Loose Ends

By Polaris24


He Apparated into the back alley in Beziers with the faintest pop of displaced air. He frowned at that. It was nothing obvious, definitely no louder than the sound of a plastic bag being burst, but it was a sound nonetheless, an imperfection. It was an imperfection that made him wince. It was something that he would have to work on.

He held his place, not moving a muscle as an unfelt breeze caused his leather duster to flutter about his ankles. He hadn't picked the duster for the fashion statement that it made but because it was thick enough to turn a knife and some sets of claws and could also be spelled with protective enchantments. His nostrils flared as he drew in a deep breath, inhaling the scent of rotting garbage, stale alcohol and piss that filled the alley. There was another scent there as well, one that overlaid the normal smell of an alley in the bad part of town. A hint of dark magic lingered in the air.

It wasn't obvious, much like a trace of perfume that lingered in the air after a woman had left a room, but to those with the proper training it was noticeable.

A small, grim smile tugged at Harry's lips, pulling at the scar that twisted its way along his left cheek, stretching from the corner of his mouth to his ear. One of his teachers, an old German Jew who had fought against Grindelwald alongside Dumbledore, had called it a schmiss. Apparently such wounds were common in duelling circles in both the muggle and magical world.

He stepped out of the alley, discretely palming his wand as he did. His body shifted beneath the leather duster as he walked. He was lean, almost too thin, like a knife blade that had been honed to an edge too many times. Dangerously brittle but still capable of causing harm.

Wintry green eyes examined the rundown apartment building opposite the alley. If the information that he had gathered through rituals, sacrifices to higher powers and good old fashioned detective work was correct then his target was hiding in that building. It wasn't much to look at. It had been built on the cheap by someone looking to exploit the desperate need for housing amongst the poor and twenty years after the ground had first been broken it was showing its age. Harry was mildly surprised that the whole building hadn't been condemned.

Pausing for a moment his eyes examined the liberal coatings of graffiti that covered the front wall of the building. His sharp eyed gaze, sharper than ever now that his eyes were unencumbered by glasses, picked out the scattered runes and sigils that had been strategically placed amongst the graffiti, symbols that created a series of simple, yet effective, Alarm Wards. The wards would activate when he first crossed the building's threshold, giving the caster, presumably his target, a slight warning of his impending arrival and scant time to react. Even a few seconds could prove to be the difference between success and failure. Unfortunately for his target more powerful, lethal wards would attract more scrutiny than she could safely deflect, especially considering the mostly muggle nature of the surrounding area.

The Alarm Wards though, used relatively little magic and would not be considered out of place on a magical apartment building, even if it was in a muggle neighbourhood. And hidden as the symbols were amongst the graffiti they were well camouflaged, unless a person was looking for them specifically, and simply added to the aura of poverty that the area reeked of.

A touch of cruelness tainted Harry's grim smile at that realisation. How far the mighty have fallen, he thought.

From within the pocket of his duster Harry drew forth a rune encrusted crystal and touched his worn holly wand to one of the symbols, activating the spell encased within it in a powerful burst of magic. The Anti-Transportation Ward that was spelled into the crystal wouldn't last long, perhaps ten minutes at most, but Harry didn't plan on taking any longer than that. With the ward activated Harry slipped the crystal back into his jacket.

Sirens sounded in the distance, a far from uncommon occurrence if Harry had judged the neighbourhood accurately, and he used the sound to cover the noise of his curse shattering the front door into splinters of wood and steel. Cautiously stepping through the entrance Harry found himself in a dank, poorly lit hallway, complete with mould growing from the water damaged walls. The lights flickered as he walked beneath the bare bulbs, the shoddy wiring reacting badly to the palpable aura of magic that he projected.

A door was flung open ahead of him even as the sound of heavy footsteps echoed through the roof from the floor above. A pair of boys ran into the hall from the open door and sped for the shattered door without sparing Harry a glance. A bent backed old man, perhaps their grandfather, followed them into the hall, shouting after them in an incomprehensible dialect. Like the boys he carried a spark of magic. It was nothing special though, in fact it was decidedly unexceptional, but it was there all the same. Harry had expected that. The entire building was, according to his information, populated by weak witches and wizards, most of them barely more than squibs, the dregs of the wizarding world and a good many of them not native to France.

