The Weasley twins, Fred and George, are the first to arrive back at their shop, Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
"Oy, was that a near thing," groans Fred, walking in and quite unsure what to do with his swollen arm, the result of a particularly nasty Stinging Hex.
"You said it, Fred," agrees George, cradling his bloodied midsection with a wince. "I was just relieved to get those two Death Eaters off our tails and finally drop them off their outdated brooms."
"Lucky for us they just happened to land on that Muggle truck! Maybe not so lucky for them, though."
"And after all that, to think there were two more waiting for us on the other side of the cafe!"
"At least you had fair odds!" Angelina Johnson laments, limping into the store after them, trying to put as little pressure as possible on her left leg. "I was alone against three of those buggers."
George grins at her, bringing her into his embrace (careful to pull her against his uninjured side). "That's my Angelina, though! Those three will be out cold for quite some time, won't they?"
She grits her teeth before examining her leg, which has suffered such extensive burns that part of her robe and most of her pants leg has been burned off, with pocks of burn marks showing on her exposed skin. "But obviously not before the prats got some licks in."
It took the scrappy group all night and a solid chunk of the morning to alternatively hide from and fight off the sizeable number of Death Eaters they'd attracted away from their allies in central London the night before.
"Am I the only one who came out of that battle unharmed?" comes a new voice. Katie Bell strides in, placing her Nimbus Three Thousand neatly against the wall as though finished with a Quidditch practice. "We attracted a large enough force, don't get me wrong. But most of them were slow and predictable if you ask me."
"Well, if you're quite finished rubbing it in, Katie," Angelina says through clenched teeth, "perhaps you could put your considerable healing talents to work on the rest of us?"
"Oh, right... Sorry." Coming straightaway to her side, Katie places her wand gently over the wounds, adding Aguamenti in addition to customary healing spells to soothe the burns away.
Meanwhile, Fred crosses his arms over his chest--or at least crosses them as best he can, considering his right arm is twice the width of his left. "As I recall, this whole escapade was your idea to begin with, Katie."
"Nagged us to no end when she saw the Dark Mark overhead while meandering outside, bored," adds George, who seats himself on a nearby flight of steps.
"I wasn't bored, George--I just felt we should be doing something other than taking inventory of your shop's goods! Angelina, you're going to need at least one healing potion for your leg--I'm assuming there's one in back."
"I daresay we weren't just taking inventory! Our shop is doing very important work for the Rebellion, you know."
"Couldn't have put it any better myself, George!"
"Oh, pipe down you two, and Fred, let me see your arm." Katie's wand begins to run up and down his arm, and already the swelling begins to subside. "You were lucky--you may not need any potions at all for this."
Angelina is already looking George over by the time Katie makes her way over to him. The latter's wand is at work while the former applies bandages to staunch the flow of blood. "This will be unsightly for a time," Katie tells him. "But none of the wounds go particularly deep, thankfully. I can stop the pain so you'll have full maneuverability again."
Both girls help George to his feet, who wraps an arm around Angelina and looks Katie's dimunitive form over with appreciation. "Thanks, Katie. I guess it's a good thing you didn't get clobbered out there after all. We wouldn't've been quite so able to patch you up as you have us!"
"That," Fred adds, "and we'd never want to see Gryffindor's favorite Chaser--er, second favorite Chaser," he amends after a look from Angelina, "harmed in the first place, of course."
Katie smiles easily at her three friends, which then fades as she fiddles with her wand pensively. "Thank you, really. But despite my recent boasts, I think I was just lucky."
"Felix Felicis lucky perhaps?" asks Fred with a quirked eyebrow.
She rolls her eyes. "No, Fred. You don't have any in this store anyway."
George is just about to put in a suggestion for where to find some of the stuff when the door opens and in come Ginny Weasley, Cormac McLaggen, and...
"COLIN!" Angelina and Katie exclaim at once, rushing toward Colin Creevey immediately. Katie picks him up in a bear hug and swings him around like a child. He's slightly dizzy by the time she puts him down, and Angelina steadies him by placing both her hands on his shoulders. "You really had us worried there, Creevey. What exactly happened to you?" Angelina addresses this question not only to Colin but also Ginny and Cormac, standing behind him.
"It's rather a long story, I'm afraid," Cormac answers for him, "one fraught with danger, battles, and breathtaking heroics courtesy of yours truly!"
