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Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Plans, Executions and Results

Plans, Executions and Results

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M31
 
Here's a new one-shot, rather different in style (but not, ultimately, in sentiment) from my usual fare.

Summary:
Gideon and Fabian are out of options, but not out of choices.
 
Style/Genre:
Action/Adventure & Angst
 
Rating:
PG-13 / Teens
 
Length:
About 3,600 words.
 
Warnings:
Violence and death.

Plans, Executions and Results

by Rhetor

Fabian had warned them that it was probably a trap. Sixty percent probability; he’d run the numbers twice. As usual, either they didn’t hear or they didn’t care.
The Prewetts and the Potters apparated simultaneously into a huge, sturdily-built, forbidding concrete structure. It was dimly lit, cold and damp in late November, with corridors opening into either direction. The walls were so thick, interior and exterior, that they could have withstood a giant or a lorry, and there were Reinforcing Charms running all through them. It had ostensibly been built for some now-defunct power-generating station, but had actually been the headquarters of the Cerberus League, the precursor of the Order of the Phoenix during the war against Grindelwald.  Rumor had it that it was now a central meeting place for the Death Eaters.
Rumor had it wrong. As soon as they appeared, Fabian felt the telltale thickening of the air that signaled anti-Apparition charms slamming into place. All at once there were shouts on both sides of them, and all four realized that they were caught in a crossfire of spells. Without consulting each other, Fabian and Gideon ran left, while James and Lily ran right, employing the usual formation – one partner shielding while the other fired the curses. Gideon brought down several Death Eaters on the way, but there were at least five more he couldn’t attend to. Behind them, it sounded like James was having about the same luck; but the Potters were getting quickly further away and it was impossible to be sure of what was happening to them. Fabian wasn’t worried – James and Lily had outwitted the Death Eaters more times than he could count, and had even escaped twice from Voldemort himself. He gave them an 80% probability (seat-of-the-pants estimate) of making it out unscathed.
He was much more worried about himself and his brother. They could take five Death Eaters between them, he was pretty sure, but he had the sense that there were more of them than that, and in any case he was running and they were chasing. “Gid!” he barked. “Get some over your shoulder!” Gideon aimed a few Blinding Curses (his specialty) backwards and was rewarded by a pair of grunts. But as Fabian was getting ready to turn, four more of them came out of a doorway to the left.
“Right!” he shouted, and they swung in unison into that corridor. They came into a larger room with two other openings; Fabian chose the one on the left, which led them into a short, narrow passage that took a sharp right, leading them into – a small concrete room.
A dead end, with the Death Eaters right behind them.
At least it was defensible. From that sharp turn they could fire curses at anyone who tried to enter. They did this immediately, forcing back the enemy (ten, it now appeared) who were trying to get in.  Unfortunately, the entrance was also in plain sight of the outer room, and if either Fabian or Gideon did more than stick out his head and wand for a quick spell he’d be cut up.
“Well,” Fabian said, quietly enough not to be overheard as various ineffective curses splashed against the corner of the entrance. “A pretty pickle.”
“True. What do you reckon? Can we hold out?”
Fabian thought for a few seconds. “They’ll starve us out if they have to.”
“We can conjure food for quite a while,” Gideon pointed out.
“We can live on it for a month or so,” Fabian agreed. “After that, you know – ”
“Yeah, don’t remind me. Of course they might try cutting off the air.”
“Multiple Bubblehead Charms,” said Fabian. “That we could do indefinitely.”
“Burn us out?”
“You could extinguish flames in your sleep.”
“Yeah,” said Gideon. “Still, I’d rather not try actually doing it in my sleep.”
Some sort of conjured monster – it looked like a miniature dragon with very long teeth – came bounding and snarling around the corner. Fabian obliterated it.
