The Assassin's heart was racing as he sprinted down the beach, stumbling as his feet hit cold sand. A gust of cool wind tugged at his hood, making his teeth chatter as it hit the trickle of blood seeping down the side of his face. He glanced over his shoulder and kept sprinting, slightly relieved to see that he wasn't being followed. Not for the first time, he cursed the anti-apparition ward that he had been struck with. It was different from what he was used to, for every single one of his portkeys would activate but leave without him. It wasn't meant to be like this.
It had all gone wrong from the start. As soon as he had moved in, the other wizard had known he was there. Spell after spell failed to penetrate the target's defences. He seemed largely immune to the toxic nundu's breath he had blown through his room and the fiendfyre that he had summoned only served to make the target laugh, as if the most the cursed flame could do was tickle him! In a matter of seconds, all of his options had been spent and he had struck at him several times. Long ago, his Master had once told him that surprise was the most powerful weapon of an assassin, and that not even Merlin could have stopped a killing curse if he were sleeping. The Assassin had lost surprise.
So he ran.
He knew he was being chased. Some part of his mind whispered that he was merely being toyed with; that with a wizard who had such a reputation as his target could have killed him in an instant had he felt like it. The Assassin blocked off that part of his mind and ducked behind a muggle automobile. Despite his disdain for the lesser kind¸ the Assassin took a moment to admire the sleekness of the automobile. They had certainly come far. He remembered the slow, clunky things that had come out late last century. They were nothing like they were today. Why had things had changed so much and he had changed so little? Was that why he had failed, why a younger, more inexperienced wizard was besting him?
No. He was good… very, very good. Not the best- he didn't want to be the best. Nobody with brains wanted to be the best, it meant that there was always somebody wanting to surpass you and in his line of work, that usually led to a very bloody death. His target just wouldn't die.
"C'mon, you can run faster than that!" whispered a mocking voice from behind him.
The Assassin spun around, a volley of single-slice cutting curses pounding from the end of his wand. The pavement was torn to shreds, bricks fell from the wall, cleaved perfectly in half, and a door fell off a nearby automobile.
"Merlin!" the Assassin hissed furiously.
He sprinted away from the side of the road and ducked into a side alley. It was filthy, covered in muggle garbage and crusted algae, but it would do. He couldn't afford to be choosy in his places of ambush. He whirled around and whispered to himself, "Aperio Lux!"
Bright light sprung from his wand, a huge flash that rippled outwards. The spell- Revealing Light- would wash over any invisibility charms and the like and negate them. Even invisibility cloaks were affected. At the same time, the Assassin slunk in the shadows with a carefully selected spell and waited. He kept silent as the light dimmed and the alley returned to darkness.
A full minute passed. The Assassin waited with bated breath, his eyes seeing through the darkness quite easily courtesy of the Owl Vision potion. Finally, there was movement at the end of the alley and his target strolled on through. It appeared a casual walk but the Assassin's trained eyes picked up on how the boy's legs were coiled and ready and knew that the boy would spring into action as soon as the Assassin made his move.
Slowly, as to not attract any attention, the Assassin reached into his robes and pulled out a slender throwing knife. Coated in a deadly poison, one prick with the knife would kill a fully matured wizard in less than a minute. Even if the wizard were to take a bezoar, he would still be unable to move his limbs properly before the Assassin could slink up and slit his throat.
He took careful aim and threw the blade. As soon as he was done, he tapped himself on the head and concentrated on the spell. Darkness filled his vision, but he was able to see the boy jerk his head back with an amused smile on his lips before he disappeared. He reappeared in the shadows on the other side of the alley. Another slender knife was thrown through the air with slender precision, this time drawing a line of blood against the boy's cheek.
The boy hissed and the Assassin felt victory surge through him. Yet, he did not relent, darting from shadow to shadow and throwing his poison knives with deadly accuracy. A dozen knives skimmed through the air, deflected by the boy's wand with unnerving accuracy and a shower of glowing sparks. It was too late for that, the Assassin internally crowed. You were already defeated.
He waited in the shadows once more as the boy stiffened and rubbed his cheek slowly. Anytime now, the boy would topple over and collapse. All the Assassin would have to do then is make sure he was truly dead and the twenty-thousand galleon bounty was his. As minutes passed, however, the Assassin grew worried. The boy remained upright, occasionally rubbing his cheek but doing little else- and that included succumbing to the poison. Why wasn't it working?
"Not bad," somebody breathed into his ear. Something dug into the small of his back and the Assassin's eyes went wide, even as the boy looked up from the alley and smiled, before vanishing abruptly. An illusion. Which meant...
"Wait…" The Assassin tried, but cried out as silver light filled his vision.
Something cleaved into him and blood shot up his throat. He gagged, clutching his stomach and toppling to the ground, the defensive weaves in his robes no match for whatever enchanted weapon the boy was using. He was dying. He could tell. So this was how it ended. He, the deliver of death, the master hunter, hunted down instead. How ironic. He gazed up at his target and managed a weak smile.
The boy crouched below him, looking amused and sheathed a glowing silver sword.
"Like I said, not bad," he said. "The shadow trick was cool, I've only ever seen one other person do it before- although he did do it a lot better than you."