Katie playfully punches him in the shoulder. "Right, and I'm sure the others were just riding your coattails the whole time, right?" A sudden thought comes to her. "Wait a moment, where's Katniss?"
Fred and George look at the figure looming just outside the shop. "And what's he doing here??" they ask in unison.
Katie and Angelina bring out their wands as the Weasley twins grab Peter Pettigrew none too gently by the arms. "He's already here, might as well bring him inside so as not to attract attention!" one of them announces.
"Easy, guys!" Colin calls out. "Peter's on our side."
"Are you certain, Colin?" Katie asks him.
"Bollocks," says Fred.
"We remember all too well this git pretending to be our little brother's pet rat for half his life," puts in George.
"I had my reservations too," Ginny adds. "But Colin's right. He's proven himself. If it weren't for Mr. Pettigrew, our rescue mission for Colin would've been for nothing. Fred, George, let him go."
"Hmph!" Pettigrew tuts as the twins finally relax their grip.
"But Ginny!" George laments.
"If he's good by Ginny, then that's good enough for me."
"Oh, not you too, Angelina!" George laments even more.
"But still," Katie goes on, wrapping her arms around herself as though cold, "I remain uncomfortable with keeping him here. Forgive me, Mr. Pettigrew, but we have to be cautious. You were once a Death Eater after all."
"A Death Eater in our shop now too," Fred points out.
"If it makes you feel any better, he won't be here for long." Ginny then gestures to the stump at the end of his left arm. "He's going to need a trip to St. Mungo's, I'm afraid. Katie, we were hoping you could take a look first, though."
Moving in a moment from adversary mode to healer mode, Katie takes a look at the bandages. Pettigrew cries out in alarm as she goes to remove them. "Oh, don't be such a baby!" she chides him.
A few moments later, she's beginning to wrap new bandages around his stump. "There's not much I can do beyond what Ginny and others have done. You'll need to spend at least one night at St. Mungo's, I'm sure."
No sooner does she finish with the bandages than the door to the shop opens again.
"You've got to be kidding me," comes the unexpected voice of Romilda Vane. "THIS is the secret Rebellion headquarters?"
"Well, look who the twins have dragged in now," announces Fred smoothly as Parvati and Padma Patil walk in, with Romilda following close behind.
"Oh, a newcomer!" Cormac exclaims, swaggering toward her. "And a good thing too."
He's ennumerating all the ways he can find uses for her when she cuts him off: "Seriously McLaggen, can you try not taking over every single situation for just five minutes?"
"That might be like asking him not to breathe, Romilda," Angelina smirks.
Just then a dispute breaks out between the Weasley twins and Romilda over the chocolate cauldrons that had Ron so smitten with her the year before. Ignoring that conversation, Ginny and Katie turn toward the Patil twins, who have just been catching up with Colin. "How did it go, you two?" Ginny asks.
Katie looks around in concern. "And wasn't Lavender supposed to go with you?"
"She did," Parvati affirms. "But she's in St. Mungo's Hospital right now."
When both their eyes widen in alarm, Padma quickly assures them, "She'll be fine, don't worry. Lavender just needs rest. She went through quite an ordeal earlier."
"She is, to use her own words, suddenly all interesting now." Pride shows in Parvati's eyes. "Lavender really proved herself today, though. She was brilliant!"
Ginny is just about to ask what happened when the door opens again, and everyone turns to look.
"BLOODY HELL, WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE!?" Romilda yells in outrage, immediately bringing her wand to bear on Pansy Parkinson and Gregory Goyle before they're even fully in the door. Cormac's jaw tightens upon seeing them approach, his hand going instinctively for his wand as well.
A spell is already on the former's lips when Angelina has to forcefully restrain her wand arm. "Ease up, Romilda, they're on our side now!"
"Like hell they are! They'll turn us over to Voldemort the first chance they get--like the snakes they are. I mean, it's bad enough you guys let bloody Wormtail in here too." She gestures at the fidgety man, who looks back at her with agitation. (If Goyle realizes Pettigrew his Mentor is here, he gives no indication. They had not had much interaction, even before the Games--the former was too dim-witted the learn and the latter too cowardly to teach.)
Fred merely rolls his eyes. "Here we go again," he mutters under his breath to a grinning George.
Pansy's response to this show of hostility is merely to raise an indignant eyebrow. "You pompous, self-important little wretch," she says, brushing Romilda's shoulder forcefully as she passes by, Goyle offering a dangerous glare in Cormac's direction as he follows along behind her. Pansy goes to pluck a snack from a nearby display but then remembers whose shop she's in. She promptly offers her box to Goyle instead, who devours the orange-flavored chews--with no immediate ill effects.
