kiss me with your cherry lipstick
never wash you off my face
hit me, I can take your cheap shot
leave you with the love we made

Night Drive – Jimmy Eat World

London

"Looking pretty hot today, Granger," said the man leaning on her doorframe. "How about a 'hello' for your favorite Death Eater." He grinned confidently.

She looked up at his suggestive leer and vowed she would get to wipe that off when he had outlived his uses. Until then, she could only threaten and sneer back. Boss's orders. "Hello, Carlson," she replied indifferently then returned to the contraption on the table.

Carlson sidled up on the edge of the table and sat. Leaning down, he said, "Now you know what kind of 'hello' I really mean." The ridiculous cocky grin still hung on his face.

"Oh that kind," she appeared to look innocently at him. "Well, just let me freshen up and I'll get right on that." Out of a small bag that sat next to her, she pulled a tube of lipstick, took off the lid, and then slowly rotated it to reveal a vivid red shade.

One glimpse of the cherry color and his grin evaporated. Nervously, he laughed and moved off the table. "Naw, I think I'll pass this time. I was just kidding any way, Granger, pulling your leg."

"That's what I thought." She put the tube back in the black bag. Looking at him again, she gave him a hard look and asked, "Why are you actually here, Carlson? Surely, you don't enjoy making an arse of yourself."

"Flint needs to see you. Master has sent down some order for you. Said you needed to get there ASAP." He stood at attention now, all business.

"He knows it's my week off, right?"

Carlson shrugged. "It sounded important to me. Don't blame the messenger."

She sighed and stood up, grabbing her bag. "Take this," she pointed to the metal thing on the table, "back down to storage. I'll work on it when I get back. Just put your hand in the middle, not the edges to carry it." She stopped at the door to look back at him. "And the next message you bring me, don't waste my time like you did just now." With that, she swept out into the hall. Half way down to Flint's door, she heard a scream and a flurry of curses. People were rushing to the room she had just left. Muggle bear trap. Smirking, she entered the brightly lit, briefing room.

"You know this is my week off," she said the instant she sat down.

The man across the table wore black robes like the rest of the Death Eaters scurrying around the building. Unlike them, she wore red robes. They had to be earned with more than a little initiation ceremony and a quick tattoo job on the upper arm. Wearing the robes of an assassin took bodies, piles of them.

He nodded. "I know, but we've had a new development. One that takes your special touch." Pulling out a folder, he slid it over to her. "One of the underground leaders has resurfaced in Scotland. He's known on their circuits as The Professor and he's been a royal pain in the arse. We think he's been in France or Spain, but we can't be for sure since he'd dropped off the grid. What you have is the recon we've been able to get out of Edinburgh about the situation."

Reaching over, he flipped over the first few typed pages to get to some slightly fuzzy photos. "I daresay you'll have no trouble recognizing him. You two have a bit of a history." He pushed the pictures closer to her.

She studied them stolidly before pushing them back across the table. "I'll make you history if you don't speed this up. I have other things to do."

Flint, though technically higher up than she was, began to sweat under her gaze. "In three days, he's planned to meet a former Death Eater, Irina Burch, to acquire information on this building. Foolish, it's completely impenetrable…" He trailed off as she gave him a withering look. "But anyway, you need to take out the contact, take her spot in the handoff, get what you can out of him, then take him out. Simple as that. A backup team will accompany you at a distance of course."

Leaning back in her chair, she looked up at the ceiling and muttered, "He doesn't think I'll actually do it."

The blonde man cleared his throat and shuffled through the papers some more. He pulled out an aerial photograph and a detailed map. "Irina is staying here." Pointing to a square building, he then traced the finger to the other map and pointed it out. "Third floor, room 12. Through our source, we know they've arranged for a clean drop in the alley a block down." Again, he jabbed a finger at the two papers. "No wands or even goons…"

"Guns," she corrected automatically.

"Right, guns," he repeated. "You won't be able to get past the barrier set up carrying anything magical and some sort of metal detecting spell is up also. Irina could only get through all that with the papers. So, you're going to have to do this the hard way. I'm sure you'll use your imagination. Any questions?"

"Do I have to have the backup? How close are they going to be? I don't need some little overexcited boys bursting in and messing this up," she replied coolly.

He tried to smile reassuring, mostly to himself she guessed. "It's just standard procedure. They'll be at a reasonable distance and won't come in until the call is given."

"Standard procedure my ass," she shot back, anger creeping in. "He's done this before when I had to get Longbottom and just last month when I took care of the Creevey brothers. No other times."

