The room drips with blood. Reeks of iron.
"Romilda. Leave this room."
She stays still for a beat, and then I hear her limping movement leave the room. I twitch my hold on my wand and the doors close behind her.
Number Four, Privet Drive.
The strings dangle from every point in the room. Intertwining, glistening diamond threads. Some stick out of me. Not many, but some. Maybe seven or so. They are thicker than the normal strings – less thread and more twine. A couple wrapped around my feet, one or two jabbing through my middle. One that could only be called a rope is wrapped around my waist and dug into the ground like an anchor buried deep below the earth.
I start to move my wand like I was stirring. Slowly, but surely.
There's no time for slowly but surely. No time for stirring, no time for being gentle with the strings. No time for gazing at the beautiful ethereal ties as they spin their story of reality and possibility in all of its eternal truth; caressing them and severing them neatly.
I take my wand in both hands and yank it across my body. Feeling explodes through me, from the way my back screams in pain as the burn tears open to the way the strings dug into my arms try and pull them back down with such excruciating force. The blood in the room – on the ceiling, the walls, pooling on the floor – jumps, as if suddenly shaken free of where it laid. Every drop.
I yank my arms up with every ounce of physical strength I still have in my body, the blood swirls and the strings snap. Every fucking one of them, and it's so loud it pops one of my eardrums and ruffles my hair.
My vision goes dark, and for a fleeting moment before unconsciousness hits me, I wonder if I'll ever see anything again.
If I even want to.
When it comes back, all I feel is pain. Everywhere. Every bit of my body is pounding in hurt, and the very air seems to be smashing agony into me with every passing second.
I push myself up from the ground onto my hands and knees. My vision swims back slowly to show ghostly-white hands so pale the veins stand raised and visibly blue. It takes a moment for me to realize they're my hands. When I do, I take note that I'm missing a finger. Left pinky finger; the stump where it had been weeping a small trickle of blood weakly onto the ground.
I cough and paint the ground underneath me a bright red from my blood. Not a light spatter, but a thick glob of it sits there in front of me with a strange fleshy mound of some kind right in the middle of it. The pavement around me is scorched black and cracked. Pavement. I don't know where I get the strength to stand, but I force myself to my feet and sway hard to the left, and then even harder to the right. I stagger drunkenly away from where I had lain and nearly trip over a fissure in the asphalt before my eyesight filters back into available use for things more than a couple feet in front of me.
Recognition floods my senses all at once and I'd smile if my mouth wasn't so full of blood that, if I do, it would pour down my front like an undammed river. I know the place I stand because I've been here many times before.
Of all the impossible things to be done, what I just did was considered the most impossible by some. And yet here I stand on Privet Drive because I'm Harry Potter and impossibility can go fuck itself.
"…Harry? Oh god Harry!" Tonks slips out of the door I'm facing, her face ashen. Striking against the dark hair she wears.
"Tonks get back in the house." She ignores me and runs over, slipping in under my arm and helping me across the street and to the front garden. She presses into my side and back, and I have to bite through my tongue so I don't cry out at the pain of her belt buckle digging into the opened burn wound. I pull away from her and lay down on the grass, the dew slipping over my wounds and hurting so soothingly.
"Wha… what's going on, Harry?"
"Get in the house, Tonks."
"Harry, something's going on. Tell me what's happening! I can hear sounds over on the other side of the street – flashes of magic."
"Tonks, get in the house. Close the door. Lock it. Lock the whole thing down and hide." I look at her pointedly and she blinks a couple times rapidly.
"Harry… something's wrong. Let me help you."
"You can't help me for what's coming, Tonks. It's too dangerous."
"Then shouldn't we all just run? We can pile in the car and get out of here!" I look over to the driveway to see a little beat-up car. Couldn't have cost much, but it was transportation. No matter how bad the car – as long as it ran, we'd be able to get away.
If only that were possible. "There's no getting away for me, Tonks." I lift myself up and she helps me to my feet. "I'm staying here, and I'm defending this house from anyone who might come near it. Anyone."
"You can barely move, Harry-"
"Shut up and get in the fucking house, Tonks." She doesn't deserve the tone I use. The look I give her. "They don't take this house from me."
"It's just a house…"
I turn and glare at Tonks. I take a step toward her and it's purely out of willpower that I remain standing as my body tries to give out. "You don't get it. She doesn't get to win. Narcissa doesn't get to beat me! She doesn't get to take what she wants, neither do her people. And she sure as shit isn't taking this place from me. She doesn't get to win!"
Tonks blinks owlishly. "N… Narcissa?" She must read my seriousness and divine an answer from that, because I surely don't give her one verbally. She reaches under the back hem of her shirt and pulls her wand. "Then I'm standing next to you. I'll hold them off."
"…You're human too, Harry. You're hurt. You can't do everything on your own."
I turn toward the road and see figures moving onto the street in the distance. "This… this I do on my own."
Tonks probably continues to talk, but I stop listening. While watching the figures start down the street, I see my missing finger in the street. Never really used it, not worth the effort to go get it. I wiggle the four digits left on my left hand. Good thing brooms don't work anymore; would have been a pain in the ass trying to steer like this.
