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Chapter Twenty-Three

A Hurricane Awakes

Along the same street as the Hog's Head inn and across the main road stood a house tucked away among overreaching trees. Plywood windows and crumbling steps testified to neglect, but for one glaring exception; an all-encompassing fence denied spying eyes its domain.

But perched atop a roof, Harry had an unencumbered view. He leaned against the chimney, ignoring the bite of rough brick on his shoulder and the wafting odor of stale beer until, in the failing twilight, an explosion of Death Eaters caught his attention. The horde exited the house and Disapparated the moment their feet the grass. Somewhere else in the British isles, if Madame Bones's information had been correct, Neville was raining chaos on his enemies; their enemies. Harry wished him luck before putting his own plans in motion.

He, however, needed a little help. "Dobby!"

The house-elf appeared, arms windmilling and feet slipping on the steep pitch. Harry grabbed a handful of tunic to steady him.

"Dobby be hating big slanties." The elf shot the roof a dirty look, then looked back at Harry. "Is it time for rescuing Dragon-Weasley?"

"Are you ready?" he answered with a question of his own.

"Dobby always being ready!"

Harry gave the house one more glance. "Alright, then, take my cloak. And, no risks, we'll rescue him together."

"Dobby understands." He dropped the cloak over himself. "Dobby be waiting for Greatest Wizard."

"Good, and remember, be safe!"

A dismissive sound escaped from the cloak. "If Maskies can't see; Maskies can't hurt! Dobby being invisible!" Then, an elf-hand appeared. Three fingers and a thumb wiggled and then with a snap, Dobby Disapparated.

Harry chuckled at the elf's showmanship and settled in to wait, praying that Death Eaters wouldn't return until their business in the house was complete.

The minutes piled up, and he passed the time parsing that infuriating poem by Shelley that he never understood. Oh, the words he comprehended, but the deeper meaning lingered just beyond his mental fingertips.

A gentle sound of rustling fabric reached his ears, and he turned to find Dobby pulling off the robe, revealing glazed eyes and breaths that came in shallow, gasping gulps.

"Are you okay?"

Nothing.

Harry laid his hands atop the elf's shoulders. "Dobby, talk to me."

Still nothing.

Fifteen seconds of silence passed before Harry stood and flung the invisibility cloak over his head, a familiar flame burning in his chest. "Go back to Hogwarts. I'll call your name when I have Charlie."

A whisper of an answer finally reached him, "No, not alone," before something primal flitted across Dobby's face.

Harry watched, befuddled by the sudden changes in his friend.

"Not alone," the elf repeated, though stronger this time. "Dobby go with. Last Weasley be locked in cage and magic proofed. Simple for wizard with five fingers, but Dobby not having wizard hands, and Greatest Wizard must be ready. He saving them all."

Wait a second . . . "All?" Harry knelt, ignoring the wood shingles that dug into his knees. "How many are there?"

The elf glared at the offending house. "Dobby no count, but he be seeing wizards, witches, house-elves, werewolves . . . Yes, Dobby go with Greatest Wizard and be saving them all, even nasty goblins."

Then, those big, bulbous eyes came back to Harry as something primal again washed over the elf's face. "Yes, saving all, but only some be rescued; others be saved by making dead. Greatest Wizard understanding soon; put on cloak and Dobby be taking you back."

They arrived in a dank basement behind broken-down bookshelves and before concrete walls on two sides, covered with blood and pieces of flesh. At his feet lay a Death Eater, the cavity in his chest gave context to the decor.

Dobby made a slow, swiping motion with his hand and the body slid along the floor, opening their path before them. "He not bother us now."

"I guess not," he answered.

As planned, Dobby wrapped the silvery material of the cloak around himself and went for one last check on the Death Eaters upstairs.

"Dobby's Silencing Spell good for four minutes," he announced when returned. "And dinner distracting Maskies in kitchen."

Harry nodded, then stepped forward to find fifteen cells; each three feet wide by seven deep, made of metal bars and reinforced with magic; lining each side of the basement. Bodies occupied all but six beds, one in each cell from which the stench of human waste permeated the room and assaulted his nose.

And in the closest cell, lay the still-breathing remnants of an elf. Harry jerked in recognition.

"Winky?"

Winky twitched, then turned toward his voice. All that remained of her right eye was a gaping hole amid the pain etched in her few untouched features, and he doubted she could see him through her ruptured left eye. Ripped flesh served as ears, making it a miracle that she heard him.

The elf whimpered. "Please! No! Winky knows no more. Why Winky be tortured when she tells all she knows?"

Harry pressed himself against cold bars. "Winky, it's me, Harry."

The house-elf whimpered again. "No more, I knows no more. Please." Tears shaded pink with blood welled in her good eye and spilled down her cheek. "Please believes Winky."

A glance at Dobby told Harry he was pointedly ignoring the scene. "Dobby, I need your help."

"No," Dobby answered. "Winky not savable, Dobby told Greatest Wizard what must be done. Winky's life be fading, but not fast enough. Dobby senses Winky wants to go to elf-land, but elf death magic not work against other elves, so Greatest Wizard must send her."

Winky shifted in her bed and let loose a ragged moan that drew Harry's attention back to her.

"Please, no more suffering for good elf," Dobby said, his voice brittle. "Greatest Wizard must work fast, or Maskies be coming back and Dragon-Weasley not get saved."

Harry looked the elf over one last time and silently asked for forgiveness. Then, the Killing Curse bathed the elf in a green light, and as it faded, the pain etched across her face disappeared. Harry swallowed the bile rising in his throat and moved to the next cage where a wizard, missing both little fingers, lay in even worse condition.

Shock threatened to overtake Harry, and now he understood what took Dobby so much time; how long had the elf stood in this basement, overwhelmed by what he'd seen? Harry closed his eyes and willed himself to ignore the horror surrounding him.

When he had gained control of himself again, he asked, "Where's the lock?"

Dobby motioned to a central black box on each bank of cells. Two vertical bars ran through the box and connected to levers at each end. Two other bars—one each at the top bottom—stretched across the doors of the entire cell bank.

