FIC: "Escape Routes for a Stormy Night" for lash_larue Recipient:lash_larue Author:woldy Title: Escape Routes for a Stormy Night Rating: R Pairings: Amelia Bones/Poppy Pomfrey Word Count: ~5,300 words Warnings/Content Information (Highlight to View): *[character death]*. Summary: The checklist for dealing with Death Eater attacks has been drilled into every Ministry employee: wand; family; escape routes. Author's Notes: I wasn't sure what kind of gift you'd like, lash_larue, so I took a gamble by writing about one of the minor characters I find most intriguing. I really hope you enjoy it! Many thanks to my beta for whipping this into shape; all remaining errors are my own.
When they come for her, Amelia knows instantly what's happening. For weeks, her department has been training Ministry officials on how to deal with Death Eater attacks, and the checklist has been drilled into every employee: wand; family; escape routes. Even if Amelia hadn't drawn up those guidelines herself, she has repeated them enough times for the words to become second nature.
It's been almost two decades since the first Death Eater attacks on Aurors and their families. Some, like Moody, survived; many were killed; and a handful, like Frank and Alice Longbottom, would never recover. Amelia was part of the response team sent to every sighting of the Dark Mark, so she's fought Inferi and packs of werewolves, seen magic dark enough that Salazar Slytherin would turn in his grave, and witnessed enough blood and death for a lifetime. It's hard to find a bright side of that, but if one exists it's that every scene of destruction contained lessons about staying alive.
Now, as the crackle of Amelia's wards alert her that someone has cast an anti-apparition jinx, her fingers seize the wand beneath her pillow. She's armed and upright in an instant.
Apparition is out. That leaves the door, her broomstick, and the Floo.
Within seconds, Amelia is crouching beside the window. She can see four -- no, five -- hooded figures encircling the door of her house, their faces washed red from the light of the curses bouncing off her wards.
The door is out. That leaves her broom and the Floo.
She glances up at the sky, scanning it quickly, and her suspicions are confirmed by the sight of a dark shape hovering in front of the gathering clouds.
Her intelligence sources report that only Voldemort and one of his Death Eaters can fly without a broom. If that's accurate, then there is a 50% chance that the figure above her house is the Dark Lord himself.
No time to worry about that,Amelia tells herself sternly. Focus on what you can do: broom is out. Floo it is!.
Amelia whirls away from the window, running for the door of her bedroom, and hopes her wards will stand up to the assault long enough for her to reach the fireplace.
The public perception was that Aurors were burly men with square jaws who spent their days performing daring feats of spellcasting to apprehend criminals. In reality, Amelia knew four types of Aurors: the Dawlishes of the world, who were happiest behind a desk; the Moodys and Tonkses, who lived for the thrill of the chase; the occasional Shacklebolts, who were equanimous regardless of what you threw at them; and rarest of all, the intelligence specialists.
Amelia Bones was in the latter group, and that's what made her well-placed to judge the others: she'd seen their personnel files, pay stubs, and expense claims; she'd run analytical charms over all their reports and scanned the records from the hidden surveillance spells in every Auror's office. As Head of Magical Law Enforcement, it was her job to know the department's ins and outs, but collecting intelligence on the Aurors themselves was only the beginning.
Years of experience had made Amelia an expert on the magical community in Britain, and she knew more about the modus operandi of Tom Riddle -- her reports called him by his true name -- and the Death Eaters than anyone except Albus Dumbledore. Amelia had never been certain how much Dumbledore knew, and perhaps that was for the best, but she'd guessed the provenance of the occasional tip-offs on her desk, written in a purple ink and accompanied once by a phoenix feather. Finding and interpreting patterns was the heart of her job: the murmurs among crooks that indicated a big heist was being planned; the first ripples of a magical disturbance; the tiny clues about where the Death Eaters would strike next.
"I want you to find Voldemort," Auror Ryan, then Head of Magical Law Enforcement, had told her. "Don't worry about catching him, I have other people for that, just find out where he is, what he's planning, and bring me the proof."
Twenty-five years ago, Amelia had worried she wasn't up to the task; now, she didn't trust anyone else to do it. The pattern in front of her was chilling, but unmistakeable: a dozen indicators pointed towards heightened Death Eater activity. The storm clouds were gathering, and it was up to her to predict when and where lightning would strike.