"It's okay, Romilda, really!" puts in Colin, and Romilda regards him little better than she would a flobberworm. "Professor Snape himself recruited the Slytherins."
Her eyes go wide. "And that's supposed to reassure me how??"
Katie comes up alongside the two newcomers. "Really though, what more do the Slytherins need to do to prove themselves to us? They're in this fight against You-Know-Who just the same as we are," she says, laying a hand on Pansy's shoulder--who immediately bristles at the Gryffindor girl's touch.
"Nice show of solidarity there, Parkinson," Romilda sneers. "Fred, George, you two always let freeloaders come in here and consume your merchandise?"
"Relax," Ginny tells her before either twin can form a quip. "Suffice to say we have our reasons for trusting them. During the Games, Goyle and I even saved each other from a dementor. Remember that, Goyle?"
"Heh, yeah I do," he says with a goofy grin. "Thanks Ginny."
"Don't mention it," she tells him, then adding, more to herself than to him, "Sorry if I misjudged you."
Pansy looks at him with slight irritation, then faces the others. "For what it's worth, thank you, Bell. You too, Creevey. And you really are Colin Creevey this time, right? I half expect you to turn into Snape any moment now."
Colin shivers. "No, I think I'm quite done being Snape now!"
"Creevey, I think that's about the best news that anyone in this shop has heard yet," Cormac puts in, pulling his gaze away from the Slytherins with an effort.
Padma speaks up. "Where's Draco Malfoy, by the way? I thought he was with you."
"We went to the Ministry of Magic where we found and, er, convinced Draco's father to join our cause. He remained behind with him, but I can't get into any of the particulars of the arrangement."
"Oh, that's perfectly trustworthy," Romilda grumbles.
After casting a cold glare at her, Pansy continues, "Needless to say, the Rebellion now has a foothold in the Ministry itself. It won't be long before the Dark Lord's control of the government is broken."
"Next, wer goin' to look for my dad, since Draco found his," Goyle adds.
Pansy immediately notices the looks of discomfort that come over the faces of both Patil sisters at this. "Perhaps you'd like to give us a starting point for that search then?" she asks, stalking dangerously toward them. "You two have been awfully shifty lately if you ask me!"
Parvati sighs. "He's at St. Mungo's Hospital."
"WHAT?" Pansy exlcaims. Goyle is looking angrier by the minute.
Parvati stammers, increasingly anxious. "Er, well, there was a battle, and I just, I--"
"We found him," Padma puts in smoothly. "He was comatose in a London park. No idea how he got that way of course--probably just a stray spell. But we noticed the resemblance to you, Goyle, and promptly got him to St. Mungo's."
"A park, eh?" George speaks up. "Near the Thames? I don't suppose it was your group we were bailing out when those Death Eaters attacked the bridge, was it?"
"That was us," Parvati answers. "And I take it we have you, Fred, Katie, and Angelina to thank for drawing off the Death Eaters for us?"
"Not to mention removing that big ugly mark from the sky as well!" Fred says with a wink.
"Unbelievable," Pansy breathes, looking at the Patil twins as if seeing them for the first time. "That was you two who fought off the Death Eater legion? By yourselves?"
"With our help!" Angelina puts in.
"Yes, it was thanks to their diversion," Padma agrees. "And not just us. We had Lavender with us too." That only causes Pansy to widen her eyes even more.
"She's currently in the hospital as well," Parvati goes on, "same floor as your father, Goyle. Spell Damage. They'll both be fine eventually, of course. We can take you to him in the meantime if you'd like."
He shrugs. "Sure."
"Another thing," Parvati goes on, looking to Ginny. "I know I saw Katniss leave with you and McLaggen this morning. Where is she now?"
"She and Peeta have returned to their home country of Panem," she responds. "War's broken out there too, and they have to fight for their families and friends against evil just the same as us."
"Because a fat lot of good a Muggle like her was doing in our wizarding war anyway," Pansy huffs.
Ginny looks at her, outraged. "You really have no idea, do you, Parkinson?"
"Oh, stuff your self-righteous lecture, Weasley! It's not prejudice, it's plain logic--Muggles simply lack the talents to help wizarding folk like us."
