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Shades, Chapter 19: Guard Duty, pt. 3 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Shades, Chapter 19: Guard Duty, pt. 3
Okay. Tonks and Bill have both gone up to the school to help with the guard while Dumbledore is away. McGonagall decides to keep Tonks company and comes up to the Owlery with biscuits and tea, and Tonks starts to ask her about helping Alderman's family disappear, but before they can really begin, they both notice a flare of light across the lake. McGonagall Summons two brooms, and they fly off toward it.

Table of Contents and Summary So Far




"Dementors!" Tonks called over her shoulder as soon as she felt the chill, but McGonagall needed no warning. Her wand was already drawn, her Patronus flying ahead into the mist. Tonks sent her own after it.

They dove toward the hilltop, the shapes around the fire atop it looming like ghoulish cartoon shadows in the fog. The dementors were fleeing; three humans were running about frantically, gathering things from the ground.

"Stop!" Tonks called, pointing her wand at one of them. Her Stunning Spell hit the ground as the figure jumped lithely away. McGonagall grazed a second one, but it didn't slow down.

Tonks swerved by McGonagall. "I'm going down," she said.

McGonagall nodded.

They dove low enough to roll off their brooms, and ducked spells thrown by the three already in around the fire. Tonks blasted the wood out. The fire died in an abrupt spiral of sparks. Here, she could see the cauldron at the center. She didn't care what the potion was--she Vanished it and blasted the cauldron into so much brass dust.

Someone let out a frustrated scream, then a shape flew through the fog at her, bony fingers outstretched. She barely had time to recognize the wild, heavily-lidded eyes before Bellatrix had her hands wrapped around her throat, throttling.

Tonks pushed her away in revulsion.

Bellatrix went scrambling along the ground and came up with a wand that was lying beside the remains of the cauldron. "Crucio!"

Tonks rolled aside before the curse hit her, aimed a Petrifying curse at Bellatrix, and barely missed having it bounced back at her by a shield charm.

Someone else cried Crucio in the mist, and McGonagall screamed. Tonks launched herself at a shadowy form and knocked it to the ground. Whoever it was slithered away from her.

"Away!" Bellatrix shouted, and pointed her wand at a spot on the ground beyond the fire. Something flashed red.

There was a pop, and the person Tonks had been chasing disappeared. Another form hunched forward, then scuttled toward her on all fours as her Patronus came loping back.

He started to laugh, great good humor floating up into the sky, and Tonks understood who it was.

Greyback.

"Petrificus totalis!"

He jumped out of the way easily, and Bellatrix reached him, touched his arm. McGonagall aimed at her.

"Obliviate!" Tonks shouted at Greyback, and it glanced off of him--she hoped it would be enough to make him forget her Patronus--but McGonagall missed Bellatrix, who grasped Greyback around the shoulders and Apparated both of them away from the hill.

A Dementor swooped down and Tonks's Patronus chased it away (looking for all the world like it was bored with the whole business), and then the night was silent. The mist was already breaking up, floating in low-slung ribbons around Tonks's knees.

"Are you all right?" she asked McGonagall.

McGonagall nodded and got slowly to her feet. "I don't seem to roll off brooms as easily as I once did."

Tonks smiled. "I never rolled off them very easily."

"I remember."

Tonks offered a shoulder, and McGonagall gladly took it. They limped to the remains of the cauldron together, and McGonagall sat down on a large rock.

"Damn," Tonks said. "I lost Bella again."

"I lost her this time," McGonagall said. "And she got Greyback away. He never could Apparate."

"I don't imagine concentration is his strong suit."

"Hardly. Did you recognize the third?"

Tonks shook her head, and began to poke through the cauldron dust. There wasn't anything left of the potion. She crawled around the fire, and let out a scream.

"What is it?"

"Bones," Tonks said. "Little ones."

"I'd wager Greyback brought them."

"I think they're old. There's"--she fought with her gorge--"moss on them."

"Take them back to the Ministry. Hopefully, we can put whoever it is in some sort of proper rest."

Tonks drew her hand back and got to her feet, backing away from the pitiful little skeleton. Her heel thumped against something soft and yielding, and she pinwheeled her arms madly for balance before she careened off to one side, trying to at least miss whatever had tripped her. "Oh!"

She rolled over and crawled to the limp form on the ground. The dog's white bib wasn't showing, only his silky black fur. A piece of parchment was tacked into him. It said, "Just in case. I'm on the lookout."

"Bitch," Tonks spat.

"What is it?" McGonagall asked.

"It's Mrs. McCrea's dog, Bibs. He's been missing for a few days. Apparently Bella wasn't satisfied killing Sirius o- on-" The tears came furiously out of nowhere, and Tonks cradled Bibs's limp form against her lap. "I tried to help Mrs. McCrea find him, but I didn't get him in time."

McGonagall's hand fell on her shoulder. "Hush, now. Hush."

"He's just a dog. She knows it wasn't Sirius. She killed Sirius. Why did she kill Mrs. McCrea's dog?"

"I don't know."