The lock inside the black box bespoke elegant simplicity. Metal buttons set in both vertical bars acted as a catch against the other set of buttons. Harry reached in and gripped the bars, the tips of every finger lining up with a spring-loaded button.

He froze.

They didn't . . .

He looked into the nearest cage to find a Goblin staring back at him, also missing his pinky fingers.

Elegant simplicity. Bastards.

He pressed and twisted, but the bars refused to move at first. Then, they gave way, and the top and bottom bars slid above and below the door. A slight magical pulse surged through Harry, telling him the protections against magic had released.

"Dobby, be quick and open the doors."

The house-elf moved faster than Harry thought possible, touching a gray metal plate on each cell that caused the door to swing open.

"Come on," Harry said, "we'll get you to safety."

But little movement resulted, and a closer look later, he understood why: ropes bound hands and feet. He held his breath against the stench and freed a middle-aged witch, hefting her over his shoulder and depositing her outside her cage.

"Dobby, can you Apparate right from their cells?"

"Cells still be stopping magic."

Harry furrowed a brow. Then how did he just use a Cutting Curse? A moment's thought didn't present answers, and now wasn't the time for pondering, anyway. "Okay, then I'll get them out and you Disapparate them."

"Dobby can do." He flashed to Harry's side, stretched his hand forward, and Disapparated with the witch.

Harry rushed into the second cage and brought a wizard to the he aisle between the cages and rushed off to help another. He worked through half of the right bank before he came upon a witch whose condition turned his stomach even worse than Winky.

His eyes traced down her half-dressed body. Bruises of various colors testified to the sustained brutality she'd endured. Then he glimpsed the blood between her legs, and lost all his breath as his jaw dropped.

He clamped it shut again and swallowed the anger that boiled within. "Dav. . . Tracey, can you hear me?"

She moaned before opening blood-red eyes. "Potter," she breathed.

His skin prickled. "You're safe, now, we're getting you out."

"So much pain . . ."

"I know." He took another breath, and realized the stench wasn't as bad in this cage. Another glance at the pooled blood told him why.

"Why you?"

"Marcus," was all she could say before a hacking, dry cough threw her body into convulsions. With each one, ropes cut deeper into her wrists and ankles. "Last Christmas, I wouldn't tell them where he was." She coughed again, and Harry could almost feel the ropes tearing at the raw flesh.

"I'm their toy, now. Please, Harry—" Tracey reached for him, but the ropes tore again at the open wound.

He freed both of her hands and took one in his, careful to avoid the stub that used to be her right little finger. "We'll get you somewhere safe, somewhere that you can heal, and . . ." But his voice faded as she shook her head.

"Not me. I'm too broken. But, there are others, younger witches—save them, Harry, please." Her soulless eyes met his, empty but for the pain. "Please, Harry, I'm begging you, set me free."

Blink.

Blink.

Did she just ask . . . ?

His mouth turned to cotton. He struggled to have enough courage to kill Winky, but an innocent witch?

"Please . . ." she begged again, unshed tears glistening.

He shook himself from his stupor. "Are you sure?"

She nodded.

"Then, take a deep breath, relax"—a green curse jumped from his wand, and then with two fingers, he closed her eyes for the last time—"and be free."

Anger roared within, coupled with disbelief, and it grew worse when he looked into the next cage. Ropes bound a tiny brunette to her bed. She'd urinated and defecated on herself and the sheets, mixing with the blood that pooled between her legs. Harry remembered her from school—a second year Hufflepuff that he'd seen in the library while he was studying for the tasks. His arm came up on autopilot, setting her free of this life as well, and denying the Death Eaters any more joy at her expense. Then, he visited five more cages, pulling a witch and two Goblins into the center aisle. Another wizard who'd undergone multiple amputations, and a witch treated like Tracey, he had to kill.

The same horrors awaited Harry in the far bank. And the remnants of Harry's disbelief gave way to his anger, spiraling into a hurricane-force rage that desolated the remnants of his compunction and restraint. But he held it in check as he worked down the row, having to take the life of the wizard caged next to Winky.

A tap on his arm startled him.

"Dobby disappearing wizards being made dead so Maskies not use magic to make them do bad things. Greatest Wizard stay here and keep an eye on door."

Harry nodded, and then watched as the elf Disapparated with two bodies. But somewhere along the elf's third trip, Harry realized that he hadn't seen Charlie.

"He being upstairs," Dobby said when Harry questioned him after he returned. The elf crouched and traced his finger across the floor. A thin trail shimmered on the cement wherever he touched. "Stairs be coming to main floor here"—here was the middle of the house, alongside a hallway—"then go to backest room where Dragon-Weasley being in another cage."

"What else is up there? Any more prisoners?"

"Dobby be checking all rooms, but only Dragon-Weasley there." The elf scrunched nose, his ears tilting forward, and then gave his head a quick shake. "No, nothing else in Dragon-Weasley's room but the cage. The other one be for storing."

"Storing? What would Death Eaters store?"

"Robes, a cabinet, racing brooms, wizardly stuff."

At least it wasn't whips and shackles. He gestured to the remaining few bodies. "Get them out of here" Then he pulled on the invisibility cloak.

"Think you can Apparate me upstairs, first?"

"Dobby be planning that." He reached for Harry's hand.

But Harry stepped back as a stray thought crossed his mind. How many of the wizards he just killed would have survived Apparition? Few, if any; with their internal injuries, the forces compressing their bodies would have killed them. Did they give Charlie the same beatings? And, if so, would he survive Apparition?

The last Weasley was not going to die by Harry's hand. That's for damn sure. Then again, if Death Eaters were willing to offer him transportation . . . "Where are those brooms?"

~ . ~ . ~

Harry tiptoed along the threadbare carpet, his nose wrinkled against the smell of mildew that permeated the air, but at least it was better than the sewer downstairs. Dobby could have Apparated him into the last room, but Elf-Apparition with a human riding alongside caused a slight pop. If a Death Eater were with Charlie, it might get interesting in a hurry. So, instead, they popped into a broom closet that lacked a door. Harry figured Dobby had been there before since blankets, judiciously placed for such a purpose, muffled the slight noise from their appearance.

