pain was absolutely unbearable and his body thrashed on the floor as much as the magical bindings allowed. An incoherent yell left his lips.
The young witch fell in a flash of sickly green light, her lifeless body hitting the floor with a soft thud. The Cruciatus was lifted, leaving only a faint ache and stiffness behind.
Wasting no moments, the last Eidolon spun around and deflected an oily yellow curse back at its caster, who easily sidestepped it, bringing a wand down in a slashing movement, unleashing an arch of reddish-brown light.
The young wizard swayed to his side, letting the curse rocked by him, while a complicated motion hurled dozens of small spellsilver darts at Alastor Moody who had came to Headmaster's rescue.
The deadly projectiles hit an invisible shield with loud gong-like clangs, all but two of them rebounding into random directions at the contact. One of the two that managed to puncture the shield missed the veteran Auror by over a feet, but the other went straight through his wand arm, easily bursting through the soft flesh and shattering bone with a loud crack. The wall behind Moody was stained in crimson and the wand fell from the man's suddenly limp fingers, clattering against dirty floorboards.
The last Eidolon was just about to finish his enemy when a brilliant bolt of red light him from behind. Albus Dumbledore was standing behind the unconscious body, a wand clasped tightly in his hand.
“Alastor, I once again own my life to you,” he said as a wave of his wand sealed the gushing wound on the other man's arm. “Although Iwould have preferred you not to kill the poor girl.”
“Poor girl? Merlin's bear, Albus, are you insane?” Moody snarled as he picked up his wand with his left hand. He wasn't nearly as good with his left arm than with his right, but it would have to do until he could get some proper medical attention. “When I saw her and her two friends sneaking around in the middle of night, I knew something was wrong. And I was right. She's was a Dark witch... One who tortured you!”
“She was possessed by Riddle's Horcrux,” said Albus sadly and shook his head dejectedly. “She was innocent...and now she's dead. I failed her...”
“Get a grip, Albus! Do you know what this means? If You-Know-Who has send parts of his soul here, he must be here himself too. It's a bloody invasion! And you have just brought up every ward around the castle... No help is going to arrive even if the Ministry somehow notices that something is wrong. We are on our own.”
Dumbledore's eyes widened. “Shutting the wards takes over a day as the magic must be leached off slowly unless we want to risk a catastrophic backlash when it unravels... If you are right and Tom is here...” The ancient wizard grimaced at this point. “We must act quickly.”
A flick of his wand sent a flurry of ghostly messengers flying across the castle to alert teachers and Aurors garrisoned there.
He hoped that it wasn't already too late... Beacause if he was, the consequences would be far too dire to even consider.
Hundreds drops of boiled blood exploded out of her back in a crimson cascade, covering everything behind her in red.
McGonagal's mutilated corpse hit the floor with a dull thud, dark blood slowly oozing out of the fist-sized hole in her chest on the spot where her heart used to be. The Dark Lord's next curse knocked head clean off an Auror's shoulders. Blood fountained beautifully from the lacerated wound and the severed head sailed through the dark room illuminated only by brief flashes of spellfire, exploding with a mighty wet splat when it met the hard stone wall.
There was flash of green light aimed at the Dark Lord, who casually flicked his wand, summoning a large table to intercept the deadly curse. Next to him Dolohov unleashed an amethyst ribbon of light at the last Auror in the room.
The purple ribbon met a purple shield and was promptly absorbed with aloud hiss. Voldemort was far from being impressed and less than asecond later a blazing red bolt tore through the table that was hanging midair, showering burning shrapnel around before hitting the Auror's weakened shield and penetrating it too. An explosion of super-heated blood and scorched flesh followed as the sizzling filament flashed through the man before hitting the wall behind, causing yet another deafening bang.
Lord Voldemort lowered his yew wand and admired his handiwork. The exhilarating smell of blood filled his nostrils and the carnage in front of him had almost artistic quality. Some good vintage wine would fit perfectly into this precious moment of slaughter. Most of the small Auror force assigned to guard Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had now been decimated alongside with the majority of the annoying school staff, most of whom belonged to that damnable Order of the Phoenix. Well, after today the Order wouldn't be an irritating thorn on his side anymore... The Order was nothing without its leader. The Order was nothing if he held their precious children as captives.
He was so close to the ultimate victory that he could barely restrain avery un-Dark Lord like smile from reaching his thin lips. Once Hogwarts would be his, he would finally have enough leverage over the last few who resisted him in the Ministry – becoming de facto leader of wizarding Britain. After that it wouldn't take long for him to be able to rule openly.
Exterminating the last pockets of armed resistance and cleaning the Ministry would be quickly done, and ordinary people wouldn't even dare to rebel against him as long as he wouldn't touch their purses or limit their freedoms too far. Common people were selfish sheep in that way. They might not be contempt, but it was not like they had the courage or ability to do anything about it.
“My Lord! We have blockaded all students into their common rooms and dormitories. And we are ready to begun storming them.”
“Good,” the Dark Lord said as he turned towards the white-masked witch who had just spoken. “Take two Houses at the time. Start with Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs – they are the most likely to cause problems. Try to take most of them alive as they serve no purpose to me as dead, but feel free to kill anyone who opposes you with any decree of success.”
“As you wish, Milord!” said the masked witch, bowing low.
Voldemort watched as the witch hurried off to fulfill his orders. She was one of Bella's more promising students and could easily beat almost any Auror in fight, and so the Dark Lord was fairly confident that she wouldn't encounter any problems in subjugating the student body as the old coot had never seen any need to train his pupils in the art of duelling. That was both blessing and a curse; it guaranteed that the noble families were near the top of the power scale, but on the other hand it meant that almost every Death Eater had to be trained from the scratch.
