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A thin crowd trickled back and forth across the cobbles stretching from the fading glow of the enchanted menu to the shops, the patter of their boots echoing off the glass windows. Red umbrellas fluttered over sun-dappled tables and chairs and the faint scent of coffee drifted to Harry’s nose.
‘It is really quiet for the summer.’ He drew his glass of water back away from Katie’s elbow and swirled it until the bubbles formed a tiny whirlpool. ‘You’re being really quiet.’
Katie turned a small frown on him. ‘Because last time I saw you, you were worried about Frenchie messing around with some other boy. And now all you want to talk about is quidditch, which you never talk about.’
‘Well, I’m less worried now.’ He plastered a smile onto his face and smothered a knot of sour heat. ‘You were right, nothing to ruin anything over.’
She studied his expression and sighed. ‘I guess I saved that Firewhiskey for nothing.’
A faint smile flitted across Katie’s face. ‘Probably not a wise idea, Harry. Didn’t end well last time. If you don’t think Frenchie would be furious about you coming to drink Firewhiskey alone with me, then you’re not a smart guy.’
‘True.’ He managed a grin. ‘I’d get my face melted off.’
‘Me too, I reckon.’ Katie snorted. ‘Me first, probably.’
‘I certainly hope so.’ Harry chuckled. ‘I was planning on using you as a shield.’
‘Some friend you are.’ She poked him with the warm tines of her fork. ‘You should bring her here, you know. I’d like to meet her, and her ability to eat cake without putting on any weight would be really helpful…’
Harry glanced back over the alley. ‘Nobody’s lingering to eat cake in the sun?’
‘Not really. The Ministry is supposed to be putting wards up over here soon, though.’ Katie leant her chair back onto two legs and tapped the fork against her palm. ‘Did you hear about the Carrows?’
They’re on our list, though.
‘They tried to go after Amelia Bones with some of Fenrir Greyback’s followers.’ Katie shivered. ‘Aurors cut them to pieces before they even got halfway across the lawn.’
Probably not smart or powerful enough to be trusted with a horcrux, then.
‘From what I heard, that’s not a huge loss to society.’
‘But if they’re bold enough to go after the Minister…’
Harry grimaced. ‘From what the Daily Prophet’s been saying, more than a few people have started disappearing.’
Katie nodded. ‘Mum says it was like this last time. She says it will only get worse.’
‘They’re still losing.’
‘Yeah.’ She let her chair thud back onto four legs and set the fork back down on the table. ‘Or that’s what the Daily Prophet says, at least. I’m not sure I buy it, though. More people vanish every week. What if next time it’s you?’
‘If I disappear, it’s because I ate Fleur’s stash of sweets and got immolated.’ Harry offered Katie a grin, slipping an arm around her shoulders when her frown didn’t lift. ‘Hey. I’ll be fine. I always survive, remember?’
Katie’s lips twisted and she squeezed her eyes shut tight. ‘You know what I wish? I wish we could just wind everything back, right back to fourth year, so none of this ever happened.’ Tears glistened on her lashes, a soft, sad scent suffusing the gentle smell of coffee. ‘Would that be so bad?’
Yes. Fleur slipped away into the dark in the eye of Harry’s mind and the little smooth, high voice in the back of his head rose up from his memories. The only thing worse than never having had it would be to lose it after having had it.
‘No,’ he said. ‘But wishes like that don’t come true, Katie.’
‘Wishes never come true,’ she muttered, smearing her tears away. ‘I’m sorry, Harry. I’m being rubbish company. You go do your shopping and remember to bring Frenchie here to meet me. Maybe you can even introduce her to Neville.’
Maybe… Harry toyed with the thought. Everyone will know soon anyway if Fleur gets her way. A knot of doubt tightened in his gut. But the longer nobody knows, the safer she is.
Katie stumbled out of her chair and dragged him into a tight hug. ‘Be careful,’ she whispered. ‘And come see me soon.’
‘I’ll see you soon.’ Harry held her close in a rush of coffee and the faint tang of broom polish, then slipped out of her grasp. ‘You be careful, too.’
‘I’m not important enough for anyone to go after me.’ She mustered half a smile as she retreated back into the café with a small wave. ‘It’s that pretty blonde girl with the sexy accent you’ll be worrying about.’