“Okay,” he said. “To summarize: We can hold out here for a maximum of a month, possibly less if they get creative. At the end of that time they’ll come in and probably kill us.”
“Is that definite?”
“Ninety percent, and you don’t want to know the other ten.”
Gideon chewed his lip. “Right. So we need an exit strategy.”
Fabian started considering the possibilities:
“Frontal assault?”
“Not without some weapon they haven’t heard of,” said Gideon.
“Apparition’s impossible. Some kind of ruse? An illusion?”
“Like what?”
“I dunno; can you conjure an image of You-Know-Who that would convince them? Or of Dumbledore?”
Gideon was silent for a minute, then turned towards the wall opposite which their attackers stood, lifted his wand and closed his eyes.
From the entrance they heard a high, cold voice say, “Why have you disobeyed my orders?”
It was followed by a burst of raucous laughter from several voices.
“Apparently I can’t,” said Gideon.
“Maybe you should have tried Dumbledore first; we know him better.”
“Well, too late for that. Got any other ideas?”
Fabian ran the possibilities through his head again. Meanwhile Gideon leaned briefly into the entrance and sent a small salvo of curses.
Fabian looked up suddenly. “Hang on – what was it you said, Gid? ‘A weapon they haven’t heard of?’”
“Yeah. So?”
“Well, have youever heard of a ‘hand grenade?’”
“Can’t say that I have; what is it, and do you happen to have one?”
“It’s a Muggle weapon, an explosive that has pieces of metal in it that make an awful mess when it goes off. You release a pin or a lever or something, and it’s timed to explode a certain number of seconds later. You can throw it and then get out of the way. If you haven’t heard of it, neither have our playmates.”
Gideon considered this. “Sounds like it’d give them a nasty surprise, if we had one. But we don’t, do we?”
“No, but maybe we could make one; or, you know, the magical equivalent.”
“How?”
There was a boom as some sort of sonic spell was tried against the enclosure. The room wasn’t damaged, but their eardrums hurt.
“Well,” Fabian said, “You conjure or transfigure a metal sphere filled with thumbtacks, or rocks, or lead shot, or something similar – say about a quarter-inch in thickness, about six inches in diameter, aluminum or something similar. Then, while you hold it together with short-burst Reinforcing Charm, I charge the interior with hot gas, say hydrogen, at a very high pressure, and some Flare Charms thrown in. Then you give it one more short-burst Reinforcing Charm, the sort that only lasts about ten seconds, and we toss it into the middle of them like a Quaffle.”
Gideon closed his eyes for a moment and appeared to run this through his head. He opened them again. “It’s going to kill some of them,” he said. Neither of them had ever killed anyone before.
“They’re Death Eaters, and they’re trying to kill us.” Said Fabian simply.
This brother blew out his cheeks. “Right,” he said.
Gideon held out his hands and conjured a ball of gleaming metal, suspended in mid-air. Fabian focused his attention on the interior and built up the pressure slowly. After two minutes, he nodded to Gideon.
Fabian stepped into the opening, sending a shower of painful stinging, burning and blinding hexes into their attackers, while Gideon hurled the grenade directly into the center of them. Then they both stepped back quickly into the room and covered their eyes as the spellbomb erupted with light they could see through their fingers and eyelids, and a screaming, tearing sound.
The brothers waited two seconds and ran out through the opening again, finding, sure enough, a wide circle of dead and badly injured Death Eaters by the entrance to the opening. They dashed past the carnage – only to find a wall of still more Death Eaters advancing; the passages were completely blocked.
Fabian pulled Gideon back into the hole.
“Crikey, did you see them all?” Gideon asked.
“Thirty at least. Thirty standing, that is; there were twenty or so on the ground.”
“Well, for crying out loud, what are we, Dumbledore or something? How do we rate this honor guard?”
“I’ve no idea, but we’re certainly not blasting our way through it,” Fabian said grimly.
There was a hissing, cracking sound and bits of the opening began to flake off. Fabian stared at the opening in confusion, then in contemplation, then he nodded appreciatively.
