July 23, 1992, 8:20 PM, Village Du Phantasime, France
He had to find them.
He couldn’t fail here, not again. Sirius let out a deep breath as he turned a corner in the city quickly, only to realize that there was nothing— yet again.
“Where are they?” He said, his now hoarse voice teetering on the edge between fear and outright panic— just as it had been for the past ten minutes.
They’d been looking for ages, and he’d shouted the boys’ names so many times that his throat had gone far beyond the point of just hurting.
He’d managed to maintain his composure at the beginning, when the explosions had first erupted throughout the village.
Only after he’d been forced to fight wizard after wizard, witch after witch, with no sign of the Aurors arriving anytime soon, did he begin to feel the claws of worry reaching to twist and tear at his soul.
Still, Andromeda’s daughter being a fairly decently trained Auror initiate had calmed the man’s heart, somewhat. He himself had worked as a trainee, once upon a time. Not to mention the fact that she’d mentioned that she was studying under Moody; he’d also been given a few tips by the man back in the day; training under such a powerful wizard, full time?
There was no doubt that she had some measure of skill, however new to the game she was.
It also helped that both Adam and Harry, themselves, were already well on their way to becoming competent— dare he even say, powerful— wizards. True, they still needed much training, far more experience and quite a bit of polish, but they could react very quickly to developing situations.
Well, that was a bit of a lie, at least concerning Adam, anyway.
Harry’s reaction speeds rivaled— no, outstripped— even those of his own father, James. Honest to Merlin, when he’d first gauged the boy’s reflexes, Sirius had not been expecting the young boy to display such ridiculous aptitude.
Sirius supposed that was what made him an incredible Seeker, or so others had told him. He hadn’t yet been able to see Harry’s Quidditch skills in action, so he was mostly relying on the popular word concerning the boy at Hogwarts. Still, Harry had displayed his ability, and displayed it well in their practice duels.
Though he wasn’t always able to counter the impromptu moves Sirius threw his way, Harry was at least able to react to them in time. His weakness, therefore, was quite clear: knowledge and battle experience.
Fix that with a good deal of dedicated studying and training, and Harry would become a force to truly be reckoned with.
Adam’s problem, on the other hand, was that he thought far too much. That wasn’t to say that his reaction speeds were slow, per se.
He wasn’t anywhere near Harry on that front, of course, but he did well enough. Sirius had, of course, noted that the boy had at least attempted to train himself in at least dodging attacks. Still, it wasn’t anywhere near as quick as Harry’s natural ability to react.
Add to that the fact that Adam continually left himself vulnerable to attacks in his blind spots, and Sirius had a good idea of where the boy stood.
That’s probably why he made those chains of his, come to think of it. Sirius thought. Or, at least one of the reasons.
Despite its many faults, Sirius couldn’t help but admit that the spell itself was an impressive bit of magic. Adam certainly hadn’t been the first wizard to conceive of an all-purpose combat spell, but he was the first one he’d ever heard of or seen who seemed to make it work— for the most part.
For example, the swirling and undulating chains almost seemed to move irrespective of the boy’s will, giving them the appearance of sentience; at first glance, the chains cast a wide, ever shifting net to catch a ridiculous many spells.
Sirius, however, knew better. The chains did not move irrespective of Adam’s will.
He has full control over them, which is a weakness. He thought as he sent a ball of light into a ruined store, seeing nothing but destroyed shelves and merchandise inside before moving on with his search. The amount of concentration it must take to maintain such movements is significant, even if it covers his blind spots to an extent. The defense, on top of it all, is not absolute.
He remembered when he’d trapped the boy with a rather quick use of a spell which simply went through his chainlinks. If that spell had been remotely harmful, Adam would have met his end there.
He’d tried to get the boy to learn a few more spells so he’d have a bigger base to rely on instead of just using those chains, but Adam was just too stubborn about it. He wanted to continue using his own chains— something which frustrated the man to no end.
