Ostirrikia? I Barely Know Her!

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Spells flashed from the low woodland that stretched from the foot of the crumbling town walls, streaking up to scorch bubbling holes into the thin roman bricks. 

Harry watched the shadows darting between the trees through a chink in the worn mortar. A golden eagle glinted on the white robes of an Ostirrikian auror beneath the branches of a large oak as they fired yellow curses up at the broken tower over the wall.

‘Marie Renner’s taking no risks.’ Wild Cherry leant around the corner of the wall across the weathered flagstones of the Roman road and hurled a hissing, bubbling vial of orange potion into the woods. 

Thick orange smoke burst through the branches of the large oak and the tree withered, shedding a flood of dying brown leaves into the breeze.

‘They know that at some point Suleiman will attack Lemnos and give them an easier time of it.’ Harry sighed. ‘At which point they might get a little closer to us.’

‘Marie Renner’s trying to wear us down, bit by bit.’ Wild Cherry’s maroon mask stared out into the woods. ‘We’ll start to run low on useful things soon. The attack you missed out on while you were fighting janissaries was much more serious. The Westsalian aurors with the double-headed black eagle on their robes were pretty timid, too, but the ones from Saxonia wearing that white castle badge came at us like they were planning a holiday in Athens next week.’

‘Maybe they are,’ Harry said. ‘If they go through us…’

‘Well, the Greeks aren’t going to stop them if they get through us.’ Wild Cherry poked their head out and flinched back as a trio of curses hissed past their face. ‘Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise said that Lysander will do what the Greeks always do, pull everyone back to Atlantis and wait for their enemies to go home once they realise there’s not much of value left in Greece.’

‘Do we know who leads them? Anyone to watch out for?’

‘Otto Vogt is the Fürst-Elect from Saxonia. Karsten Metternich is the one from Westsalia.’ Wild Cherry shrugged and poked their face out, peering into the trees. ‘Otto’s muggleborn, first one of us ever to be elected as prince in the Germanic States, but that’s all I know about him. Metternich is old pureblood nobility and supposed to be pretty dangerous to duel, like Fürstenburg. They both used to run in the same snobbish duelling circles as Julien Aguillard.’

‘Don’t let our glorious ice cream leaders hear you saying that.’

Wild Cherry cocked their head. ‘Why do you—’

A purple curse punched through the thin brick at the wall’s edge and burst through their thigh, spraying blood across the smooth old stones between them. 

‘Fuck.’ Wild Cherry clutched the spurting wound, sliding down the wall to the ground as vials and a slim black plastic case poured from the torn pouches inside their robes. ‘Can you heal?’

‘A bit.’ Harry apparated across the gap with a soft snap.

Wild Cherry pressed their masked face into the knuckles of their fist, swearing under their breath as blood gushed through their fingers, soaking their robes and splattering the stones. 

Harry glanced down at the vials, plucking the stopper out of a familiar clear potion and sniffing it. Odourless. Definitely veritaserum. He tucked it into his pocket along with a sparkling white pepper-up potion. And just in case anyone’s familiar with the cold lack of taste.

‘Vulnera sanentur,’ he murmured, watching the flesh knit itself closed. 

Wild Cherry’s head slumped back against the wall. ‘Thanks, mate. Fuck that hurt.’ He took a deep breath and gathered the vials back up. ‘Shit. Lost a few. We’re running low on this stuff, too.’

‘What’d you lose?’ Harry scanned the stones, plucking the slim plastic case up and weighing it on his palm as a handful of spells whistled through the gap in the crumbling wall and seared through the long grass sprouting from the stones. ‘Anything important in here?’

‘That’s pretty handy actually.’ Wild Cherry stuck out his hand. ‘Muggle camera. Took us a while to get it to work on magic instead of batteries, so it better not be damaged.’

A camera? Harry held it out with a small smile, searching the back of Wild Cherry’s hand. 

Five blurred words scarred the skin there.

‘I must not tell lies,’ he murmured.

Colin snatched the camera back and thrust it into his pocket. ‘Neville told you about that, huh?’ He rubbed at the back of his hand. ‘Was a few years ago now. Feels like longer.’

He’s older than me now. Harry smothered a snort of laughter. That’s just weird.

‘You not going to say anything?’ Colin tugged out a blue plastic water bottle. ‘Everyone always asks about what fighting Voldemort as a kid was like.’