“That’s creative, that is,” he allowed.
Gideon regarded the spattering of flakes and chips for another moment. “I don’t recognize it,” he said, in what he clearly hoped was a conversational tone but wasn’t.
“Well, they can’t break the concrete directly,” Fabian explained, “and they can’t shatter the reinforcing spells – I’d like to know who designed this place – so they’re setting up a field instability in the volume of space immediately around the barrier. Molecular stresses vary widely within the field, and so the underlying structure of the matter beings to break down.”
“Wow. Sounds like they’ve got a world-class Arithmancer working for them.”
“Sounds like it,” Fabian agreed. “He’s the one we’ll kill first.” Even to his own ear it sounded like a hollow boast.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Gideon admonished. “Today I think we need to leave, and soon. I gather that they’re eventually going to succeed in taking out the wall?”
“Oh, yes. Really a rather elegant solution.” Fabian was trying to smile, but he could hear the strain in his own voice.
“So perhaps we can come up with a Plan B?” Gideon encouraged.
“I think it’d be a Plan C or D at least,” Fabian replied.
“Point taken. Still, what have we got?”
Fabian thought for a moment. “Ever do any mining?”
Gideon rolled his eyes. “You know I haven’t.”
“Well, we could try a boring-drilling combination straight down, then make ourselves a tunnel.”
“That’s creative, that is,” said Gideon, mimicking his brother. But he couldn’t keep the strain out of his voice either.
“I’m honored.”
“So what’s the spell?”
Fabian taught it to him, and they pointed their wands at a spot in the center of the room. They cast twin beams of deep blue light that hurt their eyes, along with a bass hum that set their teeth on edge. This went on for three minutes before Fabian signaled them to stop.
He stepped over to the place and felt it with his fingers. There was a very slight depression in the floor, perhaps an inch in depth, and it was warm, but that was all. Fabian grimaced. “I really want to know who designed this place. Ruddy reinforcing spells in the floor too, down to at least two yards. We can drill all day and it won’t make any difference.”
“Inconvenient.”
“Very.” Fabian heard his voice shake.
The hissing and cracking continued. Larger pieces of concrete, about an inch in diameter, began to fly off the edge.
“Hey!” said Gideon. “We could do that!”
“Do what?”
“You know, destabilize the field, only do it downwards?”
Fabian shook his head wearily. “First, I don’t have nearly the skill to pull that off. Second, what would we stand on while it happened? Third, it’d probably destabilize the field around us, and our feet would disintegrate.”
They sat down on the floor for a while, watching the wall begin to die from the inside.
 “Fabe?”
“Yeah, Gid?”
“We’re not going to make it this time, are we?” Gideon’s voice had a note of disbelief, as if he expected his brother to set him straight and point out the obvious solution to their problem. This is the way it had always been.
Fabian was silent for a long moment, as his eyes moved rapidly back and forth the way they did when he was thinking hard, plotting and strategizing. He saw a look of hope begin to come over Gideon’s face, but at long last he had to say, “No, I think you’re right. I think we’re out of options.”
“Right.” It came out halfway between a croak and a whisper. Gideon’s face became thoughtful.
Fabian realized the implications of what he’d said. “Oh, bloody hell.”
Gideon came out of his reverie and grinned. “Don’t let Molly hear you talk like that.”
“Molly – ” Fabian began shakily. He gritted his teeth. He sputtered. “Molly is never going to bloody see me again, nor you either! Don’t talk about Molly!”
“All right.”
The very edge of the wall vibrated. A few tiny pieces of flying concrete grazed Fabian’s arm.
“Gid? We’re going to lose, aren’t we?”
Gideon grimaced. “What, you and me? You just said so.”
“No, fool. I mean us, the Order. We’re going to lose the war.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because we keep losing every battle. Can you name one, even one victory we’ve had in the last ten months?”
Gideon grinned again. “Are you leaving out all of our daring escapes?”