When the clock above her desk chimed seven-o-clock, Amelia looked up from the piles of paperwork and cursed under her breath. She'd lost count of how many late nights she'd worked recently, but suspected Poppy had been recording each one.
Amelia stood up, shaking out the stiffness in her legs, and crossed her office to the fireplace. Taking a handful of Floo powder, she lowered herself gingerly to kneel on the marble, and said "Hogwarts Infirmary!" as she tossed the powder into the flames.
As she leaned into the fireplace, the familiar sight of Poppy's office appeared: tidy, impersonal, and spotlessly clean. Poppy insisted that a cluttered office betrayed a cluttered mind, which was a point that Amelia had stopped arguing with her over a decade ago.
Amelia heard the muffled squeak of Poppy's shoes on the stone floor, and then Poppy emerged in the doorway.
"I'm afraid I need to work tonight," she said, and saw Poppy's mouth tighten.
"Where I have I heard that before?"
"I'm sorry," said Amelia, wincing internally. "I can't put this off."
"Can't you delegate whatever it is you're doing?"
"I can, but I won't," she admitted, and Poppy sighed. "I'll have more time tomorrow. Will you meet me for dinner? I can come up to Hogsmeade."
"Let me know tomorrow, then," Poppy replied, with barely-concealed exasperation. "And if you don't eat or sleep tonight, then you'll have to answer to me."
Having a nurse for a lover meant living with constant orders and enquiries about one's wellbeing. It was both a blessing and a curse.
"I'll have dinner," Amelia said, thinking of the wrinkled apple and packet of chocolate biscuits in her desk drawer, "and I'll go home when I finish."
Not that the house was necessarily all that safe, nowadays she thought, remembering the spate of attacks on Aurors' homes the last time the Death Eaters were active. There was no point worrying Poppy about that, though.
"See you tomorrow," Amelia assured her, and Poppy's expression melted into a smile.
Amelia held onto the memory of that smile, and what it promised for tomorrow night, as she returned to the stack of unexamined files on her desk.
Amelia is midway down the stairs when she feels the whole house shudder, the very earth beneath her trembling under the onslaught of magic directed at her wards. There's a crack like thunder, for an instant the air is so saturated with magic that it sizzles against her skin, and Amelia knows the wards will only hold for a second or two more.
She jumps over the bottom four steps, throws herself around the corner, and sprints into the front room at the same moment that a Death Eater bursts through her front door.
Apparition is out, the door is out, and her broom is out. The Floo is only twenty steps away, but Amelia isn't sure she can reach it.
They don't train the Ministry employees for this situation, because there's nothing you can teach an ordinary witch or wizard that will defend them from half a dozen Death Eaters. Even when this happens to Aurors, ninety nine times out of a hundred they end up dead.
Amelia barely has time for one spell before the first Death Eater attacks her. For a split second, she weighs her options, and then her Patronus soars away into the night.
The Death Eaters roar, and as the first one sends a curse hurtling towards her, Amelia sees two more figures push through her doorway. She dives out of the way of the curse, throws up a shield charm, and tries desperately to think of another escape route.
If it hadn't been for the war, Amelia might never have met Poppy. She's seen too much death and destruction to contemplate being grateful to Tom Riddle, even for a moment, but she's glad for the coincidences that brought her and Poppy together.
Despite her orders not to confront the Death Eaters, Amelia has never been able to walk past a murder in progress. Now, with the benefit of hard-won experience, she would take the time to summon her colleagues before rushing into the fray, but she was young and impetuous once.
Amelia had been flying home after having dinner at her brother's house when the sight of the Dark Mark writhing in the air shattered her enjoyment of the evening. She pointed the broom downwards without hesitation, landed outside a neighbouring house, and pulled her wand from her robes as she ran.
The echo of Auror Moody's voice shouted Constant vigilance inside her head, and Amelia looked around for a way into the house.
The front door was too obvious, but the French windows at the side of the house were smashed -- that would do. She jumped through the hole in the glass, wand outstretched, and threw up a shield charm as a spell rushed towards her.