The man's cloudy eyes settled onto Harry and he struggled to raise his rune etched cane. As their eyes met Harry entered his mind with a sharp thrust of Legilimency but hastily retreated when all he found was a never ending mist. He recognised that mindscape and the look in the man's eyes. It wasn't the Imperius Curse like he had first suspected, that he had could have broken with his Legilimency. It was far worse than that. It was an Enslavement Draught, a highly illegal potion that irrevocably stripped a person's freewill from them, leaving them under the command of the person who shed their blood into the potion.

Knowing that the old man had no hope of recovery Harry didn't feel the slightest bit of guilt when he raised his wand and blasted him backwards as he tried to make use of his crude focus. He pushed forward, passing the dead body without sparing it a glance. A door was flung open as he passed it and a wand shoved into his side, warm with a building curse. Speed borne of training and rituals flowed through Harry's body as he spun, parrying the wand as the curse was loosed even as he lashed out with his wandless hand, driving his fist into the throat of his attacker. The small woman gasped for breath as Harry's ritually enhanced strength crushed her throat. He stabbed his wand at her chest as she stumbled backwards, sending a Piercing Curse through her heart.

He quickened his steps before the entire ground floor could swamp him and sped up a set of stairs, knowing that he would find his target on the top floor. Unfortunately he had to go the long way. It would have been simpler to just Apparate or Portkey in but his target, despite being unable to lay proper wards, no doubt had a way of making interlopers who arrived in such a manner hurt. Harry knew that he would have and he also knew Narcissa to be quite capable in her own right. That she had evaded him for nearly half a year attested to that.

On the fourth floor landing he found his passage to the fifth blocked by two middle aged men, one of them was armed with an athame while the other carried a rough wand. Their faces were smooth, fearless even. They hadn't been fed an Enslavement Draught Harry realised, but had had their minds crushed. Even under the influence of an Enslavement Draught people possessed basic human instincts, such as self preservation, and could break and run from a fight. With their minds crushed though the two men in front of Harry were little more than expendable extensions of Narcissa's ruthless will.

Magic wrapped around the athame and shot forward in a contained streak of light, barely missing Harry's face as he snapped his head to one side, his reflexes slowed slightly by his surprise. It slammed into the creaky banister and cleaved straight through it, provoking a slight widening of the eyes from Harry. He knew what an athame was of course, he had used on during some of the rituals that he had performed, but he had never seen one used in a similar manner to a wand. The second man flourished his poorly made wand towards Harry with a cry of "Oblido!"

The young wizard stabbed his wand into the Crushing Curse, uttering a specific countercurse and reducing the spell to a pale mist with a peculiar twist of his wrist. Whipping a cutter back at the wand carrier Harry made a downwards spiralling motion with his wand, causing a forest green shield to spring into existence in front of him just in time to stop another athame assisted spell from hitting him. His eyes widened even further when, despite his shield stopping the strange spell in its tracks, it caused a portion of his shield to simply disappear.

Dispelling the barely useful shield with a swipe of his wand Harry launched a fireball at the athame wielder even as he sidestepped a Blasting Curse from the wand carrier, ignoring how it demolished the flimsy, water damaged wall behind him. Before he could follow up with his attack the man with the wand dropped it and flung himself at Harry, grappling with him with abnormal strength. Surprise shot through Harry as he found his ritually enhanced strength to be no match for the mindless man. As the man's face pressed close to his own Harry smelt the distinctive tang of Re'em's blood waft from the man's breath. Rare and expensive it granted the drinker immense strength until it left their system. More to the point Re'em's blood was only one of a dozen or so rare reagents that Narcissa was known to have taken with her when she had fled from Malfoy Manor mere minutes ahead of a Ministry strike team.

