A/N: Hello, hello. Long time no see, readers. Initially, i was going to let this drop and move onto bigger (but probably not better) things but I recently bought and read the latest Dresden Files book- Changes- and a little plot bunny festered in my mind until I had to write it out. For those who haven't got Changes yet, go and buy it now. It's bloody epic and it's gotta be my favourite book in the whole series now. Anyway. Here's the latest in the Denarian Series. I've done a Butcher and left the ending with a pretty annoying cliffhanger. Despite my best wishes, more plot bunnies are niggling at the back of my skull and telling me to go write a fourth story in the Denarian series. This will let me flow to that if I choose to do so. Well, I hope you enjoy the story. Remember, this is heavily based off of Changes so I highly recommend you read that first before my half-hearted rip offs completely ruin the story for you.
Changes: The Denarian Series Style
A Denarian Series Short Story(and blatant rip-off of Book 12 of the Dresden Files)
(Sue me. I was inspired)
Spoiler Alert: Read Changes- Book 12 of the Dresden Files- first, please. Butcher does this much better than me and we should all support the official release.
The air pulsed with music and hundreds of writhing bodies shimmied against each other, pressing and rubbing against their partners as the hypnotic beat throbbed in the air. The floor shuddered underneath the power of the large speakers and lights flashed overhead as dozens of men and women lost themselves in the ecstasy of the dance. Only one figure seemed unaffected by the music and the sweet scent of addictive substances in the air. The cloaked and robed figure slowly made her way through the crowd of people, darting and weaving through them effortlessly. The party-goers didn't seem to notice her, their eyes brushing over her as if she was barely noticeable and the entangled limbs of the scantily clad ladies and dry-mouthed men always conveniently moved aside for her when she needed them to. It only took a few moments for the mysterious figure to cross over the floor and she strode past the stage and the DJ and opened a non-descript room. She closed the door behind her and the sound of the music faded away with only the arithmetic beat pulsing through the walls.
The woman stared down the lone corridor carefully. Her eyes noted the blood-splatter on the walls brushed over the dead body draped against the wall, the blood still leaking from the mangled flesh that used to be his ribcage. She noted the wide-eyed expression of surprise and a bitter smile crossed her face.
He was here.
She hurried on forward, her footsteps echoing loudly in the empty corridor. She passed a few more bodies, burly men in suits, men who hadn't had the time to pull out their pistols before their enemy had scythed through them. There were doors on either side of the hallway but the figure knew she had reached her destination when she came across one that looked like it had been completely ripped off its frame, hinges and all. She stepped into the room and wrinkled her nose. Three more men, guards by the looks of it, were draped over various objects and in many different pieces, while the corpse of a man clad in an expensive suit had been thrown across the large mahogany desk in the centre of the room, his eyes unblinkingly wide with horror.
The only other living person in the room didn't even look up as he knelt down at the side of the small safe by the desk, rummaging through it with his back turned to her. He was wearing what looked like a dark silk suit, uncaring of the occasional splatter of blood on his blazer. The woman hitched her breath as the man let out a sigh and stood up.
"Well," he murmured and turned his head at her. Emerald eyes flashed with fire and a crooked smile turned his lips. "Amanda Carpenter. Oh, it has been such a long time."
Amanda stared back at him. "Harry Potter." The name came off her lips as a whisper and she disliked how there was still a note of awe in her voice at the very mention on him. She had always idolised him, even when he had become her enemy.
Harry turned around and scratched his chin, adjusting the collar of his unbuttoned jacket. He looked exactly like he had appeared when they had last met, a man in his early twenties with a cheeky smile and messy, ruffled dark hair. "So, is this a social call or are you going to try to interfere in my business again?" His lips were smiling but his eyes showed a flicker of annoyance.
The last time they had met, Amanda had managed to glance at him with the edge of her sword. He had not been impressed.
"They have her." The words escaped her lips before she could compose them. With them came a torrent of fear and anguish and it must have shown on her face because even Harry Potter looked just a little concerned- although he hid it well. "They have her."
"If by 'they' you mean 'you' and if by 'her' you mean 'syphilis' then yes, you would be right," Harry responded with a smirk. He shrugged. "It's all right, brat. I don't judge."
"They took her, Harry," Amanda repeated and her eyes were wild with emotion. Her muscles were tensed and every nook and cranny of her body screamed at her to do something, anything! It was only her supreme will that kept her from breaking down.
Harry was silent.
Amanda's head was bowed as she took in a shuddering breath. She peered through the part of her hair. "They took our daughter, Harry Potter. They took her from her home."
Harry's face went slack as all emotion just slid off of it. For a moment, he remained perfectly still, like a marble statue. There was an almost inhuman quality about him as something flashed behind his eyes, something ancient, vast and unforgiving.
"Ah," he uttered quietly but it boomed around the room as if he had shouted it. "Well," he said after a pause. "Maybe we should go somewhere and talk."
Trembling with emotion and the relief she felt that she had at least attracted his interest, Amanda nodded and stood aside. Harry idly kicked the door to the safe closed and took a step away from the desk when he paused. He cocked his head and frowned.
"What's wrong?" Amanda asked quickly, her hand going to the hilt of her sword.
"Nothing, really," Harry answered. "I just have this strange feeling that somehow, somewhere, we're ripping somebody off."
Sitting opposite of Harry, Amanda watched with a faint sense of disgust as the Denarian shovelled a handful of greasy chips into his mouth with great relish. The bright fluorescent lights flickered and there was a strange smell coming from the rubbish bin and Amanda really didn't want to know what it was. For somebody who was wearing expensive clothes, Harry didn't really seem to have any class at all. Idly, she realised she was tapping her foot impatiently and her knuckles were white as she gripped the table but knew that she had to remain calm.
Harry Potter could save her daughter- but only if he wanted to. She was older and wiser to know now that the bonds of blood might not necessarily be enough to ensure Harry's help.
"So," Harry said in between a burp and Amanda straightened up. "We haven't talked much lately."
"Not since that time in Nepal," Amanda answered and for the first time she felt something other than all-encompassing fear. She frowned in annoyance. "Thanks, by the way. I really appreciated that."
"Hey, you stabbed me first," Harry drawled lazily and grinned.
"I nicked you," Amanda countered sharply. "At which point, you retaliated by throwing half a damn mountain at me. You broke my leg, snapped my wand and buried my alive for two days before I managed to get myself out of there."
"You lived," Harry said carelessly. "I'd have been disappointed if you had died. My ex-students are made of sterner stuff, you know. If a pissy little mountain could kill them, well, I'd just feel embarrassed. Really, we got on so much better when you weren't scurrying about trying to make my life a misery."
"Occupational hazard," Amanda answered coolly. "I am a Knight of the Cross, sworn to defend the innocent, to uphold-"
"Blah, blah, blah," Harry interrupted rudely. Amanda narrowed her eyes but said nothing. "Of course," Harry continued, only pausing to take another bite from his burger. "You've also added another job on the list. Single mother, huh?"
Amanda tensed and nodded stiffly.
"Never occurred to you to tell me?" Harry asked quietly and there was a note in his voice that hadn't been there before. Suddenly, the joking, teasing atmosphere that the Denarian had created before disappeared and Amanda was left to squarely meet Harry's blank eyes, trying her best not to shiver.
"You weren't there," she answered flatly.
"Now, really, that's not an excuse," Harry rebuked mildly. The only sign of his emotions was a flash of Hellfire that roared through the chasm of his eyes. "I mean, we were just talking about our lovely holiday in Nepal! You could have dropped the bomb then. 'By the way, Harry, I got preggers the last time you porked me with your sausage.'"
"Perhaps, if you hadn't faked your death and ran away..." Amanda started heatedly. Harry was bringing back all the emotions she had stuffed away long ago and a quiver of anger ran through her. Who was he to tell her off?
Harry was quiet, his half-eaten burger discarded on the cheap, cupboard box.
"By..." Amanda's voice hitched and she squeezed her eyes shut. She took a deep breath and pushed away the emotions that were threatening to overcome her. "By the time I found out where you were Lily was four years old and there didn't seem to be any point. You already have a daughter and you don't even seem to care for her that much!"
Harry's eyes darkened and the air around Amanda suddenly seemed to get warmer. "You," Harry started dangerously. "Don't know what you're talking about."
Amanda's face smoothed over as she refused to give Harry ground. She stared back at him defiantly.
Harry opened his mouth to continue when something occurred to him and he blinked. "Wait a moment," he said and the incredibly uncomfortable atmosphere cleared. "Lily? You named the little brat Lily?"
"After your mother," Amanda answered.
"It was Albus's idea," Amanda clarified.
"He knows?" Harry exclaimed incredulously. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Of course he knows. How could that manipulative old fucker not know?" The last part was said quite fondly.
Amanda didn't say anything
Harry sighed. "Okay then," he remarked. "Let's get down to business. Who has your brat, how long have they had her and why did they take her?"
"It happened yesterday morning," Amanda began quietly. "I left Lily with my Dad while I went to go take care of some business." With the way her hand hovered over the hilt of her sword hidden in the cloak, Harry had no doubt as to the type of business she had gone on. "When I came back, the place had been ransacked and Dad...Dad was on the ground, bleeding. Red Court Vampires had come and taken her."
"Hang on," Harry interjected. "Your Dad is a Knight of the Cross. There's no way a few vampires could take out a Knight of the Cross in their own home."
"These weren't just your rabble vampires," Amanda cut in sharply. "From what I can gather, there were the elite. Many of them wielded magic. They had all developed their 'skins' to the point where they could walk in sunlight. One of them was ancient, older than the written word. Besides..." she trailed off.
"What?" Harry asked with a frown.
"Dad's doesn't use the sword anymore," she murmured reluctantly. "He...he got injured a few years back. He's not a Knight anymore. He tried his best, even killed two of them, but they overwhelmed him, tore out his throat. I came home just in time to save his life."
"Elite Red Court vampires," Harry murmured and stroked his chin.
"I have no idea why they took her," Amanda tried to explain. "I've done a few jobs against them but nothing major! I don't know why they would come after her to get to me! I didn't do anything to them, nothing that warranted this sort of attack!"
Harry nodded thoughtfully. Then, he frowned. "Hang on. She's been missing a day and a bit now, right?"
"That's right," Amanda answered.
"How long were you looking for me?"
"Half a day," Amanda said with a somewhat annoyed frown.
"You spent half a day chasing me down when your daughter was kidnapped by vampires?" Harry declared incredulously. "Did you even look for her?"
Amanda slammed her hands down on the table and Harry was almost taken aback with the ferociousness of action. "Of course I looked for her!" she snarled. "I went to the Church. I went to Dumbledore. I went to all of my contacts. Nobody knew anything! Then, Albus mentioned that he knew where you were and that you had some pretty good contacts of your own so I followed his advice and came after you!"
Harry was silent.
"How dare you!" Amanda said but she suddenly sounded drained. She sat back down, shaking her head. "Of course I looked for her, you idiot. She's my daughter!"
"Relax," Harry said, sounding bored. "I was just asking. Besides, they probably nabbed her because of me."
"Because of you?" Amanda sounded horrified.
"I've been taking up a lot of jobs of my own recently, some on Dumbledore's behalf and some on the White Council's behalf- anybody who'll pay me, pretty much. I don't like vampires, you see," Harry confessed. "Well, no, that's a lie. I don't like ugly vampires."
"Ugly vampires?" Amanda echoed.
"Have you ever seen a Red Court vampire before? Their beauty is only skin-deep," Harry said sagely. "I mean that literally. They wear a pretty suit of skin but underneath they've got these flabby black breasts and an overweight belly and they sound like somebody's screeching their nails down a blackboard. Now, White Court vampires, well, that's another matter..." Harry trailed off wistfully. "Man, succubi are so hot..."
"Could you get to the point?" Amanda interjected quite coolly.
"Anyway." Harry cleared his throat. "Most of my jobs have been to impede the Red Court in any way possible. I killed a Duke and a couple of Lords the other week. Maybe they know that she's my daughter too."
Amanda said nothing but a deafening crack rang out through the restaurant. Harry didn't even budge as the Knight of the Cross slapped him as hard as she could, her eyes brimming with tears. He stared down at her blankly.
"If you think that blaming me will help your little brat then go for it," Harry said quietly. "I'll sit here and eat my burger and you can go and watch your daughter die. Alternatively, if you think that maybe antagonising the person who you obviously want to come and save the little bint isn't the best idea, we could go and do something productive."
"Like what?" Amanda hissed.
"Do you know where she is? Do you know what they plan to do with her?" asked Harry and Amanda shook her head.
"Good," Harry remarked, and a sudden smile crossed his face. "Let's go find out, shall we?"
With an almost-silent whoosh, the shimmering portal into the Nevernever disappeared behind them and Harry turned to Amanda. A storm was raging up above them and torrents of snow and rain slammed down onto the ground but the Knight of the Cross seemed unaffected. Harry noted the silvery glow of the Sword of the Cross from underneath her cloak and his lips twitched. She really had become quite the holy warrior. It was quite a change from her Hogwarts days- although even then she had shown potential. It had only been eight (or was it nine years?) since Harry had defeated Lord Voldemort and had fled from the Wizarding World. He had kept in contact with Albus and the old man had occasionally employed him for some dangerous, sometimes underhanded, jobs.
Harry was sure that nobody in the Wizarding World knew just exactly how much Albus Dumbledore to keep them safe. The old man's touch was everywhere, pushing back the dark places and the shadows where creatures lurked and waited for their chance. They were many who feared and despised the name Albus Dumbledore- and most of them were not human.
