All in all, he thought, this was not going entirely well.

Finding the castle had been the easy part. Not that easy, mind; there were plenty of castles in Transylvania, even plenty of magical castles, and getting caught in the wrong one by the wrong vampire was not what he had in mind. In fact, he didn't plan for any of them to get caught by any vampire, but losing any of them to the wrong one would be especially embarrassing. Of course, he planned to kill them all in the end, but it would be nice to get to the end with a full set. This was looking more and more unlikely every second.

Firstly, magical rope is not exactly the best thing to be climbing with. He'd told them to bring good, ordinary, solid Muggle rope with them, but nobody was listening to him, especially not the creepy one from England who was overly fond of snakes. McMurphy didn't like snakes, didn't trust them. Something about those beady eyes. But in this line of work, you got who you were given, and were happy with them; that or you were dead. Their current overseer, whose identity McMurphy wasn't quite sure of, was a fussy customer, but at least he was a decent European type; McMurphy would have to be very desperate before he got mixed up with those Africans again, there was weird stuff that went on in those deserts, and McMurphy felt that he could cope with a lot more weird stuff than most.

Secondly, the vines had given out on about the fifth floor. He'd felt a lot safer when he'd got the vines for company; if someone got to all of his men down below, holding the rope out for him - stupid Unplottable locations, making him climb walls like some common burglar, and even a proper burglar would have a decent bit of real rope, a proper grappling hook and all. This place wasn't even properly Unplottable, he'd heard; it was worse than that, some foul magic that'd do more than Splinch you, should you decide to try anything that even looked like Apparation. The closest they could get by portkey had been a day's march through the stupid forest, and hadn't that been fun; werewolves and bloody great spiders and all, as well as trying to keep the 'team' from each other's throats on some stupid point of wizarding politics. Who cared that Genna's parents were not exactly the most magical pennies in the bucket? She was the right witch for the job, which she'd proved by disarming some pretty gruesome wards and letting them get this far.

Thirdly, the windows had given out around the seventh floor, so he didn't even have the promise of the occasional window-sill to break his fall should he slip, just yards and yards of stone polished to a sheen, seemingly to discourage just such an ascent. Goodness knows what was a few floors up. All he needed was to get attacked by a bunch of gargoyles now, or something of the sort. He wasn't going to be able to do much defending himself against anything, clinging to the rope as he was. The rope that had started to sway worryingly.

Or maybe sway was the wrong word. It was more... sinuous than that. McMurphy was suddenly put in mind of the snakes that creepy English guy was fond of. As if in response to his thought, he could have sworn the rope grew scales beneath his hands, although when he looked it was still rope. He'd got Heinrich doing the rope, though, and Heinrich was no fonder of snakes than he was. The whole thing was rather unnerving.

He climbed a little higher, but he didn't trust the rope any more. Remembering Genna's warning about any kind of levitation spell - that is, it wouldn't work - he decided to take a closer look. Muttering an incantation under his breath, he released one hand cautiously from the rope to place on his wand; for simple charms, he'd found that was enough. On the ground, holding Heinrich's wand, was a smiling figure... it was a creepy smile, and it didn't meet his eyes. On his shoulder, a snake was coiled, unblinking. It was that creepy English guy, and he was doing something with his free hand.

He was waving goodbye.

McMurphy fell 12 stories, hitting the rough, broken stone of the courtyard like a paper bag filled with vegetable soup. Tom Riddle - Lord Voldemort to his friends - nodded appreciatively at the sight, much more artistic than the simple lifeless bodies of the others.

Now, about getting into this castle.