Harry felt himself get slammed into the damaged banister and then felt it give way under the combined weight of him and his attacker. They fell through the air, still struggling, and Harry managed to manoeuvre the stronger man in midair so that he hit the floor first, landing with a sickening crunch and then a groan as Harry slammed into his body. The iron grip that the man had on Harry's wand arm loosened and he wasted no time in dragging the tip of the holly wand across the man's throat, producing a cut so deep that he could see the man's spine.

Charming his boots, and wondering why he hadn't just done so in the first place, Harry leapt back to the fourth floor only to catch another beam of magic from the athame in the shoulder. Hot, feverish magic began burning at the entry point of the wound, spreading with alarming quickness throughout the rest of his body. Lightning sprung from the tip of Harry's wand, driving the athame wielder back. Stabbing his wand into the wound Harry muttered the most powerful general countercurse he knew and followed it up with one of the few healing spells that Madam Pomfrey had managed to drill into him during his last years at Hogwarts. The heat receded somewhat but not enough to convince Harry that he had fully arrested the curse's effects.

"Letum Phasma!" He snarled, anger dripping from his voice as he delved into the darker side of magic. His ire had been provoked because he had let himself get wounded by third rate wizard with a strange form of magic.

He touched the tip of his wand to his heart as he spoke and then flung it forward, dragging a ghostly wisp of smoke from his chest as he did. The smoke reformed into an ethereal version of himself, looking much like a mad ghost, that promptly flung itself at the strange wizard and savaged him with what should have been incorporeal teeth and clawed fingers. The man collapsed in a gurgle of blood when the Death Spirit tore his throat out. As the Death Spirit disappeared Harry continued on.

He ran up the last flight of stairs, barely ahead of the apartment building's tenants. Along the way he blasted a rapier wielding construct into scrap metal when it tried to stop him. He paused before he set foot on the fifth floor, mindful of the death trap that Malfoy Manor had become for the strike team which he had been part of. Swishing his wand through the air in a heavy handed motion Harry conjured a large black hear in front of him. Less than a second after it coalesced into existence and touched the floor spikes shot forth from the round, impaling it.

Harry grunted in satisfaction. He had expected as much. Draco had used the same trick to kill Hestia Jones before Harry had burned him alive. Vanishing the bear's corpse Harry swished his wand through the air, chanting a ward hammer that Bill Weasley had taught him shortly before his death at his brother's hands. Motes of magic flared from the tip of his wand and settled over the floor in front of him. Wherever they touched the spikes the motes of magic caused the trap to disintegrate.

Wrapping a shield charm about him just in case there were more traps Harry forged ahead impatiently, a more potent defensive charm on the tip of his tongue. Before he had taken more than a step he ducked instinctively as a curse flew over his head. A crowd had gathered on the fourth floor and seemed intent on forcing its way up the stairs to the fifth floor landing. An overpowered Blasting Curse destroyed the stairs, granting Harry a brief respite from his pursuers while he went after his target.

The fifth floor was smaller than the others but was just as derelict and home only to a single occupant. Shattering doors as he passed them Harry found himself confronted by another man as he destroyed the door to apartment 514. The man began to move forward, unarmed apart from a heavy meat cleaver that he carried in his hand. Making an upwards swiping motion with his wand Harry cried out "Pungo Sursum!" causing a single spike to shot forth from the ground, impaling the man from beneath and re-emerging from his mouth. An absent gesture of his wandless hand flung the man aside, spike and all.

With the cries of the enslaved tenants ringing in his ears Harry stepped through the open doorway, only to be greeted by an empty apartment. He advanced further into it, positive that Narcissa was there and had not yet fled.

There was a whisper of magic behind him and he spun, twisting the trunk of his body as he did so to avoid the silent curse that had been sent at his back.

Narcissa stood before him, her body relaxed into a perfect duelling stance. Harry couldn't help but smile as he took in the sight of her threadbare clothes and the wrinkles that had appeared on her face since he last saw her, to say nothing of the streaks of grey that now riddled her once pristine blond hair.

"Why can't you just leave me alone, Potter?" She asked bitterly.