When they are close enough to make out faces, I pool the focus I can and straighten my back. Appearances are everything before fights. If you can't look immaculate and have to look destroyed, then look like you're taking your own destruction in stride. Scares the shit out of people.
I look at the leader of the group and give him a nod. "Ron."
"What are you doing here, Potter?" A man to his right barks out. Ron gives the man a look and he puts his head down, cowed. They are still some distance away – too far to start the spell-flinging, but I still consider giving killing the man who had spoken a try anyway.
"What are you doing here, Harry?" Ron asks with much less edge to his voice than the other man had used.
"Don't tell me you've forgotten? This," I motion to the house behind me and feel the burn on my back tear as I do. I grit my teeth and tear through a bit more of my tongue, but I don't cry out, "Ismy childhood home, Ron. I figured I'd stop in for nostalgia purposes."
They finally come close enough and I see the moment Ron notices my state. He gasps audibly and falters in his stride. "Merlin, Harry, what the bloody hell happened to you?"
"Narcissa happened to me, Ron." I say, simply. His eyes grew. "Narcissa and the rest of your comrades."
"They attacked you?"
"I attacked them," I correct. The men and women around Ron that don't have their wands in hand go for them, the ones that do raise them slightly. No one points their wand at me, but they are at the ready. Fools, thinking being ready means standing threateningly.
"What possible reason could you have for doing that, Harry?"
"Narcissa is going to die. I have no quarrel with anyone else, but she's going to die and you are not going anywhere near this house. If any of you feel you can live with the reality of these two things, you're free to turn and leave." I square my shoulders more and try to cut a properly-intimidating image as my words hang in the silence. To be fair, when you're leaking blood out of your mouth with every word you speak yet still continue speaking, it does affect you with a certain aura. As such, a couple of people in Ron's group look pensive and one woman I don't recognize actually puts her wand away entirely and takes a noticeable step away from the rest of the group, her cheeks a bit green.
"You can't attack Defenders, Harry. That's terrorism." Ron's voice has a trace of pleading in it, like he's begging me to see his point of view. I see it – I have no delusions about what I have done. I also have no doubt it was the most necessary thing I've done since I ran back into Hogwarts.
"That's justice, Ron." I sniff the air. It is charged. The fighting isn't done. But in my life, I can't think of a time it ever isn't. Probably won't even stop when I'm dead. "Pansy's dead," I mention, offhandedly. It wasn't an offhanded thing, but to Ron it needed to be said like that, because it is the only way he'll understand.
Ron blinks, and his face doesn't change how I expect. He doesn't even ask how it happened. It clicks.
"…And you were there when she died." I take a shaky step forward. "You were there when Alicia burned her to death." They aren't questions. Accusations. Damnations.
"I told them not to, Harry. I tried but Narcissa wouldn't hear it."
"And you didn't stop them, so what sodding use were you and your empty words?" Rage bubbled in my stomach, and the next step is far less shaky and eats up more space. "What good does it do me that you 'tried,' Ron? What good did it do Pansy."
"Stop right there, Potter, or we will curse you," the man next to Ron threatens, bringing his wand up and pointing it at me.
He explodes in such viscerally pretty colors. Expulso is such a nice word.
His blood splatters the pavement, and before it can even settle I pull it up and it disappears to the wave of roaring flame I use it to make, the fire crashing down on three people standing nearby that begin to raise their wands.
A pair of spells careen toward me and I snap a shield up which I immediately harden and use to kill one of the two that fired at me. He dies crushed between it and the pavement with enough force to send cracks in the pavement in all directions. My shoulder explodes in pain and the ground is hard against my spine as I land on it. My back screams in pain and I howl in rage in response. The pavement turns to shrapnel near my head, and Ron's voice comes out steady. "Stay down, Harry."
"Fuck off, Ron!" I slash my wand and he hops over the cutter. The woman behind him falls over with her blood gushing over the pavement and the bottom of her legs feet away from her.
"Sara!" Ron shouts and rushes to her side.
I stagger to my feet behind the shield I place around myself. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I hurt someone you care about, Ron? I'm so incredibly apologetic for this terrible turn of events." He turns and gives me a glare, his ears bright red. "But if she survives, at least she can learn about not walking from your sister." I cough and spit out a glob of blood. "Alas; I've more than filled my life's quota of helping cripples."
"When did you become so cruel, Harry?" He has tears in his eyes and hurt in his voice. I'd smile if I had the energy to spare.
I let out a sharp breath to stave off the pain in my body as I stretch my back. I can feel the skin tear and the blood stream down. "I hate you, Ron. I don't mean I dislike you, I mean that I hate you. I hate you because you're stupid." Ron stands, his grip on his wand tight and his knuckles white. The few remaining Defenders in the periphery moved to tend to Sara.
"I'm going to hurt you, Harry." I noted that he didn't threaten to kill me. Even in his rage, Ron wasn't that deluded.