"Well," Harry drawled. As the sword of the Cross protected Amanda from the power of Winter he too was unaffected, brushing the enchantment aside with ease. "Let's go visit the in-laws, shall we?"
Harry saw Amanda nod, her golden blonde hair shimmering over her back. She had grown up well, resembling her mother more often than not- and Harry said that in the best way possible. But, even he could see the occasional tremor that ran through her body, the anguish that lay underneath her stony face just waiting to break free.
Amanda Carpenter, Knight of the Cross, powerful witch and one of the few people that have fought against Harry Potter and lived, was utterly terrified.
Harry frowned but said nothing about his thoughts. He led the tall blonde woman, the mother of his child (well, one of them) through the twisty, windy path. Large bare trees creaked on either side of them, branches waving almost threateningly in their direction, and the wind howled through the dark forest, a promise of pain and more to come. Harry ignored it all and pushed through and the powers of Winter seemed to recognise him, granting him passage.
Overall, the Winter Court did not like him but they tolerated him. He was far too powerful to make an enemy out of and there were those high enough in the ranks that protected him.
After a few minutes of walking, Harry paused and glanced around. Behind him, Amanda stopped and waited for him to do something. The Denarian was frowning, surveying one of the gnarled, twisted trees carefully. It was a tall, old thing, its base covered in windy, twisted roots and its branches stretching out to cover the sky. After a few moments of consideration, Harry was sure and he nodded resolutely to himself.
"Here it is," he proclaimed and strode forward. He bent down and peered underneath one of the roots. "Oi, brat. Come here."
"I'm not a brat anymore, Harry," Amanda argued but her voice was tired and there was no real heat in it. Harry couldn't tell whether her exhaustion was physical or emotion- he really didn't care. "What do I have to do?"
"Crawl under here," Harry ordered and gestured to the root. True enough, there was enough space for an adult to comfortably squeeze through. It didn't go anywhere though, just to the other side of the tree, and Amanda frowned. "It's the new doorway. Man, I don't know why she keeps changing them. It's such a pain in the arse."
"What?" Amanda looked confused.
"Just do it," Harry deadpanned.
Giving him a blank look, Amanda complied on got on her hands and knees. Harry couldn't help the grin that stretched across his face as the beautiful woman's posterior presented itself right before him. The knight started crawling underneath the root when she paused.
"Still a perv, then?" She asked.
"Oh, yeah." Harry grinned.
Amanda sighed but continued to move forward and Harry shook his head in amusement and followed in after her. The ground was rough and wet and Harry hurried forward, coming up over the other side of the root. When he stood up, the tree was gone and a rush of warm air hit his face. He smiled and cocked his head, glancing at an astonished-looking Amanda.
They were standing in an empty hallway leading to a giant set of ivory doors. Silver and gold had been wrought into spiralling murals and symbols that one could get lost in for all of eternity. Soft orbs of glimmering light hung from the roof, casting an enchanting glow over the visitors, and small bursts of glittery light pulsed in and out of existence all around them. Everything seemed muted and there was a surreal quality about as if the hallway was having trouble deciding if it existed or not. There were murmurs, inaudible but clearly there, and the giggling and laughing of children in the background and Harry took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of something long past and something that had still yet to come. Amanda was looking back behind them, her eyes wide as she saw a solid wall of stone from where they had just come from. The forest had disappeared.
"She really has gotten quite good," Harry murmured to himself. Amanda glanced at him and was surprised to see a soft smile pass over his face. The Denarian turned to her as the Knight placed a hand on the hilt of her sword, looking anxious.
"Relax, Amanda," Harry said and his voice was teasing. "You're safe here."
"Where are we?" Amanda asked quietly.
"Welcome to TÃ r na nÃ"g." Harry's voice flowed over the melodious quality of the name. "Welcome, Knight of the Cross, to the Land of the Youth, and the playpen for the Lady of the Winter Court."
Harry adjusted the collar of his shirt and motioned Amanda to follow him. The cloaked sword-wielding woman followed him cautiously as the Denarian strode past the shimmering orbs of light and the random splotches of colour and approached the doors. He stood before them and held out a hand and silver and gold parted before him, giving way to the entrance of a grand hall. Amanda looked in and her face showed her astonishment at what she saw.
Rows upon rows of small children lined the seats, dressed in silks and robes and garb centuries past. They were all beautiful, inhumanly so, with feline-like eyes and silky long hair. Their pale skin was flushed and their eyes were wide, their lips parted as they sat entranced under the spell of the one that ruled them. There were several taller figures here and there, the beautiful and inhuman nobles of the Lady's Court, and they watched emotionlessly at the centre of the stage. The stars and the moon beamed down from open roof and Harry heard Amanda hitch a breath beside him. He suppressed a smile as he gazed up at the stage.
Amaris Potter, the Winter Lady and Harry's daughter, stood there clad in a gown of starlight. Her very form twinkled and glowed with a reverent light as she held her hands up to the heavens and called forth a show. Moonlight spun in her hands as she captured it from the sky and she strummed it like one would strum a musical instrument. A symphony of sound and light and sensation shot through the hall and the children giggled and clapped as Amaris ran a pale hand down the moonlight and coaxed it forward. Pale light beamed from the stage and Harry shook his head ruefully as the Winter Lady skilfully shaped the moonlight into a flock of pale-white doves and sent them fluttering down the hall.
"How did a daughter of mine get to be such a show off?" he mused quietly.
"These children...who are they?" Amanda murmured quietly, as if she was afraid to disturb the mysticism of what was happening
Harry shrugged. "Many of them are Changelings," he answered. "Not the Changelings where one is half-fae and half-human. I'm talking about the Changelings that go in, kidnap your little son or daughter and replace them. Don't let them fool you, they're as cunning as they come and pack a fairly decent punch if they need to."
"What about the rest?" Amanda pressed on.
Harry glanced at her from the corner of his eye. "I think you already know the answer to that question," he said quietly. "The rest, well, the rest are the property of the Winter Court."
"The rest are real children, aren't they?" Amanda asked flatly.
Harry nodded. "Some were sold to her- you'd be surprised what a normal human being will do for power. Some, Amaris found and took them home with her, the orphans, the abused, the sick. Some, well, some are just normal children stolen away when nobody was looking."
Amanda looked distraught.
"Don't worry," Harry comforted her. "They have a good life here. Amaris takes care of them. I think she's trying to make up for her own lack of childhood. She's still got enough human in her to think that it matters."
"Your daughter kidnaps the sons and daughters of other parents, of other families, and you don't care?" Amanda hissed at him and her voice was full of rage. Harry tore his eyes away from the show and frowned, noting the anguish and fury in the Knight's eyes.
"Don't let this get personal, Amanda," Harry warned. "You'll need Amaris' help if you want to find Lily. Frankly, what do you want me to do? This happens all the time. Amaris treats them well where others would abuse them. What do you expect me to do? Did you want me to storm Winter and force them to stop?"
"I never thought you would sink low enough to condone this," Amanda said and her voice was trembling, from anger or sadness he couldn't tell. "Harry..."
"Shut up," Harry interrupted. When she opened her mouth to protest, Harry scowled at her. "I mean it. Shut up. We've finally been granted an audience."
Harry brushed Amanda aside as he stared up at Amaris, who had lowered her hands and was waiting patiently on the stage. His blank-eyed daughter stared at him calmly and the Denarian made a little shooing noise with his hand. With a nod, Amaris turned to her court.
"Disperse," she commanded softly.
The children and changelings in the front row all groaned and Harry watched as they began to fade away into the shimmering moonlight. Many of them giggled at Harry and waved, to which the Denarian gave a half-hearted wave back. The remaining nobles all bowed their heads towards Amaris and strolled towards the exit. Many of them gazed blankly at Harry, some glanced him over with more considering looks as if wondering how best to approach him. Harry spotted one Fae in particular and his smile turned feral.
"Lady Annabel," Harry greeted, smiling widely. "How are you this fine evening?"
"Lord Potter," the dusky-skinned beauty murmured, bowing her head. Her pure-white haired glowed under the moonlight and her heavy-lidded feline-like eyes averted from his gaze. "I am well. Thank you for asking."
Harry inclined his head as the scantily-clad High Sidhe practically glided away from him. He kept smiling as he watched her retreating back and leaned in closer to Amanda, who had watched the exchange with just a tad of curiosity.
"That, little brat, is a very dangerous person," Harry murmured. "She's a Svartalfar, one of Queen Mab's Nightmares. She's the Faerie equivalent of a professional assassin and she's very good at her job."
"What's she doing here?" Amanda murmured back.
"She's Mab's representative in Amaris' court," Harry answered. "She's also here to find weakness and do everything she can to purge it. She's already tried to kill me several times- indirectly, of course," Harry added at Amanda's surprised look. "The little kitten has very big claws."
"What are you going to do about her?" Amanda asked.
Harry gave her a fierce grin. "Nothing," he said cheerfully. "She's the flavour of the month at the moment and that makes her almost untouchable. She'll make a mistake one day, though, and she'll lose favour. I'll be waiting for her the moment she's disgraced and I'll tear her to fucking pieces."
Amanda eyed Harry with an emotion he couldn't quite identify and nodded stiffly. "The nobles here, they all seem to bow to you," she noted quietly.
"They all know of my relationship to the Winter Lady," Harry explained. He ran a hand through his messy hair and straightened his shoulders. "They're all trying to get into my good graces, which they'll hope will get into Amaris'. They can't get a handle on her at the moment. Amaris...well, she's not like other Fae." His voice sounded wistful. "She confuses them, makes it hard for them to predict her. Mab, of course, loves it. She thinks it keeps the Court of their toes."
The last of the children had departed and the rest of the nobles had shuffled out under the order of their Queen-To-Be. Harry straightened up and approached Amaris, who glided down from the stage with her usual emotionless expression.
"Hello, Father," she greeted quietly.
Harry chuckled and reached out, ruffling the Winter Lady's hair. She had barely changed from what he remembered her at the final days of Maeve's rule. Her dark hair was long and flowed over her shoulder, her skin was pale and flawless and her green eyes, so like her fathers, were almost expressionless. Only Harry, well-versed in the art of Amaris-Reading, could see the twitch of her muscles that signified her affection for him.
Hell, he liked the little Winter brat too.
"Knight Carpenter, wielder of the Holy Flame, I greet thee," Amaris inclined her head in respect.
Amanda did not repeat the gesture and stared pointedly at Harry.
"Right," Harry said and clapped his hands together. "Amaris, I'm here to ask you to do something for me."
"Is this about Lily Faith Carpenter?" Amaris asked with unlinking eyes.
Harry saw Amanda's features schooled in shock but ignored it over his own shock. His eyes narrowed and he pointed an accusing finger at Amaris. "Hang on!" he demanded. "Are you saying you knew about the kid too?"
Amaris cocked her head towards him. "Yes," she answered calmly. "She is my half-sister, blood of my blood, the second heir of my father. I made it my business to know."
"And you never thought to mention it to me?" Harry asked in exasperation.
"You never asked," Amaris said and Harry saw genuine puzzlement on her face. "I apologise."
The Denarian rolled his eyes.
"Can you find her?" Amanda asked and her voice betrayed her urgency.
"Yes, I can find her," Amaris answered after a moment. Harry narrowed his eyes at the reluctance he could sense radiating from the girl.
"Will you?" Harry asked. He received no answer. "I didn't think so."
"This is not my business," Amaris answered.
"She's your sister!" Amanda protested and her raised voice echoed around the empty grand hall. "How can you not care?"
"...I don't like her," Amaris confessed and she folded her arms. It was the largest sign of insecurity that Harry had ever seen on the Winter Lady and he sighed. "Besides, any interference on my behalf will lead to confrontation with the Red Court. I have received no summons demanding such confrontation from Queen Mab."
Amanda gritted her teeth and Harry winced as he felt the divine power build up around her. The blonde-haired warrior was not amused and Harry could see that she was only a few moments away from brandishing her sword and forcing Amaris to give them the information. That, he decided, would not end well.
But it would be very funny.
Harry hesitated and then sighed. "Are you jealous, Amaris?" he asked. Amaris was quiet. "You have some really bad daddy issues, you know that?"
Amaris nods, almost contemplatively. "I shall look into it, Father," she replied quietly. "I have several appropriate texts that may contain the answers."
"Alternatively, you could get off your lazy bum and go and do some work," Harry chided patiently. When Amaris looked unconvinced, Harry narrowed his eyes and pointed at the door. "Go." He commanded.
Amaris bowed her head at her father's order and silently walked away. When she was gone, Harry let out an annoyed sigh and scowled at Amanda.
"She's going to be bitchy about this for the next few months, you know," he remarked sourly.
"Wow," Amanda uttered and she looked impressed. "You have the Winter Lady in your back pocket."
"All good children listen to their parents," Harry advised sagely. He paused. "Admittedly, most of it goes in one ear and out the other but she's still a good kid. Speaking of which, I suppose she'll want to see her again..."
Harry trailed off and his wand appeared in his hand. Amanda blinked at the sudden movement, barely registering any movement before the slender stick of holly had appeared. With a casual wave, Harry caught the light of the moon at the tip of his wand and spun it around. It flowed with a shower of silver sparks and, after a few moments, a tall, slender woman emerged. Amanda's breath hitched and her eyes widened with total shock.