Yes,” shot back his brother. “I’m leaving out our daring escapes, and Potter’s daring escapes, and Longbottom’s daring bloody escapes. You don’t win a war with escapes!”
Gideon looked more somber. “No, I suppose you don’t. I think you’re right; we’ve not won any battles for a long time.” Then he looked up, interested. “You don’t suppose there’s a spy, do you?”
“That would make sense. Lupin?”
“Doesn’t sound right; too loyal. Pettigrew?”
Fabian guffawed. “Wouldn’t have the guts. Black?”
“He’d cut his own throat first. Moody?”
That made them both laugh, albeit weakly. It sounded weird and sickly in this space.
Fabian continued, more seriously. “At this rate, they’ll pick the rest of us off one by one.”
“You think so?”
“It looks inevitable. We’re hideously outnumbered and they’re willing to do things we’re not. So one by one – I give it twenty-four, maybe thirty months before the Order’s gone.”
The cracking sounds became louder and more frequent. Some of the chips impacted with the other wall, leaving pock marks in it.
“What about Dumbledore?”, asked Gideon.
Fabian said miserably, “Dumbledore by himself won’t be able to do anything. Dumbledore against dozens of Death Eaters, and You-Know-Who leading them? He’d hold out for a long time, maybe, but sooner or later – ”
Gideon nodded. “Yes, that sounds right.”
“And then that bastard wins, wins forever. Complete, sodding, ignominious defeat.” Fabian looked his brother in the eyes, begging Gideon to prove him wrong – just this once, let me be wrong.
Gideon looked weary. “Probably.”
“Hell,” Fabian said again. Losing all hope.
A chunk of wall about six inches across blasted into a hundred pieces, showering them with stinging grit. Fabian felt bloody pocks sprout on his face, and he lost the sight in his right eye; grunt of pain escaped him and he bit the inside of his mouth. Gideon had a gash in his neck and a heavily-bleeding head wound on the same side.
“Gid?” Fabian’s voice trembled.
“Yeah, Fabe?”
“I love you, you know that?” It sounded like a whine.
“Yeah, Fabe, I know it. I love you too.” He reached over and grabbed his brother in a hug that reminded Fabian of when they were children. The blood on Fabian’s face was slippery and Gideon’s hair stank as he kissed his ear.
“And Molly too,” said Fabian.
“Sure. And the Weasley Brats.”
“Yeah.” Fabian started to cry; he couldn’t help himself. Gideon rocked him, stifling the sound of his own weeping.
They sat there, two brothers with nothing but each other.
After about five minutes, Gideon pulled back and asked, “How long do you reckon?”
“Forty minutes, no longer.” Damn, he thought, what do I care about the exact number?
“Well, we’d best get started.” Gideon started to get up.
“What do you mean?”
“Time to see how many of them we can take out.”
Fabian stared at him with his good eye.  “Gideon, talk sense.” He almost never used his brother’s full name. “You just agreed that we’re going to die no matter what.”
“Yes, we are.”
 “And if we stay here, we may live a bit longer, but if we go out there, we probably die a lot faster.”
“Yeah, and possibly in a nastier way.”
Another piece of wall shattered. This time they were facing away from it, and it ripped slashes on their backs.
“And we’re going to lose the war too,” Fabian forced himself to continue. “The Death Eaters are going to take it all.”
“In all likelihood.”
“And nothing we can do is going to change the outcome.”
“If you say so; I don’t see how.”
Fabian counted to ten. “Then what the hell difference does it make how we die?”
Gideon looked, for the first time, truly sad. “When it’s all you’ve got left, it makes a difference.”
Fabian didn’t move. He stared at his hands, one of which was bleeding. Gideon’s words echoed in his head. Then he nodded. He got up.
“D’ya want to try a Killing Curse?” asked Gideon.
That made Fabian laugh, a harsh sound now. “Faugh! Fat chance. We’d just stand there looking silly with pretty green lights coming out of our wands. But,” he added darkly, “Cutting and Bludgeoning Curses aimed at the head will probably have much the same effect.”
“Probably.”
“Well,” said Fabian, touching his brother’s shoulder one last time. “Let’s try it out.”
They ran through the opening, wands blazing.