I’ll kill anyone who tries to take Fleur away. Harry slid his wand from his sleeve and transfigured his face and hair. A crown of crimson tufts ruffled above Tom’s face in the reflection in the water glass as he swept his hair to the left and smoothed it down. I should get back to her. Don’t keep her waiting.
Harry hurried down toward Knockturn Alley, tugging a slip of paper from his pocket. Myrrh, bloodroot, and vervain for the first ritual. Got those. Mistletoe, yew sap, a bezoar, and unicorn horn for the second. Also got those. He glanced at the last thing on the list, then stuffed the piece of paper away. Unicorn’s blood. The only thing besides phoenix tears capable of curing any poison.
He turned onto Knockturn Alley, stepping from the thin crowd onto quiet cobbles. Two hit wizards drifted along the street, boots ringing on the stones and their hands in their sleeves, and a scatter of rag-clad hags eyed them from the shadows, muttering together. The nearest snatched at his hair as he passed, but Harry caught her wrist and shoved her long, yellow nails away from his head.
Does she know who I am? He met her jaundiced eyes and formed a faint connection between their minds.
The bright flash of his hair came with heat, the tang of copper on the surface of his tongue, and a damp stickiness on his skin.
Blood. Harry squashed a flash of roses and kitchen knives, releasing her arm and pushing her back.
The hag quailed and fled back into the umbrae with a whimper.
He passed Borgin and Burkes’, ignoring the display of dark curiosities and the flash of blond in the window, and strolling along the alley to the Spiny Serpent’s boarded, bolted door. Stepping around a row of large vases, he walked along the thin gap between the line of vessels and the wall, pausing before a small, stained wooden door engraved in the rough likeness of a serpent.
‘Come in.’ A soft murmur drifted from beyond the door. ‘I can hear you.’
Harry pushed open the door and found himself standing before a skeletal, snow-faced figure. A faint copper scent hung beneath the thin smell of old books.
‘You look familiar,’ the figure whispered. ‘Have we met before?’
Not me, but maybe another with the same face…
‘Not that I’m aware of,’ Harry said.
‘I never forget a face.’
A gentle orange light settled over the shop, revealing a circular stone room with two chairs at its centre.
‘What brings you to my shop then, young wizard?’ The owner blurred into the furthest chair in a single, seamless motion.
That’s faster than I can move after my ritual… He shook out his sleeve and readied his wand.
‘I’m seeking to buy something I might not be able to find elsewhere.’ Harry took the other chair. ‘It wasn’t easy to find out about this place.’
It took a lot of legilimency.
‘You have nothing to fear, young wizard.’ The owner tapped a slow deliberate rhythm on the arm of his chair with long, sharp nails and bared his prominent canines. ‘I have run this shop for almost two centuries, as my sire did before me, and there are few things I cannot obtain. What have you come for?’
‘Blood.’ Harry smiled. ‘Uncursed unicorn’s blood to be precise.’
‘Uncursed unicorn blood is hard to come by. The creature’s instinctive alchemy poisons their blood at the slightest touch of fear and their magic is potent.’ The vampire steepled his fingers. ‘What price are you willing to pay?’
‘A single drop of blood will be sufficient for my purpose. As you said, the magic of a unicorn is potent.’
‘Sometimes I ask for gold.’ The vampire’s smile bared his long, curved canines. A coiled serpent marked the right, etched into the tooth in dark ink. ‘Not always.’
‘What are you asking for, then?’ Harry leant his head to one side. ‘I have little to give you but gold.’
‘Blood for blood,’ the vampire whispered. ‘A fair exchange.’
‘My blood,’ Harry murmured.
‘I do not need any of the gifts of vampirism to feel the strength of the magic in you, young wizard,’ the vampire crooned. ‘It’s plain to see. Your eyes glow with power. The eldritch effuses from you. Your blood will be an instant of bliss to me.’
‘A drop of mine for a drop of your unicorn blood, then.’ Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve. ‘But you will have to drink it here. Now. I won’t risk my blood ending up in someone else’s hands…’
‘Very wise, young wizard.’ The vampire leant forward and extended his hand. ‘I accept. There are few among my kind who’d pass up this chance.’