Voices of Death Eaters floated through the hall from the dining room, as did the smell of food, which explained why no one came to check on the guard downstairs. He shook his head at their sloppiness and then contemplated sneaking across the house and killing them all as they ate.

"You're a child of Darkness now," the Horcrux agreed. "Go and reap their deaths. Feed on their fear."

Harry reversed himself, then stopped: if a battle followed, and he hadn't yet saved Charlie—no, rescue Charlie first, and then satiate the bloodlust.

"We're growing wise," the second, darker voice answered. "Let us use what we've learned. Those Death Eaters are lazy and sloppy, which makes them easy targets. Let us wait until they go home, then we'll cut their throats out while they sleep and dance in their blood: no sparing the family, they shall reap the sins of their husbands and fathers."

A feral grin appeared as Harry made his way to the shabby bedroom.

Yellowed, peeling walls and stained curtains covering the boarded window met him. A cage against the wall held Charlie, tied to his bed under more blood-stained sheets.

Harry pushed the door to and dropped his cloak. "Charlie?"

Charlie faced the doorway, and Harry sighed in relief. The eyes staring at him held life, even if he too was missing both pinky fingers.

"Harry?"

"Shh! I've come to get you." Without another word, he slipped his hands inside the box, set his fingertips on the buttons, and released the lock, welcoming the slight surge of magic that shuddered through him when the protections fell.

And then it all went downhill.

"There!" said a dining room voice. "I felt it again. I'm telling you it's the cage wards!"

"Bloody hell! Check it yourself if you're so paranoid, instead of sending one of us!" came another.

"I will, and if I'm right, at least I'll be able to tell the Dark Lord that I did something." Silence followed, then too many chairs scratched across the floor.

Damn it! They were coming, and the ropes still bound Charlie. Harry worked fast, freeing his arms with two Cutting Spells. Then he moved to the chains around Charlie's legs.

At the other end of the hall, footsteps announced coming Death Eaters. "You check downstairs, Takijiri and I will check the blood traitor."

The chains resisted the Cutting Spells, so Harry switched to Banishing Charms, but they weren't working, either.

The door opened, and Harry spun and caught the Death Eater by surprise; his wrath aided a quick slash and twist of his wand that sent a wicked Melting Curse straight into the wizard's stomach. A pained scream rang through the house.

And at the same time, Death Eaters descended the basement stairs and gazed at empty cages. Warning cries buried the wizard's dying screams.

For the Death Eater named Takijiri, however, the surprise of watching another man melt in front of him froze him for a moment too long. Harry's second spell drilled him in the stomach, decorating the hallway behind him with flesh and organs. He fell to the floor in two pieces.

"Dobby!" Harry cried out, his wand still trained on the door. The elf popped into the room. "Get Charlie free, I'll make sure no one gets back here."

He hadn't even refocused on the door before hearing, "Dragon-Weasley being free."

"How did . . . ? Never mind, I need the brooms." A spell leaped from his wand and slammed the door shut, then another sealed it. That'd give them enough time, he hoped.

Harry helped Charlie from his bed, and noticed he looked as though someone had taken a beater bat to him. "I hope you're strong enough to fly."

Charlie snorted. "I'll crawl if I have to. I'm sick of this place."

They heard more footsteps thumping down the hall toward the bedroom.

Dobby popped back and handed Harry the brooms, his left ear twitching.

"Apparition might kill him," he answered the unasked question. Dobby nodded. And Death Eaters crashed against the door.

But Harry's charm held. Dobby passed Charlie's wand to him. "It be in broom locker."

Another crash, the door split.

"It's time to go," Harry said.

"Dobby be gone after making brooms fastest." He waved his hand in an intricate pattern and then a quiet sound, almost like anti-Apparition wards, ripped along both of them. A second wave and the broom glowed for a moment. "Speed Governor and Tracking Charms be gone—" his ears popped straight up "—Maskies coming through wall! Gots to leave! Now!"

No sooner had he finished speaking when Blasting Spells pulverized a third of the wall between them and the hallway. Dobby threw both hands sideways towards the breach and the airborne debris reversed course, ripping back through the hole and crashing into Wizards on the other side.

Then Harry spun and shot his own Blasting Spell at the window before waving to Charlie. "Go! I'll be right behind you."

Already on his broom, Charlie kicked off and leaned forward, lancing through the open window frame in a blur. Drapes flagged in the swirls of dust left in his wake.

On the other side of the wall, the Death Eaters gained their feet, but with another wave of Dobby's hands, a translucent purple barrier flashed into existence, filling the entire hole. Two Killing Curses crashed against it, causing cracks to spider-web outwards.

Harry gave them one last look through Dobby's spell, and his feral smile returned. "I'll be seeing you soon," he promised." Then he mounted his broom and shot through the broken window behind Charlie at the same time that Dobby Disapparated.

Town lights faded, swallowed in forested darkness below and lighted pinprick skies above. Two miles farther, Harry twisted his broom around in a tight circle and stopped, facing Charlie—and Dobby.

"Damn elf Apparated straight onto the broom," Charlie said. "Not that I don't appreciate what he did for me tonight, but talk about scaring the Goblins out of someone!"

"I bet. Dobby, we need to get him somewhere safe. Can we take him to Hogwarts?"

"There being too many eyes still watching. Dobby take Dragon-Weasley to safe place with others, like Dobby promised Greatest Wizard. And Dobby be sorry for scaring Dragon-Weasley. Scary Dobby only for Maskies."

Harry nodded, and was about to ask where Dobby would take him when Charlie interrupted.

"Behind you, they're coming, about a mile away." He pointed back towards Hogsmeade, but the night sky made it difficult to see anything.

After a few seconds, however, Harry noticed stars blinking out. "Dobby, let Charlie have the front of the broom and take him to wherever the others are, I'm going to run interference. Keep the both of you safe, understand?"

The elf vanished and reappeared behind Charlie, sitting backwards and wielding a wand half his length. "Dragon Weasley fly to London. Scary Dobby be protecting all the way."

