Harry Potter - Series Fan Fiction ❯ Harry Potter and the Werewolf Prophecy ❯ MAD-EYE ( Chapter 24 )
Ron was sitting with his feet up on his desk, gesturing with his wand at a rotating ring of paper clips. At the next desk, Neville was sorting through papers. There was a knock on the door.
“Neville – you going to get that, mate?” Neville didn’t answer. Ron sighed, and gestured with his wand. The door opened and a wizard entered, wearing dark robes. A hood covered most of his face.
“Weasley?” The voice was hoarse and rasping.
“Yeah?” said Ron, warily.
“You are to come with me. Training.”
“Hang on – you aren’t an auror!” said Ron.
“No.” The wizard produced a scroll of parchment and handed it to Ron, who scanned it quickly.
“’Accompany the bearer… follow all instructions… take particular care… blah, blah, blah, Shacklebolt.’ All right then. Who are you?”
Ron stood up and holstered his wand. “Croaker? Hang on, aren’t you Department of Mysteries? Bode’s friend?”
“Yeah, sorry about Bode. He was all right. What are we doing, then?”
Croaker said nothing, but beckoned, walking out of the office. Ron shrugged and followed him. They went through a maze of passageways and stairs, Croaker moving quickly without seeming to hurry, and Ron scurrying behind him. Several times Ron asked where they were going, but Croaker made no answer. They finally came to the atrium, filled as usual with scurrying wizards and witches, and entered a lift. A witch attempted to enter the lift with them, but Croaker held up his hand to prevent her.
They descended quickly to the ninth level. The door opened and Croaker led Ron down a black-tiled corridor lit by blue torches to a black door. Croaker opened the door and brought them into a circular room lined with doors. As they moved to the centre, the doors rotated around them and stopped.
“Death,” said Croaker. A door opened, and he walked through. Ron hesitated, and then followed.
The room they entered was one that Ron remembered well. He’d been there when Sirius Black was murdered by Bellatrix Lestrange. They descended an amphitheatre, a bowl shape filled with stone benches, towards a crumbling stone archway. A tattered black curtain was hanging across the archway, fluttering slightly, though the air was perfectly still.
“Do not touch the veil,” said Croaker.
“Wasn’t going to,” said Ron, a slight catch in his voice.
“You must listen for the voices,” said Croker.
“I… I wasn’t able to hear them. Before,” said Ron.
“You will hear. You have seen death, and you are an auror. When an auror passes through the veil, there is a link to those who follow him. You must relive the last moments of the life of every auror that you have met. It is part of your training. Stand in front of the archway.”
“Once you start talking you don’t stop,” said Ron, walking forward. “What do you mean, relive? Like, watch it happen?”
“You will experience their last moments of life as if it were happening to you,” said Croaker. His voice remained flat and without emotion.
Ron stopped. “I… I’m not sure I want… is this compulsory?”
“No,” said Croaker
“Well, then,” said Ron, turning around, “I think I’ll… maybe later, eh?”
“It is not compulsory, unless you wish to continue in the Auror’s Office.”
“Ah, yes. Well, that’s lovely, then,” said Ron, tightly. “That’s a really good example of ‘not compulsory’, there.” He stepped forward until he was close enough to reach out and touch the gently flapping curtain.
“You will hear certain voices. Concentrate on one of them. It does not matter which.”
For a minute or so, Ron was sure that he couldn’t hear anything. Then there was a faint rustling, that didn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular. Then it gradually resolved itself into different sounds.
“Look after him… look after him for us. I miss him so...” It was a woman’s voice, mournful and pleading. It gradually became louder.
“Not that one, Weasley. Not the first time. Too much for you. Fix on me.” The voice was harsh, but not unkind. It gradually increased in volume until the woman faded, as if walking away.
“Simple enough, young man. I’ve told most of ‘em by now. They all knew me. Nothing to be sad about. I was happy enough to go, in the end, if it served a purpose.” He recognised the voice now.
“How do I...” began Ron – but suddenly he was in the air, flying over Little Whingeing. He was on a broomstick. Behind him Mundungus Fletcher was whimpering with fear. The night was full of flashes and shouts. Ron could see all in all directions at once – but in every direction, Death Eaters were swarming in.
He feels intense pain in half his body. Has he been hit with a curse? No, this is how he always feels. A body that has been battered and mutilated for years.
“Hang on, Fletcher,” he mutters. “We can draw in more of them.”
But suddenly the broom is lighter. “Fletcher, you cowardly… I’ll make you sorry, when I catch up with you.”
He’s quicker, more manoeuvrable, now. He circles, bobbing and weaving. “None of these scum are worth a damn,” he says to himself. “A chance to get rid of a few of them.”
But then he sees the shape approaching that he knows to be beyond his powers, beyond any of them. Flying without a broom, death incarnate. He can only hope to delay, to frustrate for even a few moments.
Even that isn’t possible. It’s the worst curse, the killing curse, and he’s too old, to slow to dodge it. At the last minute he spins his broom, ducking underneath it. The broom explodes, hurling him through the air.
He’s barely conscious as he falls. “Come after me! Come after me, you...” but his voice is no more than a whisper, and he sees the figure swoop away, pursuing the other riders.
He catches his wand, spinning through the air beside him, and he gestures, producing nothing more than a shower of sparks. It’s enough to draw the attention of several of the Death Eaters, though. He can see them spiralling down after him.
He sees the ground coming up towards him and he casts the charm. It’s just a little bit too late. He braces his wooden leg and feels it splinter under him. He sprawls awkwardly, and sees the Death Eaters landing. Not close enough, yet. He rolls over. Not able to stand. They’re approaching, warily.
The rules he’s lived by repeat through his head, over and over. Bring them back alive if you can. If not, bring them back. Protect each other. Protect the weak, the innocent. If you can’t get away, take as many as you can with you.
He mutters to himself, as he struggles to one knee. They are approaching warily from all directions, but he can see them all. He recognises a few. Some he’s arrested. “That little scum Pettigrew used it to kill twelve Muggle bystanders. And he had to make sure he got away himself...”
They’re close now, wands raised. He remembers his own lessons, so many years ago. “The blasting curse can be dangerous to the caster if not constrained...”. He’s in an empty field, with no Muggles nearby. He points the wand at the ground. They’re almost in touching distance, emboldened because he doesn’t seem to be defending himself. “Confringo!”
There’s a blinding white light, and Ron is standing in front of the curtain, which hangs perfectly still for a moment. Then it begins to flutter again, and Ron can hear the woman’s voice, imploring him. He steps away quickly.
Croaker is regarding him soberly. Ron gives him a shaky smile. “I… I’m all right, I think. He didn’t want to die, did he? Even then?”
Croaker shakes his head. “Nobody does. Not at the very last.”
“Have you?” asked Ron, gesturing at the arch.
“It’s not required. For us. But yes, I have. My friend, Bode. I felt I owed it to him.”
“Do I have to… again?”
Croaker nodded. “Not today, though,” he said.