Harry took the ice-cold fingers and hid a wince as the vampire’s grip tightened like a vice. ‘Go on, then.’
‘Yes,’ the vampire breathed. ‘Of course. One moment, young wizard.’ He straightened from his chair, brushing the shadows aside with his fingers and slipping into a dark passage.
Harry waited, spinning his wand on his palm.
The vampire ghosted back in with a small glass vial no longer than the tip of Harry’s finger in his hand. A drop of gleaming, silver fluid swirled within it. ‘Very hard to come by, fresh, uncursed unicorn blood. Very… precious.’ He extended his hand. ‘Blood for blood, young wizard.’
Harry let the vampire take his hand, stifling a flinch at the flash of pain as the creature drove one of his long, sharp nails into the ball of his forefinger. A single bright, crimson bead welled up, bursting onto the curved underside of the creature’s claw-like nail and filling it like a tiny cup.
The vampire dipped his long, pale tongue to it and shivered with pleasure. ‘Take your prize.’ He passed the vial across with a red-smeared smile. ‘Our business is concluded, young wizard. May you always walk in shadows.’
Harry pocketed the vial and slipped from the shop, strolling back toward Diagon Alley.
A hand seized his arm.
Harry twisted and levelled his wand between the blue eyes of a bubble-gum-pink-haired witch in tight, burgundy-red robes. A strong wash of chai reached his nose as the breeze fluttered past her.
‘Found you,’ she sang, one eye on the tip of his wand.
Auror robes. Harry pulled an innocent smile onto his face and tucked his wand away.
‘Indeed you have. May I ask why you were looking for me?’
The witch laughed. ‘Everyone’s looking for you, Harry. Your disguise is very good, but I’m adept at seeing the real person behind a new face.’ Her hair faded to ebony and her blue eyes to grey, her cheekbones rose and her lips grew full, then her appearance shifted back. ‘I’m Tonks.’
‘Ah…’ Harry plastered a grin across his lips and struggled for a plan of escape. ‘My potential fiancée. It’s nice to finally meet you… Nymphadora.’
She scowled. ‘Just Tonks! And how do you even know about that?’
‘I have my sources.’ Harry shrugged, but her grip on his arm remained tight.
‘Are these the same sources that drew you to Knockturn Alley?’
‘No.’ Harry shook his sleeve out and eased his wand down, catching its tip on the end of his middle finger. ‘I was just curious.’
‘So care to tell me where you’ve been?’ Tonks led him back into Diagon Alley with a firm hand.
‘I promised Dumbledore I would stay where I was safest.’ Harry let himself show the small spurt of humour. ‘So I did.’
‘The wards around Privet Drive keep you far safer than anything else could.’ Tonks’s brow creased. ‘Dumbledore said so himself. Didn’t anyone tell you?’
Dumbledore lied. Harry swallowed a bitter taste. They keep me safe from everyone except Voldemort. They’re not wards, they’re a fishing hook, and I’m the worm wriggling on the end.
‘I suppose he and I must’ve misunderstood one another.’
Tonks’s lips thinned. ‘I suppose so.’
‘So, now that you’ve found me, what’re you going to do?’ Harry stretched, testing her grip on his forearm, but her hold didn’t loosen. ‘I’ve pretty much finished shopping.’
‘The Order would like to make sure you’re safe. I understand you can apparate?’
‘I can.’ Harry dropped his smile and let the lightness drain from his expression. ‘But the only place I will apparate to is my current residence.’
‘And where, exactly, is that?’ Tonks demanded. ‘We’re supposed to be protecting you, not chasing you down while you’re out shopping in crowds of potential Death Eaters.’
‘I’m afraid I can’t tell you.’
‘Can’t, or won’t?’ Tonks pressed.
‘If you can tell me where the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix is, I can tell you where I’m currently residing,’ Harry offered.
‘I can’t tell you that.’ Tonks blinked and let out a low whistle. ‘You’re under the Fidelius too. That explains a lot.’
‘And quite safe.’
Tonks’s brow wrinkled deeper and she drew him to one side out of the crowd. ‘So if you’re safe, what have you been doing?’