"Good. Charlie, follow me into the forest. We'll break off under the cover of the trees so they don't know you're gone." Harry glanced up again to see how much distance the Death Eaters had covered, then turned and leisurely flew toward Hogwarts, counting down from five.

"Now!" he commanded after hitting zero, and both wizards tipped the brooms over and dove into the forest. Charlie broke off to his left and headed south, slaloming through trees as fast as he dared. But Harry pushed his broom to the right, coming all the way around until he faced the Death Eaters again. But before he broke out of trees, he stopped and threw his invisibility cloak over himself, made sure it covered the broom, and then raced into the night sky toward his enemies.

X ~ X ~ X ~ X

Fleur hid the string in her pocket and looked around. She and Gabrielle stood amid a dirty back alley in London, she thought. Gabrielle raised an eyebrow.

"Your friend gave us the Portkey," Fleur answered the gesture. "See anything you recognize?"

"I've never been here in my life, how would I . . ." Gabrielle blinked. "Oh." She stepped forward twice and laid her hand against a door, then whispered a password. On the ground to the left, a stone glowed, and she traced a crude ruin set on its face.

The stone turned black, and then a faint light eeked out over box, crawled across the door, and faded. A click followed and Gabrielle turned the handle. "After you."

"Where are we?"

"Mr. Ollivander's shop, I believe. Look, there's some leftover wand-wood."

Fleur cast a spell that lit the candles floating next to the walls, and sure enough, various sizes of damaged wood filled the room. Some were cracked; some knotted and gnarled; and others, discarded mistakes. Stacks upon stacks of boxes lined the floor and narrow staircase along the far wall.

The door shut on its own and Fleur jumped, her wand out and a curse on her lips. She sighed and shook her head. "Makes sure it's locked," she said to Gabrielle, "and pass me your notes on changing the wards. We might as well make ourselves at home."

Twelve hours later, Fleur finished the last of her tasks before wandering back toward the building's heart. It doubled as a workshop and, beyond a bookcase pair, a small bedroom, living area, and bathroom.

Mr. Ollivander kept his workshop stocked in raw wand material, sealed behind charms Gabrielle had earlier removed—a small rental payment he required a day per month.

In the small living area, dozens of books sat on the right set of shelves with titles such as, The Controversy over Wand Coring verses Shaping, or The Ten Deadliest Wood and Core Combinations ever Attempted. Others titles identified basic wandcraft books: Wand-Working and You, Repairing a Broken Wand, or The Proper Treatment of Cores. Food covered by Keep Fresh Charms lined the other shelf, though thriving green life evidenced the charm's failure.

She spotted a mattress atop a metal frame in the corner with clean, inviting sheets, and beyond it, a door to the bathroom. Seven hours learning local wards and three more resetting them left her exhausted.

Gabrielle walked through the parted shelves, dust hiding her cheeks.

"Finished upstairs?" she asked.

"How can one man have so much junk!" Gabrielle tried to brush the dust her blouse and jeans, but gave it up for a loss and stripped, tossing the clothes into the corner under the empty plates. She wiggled into her sleepy-shirt, then sat next to Fleur. "I feel sorry for anyone who tries to sneak in that way; they'd trip and break their neck."

Fleur wiped more dust from Gabrielle's cheeks. "Glad to hear it. We need sleep; our day'll start early tomorrow, before the Alley gets busy."

"Why? What are we doing?"

"There's an ice-cream shop across the street that I remember a couple of 'Arry's friends talking about. If a certain witch still works there, she might help."

"Witch?" Gabrielle repeated. "You weren't meaning a female who uses magic, where you?"

Fleur sighed. "Supposedly, she wanted some . . . alone time with 'Arry. Part of me hopes she's seen him, part of me hopes she hasn't."

Gabrielle shifted on the bed. "'Arry wouldn't cheat on you, not after all you've been through."

Fleur gave her a sad smile. "You're forgetting, he thinks I'm dead. Imagine you're casting his spell, fighting a war without hope. What would you do if a lovely witch paid you attention?"

"Run."

"You know what I mean. It'd crush me if I found out, but . . ." A lump formed in her throat. "I couldn't blame him under the circumstances; it's not cheating, not from his perspective." Fleur stood and stripped her shirt, thinking about what she'd just said, and how much she'd grown up in the last year.

"Wait a second; wouldn't the mark let you know?" Gabrielle asked.

Fleur tossed the shirt next to Gabrielle's blouse. "Marks don't work that way."

"But, I thought it linked you?"

"You've been reading Danielle's trashy Veela romance novels, haven't you?"

"No!" Gabrielle answered, then amended herself, "Maybe a few."

Fleur undid her jeans and stepped out of them. "Those stupid books morph marks into soul-bonds, but they're nothing more than Veela spells that may fade without me ever knowing."

"So that's why you were jealous of his Veela-chicks?"

"Yeah, pretty foolish in hindsight, wasn't it?" She kicked the jeans on top of the growing pile and pulled out a clean, knee-length t-shirt from travel bag.

"Wait, now I'm confused," Gabrielle admitted. "How did the mark grow stronger, then? And why would Veela remove it if it just died out?"

"A mark feeds on emotions." She situated her shirt, waved her sister off the bed, and climbed in. "The more he loves me, the stronger it grows. But, if he stops, the mark fades away."

"How long does it take?"

"A year, maybe two. And Veela remove marks because men stay marked if they still have feelings for a Veela, even twenty years later."

Fleur held the covers open and Gabrielle climbed in, nestling against her. "That's why the Zekānōt grew angry. Without his permission, I slapped a label on him that screamed, 'Mine—hands off!' to every Veela that he may meet. And something I've learned of late, the Zekānōt does not appreciate Veela limiting the choices of others."

"At least it worked out well. Speaking of which, do you know what my favorite part about last Christmas was," Gabrielle asked.

"Winning all that money betting on us and then torturing 'Arry by taking advantage of Locum in front of him?"

Fleur heard a little huff.

"Yeah, besides that."

"Seeing him naked?"

