Burn My Sins Away
Disclaimer: Rowling owns all, I'm just playing in her sandbox.
The last owl found him in Kinshasa. He'd been expecting it for days, a prickling on the back of his neck warning him that the past was still dogging his path. Even so, the solid thump on his shoulder sent his heart racing. He stopped suddenly, various curses thrown his way by the people he'd disrupted in the midday human rapids. Without a word he turned and went crashing through the crowd, unaware of the chaos he left in his wake.
Ron crouched by a tired, sloping wall, his heart still thumping. The world came back into focus with a start and the impatient nip of the exhausted bird. He grabbed the hanging scroll, slightly battered from the long flight, and weighed it absently in the palm of his hand. He knew who it was from and what it would say. Some people never knew when to leave well enough alone.
A moment and a whispered command later and a sprinkling of ash floated down through the still air. His wand had broken in Johannesburg, shattered by the strain of adapting to Africa and the chaos of her magic. African magic was alive in a way that Ron had never experienced in his old life and he had been more then happy to lose himself in the ebbs and swirls of this new world. He sighed, rubbing his hand through his hair, kicking up a residue of dust that was never completely banished. He stood and silently slipped back into the crowd, the momentary chaos already forgotten. Yet he couldn't stop scanning the empty blue sky or make his tired shoulders relax. Everything was too loud, too real, the shriek of a mechanical horn making his breath hitch and the sun still so bright that his eyes hurt just by being open. The world spun and spun and spun around him.
"Wizard." The world stilled. A hand grabbed his arm, fingers like steel in his flesh. Ron was strangely calm, his breath booming in his ears as he turned, following the echoes in the air to a woman seated on the ground. She was ageless with dark, dark skin and even darker eyes that bore into him, knew him.
"Excuse me?" Ron's voice sounded harsh in his own ears, strange and deeper then he remembered.
"Like calls to like, wizard." The woman smiled, a web of wrinkles appearing around her eyes. Her grip tightened, pulling him closer until he was squatting before her, his eyes on a level with her own. He wondered, vaguely, if this was what drowning was like.
"Your life is not your own. Darkness before and Darkness behind." She laughed, a hoarse, intoxicating noise. "And you thought it couldn't touch you."
He pulled his arm away; the marks of her fingers burned an angry red on his wrist. "What are you talking about?" He demanded, not sure whether his voice shook with anger or fear.
"He sleeps, now, sunning himself on his hill and content to let you go your way but awake he will." She began to rock, backwards and forwards, the beads of her necklaces clicking together in a bewitching rhythm. "You'll never be the same, wizard."
Ron tore his eyes away and stood, his whole body shaking now. He stumbled backwards through the crowd, panting, blinking tears and dust out of his eyes. Finally he turned and ran, the sound of the woman's voice still chanting in his ears. never be the same never be the same never be the same
He left Kinshasa that night.