Sirius had tried showing him the error of his ways with a rather intense dueling session, but it hadn’t worked, though the boy had glared at him for a full day afterwards. He’d been considering enlisting the help of another duelist to show the boy that it’s not just Sirius who could lay him low like that, but ended up changing his mind on the day of the Boggart incident, when he’d seen Adam’s sketches and notes on improving his spell to counter Sirius’ tricks.
No, Adam was a stubborn boy, through and through. He wouldn’t let anyone else show him that he was wrong, not while he had a decent point to argue. It almost reminded him of his younger brother Regulus, a little.
Sirius wasn’t sure whether the kid was being foolish or brilliant. He supposed that only time would tell— assuming they made it through this crisis.
They have to. I can’t fail here. Not now.
“Godric’s heart…!” Andromeda said with a gasp, pulling Sirius out of his increasingly panicked, desperate thoughts as she rushed off to a half destroyed alleyway.
Sirius stopped and followed her as he and Ted saw a small girl kneeling by a limp body near the overturned, mangled trash bins. She held a woman’s— her mother, Sirius thought— hand, crying, pleading and sobbing into it.
He didn’t understand what she was saying, but it didn’t really take a genius to figure out that she was probably begging for her mother to get up.
Andromeda was the first there, kneeling by the child and soothing her as she checked over the mother with a surreptitious spell. “There there, little one.”
He watched the scene, feeling an icy claw grip his heart. Could Adam or, Merlin forbid, Harry be in similar situations? He didn’t dare explore this line of thought.
Sirius already felt so powerless. There was no need to add more to it.
“The girl’s not hurt, and the mother… Just unconscious.” Andromeda said and patted the girl on the head before turning to Sirius with an urgent look. “Sirius, a stretcher if you would.”
Sirius would be lying if he didn’t get the urge to turn and leave to continue his search for Harry and Adam, but he pushed it down. He couldn’t go it alone— that road only led to ruin, much like it had the last time, when he’d been carted off to Azkaban without so much as a trial.
He acquiesced, waving his wand and conjuring a stretcher, setting it beside the unconscious woman. Another wave, and the woman lay upon it. She would have looked like she was sleeping peacefully if it weren’t for the heavy bruise on her temple, as well as the still bleeding cuts on her cheek and lips.
“Come, little one.” Andromeda said as she took the girl’s hand, levitating the stretcher behind them as they exited the alleyway. “We’ll find you someplace safe.”
The girl babbled quickly in French, but no one there knew what she was saying. Still, Andromeda continued to speak to the girl in a sweet and calming tone. It worked somewhat, stopping the girl’s cries and whimpers. Even Sirius was starting to feel a little better.
Ted, bless the man, was casting what few Healing Charms he knew to give the woman a better chance of recovery for when the Healers were able to get to them.
But where is the help? Where are the Aurors? Sirius thought for the umpteenth time. What could they possibly be doing that’s more important than this?
He didn’t dare voice this question out loud, not willing to affect the air of grim determination in the air. He turned a corner, and Sirius immediately gestured for Andromeda to cease walking.
“Stop. Cover her eyes— quickly!” Sirius said quickly before they caught up. Andromeda looked for a second, as if to ask ‘how bad?’, but Sirius only shook his head in response.
“I’ll move the stretcher.” Ted offered, nodding to his wife before taking over.
Pursing her lips, Andromeda brought the girl closer to her.
“Shh, little one…” She said, covering her eyes. “Close… Ferme.”
The girl did not even protest, closing her eyes in an instant. Sharing a nod between each other, the group moved through the destroyed street.
This must have been where one of the biggest explosions took place. He thought as they passed no less than fifteen corpses strewn about the street. Sirius felt his heart grow colder and colder as he checked over each body, getting blood all over his shoes and robes as he tried to see if they could be revived.
With every additional dead body, he wondered if the next one would be Adam or Harry, and the relief which came from the fact that it wasn’t made him feel guilty. He bore all of those conflicting feelings in solemn silence, adjusting the bodies’ positions and closing their horrified eyes so they’d at least retain some of the dignity they had in life.
“Merlin…” Ted breathed, and the horror in his voice was almost enough to make Sirius hurry his pace twofold.