"I'm only passing along what the Dark Lord said," he answered. His eyes catch sight of the thin scar on her collarbone and the way it snaked down from her neck and disappeared into her robes. Rumors abounded about its origin. Some said she got it in a fight with Voldemort himself, while others scoffed and said it was only from a hit gone badly. The scar was stark white, an indication of her anger.

"Just give me the file." She snatched it from beneath his fingers and stood. "Tell him I need to speak with him after I'm done with this." She held up the folder for emphasis. "I've got a few bones to pick."

Flint had gone pale. "Me?" he inquired squeakily. "Do you want me to use those exact words?" It appeared that she did since she had already left and slammed the door.

Edinburgh – Apartment Complex

Night had fallen upon the inconspicuous street and houses lining it; the air from the open window was cool. She could only laugh inwardly at Irina's own stupidity at leaving her apartment window open. It had made the job that much easier. Irina was not home yet. From the file, she knew that the traitor was very punctually home every evening at seven o'clock. At the moment, it was 6:57. She had only to wait.

The click of a lock turning caused her to sit straight up in the chair she was in. Light from the hall illuminated the outline of a woman before she peered down the hall both ways and shut the door. A few more steps and Irina would be in line perfectly for her. The woman walked forward a bit and reached for the light switch, but a voice caused her to freeze.

"Hello, Irina. Long time no see."

She quickly reached into her handbag; however, the person sitting in her armchair already had her wand poised. Irina fell stiffly over with the soft utter of the Body-Bind curse. She could only stare up in terror as a familiar face loomed over her.

"What am I to do with you? Kill you?" The woman in the black attire paused to smile as the other's terror intensified. "Well…yes, but not quite yet. I need a few of these," she plucked out a few of Irina's black hairs from her head then put them in a flask, "and…I guess that's it." She smiled down as the woman on the floor started to whimper.

Swirling the flask around, she crouched down next to her. She uncorked it and took a swig of the contents. Shuddering as it went down, her features slowly melted away to take on a different appearance. Two Irina Burchs were now in the apartment. "How do I look?" she asked with grin. A snivel was her answer.

"Can't leave you like this." She pointed her wand directly at the woman who now had tears streaming down her face. "Don't worry. You won't feel a thing, but don't take my word for it, I've never died." A green light filled the room. A woman dressed in black left room 12 as she put a tube of lipstick back in her purse and rubbed her newly red lips together.

Edinburgh – Alley

Again, she was waiting. Her bag with her wand and other important items had been dropped off with the idiots sent along as backup. Now she stood in a darkened alleyway with only a blinking streetlamp to go by. None of the people who walked past on the outer street showed any concern for her. Save one and he was just approaching. It was about time; her Polyjuice was nearly gone.

Cautiously, he stood back in the shadows from her. "Do you have it with you?" was all he said.

She nodded stiffly and said in a voice that was not hers, "Yeah…right over here." She motioned farther back into the alley.

He hesitated before following her. Soon his eagerness got the better of him and he stood right next to her. With surprising speed, she landed an elbow into his side and grabbed an arm. Roughly, she shoved him against the wall and held him there. He had lost some of his awareness since they had last met.

She could hear him breathing heavily against the rough stone wall, which made her tighten her hold. What right did he have to be tired? "Let's clear things up first," she said into his ear. "Are you The Professor?"

He did not reply which was not all too surprising. She had dealt with situations like this before. Crucio was highly effective.

Twisting his arm more, she said, "I'll ask again and refrain from smashing your face in the wall. Are you The Professor?"

"No idea what you're talking about," he replied gruffly.

She laughed bitterly. "Really? Well this wouldn't be the first time you've lied to me, is it, Remus?"

His face, though shadowed, turned to confusion. "Who are you?"

"Just like the one you told me as I laid next to a few corpses, bleeding to death on the battlefield. Remember you said you loved me and you'd come back for me. Right now would make the first time I've seen you since then. The Iberian peninsula must be pretty this time of year." She swung him around to face her and placed an arm at his throat. Her Polyjuice was gone and he knew who she was now. How she hated the look of pity and even how a softened look crossed his face. How dare he even think of feeling sympathy for her.

"Hermione…" he breathed out.

"Still sharp as ever," she shot back.

He looked on at her in disbelief. His eyes were shining. She did not need his tears. He said, raspy due to her arm, "They said you'd died. But…how…" He reached out a hand to touch her, but she pinioned it to the wall.

"Don't you touch me."