"Now, now," Meciel murmured, her raven hair glittering and her silver eyes dancing over Amanda's form. Her silver and white robes flowed around her, accentuating her curves and giving her an aura of light. She reached out and laid a hand on Harry's shoulder. "That's wasn't very nice, my beloved. I think you surprised her."
Harry chuckled huskily as Amanda snapped out of her stupor and reached for her sword. Silver light flared around the polished hilt but Meciel blurred and suddenly there was a warm, pale hand covering her own.
"You can relax, little girl," Meciel spoke and her melodious voice was completely at ease. "I am not here to harm you."
Amanda stared down at the hand, which seemed unaffected by the silver flame that danced across it. For the first time in a long while, she was speechless. "How...?"
"She's an illusion, you idiot," Harry interjected scornfully. "A little bit of Faerie magic here, a tad of illusionary charms there, mix it in with a solidified lattice of light and throw in a dab of Fallen Angel consciousness and you have a self-aware, self-reliant illusion."
Amanda straightened up as Meciel blurred and reappeared next to Harry. The temptress certainly looked real as she stood there stroking her hosts hair and whispering into his ear. Amanda shook her head, undecided if Meciel was acting like a mother or a jealous lover- or perhaps both.
"It's such a pity," Meciel remarked quietly as she preened Harry. "A part of me had hoped you would be dead by now."
"Still alive, thanks," Amanda responded coolly and an obviously fake smile.
"Hmm," Meciel hummed. "Well, it won't last long at any rate. You Knights of the Cross have such a low life expectancy."
"Speaking of which," Amanda interjected and gave Meciel a pitying look that just reeked with insincerity. "How's your life expectancy now?" Meciel's face went slack. "See, I heard from a little bird that you were in a spot of trouble."
Harry chuckled. "Ah, Fawkes," he noted wryly. "Fae will be Fae, won't they?"
Meciel stopped combing through Harry's hair with her fingers and drew herself up. She was surprisingly intimidating even for an illusion and her silver eyes were vast oceans of eternity, spearing her and pressing down against her. For a moment, Amanda felt as if she couldn't breathe and then it all disappeared as Meciel smiled a tad ruefully and closed her eyes.
"My beloved and I are fine, thank you," she answered softly. "We live as one and we shall die as one-"
"Or not at all," Harry interjected and he looked annoyed. Meciel didn't move as the Denarian hoisted himself up from the chair. "The only reason I started jumping into the war against the Red Court was to get that..." he hesitated and his eyes flickered to Amanda. "...that artefact," he said after a moment. "We're getting some results now."
"That and you are also absolutely addicted to the thrill of mortal combat and can't go more than a few weeks without getting into a fight," Meciel added almost wryly. She gave Harry a look of exasperated fondness. "You really are hopeless."
"It's when she replaces weeks with days that I know I have a problem," Harry confessed to Amanda with a little smile.
Amanda didn't respond and the soft patter of footsteps stopped the conversation as Amaris came back into view, a small ornate mirror floating in after her. With a sudden smile, Meciel swooped down and gave the little Winter Lady a hug.
"Amaris, my sweet granddaughter," Meciel murmured and raked her hand through Amaris' raven locks. "How wonderful it is to see you again."
"Lady Meciel," Amaris greeted politely and endured Meciel's sudden fussiness patiently.
Amanda, who had never seen or heard of Meciel acting as emotionally as she was now, just watched and felt baffled.
"Did you find anything, Amaris?" Harry asked and Meciel's illusion abruptly flickered back to Harry's side, much to the Fallen's displeasure.
Amaris straightened her hair and rubbed her cheeks. "Yes, Father, I believe I have."
Amanda felt herself instantly focus and she waited impatiently as Amaris made a small gesture with her hand. The mirror floating behind her rose up and Amaris turned to it, waving a small hand over it and murmuring something under her breath. A flash and hiss of power surged around the room and the mirror darkened.
"Everything is revealed by the light of the moon," Amaris murmured.
"She's still on her 'moon' phase then?" Amanda heard Meciel ask Harry and the latter only sighed in reply.
Amanda watched as the mirror shimmered and a rushing blur of colour and light rippled under the surface. They were flying, zooming down towards the ground as clouds whipped past their faces. They broke through the last of the fluffy haze and canopies of trees were revealed. In the middle of it all was a stone structure and all four of the spectators watched silently as the picture drew closer and closer to it.
"Chitzen Icha," Meciel murmured. "What a dangerous place of power."
The mirror showed corridors and hallways, of vampires and guards with automatic weapons, of hundreds upon hundreds of skinny, starved humans dressed in rags and a pile of bodies numbering in the thousands, their throats slit. Amanda drew in a breath at the sight but nothing could prepare her for what was to come. As the mirror finally focussed on a small, single figure curled up in a ball, Amanda let out a sob and a shaking hand reached for the mirror.
"Lily!" she breathed.
Harry watched with narrowed eyes. The girl was about seven or eight years old, with blonde hair like her mothers. She was wearing a set of pink pyjamas and was shivering as she curled up in a little ball. Harry frowned. No. The pyjamas weren't pink. That was...
Something abruptly splattered all over the child and she flinched. Drops of blood clung to her hair and clothes and suddenly a body was thrown down next to her. Harry exhaled loudly as Amanda became deathly still. The body was that of a woman dressed in the same rags as the people they had seen before. Her throat had been slit.
Somebody came into view and Harry watched as a tall figure in some very bizarre looking robes bent down and gripped the child by the hair. Lily opened her mouth and must have let out a whimper as the figure dragged her over to the corpse and forced her head down to the slit throat of the dead woman. Lily obeyed obediently, her green eyes dull and lifeless, and her tongue came out and licked at the blood of the dead woman. The figure pushed the child out of the way, bent down and threw the dead woman away. When it looked up, Harry saw that it was wearing a golden mask. The mirror abruptly went dark.
"Lily..." Amanda trailed off. She was shuddering, and it was not from the cold or from fear. Harry felt the righteous fury burning off of her and could not blame the Knight for what she was feeling. "What...what are they doing to her?"
"A ritual," Meciel answered. Her face revealed nothing. "Human sacrifice. Blood offerings to a young girl. These are the signs of a very dangerous ritual." Meciel turned to Amanda, her silver eyes blank. "Knight. Your daughter will be the last to be sacrificed. When she is, something is going to happen and I do not think it will be pleasant."
"Lily isn't going to be sacrificed at all," Amanda snarled and her eyes were alight with fury. "Chitzen Icha, eh? I'll find them and I'll find her and I'll cut down anybody in my way!"
"That man was a Lord of the Outer Night," Amaris informed them. "They are powerful Lords of the Red Court, second only to the Red King himself. When taken into account the concentration and deployment of Red Court forces, I can only assume that the Red King is also there."
Harry, who had been scratching his chin and staring into the mirror, finally made a noise. "You know," he started softly. "I didn't like watching that."
Harry turned to Meciel. "How powerful will this ritual be?"
"From what I have seen, the Red Court is tapping into some deep and dark reservoirs of power," Meciel answered quietly.
"How deep?" Harry questioned.
"God-like." Meciel's answer resounded in the empty hall.
Amanda, who had been trying to get a good look at Harry, finally managed to glimpse the man's eyes and couldn't help the dangerous smile that crossed her face. The Denarian Lord glared at the mirror with eyes wreathed with hellfire and his expression was thunderous. She had been right to come to him after all.
Even after everything, even after all this time, Amanda knew that Harry would not allow his child suffer the indignities of Red Court hospitality. Perhaps it was his old childhood upbringing, perhaps it was the last vestiges of a moral code that he still stuck so firmly too or perhaps it was simply a matter of pride. It didn't matter to Amanda.
Harry Potter was going to kill the ones who had taken her daughter.
"The Red Court has an entire army," Amaris told them quietly. Her expression showed nothing to what she felt. "Furthermore, the most powerful vampires in the entire court will be there. You also have to contend with additional security forces. You cannot assault them alone."
"Can't we?" Amanda's smile was feral.
"No," Amaris answered flatly. She turned her gaze upon Harry, who stared back at her with his fire-wreathed eyes. "Of course, if you had an army behind you..."
Harry stared at the slender Fae for a moment and then the fire faded away. He let out a bark of laughter and chuckled humourlessly. "Is that how you want to play it?" he asked. He grinned. "Fine. I'll give you...two."
"Seven," was Amaris' immediate counter-offer.
"Ouch." Harry winced. "Trying to rip off your old dad- what a good girl." He smiled faded. "Three."
"Six." Amaris' voice was calm and measured.
"Um..." Harry appeared to be in deep thought. "How about...three?"
Amaris stared at him flatly and he sighed.
"Fine," he muttered. "Four. That's all you're getting."
"Your deal is accepted," Amaris said and she raised her hand. There was a flash of light and Harry grunted in annoyance. The Winter Lady looked a little smug as she turned to the mother in the ground. "Amanda Carpenter. You shall have your army."
"What was all that about?" Amanda asked Harry carefully.
"You don't need to know," Harry refused to answer stubbornly. He was still scowling but there was something like reluctant pride behind his eyes. "We know where the kid is. We know who's there. How about we go there and kill them all?"
"No," Amanda said and everybody paused. "First, there are a few people we need to pick up." She turned her head to Amaris. "You're not the only one who can raise an army, Amaris..."
Albus Dumbledore sat behind his desk, his normally cheerful expression rather grim. One gnarled hand, still blistered and burned from a dark curse from almost a decade ago, went up to stroke his long, grey beard and his blue eyes peered from behind his half-moon glasses at the latest scroll on his desk. It was with a heavy sigh that Albus dropped the scroll and took off his glasses. He rubbed his eyes wearily and shook his head, trying in vain to dispel the oncoming headache.
It was all one big mess and he was far too old to deal with it.
The portraits lining the walls of his warm, cosy office eyed him with concern, often leaving their frames and muttering to each other as Albus Dumbledore went about his work. They, of all people, knew what burdens the old man faced and the sometimes distasteful things he had to. It wasn't easy, but it was the right thing to do.
"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear," Albus murmured. He reached up and took his glasses off, busying himself in the polishing of the lenses as his mind worked furiously.
Lord Voldemort may have been vanquished but the world was still a dangerous place and, as a whole, the Wizarding world was still completely oblivious to it all. Faeries schemed in the background, wrestling with the terms and fine-points of the bargain that Merlin himself had created to keep the Wizarding World safe. Dark Wizards emerged from the shadows, delving deeper and deeper and the true black arts, never knowing just how badly their minds were being eaten away at and corrupted until it was too late. Now, it seemed as if the vampires were about to make yet another attempt to wrestle their way into the affairs of the Wizarding World- as if the three previous attempts in the past five years hadn't been enough. Albus, through proxy with Harry Potter and Amanda Carpenter (and even himself at one point) had repelled their attempts and sent them scurrying away. Their plan now though, Albus had to admit, was as cunning as it was barbaric.
Poor Lily Carpenter. Albus sighed and put his glasses back on. He placed his quill down on the desk and leaned back against the chair. He quite adored the little green-eyed blonde-haired girl and he could only shudder at the kind of treatment she was receiving at the hands of the Red Court.
She would never be the same again. Albus was certain of it. Yet, at the same time, he could only hate himself as his shrewd mind could not help but notice the benefits. Should the girl be saved she would come out of the whole experience with the knowledge of the dark forces that perched on the precipice, waiting to swallow the world whole. She would not be ignorant. She would rise up, like her mother and father before her, and she would battle against the dark forces until the fight swallowed her up like it had so many before her.
Perhaps she would be the one to replace him when he too was devoured and consumed by the never-ending war against those who wished harm against the Wizarding World.
There was a knock on his door and Albus sighed. There she was, right on time.
"Come in, Ms. Madley," Albus called out.
The door opened and a young woman stepped in. Her casual robes of navy blue swished around her as her warm brown eyes surveyed the office with an innate sense of amusement. Albus had watched her grow up from a skinny little second year to a very beautiful and charming woman and he could see why she had so many wizards chasing after her- and why so many of them allowed her to string them along and play them for all she was worth.
"Good afternoon, Professor Dumbledore," Laura Madley greeted and smiled at him. She absently tossed her well-cared for hair over her shoulder. A pair of diamond earrings glinted as they hung from her ears and Albus idly noted that she was wearing an ornate brooch, one that he hadn't seen before.
"Good afternoon, Laura," Albus replied quietly. He motioned to one of the empty seats in front of his desk as he respectfully stood. "Please, sit down."
"Thank you," Laura murmured. She glided forward, her every action being one of grace and poise, and took a seat, her arms resting primly on her knees. "I hope you are feeling well, sir."
Albus chuckled and repressed a wince when he heard how hollow it was. "It is unfortunate that your hopes were dashed," he replied softly.
Laura smiled understandingly. "Ah," she replied. "I see. So it's one of those. Would you like to speak to her?"
Albus sighed but nodded his head. Laura inclined hers in response and took in a deep breath. Her eyes fluttered shut and her head fell down to her lap. Albus watched, his face revealing nothing of what he was feeling, as Laura's head slowly rose. Suddenly, the polite and soft-spoken young woman changed. Her stance relaxed just a smidgen and her demeanour became similar to that of a cat stretching it's limbs after a long nap. Laura's head rose and there was a small, knowing little smile on her lips.
"Good afternoon, Verrine," Albus greeted.