Gabrielle rolled over to face her. "I'm trying to have another bonding moment with you, if you don't mind!"

Fleur laughed, then reached up and brushed a hair out of Gabby's face. "Alright, I'll be good. No, I don't, what was your favorite moment?"

"The next morning, when you two jinxed us all."

Fleur scrunched her eyebrows together. "Really? That's your favorite moment?"

Gabrielle nodded. "Watching the two of you casting spells was amazing, and both of you hit me two or three times with Tickling Jinxes."

"That made you happy?"

"It meant I was the little sister you both loved, and that I wouldn't lose you to some jag-off."

Fleur coughed. "Jag-off? What, in the name of . . ."

"It's an Americanism Locum used—from somewhere called Pittsburgh. He bragged over a stupid team from there, named after some rock or mineral." She shrugged. "Anyway, that's my favorite memory, though the Ferris wheel was fun, too."

"I'm sure it was."

Gabrielle giggled, then rolled back over and pulled the sheets up under her chin. "Thanks for letting me come with you."

"I'm still afraid of something happening to you, but, I'm glad you're here too."

A few minutes later, Gabrielle fell asleep. Next to her, Fleur mulled over the possibilities of Harry and the witch. But the hard work learning and resetting ward left her too exhausted to think for too long, and she drifted to sleep.

X ~ X ~ X ~X

The Death Eaters headed west and skirted both the school grounds and the forbidden forest that laid to the North, as if the wards were still erected. Harry pushed his broom beyond them and then, with a wide sweep, he lined himself up for a back right to front left overtake.

And then he dove, but without the Speed Governing Charm, the wind threatened to tear him straight off the broom. A quick Sticking Charm fixed the problem, and freed his other hand as well. With it, he took up the extra material of his invisibility cloak, leaving only a small opening for his wand.

And just in time. He overtook the Death Eaters, and then the sky blossomed with green light as one, two, then three Killing Curses darted forward as he shot passed them, the leftover gloaming of the curses still bright.

Something he caught in the corner of his eye kicked against his instincts and he broke hard right. Four curses streaked by him, followed by four more.

He pushed his broom over and dropped toward the forest. "How are they seeing me?" he asked the night air. An answer, he did not expect.

So his heart skipped a beat when he heard a voice do just that. "I'm helping them."

Harry spun the broom on its axis and let loose a barrage of the nastiest spells he knew at the Voice. Then, he banked hard left and pushed over into a vertical dive, thanking whatever deity responsible for Sticking Charms. Otherwise, seeing Voldemort flying thirty feet above him without a broom would have been Harry's last earthly sight.

He plunged through another three hundred feet, then pulled level in the middle of the forest. His heart raced, and he struggled to breathe, which wasn't a good combination as he dodged trees and limbs. Dammit! How did he allow Voldemort to sneak up on him? If it wasn't for his boast . . . wait, why didn't Voldemort curse him when he had the chance?

But he knew the answer as soon as he asked: pride, authority, arrogance; after everything Harry had done, Voldemort needed to prove to his Death Eaters that he was still in control, that he could toy with the boy calling himself Death; and with the boy who dared send a message through one of Voldemort's own Death Eaters taunting the supposed Dark—

Smack!

For a second time in as many minutes, Harry thanked whatever deity was responsible for him casting the Sticking Charm. His forehead snapped a tree limb, and the world grew fuzzy. Pain ripped along the heal-lines of his incident with the mountain last fall. He slowed down and push even lower, skimming atop the underbrush and hoping the forest canopy would veil him from spying eyes above—specifically, those scarlet eyes of Voldemort.

"Hiding in the trees? I thought having a piece of my soul in you would make you brave."

The unspoken words resounded through his head, adding to the pain. Voldemort had learned of the Horcrux and its link into Harry's mind.

After the last few weeks, showing fear before Voldemort was unacceptable. Better to bluster, and then cack his trousers when he was alone. "So, you know."

"Yessss. It is part of my soul, after all."

There! A Death Eater came into Harry's vision about a hundred yards ahead and about half of that above the treetops.

"Maybe, but it's my head, so get the hell out!" Harry shot through the evergreens and into the night, his wand twisting as he shouted a curse. Venom laced each word.

"Expasses Sangium!"

The body exploded. He dove again to forested cover, whipping among trees to clear the area.

"A blood exploder? Impressive, little Harry Potter. So, the rumors are true. Welcome to the Dark Art's embrace." His mocking tone rang through the Horcrux link.

And it stoked Harry's rage. "Harry Potter is dead."

"Not yet," Voldemort answered. "But I'm working on it."

"Oh, no, he's very much dead."

A quick pause, then Voldemort decided to play along. "Amuse me, why is he dead, and how did he die?"

Another broom appeared above Harry, moving a little faster from his left to right. He raised his wand again. "Because I killed him, you stupid son of a bitch!"

"Avada Kedavra!"

The body bounced off a tree trunk twenty yards ahead of him. He landed, and with a few waves of his wand, Harry dressed himself in the wizard's mask and black robes. After another Sticking Charm, he pushed off the ground.

No sooner had he finished than the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. Voldemort was close, too close. So Harry mounted his broom and shot through the forest. His head pounded, his stomach was queasy, and Voldemort's excitement of the hunt and his disappointment losing Harry that came through the link, wasn't helping.

"Such dark spells, Harry. What would you mother say, after giving her life to protect you? Such a foolish girl. But you, Harry, you're not so foolish, are you? You've seen the power of the Dark Arts. Are you sure we're enemies anymore? Perhaps you belong at my right hand, instead of standing against me."

In the Graveyard, Voldemort's taunts were piss-your-pants terrifying. But now, his barely controlled hurricane blotted out his fear. "If I'm ever at your right hand, I'll rip out your throat!" And he meant it: no more fear, no more terror, and that should've frightened him more than anything else, but he also no longer cared.

The hair on his neck again signaled danger. He cut hard left, darted passed rock outcroppings, then back right, and found himself behind the last two Death Eaters as they edged over the lake. Then he eased himself level and followed as they turned to sweep back over the forest.

