|beholder_mod (beholder_mod) wrote in hp_beholder,|
@ 2009-04-18 12:00:00
|Entry tags:||beholder 2009, emmeline vance, fic, het, minerva mcgonagall, rufus scrimgeour|
FIC: "To Die A Man" for injustice_worth
Title: To Die A Man
Rating: PG-13, but please note the warning
Pairings: Rufus/Minerva, Rufus/Emmeline (at different times of his life)
Word Count: 1,925
Summary: In the moments before his death, it is the women Rufus remembers.
Author's Notes: injustice_worth, I gather you're a big Rufus Scrimgeour fan, so I really hope this fits with your idea of his character! Thank you to D and L for beta-reading.
Rufus has expected death for a long time, so when it comes for him, moulded in Thicknesse's guise, he is clear-headed and ready to meet it as best he can.
They warn you about torture during Auror training. They tell you that you can't prepare for it; that nothing will prepare you for being at someone else's mercy, at the wrong end of a wand that exists only to hurt you. They teach you that you mustn't give in, but that you will - that everyone capitulates in the end. They teach you how to choose your moment, how to yield in just the right way so that you betray as little information as possible, and how to let your mind escape the pain that your body is enduring.
Then they torture you.
They do it so that you know what to expect, because fear of the unknown is worse; much worse than the alternative.
After they did it to him, he set aside time to remember that torture: the pervasive agony that left him gasping and yelling and weeping; the way his muscles remembered the pain and shrank from it; the part of his brain that cried, no more, no more, louder and louder until he shouted it aloud. He did not intend to be taken by surprise, or to give in.
In all his time as an Auror, he was never tortured. He let the practice go in later years - until Emmeline's death, when he was reminded yet again of what torture could do.
So he has practised over the past year: practised silencing the voice that cries for mercy; practised existing with the pain and beyond it. All for this moment.
It's pointless calling for help; he knows that. If they are in his office, any aides loyal to him are dead or running, and good luck to them. He's alerted Shacklebolt, which is the only really useful act that he can perform. Now he waits.
When Thicknesse marches forward, flanked by two masked figures, Rufus remains seated behind his desk. He will show them what it means to be a man.
As the torture begins, he discovers that his practice has stood him in good stead - but only just. It stops quickly - just a taster, then - and already he is breathing in gasps and groans and shuddering at the after-effects. It will get much worse yet.
The question would be funny, given Potter's opinion of him, except that he does know his location. He musters a sneer at the irony, nevertheless. "Don't you read the news? Potter's Dumbledore's boy, not mine. They won't let me near him."
The pain returns, and this time his preparation only lasts so long before the voice is loud in his mind, almost as loud as the pain it is desperate to stop, and he yells aloud, only just keeping it inarticulate enough to prevent him begging for mercy.
He feels himself floating away and realises he is fainting. Yes, yes, please, he thinks, but that clarity brings him back to consciousness, and then he is clawing angrily at the desk, furious with his weakness, with his mind, with Thicknesse for being stupid enough to be controlled like this, and with himself for not recognising Thicknesse's vulnerability or doing anything about it. How long has he been Voldemort's tool?
"Where's Potter?" It's one of the Death Eaters this time, half-giant by the look of him, and probably just as dim.
"Which gutter did they sweep you from?" Rufus croaks.
The Death Eater turns to Thicknesse, who raises his wand obediently. Rufus braces himself again, and the agony takes him. How could he have believed, all these years, that he was prepared because he imagined this? All that time spent visualising such a scene; it could never be enough. Stupid, so stupid and arrogant of him....
Take my hand.
The speaker is Minerva McGonagall - not as he saw her barely two weeks ago, grey and distraught over Dumbledore's murder, but as she looked in their schooldays: chestnut hair surrounding a heart-shaped face, free of the glasses that she adopted because she was worried that she looked too young to be teaching. When she smiles, he remembers how it felt to be looked at that way, and follows her into the past.
She wasn't beautiful, but something about her drew him to her like a Bludger to its target. Perhaps it was their shared ambition: they both had decided ideas about what was wrong with the world and how to change it, and for a while they were happy to ignore the differences in their solutions.
Too soft, Rufus thought when he heard of the duel between Grindelwald and Dumbledore, and of Grindelwald's imprisonment. He should have been killed. How else to set an example to those who had so thoughtlessly followed him?
Minerva believed in redemption as he did not, and their disagreements became fights. Not that he minded: she was even more attractive then. With her hair loose around her shoulders and her sharp features alight with anger, she looked like a tiger. Yet she was training to become a tame kitten under Dumbledore's tutelage, and would hear no word against him.
If he thrived on their conflict, she did not, and a year into Auror training he found himself alone, rather to his surprise. Also surprising was how saddened he was at the knowledge that he would never again disrobe her and run his hand over her smooth skin.