"Albus Dumbledore," Laura's body murmured, playing the name over her tongue. Fire flashed in the forefront of her eyes as the Fallen Angel personality became more dominant. "Headmaster of Hogwarts. How may this lowly Denarian help you?"
"The dark forces are coming for us, Verrine," Albus replied and he sounded so old and tired.
Verrine frowned, her pretty face scrunching up. "Oh dear," she murmured. "Who is it this time?"
"The High and Noble Red Court of Vampires," Albus answered. He picked up a scroll and handed it to Verrine, who took it daintily. "They have already begun the offence. Two days ago, Lily Carpenter was kidnapped from her home."
"I see," Verrine replied slowly. She took one glance at the scroll and handed it back, her advanced mental faculties already memorising, analysing and mulling through the possibilities in a heartbeat. "Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't that also Harry Potter's child?"
"You would be correct," Albus answered and did not look surprised that Verrine knew.
"Limited as I was in my first year during this host even I did not miss that protruding belly of Amanda Carpenters," Verrine said with an odd smile. She chuckled to herself. "Oh dear. To incite Harry Potter's wrath- these Red Court vampires clearly have no idea what they're getting into."
"Be that as it may, it has become clear to me that this cannot go on," Albus said quietly and there was hardness to his voice that made Verrine's smile fade for a second. "I have received word about the location and design of the Red Court's machinations. I have no doubt that Amanda Carpenter has requisitioned the help of harry Potter, who has undoubtedly contacted his daughter in the Winter Court. I am going to lend my services to them as they go in and rescue the child."
"Oh?" Verrine arched a perfectly manicured eyebrow. A flash of unease passed through her face but it was gone in a second. "Are you asking me to join you? You pay well, Albus Dumbledore, but there are certain powers that not even I will make an enemy out of."
"You misunderstand me," Albus said and he sounded so very old and weary. "You will be there, yes, but I have another job for you. It is a matter of delicacy that needs to be handed well and the timing must be absolutely perfect."
Verrine looked interested and her eyes widened as Albus began to explain. When he was done, she was staring at him with an almost-inhuman quality, surveying him carefully from behind her mortal eyes. Albus took a deep breath and snapped his fingers, and a cup of steaming tea appeared on his desk. He reached down and took a sip as Verrine's head fell down, no doubt conversing with her host. It was a monumental task that Albus had asked of her.
After a few moments, Verrine raised her head and gave him a somewhat respectful smile. "Very well, Albus Dumbledore," the Fallen agreed. "I will assist you on your...quest." She cocked a head. "You play a very dangerous game, wizard. I can see why Harry Potter fears and respects you so."
Albus chuckled. "At my age, my dear Lady Verrine, you will find that all games are dangerous." He sent her a sly look. "We can't all be immortal and I remain in constant fear of pulling out my hip."
Verrine let out a genuine laugh at that.
Harry walked out of the latest portal from the Nevernever and found that he was standing in the middle of an empty street. Gleaming and well-looked after cars were parked on both sides of the road and the sun was barely peeking over the horizon, a beautiful red and orange glow just lighting up the clouds. White-picket fences and perfect gardens lined the house of every street and it was apparent that the residents here took great pride in their homes. A small wind brushed past his face as Harry glanced around, idly noting that Amanda and Amaris had just stepped out of the portal themselves.
"Really, Amanda? This is where you live?" He asked with an amused smile, his voice echoing down the silent street.
"What's wrong with it?" Amanda sounded a little too defensive for her own liking.
"Nothing," Harry quickly said. He shrugged his shoulders and gestured around. "It's just so...domestic."
Amanda narrowed her eyes and glared at him but Harry ignored it. He turned to Amaris and stepped back to fall in line with her as Amanda led them to her home, a house with its own little white picket fence and freshly mowed lawns.
"How long until your army will be ready?" he asked her quietly.
Amaris gave him a considering look. "They will be ready when they are ready," she said calmly. At Harry's annoyed twitch, she gave a ghost of a smile. "It will be some hours yet. We will regroup with what forces Amanda Carpenter has produced and consider our strategy. I will send work back to my generals and they will follow them to the letter."
"Hmm," Harry didn't say anything but took the information in with a nod.
There was a gnawing sensation in the pit of his gut and it grew worse and worse the longer he knew that Amanda's daughter- his daughter- remained where she was. This was how he felt after seeing that despicable scene and he could not honestly imagine how Amanda, who had raised, loved and cherished the girl for eight long years, was feeling. His respect for the Knight went up a few more notches. His entail reaction had been to gather his powers and storm Chitzen Icha himself. He had come a long way from the brash, impulsive teenager he had once been but the swell of rage and fury that lurked within was just itching to be unleased on some pathetic Red Court vampires.
Meciel, too, was not impressed- thought that did make sense considering that she took the bonds of family even more seriously than Harry did.
Harry had the power of an archangel behind him and no less skill with a wand. There would be deliverance and he would enjoy it.
Amanda had opened the gate and the three of them strode down the small, cobbled path. The Knight led them over the steps and opened the door with a discreet flick of her wand, allowing Harry and his daughter to trail after her. They paused and Harry frowned, reaching out with his senses. There was definitely some form of power protecting this home and Harry winced as he felt the distinct aura of Soulfire. It only made sense that the Knights of the Cross were given divine protection.
"It's alright," Amanda assured them both. "I'm inviting you in. You'll be fine."
Harry nodded curtly and walked through the doorway. As predicted, the divine wards and power simply slid around him- though he was sure that he sensed a somewhat-reluctance on their part to do so. He entered the home and gave a measuring glance at the pale-blue walls. There was a homely feel to it and pictures lined every wall. Amaris brushed past him as Harry paused, staring at a large coloured photo of small, chubby toddler giving a large toothy grin.
Harry was jolted out of his thoughts with a start and looked up. Amanda was calling his name and if she had noticed the object of his attention then she paid it no heed as she wordlessly gestured to a door. Harry nodded and followed her through it. Sitting at the kitchen table in the dim light of dawn were some very familiar faces, faces Harry wasn't all that pleased to see.
"Harry Potter!" exclaimed Molly Carpenter, Amanda's older sister and member of the White Council. Her hair was not as long as her sisters but the tips had been dyed green. She wore a pair of ripped jeans and a tight t-shirt and there was a slender pair of wands by her sides.
Harry gave her a glance over and then returned his gaze to the more threatening members of the group. Michael Carpenter and Sanya Boshvek, regarded Harry carefully. Sanya was the more wary of the two, the large Russian very calmly placing a warning hand on his Sword of the Cross. Harry had had a few encounters with the Russian Knight over the years and they had all ended badly- for Sanya. Michael Carpenter, on the other hand, greeted him with a tired smile, his arm and chest bandaged for all to see. Amanda's father had always been much nicer than a Knight really should be to a Denarian, although Harry had been expecting some good ol' fashioned "Daddy rage" about knocking up his sweet and innocent daughter.
"Knights," Harry greeted cordially.
"Harry," Michael greeted him back, his voice neutral. Every move he made put a wince on his face. "You've finally come out of the woodwork then?"
"I was never there," Harry rebuked lazily. He pulled out a chair and sat down while Amaris trailed after him, hovering at his shoulder with an expressionless face. "You guys were just really bad at finding me."
Michal let out a chuckle that ended in a pained gasp. He clutched his shoulder and lurched forward as Molly and Amanda both hurried towards him, helping him lean back. Harry watched clinically, noting the severity of the wounds on the Knight's body.
"So, tell me," he started. "How did a bunch of vampires manage to bring you down? The wards around the house seem formidable, even I wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of them, and, if I recall, you know your way around a sword. How did they beat you down?"
Michael grimaced as his daughters helped him sit back up. Harry once remembered when this man was in the peak of physical fitness but it looked like old age was catching up to him. His hair had a bit more grey in it and his face was a little more creased than Harry remembered it.
"I was taking Lily to school," he answered honestly. "I was ambushed just as I dropped her off. They were high-level sorcerers and men with automatic weapons. They fired on the crowd of parents and students. I tried...I tried to save them but I put myself in a bad position and... here I am. They must have snatched her after they beat me down."
Harry made a disgruntled noise. "The more I hear about this the more I wanna get over the South America and start killing things. Who else are we waiting for?"
Amada opened her mouth but she was interrupted. A flash of light exploded in the kitchen and Amaris stiffened as a sphere of fire appeared above them. A shower glittery golden sparks drifted to the ground and Harry watched visibly unimpressed as a tall wizard dressed in robes of silver and purple stepped appeared in the kitchen. Twinkling blue eyes stared over a pair of silver half-moon glasses and a long, grey beard swayed from the gust of hot air that blew from the kitchen. Harry narrowed his eyes and stared at the old man, folding his arms over his chest and looking annoyed.
"You old bastard," he snapped.
Albus Dumbledore dusted off his robes and gazed down at Harry. "Ah, forgive me, Harry," he said hoarsely. He coughed and cleared his throat. "It is wonderful to see you again."
"I'm so going to punch you in the face and break that overly long crooked nose after all of this," Harry declared flatly. His eyes flashed with fire. "You never thought to mention it to me?"
Dumbledore bowed his head in apology. "I'm so sorry, Harry," he said quietly. "It was not my place to tell you and Ms. Carpenter was most insistent."
Harry's eyes shot to Amanda.
"I was actually going to tell you," she remarked. She scowled. "But it slipped my mind when you dropped a mountain on me!"
"Oh, poor you," Harry said with a scoff. He scrunched up his nose and adopted a high-pitched voice. "Waah! I'm such a weakling! I got covered in snow! Book-fucking-who."
Amanda gritted her teeth together but didn't say anything. Harry felt some of his anger ebb away- partly thanks to Meciel- and he sighed. "We can talk about this later," he muttered, although he was unwilling to drop the subject. "I mean, it's not like I particularly care about your little brat but it's something I'd like to keep track off. I have this nightmare, you see, where I walk into a bar, hit it up with this real cutey and end sleeping her- and then one of my old girlfriends walk in and she calls them 'Mum'."
"Harry." Amanda looked perplexed. "You're still an idiot."
"An idiot...like a fox!" Harry countered and cackled quietly to himself. At the unimpressed looks he was getting, he snorted and shrugged. "I'm a bit rusty on the jokes department. Sue me."
"Nevertheless," Dumbledore interjected smoothly and pulled out his wand and drew out a chair. Harry observed the Elder Wand carefully, remembering the last time that deathly hallow had been pulled against him. "I believe I have uncovered some most urgent information." He turned to Amanda. "I believe I know why they targeted your daughter."
Amanda's head shot around and Harry straightened up on his chair. While the Knights and Molly listened in, Amaris and Fawkes continued their little silent showdown, two sets of eyes boring into each other's in a clash of will, Winter against Summer. The dislike between them was apparent.
"It has only just come to my attention that certain high-ranking members of the Red Court had been purchasing, acquiring, and sometimes outright taking large quantities of ancient artefacts," the Headmaster began. He pressed his fingers together. "When I investigated, my sources told me of ritual that the Red Court was preparing, one involving many human lives and a deep well ancient black magic. I cannot be certain, but judging from the materials the Red Court has obtained and the specific kidnapping of Lily Carpenter, I believe I am right."
Dumbledore took a deep breath and surveyed the room grimly.
"The Red Court is preparing Bloodline curse," he informed them solemnly. Harry exhaled nosily and his fingers clenched around the table. "I cannot be certain of the scale of such a curse, but I imagine it would very large."
"What's a bloodline curse?" Amanda asked slowly.
It was Harry who answered. "It's a nasty piece of dark magic that you inflict on the youngest generation of a family," he responded. His brows were furrowed. "That sacrifice is used as a conduit to spread the curse to the remaining members of the family; brothers and sisters, mother and father, aunt and uncle- and then their children and cousins and their cousin's cousins and so forth. With one ritual, you can wipe about three generations in a heartbeat."
Michael looked particularly grim. "So, if they used Lily as the conduit then.." he trailed off.
"Then Amanda would die," Harry finished bluntly. "She wouldn't be the only one. Her brothers and sisters and you and your wife and any other person who has a common ancestry with you would also die." He frowned. "I'm protected somewhat, so unless the curse is aimed specifically at me- and if they did that it would lose its potency in all other areas- then I don't think the curse would kill me."
"I, too, would be unaffected," Amaris supplied helpfully.
"Oh, well, as long as you're okay," Molly muttered, looking a little nauseated.
"You're right, Harry," Dumbledore confirmed. He looked old and tired. "But the rest of your relatives would not be."
"Er...I don't have any?" Harry hazarded a guess.
Dumbledore gave him a rueful smile. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, Harry," he said. He stroked his beard as he spoke. "The Potters were a Pureblood family and it is a commonly known fact that Pureblood families are all related to each other in some way. If this ritual is completed, a large portion of the Wizarding World would simply die. If the Red Court is truly using Chitzen Icha then the power behind this curse will be immense."
"What's so special about Chitzen Icha?" Molly asked, looking confused.
It was Harry who answered. "They say the Red Court was born there," he murmured. "Thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago, the first of the Red Court vampires were born in that one place. They used it as a temple and they've sacrificed countless numbers of people there. The power that must have been amassed over the millennia would be god-like."
"And it will be that power that will destroy with Wizarding World," Albus finished heavily.
Harry looked angry. "So," he muttered darkly. "That's what this is about."
"I believe so," Dumbledore replied heavily. He glanced at the other occupants of the table. "In recent times, the Red Court has been trying to push their influence onto the Wizarding World. Harry and Amanda here have been a tremendous help in pushing them back."