The floating specter of Voldemort rose into the sky before them. Through the Horcrux, Harry felt his confusion, his frustration, and then his anger as Voldemort glared at the three black-robed Death Eaters approaching.

Confusion! Voldemort couldn't see through the invisibility cloak, which meant he was tracking Harry by the Horcrux, rather than sight! The feral grin returned as Harry and the two Death Eaters ate the distance between them and his greatest enemy.

A second and a half later, two more curses killed one Death Eater and froze the other—and his broom—in midair.

Leave a witness, Grandma Guillory had said. She'd be proud of him tonight.

Another quick wave of his wand removed the black robe and mask, and Harry became invisible thanks to his invisibility cloak. He shot down and to the left as Voldemort's curses chased him, but they were too inaccurate since he was trying to track Harry through the link.

Harry returned a Black Plague Curse, but Voldemort sensed the attack and rolled right, hovering in air, and then returned another series of curses, each darker than the last.

Left, right, left, Harry dodged. And then—and never could he explain why he did this—he drove his broom straight into Voldemort, caught him by the robe, and pinned his wand arm between their chests. Then he leaned back and pulled the broom vertical.

"Galling child, how dare you . . ."

The wind tore the invisibility cloak from Harry's head. Voldemort fell into stunned silence over the changes a single year had wrought.

And Harry knew it was the only chance he'd get, so he dug deep into his memory and pulled from it the spell he'd read about in Gebringang-pinere: "Ellorgást Pínunge."

He dropped through the Horcrux and into Voldemort's mind, bypassing all the layers of Occlumency Voldemort had in place, and he tore at every mental hold he could grab. Then, the Horcrux somehow linked with the rest of Voldemort's soul and then a rush of visions, thoughts, and soul-crushing evil that he'd wrought over a lifetime passed through Harry's consciousness.

"NO!" Voldemort ejected Harry from his mind with such force that blood leaked from Harry's nose and ears.

Then, the moon disappeared and a moment later, Voldemort did as well, though Harry could still feel him and his wand arm, trapped between their bodies. He tried to breathe, but the biting, chilled air burned his lungs.

With no other choices, he decided to probe again through the link, but Voldemort had blacked out.

And Harry wasn't far behind as he fought to stay awake, frightened that he'd lost his vision. The wind threatened to rip him from his broom as the broom handle tipped in a parabolic arc.

Voldemort groaned, and Harry could feel him regaining consciousness through the link.

They raced through the apex, then gravity reclaimed his broom. Harry's eyes cleared, and to his left and right, in the distance, the moon reflected off the North Sea. In front of Harry, a distant a white glow lit the sky: lights of Blackpool, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds. Those damn lights had kept him up many nights his first few months here, but those cities were over a hundred miles to the south, weren't they? Just how high had they flown?* High enough that they'd never survive a crash; that, Harry knew for sure.

And then a plan formed.

A still groggy Voldemort moaned, drawing Harry's attention to him, and to an arm no longer pinned between them. He snatched riddle's wand and released it into eager winds. And then he wrapped his arms around the wizard and urged the broom to cooperate with gravity. They shot through the night, wind whistling in Harry's ears as they plunged back to earth.

Voldemort's eyes opened. "Potter! Release me!" he commanded.

The Legilimency-strengthened command compelled obedience, but Harry chose against it, and instead, spoke through the Horcrux. "Tonight, Tommy, we die together."

A rush of anger hit him back through the link, but he also caught Voldemort's probing brush against his mind. And then came the proudest moment of his life to that point: Voldemort pulled back from the Horcrux and gawked at him in dread.

Without a wand, and still struggling with the affects of their flight, Voldemort was too weak to break Harry's hold. And he knew it.

Riddle's panic and magic surged, spinning up and blasting Harry. But Harry fended off or countered every attack through the Horcrux—magic on magic, the intimacy of their current battle redefining the night their wands locked to a first kiss. And then, realization: the Horcrux, when it had linked, filled in the last fifteen years of Voldemort's journey and knowledge of magic, including that which he lacked for spell casting.

Harry was now coequal with the Darkest Wizard in a century.

"NEVER!" Voldemort seethed as Harry's realization trickled across the Horcrux. Desperation set in, and he kicked, kneed, and punched against Harry's hold, as they hurtled onward. Pine trees and dark waves filled their horizon.

Harry's end was coming, ten, maybe fifteen heartbeats before sweet oblivion. And Voldemort couldn't Disapparate with an unwilling partner, not one so powerful countering his will. There was no escaping.

Open your doors, Valhalla!

But then, a knee caught his thigh, an elbow, his jaw. Harry's arms slackened of their own accord, and Voldemort broke Harry's hold. He separated, twisted, and vanished.

A frustrated scream exploded from Harry's lungs. Three seconds and a thousand feet farther, they would have pasted the forest floor. With a mighty pull, he heaved the broom handle, and the forest and lake grayed. Then, the edges of his vision disappeared as he continued out of the dive, until he saw only a knut-sized distant window of trees.

But as soon as he pulled level, his vision reversed itself. What the hell? He kept the broom straight, not chancing another episode. But, as he eased his broom around, he noticed a Death Eater still hovering over the forest.

His witness.

Harry took aim from a quarter-mile and reversed the spell. Then, the Death Eater took one look at him, turned his broom, and exited the area as fast as possible in the opposite direction.

X ~ X ~ X ~X

The sun's bright reflection crawled across the back wall of Ollivander's wand shop until it reached the open doorway, basking the makeshift bedroom in light. Fleur covered her face with the pillow, then became confused when she felt something bounce off the mattress beside her.

"Ugh!" Gabrielle opened her eyes and glared at Fleur while rubbing the back of her head. "I was using that," she said, and then she yanked the pillow from her and snuggled into it.

"Sorry," Fleur said. "Any idea what time is?"

"It's time for the gorgeous Veela princess to go back to sleep while her sister makes me breakfast."

"Not likely." Fleur checked the clock that hung on the back wall. "Ten-thirty? Come on, Gabby, we slept in way too late."