‘Practising for my NEWTs, mostly. I asked Professor Dumbledore if I could take some of them early, since I’m quite far advanced in some subjects.’
‘I’ve never heard of anyone taking them more than a year early before. You must be really good if Dumbledore thinks you’re capable of it.’ She gave him a once over with a critical eye. ‘Transfiguration’s one of them, isn’t it.’
He nodded. ‘The face?’
Tonks grinned. ‘Yep. I’m a metamorph, so I can do that naturally, but you’ve done a spectacular job for just normal transfiguration. Dumbledore didn’t think you’d be able to hide the scar.’
‘Well, I won’t tell him if you don’t,’ Harry quipped.
Tonks gave a light chuckle. ‘I suppose that’s fair.’ She chewed her lip and her hair wilted a little. ‘It doesn’t seem that there’s all that much point in searching for you and moving you when you’ve managed to do such a good job of hiding on your own. I’ve never seen Moody so embarrassed.’ A huge grin spread across her face and her hair shifted to a bright, golden yellow. ‘The famous Mad-Eye, hunter of dark wizards and witches, outwitted by a school student.’
‘Maybe he’ll be more vigilant now?’ Harry suggested.
‘I’m not sure that’s possible.’ Tonks scowled. ‘He yelled at me yesterday for tripping over a chair leg, not because I was being clumsy again, but because I didn’t have my wand out ready to fight immediately afterward, in case I’d been attacked by a dark wizard pretending to be a chair.’
‘That does seem unreasonable.’
‘He’s good at catching dark wizards and witches, but not so great at anything else anymore.’
‘The Order needs him.’
‘The Order needs Sirius’s mother’s portrait removed. There’re only two people she won’t insult, you—’ Tonks’ hair flashed rose-pink ‘—and me. Anyone else gets it straight in the neck. I pity the person who dares insult you in hearing distance of that painting. Snape was partially deaf for days, and I’m sure I heard the words pure-blooded scion of far greater worth than any who befouls and besmirches the house of my forefathers echoing on the far side of London.’
‘It’s nice to be appreciated.’ Harry grinned. ‘What has she said to you about marriage?’
Tonks’s face tightened and her hair turned black, all the cheer draining from her face and deep purple bruises welling up beneath her eyes. ‘She was sad about my mum’s death and glad to see the Black blood shine through. From what Sirius and my mum said, she and her husband fucked the whole family up after Bellatrix went insane.’
‘Sirius said Bellatrix died a long time ago,’ Harry murmured.
Tonks nodded. ‘Mum always called her ghost. I don’t know much about it, and I think Sirius and mum swore some vow or signed something, because they said they couldn’t explain.’
‘She’s dead now.’
I killed her.
‘Not many Blacks left,’ Tonks whispered.
‘Well…’ Harry dragged a smile back onto his face. ‘You know the only way to make more of them, Little Nym. Things need to be kept in the family.’ He smirked. ‘Quite literally, apparently.’
She choked. ‘Number one. You are waaaay too young to be saying things like that to girls my age. Number two. Sirius is going to die for telling you about that nickname.’
Harry laughed. ‘No number three?’
Tonks ruffled his hair with her free hand. ‘No, my cute little baby cousin. I’m not marrying you. And I’m not fulfilling any of your fantasies either, you little sexual deviant you.’
‘Shame.’ Harry chuckled. ‘I think you’re just about my favourite cousin so far.’
‘Just about?’ A few strands of red glimmered in Tonks’s hair. ‘The other cousins you’ve met are Draco Malfoy, Narcissa Malfoy, and Bellatrix.’
‘Well, I don’t really have anything against Narcissa Malfoy.’
‘Me neither.’ Tonks shrugged. ‘Used to avoid her, because mum did, but she used to try and get hold of me and mum all the time.’
‘Bellatrix seemed to think she was sad.’
‘I’d be sad if I was a Malfoy.’ Tonks scowled. ‘Enough family chit-chat, it’s depressing. I’m meant to take you back to headquarters and wring some answers out of you, then put you back where you’re safe, but if you’re sure you’re safe. Very sure you’re safe. You can just answer some questions and I’ll let you go. Don’t really see why you have to spend the whole summer all alone without anyone to talk to but your muggle family. Sirius said they’re pretty unpleasant people.’