The Assassin stared up with rapidly glazing eyes.
"The thing is, I knew exactly what was happening as soon as you threw the second knife," the boy continued. He gave a chuckle. "That's probably why you didn't notice an illusion take my place. I just sat back and watched you exert yourself, which was pretty funny."
The Assassin's breathing was slowing. He only had a few moments left. The boy obviously felt it as well as he stood up and reached into his pocket, pulling out a wand.
"Well, I suppose this is it for you," he said cheerfully. "Unfortunately, for you, I've got some bad news and some terrible news. Do you want to hear it?"
The Assassin managed to jerk his head.
"Great!" the boy said with a grin. "Well, the bad news is that I'm going to have to burn your body so it can't be traced back to me. That means you're family or whatever won't be able to have an open casket funeral."
That was alright, the Assassin didn't have any relevant family left. His grandson had estranged from the family business, and the last he heard his great-granddaughter was just entering Hogwarts this year. He was the last of an era gone by. Nobody would miss him.
"The terrible news is that I'm not going to wait until you're dead to do it," the boy finished with a malicious gleam in his eyes. The Assassin visibly recoiled. Surely he didn't mean….
The Assassin's world dissolved into a pit of fire and pain as bright flame lit up in his eyes. The last thing he was capable of seeing was his target, Harry Potter, watching him burn with an amused twinkle in his eye and a laugh on his lip.
"Okay, as entertaining as that was, this is starting to piss me off," Harry complained out loud as he watched the assassin burn below him. He turned away, already losing interest and strolled out of the alley and into the darkened streets. "That's the third this month. I'm meant to be on holiday."
It had been a few months since the end of his fifth (and last) year of Hogwarts. Harry was sure he had grown. A faint tan covered his skin, remnants of holidays in warmer areas, while his hair was longer and messier than ever. He was dressed rather casually as well, a pair of beach shorts and a short shirt, although the look on his face showed that his break hadn't taken care of his anger problem.
"It is almost October," Meciel said. Her illusion appeared by his side, as beautiful as ever in her white and silver robes. Her dark hair swayed behind her as she glanced down at Harry shrewdly. "Your holidays have dragged on longer than I had been expecting."
"Well, you can thank the shiny piece of shit here for that," Harry said mock-cheerfully, brandishing the Sword of the Cross in her face.
Meciel grimaced and took a step away from the blade, even though it was hardly going to hurt her. She only existed in his head, after all.
"Twenty-six times," Harry continued, glaring at the sword. "That's how many times this thing has yanked me off my holiday and made me go save some helpless schmuck or the other. I almost declared war on the Red Court Vampires last month, remember? I hate the stupid thing."
"Then dispose of it," Meciel suggested tiredly, seeming quite used to this particular grievance of Harry's by now.
"Oh, yeah, great idea!" Harry retorted sarcastically. He crossed the road, absently flipping a finger up at the yells of a driver who swerved to avoid him. "Why didn't I think of that? Oh, wait, I did. It comes back! It's like a fucking dog that just doesn't get the hint! I leave it at the hotel and it somehow gets in my bag. I drop it off that cruise ship and it winds up next to me on the bus in Amsterdam. It just doesn't get the fucking hint!"
"Then perhaps its time we go back," Meciel suggested and Harry halted.
"Are you sure?" he asked her, staring at her carefully. "If we go back… then we get back to work. I'm all for it, to be honest, but I thought you wanted to wait for a little while."
"It's been long enough," Meciel answered. Her silver eyes flashed with sudden hatred and her lip curled back at her next sentence. "The Order of Blackened Denarius," she all but spat out the name, "will have restructured itself by now. Those who went into hiding will have emerged. It is time that I began to put my plans into action. I will have my revenge."
"…and I will have my cotton candy," Harry declared. He crossed his arms defensively as Meciel stared at him exasperatedly. "Hey, I earned it!"
"The deal was that you get a free cotton candy for children under twelve," Meciel sighed. "You're not twelve, Harry."
"I still want my damn cotton candy," Harry muttered sourly. "I can't believe they kicked me out, although I suppose it's a good thing they did. That way, I don't too feel guilty for burning the place down."
"If you weren't so cheap with your money then none of it would have happened," Meciel reprimanded.
"Hey, I had to rob three petrol stations for this cash," Harry said with a scowl. "I'm not spending my hard-earned money on stupid cotton candy when I could have gotten it for free!"
"Very well," Meciel said in resignation. "I won't argue this with you again- for the twelfth time."
Harry snorted and muttered something under his breath. He stopped at the railing by the beachside and glanced up at the cloudy sky. It looked like it was going to rain soon- there was that smell in the air. Meciel stood behind him, her fragrance washing over him like a familiar perfume, one that he would always associate with her.
"Ah, fine. Let's go back," Harry grumbled after a few moments. He scratched his chin as he checked his pockets, making sure he had his shrunken bag and all of his belongings. "Got a destination?"
"First, we need information," Meciel answered. "On the Denarians, and on Lord Voldemort."
"Ah, well, I know exactly who to see about the last guy," Harry said. He twirled on his feet and disapparated with a sharp crack.
Harry Potter was coming back to England.