You didn’t fight him. Harry buried a flash of cold rage. Why would I ask you about that? I should be asking you if you’ve been to France recently. In fact…

‘Can I?’ He nodded at the bottle. 

‘Yeah, sure.’ Colin tossed it across and dragged himself up. ‘Mind if I borrow your hole to look through? Don’t fancy getting hit again.’

‘Go for it.’ Harry twisted the lid off and tugged the stoppers off both vials as the pop of Colin’s apparition stung his ears. ‘Thanks!’

‘No worries, mate.’

‘You should drink.’ He waved the pepper-up and poured both vials in. ‘You lost a bit of blood there, but I don’t think Marie Renner’s aurors are going away for a bit.’ Harry screwed the lid back on and gave it a shake. ‘That ought to give it a bit of a kick for you.’

Colin’s hand crept toward his pouches of vials. ‘Probably best to save the blood-replenishers until someone really needs them.’

Harry tossed the bottle back across. ‘Pepper-up’s pretty easy to replace.’

‘I’ve got quite a few of that still.’ Colin took a long drink and shuddered. ‘Urgh, it’s like inhaling lemonade through your nose.’

‘So do you all know who each other are?’ 


‘Must be weird, knowing their real names and still calling them the silly ice cream names.’

Colin took another drink and stuck the bottle back into his robes. ‘A bit at first. But… I don’t know, it’s different when we’re Team Ice Cream, you know. You’ll see. After a few missions like this, you start to feel more like an ice cream than who you are at home when you use the names.’

‘What’s the most dangerous one you’ve been on?’ Harry asked. ‘Wait… was it you that went into France and murdered that minister?’

If it was. You’re going to wish you’d never had magic to begin with. 

Colin snorted. ‘No, none of us were involved in that. We were elsewhere. I don’t know who did that, but whoever the fuck did is a fucking idiot. Probably the Last Scions. They had connections to France, they could well have used some of Julien Aguillard’s followers to sneak in and out somehow.’ He peered through the hole. ‘They’re going for Vanilla Delight on the tower at the moment.’

It wasn’t the Last Scions. The Resplendent Sun was pulling the strings all along. Harry clenched his jaw. But if it wasn’t Team Ice Cream that was sent by the Resplendent Sun, then it must’ve been Team Hedgehog. 

‘They can’t get to Vanilla Delight.’

‘No.’ Colin glanced across the gap. ‘That murder in France was why we were sent to wipe the Last Scions out. Smooth Mint and Pistachio Surprise didn’t know it was coming, but after Amos Diggory got assassinated, they were cut out of the loop a bit in the Last Scions.’

The Last Scions must have thought they’d lost their use after Amos Diggory’s death. Harry glanced past the wall at spells flashing up at the tower. And if they were working for Amos as double agents before he was murdered and then cut out of the loop, then they’re probably not the Resplendent Sun and it really doesn’t make any sense for them to have come to France at all.

‘Makes sense,’ he murmured. ‘I know who they are, by the way.’

‘Two down, three to go.’ Colin laughed. ‘It doesn’t take long. It’s not like most of us didn’t go to school together. And, well, there’s not many of us left after Voldemort, either.’

‘How many hit-wizards are there now?’

‘None.’ The maroon mask’s vacant smile stared back at him. ‘There’s us. The aurors. And that’s it. Everyone who was good enough to be a hit-wizard was sent right into the aurors by Amelia Bones, or, if they were really good, the Unspeakables.’ He cocked his head. ‘You should know that if you were one of us, Lemon Sorbet…’

‘I wasn’t. I was out of the country. Missed the whole thing.’ Harry allowed himself a small smile. ‘Voldemort killed my mother, though, so I came back, illness or not.’


The corner of his mouth twitched. ‘Bad enough that I’ll disappear from time to time. But when I’m feeling fine, I’m good enough to handle just about anyone.’

‘So we saw—’

Astoria appeared beside Colin with a crack, grabbing the bunch of iron keys from her pocket. ‘Lemon Sorbet, janissaries are attacking Lemnos again.’

‘I can go again,’ he offered.

To Crete.

‘Go.’ She tossed them at him. ‘I’ll take your spot here. Smooth Mint and I have decided it would be best if you watch over Lemnos and the other islands as a priority. Come here when you can spare us the aid, but be careful. Better to lose an island we can retake later than an unspeakable who can’t be replaced. And remember, the wards don’t keep them out, they just let us know they’re there, we can’t afford to keep up serious wards across the entire Aegean and fight on three fronts.’