***
James hated funerals. He hated talking to people at funerals. He’d been to too many funerals in the last year, and it was making him cranky. The wind moaned, slicing cold through his cloak; dark grey with spots of darker grey, the sky looked like the ceiling of a cavern. It would probably begin to sleet soon. Earth covered the graves.
Lily leaned her head close to his; he could feel the warmth radiating from her cheek, such a contrast to the rest of the air. She said very quietly, “We don’t have to stay; you don’t have to talk to them.”
“Yes we do, and yes I do,” said James. “They have to know. Molly’s got to know. It’s only right.”
“But does it have to be now?”
“If I don’t say it now, I’m not sure I ever will.” What a coward I am, he thought disgustedly.
“All right, then.” She squeezed his hand and they walked over to the chief mourners.
Molly looked terrible.  Her face was grey; her eyes were a darker grey; she obviously hadn’t slept in days. She wore no discernable expression at all. Arthur had a comforting arm around her, but he might has well have been a piece of furniture. The five children (with one on the way, James reminded himself) were standing about fidgeting, glancing miserably at their mother. The twins were crying; one of their aunts was trying to comfort them, but they kept shaking her off and calling the names of their lost uncles.
James summoned up what little Gryffindor courage he seemed to have at this moment, and walked up to her.
“Molly.”
She looked up at him from her chair, her eyes showing little recognition, her face a mask of pain.
“Molly, there’s something you should know.”
She nodded.
“Gideon and Fabian saved our lives.” He stopped, but her expression didn’t change. He said the rest. “Lily’s and mine. We were there together, the four of us, and when the Death Eaters attacked we were separated. We thought your brothers had escaped, and we were trapped. Then there was a series of explosions and some of the Death Eaters who had cornered us left to attend to them. Then Voldemort himself appeared – ” It was a measure of Molly’s numbness that she didn’t even flinch at the name. “ – and we thought we were done for. But at the last minute there was a huge row and everyone, including Voldemort, ran in the other direction. We were able to escape.”
He looked into her eyes, hoping she was understanding him. “It was Gideon and Fabian making their stand.    When we came back with Moody and the reinforcements it was all over, but they must have taken at least forty with them, and it was Voldemort who finally killed them. Without them, Molly –  without them, Lily and I wouldn’t be here.”
There was a long pause, and Molly nodded. Her expression – or lack of expression – didn’t change.
James and Lily walked back to the Apparition point. If he got any colder he’d be a block of ice.
“That didn’t provide much comfort, did it?” He muttered. “Might as well not have bothered her. So her brothers saved our lives, so what? I’m sure she’d rather it were the other way ‘round. I would, in her place.”
“The day will come when she’ll be happy she knows.” Lily said quietly.
“I hope so. Bloody hopeless war. What a way to lose your family.”
She stopped dead in her tracks and faced him. “It’s not hopeless. It will never be hopeless.” Her eyes were fierce.
“Lily, I didn’t mean – ”
“James.” She looked at him very seriously.
“What?” He wondered what else he had done wrong.
“I want to – bother, this isn’t the way I wanted to tell you, but I can’t bear to see you standing there feeling so lost, and – ”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
She held his face in her hands, held his eyes with hers, and whispered, “I think I’m pregnant.”
***
Author’s note:
The initial inspiration for this story came to me when I was reading a review of the new-old Tolkien book, The Children of Hurin. Most of what’s in it I think I’ve already read in The Silmarilion (yes, nerd, geek, dweeb…), but something the reviewer said stuck in my mind, about not giving up even in a lost cause. Then I had a long IM chat with bandcandy about the idea, and we came up with this notion of making it Fabian and Gideon, who wouldn’t know the outcome of the war but would win it. And no, I wasn’t deliberately channeling Butch & Sundance,but I couldn’t seem to keep them out of the story.
  • Absolutely beautiful - everything I could have imagined it would be when you described it, and more. The bit with James and Lily at the end wraps it up perfectly.