‘They’re not great company.’ Harry felt the smile slide off his face despite his best efforts to pin it in place. ‘Ask your questions, but I’m not going back there. I’m never going back to live there.’
‘First question, the big one, why did you leave?’ Tonks asked.
‘I don’t want to live with them,’ Harry said. ‘I would rather live by myself in the Black Lake than with the Dursleys. And with the Fidelius, I have no reason to stay.’
‘And the memory charm?’
I owed them oblivion. He smothered the tight ball of cold about his heart. They’re lucky I don’t care enough to do more than memory-charm them.
‘They hate the magical world.’ Harry shrugged. ‘I thought they’d be happier like this. Safer too, maybe.’
Or maybe not.
‘How well protected is the place you’re staying?’ Tonks cocked her head. ‘Better than Privet Drive?’
‘Way better. The Fidelius, anti-apparation, anti-portkey, and the Unyielding Shield Charm.’ Harry weighed the next words on his tongue. ‘Privet Drive only has blood wards. Remind me again whose blood Voldemort used in his resurrection ritual to nullify the protections my mother’s magic left me with?’
‘That’s true…’ Tonks’s grip loosened, then she shot him a grin and made a show of releasing him. ‘Alright. I won’t drag you anywhere, but there’s a condition. You and I, we’re going to be good friends from now on, little baby cousin. You’ve got to come and meet up with me regularly so I know you’re safe.’ She tousled his hair and winked. ‘I’ll buy you ice cream…’
‘I’ll be back at Hogwarts in a month and a half, too.’ A faint, acrid scent stung Harry’s nose and the hairs on the back of his neck prickled. ‘Is that smoke?’
‘Hogwarts is the safest place in Britain.’ Tonks sniffed the air and pulled her wand. ‘That is smoke. I don’t see anything, though…’
Safe now I’ve sacrificed Salazar. Harry glanced back into Knockturn Alley. Nothing down there.
Gentle wisps of grey drifted on the breeze over the crowd in Diagon Alley, then flames exploded among the blue umbrellas of Fleur’s favourite café, tossing burning chunks of table and chair across the street. Screams rang out through the thick swirl of smoke.
‘Morsmordre!’ A hoarse voice cried over the crackling flames.
A glowing green skull loomed over Diagon Alley and a volley of loud cracks tore through the street as the crowd scattered like frightened fish in Petunia’s pond. Harry slipped his wand from his sleeve and twisted to put his back against the wall. Dark-robed figures cast bright spells after the screaming, shrieking people and the reek of charred flesh stung his nose.
‘Go,’ Tonks urged. ‘Apparate out now.’
‘No,’ Harry said. ‘I can help. You can’t fight them all alone.’
And there might be someone from my list here.
‘Then stay behind me and watch my back.’ Tonks cast anti-apparition wards over the alley and stepped toward the trio of Death Eaters, wand-raised. ‘Don’t get caught in a proper duel.’
We’re trapped, but the hit wizards probably won’t be long. Harry ran his eyes over two rune-patterned, shining, silver masks and a bare, bone-white one. Silver must be inner circle. Plain white must be for the rest.
‘An auror…’ One of the silver-masked wizards brandished his short, thin wand at Tonks. ‘And a blood-traitor to boot.’
‘Yaxley,’ Tonks spat. ‘I should’ve guessed you’d be here. Where’s your master, hiding in the shadows?’
‘The shadows?’ Yaxley glanced up at the Dark Mark hovering above them. ‘The Dark Lord does not hide in the shadows, bitch. He rules them.’
‘Then where is he?’ Tonks retorted. ‘I see you, Yaxley, and that’s Avery on your left, but no Voldemort.’
‘You dare say his name?’ A smooth, high voice echoed from beneath the plain mask.
Fuck. Harry’s heart stopped. That’s him.
‘It’s just a name,’ Tonks said. ‘I’m not afraid of a name.’
‘There’s power in a name,’ Voldemort murmured.
He’s loving this. Harry could feel the smile behind the pale mask, could sense the wry, cruel curve of that cold grin as Voldemort let himself taste the anticipation of the fear. And now we’re stuck in here with him until the hit wizards arrive or Tonks drops the ward.