The concrete floor was cool to the touch, but Fleur didn't mind it as she crossed the room. She also didn't mind the faint scent of the different woods that hung in the air. It was pleasant, and unlike the smell of certain flowers, it didn't cause her mouth to water, either.

She stripped and used a Cleaning Charm on herself, then dug through her clothes for jeans and a shirt. Sometimes, Veela heritage was annoying, like the morning she snuck into the garden and feasted on flower petals. Even more annoying (and embarrassing) they tasted good!

And speaking of annoying and embarrassing . . . "Gabby! Come on!"

"Go ahead," her sister answered. "I'll search my bed for 'Arry for, oh, the next couple of hours or so."

Fleur crossed her arms. "And just how often have you hoped to find him in your bed, Veillée Princess?"

She dodged right to avoid the pillow, then caught the rebound off the shelves. "I'll keep this, too. It'll make your search easier if it's not on the bed."

Gabrielle let out a long sigh. "No way I'm getting it back, am I?"

"Nope."

"I didn't think that out so well."

Half an hour later, they left through the back entrance, walked behind a row of stores, and then went through a small break between their row and the next one out onto Diagon Alley. The bright sun beat on Muggle baseball caps pulled low over their eyes, and under which they tucked their hair. Baggy clothes hid delicious curves that screamed Veela!

Fleur had pondered more dramatic changes, but decided against it. Veela magic overcame most spells used for disguise, and Polyjuice seldom worked over an hour. And since no one was looking for them, so a long as they didn't draw attention to themselves, two witches in Diagon alley shouldn't be that big of a deal.

At least she hoped that was true.

The Alley wasn't busy, but several wizards and witches still went about their day. Fleur and Gabrielle walked among them, passing Gringotts, the entrance to Knockturn Alley, and to her right, a store with its destroyed façade. As it turned out, Fortescue's Ice cream parlour was next to the chocolate store. They walked in, chose a table against the back wall, and sat; facing the front door with Gabrielle to Fleur's left. A moment later, Fleur realized they were the only customers and nodded to the empty tables. "I hope it's not a commentary on the food."

"I hope so, too." Another voice answered. "Can I help you?"

The witch standing before her had midnight hair that framed a heart-shaped face with cupid-bow lips and soft, blue eyes. She wasn't wearing a nametag. "I take it you're not Fortescue."

The blue eyes hardened. "Nope, I'm his ugly stepdaughter. So, are you here for a Sundae, or would you like to see a lunch menu?"

"I hoped you had lunch, I'm starved," Gabrielle answered, staring at the flavors of ice cream on the wall to the side of the register, and unaware of the witch's sudden unease.

"The same for you?" the waitress asked Fleur.

"Please."

She disappeared behind the counter and brought back two menus that advertised the midday meal between eleven-thirty and one, dropping them on the table. "It's still a bit early for lunch, and Mr. Fortescue isn't here yet—he does the cooking—but he'll show up soon enough. You can talk to him then."

"That's alright, there's no need." Fleur reached for a menu, but the waitress slapped a hand down, stopping her.

"What do you want?" the witch asked.

"I'm not sure, I need to look at the menu first, don't I?"

The witch's eyes narrowed. "No, you don't."

"Oh?" Fleur's other hand inched toward her wand.

"I'll tell you what we have: two witches whose accents indicate you're not from around here entering an ice cream shop hoping for lunch—something only locals know we serve, since we don't advertise it—and then ask about Mr. Fortescue. Then, when I say he'll be here in a little bit, you're not interested." The witch's other hand slid a few inches toward the hem of her shirt. "On top of that, out of all the tables here, you take the one that gives you the best sight of both the door outside, and the kitchen.

"So again, what do you want?"

Gabrielle looked back at Fleur. "Just ask, already, I'm 'ungry, and after lunch I want to try the Banana-butter and Chocolate Sundae, too."

An annoyed growl escaped Fleur's lips, but it was for show. Gabby had her wand out and trained on the witch under the table, and Fleur was impressed.

"Fine!" she answered. She glared at the waitress. "Are you the witch from Slytherin that helped all those children escape from Hogwarts the night that—"

A slender but wicked looking wand appeared, pointed between at the bridge of her nose. The waitress glanced at Gabrielle. "A word of advice, if you're going to curse me from under the table, you better make it good since you're getting one go." Then, she turned back to Fleur. "Now, what if I was?"

Gabrielle rested her hand on the table, her wand still trained on the waitress.

"Then we're on the same side," Fleur said.

"And why should I believe that?"

Despite the wand in her face, Fleur rolled her eyes. "We're part Veela. Veela and the Dark Arts don't mix, or didn't they teach you that at Hogwarts?"

"They didn't," the waitress said. "But that doesn't mean I don't read. And you saying you're Veela doesn't make it—"

Fleur shot from her chair, transforming as she drove the witch's body to the floor while at the same time, Gabrielle came up out of her chair in full-feather and hit the waitress with a Disarming Spell.

Still perched on the waitress's chest, Fleur shifted back to her normal self. "That's how." She stepped off and took her seat again, not bothering to put her hair back up under her ball cap. "And we're here because we're looking for someone: long black hair, green eyes, and a scar above his eye."

The waitress's jaw locked, and then she pushed herself up to her feet and spoke through clenched teeth. "Listen, bint, I don't care who you say you are, I'm not telling you a damn thing about Harry Potter."

Fleur's heart stopped in her chest at the sound of that name, then it started pumping double-time when she remembered her conversation about this witch and Harry. "You've seen him?"

"What didn't you understand about—damn, the accent, you're French, aren't you?"

"And?"

The waitress's eyes widened. "You were the Beauxbatons . . ."

Fleur nodded.

". . . But, he said that you died—" And now, the widened eyes lit with anger and quicker than a curse, she cracked Gabrielle across the jaw with a solid right fist that sent her sprawling across the floor. Then she dove for her wand and spun around to face Fleur.

But instead, she found herself staring at the pointed end of Fleur's wand. "If you touch my sister again, there won't be enough pieces of your body left for your family to mourn over. And, no, I'm very much alive. 'Arry thinks I'm dead because of a Healer's mistake."