"Aren't there treaties and accords prohibiting that?" Molly asked, looking confused.
Dumbledore nodded. "You are quite correct," he answered quietly. "Their methods have been rather indirect. The accords bound them from actively opposing the Wizarding World but, as usual, there are loopholes and technicalities that are being taken full advantage of. This is one of them." He paused. "Technically speaking, Lily Carpenter is not a member of the Wizarding World. Because of her parent's unique positions, she has no ties to it. She is not protected by the accords and the Red Court is taking full advantage of that."
"So that's why they didn't nab somebody else," Harry said lazily, but his eyes were narrowed.
"The Wizarding World is isolated and secluded," Dumbledore said. He stroked his long grey beard. "Those with family ties to the old Pureblood families that live outside the scope of the accords are very rare indeed. Despite the prowess of her parents, Lily was the only obvious choice for the Red Court. The Red Court is magically bound and they physically and magically cannot lift a hand against the Wizarding World. However, should they be attempting to strike out against a Denarian Lord and a Knight of the Cross and there was an indirect side-effect of such an attack...well, I'm afraid the treaties were not worded quite that well."
"Technicalities," Molly muttered. She chewed on a lock of hair, looking disgusted. "There's always a way in."
"There are still a lot of unanswered questions," Harry remarked and Amanda nodded in agreement. His green eyes were thoughtful. "For example, how did the Red Court find out she was my daughter? How does the Red Court know of the Potter family genealogy? Why is the Red Court even doing this? Even if they wipe out the purebloods and descends the entire Wizarding World into chaos and anarchy they still can't actively make an attempt to invade it."
"I cannot answer your questions, Harry, because I do not know myself," Dumbledore said. He sighed, sounding tired. "I have my suspicions, however."
Harry's eyes met those of the old Headmaster and dawning comprehension grew in them. The Denarian nodded stiffly and withdrew, his face going blank as he submerged himself in his own thoughts. A heavy silence fell over the table for a few minutes. Harry bit his lip and scratched his chin as his mind whirled furiously. In the end, it was Dumbledore who broke the silence as he nodded to Fawkes and the ancient phoenix disappeared in a flash of fire. Harry let out a huge sigh and cracked his knuckles together.
"Alright then," he said grimly. "Let's start talking about just how we're going to completely and utterly annihilate the Red Court..."
Harry leaned against the rough bark of the tree and stared past the branches at the multitude of lights in front of him. The Chitzen Ichaloomed ahead, a giant stone pyramid dedicated to the old gods of past. Long ago, before the expansion of the European nations, the Mayans and Aztecs had worshipped the Red Court here, preparing blood sacrifices and dark rituals for their eternal masters. Even today, there were large sections of the South America that remained under the rule of the Red Court, being bred and farmed like cattle. Governments were run by proxy, the police were owned by the most heinous of scum and the drug cartels funded a large portion of the Red Court's empire.
It had been a horrible place. It was still a horrible place.
Harry could feel the potent power in the air, a dark timeless aura of hopelessness and despair. Countless millions had died here before today and their suffering lingered on, trapped between the dark powers of the Red Court and their own sudden, horrifying death. Lingering emotions were used as a fuel source, empowering the native vampires even more and fuelling their potent magic. This was the Red Court's place of power and only fools would dare to attack it. Not even the White Council, the race of true-wizards at war with the vampires, had launched at attack this deep in the heart of the Red Court.
"Man," Harry complained quietly as he cast his gaze over the rows of hastily constructed tens and the smaller stone structures littered around the Chitzen Icha. "This is not going to go well. There's a lot of them between us and the Chitzen Icha and you just know that the Red King will kill the brat as soon as it's possible."
Behind him, Albus Dumbledore made a noise of agreement in the back of his throat. His purple and silver robes seemed somewhat muted and duller than usual and the old man was surprisingly good at blending in the background. The two powerful wizards were alone and outnumbered against an entire army of beasts, armed men and powerful magic users.
"We will have to move quickly," Albus murmured and he reached into his robes and pulled out an old golden pocket watch. He glanced down at it. "If we are to keep to the schedule then I am afraid that we will have to move now."
Harry grinned and underneath the moonlight there were a certain savagery to his face. "Awesome," he said.
His suit blazer flapped softly in the breeze as he pulled out his holly wand. Green eyes flashed with Hellfire as the dark power blazed through the young man's body. Muscles were pumped full of the stuff and his senses increased dramatically as the fire roared and burned in his system, just begging to be released in a hailstorm of fury and rage. This was the power that had gone face to face with a Winter Queen, this was the power that had met that of the Outsider Lord and stood its own, this was the power that had taken on the great Dark Lord Voldemort and crushed the immortal man into pieces.
This was the power that seethed against the indignities that Harry's daughter had been forced to suffer. Harry did not know the girl. He did not know what she was like and what she felt. He had never met his daughter before. Even so, his heart burned with rage and his immense powers were ready to crush those who had the audacity to touch his own flesh or blood- even if, at the very least, it was only on principle.
The Denarian Lord, the last Denarian Lord, gestured past the trees towards the giant stone structure. "Shall we, then?"
Albus nodded and withdrew the Elder Wand. A surge of power, in some ways just as dark as the aura that surrounded the Chitzen Icha, shot through his tired, frail body and the old man took a deep breath and prepared himself. His magic, just as potent as his younger companions, rumbled beneath the surface of his body, like a dragon slowly waking up from a deep sleep. His eyes were hard and his face was set.
Silently, the two wizards broke away from the tree-line and began walking towards Chitzen Icha. They made no to hide their presence or disguise themselves and their power shone like beacons to those predisposed to that sort of thing. It only took the Red Court seconds to realise that there were intruders a foot.
"Well," Harry said calmly as shrieks and howls rose through the air. There was movement in front of them amongst the tents and little figures scurried to and fro, readying themselves against the intruders. "How have you been, Dumbledore?"
"My bones ache just a little more than they did last year," Albus answered and cocked his head. There was rustling movement from behind them and the Headmaster of Hogwarts gave a small look to Harry, who nodded. "Alas, my pains are nothing when compared to the plight of the poor people here and the suffering of a certain little girl."
Black-skinned vampires howled with hunger and madness as they leapt from the tall grass. Their hands were curved up like claws and their flabby black skin was taut, their ribs bare and their stomachs empty. Holding his wand, Albus paused and took a deep breath. He said no words but his foot tapped on the ground. The howling pack of rabid vampires ran on all fours as they closed in on the two wizards. They were so caught up in their bloodlust that they didn't notice the faint tremors coming from the dirt beneath them.
In a sudden burst of exploding earth, one of the vampires let out a terrible screech as a large, thin spike of hard granite exploded from the ground and pierced it in the chest. The beast was propelled in the air as similar spikes shot up, impaling the rest of its companions without mercy. Within a single second, the pack of vampires hung in the air as rows of razor-sharp spikes held them adrift. Thick, black tar-like blood oozed from the gaping wounds in their chest and onto the ground.
Harry paused in his step and glanced backwards. He let out a slow whistle of appreciated. "That was nasty," he congratulated the wizened old Headmaster, looking impressed.
Albus bowed his head in thanks and flexed his fingers around his wand. His magic was beginning to rise up, coaxed forward and ready to be unleashed upon his foes.
Another pack of rabid vampires stalked around behind them in an attempt to flank them. Harry rolled his eyes and raised his wand. The runes on the side flared with Hellfire and he levelled it at the tall patch of grass they were trying to sneak through. Thunder boomed as a cone of white-hot lightning blasted forward towards the hidden vampires. A cacophony of shrieks and howls of pain filled the air as the lightning fell down upon them, lashing out and tearing into their flesh. Harry raised his wand and gave a wordless grunt as he thrust it forward and an incredible flash of light filled the night sky. The vampires never stood a chance as a tremendous force stuck their incapacitated bodies and sent them all flying five, ten and then fifty metres away, back past the tree line and out of sight.
"My my," Albus said calmly. "That was a rather impressive piece of spell work. I must admit, I don't recall you ever conjuring lightning like that before."
"Expanding my horizons," Harry remarked lazily. "Oh, and you might want to duck right about now..."
Albus smiled and did not move but a loud pinging noise filled the air as a shimmery blue light popped into existence around him. The shield faded but reappeared a moment later as more pings filled the air. There was a crackle and a hiss and pieces of molten metal slapped uselessly against the ground as the Headmaster deflected the sniper-fire without any trouble.
"How crude," he murmured and brushed himself off, as if the bullets had left a visible stain on his pristine robes.
Harry smirked. Flashes of crimson light were sparkling all around him as he too deflected the bullets from the unseen guards. He adjusted the collar of his jacket and surveyed the area ahead. The Red Court was mobilising and hordes of black-skinned shrieking and howling vampires were massing up at the base of Chitzen Icha. Albus pointed them out to Harry with a look almost resembling pity in his eyes.
"Blood slaves," the old man murmured. "Vampires who have gone entirely feral. Most of them were human slaves forced to consume the blood of the Red Court vampires that ruled over them."
"Cannon fodder," Harry said in disgust. "Is that all they'll send against us?"
"Hardly," Albus said grimly. "They are used to wear down the enemy by sheer numbers before the more talented and specialised vampires move in for the kill."
"We'll see about that," Harry replied just as darkly.
The black-skinned beasts were howling and screeching loud enough that both Harry and Albus could hear it. Albus once again looked at his pocket-watch while Harry cocked his head and listened to the rather urgent horns that continued to blare forward in alarm. Some invisible force was guiding and moving the blood slaves and after a few moments an entire horde has massed before them. There were hundreds of them, all maddened and lusting for blood.
"Would you care to?" Albus offered after a moment. His robes flapped in the wind and his voice was rather genial but his blue eyes were cold and hard.
At the behest of some kind of silent signal, the vampire horde charged as one. Their splitting screams filled the air, many of them falling to their hands and knees and leaping forward like a pack of feral animals.
Harry shook his head in mock-modesty. "No, no," he said cheerfully. "After you. I insist."
Albus inclined his head and raised his wand and Harry watched as a master of magic began his work. The old man took a deep breath, and then another. Bullets pinged on the curved dome of protective magic that surrounded him as the Headmaster began to slowly swing his wand around his head. A grunt escaped him and a bead of sweat fell down his wrinkled forehead as Albus continued to swing his wand, pulling with all of his might as if there was a heavy weight there that he could not see. The vampire horde continued to charge at them recklessly- and that was what doomed them.
After the third or fourth spin Harry felt his eyes widen as a powerful surge of magic gathered around him. To his advanced senses, it seemed as if the Headmaster beside him was suddenly bathing in a sea of power, rich, potent and deep. The skies screamed in protest and Harry had to stand his ground as a mighty gust of wind shot past him. The Denarian looked up with fire-tinged eyes and an expression of reluctant awe as he saw the clouds above beginning to blot out the sky. Something was pushing them, twisting them around each other and forcing them together.
The first wave of blood slaves closest to them all let out immediate shrieks of pain and fear as they were suddenly ripped off the ground and sent tumbling through the air. They did not drop as they continued to duck and bob through the air as more and more vampires joined them. A deafening roar ripped through the sky and the earth cracked and shuddered as a mighty cyclone of wind tore through ground flesh right in front of him. The clouds rumbled ominously and Harry's jacket flapped madly in the wind as Albus continued spinning his wand, whipping up a terrible hurricane that completely enveloped the entire host of vampires. Large chunks of earth were torn up into small pieces and lifted up off the ground, entire tents went flying up into the fury of the cyclone and many of the small stone buildings shuddered as the cyclone tore through whatever got in its path.
It seemed to last forever but it probably only lasted a few moments. Albus, his face set with strain, abruptly stopped and, with a grunt of effort, pulled his wand back. The effects were immediate and the large whirlwind of air dissipated immediately. This proved to be the end of the vampires who had been caught up in Dumbledore's spell and were still alive. The momentum and power of the cyclone hurled the entire horde of broken and tattered bodies everywhere. They rained from the sky, bouncing along the ground and disappearing into the surrounding forests. Harry watched as one of them slammed into one of the smaller stone buildings and the very force of the collision sent it crumbling down around itself. Small and large chunks of earth, ripped up by the fury of the powerful spell, rained down upon the Red Court encampment. One of them also struck one of the smaller stone buildings and demolished it instantly. A few hit the side of the Chitzen Icha itself but the great structure remained relatively unharmed.
The last of the objects rained down from the sky and Harry ignored the screams of agony and pain of his foes as he turned to Albus.
"Holy shit!" he exclaimed.
Albus was breathing hard and his face was clammy and sweaty. Nonetheless, he managed a small smile as he tucked his wand back into his robes. "I will take that as a sign that you are impressed," he murmured. "Oh dear. I don't believe I've used a spell of that measure since my rather short battle against Lord Voldemort all those years ago."
"You've still got it," Harry praised. He looked reluctantly impressed and eyed the old Headmaster with no little respect. "I knew there was a reason why I still hung around you."
Another horn blared through the air, sounding more urgent this time, and the enemy was quick to respond. Small dark figures surged from the surrounding buildings and even from Chitzen Icha itself as a second wave of blood saves began to mass. At the same time, Harry spotted a steady line of figures begin to make defensive positions around the entrance of Chitzen Ichaas guards were pulled back from the surrounding areas. Harry saw this and frowned, rolling his eyes.
"You think they'd have gotten the message the first time," he muttered to Albus.