She'd expected to find Death Eaters, but she hadn't envisaged the battle raging inside the house. Spells flew in all directions, red and green light exploding around her, scattering shards of wood and glass. There were several figures fighting the Death Eaters, and as Amelia looked more closely, she saw that they weren't in Auror uniform and their faces were unfamiliar. These must be the Order of the Phoenix!
Just as well they're here, her internal Moody said gruffly. Or you'd be dead.
Amelia aimed a stunning spell at a Death Eater, missing narrowly, and he spun round to send a curse flying at her head. She deflected it with a slash of her wand, and the wall beside her shook as the curse hit it, sending lumps of plaster flying though the air. She fired another stunning spell at the Death Eater's feet, saw him start to fall, and cast a silent Expelliarmus.
Always disarm, they learned in training. A wandless wizard is an impotent wizard, and a wand is identification.
His wand arced through the air towards her, and Amelia caught it with her free hand as she ran forwards to get a look at his face. By the time she noticed the curse it was an inch away, far too close to dodge, and then it struck her left cheek with dizzying force. She staggered, her field of vision contracting to a single eye, and felt something wet -- blood -- run down her cheek. Leaning against the wall for balance, Amelia raised her wand, focused with her right eye, and fired a curse in the direction of her assailant.
The curse soared over the Death Eater's shoulder, narrowly missed somebody running up behind him, and then Amelia saw the second figure hit him with a curse. Struggling to keep her balance despite the pain in her injured eye, she felt a surge of relief when the Death Eater crumpled. As the unknown figure approached, Amelia saw a vaguely familiar woman's face in her tilting vision, heard a Scottish brogue say something she couldn't make out, and then everything went black.
When she opened her eyes -- correction, one eye -- Amelia found herself in unfamiliar bedroom. Gingerly, she raised one hand to her cheek, and felt the bandage covering her left eye.
That's why I can't see, Amelia reasoned, trying to stay calm. It's the bandage. It doesn't mean I'm blind in that eye.
"Hello?" she said, and heard the slight tremor in her voice.
A face peered around the edge of the door, and then a slim, dark-haired woman walked into sight. It wasn't the Scottish woman Amelia remembered from last night, but presumably the Scot brought her here. So, where do the Order of the Phoenix bring their casualties?
"Tell me what hurts," the woman instructed.
"Just the left?"
"That's to be expected. I think you'll keep the eye, but your vision may be impaired. After the initial wound heals, the staff at St Mungo's will be able to assess the extent of the damage."
"If you don't mind me asking, who are you?" Amelia said, and the woman's lips pursed.
"And if I do mind you asking?"
For a moment, they assessed each other in silence. Given the woman's straight back and the steely look in her eye, Amelia had a feeling that she wouldn't back down easily.
"I know it was the Order of the Phoenix that I saw last night," Amelia told her, meeting the woman's gaze. "I'm not interested in who they are, and I certainly don't intend to pass that information on, but I would like to know who to thank for treating me."
The woman didn't reply, but her nostrils flared slightly and her fingers tightened around the wand.
"You were planning to Obliviate me, weren't you?" Amelia said, as the realisation dawned.
"Yes," the woman agreed in a brisk, unapologetic tone, and Amelia couldn't help admiring her for that.
"Please don't. It isn't necessary - I give you my word. My name is Amelia Bones, and I hope my word counts for something."
Amelia watched the woman weigh the question, mouth narrowed and wand poised. She didn't know what she would do in this woman's situation: whether she would risk the safety of herself and her friends by trusting a stranger, or whether she would play it safe. No training or official procedures could produce a formula about when to take a chance.
"You can call me Poppy," the woman replied, finally.
"Thank you, Poppy," Amelia told her, and knew from Poppy's expression that it was her real name.
A month later, the Healers at St Mungo's removed the last of the bandages from her eye, and their tests showed only slight vision loss.
"You were very lucky to get prompt and expert treatment," the Healer said approvingly. "Usually with this curse we're looking at a replacement eye. The replacements are pretty good nowadays, we've got eyes charmed to look through walls and see behind you, but most patients prefer to keep their natural eye, even if it's a bit beaten up. Who was it who treated you?"
"A friend," Amelia answered firmly.