"Wow, you really are as stupid as you look," Cormac blurts out. "Everdeen was brilliant out there! Have you never seen that bow and arrow of hers in action?"
"Why would I when I have a perfectly good wand, thank you very much."
Fred lets out a low whistle. "I don't know, though. Katniss was pretty sharp with that thing. I've seen how she shoots with it."
"The truth of the matter is," Ginny says, "if it weren't for Katniss Everdeen, all three of us--" she gestures to herself, Cormac, and Colin, "--would likely be dead by now. Skewered to death."
"That probably says more about you than it does her," Pansy mumbles.
"No, I agree with Ginny," Parvati says. "After our own experiences today, I know not to underestimate Muggles anymore."
"You can say that again!" Colin puts in, rubbing his elbow, at the same time as Romilda says under her breath, "Especially after Buckingham Palace..."
Katie speaks up. "So we know Katniss and Peeta got out of the Arena safely. What about Rue?"
At once, Ginny, Cormac, and Colin lower their heads, looking stricken--and Katie has her answer. "Oh, that's horrible," she says quietly.
"But... she was so young!" Parvati adds, disbelief showing on her face.
"What about you?" Ginny addresses Katie, looking significantly at her brothers as well--and seeming eager to change the subject. "Weren't you planning a raid on Azkaban today?"
"Yes," Katie replies, and some of her agitation shows through. "I'm afraid we haven't quite gotten to it yet. Have we, boys?" she asks Fred and George through gritted teeth.
"Whoa, Katie," George says, placing his hands out in front of him. "We just returned from helping the esteemed Patil twins with their Death Eater buddies."
"I seem to remember that being your idea, in fact, Miss Bell," Fred agrees.
"Yes, but if you hadn't taken so bloody long--"
"And would you rather us not have been in a position to help Parvati, Padma, and Lavender?" asks Angelina. The Patils share a look.
"Well, of course I'm not referring to that, Angelina. Saving our three friends was obviously important, and I'd do it again without thinking. But we have others waiting on us to rescue them too, you know--while you Weasleys have just been putting around here."
"Doing very important business, I might add," insists Fred, with a slight air of indignation in his voice.
"Keep your robe on, Katie, it won't take us much longer now," George says smoothly.
Katie rolls her eyes in response.
Parvati abruptly grows concerned. "Goyle, what--?" she points at his face, where blood is now flowing out of his nostrils.
"Gregory!" Pansy exclaims in alarm. She goes to put her sleeve against his bloodied nose, immediately thinks better of it, and uses the collar of his own robe to cover his nose and halt the bleeding.
Fred shrugs, looking much too pleased with the situation. "Now surely that wasn't a Nosebleed Nougat you were eating a few minutes ago, was it Goyle?" Both Goyle and Pansy glare daggers at him.
"Well, we'll leave you to your preparations then," Padma tells the Weasley twins, hopping off a nearby box. "Meanwhile, if you'll come with us, Goyle, Parvati and I will take you to St. Mungo's--I'm sure the staff there can see to your nosebleed. You can visit with your father as well."
"Don't expect him to be awake, though," Parvati cautions him uneasily. The two sisters lead him out the door, but not before Conjuring an impressive number of handkerchiefs for Goyle. Pansy watches them leave, looking a bit uncomfortable to be left without any of her Slytherin friends all of a sudden.
Colin leads Pettigrew through the door after the first group is gone. "Come on, Peter--it's time to get you some proper care too."
"I hope Madam Pomfrey's still there," Pettigrew remarks. "She always liked me okay."
"And if you'll excuse me," Ginny says to those still left, "I'm going to look for Harry." She pauses. "Any idea where he may have gone?"
"Dunno," George answers. "He left with Ron and Hermione, searching for the Deathly Hallows again. No idea where he's gotten to by now."
"No matter," she replies, extracting her Dumbledore's Army coin and beginning to inscribe on it with her wand. "I'll just ask him."
"I thought Harry wanted to keep separate from you," Fred says protectively. "Put you on the safer missions so he doesn't have to worry about you?"
"Well, he can stuff it then," she responds crossly. "None of our tasks from this point on will be safe, nor was my previous one, in fact. Besides, I think I've proven myself by now. If nothing else, this will allow me to look out for him. Ron too, for that matter."
Romilda gets a curious look on her face. "The Deathly Hallows, though. Isn't that just a children's tale?"
George shrugs. "Professor Dumbledore seemed to think there was something more to it--according to Ron at any rate."