"This is what we want, Harry," Albus said patiently. He was still breathing rather heavily but the colour was beginning to return to his face. He reached down and checked his pocket-watch again. "I'm afraid I'll have to leave this one up to you."
"Oh, that won't be a problem," Harry said dismissively. Crimson sparks continued to burst around him again as the armed guards once again fired upon both wizards. "You're not the only one who can look cool in front of everybody."
A horn blared and a second much more scattered and disorganised group of vampires surged forward. There was barely any coordination in their movements and it seemed as if the person in charge of the defence was merely using them to slow Harry and Albus down and allow them time to mount a proper counter-attack.
"Watch and learn, Dumbledore," Harry said lazily.
Hellfire roared in his eyes and a sudden stench of sulphur reeked through the air. Albus felt his nose wrinkle in disgust as the Harry delved deep into the well of ancient power that surged through his veins. The Denarian kept one hand up, casually deflecting sniper fire with ease, while he raised his wand and pointed it at the sky. Light spilled from the runes carved into the side of the polished wood and Harry's arm trembled. Harry braced himself and staggered back as fire spooled at the tip of his wand. It burned with a dark crimson glow but was almost too bright to look at. The wind whipped up around him as Harry channelled the fires of Hell itself into the tip of his wand and gripped the slender stick of holly with both hands.
"And...." Harry said with considerable effort. "Now!"
With a deafening roar, the ball of crimson fire shot up into the air in a slow arc. It rose up and hung there for a moment, casting a powerful light down on the charging vampires. The darkness and shadows of the night were pushed away and it was as if there was a miniature sun hanging there in the sky, so bright that it hurt to even glance in its direction. His face tight, Harry brought his wand down in a powerful sweep and the sun abruptly exploded.
A shockwave of force passed through the two wizards and the grass around the explosion lit up the sky. Crimson fire rained down from the expanding ball of fire and a sonic boom shot through the clearing. Albus couldn't see what was happening to the vampires underneath the powerful glare but watched with raised eyebrows as smaller little trails of fire soared down from the sky in the hundreds. For a moment, it almost looked like an oversized firework that was drifting lazily down towards the ground.
The small comets hit the ground with the force of a speeding truck. Earth shattered and cracked and giant plumes of dust rose up from the ground as a rumbling wave of noise shuddered through the earth. It was like an artillery barrage of crimson fire, comets streaking down from the slowly retracting fireball in the sky and absolutely devastating anything that got in their way. A second barrage quickly followed the first, and then a third and then a fourth, until the great fire in the sky had diminished into nothingness and the rumbles in the ground had stopped. Harry lowered his wand as giant plumes of smoke rose into the sky and frowned.
"Eh," he uttered, looking annoyed. "That...was not as good as I had been hoping. I'll have to work on that spell."
Albus surveyed the bombarded area as the smoke and dust began to settle and saw nothing more than a blackened and pockmarked area of dirt. There were no signs of the host of vampires that had been there just moments ago and large, jagged craters now lined the walls of Chitzen Icha.
"Yes, I can see what you mean," the Headmaster replied with a very straight face. "A very mediocre effort, Harry."
"Fuck you," Harry responded conversationally.
The last vestiges of the smoke and dust were beginning to fade away and both wizards prepared themselves for the next assault. None came. Even the sniper fire had stopped and Harry smirked as he thought of the panic that the Red Court vampires must have been feeling. Wizards of Albus and Harry's calibre were few and far between. To have two of them make nothing less than a full frontal assault was nothing short of excessive.
Suddenly, Albus reached into his robes and pulled out his pocket watch. He looked up and gave Harry a quick nod and the Denarian rubbed his hands together and grinned. Harry raised his wand up into the air and shot off a shower of silver sparks. For a moment, there was nothing. Then, a returning shower of sparks came from the very back of Chitzen Icha.
A slit of utter blackness tore into the world right in front of Albus and Harry and Amaris stepped through. Her simple white dressed seemed to glow with an innate light and her feet were bare as the expressionless young girl looked up to her father with the same emerald eyes he had. Harry nodded and she bowed her head and closed her eyes. She raised her pale, skinny arms and flickering green light formed around her. Fae magic howled in the air as a dozen slits just like the one Amaris had arrived through appeared all around them. From them came a shrieking host of Winter Fae led by tall, impossibly beautiful High Sidhe nobles dressed in gleaming armour of black ice.
On the other side of Chitzen Icha, Harry knew that a similar scene was also taking place- except with twice the numbers that had appeared here. With the majority of the Red Court vampires defending this entrance into Chitzen Icha against Harry and Albus, the plan was to hopefully have very few of them on the other side.
Harry turned to Albus and gestured forward. As Amaris signalled her army forward, the host of the Winter Lady charged forward as gunfire began to rain down upon them. The Denarian felt surges of unholy and inhuman magic flash from both sides as Sidhe and vampire clashed on the field of battle.
The war had truly begun.
Chitzen Icha reeked of blood.
As powerful Fae magic tore into the defensive wards placed around the Red Court's holiest of places, the Winter Army surged through the gates and walls and slammed against the might of the Red Court. From the east leading the way was Amanda, her silver sword glowing brightly as she barrelled her way into the opposing lines. Sanya came from the east, the Russian Knight working in tandem with Molly as they directed the Winter army to breach the defences. From the north came a much smaller but no less potent group. Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore and the Winter Lady were pitted against the bulk of the defences, faced with an endless rain of bullets and the potent sorceries of the magically-inclined of the Red Court. Where Amanda led the army behind her around to the back of the walls and Molly and Sanya worked to bring down the wards, Harry and Albus merely glanced at each and just walked through the front door.
Chitzen Icha was a ziggurat-style pyramid made up of weathered old stone blocks. A gallery of pillars lined the sides to the staircases carved in stone. Levels piled upon on top of another as it rose up to the temple at the summit- and every level was filled with an army. The first to reach the invading forces was a storm of humans, who screamed in defiance and charged at them. Each had the fur of a skinned-jaguar draped over their shoulders and wore a loincloth. Dark and nasty tattoos had been branded all over their bodies, marking them as property of the different nobles that made up the elite of the Red Court. Some carried the traditional weapons of their ancestors, swords of wood and sharpened obsidian and large spears, while others carried more modern weapons, swords of the toughest alloys and gleaming automatic weapons. These jaguar warriors fell upon the army of the Winter Court and the fighting began in earnest.
"Putesco!" Harry murmured and swept his wand in front of him.
Murky brown light pulsed wherever his wand went and the Denarian caught a dozen men in his spell. The effects were immediate and the strong-bodied men stumbled as they charged, coughing up blood and screaming in horror as their limbs began to degenerate right before their eyes. The smell of rotting flesh rose up and mixed with the smell of blood. Harry spun around as soon as he finished the curse, his wand flying to the right and his open palm to the left. A jet of green light streaked forward from his wand and struck a jaguar warrior in the face during mid-jump. At the same time, a jet of flames blasted from his open palm and into three other jaguar warriors, blowing them backwards and into the frenzied crowd around them.
Four men rushed him and Harry parried their swords away with his wand, sparks flying up with every blow. Hellfire rushed through his body and Harry gave them a nasty grin as his wand glowed with a dim yellow light. The next sword that struck it shattered and Harry worked his way through the sword-wielding group, his wand a blur to mortal eyes. His wand slid past the second sword and tapped the man's head and it crumpled and shattered in a spray of blood. He parried and shattered another blade and tapped the man's leg and the brown-skinned warrior screamed in agony as his flesh was torn asunder. A few moments later and they were all dead, living an annoyed Harry brushing his suit down in a futile attempt to get it clean.
There was a bellowing incantation and Harry paused in his motions as a powerful pulse of ripping force tore through the group of jaguar warriors and flung them away. Albus Dumbledore stood in the middle of the chaotic battle without moving as the enemy was thrashed and battered by an invisible force all around him. Anybody that came too close was abruptly flung backwards in the same pulse of light as before and one of the jaguar warriors shouted obscenities as he smashed his sword against a flickering dome of blue light without any success.
Harry turned his head, absently throwing out whirlwind of flame and sending it roaring through the crowd of bare-chested warriors. Amaris approached him with no expression on her face, almost as if she wasn't even aware there was a war going on around her. The air around her was misty and cold and Amaris' eyes were glowing. A pair of foolhardy jaguars raised their swords and charged at her but Amaris didn't even spare them a glance as she thrust out her hand. They barely had any time to look surprised before their bodies became splintered with hundreds of little icicles and they toppled over.
"Amaris, honey," Harry said with a ferocious grin. His wand whipped through the air and more fire was summoned, a roaring column of flame twisting and turning and coming down upon the enemy. "Having fun yet?"
A High Sidhe hobbled past them, his leg twisted awkwardly beneath him, yet there was a bloodthirsty and inhuman grin on his face and his fine robes of nobility was stained with the blood of his enemy as he cut through them with a glaive of blackened ice, as sharp as any steel. Unlike her the rest of her army, though, Amaris did not seem to either like or dislike the thrill of battle.
She was a strange one, Harry considered. She did not embody his traits. She did not embody the traits of her mother's folk. Even Harry wasn't able to get a grip on how her thought processes worked.
"The Knight Amanda has penetrated the southern wall," Amaris told him succulently. Throughout the entire battle not a single spec of blood or grim had gotten on her pristine white dress. "We will rendezvous on the second level of Chitzen Icha."
Harry nodded and watched as Amaris cocked her head, considering the battle that was taking place around them. She lifted up her pale arms and the air grew thick with moisture. Tiny droplets of water hung suspended in the air as a surge of Fae magic shimmered around them. Harry couldn't stop his smile of pride as Amaris brought her hands down and the water elongated into little spears of ice and shot downwards upon the jaguar warriors with the force of bullets. Gunfire rattled around her but the metal seemed to avoid Amaris, swerving and weaving in and around her. Even the iron bullets, which should have drastically weakened and penetrated her shields, did little to stop her- although many of her brethren were not so fortunate.
"Hello," somebody whispered behind him and Harry turned around, absently felling another score of enemies. There was a little girl addressing a small group of jaguars, her adorable eyes peering up at them from behind her lashes. She was dressed much like Amaris was and she couldn't have been older than five or six. Her blonde hair had been done up in with a pink ribbon and she held her hands together in an earnest desire to be friendly. "Do you want to play with us?"
Harry grimaced as the bewitched men were suddenly surrounded by a small group of inhumanly-beautiful children. The changelings were not merciful as they suddenly grew teeth and claws and tore through the men with the strength of somebody twice as tall and old as they seemed to be. One of the changelings turned to Harry, her mouth covered in fresh, red blood and her eyes wild with delight. There was a thump and the changeling gurgled as a row of little red spots appeared on her sundress and she collapsed as she was peppered with bullets. Machine gun fire rained down from the levels above them as the defensive line began to organise themselves.
"Now, that won't do," Harry muttered and he raised his wand. He took in a deep breath, his eyelids fluttering open and closed as he synced his mind with Meciel's. With a surge of power, Harry looked up and spoke a Word.
The world stilled and silence rippled out from Harry. Something gigantic but completely invisible filled the empty space between there and the second level balconies and ripped the stone away from the pyramid. Men shouted in alarm as their firing positions and they themselves were torn apart by the massive wave of concussive that rippled from balcony to balcony, rendering them all useless. Harry finished the Word and broke into a fit of coughs, a droplet of blood leaking from his nose but an amused smirk on his face.
"Above us!" Dumbledore boomed over the battle and Harry's eyes shot upwards.
Perched on one of the pillars was a humanoid figure dressed traditional robes of black and gold. He or she was at least seven-foot tall and wore an ornate golden mask that covered their entire face. Harry narrowed his eyes at the sheer presence this being was giving off. This was more than a mere ancient vampire. This was a vampire who had posed as gods to the ancient Mayans. Whether they were received as gods as recognition to the dangerous and potent aura that this vampire had wielded, or whether being worshipped as gods had given it the powers it had now was unknown.
The Lords of the Outer Night were the most powerful vampires in the Red Court bar the Red King himself.
The tall vampire let out a rattling hiss as he raised his hands and held up a lurid sphere of red light. The world flashed red-white and lightning rained down upon the battle, cutting into friend and foe alike. Jaguar warriors and black-skinned blood slaves howled as a storm of lightning raked over their bodies, cutting into them and blasting them backwards. The Fae were also hit hard, one of the nobles simply exploding into a shower of gory pieces where she stood as a multitude of different creatures were ripped into by the potent vampiric spell. Dark energies cascaded round the Lord of the Outer Night as he or she fed off the emotions and life energies that had been ripped out from around him and bled into the dark well of power underneath the monolithic stone structure.
The Lord went to attack them once more but suddenly Amaris was there. She raised her hands and effortlessly caught the lightning in her open palms, her dressing flapping madly as a deadly wind howled around her. The Lord considered her and let out a rasping breath. It drew its cloak around him and disappeared in a flash of darkness an instant before the marble column was levelled with a flick of the Winter Lady's hand. The Lord reappeared on the other side of the battle and Amaris seemed to take that as a challenge as she too abruptly disappeared.
"Harry!" Albus had appeared, looking grim. The bottom of his robes was caked in bloodied mud. "Can you sense that?"
Harry nodded curtly, his senses reaching out to the oppressive atmosphere and aura of Chitzen Icha. The dark well of power was pulsing beneath them and Harry could feel tendrils of the ancient, black magic leeching upwards onto the very top of the ziggurat, where the temple of the Red Court stood.