The mask burst into white smoke.
Voldemort’s crimson gaze bored into Tonks’s wide eyes and his lip curled. ‘You’re brave, Nymphadora Tonks, but being brave does not grant you power.’
‘Neither does murdering people,’ Tonks shot back.
Voldemort’s gaze flicked to Harry and his lips quirked. ‘You need to learn to transfigure your eyes if you’re going to borrow another’s face.’
‘Aren’t you going to leave?’ Harry asked. ‘Your point is made. Everyone was very scared.’
‘Not yet,’ Voldemort whispered. ‘In my absence, they have all forgotten the truth. While I have bided my time, their fear has faded. They no longer understand what I am to them, what the reality of this world is. I shall remind them. They will fear me as they did before.’
‘I’m not afraid of you,’ Tonks hissed. ‘The hit wizards will be here in a few minutes, then the Dementors will have your soul.’
‘Avery. Yaxley. You two deal with… Tom.’ A flash of wry humour played through Voldemort’s crimson eyes. ‘Brave little Nymphadora Tonks is mine.’
‘It’s Tonks.’ Tonks raised her wand with a fierce gleam in her eye. ‘Just Tonks.’
His lips curved into a cold grin. ‘Of course it is.’ Voldemort levelled his long, pale yew wand at her heart. ‘I’m going to show you the difference between bravery and power, Tonks.’
‘Crucio!’ Yaxley cackled as the crackling beam of red burst against the wall behind Harry. ‘Hurry up and die, boy. It’s been too long since I watched the Dark Lord duel.’
Avery’s glimmering bright-yellow spells hissed past Yaxley, scorching smoking craters into the cobbles. Harry flicked a pair of them away, batting them back at Yaxley, who hid behind a shining silver shield. A young wizard hurled himself through the broken glass of Ollivander’s and into the fray, casting bright blue spells from his wand. Avery twisted through them, hurling pale green curses back, and Yaxley watched them burst upon his shield in washes of sapphire light. Green and blue magic clashed in showers of bright sparks until a teal spell seared through the young wizard’s throat.
He clutched at the smoking wound with his wand hand, desperate light glimmering upon the blackened bone beneath his fingers, and crumpled onto his face.
‘That was bravery,’ Voldemort murmured. ‘This… is power.’ He unleashed a storm of spells.
‘Bollocks.’ Tonks threw the debris into their path with a wave of her wand and conjured up her shield.
The slim, silver bubble of light wavered beneath the barrage of curses, trembling like a candle flame in the rain.
She can’t hold for long. Harry took a deep breath and reached for the fury within; ice so cold it burnt raced with thoughts of the gleaming gold ring on Fleur’s finger and the tall, broad shadow at her side.
‘Aguamenti,’ he whispered.
The water twisted into a cage of ice spines around the pair of Death Eaters. Yaxley slipped and clung to the nearest spike, throwing up his shield as he struggled for balance. Avery summoned a gout of fire; it washed back from Yaxley’s shield and set his robes alight.
‘Hold them off, Harry,’ Tonks gasped. ‘The hit wizards will be here in moments.’
‘You don’t have moments,’ Voldemort hissed. A string of silver beads of light trailed from his wand tip and ghosted toward Tonks.
‘Contusio,’ Harry muttered, forcing as much magic as he could into the pinprick of silver at the end of his wand, then whipping it into the ice.
It burst like a thunderclap. White light seared Harry’s eyes as Voldemort’s spell exploded and a wave of force dissipated over Voldemort’s animated serpentine shield. Avery skittered across the cobbles like a skipped stone, thudding into the wall, and Yaxley flew back into the frozen spines.
Crimson spattered across the pale ice as he jerked and gasped upon the spikes, his legs twitching and dangling as the blood soaked his front and pooled on the frosted ground. His rasping breaths faded and his thin, short wand clattered onto the cobbles.
A faint wash of heat rippled over Harry.
He threw up his shield and flooded the street with a cloud of conjured butterflies.
A raw, angry hail of spells descended upon the two of them; crackling, glowing Unforgivables and countless bright-coloured curses tore through the ice, the cobbles and the walls around them. Red umbrellas scattered like leaves before a storm. Shreds of crimson cloth drifted through the air as tables splintered and chairs shattered.