“I know.” Sirius said, stopping by another body. “Damn it all… I know.”
If whoever did this harmed even a hair on the boys’ heads… Sirius thought as he set down the final body in a resting position before leading them to the next street. I’m going to tear them apart.
And so they continued their search. On and on they walked through the city, taking a long, circuitous route back to their starting point in case Tonks and the boys had the idea of checking on them at the restaurant.
Minutes continued to pass until they saw something near the end of their search path— a crowd of Aurors by what seemed to be a half-destroyed ice cream parlor.
Little to no organization. Sirius thought as they continued to approach. No one posted in different areas of the street, no one trying to put a semblance of order to things… What are they doing?
“Finally.” Ted said, turning to the little girl and pointing at the Aurors. “See? Help has arrived, little one.”
But the girl seemed to have eyes for someone else. She pointed ahead at the crowd, crying out a name. “Fleur! Fleur!”
A few the Aurors turned and rushed their way, wands drawn.
“Surely they don’t mean to…” Andromeda said, but Sirius cut her off.
“Don’t put it past any Auror at this point.” Sirius spat in irritation. “Wands ready for Shields in case they attack.”
A hum from Andromeda and he raised his hands in a universal show of surrender. “This woman needs help!”
The two Aurors, a witch and a wizard, stopped their initial approach for a moment to stare at the woman behind him on the stretcher before their eyes widened. “La famille du Directeur!”
Just then, another person— a girl who looked to be fourteen or fifteen years of age— pushed past the two Aurors and ran towards the little girl, enveloping her in a hug. “Gabrielle!”
“I— erm…” One of the Aurors tried to speak in English, but her voice was drowned out by the little girl’s bawls.
She turned and murmured something to her partner. A moment later, he nodded and moved away from them, heading towards another street.
“I take it that you know this family?” Sirius said, lowering his arms.
The witch gave him a nod as she approached. “Ze family of ze… Directeur of DMI. ‘e will be here soon.”
Sirius nodded, relieved that the two girls had found each other, and that their father would shortly arrive. Andromeda moved to stand beside him as the Auror signaled for a few others to come and look over the wounded witch.
“Please.” Andromeda said. “Have you seen a young woman, and two young boys— twelve years old? We’re trying to find them.”
The witch nodded quickly as she set the Aurors to task, before turning to Sirius’ group. “Come.”
Sirius, Andromeda and Ted began to follow the Auror, but Ted was forced to stop, feeling something grabbing him by the coat. He turned to see the little girl they’d saved—Gabrielle — flanked by her older sister.
“Merci monsieur…” Was all she said before she went back to hugging her sister. Ted looked up towards the sister, giving her a nod before catching up with Sirius and Andromeda.
The Auror led them past a wall of guards to where Tonks, Harry, Adam, and a small group of other wizards were. They were sitting around, just staring ahead at nothing in particular.
I know that look. Sirius thought in great apprehension. They’re in shock. Just what happened…?
He could imagine— he’d already laid many bodies to rest that night.
Harry’s green eyes strayed to the left, meeting Sirius’ own, and they lit up so much that Sirius could have cried with relief. Not all was lost.
“Sirius!” Harry called out, getting up and rushing him in a hug, with Adam following him with slow, unsure steps. Sirius took him into his arms, hugging him tight and not letting go.
He’s alive. He’s alive. Sirius thought as Andromeda and Ted rushed past him towards their daughter, embracing her in a similar way. I didn’t fail.
Sirius let go of Harry before pulling Adam in. The boy made a surprised, pained yelp, and Sirius stopped immediately.
“Are you all right?” Sirius said, feeling worry crawl up his spine. He’d been so happy to see them that he hadn’t considered their state.
Images of the dead people he’d seen this past thirty minutes popped into his mind again. Of course they weren’t fine. Stupid fucking question.
“Harry’s fine. Was a little bruised up.” Adam said before Harry could say anything. “I lost some blood, but they gave me a Potion. Tonks is fine too.”
“I— what? Lost blood?” Sirius said, and it was then that he noticed just how soaked the boy’s shirt had gotten. “Some blood?”