"The ritual is being bought to a close," he shouted over the din of the battle. He furiously gestured upwards. "I'm going to go and say 'Hi!'. I'll meet you there."
Albus nodded and Harry doubled over as he concentrated on his own well of dark power within him. Meciel, no longer bound by the coin, provided him with her own personal well of Hellfire- at a cost. There was no filling the well back up, not just yet, and every drop of Hellfire he used was not being replaced. The Denarian had calculated that he had several more decades, a century even, before that well of Hellfire would run out- and that's if he didn't make any improvements to his spell-work or find a solution. In this situation, it would not be a waste.
A sharp tearing noise filled his ears as the back of his silk suit was torn to shreds by two wings of sharpened white bone. They arced over his head, giving him a somewhat imperious look as he gazed over the battle. Hellfire flared within the pit of his belly and with a sudden rush of magic the wings exploded in a blaze of Hellfire. Sulphur reeked through the air hellfire curled and twisted over Harry's physical body. Slowly, Harry rose up off the ground and hovered above the battlefield as the Fae and the vampires battled each other in a bloody mix of sorcery and gunfire. Obsidian weapons crashed against blade of black ice. Ruinous powers lashed out at both sides, flaying men and beast alike, and blood flew- the crimson blood of the mortal, the black blood of the vampire and the almost silvery, transparent blood of the High Sidhe.
Then, Harry ascended above all of that and zoomed towards the temple at the top of the ziggurat.
The Red King waited.
The wind rushed past Harry's face as his large wings of golden Hellfire burned brightly in the night sky. A palpable aura of sheer power surrounded him and he was barely aware of the bullets and coils of magic that shot up towards him, brushing them off with ease. His mind was focussed on one thing and one thing alone: the massive build up of dark energy that was emanating from the top of the ziggurat. With a sweep of his wings, Harry zoomed past the soldiers of the Red Court and approached the stone temple on top of Chitzen Icha. He ignored the sudden, hysterical shouts of a small group of women dressed in the traditional garb of priestesses as he landed on top of the Chitzen Icha.
He stood up, his eyes burning with Hellfire, and his wings flared out around him. The temple lay before him, an almost cubic building of weathered stone with a single opening the size of a fairly standard doorway on each side. The plateau was deserted but Harry could feel the ancient darkness within the temple, the presence of beings older than the written word itself. Hellfire hissed and spluttered around him as he flared his wings and gripped his wand. With the power of an archangel behind him, Harry showed no hesitation as he approached the temple before him and entered.
The temple was rather bare. An unknown script labelled the walls and Harry frowned as a faint crimson light burned within it. Even merely glancing at it gave Harry a headache as the blood and the pain and the nightmares of millennia of human sacrifice screamed at him in despair. There was a single altar in the middle of the room and Harry paused as the first of the vampires showed themselves. With twirls of their cloaks, four inhumanly tall humanoids appeared on each side of the altar. Their gleaming golden masks sneered down at him as they flanked the blood-stained altar. Harry idly noted that the sticky black substance was everywhere, on the walls and the floors and the cloaks of the Lords of the Outer Night.
"Where's the Red King?" Harry asked quietly but his voice seemed to roar in the deafening silence that permeated the altar room. "Better yet, where's Lily Carpenter?"
The Lords of Outer Night were silent. Harry's might was creeping into the room and the flickering flames of the torches bolted to the walls were rising as the thick, heavy scent of sulphur settled into the stone. Just as Harry brought his power to bear and prepared to crush those before him when a soft, whimpering noise captured his attention. He froze and stepped to the side in order to peer past the Lords of the Outer Night. Chained to the altar was a small girl. Her hair was red, as was her ripped and tattered pyjamas and her skin and Harry grimaced as he realised that she was completely soaked in blood. The little girl couldn't have been older than eight or nine and her teeth chattered as her eyes, emerald green like those of her father and sister, stared blankly up to the roof. There was no recognition or emotion expressed on her face and Harry deduced rather calmly that she must have been in a traumatic state.
"Oh," he uttered quietly. "I see."
A murderous flash of boiling rage erupted from his body and his face was suddenly cold and dangerous as his rage was fuelled by the Hellfire that surged through his body. The fires shrieked all around him and the darkness hissed and slunk away as Harry's wings arced up to their full height, flowing with white-hot feathers of flame and casting an almost-ethereal glow across the room. To their credit, the Lords of Outer Nightness remained still and barely seemed affected as Harry glared at them with the fire-wreathed eyes of a fallen angel.
Harry. Potter. Harry Potter.
The words reverberated around the room and Harry's head snapped back as if he had been physically struck. His ears rung and for a moment his entire world stood still. He staggered back, choking and coughing, as a figure emerged from the darkness. Compared to the Lords of the Outer Night, the Red King was tiny, barely making five foot two or three. Yet, there was a presence about him that seemed timeless and far too large to be contained in such a small physical shell. Dark, empty eyes stared out from a relatively young face. There was nothing remotely human in them, just an ever-consuming void of darkness that threatened to suck Harry in and rend him unto dust. Harry grunted as the Lords of the Outer Night suddenly shifted and a massive pressed lashed out at him, pressing him down. His wings were bowed and his knees gave out as he was forced to the ground, the very rock cracking and splintering underneath him. Together, the combined willpower of the Red King and the Lords of the Outer Night had him grovelling on his knees before them. Just his name spoken by the Red King had sent him reeling.
Harry watched relatively calmly as the Red King strode forward. He wore a kilt-like cloth around his waist and his chest was bare. His cold, dark eyes surveyed Harry with derision and scorn as his long, black ponytail swished in the wind. In his hand he held a ceremonial dagger stained with blood and Harry suddenly knew that that was the blade that had killed millions over the course of the years. He was snapped out of his thoughts as the Red King lifted up his arm and the Denarian felt the ancient darkness bleed out from the terrible script that lined the walls and emerge as a terrible crimson light on the palm of this ancient vampire.
"What?" Harry choked out as the pressure continued its best to pulverise him into the ground. "No monologue? That's just rude."
With a deep breath, Harry stilled for one small moment and drew out the power that lay dormant within him. The fires roared and the Lords of Outer Night jerked back as Harry tore out of their grasp with a bestial roar. His wand flicked up and a Word of the Worlds boomed from his mouth in spray of spit and blood.
A high-pitch screeched filled the room and the fires along the walls were snuffed out as the darkness rose up as a horrifying entity of hunger. Harry's eyes gleamed with power as the Lords of the Outer Night were consumed where they stood, dead before they even had a chance to move. He flicked his wand and the darkness screeched against, a terrifying noise that sent shivers down his back as the more primal parts of his brain instinctively recoiled in fear. The crimson power burning in the Red King's palm died away as the darkness wrapped around him and devoured him whole. He didn't even make a sound as his features disappeared underneath the darkness.
Harry gritted his teeth and stood up as the Word began to fade away and his body was suddenly free of the pressure that had trapped it. Only four gleaming masks remained of the Lords of the Outer Night and there was nothing left of the Red King himself. The little girl on the altar had also remained unharmed but continued to stare blankly up at the roof, her mind having retreated long before Harry had gotten there. The Denarian collapsed his wings into his back and adjusted his suit as the last of the darkness faded back into the shadows. Harry felt the burning power surging within him, demanding more blood and pain from those who had taken from him, but he repressed it with well-practised ease.
It was in the nature of Hellfire to tempt and entice.
Movement flickered in the corner of his eye and Harry spun around, his wand flying up. Something flashed in front of his eyes and Harry winced as a hand clamped down on his arm before he could bring his wand up. It squeezed down with tremendous strength and his wrist completely shattered underneath the pressure. Harry hissed and looked up, his eyes widening with shock as the Red King stood before him. Those empty eyes stared into him, blank even as the Red King's face contorted with rage. There was another flash of movement and Harry was barely able to perceive the Red King raising his arm and slamming his fist into Harry's face. His jaw and nose snapped and his head was rocked back as the force of the blow sent him flying from the temple.
He soared out of the doorway and felt the cool wind brush over his face as the sounds of battle once again filled his ears. His battered body twisted and bounced along the stone plateau as his wand flew out of his shattered hand and disappeared over the ledge. Harry grunted in pain as he finally came to a rest at the ledge of the plateau. He didn't even have the chance to breathe a sigh of respite as the red King was suddenly before him. Harry's eyes widened and he grunted as the Red King effortlessly lifted him up with a single hand and slammed him down against the stone. Harry's vision flashed with white and something cracked in the back of his head as ancient stone crumbled away around him under the force of his stone.
The Red King's assault was not done as the diminutive vampire lashed out with his foot and Harry was once more sent skidding and bouncing along the ground. His head spun and his vision was blurry but he could barely make out the Red King as the vampire appeared before him once more and lifted him up by his shirt. Harry gurgled helplessly as blood spilled from his mouth as the Red King lifted up his other hand and collected a pool of ruinous crimson light. With a unholy roar of rage, the Red King slammed his palm into Harry's chest. Crimson fire burned into his skin and Harry screamed in agony as he twisted and flailed under the Red King's grip. One of his wings of bone shot out of his back and slashed at the vampire but the Red King merely blocked it with a single arm and threw him aside with the other. Harry slammed into one of the walls of the temple, his features disappearing underneath a furious blaze of vampiric magic.
The Red King was not even breathing hard as he glared at the burning heap of crimson flames.
After a few moments, the fires began to dissipate and the Red King arched his head back, looking both imperious and furious at the same time as a soft, low chuckle filled the empty plateau. Harry Potter's eyes were glowing as he arose from the crimson fire, seemingly unharmed as it licked at his skin. His wounds were knitting together with ease before the Red King's eyes and the Denarian Lord gave him a smile that was anything but friendly. While the fires had not truly harmed him, it had had the unfortunate side-effect and completely disintegrating his jacket and shirt and his bare chest was exposed to the world.
"Oh," Harry uttered dangerously. "You did not just burn my silk shirt." Fire-wreathed eyes stared down at the Red King and something vast and ancient lurked behind them, judging the ancient vampire and finding him wanting. "See, now you've gone and gotten her pissed..."
The Red King was not going to let Harry finished and he disappeared in a blur of movement. Harry's eyes widened but he swiftly side-stepped and brought his arm up to block a chop of the Red King's hand that probably would have taken his head off.
"Now that's just rude," Harry hissed angrily.
The Red King jerked back and suddenly disappeared as the area around Harry was consumed in a corona of blazing fire. Sulphur reeked through the air and the ground beneath his feet became red-hot. Harry smiled through the aura of flames he was projecting, his body unaffected by the sheer heat radiating off of him.
"I know you're fast and all but do you really think you're fast enough not to get burned?" Harry asked quietly.
The Red King blurred and Harry let out a 'oomph' as something slammed into his chest and sent him staggering back. The flames around him roared angrily and the Red King finally made a noise of pain as retreated, his hand black and blistered. It looked as if the skin had melted off and underneath Harry could see the slimy and flabby black skin of the true form of a red court vampire. As old and as powerful as he was, the Red King was still just a beast.
"Well," Harry said a tad maniacally. He snapped his fingers and his wand appeared in his hand in a burst of flame. "I guess it's time now to play to my strengths. Avada Kedavra!"
Harry swung his wand and an arc of deathly-green light poured from his wand. The Red King blurred and easily dodged the killing curse, which splashed against the walls of the temple and disappeared. A flash of oily power caught Harry's senses and he strengthened the flames around him as a cone of amethyst light slammed into him. The flames struggled but held it off and Harry barked with laughter as his wand came up. Fiendfyre burst into existence and a giant bone-wrym let out a deafening roar as it tumbled down on the Red King, who drew upon the never-ending well of darkness of Chitzen Icha and blasted it apart in a wave of crackling, furious crimson bolts. The plateau shuddered and rocked even as vampires and Fae screamed and clashed at each other below.
"This isn't a fight you can win," Harry remarked, his wand held aloft and the fiery aura around him burning brightly. "Your magic isn't as strong as mine. You shouldn't have antagonised me."
The Red King sneered at Harry derisively and his cold, empty eyes fixed upon the face of the Denarian Lord. "Fool!" he snapped, his English heavily accented and the word shot out and struck Harry with the force of a bullet. "I will not be lectured by a little child. I will sacrifice your brood and our plans will come into fruition."
"Is that so?" Harry murmured. He cocked his head. "Do you really think I'm going to let you?"
The Red King gave Harry a smile that sent shudders down his back. "You won't have a choice," he answered and raised his hands. He took in a deep breath and Spoke.
The verbal command had no obvious magic behind it. There was no flash of light of shower of sparks. Instead, there was something more primal involved, something ancient and commanding, and the ancient presence of the Red King laced every nuance of the word.
This was the being that had been born before the written word had been invented.
This was the being that had seen humans evolve from small packs of hunter-gatherers to a global society.
This was the being that had hunted his ancestors in the dark nights of yonder and had impressed upon their children and their children's children a set of evolutionary traits and responses.
The Red King told Harry Potter to sit and Harry Potter sat down.
The Denarian blinked when he found himself on the ground and rolled his eyes. The fires around him continued to roar furiously as the Red King loomed above him, coal-black eyes staring down at him imperiously. Harry tried to stand but found that his body simply wouldn't let him. He growled and lifted up his wand. The Red King instantly threw up a hand.