Still, the Dark Lord thought, sure is always sure. He turned towards the other living person in the shadowed room. “Dolohov, go with her and see that the job gets done. Failures aren't acceptable here.”
“Milord?The are probably still a few Aurors around. Are you sure-”
“Silence!” Voldemort hissed angrily and lifted his left hand warningly. “You forgot your place, Antonin. And do you really think that Lord Voldemort could lose to a few pesky Aurors even if they found me? Now go!”
The man bowed deeply and sprinted after the younger woman. The Dark Lord turned his attention back to the four bloodied corpses scattered on the floor. He smiled faintly. They hadn't served him in life, but perhaps in death...
With those words flashes of green and black filled the room alongside with a terrible, foreboding presence of the blackest magic...
A newborn Inferius opened her crimson eyes.
Nina Turpin ducked behind a corner to avoid a pulsating jet of blue light and a barrage of other almost as fatal curses coming after it. The lethal spells hit the wall opposite her with loud cracks and echoing booms, one of them rebounding towards her, and she instantly brought up a shimmering green shield with a well trained motion. The bolt of light impacted futilely against the strong protective barrier and exploded into a ball of orange fire, showering the hallway in tiny wisps of flame. The shield collapsed upon itself and faded to nothing a second later as the witch stopped the flow of magic that had kept in in existence.
The blazes of magic died out and darkness descended upon the corridor again, everything going silent for a moment. A pained hiss escaped her lips as she yanked off the bloody shrapnel of still smoldering wood embedded in her left shoulder. Nina could feel warm blood trickling downwards her skin beneath her black robes. She had avoided the actual curses and hexes, but many of the spells exchanged had been sufficiently high-powered to explode anything they happened to hit into showers of fast travelling shrapnel, and unfortunately that had included a wall right next to her.
She was breathing heavily and her heart was beating so loudly that she could actually hear it. She had no idea where all those wizards and witches with colourful masks had came from. Three of her fellow Death Eaters laid dead on the floor not far from her, their blood slowly covering more and more of the scorched floor, and she knew she had no chance against the other magicians alone. Even the four of them had managed to kill only one and that had been more luck than actual skill. And now she was hopelessly over matched... Her own skills were still a bit rusty after the years of disuse and she had counted eight of them and some of them were very good.
She sent couple explosive curses across the corner towards the group of assailants, but they were promptly deflected or dispelled, the rebounds hitting the wall not far from her with loud booms, causing her ears to ring and violently showering her in grey dust and small fragments of stone, cutting tiny gashes on those rare spots of her tanned skin left exposed by her Death Eater garments.
She knew she was about to die and her struggle was half-hearted. She had become a Death Eater to save her family, and she knew – and accepted – that she was about pay the ultimate price for her decision. The Dark Lord had been eager to secure her skills as she had fought professionally in the Duelling League before her first pregnancy and he had given her two choices: either he would kill her and her family or she would join him. She had had no real choice as the Dark Lord was more than capable to fulfill his threats. It had started with passing some almost harmless information, but soon she had been asked to do slightly worse things. It had happened in small steps but eventually she found herself taking a part in gruesome Death Eater raids, and at that point she had had no way to escape anymore... It was a vicious circle.
Beneath her white porcelain mask a solitary tear fell to her cheek. Nina knew that she deserved what she was about to get and more, but she couldn't avoid feeling sad of the fact that she never ever see Michael or her beautiful children again... The other magicians weren't Ministry personnel – that was for sure. They wouldn't lister her pleas. They wouldn't give any shred of mercy... Hopefully the Dark Lord wouldn't hurt her family for her failure.
Then she saw a movement in the corner of her vision. A tiny, dark brown bat fluttering near her suddenly turned into a tall, armoured figure wearing a brown mask. Apparently there were more than just eight... She spun around and her wand arm moved instantly, but the man was blindingly fast and easily caught her wrist before she managed point the wand at him.
Blue eyes watched her intently behind the slits of the brown mask and the gloved fingers around her wrist tightened, applying more and more pressure until her bones snapped like dry twigs under the inhuman strength, sending apiercing jolt of pain through her arm. Her agonized scream died asecond later as the man plunged a sword between her breasts, the hilt coming into contact with her chest while most of the dark blade protruded from her back, crimson blood running downwards the fuller and then dripping from the jagged blade.
The last thing she heard before everything went black was a soft whisper.“You are forgiven. Your family will be safe.”
Her warm brown eyes closed slowly and were never opened again.
Damien Sprout, a vampire and one of the few true blademasters of the modern age, looked at the dead body at his feet. Blood was slowly leaking out of the hole in her chest and pooling on the floorboards. Despite that death had robbed his ability to truly feel any human emotions, he couldn't help but to feel a tinge of sadness over the senselessness of all this.
“Firebird,” he said softly. “Destroy this body alongside with Manticore's. Nothing from where she can be identified must remain.”
The purple-masked wizard looked at him curiously. “Affirmative. Although I wonder why,” the man said evenly and snapped his fingers. The witch's body caught fire, the flames growing in intensity with each passing moment.
Damien turned his sensitive eyes from the bright blaze and sighed dejectedly. “Sometimes being a trained Legilimens is more acurse than a blessing. I hate to think what an Empath would feel.”
He wasn't sure if the Pyromagus understood.