"You got Sirius murdered," Harry spat back, cold rage seeping from his pores. "You're every bit as responsible for his death as your bitch of a sister was." He smiled coldly. It wasn't a pleasant sight. "Don't worry though; I doubt you'll suffer as much as she did before you die. You'll probably suffer more than your spawn did though. Mind you, he screamed quite loudly." Even as he taunted her Harry wondered how Narcissa had escaped his notice. It wasn't a charm, of that he was sure. One of the first lessons that Dumbledore had taught him was how to pierce illusions and glamours of all sorts. Transfiguration was the answer, he decided as he felt the traces of magic that lingered on one of the walls he had passed by in his haste to enter the room.

It was a clever piece of transfiguration at that.

A snarl of anger fell from Narcissa's lips and an Organ Decay Curse leapt from her wand. The orange spell slammed into the wall as Harry hit it with a Deflection Charm, following the defensive spell with a lightning fast Disarming Charm. Narcissa deflected the disarmer but the barrage of curses that Harry followed it with had her on the defensive, even as she moved her wand with trained precision to block the spells and render them harmless.

A ratty chair to Harry's left morphed into a boar that charged him only to be stopped in its tracks by a Blasting Curse to the face that splattered him with gore. Turning from the destroyed carcass Harry batted away a pair of offensive jinxes with practiced ease.

Narcissa was a fine technical duellist but that was all that she was. A duellist. Someone more suited to a duelling strip rather than a no holds barred fight. She was definitely no Bellatrix. Harry blasted Narcissa back into the hallway with an overhand stabbing motion and then watched with something like amusement on his face as she ran.

He followed her, his movements quick but not hurried, and saw Narcissa drop down to the fourth floor with the aid of a charm, landing amongst her enslaved servants who were milling at the foot of the destroyed staircase. Harry followed her, sending a wall of force ahead of him to clear his path. The kinetic force broke bones and crushed vital organs but that didn't stop the rest of the enslaved tenants from pushing forward when Harry landed in the space cleared by the spell.

A cyclone of white magic speared into them. The high level Shredding Curse tore a quarter of the group into tiny, unidentifiable pieces and bloody mist even as Harry swung his wand across his body, releasing an arc of bronze magic as he did. The cutter halved the number of the survivors and then another cutter halved them again. A wide area Bludgeoning Hex finished the group off, cracking their skulls and caving in their chests.

Harry strode through the piled bodies. As his boots sloshed in the blood Harry felt a fresh surge of anger towards Narcissa for bringing the poor tenants of the apartment into their fight. A sizzle of magic pressed against his senses as he passed a door and Harry threw himself flat on the ground as the door exploded and a curse bolt shot through the air. His return curse, fired from his prone position on the ground, forced Narcissa back before she could attack again.

Scrambling to his feet Harry strode through the doorway that Narcissa's curse had destroyed, catching up with Narcissa as she was about to pass through a doorway and into another room in the apartment.

He grabbed a handful of her hair and slammed her face into the doorframe, the blow stunning her. The second and third blows broke her nose and shattered her teeth. Despite the pain Narcissa strained against his grip, the same magic that lent Harry strength flowing through her body. As he felt her begin to slip from his grip the twenty one year old jammed his wand into her side and at the same time released his hold on her hair.

"Crucio!" The incantation for the Unforgivable Curse fell naturally from his lips. Familiarly, even.

The strength of magic behind the curse flung Narcissa to the ground even as Harry twisted his wand, pouring more magic into the spell. Little arcs of crimson magic flickered over Narcissa's body as she screamed, writing beneath the curse. Slashing his wand through the air Harry dispelled the Cruciatus Curse and placed a body bind on Narcissa. A twitch of his wrist flipped her over so that he could see her face.

"I guess some people would call it irony, me killing you with the same spell that I used to kill your son. I know Hermione would. If your little bastard hadn't raped and murdered her," Harry said conversationally. "I'll see you in hell Narcissa, but not for a long, long time. Abyssus Ignis!" Black flames spilled from the tip of Harry's wand, clinging to Narcissa's clothes and flesh.

Harry turned away from the sight, not because it disgusted him, he had developed an immunity to such sights during the war. His attention was drawn by the sounds of approaching footsteps. The surviving tenants he realised, gripping his wand tightly.

His job wasn't done yet.