"I see," said the Healer, raising an eyebrow. "Then you're lucky in your friends. You should thank whoever it was for saving most of your vision."
"I intend to."
"Right," the Healer said, obviously deciding that it was best not to press Aurors about their secrets. "Well, there are several options for getting your vision back to twenty-twenty. I'll teach you a couple of temporary correction charms, and I can recommend an excellent Mediwitch who specialises in optometry..."
It took Amelia a few hours to check the records for a witch named Poppy with healing credentials, and a further day to examine the files of anybody whose name might be abbreviated to Poppy. She found what she was looking for in the file labelled "Pomfrey, Poppea", which recorded Poppy's Outstanding grade in the Certificate of Nursing.
Amelia bought a large bouquet of flowers from a Muggle florist on her way home and positioned her new monocle in her eye as she sat down to write an accompanying letter of thanks. It was a pleasant surprise to get a reply the next morning, and from then onwards there was something inevitable about the way their exchange of letters lead to afternoon tea, which in turn led to dinner.
It was after their fourth dinner together that Poppy slid her thumb over Amelia's jaw and kissed her with an intensity of purpose that sent shivers of pleasure down Amelia's spine. That evening Poppy shared Amelia's bed, and it wasn't long before she modified her wards and wrote Poppy's name in the line marked "Next of kin" on the H20A Change of Employee Records form.
"You never know who you can trust, Bones," Auror Ryan warned, when Amelia handed him the form.
"Sometimes I know," Amelia replied calmly.
She knew Poppy was linked to Order of the Phoenix, which the Ministry regarded as an illegal vigilante group, but Poppy had saved her eye, and the Scottish Order member had probably saved her life. Amelia put a name to her rescuer when she learned where Poppy worked, and it was the name of a woman she was inclined to trust.
Amelia knew plenty that she wasn't sharing with the Ministry, Poppy understood that, and they had a implicit pact of silence. In some ways working in intelligence wasn't so different to being a healer -- both were professions founded on keeping secrets.
"I'm certain I can trust her," Amelia said, and Auror Ryan's gaze travelled from Amelia's employee file to the monocle in her left eye, and back again.
Her file doubtless recorded that her eye had been injured during conflict with the Death Eaters, that the Ministry suspected the Order of the Phoenix were present, that Amelia's eye had been healed by an unidentified person, and that her new partner was a Nurse. Auror Ryan was smart enough to put the pieces together.
"As long as you're sure," he replied, face betraying nothing, and slid the form into her file.
A flurry of curses soar towards her, rebounding off her shield charm, and the impact almost drives Amelia to her knees. As the windows shatter and furniture explodes around her, yet more Death Eaters pour in through the door.
When this badly outnumbered, all any Auror can hope to do is escape. Even with backup from the Order of the Phoenix she might not be able to defeat this many Death Eaters, and her Patronus won't even have reached Poppy yet. By the time help arrives, she'll be dead.
"Hiding from us, Bonesy? We'll find you," a jeering voice calls out.
Amelia takes a deep breath, and tells herself to stay calm. She can't afford to be afraid, or angry -- rationality might not save her, but giving in to emotions will get her killed.
She lunges forward to fire an Entrail-expelling curse around the corner, and then darts back behind the shelter of the wall. Amelia hears someone scream, and feels a brief burst of satisfaction at disabling one of the Death Eaters, but that still leaves five opponents.
Amelia flattens herself against the wall again, and watches four curses fly past at head height.
Idiots; they should know better than to all fire at the same point. They teach that in the first month of Auror training.
Silently, she lowers herself to the carpet and tenses her body like a cat preparing to pounce. Another two curses fly over her head, the wall behind her is momentarily engulfed in flames, and Amelia hurls herself forward. She fires two curses in quick succession from the floor, sees one of the Death Eaters crumple, then rolls over her shoulder as she's done a hundred times in the sparring room and presses herself back behind the wall.
"That bitch got Travers!" someone shouts, as Amelia fights to regain her breath.
"Fools!" shouts a high, cold, unmistakeable voice, and for a moment Amelia freezes. "Get out of my way! I will kill her if you can't."
He's here. Riddle is here.
So what? Amelia tells herself. If Potter has faced him, then I can.
She draws in a shuddering breath, wand poised, and tries desperately to think of something that will get her out of this.