‘Harry!’ Tonks screamed. ‘Harry!’
Avery dragged himself up on the wall, clutching the snapped stub of a wand. ‘My Lord!’
Voldemort poured Fiendfyre down the length of Diagon Alley at Harry and turned to face Tonks. A bright, burning wave of roaring, red-tongued wrath swallowed the butterflies and turned the ice to steam with a deafening crack and a furious hiss. Harry thrust his magic into the billowing flames and twisted them into twin serpents, curving them ‘round his body over the molten, glowing cobbles and burying Avery in a torrent of fire.
‘Avada kedavra.’ Voldemort’s thin, cold smile and glowing crimson eyes loomed over Tonks as she toppled to the ground.
Her hair shivered black, small curls tumbled over full lips, high cheekbones, and blank grey eyes that stared up through the smoke at the summer sky.
She looks just like Bellatrix.
‘You killed two more of my inner circle.’ Searing fury emanated from Voldemort’s whisper. ‘Wearing my own face, no less.’
‘You killed Tonks.’ Harry picked a safe spot between the molten stone and scorched craters, taking deep gulps of acrid, smoke-saturated air.
‘Not just Tonks.’ Voldemort’s lips curled into a cold grin. ‘You robbed me of Bellatrix, a loyal follower, and now…’ His gaze drifted to the red umbrellas. ‘Now we are even.’
Katie. Harry’s blood ran cold.
‘Go find her, Harry.’ Voldemort’s wand flashed up and Fleur’s ring turned hot on his hand, crumbling to dust as Voldemort’s magic wrenched Harry’s face back into shape. ‘Maybe she’ll live long enough for you to watch her die, for you to watch her loyalty and devotion stolen from you.’ Voldemort apparated away with a soft snap.
Harry sprinted through floating red tatters and drifting smoke. Panic stabbed at him with each flash of ruby and every glimpse of crimson cloth sent his heart spasming.
Brown hair trailed out from under the broken glass of the counter.
Harry skidded to a halt and dragged the pieces of counter away from the slow rise and fall of her chest. Broken glass sliced his palms, turning them slick and hot with red. Katie’s mother. Relief flooded through him and he staggered to his feet, smearing his bloody palms clean on his thighs.
Cruel laughter echoed down the corridor and cold fury spread across his chest; his heart hammered against the icy fist clamped beneath his ribs. If they’ve hurt her…
A hoarse chuckle echoed from within the shop.
He picked his way over the broken glass and paused before a pair of dead bodies in the corridor, sparing their pointed teeth, sharp nails and coarse hair a glance. Werewolves.
‘There’s something ever so satisfying about using an axe,’ a thick, brutish voice said.
Macnair. Harry stepped over the corpses. He’s the creep who loves axes.
A third body shuddered against the wall, clutching at a gaping neck wound with pale hands. ‘Kat-tie,’ her father gasped, blood spurting from his throat as he waved his hands down the hall. ‘Kat-tie!’
‘Vulnera Sanentur,’ Harry muttered, pouring magic into the wound until it closed and the bleeding slowed. ‘Obliviate.’
Best if he doesn’t remember I was here. Just in case.
‘It’s the sound,’ Macnair crooned. ‘The way severing bone trembles up your arms and the blood sprays across the floor.’
Harry tip-toed through the red pool surrounding Katie’s father. They’re dead. They’re all dead. None of them would be trusted with a horcrux anyway.
‘Hold still sweetheart,’ Macnair growled. ‘It’s cleaner if you don’t wriggle.’
‘Are you sure I can’t turn her?’ Another voice rumbled.
‘Yes,’ Macnair snapped. ‘The Dark Lord said she was to die.’
Harry prowled ’round the corner. Two Death Eaters stared down at where they’d pinned Katie to the wall by conjured ropes. She caught sight of him and froze.
‘That’s better.’ Macnair flicked his wand and the ropes tightened, cutting into Katie’s skin. ‘Best to just give in and get it over with.’
The other Death Eater snorted. ‘Would rather she gave in and we had some fun with her first. Everyone wins. We get our fun until she can’t even scream and she gets to live a little longer. We get to fuck this little sweetheart until she’s too sore to scream and she gets to live a little longer.’