    Don't worry too much about the Butch and Sundance vibe; they sound just as much like Fred and George (if one of them were a habitual statistician) and that's to be expected. I love the interaction between the two of them and the gradual dawning of the idea that they won't make it out of there alive.
  • 'they wouldn't know the outcome of the war but would win it.'

    *wipes away a tear* And I think Molly would be comforted to know that, eventually.

    I thought you did the action sequences really well. And I loved the idea of them trying to make a hand grenade. The interaction between the brothers was spot on, too. Good job all round, as usual!
    • Thanks, Ros. Hmmmm, you're wiping away a tear at the Author's Note instead of the story... ;)
      • Only because I read the story first! But maybe you should take it as a compliment that even your notes are moving.
  • That was a very moving reminder to make everything count, even if we don't know what positive results our actions might have in the future. Thank you.
    • Thanks, Bel. That's what I was after.

      This "Young Albus" userpic of yours -- am I right in thinking that it's Richard Harris playing King Arthur?

      • Yes. Ros and Moonette wanted me to have an icon. So I found a picture of a younger Richard Harris looking suitable noble to be a younger Dumbledore, who's one of my favourite HP characters, and they fixed it up for me. However, I doubt Dumbledore ever went in for Harris's wild living and excessive drinking.
  • *Sniff*

    Jeez, do you always have to make me cry?

    I'm trying to remember how much canon there actually is about the Prewett brothers. I know we know they were killed fighting for the Order, but beyond that I can't even remeber if we were ever told their names. How much of the rest of it does Rowling give?
    • Sorry, Honey. Actually I'm grateful it made you cry; I was beginning to think I was losing the touch. (This story had a lot of technical issues, for me, and that's what occupied most of my attention; I wasn't sure that the feeling came through.)

      All we ever hear, in canon, about Gideon and Fabian is their names, from Moody in OoP, showing Harry a photograph and pointing the two of them out, saying that they "died like heroes." Later, either on her Web site or in an interview, JKR admitted that Gideon and Fabian were Molly's brothers. (One popular FF theory is that Fred & George were named after them.)
  • Very good. I appreciate the summary, "out of options, but not out of choices".

    The biggest thing I got out of this was the sense of the gravity of the first war; what would have happened had Voldemort not been rendered impotent by his boomeranging (oops, an Australian word, but I think you'll know that one!) AK curse at Harry. Although it's a bit hard to reconcile the scale of the 'war', sometimes, when you consider the relatively small size of both the Order and Voldemort's organisation. At least, I've always had the impression that the Dumbledore's Order was only a few dozen people.

    Had Voldemort not been vanquished, what would have happened? The ministry, the bulk of the Wizarding World, just capitulate and hand over power? Can such a small group of *terrorists* like Voldemort and the DEs conquer a country like that? I don't know enough history to know whether it's possible or not.

    (The idea that the good guys could have lost the first Voldemort war, though, through just slow attrition due to DE terrorist attacks really makes me want to ask what the rest of the population were doing. Surely at some stage the Ministry would institute a draft, drum up a real militia, etc? I want to grab myself a magical history book and read up on what happened!)

    Anyway, this story had me thinking about such things, making the reader aware of the precipice on which the magical world were tottering. I have fresh appreciation for the first chapter of PS when the wizards were delirious with joy after the Dark Lord fell.

    Nice employment of magical science, viz the mechanics of spell grenades, space warps and the like. You made F&G - and their opponents - much more 'real' than just silly people waving sticks while muttering latin phrases. This magic is a serious business/science after all!

    Touching scene with them realising what was going to happen to them, starting with the 'Molly is never going to bloody see me again' line, which was a shock.
    • Hi Brad; thanks.

      As to the gravity of the war and the size of the group, Moody (or somebody) says in OoP that the Order was outunumbered 20-to-1 in the first war; we know that there were at least twenty members of the Order at the time (he names them), so that suggests that the Death Eaters were at least 400 strong at that point. We know that Aurors were also fighting Voldemort, but apparently with as little success as the Order -- which is why Barty Crouch authorized Unforgivables against them. As for the rest of the wizarding world knuckling under to them, well, there are unfortunately a lot of parallel examples in history, of populations being cowed by a small group of ruthless, violent dictators. (...and other cases where they knuckled under, at least in part, because they weren't so sure the dictators were wrong. How many of the wizarding world were secretly relieved at the notion of a "strong leader" and "cleansing" the population of Muggleborns? I wonder...)

      I'm glad you liked that last scene between F & G; that one, and the end of the scene with James & Lily, were really what the whole piece was about. Everything leading up to that was to impress the reader with the gravity, pain and hopelessness of the situation.
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