"Where did everyone else go?" Romilda asks. "I know Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood were part of this Rebellion too."
"And still are," Ginny says. "Hannah Abbott went with Neville and Luna both, I think to Hogsmeade, to investigate rumors of some major Death Eater activity in the vicinity of Hogwarts."
"That's a lot of ground to cover," remarks Angelina.
"It is. That's why Cedric Diggory formed a team to join them. He took Cho Chang with him of course, as well as his two other friends from that Triwizard Tournament we had a few years ago."
Pansy wrinkles her nose in revulsion. "Did he take that loathsome creature with him too?"
"Ah, his werewolf friend Jacob?" Fred replies. "Wonderful bloke he is." Nobody but George can really tell if he's being sarcastic or not. "But no, no one knows whether he went with them or struck out on his own."
"As long as he's kept far from me, so much the better." Pansy looks wistfully around like she wishes Goyle or Draco were still there right now.
"I've got to go too," Ginny remarks. "Stay safe, all of you. I intend to see each and every one of you again before this is over." She looks over the entirety of the group but focuses her sights in particular on Fred and George.
The latter spreads his hands in a placating gesture. "Now now, dear sister, do you think I plan to run along and get myself killed? Or let something similar happen to our beloved Fred?"
"I'll keep a watch on dear George here too while I'm at it," Fred tells her with a wink.
Ginny is unable to keep her gaze away from the gathering as she finally reaches the door of the shop and--with great reluctance--sets off into Diagon Alley.
Those remaining now regard each other. Fred, George, Angelina, and Katie look across the aisle at Cormac, Romilda, and Pansy.
"We'll have to leave for Azkaban soon," Katie announces. "What will you three do?" The three look at each other, with equal and terrible discomfort.
Fred, however, surprises them all when he gestures to Pansy. "Fancy tagging along with us, Pansy? After all, it's your Mentor in charge of those dungeons now. We figure you might be good for making things a bit sticky for her."
Pansy looks taken aback by this request (as does everyone else). "Er, thanks Weasley, but Umbridge ceased being a Mentor to me when she sided with those still intent on destroying us." She looks toward the door. "If it's all the same to you, I'd like to remain close by in case something happens on the Malfoys' end, and to help Goyle if he needs me."
"Fair enough." Fred can see Katie and Angelina practically exhaling with relief.
Angelina speaks up. "I think the four of us will be sufficient. If we make our rescue group any larger, we risk giving ourselves away by sheer force of numbers."
"Yes, the element of surprise is important for a delicate operation like this," Katie agrees, nodding her head a bit too vigorously.
Cormac cracks his knuckles. "Anyway, if something's about to go down at the Ministry, it's clear we need to be in the proper positions, ready to take down You-Know-Who at any moment." Despite his confident words, it's obvious he's trying to distance himself the lone Slytherin in the group as much as the narrow aisle will allow.
"My dad's still in that place," Romilda informs them. "The closer I can be to him, the better I'll feel about it." Looking at Cormac and Pansy, though, it's clear that she doesn't think much of her new teammates.
Nor does Pansy. "And to think, I'm partnering with a couple Gryffindors. I must be barking."
Cormac turns on her. "Hey sweetface, we're not exactly jumping at the chance to team up with you either." The look of purest loathing and mistrust that he gives Pansy then is more than matched by her in kind. Romilda merely rolls her eyes and heads for the door.
Fred, on the other hand, is all smiles. "Well, do be sure to send us a moving postcard by owl to let us know how you're getting on!" he cheers them as they file out the door. All three of them turn and fix him with a hateful stare.
"Hey, you managed to get them all on the same side," George praises him after they're gone. "I always knew you were one for unifying, Fred."
"It's a talent of mine, George," he answers, taking a theatrical bow.
"And so that leaves just the four of us again," Katie says happily, picking up her Nimbus from the wall and making her way to the door. "Shall we go then too?"
"Of course, Katie," responds Fred. "Just as soon as we're done taking inventory."
"And stocking supplies for the journey," adds George.
"Making sure we're fully equipped for every eventuality."
"Ensuring Zonko's doesn't get any clever ideas in our absence too, don't forget that."
The twins go on and on like this as they make their separate ways toward the back. Angelina looks back at her, offers an apologetic shrug, and saunters back to join George.
Katie then heaves a world weary sigh, lets her broom drop to the floor, and slumps down against the wall into a sitting position, swearing silently at all three of them.