‘I kill.’ Macnair conjured an axe of dull bronze metal from the end of his wand and raised it above his head. ‘Hunters kill. I’m not some lowlife shit-stain like you.’
Harry levelled his ebony wand at Macnair and the words welled up on his tongue, cold as ice, but sweet as sugar. ‘Avada kedavra.’
Macnair crumpled, the axe and ropes vanishing. Katie scrambled to her feet and bolted from the room as the other Death Eater twisted around. Harry’s splintering curse burst the man’s wand arm like a balloon, spattering red across the wall.
‘Wait!’ He groped at the spurting stump and sour urine stung Harry’s nose. ‘Please. Please.’
‘Wait?’ Harry thought of Katie’s wide terrified eyes and pale face with searing cold coursing through his veins. ‘Alright, let’s have some fun.’ He took a step closer and drove his heel into the man’s face, shattering the plain, white mask. ‘I get to vent some anger until you’re too hoarse to scream and you get to live a little longer. Everyone wins.’
The colour drained out of the Death Eater’s face and his green eyes went wide as galleons. ‘You — you can’t.’
‘I’ve more than enough hate,’ Harry whispered. ‘Crucio.’
The Death Eater’s screams rang down the hall as he writhed in the blood and broken glass. A foul reek filled the room and his heels kicked against the floor, tearing the carpet.
Harry let the curse fade.
‘No more,’ the man pleaded. ‘Please.’
‘Can you still scream?’ He raised his wand.
‘No. No, no, no. No.’ The man thrust his tongue through his teeth and bit it off. Blood spurted through his lips and dribbled down his chin. He shook his head, gargling red and garbling words.
A soft step came from behind Harry.
‘Lacero.’ Harry opened the man’s throat and spun ’round.
Katie stared from the door, white-faced and trembling. ‘Harry…’ She reached out one hand.
He slipped his wand back up his sleeve. ‘It’s just me, Katie.’ Harry raised his palms and took a slow step toward her. ‘You’re fine. They’re not going to hurt you. They can’t.’
She darted across the broken glass and buried herself in his chest. The soft whiff of coffee rose from her hair as she sobbed into his ribs.
‘It’s ok,’ he murmured, cradling her against him and smoothing her hair. ‘You’re safe.’
Her shaking faded and her breathing grew steadier, but she clung to him so tight his ribs ached and he could feel the hammering of her heart against his breast.
‘You do scary things when I get hurt, Harry,’ Katie whispered. ‘First Malfoy, then this.’
‘They all deserved it.’ Harry leant back to look down at her. ‘Are you hurt? What did they do?’
She shook her head against his chest. ‘The one with the axe tied me to the wall, that was all.’
‘I got here just in time, then.’ Harry felt her fingers twist in his clothes and cupped her hands with his own. ‘Have you got somewhere you can stay? Somewhere safe?’
They came for her. They somehow knew her address. The ice tightened in Harry’s chest. Snape would know her address. The school has to know it and he’s a professor.
A loud series of cracks rang outside.
Hit wizards. Harry glanced at the bodies sprawled on the floor. I’d better leave.
‘Katie?’ He gave her fingers a squeeze. ‘Is there somewhere you can go?’
‘I can stay with Angelina and Alicia.’ She glanced up, the tip of her nose brushing against his and her lips grazing over Harry’s. Katie’s breath caught. ‘I—’
‘Go straight to Angelina and Alicia.’ Harry pulled her into a tight hug and brushed her hair off her face. ‘Wait for the hit wizards, then go there. Your parents were badly hurt, but I think they’ll be fine after some time in St. Mungo’s.’
‘Don’t — Don’t go.’ Katie’s whisper tickled his lips. ‘Don’t leave me.’
Harry winced at the stab of guilt. ‘I can’t stay, Katie.’ He gestured at the bodies on the floor. ‘You’re safe now. And I need to get back to Fleur.’
She stiffened, slumping to rest her forehead against his collarbone. ‘Of course you do. She’s probably worried, isn’t she?’ Katie slipped back out of his embrace. ‘Be careful, Harry. I lo — I look forward to seeing you soon.’