Harry's face twisted up as he strained against the command but to his own horror he found that his fingers were slowly loosening against the wand and could do nothing as the slender piece of wood fell from his fingers and clattered to the ground. The Red King looked smug as he lowered his hand and took a deep breath. A massive, ancient presence slammed into Harry as the Red King imparted one final command to Harry.
Harry looked annoyed as his own hands came up and slowly encircled his neck. Even as they began squeezing, his fingers pressing into the vulnerable flesh, he didn't look that worried. The Red King's eyes were fluttering as he imposed his mighty will upon Harry. After a few moments, Harry let out a shuddering breath and gazed scornfully at the Red King.
"Really?" Harry asked hoarsely as his fingers slowly loosened around his throat. "Did you really think that you could kill me like this? Oh, you are impressive, there's no doubt about it, but I am a Denarian Lord! You may be old but I consort with that which is eternal!"
Harry Potter gazed upon the Red King and his eyes shone with an unholy glow. The ancient presence beyond Harry's eyes came to the forefront as blood began to dribble down his mouth. Harry shuddered and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. His limbs twitched as his head fell down to his lap and for a moment it looked as if he had died. Then, his head slowly rose and the Red King reared back as something older than he was and countless-times more terrifying gazed at him coolly.
The Red King had been around since the dawn of mankind.
Archangels, fallen or not, had existed before time itself begun.
Meciel looked upon the face of the 'ultimate' predator through the eyes of her beloved host and opened her mouth. Something vast and soul-shattering brushed over the entire battlefield as the full presence of an Archangel briefly revealed itself to the entire world.
The clouds in the night sky dispersed and the trees rocked as if a hurricane had hit them, thousands upon thousands of leaves shedding themselves and flying away with the winds. A mighty gust erupted from all sides of the Chitzen Icha and Vampires and Fae were thrown off their feet. Jaguar warriors found themselves running in abject terror, running far, far away, even as the Winter Fae pursued them. Red Court vampires hissed and groaned and slunk to the ground as the presence brushed over them. Guard dogs let out terrified howls and disappeared into the jungle, never to be seen again. Chitzen Icha itself, a structure as ancient as the Red Court itself, trembled before the might of the command, as if it too wanted to slink away where it could remain unnoticed.
Harry was suddenly free of his bonds and he slowly stood to his feet as the presence of Meciel receded back into his mind. His throat ached and blood dribbled from his mouth but his face was twisted into an amused smirk as he stared at the Red King, who suddenly found himself pressed up against the wall of the temple and practically cringing with fear.
"Arrogant child," Harry rasped. "You are nothing but a grain of sand in the eternity that the archangel Meciel has existed for. You have no dominion over me. In fact," Harry grinned nastily. "It seems that I have dominion over you."
The Red King stared at Harry, looking terrified, and Harry could not blame him.
She scared him too.
Abruptly, the Red King disappeared. Harry tensed as he heard a sudden scream of pain come from inside the temple and surged forward as fast as he could, his wand springing to his hand. He entered the temple and stopped short. The Red King held Lily Carpenter up by the roots of her hair over the altar and held the gleaming ceremonial dagger to her throat.
"Move and I will kill her," the Red King promised desperately. "With her death, countless more will die within the hidden alcove of wand-wizards."
Harry stared at the blade darkly. "It won't kill me," he said quietly. The Red King was silent, everything was silent. "I'm not human enough to die, even with the amount of power you're going to throw into this little bloodline curse of yours."
"And you care nothing for your people?" The Red King asked and dug the blade deeper into the whimpering girl's throat.
Harry cocked his head. "They're not my people," he answered softly. His burning eyes pierced into the cold, empty gaze of the Red King. "But...if you kill her, you'll regret it."
"You'll lose a daughter!" The Red King snarled.
"I do have another one," Harry observed. "And you'll still a die a very horrible and painful death which- and I promise you this- will last for an eternity." His eyes were wreathed with dark fire. "There are ways to do such things, trust me."
The Red King licked his lips nervously. "I don't believe you," he murmured. Harry watched him carefully. "You wouldn't have come here if you didn't care."
Movement flickered in the corner of both of their eyes and something rocketed towards the Red King with great speed. The Red King started and his blade dug deeper into Lily Carpenter's neck but suddenly the knife twisted out of his grip and flew to the side of the room. Harry whipped his own wand up and the small, blood-stained girl soared into his arms. The Red King snarled and batted away the flying object and a whimpering, dark-haired woman slammed into the altar under the force of the blow. Harry held the little girl close to his chest as he saw the knife soar into the blackened hand of Albus Dumbledore. A beautiful young woman stood by his side, having thrown the woman at the Red King, and Harry recognised the presence of Verrine.
The woman who had collapsed on the altar moaned and twisted about, her nails scratching at her dirty skin until she produced blood. She was dressed in the clothes of a slave but there was something off about her, something almost akin to a Red Court vampire. She was hissing and thrashing about madly.
"You," the Red King whispered. "Albus Dumbledore."
The air rippled and twisted but Albus hardly looked phased as he slowly walked into the room. Verrine hung back, studiously avoiding Harry's eyes. The girl in his arms made a whimper and Harry found his arms tightening around her as he stood back and allowed the little showdown in front of him to take place.
"Yes," Albus murmured and he looked and sounded wearied and old. "Well met, King Kukulcan of the Red Court."
The Red King was tired as Albus practically limped forward, his wand by his side and his robes as pristine as ever. They swirled about him ominously and the Headmaster reached up and stroked his beard as he surveyed the temple with a measured look of sadness.
"I told you to stay away," Albus said and it was a whisper. "I warned you. The Wizarding World is protected. You did not listen and now we have come to this." The Headmaster sighed and there was an incredible sadness in his eyes. "Do you regret it, King Kukulcan?"
The Red King drew himself up. "Do I regret what?"
"Do you regret what you have done?" Albus asked and it seemed to Harry that there was this incredible weight pressing down upon the frail-looking man. "Because of your ambition here today, many of your people have died outside. Innocent men and women have been slain right in this very temple. Their blood has been spilled on these unholy of grounds- and for what?"
The Red King didn't look like he understood. "But...they're cattle," He answered incomprehensively.
Albus closed his eyes in pain. When he opened them, he gave a piercing glare to the Red King.
"Why have you done this?" He demanded. "Why have you made overtures to the Wizarding World? Why, after all this time, did you confront us? You are already at war with the White Council. Your forces are stretched thin. Did you really think that you could fight a war on two fronts? Four fronts, really. You have incurred the hostility of the Knights of the Cross and you have slighted the last of the Denarian Lords. Tell me, what are you doing?"
The Red King was silent for a few moments. "He promised us an army," he answered a few moments later. "He promised to crush the White Council. He promised us to end the war in our favour. All we had to do in return was to help him remove the Wizarding World from existence."
"Who is he?"
There was a sense of urgency in Albus' voice.
"He is one with more power than any of us here," the Red King whispered. A dark, black aura grew around him and Harry knew that the vampire was done talking. Crimson power flickered in the unholy scripts carved into the walls and Harry took a wary step backwards, shouldering the girl in his arms and preparing to defend himself.
Albus sighed and bowed his head in grief. "I curse you, Kukulcan," he murmured and he sounded heartbroken. Power whipped up around the Red King. "I curse you for murdering these innocent people here today. I curse you for attacking the Wizarding World that I swore to protect and any cost."
Verrine had disappeared and a great wind was beginning to howl in the background.
"I curse you for summoning the dark well of power of the Red Court!" Albus' voice had risen and he drew himself up, his blue eyes flashing with power. "I curse you for all you have done here today and in history! Most importantly, I curse you for making me do this!"
The obsidian knife glinted in the Headmaster's hand as he brought it up and slammed it down upon the woman on the altar. The woman let out a terrible shriek as blood oozed from her wound and onto the bloodstained stone below her and the Red King abruptly paused. The woman thrashed and hissed, revealing a set of newly-grown fangs, as Albus drove the knife deeper and deeper and Harry watched with wide eyes as it all suddenly fit together.
Albus had turned to curse back upon its masters.
The youngest and newest member of the Red Court, scant minutes old, thrashed twice more before falling still and Harry instinctively covered the girl's head and ducked as the power beneath the surface of Chitzen Icha rose up to do the bidding of its masters. A terrible echo of dark power shot over Harry and he grunted and collapsed to the ground as a darkness unlike anything he had ever felt before washed over him. The Red King was shrieking in agony and Harry felt thousands upon thousands of people simply die. The power washed over him, battering away at his body and the precious cargo it protected, and Harry allowed himself to succumb to the darkness that lurked at the edge of his vision, content to simply ride the side-effects of the bloodline curse out.
He awoke some time later and everything was quiet. Harry groaned as he rose up from the ground and glanced down at the mop of hair buried in his chest. The little girl was sleeping but continued to tremble and mumble under her breath. Harry slowly rose to his feet and gazed around. The first signs of light were beginning to peak from the horizon and the world was deathly silent all around them. Movement flickered in the corner of his eye and Harry turned his head as a very sombre Dumbledore rose up from a conjured chair and regarded him quietly.
"What did you do?" Harry asked, but there was no accusation in his voice.
"I did what needed to be done," Albus whispered and his voice was drained and sounded of death. "I always do what needs to be done. I'm so tired, Harry, so tired of all of this."
Harry regarded the Headmaster carefully. The man looked wearied, old and frail and was stumbling along as the magical, emotional and physical side-effects of the bloodline curse fell upon him. Harry knew better than to take the man's weariness as a sign of weakness. This was not a weariness that came about from physical weakness. This was a weariness that came from doing things and hating yourself for doing them.
"Hey," Harry said and his voice was somewhat gentle. He reached out and took Albus by the arm and allowed the Headmaster to lean into him for support. The girl murmured in her sleep and snuggled into his shoulder. "Let's go find the others."
By the time Harry and Albus had reached the bottom of the deathly-silent ziggurat the host of the Winter Lady had already disappeared. Harry met up with Amanda and passed the sleeping girl onto her weeping mother. Sanya gave him a small nod and handed over a rose made completely of crimson ice. Harry took it, knowing that Amaris was expecting him to complete his side of the bargain as soon as possible. As Albus organised a portkey to take them all away from here, Harry gazed around at the carnage that surrounded them. The grounds of Chitzen Icha had been devastated and countless bodies were strewn all around them. There were no bodies of the Fae and Harry knew that Amaris would take care of it. There was also not a single body belonging to a red Court vampire and Harry somehow knew that the bloodline curse would make sure that there never would be.
"Harry," somebody called to him and Harry turned around. Amanda gazed up at him, her grey eyes brimming with thankful tears as she rocked her daughter in her arms. "Thank you. Thank you so much."
She disappeared a moment later and Harry tried to ignore the twisting feeling in his gut. Let her go, he reasoned to himself. Amanda and her daughter would be fine. Admittedly, the little girl was not going to recover from her hellish ordeal any time soon but if there was one thing Harry could count on in the world it would be the way that the heavens took care of their own.
He didn't belong to that group.
Albus raised a hand and Harry nodded in farewell as the tired old Headmaster also disappeared, returning to Hogwarts to physically and emotionally washing away what had happened here today. It had been a callous, merciless and utterly brilliant ploy of Dumbledore's and once again Harry resolved never to make an enemy out of the man.
Albus Dumbledore could and would destroy him, of that Harry had no doubt, and it didn't make him feel any better knowing that the old man would probably cry as he did so.
"Well, Meciel," Harry said with a sigh. "This turned into one big giant clusterfuck. The entire annihilation of the Red Court..." He trailed off. "I think it's time we hit the beach again.
Harry turned on his heels and prepared to disapparated when something caught his attention and he stopped. Very slowly, Harry turned around and gazed up to the very top of Chitzen Icha and his eyes narrowed.
It only took him a few moments to reach the top of the ziggurat and Harry silently entered the temple. He paused as he took note of a figure in a non-descript brown cloak crouching over a pile of muddy ash- right where the Red King had been standing when he had died.
"Who are you?" Harry called out and was not surprised when the cloaked figure remained still, as if he had known Harry had been there all that time. "What are you doing here?"
The figure slowly rose up off the ground, his hood on and his back turned to Harry.
"How long were you working with the Red King?" Harry asked and his voice was soft and tense. "No, I have a better question. How long were you working with the Winter Lady Maeve? You are the one, right?"
The figure was motionless.
"What are your goals?" Harry continued and Hellfire slowly built up in his body. He withdrew his wand and the runes flashed with a dark fiery light. "Why did you have the Red King go after me? Why did you have the Winter Lady go after me?" A dark smile appeared on his face. "Oh, my friend, have I got so many questions for you..."
The figure appeared as if they were considering something and Harry watched with bated breath as they slowly turned around. An aura of raw and undiluted power sprung from the mysterious finger and Harry shook s his face paled. That power, that awful power that flickered in the air, pressed down upon him and made him quake. Distantly, Harry heard Meciel cry out a name in horrified warning and if possible his eyes got even wider.
"But that's impossible!" Harry whispered.
From an outside perspective, it was as if the entire ziggurat simply disappeared under the force of a bright white light. A loud earth-shattering boom roared through the jungle and large twisted columns of stone fell from the sky, the huge and ancient stone crushing through trees and plants alike. A terrible plume of smoke rose up into the sky as a wave of roaring flames began to surge through the jungle, leading to what would be some of the worst fires in the history of South America. Chitzen Icha, fortress of the Red Court and speculated birth of the first vampire, had been rendered unto dust and obliterated.
There was no sign of Harry Potter.