Fandom: Eroica, Harry Potter
Summary: A brief encounter in the trenches.
In milky moonlight, a lurid red apparition of skulls and snakes billowed above a small Scottish town. The silent dim shapes of messenger-owls darted overhead, while a stealthy ground-fog crept through the countryside just beyond the village. Hidden in the fog, eight feet above the winter-struck bracken, two men hovered astride sleek broomsticks. One man sat his with confidence, the other with uneasy stoicism.
“Do you even know how to fly that thing?” muttered the younger of the two.
“Ja, Herr Potter.”
“It’s just that you don’t look at all comfortable. Would you rather ride a thestral?”
The older man’s shoulders hunched reflexively. “Those are the batwinged nightmares, the death-harbingers? Then, no. I see enough of them, in my daily work.”
“You don’t have to be my bodyguard,” said the youth. “Our entire position is ringed with sentries. And you’ve only got a gun.”
Major Eberbach bore this with a brief hard grin. “It is my honor, _cousin_. And this is not ‘just a gun’.” He lifted a couple of fingers from the black plastic grip.
Harry Potter blinked, as the grip changed colour and texture, from plastic to black-streaked brown wood. Fugitive glimmers of magic leaked from the wood, trickling over blue steel and warm flesh. “Your wand,” he whispered, awestruck. “Sirius always wanted to try enchanting a gun as a magical focus, but he only got as far as a motorbike. He would have loved this.”
Klaus watched inevitable joy fade into inevitable sorrow, on Potter’s face.
“I have a wand. Made from the same ironwood tree, and cored with the same naga’s hair. My mother made them for me, before she died. I rarely use the wand,” Klaus offered, mollified a little by the youth’s too-recent loss of family. “I keep it locked away.”
Potter smiled, leaning closer on his broomstick. “Hermione said she’d heard of you. ‘Der Freischütz’, the Free-Shooter. You can hit anything you aim at. Sometimes well out of range. It puzzles the Muggles.” Then Potter’s grin twisted. “I almost wish you weren’t here, Klaus. I don’t want to endanger even a distant relative in this mad battle.”
Klaus nodded toward the village. “If you do not contain Riddle here in England, his poison will spread to other countries. Such has happened before, in your world and mine.”
Potter opened his mouth to speak, but some shift in the wind silenced both men. As one, they wheeled the broomsticks downslope, toward their right.
A hollow of dead ferns had concealed a knot of friendly hit-wizards, red-robed Aurors on loan from Britain’s Ministry of Magic. Klaus felt briefly sorry for them – if not already traitors, then they were surely overwhelmed.
Darkness, under the pearly fog. A miasma of cold and dreary hopelessness. Behind him, Klaus heard Potter gasp softly. The wizards and witches concealed on that side hissed dismay at what they could sense, but not yet see.
“_Dementoren._” Klaus growled, putting himself between the new threat and Potter.
Seven tall gaunt figures glided out of the fog. Klaus did not wait to be certain, but fired off two distracting shots at the stalkers.
They had not been expecting guns, or the kind of ammo Klaus carried. One stumbled, its knees blown out. Another’s head snapped back upon impact, then rolled sickeningly forward, still intact and implacably aware.
_Dementors,_ Klaus’ internal catalogue of the outré informed him. From childhood memories, he could still hear Sister’s voice catechising him on creatures of the dark that he would one day face, as a warrior of the Light and a sworn Templar. _They steal joy and hope. Bravery and enough good dark chocolate may help you in their wake. Do not let one kiss you, for then it will steal your soul! You must find one moment of fierce joy, and let that become your guardian against the dementoren._
Time slowed, as it always did in such moments. Klaus remembered the Latin phrases Sister had taught.
The dark, incense-rich chapel where he’d held a knight’s vigil, to mark his choice of a mundane life instead of a wizard’s. There had been a few beeswax candles burning with the summery scent of honey. On a column beside the altar, a small carved wooden angel with a gilt sword, its face hidden in a flung fold of drapery. At age fifteen, Klaus had loved that angel and all the true good it represented.
At age fifty, he still loved it.
Two voices rang out with “Expecto Patronum!”
The magic cast, it hurled outward from the two men in a gout of silver fire. From Potter, the spell shaped itself into a giant stag crowned with antlers of starfire.
The beast plowed into the Dementors and scattered them.
_Where’s mine?_ Klaus thought, a half-second before human screams split the air behind him. He’d never cast that spell before, preferring always to his own gun and cunning. Perhaps he hadn’t spoken it with the right intent.
More soul-suckers appeared through the fog. The flanking army, or at least its head, had been flanked. Klaus counted ten gliding dark shapes among the running, dodging wizards. Behind him, Potter snarled spells and Latinate curses.
Some bodyguard I am, today, Klaus thought. He remembered the angel once more. Imagined its wings opening, hood falling away from its transcendant face to reveal – what? What could give him more fierce joy than the duty he’d been born to, that he was superbly shaped and trained to perform? What could possibly counter the bleak lassitude he felt radiating from the stalking black shapes?
In a remembered flash of blue eyes, he knew, and screamed the words again, ragged and desperate:
Starfire ignited between him and the _dementoren_. A bright sweeping bar cut down diagonally, mowing them aside. Potter’s stag-guardian wheeled in its charge and returned. The glowing silver bar became a sword.
For the very first time, Klaus saw his _Patronus_, the twenty-foot-high guardian that took shape from his innermost self.
It was the angel from the Templar chapel, delineated in traceries of white fire. Body clad in armour and flowing robes, wings that were razored weapons in themselves, the starry sword gripped in two strong but graceful hands. A beautiful male face that Klaus knew, had already known for years. The Patronus seemed remote and stern, as its model seldom was. But catching Klaus’ eyes, it smiled gently, and faded back into moonlight and fog.
They had a minute, maybe less, while the Dark Lord tried to discern how his latest foray had failed. Somewhere between this hollow and the edge of the town, the final battle would decide everything.
“Who is he, your Patronus?” Potter asked, slipping Klaus a flask of energizing potion. “Someone amazing. And very real.”
“He’s a silly English Squib who carries on like a foppish prince of thieves,” Klaus said, hearing his own words with wonder and appalling embarrassment. “He’s completely and utterly useless.”
Potter nodded sagely. “And still, someone who served as template for your Patronus.” With the brutal innocence of youth, or of Gryffindors, he asked: “Do you love him?”
Klaus no longer had the luxury of youth, or of self-delusion. “Ja.”
“Then tell him, when you have the chance.” Potter looked older, harder, infinitely sad. “I missed my chance, and talking to a potion-master’s grave just isn’t the same. Cousin, promise me you’ll tell your Squib thief?”
“I promise,” Klaus said. Hestartled himself all over again as he realized he meant it, as the angel’s sword burned again and again through the fog. There would be victory against the Dark, Klaus knew, sure and certain as the dawn.
He had to win through: he was Eberbach, he had to watch Potter’s back, and after it all, he had a thief to visit.