"I couldn't find you. I came back, but you weren't there and no one knew…" He trailed off.

She uttered low, "Apparently you didn't look hard enough." Then she brought him back and slammed him into the wall, watching as he fell back down onto the concrete. As he moved to get up, she kicked him in the stomach. He rolled over, groaning. She stooped down at his side.

"Come on, Remus. Fight back. Do you have a problem hitting your fiancée? You sure as hell didn't have a problem leaving me to die." She pulled back her fist for another punch. His hand caught it and stopped it.

"I didn't leave you to die," he whispered. "I was captured and by the time I was able to escape, Voldemort had already been through Hogwarts. I could only assume the worst and everyone's accounts all pointed to the fact that you died. Don't you know I would have done anything to get you back if I knew?"

She landed a surprise punch with her other hand and grabbed him by the shirt collar. "I was captured too. Funny how we didn't cross paths. You would have done anything. Would you have dragged me back from Hell? Well, it's too late for that because I've already been there." Releasing him, she stood up and watched him slowly get up from the ground. Dirty half-breeds always seemed to heal faster.

"God, Hermione, what did he do to you?" asked Remus. He wiped a trail of blood from his mouth as he moved in closer to her.

Laughing acrimoniously, she said, "You're the first person to call me Hermione since I had to pay a visit to Longbottom. Although he was saying it more pleadingly." She mimicked a falsetto cry for help. "There is no Hermione left, Remus. She died on that battlefield and I am all that's left."

"Neville Longbottom?" he echoed. "Don't tell me you were the one…"

She pursed her lips together. "Fine then. I won't. Stop kidding yourself, Remus."

"You're not…you don't…please, Hermione, tell me you don't work for him." She almost thought his voice started to break. Good…good.

"You think I've kept myself alive by doing housework for him? And don't call me Hermione! I told you she's dead and good riddance to her. She was a stupid, little schoolgirl who believed in you. She died and from her ashes came me." She grinned shakily and swept her arms up as in presentation. "Bet your glad you stayed away now, aren't you?"

Tentatively, he reached out his hand again and traced her face.

"Don't," she whispered. He still felt the same as the last time he had done that to her. But that seemed ages ago, a different lifetime.

"Come with me. Don't go back to him," he said, so close to her now. "We have a movement now and we can fight him. Please, we can be together again. There's hope again to stop this evil monster."

She leaned forward and stopped. Such words would have been a godsend a few years back when she cared, when she felt. No more. Closing her eyes, she captured his lips in a kiss. He broke off, looking down stunned and relieved. "Is that a yes?" he asked.

"There's no hope, Remus, and there's no evil or good for that matter. Just survival and I'm surviving. Do one thing for me though; say hi to the Creeveys for me. I'm afraid they departed before I had the chance."

He just stared down at her as if seeing her for the first time. "You," he said and touched his lips, now tinted crimson. "You killed them. Your…your…" Suddenly he convulsed and fell down to his knees, shaking.

She dropped down, too and grasped his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her. "That's right. The Phoenix. She rides again tonight for another notch in her belt. I killed the Creeveys. I captured Longbottom and tortured him to insanity. Don't you get it, Remus?" His eyes were starting to glaze over and his mouth slipped now and then. "Do you like my metaphor? I'm a phoenix from the ashes, a new life from an old."

He opened his mouth as if to speak, but only a stream of blood came out. Already he was slipping away. Gently, she placed her kill mark on him. She kissed his cheek leaving a scarlet lip print that soon started to welt up due to the poison. His body slumped forward on to her and involuntarily she found herself holding him. A scurrying behind her forced her to push him off and turn around.

Her backup had prematurely showed up. The three of them stood on the outside of the alley, the magical barrier keeping them and their wands out. Slowly she made her way to them. Out of her back pocket, she took out a handkerchief and wiped off the remnants of the lipstick. She threw it at the shortest of the trio who caught it nervously before dropping it, realizing what was on it.

"Give me my bag," she ordered. Promptly, it was handed over. She removed her wand from the inside. They stood watching her. "Go check, so you can tell your stupid Lord you saw the body. I wouldn't want one of my kills doubted."

As they stalked off and hovered over the limp form in the alley, she pointed her wand at the sky above. She uttered an incantation softly. A ribbon of red burst from the end. It began to form a shape in the sky. Soon, a scarlet skull hung, twinkling over the alleyway, and it had a flaming bird emerging from his mouth. She did not hear the screams that erupted as residents pointed to the heavens. Only a stained red white handkerchief blowing down the street betrayed she had stood there.