She and Poppy had been together for almost two years when they bought the house. Her flat in London wasn't really big enough for two, even though Poppy was only there in the summer, and Poppy was pining for a garden. Amelia wondered if there was something about being a Nurse that made one constitutionally incapable of relaxing unless there was something to nurture.
At first the house felt too big and far too impersonal, but Poppy gradually transformed it. Amelia would came home from work to find Poppy standing in the centre of a room covered in dust sheets, her wand directing a squadron of brushes and paint rollers. Room by room, white walls were replaced by colour: pale blue, sunny yellow, lilac, and a creamy shade like milk with just a hint of coffee. Amelia warmed to the house, and felt - feelings one never entirely discounted with magical residences - that it was warming to her too.
The only unpleasant surprise was the day Amelia walked into the bathroom and found the walls a garish shade of lime green. She physically recoiled, retreating from the room, and almost bumped into Poppy on the landing.
"You don't like it, do you?" Poppy asked matter-of-factly.
Amelia took another look at the walls, which were so bright they almost made her head hurt.
"No," she admitted. "Sorry. I can repaint it."
"You pick the colour, and I'll do it," Poppy said, leaning in to press a kiss to the side of her mouth.
Amelia slid her arm round Poppy's waist, kissed her, and reflected yet again that it was wonderful to have a partner who wasn't offended when she told the truth.
The following night, Amelia returned home to find the bathroom painted in a pale aquamarine that put her in mind of the sea on a clear day. She slipped off her Auror uniform, pulled on an old t-shirt, and wandered downstairs to find Poppy.
Poppy was standing in the kitchen with her back to the door, her wand directing a stack of dishes that were dunking themselves into soapy water before being scrubbed, rinsed, dried, and stacked in a neat pile. The kitchen was so clean it gleamed, and there was a pot on the stove. Amelia crossed to the stove, picked up the wooden spoon that was lying there, and lifted the lid.
"Leave it be," Poppy ordered, glancing over her shoulder.
Amelia inhaled the scent of a rich tomato sauce, thick with herbs and olive oil.
"It smells fantastic," she said, lowering the wooden spoon and replacing the lid.
"Tomorrow I'll make risotto, and you can stir it as much as you want," Poppy said, her voice a mixture of fondness and exasperation.
The house felt discomfortingly empty when Poppy returned to Hogwarts, as Amelia knew it would, but there was no missing Poppy's influence. Everything from the walls to the pattern on the cushions and the rich shine of floorboards spoke of the care Poppy had put into the house.
Poppy's a home-maker, Amelia thought, as she settled on the sofa to eat her takeaway dinner, and I'm glad of it.
Barely a fortnight later, she was woken in the night by a message from the Auror office. Amelia quickly pulled on her robe and shoes, grabbed her wand, and Apparated, hoping against hope that they weren't going to the scene of another murder.
Moody and Fenwick were waiting in the office when she arrived, and Amelia's heart sank.
"What is it?" she demanded.
"Usual," Moody growled. "As soon as the rest of your team arrive, you're headed to 3 Wren's Lane, Sussex."
"Where are we going, Bones?" said a voice from behind her, and Amelia turned to see Frank and Alice Longbottom.
"Suspected Death Eater murder. 3 Wren's Lane, Sussex," Amelia told them, and saw Alice's jaw harden.
"On three, then," Alice said. "One, two, thr-"
Amelia turned on the spot, and an instant later she, Fenwick and both the Longbottoms were standing outside a house. The Dark Mark hovered above them, but even without it Amelia could have guessed what had happened. The house was almost destroyed: one wall was tilted at a dangerous angle, every window was shattered, and the front door lay in the middle of the road.
Amelia began casting a charm to stabilise the house and heard Alice Longbottom start murmuring the same spell. The spells glittered around the outline of the house for a moment, then faded, and Amelia hoped they were enough to keep it upright.
"Use extreme caution," she instructed, before gingerly stepping inside.
The training made this sound so simple: check for Death Eaters; check for bodies; record what happened. With careful observation and meticulous spellcasting they could almost recreate the attack -- which curses were cast, what they hit, whether the occupants tried to run or fight, and where they died. The team had been working together for nearly a year, since Mattison was killed, and they fell into a familiar pattern: Fenwick watched the perimeter, Alice cast the tracing spells with her impeccable wandwork, Amelia and Frank searched for Death Eaters and corpses.