Adam shrugged, looking away. “Most of it’s not mine.”
The man felt a shiver crawl up his spine with the way the boy said it.
No child should be so nonchalant about this sort of thing. Sirius frowned at the casual way the boy’s words had been spoken, and his worry grew even as the chill ran up his spine. What had happened?
“Tell me everything.” Sirius said, giving the boys a solemn look.
“This, we’d like to know, too.” Another voice said from the left, causing both Harry and Adam to grimace.
“Who—” Sirius turned towards an approaching wizard who looked to be in his fifties. “Who are you? Are you the one leading these men and women?”
“Yes.” The wizard nodded. “Senior Auror Henri Lienne, and we would like to know exactly what happened inside of that building. And you are?”
“Sirius Black.” He said, not even bothering to shake the man’s outstretched hand. “You’d be better served patrolling the streets to rescue people. Have you no concept of procedure?”
“Thank you.” Tonks said as she broke off from her parents to join them. “That’s what I said!”
Senior Auror Henri’s expression twisted slightly before he schooled it into a stern one. “We have many of our operatives scouring the village to aid the wounded and find the ones responsible, as you have been told twice already, Miss Tonks.”
Tonks’ reply was to look around at the various Aurors doing nothing but standing around. They at least had the decency to look abashed at her judgemental gaze.
Not that it counts for much. Sirius thought. That’s why I dropped out of the Auror corps when the war got really bad. You can’t rely on these fools. They’ll just look at each other and twiddle their thumbs together— or worse, stab you in the back.
Senior Auror Henri puffed just the way Sirius had expected him to— so this was just another corrupt, incompetent fool likely hired by nepotic officials trying to throw his weight around, all the while people needed true, serious aid.
“Now, as for the boys.” Henri said as he fixed the two with a hard look. “We have some questions concerning the bodies in the parlor…”
Bodies? Sirius thought in alarm.
‘Most of it’s not mine.’ Adam’s previous words echoed in his mind, and Sirius immediately stood in the middle of the two boys, putting his hands on their shoulders and pulling them closer to him. No matter, I won’t let this fool intimidate them.
“We’ve already given our statements.” Tonks said, looking more irritated. “Following your own procedures— better than your own men do, might I add— and now you waste time and ask us to give our statements again?”
Henri replied with the disdain one would expect from a superior talking down to an inferior. “This is, of course, to make sure that all of the details line up, you see.”
“And again, we told you.” Tonks’ hair shifted to a bright red before she forced herself to take a deep breath. “We tried to make our way back to our parents.”
She pointed to Harry as her parents came to her side. “He heard a girl screaming in the parlor and ran to save her. I had to hold off the wizards that you should have been fighting so that Adam can go back him up. They saved the girl— all on their own against four adult wizards! Where were you during all this, then?”
Sirius felt a thrill of worry and pride go through him, but the only reaction he showed was a mild pat on each boy’s shoulders. The two relaxed slightly.
“Yes, of course.” Henri said without missing a beat, completely ignoring her cutting words. “Of course, but what I’m missing is, well… The state of the wizards there.”
“What about them?” Tonks said, waving it off. “The only good Dark Wizard is one that’s down for the count.”
“…Auror Moody’s words, are they not? That… man is well known for his insanity, even here in France.” Henri said, dismissing her words with a curled lip. “In France, such a man would not be allowed to serve. Here, we investigate crimes.
“Crimes!?” Tonks nearly shouted, but the man was no longer looking at her.
“Now.” He turned to Sirius and the two boys. “We found three dead, and one alive. One’s back was punctured at the base of his spine, and the spine itself was crushed into several pieces, killing him. The witch’s body was perforated at multiple points on her body and she was found to have received trauma to the back of the head— her brain crushed on impact.”
Sirius noticed the way Harry threw looks at Adam, but tightened his grip on their shoulders even as the Senior Auror continued to speak, pointing towards three covered bodies, as well as an unconscious man in bindings.