But he had a plan for his life that did not include women, except as accessories. This consoled him, and he had believed that he had forgotten the feel of her, and the thrill of seeing that look in her eyes when she gave herself to him - until she floated in his mind's eye just now, offering him escape from the pain.
When the darkness clears, his cheek is against the carpet and a dark shoe is inches from his face. It reflects the light from the lamp almost as effectively as Minerva's glasses did on the day that she told him it was over, denying him access to her emotions.
"Come, now, Rufus." The voice is Thicknesse's, and he wonders, hearing the wheedling note, just how well controlled he is. He was always ambitious - as ambitious as Rufus himself, and with an inflated sense of his own abilities. "Make this easy on yourself. Just tell us where the boy is and you'll go free. That's all we want to know."
Go free, will he? He bares his teeth. He'll never be free, even if Thicknesse believes his own words. As if they'd let him walk free to complain about the hostile takeover of his Ministry. His Ministry. The effrontery of it! "Go to hell, Thicknesse."
The pain sweeps him down again, and again he tries to fight it; tries to persuade his weary body that every cell is not in agony. It's Emmeline who rescues him this time, with her rosy face and wavy hair and the freckles that dusted her nose.
Emmeline was different. She was too young, for a start, and he demanded that they keep the affair secret. He would not jeopardise his career for a woman, however attractive - and even, he admitted to himself, intelligent.
They'd argued, too, in bed and out of it. She was different from Minerva McGonagall in many ways, Emmy was, but there were certain similarities: neither of them gave a damn what anyone thought - and both of them were devoted to Albus Dumbledore.
It bothered him more this time around. Perhaps he was getting too old for the strife he'd always relished. Perhaps it was because he was so frustrated at Cornelius's ostrich-like attitude, maintained for an entire bloody year, when it was obvious to anyone with a Knut of sense that Potter was telling the truth.
Between them, Fudge - now there was an apt name - and Umbridge drove Potter firmly into Dumbledore's arms. Yes, and Emmeline, too. He'd arrived at the room he rented for them just off Hyde Park to find her ready for him - so earnest, so assured, for once, that she was doing the right thing, as she told him that their affair was over.
And then her body. He'd gone straight to the crime scene when he'd heard, although he knew he shouldn't have.
That had shattered him inside, seeing his lovely Emmy laid out like a Niffler ripped apart by a Kneazle. On the outside, though, he'd simply toughened up. Demanding Cornelius's resignation and persuading the Wizengamot to accept him as a replacement had been easy. Driven by fury, he hadn't even realised that he'd fulfilled his final ambition until he'd read about it in the Prophet.
And then - frustration. A saviour who wouldn't cooperate; a nemesis more nebulous than smoke. The Order of the Phoenix, gathered around Potter under the leadership of the uncooperative Dumbledore. And all the while the situation worsening, worsening, until Dumbledore paid for his idiotic trust in a confirmed Death Eater with his life.
And here is Thicknesse, once so vociferous against those he now leads - or is led by. Rufus feels only contempt for him. He may look imposing, but without self-will, a man is nothing. Nothing.
For a man who is proud to have shaped his own destiny - who never married; who planned out his life at eighteen and achieved every milestone, right up to becoming Minister for Magic; who has lived such a male life, full of Unspeakables, of cigars in back rooms and fifty-year-old Firewhisky by the mantelpiece - it strikes him as ironic that the memories that come to him now are of women.
Yes, the irony amuses him, and a laugh, barely recognisable as such, bubbles from his bloodied lips, earning him another kick in the ribs.
Now he remembers the Granger girl, whom he saw only yesterday. With her unruly hair and vulnerable features, she reminds him of Emmeline; she could be quite pretty if she took the trouble. But no, that's not what he admires about her. What he admires is her intelligence, her ready retorts and her determination. Yes, he thinks as he pictures her defiance, recalling the way she met him word for word. There is hope for the wizarding world with women like her in it. Potter has shown good sense there.
Well, they haven't got anything out of him, anyway. How should he know where Potter is? The boy has always refused his protection. Perhaps that's why they seem disposed to believe him.
He hasn't budged despite their efforts - wizarding curses and Muggle violence alike - and he senses that their patience is waning. He will be a true Minister for Magic to the end. It gives him hope, the way the memory of Hermione Granger does.
What else is there? He has tried and failed to defeat the monster himself. Thicknesse will last only as long as Voldemort needs him, and then what? Darkness.
Unless ... unless Dumbledore's infuriating trust in the Potter boy was not misplaced. And will he, who has resented Dumbledore's hold on the world that should have been his to direct, finally put his trust there? Like Minerva? Like Emmeline? Like the Granger girl?
He's done what he can, and as he raises his head and watches Thicknesse striding towards him with blank eyes above that dark beard, it's enough.