The Sugar Quill
Author: Shandethe (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: The Price of Vengeance  Chapter: Prologue
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PROLOGUE

Devonshire, England 1980

A soft breeze made the fall leaves rustle as they swept past the small one-story cottage. Inside, candlelight illuminated the small bedroom.

"I think that’s it for tonight, Tony," Kevin McKinnon said, closing the storybook. His five-year-old son, Anthony, looked up at him.


"Please, Da? One more story?"

The Auror smiled and shook his head. "I’d love to, Anthony, but we have to get up early tomorrow."

The small boy groaned. "But why do we have to move?"

Kevin brushed a strand of Anthony’s reddish-brown hair--the same as his own--out of the boy’s eyes. "Because bad people are after us, Tony. They want to hurt us. So we have to hide for awhile."

Anthony pouted.

Kevin smiled. "That’s exactly how I feel, too. But we have no choice." He picked the boy up off the chair, and swung him around. Anthony shrieked with glee.

"For God’s sake, Kevin," a woman’s voice came from the doorway, "Are you putting Tony to bed or not?"

Kevin looked up to see his wife, Alice, leaning against the doorjamb. Her delicate features were highlighted by the soft lanternlight of the bedroom. Her pale blue robes swished a little as she made her way over to the bed.

Anthony closed his eyes as his father covered him and kissed him goodnight. Alice did the same, and they closed the door quietly behind them.

Kevin collapsed in a heap on the sofa in the living room. Alice sat down next to him. "Tired?"

"No, of course not. That was the ‘well-rested collapse’ you just witnessed," Kevin answered wryly.

Alice laughed and kissed him on the nose. "It’s no wonder. If you and Anthony were left to your own devices, neither of you would ever get any sleep."

Kevin shrugged. "What can I say? He’s a fascinating conversationalist." He smiled at his wife. "At any rate, he’ll be up for the move."

Alice sighed. "And we’ll be out of danger?"

"That’s the plan." Kevin replied, trying to make light of it. Seeing the worried look on her face, he put an arm around her shoulders. "Look, I promise you that everything will be fine. All right?"

Alice smiled and snuggled closer. "All right."

At that moment, the front door exploded inward in a blast of light and fire.

Then again, maybe not, Kevin thought as he and Alice leapt to their feet. "Alice, get Anthony! Get out of here!" Kevin shouted.

Five Death Eaters stood in the doorway. The one in front, presumably their leader, smiled behind his mask. "A very good suggestion, Mr. McKinnon. And may we suggest ‘duck and cover’ next?"

Alice ran to her son’s door. Her hand was barely on the knob before the Death Eater shouted, "Avada Kedavra!"

A flash of green light enveloped Alice McKinnon. The next minute, she lay sprawled face-down next to the closed bedroom door.

"NO!" Kevin screamed, and started to run to his wife’s body--but one of the other Death Eaters snapped their fingers, and chains encircled themselves around his wrists and fastened to the ceiling, pinning his arms above his head. His breath came in swift, ragged gasps. "What...do you want from us?"

The head Death Eater walked up to him, until their faces were very close. "Information. If you’d be so kind, that is," he said, his cold gray eyes glinting cruelly. "I understand you have a son as well..."

Kevin looked down at the body of his wife, then back at the Death Eater. "Leave him alone. He’s done nothing."

"Of course," the Death Eater replied smoothly. "After you answer our questions, we’ll let you and your son go free."

Kevin didn’t believe that for a second, but he knew that unless he played along, both he and Anthony would be killed right away.


He closed his eyes, and let out a defeated breath. "Very well. Tell me what you want to know."

 

*************************

Anthony rubbed his eyes, sitting up in bed. Were those screams part of a dream? If so, why had they awakened him?

He threw back the covers, suddenly thirsty. He opened the door a crack--what’s Mum doing lying on the floor? And where’s Dad?

He looked up, and saw his father hanging from the ceiling by his wrists. He wanted to scream, but he found that he could not manage sound. And those strange people in masks...he remembered what his father had said. "Bad people are after us, Tony. They want to hurt us."

He saw one of the other Death Eaters step closer to his father. Whisper to him. His father looked up at the masked man, and nodded ever so slightly.

Shaking like leaf, Anthony inched closer to the door, thinking maybe he could stop it--maybe he could save his father--

--something stepped in front of the crack. All he could see was the back of a black-robed figure, before the door suddenly shut, causing him to fall backwards. Then he saw the flash of green light from the crack under the door.

 

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