The iron keys vibrated in his hands and Harry glanced down. ‘Mykonos, Naxos and Amorgos too now.’

I’ll keep hold of most of them, but the Janissaries can have Amorgos and creep closer to Atlantis for me. The yearning bubbled back up into a lump as hot as flame in the back of his throat and he slipped Violette’s ring onto his finger in his pocket. I need to be on Crete. Liliana must’ve scried for a lotus by now.

‘Lemnos. Lemnos Two.’ The crumbling Roman wall lurched sideways and he staggered into a cactus, wincing from the sharp pricks against his shins. ‘Merde.’

A tight knot of red-robed janissaries scattered into two zig-zagging lines. 

‘Manticore.’ The three crossed wands on the metal head plate of their captain glinted in the sun at the centre of the line. ‘And advance.’

Orange spells flashed from the second line. Harry batted them aside into the ground, leaving smoking fist-deep holes, or back into the shimmering shield charms of the first rank. Their lines took a pace forward and he increased his speed, deflecting the orange curses back into the shield of their captain. The janissaries behind him pushed their shield charms forward to overlap with their captains and the spells burst in showers of fiery sparks.

Okay. He let black mist spill through his fingers, swirling around his wand as the first touch of cold fury rose in his breast. Let’s not waste time. 

‘Drakon,’ their captain snapped.

The janissaries leapt together, casting their shield charms between them in a dense shimmer of overlapping wards as the vapour lunged. It ripped through the cacti and smashed into the ripple of magic. Harry fed it his fury, watching the countless fangs curve from the dark mist and tear into the outer layer of shield charms.

‘More.’ The janissary captain thrust his wand forward, the tip glowing white-hot. ‘Remember our words. We are janissaries. The fist of the caliph. Death or victory.’

Thin tendrils of dark mist sprouted from the swirling, biting cloud, snaking around the side and lancing into the flanks of the group. 

‘Sphinx!’ Their captain yelled.

They stumbled into a tight wedge behind their captain’s shield, hurling orange spells into the whirling dark cloud of Harry’s magic as it sliced through the shimmer of protective magic along the flanks of the tight formation. He swatted the few spells that burst through away into the ground and thought of those small dark veins spreading across Katie’s chest, let the fierce yearning bubble up until the magic of his horcrux boiled over the wards and burst into a thousand razor sharp spines, ripping through the janissaries and scattering tatters of red cloth across the island. 

Harry took a deep breath as the dark mist shrank back across the rocks to coil around his arm. Just Mykonos and Naxos. They can have Amorgos. The closer they get to Atlantis, the more likely I can use them to hide the theft of those pearls.

The janissary captain crawled forward through crimson gore, bleeding from half a dozen deep wounds, and dragging his wand back in a fistful of red rags and dust. ‘Death,’ he muttered. ‘Death or victory.’

A slim tendril of black vapour uncurled from Harry’s sleeve, snaking across the ground. Orange spells streaked past it and out over the sea as the janissary captain slashed his wand at the magic of Harry’s horcrux.

The tendril lunged, spearing the captain through the eye and snapping back into Harry’s sleeve. 

One of two. He eyed the smooth ebony of his wand. But you know what our purpose is, don’t you? 

The dark mist shrank back into the wand.

La Victoire Finale. Or death.

Harry dug the portkey out and grabbed the vibrating key. ‘Mykonos. Mykonos Three.’ He stumbled onto the sand of a slim beach.

Red-robed janissaries vanished from the far end with a loud crack.

‘Naxos. Naxos Two.’ He snatched the next and staggered across the rocky peak of a small hill overlooking a shallow bay. 

Janissaries sketched runes in the sand above the ragged line of flotsam.

Harry skimmed them. ‘Wards. Wards that need some kind of a key.’ He thrust his magic into the air and swept it across the beach, wiping the glyphs away. ‘Well, we can’t have that.’

‘Unspeakables!’ The captain waved his janissaries into two zig-zagging lines.

This again. He apparated down onto the beach, letting dark mist pour from his sleeve to curl through his fingers. 

Tendrils of black vapour snaked across the sand leaving swirls of frost on the seaweed and driftwood. Thousands of needle-like teeth stretched from the dark magic as it stirred and shivered, scoring deep lines into the sandstone beneath.

The captain took a step back. ‘To Astipaea.’

They disapparated with a loud crack.

To Crete. Harry pictured the small hideout and wrenched the world back past him.

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