Tonks wiped her face savagely and swallowed back the crying fit. "Poor old woman. I'll... I'll tell her. I'll bring him back and tell her." She sniffed. "I'm sorry. I'm frustrated."

"I am, as well." McGonagall took a deep breath and stood up. "What were they doing here?"

"Trying to get into the Forbidden Forest," Tonks said. "Or to let Dementors in. Or something. There's something in there they want." She pointed to the bones. "They needed those for a spell. Maddie was telling me about it."

"Charming."

As the mist continued to lift, Tonks told McGonagall about the forest gates, the glade, the request from the glade's guardian. McGonagall had heard some of it from Hagrid and Dumbledore, but not all of it.

"Where's the gate itself?" she she asked, looking around the hilltop.

The spent the next twenty minutes scouring the clearing, increasingly tired and snapping at one another until Tonks happened to glance up at the tall rocks that marked the edge of the drop-off. "Those aren't there by chance," she said, and went between them.

McGonagall came up behind her and looked over her shoulder. "Oh, dear."

In the gorge far below, Dementors moved in the mist up and down a rushing river. One seemed to sense them. It rose.

Tonks cast her Patronus into the midst of them, and McGonagall did the same, over and over.

They scattered.

The mist at the valley's bottom began to clear.

"I want them to stay out," McGongall said. "Cover me. Accio broom." Her broom sped to her and she dove into the gorge, casting spells and protections on a wide area. She returned.

"Shall we?" Tonks asked.

McGonagall nodded.

They raised their wands at the standing stones and called "Reducto!"

The gate crashed into the river below, the stones shattering into a hundred jagged pieces.

A cool breeze blew and something batted at the side of Tonks's face. She grabbed it, and was not surprised to see that it was a spring oak leaf. McGonagall looked at it coolly. Tonks crumpled it and tossed it over the edge of the gorge, annoyed with it for reasons she couldn't quite name.

She went back to the skeleton and the dog and she and McGonagall conjured stretchers to carry them on. Bibs levitated onto his perfectly well, but the skeleton didn't respond to a magical command.

"Hmm," McGonagall said.

Tonks nodded.

The mist had cleared comepletely, and they could see a thin line burned into the dirt, forming a circle around the bones. And they could see that not all of the bones were there. One small arm was missing.

McGonagall sighed. "We'd best watch for it at Hogwarts," she said. "I imagine it was to be used for the other end of this obscenity."

Tonks agreed. She put her hands carefully under the skeleton and started to lift it, but as soon as she began to cross the burned line, the bones began to shake and rattle. "What the--"

They exploded into dust.

"They must have already started," McGonagall said.

Tonks stepped back, brushing bone dust from herself with jerky movements of her hands. "Please tell me," she said through clenched teeth, "why someone would invent a spell like that."

McGonagall had no answer. "I'll continue your watch at the Owlery," she said, and nodded at Bibs. "Maybe you should take the dog to its home before you come back."

Tonks nodded. McGonagall took her broomstick back, carrying the spare one, and Tonks Apparated back to Hogsmeade with the dog's body and guided the stretcher back to Mrs. McCrea's. It wasn't the first time she'd needed to give someone very unpleasant news, but Mrs. McCrea's sobbing seemed worse than usual. Tonks stayed with her and helped her bury Bibs before returning to Hogwarts. She felt low and tired, but she finished her watch.

She wasn't on duty until afternoon the next day, so she crawled into her bed at dawn and slept immediately. She dreamed of Emmeline Vance.

It was the scene of her murder again, except that it wasn't in London. It was on the highland hilltop, between the standing stones that would have been a gate. The phoenix feather core of her wand slipped up into the windstream and floated down to the river. Three shadowy figures stood beside her, and disappeared one after the other. Something dark was on the gate. Tonks walked up to it, ignoring the strangeness of Emmeline dying in the wrong place, and she saw the letters T-R-A.

She looked down. Emmeline's eyes were open. "I saw," she whispered, and then disappeared, leaving Tonks alone in the bitter wind.

Tonks awoke unrested at noon, unable to recall the details of what she had dreamed.
6 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
sophonax From: sophonax Date: March 10th, 2006 12:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
You do creepy So. Damn. Well.
kt_tonguetied From: kt_tonguetied Date: March 29th, 2008 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I. Wholeheartedly. Agree.
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: March 10th, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
T-R-A...

That's going to be driving me nuts.
sreya From: sreya Date: March 10th, 2006 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
*shuddering* The image of that skeleton is seared onto my brain for the day.

Though I'm not as surprised as Tonks that someone would invent a spell to make them into dust, seems like a rather logical on considering all the connections between death and dust.
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: March 10th, 2006 03:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Guh, creepy. One detail I especially liked in this section was your description of the conversation between Tonks and McGonagall, where they were "increasingly tired and snapping at one another". That seemed very real.

Also, happy birthday to Remus!! I'm sure you'll be speaking with him before I get the chance to. ;)
lacontessamala From: lacontessamala Date: March 11th, 2006 01:59 am (UTC) (Link)
The battle scene was excellently written. Very in-the-moment and exciting. Well done!

And the little skeleton, yeah, that was creepy.
6 comments or Leave a comment