“The living one had his arm crushed, much like the previous body’s spine was.” Henri continued. “The final body was… His, erm…”
The man hesitated as a few of the other Aurors in the background shuddered. Gathering the words together, he began to speak again. “The man’s genitals were… cut; the wound was sealed with fire and then his… organs were fed to him, before his throat was slit.”
Sirius heard Andromeda’s gasp, but he kept his face cool despite the shudder that ran through his body. He didn’t say a thing.
“So you see, Mr. Black.” Henri said. “We have a vested interest in getting to the truth here. Miss Delacour hasn’t said a word, but her father will be here soon. So, it would be better if you spoke to me and didn’t force him to come here and—”
“—To come here and what?” Another voice came from behind the wall of Aurors. Sirius turned to see the wizards and witches parting to reveal a man flanked by the two blonde girls he’d left with the Aurors.
“Directeur Delacour!” Henri said, a mild look of alarm entering his eyes. “I was just—”
“Save me your platitudes, Senior Auror Henri.” Director Delacour said, a hard look in his eyes as he beheld the scene before him. “Ten Aurors here, just standing around?”
He shook his head before addressing the men and women just loafing around before barking orders to them in French. They scurried away the moment he was done. Delacour moved towards Henri.
“We will speak of this… later, Henri.” Delacour said, gesturing towards his left, speaking English for their benefit. “There are many wounded in the village, and you will head the rescue mission on the South side. Are we clear?”
Senior Auror Henri had the wherewithal to nod and leave without another word, keeping his head up and not sending anyone there a single look.
Delacour gave a sigh. “He will not take that well.”
No one answered him for a few moments, so he turned his attention to Sirius and the two boys. “Fleur told me what happened. I am sorry that you all had to endure such… pointless questioning when in fact you should be commended for saving many lives tonight.”
Sirius turned his gaze towards the bodies for a moment, with Delacour following his line of sight.
“Yes.” Delacour said, getting Sirius’ attention as he looked down at the two boys. “Felling wizards many years your senior, and far more experienced besides; impressive work, Messieurs Potter et Clarke.”
He paused for a moment before addressing Adam. “Or is it Monsieur Black?”
“You know who we are?” Harry asked before anyone else could say anything.
“The name ‘Harry Potter’ is one known all around the world, Monsieur Potter.” Delacour said, smiling slightly. “‘Adam Clarke’, on the other hand, is a rather new oddity I’ve kept an eye on when perusing your Daily Prophet. I have an interest in the… prodigies of the world.”
Adam’s eyes narrowed for a moment, and he looked at something above Delacour’s head, but he didn’t say anything.
Strange. Sirius thought but decided to take the attention away from them. “Look, we’re very appreciative for your help, Mr. Delacour, but—”
Delacour cut him off. “Oh, but where are my manners? My apologies. I am Dominic Delacour, Director of the Department of Magical Intelligence in France.”
He extended a hand and to shake his own, as well as that of Harry and Adam.
“I wish to thank you boys for saving my daughter, and I wish to thank you, Mr. Black, and your friends for ensuring the safety of my second daughter and wife.”
The two girls by his side nodded emphatically, but didn’t say much else.
“It’s what anyone would have done.” Harry said. Adam opened his mouth to say something before closing it and nodding in seeming agreement.
Delacour smiled a little at that.
“Now.” He said, gesturing for one of his own Aurors to come. “I am sure you’ve had your fill of tonight. My man here will escort you to your hotel. We can sort out the details of everything tomorrow. Is that acceptable?”
Sirius tried not to nod quickly, but failed. “Yes. That is more than generous. Thank you.”
“No, Mr. Black.” Delacour said, giving them all a look of heartfelt gratitude. “Thank you.”
They all said their goodbyes before Sirius and his group were escorted back to the hotel. Through the trip, Sirius kept a firm grip on the two boys’ shoulders, wondering if they would disappear at any moment.
I didn’t fail. They’re still here. The thoughts continued to swirl in his head, repeating themselves endlessly as the group silently headed back to the hotel to get some much needed rest.
Tomorrow, he knew, would be an awful day, but at least he still had what was most important to him.