She found the first body on the floor of what must once have been a kitchen. The room was almost unrecognisable, with a gaping hole in the wall and the furniture reduced to scorched piles of rubble.
Whoever this was put up a hell of a fight, Amelia thought, as she bent to examine the face.
It wasn't until she turned the body over that Amelia recognised Auror Ryan, his eyes wide and unseeing, his still fingers clenched as if he was holding a wand. The wand lay on the floor beside him, split into several pieces.
Amelia took a deep breath, then another, and fought back the urge to vomit.
It's just another case she told herself, and heard her voice call out in a tone far calmer than she felt, "I've found Auror Ryan. Please summon his employee record."
The other bodies were upstairs: a woman with long hair sprawled in a doorway, and beyond it a child lying at the foot of a bed. Amelia heard approaching footsteps crunch over the debris on the floor, and then Frank Longbottom was standing beside her with a file in his hand.
"A wife and one child," he said, in a shaking voice.
The Death Eaters got his whole family, Amelia thought, letting her eyes move around the room. Three lives destroyed.
"Thank you, Longbottom," she replied. "We still need to do a comprehensive search. The Auror office will want the details for their records."
It wasn't until Amelia got home that she let herself succumb to emotion, tears trickling down her face as she scrubbed the smell and ash from the ruined house off her skin. She resisted Flooing Poppy for perhaps five minutes before jumping through the fireplace.
"It could be us," she said, burying her head in Poppy's shoulder. "They could kill us both. I've put you at risk."
"Any of us could die, any day," Poppy answered quietly, as her hand smoothed circles over Amelia's back. "We're all at risk."
"But if they come--"
"Then we'll go down fighting," Poppy vowed.
People say that time seems to slow down in life or death situations, but Amelia's never experienced it before. Now, the curses appear to be soaring past her in slow-motion, and she frantically sifts through her memories for any information that could help. The idea is sudden, barely thought-out, but Amelia grabs it like a lifeline: if I go through the wall, the Floo is only five steps away.
It's a load-bearing brick wall, sturdy and two centuries old, but Amelia has no hesitation about sacrificing her home in exchange for her life. She takes two deep breaths, listening to the creak of the floorboards as Riddle approaches, then casts a silent Protego horribilis, levels her wand at the wall, and blasts it apart.
There is a deafening boom as dust and bricks explode in all directions. One brick flies towards her face, and bounces off her shield charm only inches before it would have smashed her brain out.
Amelia hears the Death Eaters shouting, and above them Tom Riddle's high-pitched screams, and knows it's now or never. She throws herself through the gap in the wall, sprinting for the fireplace, and wordlessly summoning the Floo powder as she runs.
A killing curse soars past, and then a beam of red light smashes into Amelia's arm. She staggers, takes a final desperate step, and then dives into the fireplace, tossing the the Floo powder ahead of her. As the darkness surrounds her, Amelia cries out "Hogwarts Infirmary!" with the last breath of air in her lungs.
For a peaceful, painless moment Amelia thinks she's dead, and then she crashes onto the floor of Poppy's office. She lies there, watching the blood ooze from her arm, and tries to focus enough to cast a spell.
"Amelia!" Poppy gasps, stumbling in. "Your Patronus just arrived. I thought - I thought you were..."
Amelia's fingers scrabble across the floor, and Poppy grasps her hand, squeezing it hard enough to hurt.
"I thought you were dead," Poppy murmurs.
Finally, Amelia manages to heave in a breath.
"Going down fighting," she croaks.
She takes another breath with lungs that ache at the effort, entwines her fingers with Poppy's, and something about the solidity of Poppy's hand enables her brain to right itself.
No matter how urgent and important my work is, Amelia vows silently, this week I'm spending my evenings with Poppy.
As the Head of Magical Law Enforcement and the Ministry's best intelligence analyst, she's under no illusions about how much the Death Eaters want her dead. Next time, perhaps Amelia won't be so lucky, but for now she's alive. If Riddle wants to kill her, he'll have to try harder than that.