"Your brother killed Luna to use her blood and you continued to work beside him. Buried your head in the sand and just kept on moving like you were all in the right. Your boss kills Pansy and you're standing there watching her do it,and what do you do? Not a bloody thing."
"What did you expect me to do, fight them all by myself?" He screamed back at me.
"They would have slaughtered me."
"Then you should have fucking died, Ron," I spit at him. "You should have given your life for Pansy Parkinson and you should have been more than willing to do it."
He blinked a couple times and then let out a clipped bark of a laugh. "You're a delusional fool, Harry."
"And you're a villain. Not the worst, but you work for her – a fucking henchman. Worse than Fred." Ron's face reddens in anger. "At least he could blame insanity." Ron slashes his wand at me and the dull thump of his spell hitting my shield reverberates down the street like a struck gong. "You… you're just either stupid, a coward, or worse – both."
He growls low in his throat and slashes his wand again. He hits my shield again, and I can feel the shield is close to breaking. Doesn't stop me. "I take it you found Bill on your way here."
Ron seethed. "Bloody bastard shot two of my men before we could put him down." Ron sneered. "The rest of my team is tending to Ginny and cleanup."
"So I should kill you before they get over here, is what you're saying. Alright. Appreciate the tip, mate." I say the word as sarcastically as possible.
"You can try, Harry." Ron whips his wand and pulls a stream of blood from behind him that turns into a spiky spear of magic as it flies toward me. It explodes through my shield with the sound of shattering glass and glances the side of my hip. Pain bounces around the inside of my body at high speed and the world goes white for a second. Maybe a minute. Maybe all of time – when you hit that level of pain, time stops being a meaningful, actual thing.
I drop to a knee and pull a dome shield over my head as I wait for the color to come back and my blood to stop being made of acid. The sound of spells banging into my dome shield is loud and painful as the world filters back in. Blood runs down my leg onto the pavement and pools around my foot. I look out through my shield and through the gaps in spellfire see a pair of people standing up from beside Sara's body. If they've given up on trying to tend to her, then she's dead.
I banish the shield I'm turtled under toward Ron and whip a lash of magic at the Defenders by Sara. One shields but the other is blasted across the street, not through the air, but across the ground. His body bounces along the pavement and hits the wall of a house hard enough to crack the front-facing windows. It lays there, immobile. Hopefully for good.
"Just two of you, left, Ron," I call out.
"More than two," he replied. I look over his shoulder and see the rest of his 'team' coming around the corner, likely alerted by the spellfire. There are a dozen of them, at least.
An idea clicks in my mind suddenly, and I toss up a shield behind me and take off as fast as my battered and broken body will carry me back toward Number Four. I get to the lawn and slide across the grass just in time to feel spells shoot over my head. I roll in my slide, aided by the moist lawn and point my wand back toward Ron and the other man. His team is running down the street now and there isn't long before they're here. I could try and curse them, but it wouldn't do me much good without luck on my side. And I have no doubt whatever store of luck I have has gotten me this far and is very likely running on fumes. So instead, I try and split my focus as many ways as I can, and shout out, "Accio!"
Three bodies shoot through the air and hurtled toward me. They slam into the shield I raise and crumple down beside me like puppets with their strings clipped. Three dead bodies, including Sara.
I breathe out slowly, and then cast three Severing Charms, one for each body, just at the neck. Their heads flop back – only barely spared from decapitation – and blood flows thick and quickly, pouring over the grass and staining it. I'd never been good at this sort of thing. One could even say I'd been bad at it. I didn't have the delicacy for it; the intricate touch. But there's a strange kind of power in desperation. The skill of the master lays waiting for a novice aided simply by enough necessity.
I whip my wand down; the blood gathers and then the air around the house shakes like a dog trying to dry itself at the sudden placement of the ward snapped into place. Quick and dirty. Ugly. Weak with the amount of blood used for it – but it would buy me a precious few minutes. Wars have been won with less.
Crawling up the steps as Ron and his team immediately begin casting spells into the ward, I bang my fist on the door and call out to Tonks inside. She pulls the door open. She shouldn't have, but I'm glad she does. She helps pull me into the house and pushes the door closed behind me. I slide around the entryway until my back is against the door, close my eyes, and let out a long, slow breath. I can feel blood pooling beneath me and trickling down the wooden door at my back.
When I open my eyes again, I'm staring straight into someone else's eyes.
My heart aches.
My body tenses up so suddenly it hurts.
My hands shake, and it's not from the blood loss.
Her eyes shine in the low light, and show her distress with such honesty it's overwhelming. I haven't seen such bold-faced truth in so long, seeing it again is almost foreign – but is damn sure painful. Her fear is infectious; it creeps into me and crawls along my gut until it is clawing at the inside of my chest, bumping up against my hammering heart and crushing it.
She stands there looking at me and worrying her lip almost viciously.
"H…hey," I force out through gritted teeth, hoping to do her the service of not showering her in my blood.
Even broken as I was, I owed her more. So much more.
She blinks a few times, and then tilts her head to the side to regard me. Those eyes of hers. Big, blue and bright... she has her mother's eyes. "You're hurt. Why are you hurt, Daddy?"