The waitress glared at her, then pursed her lips. "Fine, if you're who you say you are, then I'm sure you can tell me what the scar on the left side of his chest looks like?"

A fist of ice gripped Fleur's heart. Why would this little English whore know about a scar on—wait, what scar? "You're lying. Unless it's new, he doesn't have one there."

The witch glanced at Gabrielle, back and Fleur, and then took long, deep breath and let it out. Her shoulders slumped as though a load of bricks just fell off. "Alright, I believe you, and not just because you're right about the scar." A hint of a smirk appeared. "It's pretty hard to feign the type of jealousy I saw flash in your eyes."

Then she took a longer look at Gabrielle, who was still lying on the floor a few feet away. "I'll be right back," she said, and disappeared into the back.

Fleur turned her attention to Gabrielle. "Can you sit up?"

"I think so; I wonder if I can get her to teach me how to punch like that."

"Pfft, she's no bigger than pixie. It couldn't have hurt that much," Fleur teased.

"You wanna give it a try?" Gabrielle asked.

"I'll pass."

"Then shut up."

Fleur laughed under her breath, thankful that at least her little sister's first lesson in the world of war was minor by comparison to what hers had been.

The waitress reappeared and set a tray of food on the table. "Mr. Fortescue still isn't here, so we'll go with a free lunch of cold meats, bread, and spreads, along with what was left of yesterday's vegetables. And, as for you—" she turned to Gabrielle, her wand in her left hand, and took Gabby's chin in her right.

A quick sense of panic overtook Fleur, but she could somewhat sense the witch's emotions, and whatever she was about to do, it was out of a sense of sorrow mixed with embarrassment.

"I'm going to cast a Healing Spell on you in case anything's cracked or broken. Of course, if your physiology is different . . ." She looked at Fleur.

"We use all the same spells, she'll be fine."

"Good." The waitress cast spells on Gabrielle's nose, mouth, and chin, then handed over a piece of raw meat, covered with a charm that stopped the juices from dripping. "It'll help the swelling, trust me. It'll also make you more attractive to dogs, werewolves, and probably a few wizards as well, at least until you take a shower. Though, I doubt the latter's a problem for you. By the way, my name is Jaycinda."

Fleur introduced herself and Gabrielle, they ate and talked about Harry, his Pottermark and all that happened to him, and about bodies of Death Eaters hanging about the Alley. It gave Fleur hope that she'd be able to contact him, that is, if she and Gabby didn't sleep in half the morning.

Sometime later, the kitchen door opened, catching all three of them by surprise. "Jaycinda?" A man's voice called.

"Mr. Fortescue! What—" she checked the time. "Why are you so late? Is everything okay?"

Mr. Fortescue glanced at Fleur and Gabrielle. "I'm fine. Is that one of my steaks that young witch has attached to her face?" But before anyone could answer, he raised a hand. "On second thought, I don't want to know. Just make sure you clean everything up before the paying customers arrive."

He disappeared into the kitchen.

"Paying customers?"

"He approves of the free lunches."

"Do you do this often?" Fleur asked.

"For certain people," she answered. Then, even though they were still the only ones in the restaurant besides Mr. Fortescue, she lowered her voice. "There are many ways to support a war effort. This one is ours."

Fleur got the point, and the underlying warning that Mr. Fortescue didn't want to advertise his under-the-spell opposition to Voldemort, especially to his paying customers, some of whom wouldn't agree with his stand. "I guess we should be leaving, then."

Jaycinda nodded. "That's probably a good idea, it's getting late, and the usual lunch rush should be coming soon. But before you go, didn't you have a question you wanted to ask?"

Fleur took a deep breath. Could she? In her head, she couldn't blame Harry if he found a little comfort in the arms of this witch, though good luck trying to explain that to her heart.

"I'm not sure I want to. I mean, he thinks I'm dead, so . . . I have no right to expect—"

Jaycinda laid a hand on her arm and smiled. "Listen, I teased him a little, he was too cute not to, but I have a boyfriend with whom I'm completely in love. But, even if I wasn't, he had no interest in me whatsoever."

The fist of ice that had still had a grip on her heart began to melt.

"But, when you find him," Jaycinda continued, "make sure you tell him that I'm going curse him something fierce for his little stunt on my porch."

"I'll tell him, but it won't matter."

"Oh?" Jaycinda asked with a raised eyebrow. "Why's that?"

Gabrielle snorted. "There's a line of Veela queuing from here to France to curse some sense into him. And, at least one of them can throw fire."

X ~ X ~ X ~ X

Chaos.

Maybe, just maybe, the name wasn't so bad. At least described his life at the moment. Hell, after the last twelve hours, he almost felt bad for Voldemort and his Death Eaters. How much chaos had he caused them?

Almost.

Those bastards deserved everything they got.

But now he understood what it felt like, and he had to admit, life wasn't fun being the receiving end of distraction, disruption, and destruction, to complete the rhyming alliteration.

God, Su would have loved that one.

He missed their silly games, lying on dirty mattresses in run-down safe houses. She'd cheat, distracting him with a seductive wink or drawing her fingers down his chest, then laugh when he mangled his attempt at alliteration.

But every so often, he'd cast a perfect spell. Luscious, lithe little Li looks lovely earned him a night of tongue-tied bliss.

There just weren't enough nights with her—nights hearing her laughter, nights kissing, and the ones he cared about the most, the nights watching her sleep, curled up against his chest. It made today's reunion bittersweet, and the Harry-caused aftertaste of chaos even worse.

Not that Neville disapproved, quite the opposite. And it wasn't even Harry's fault. Dobby was the one who dropped two-dozen wizards, witches, goblins, and elves into Madame Bones's sitting room. It scared her so bad that she activated her Panic Charm and Portkey combination pendant, and half the Order descended on her home early this morning.

The pendant was a gift from her niece, Susan, after Harry had proven how easy it was to abduct her. On second thought, maybe it was all Harry's fault.

A small grin appeared for a second before it fell away. He just didn't have the inner strength to keep it there any longer.

The wards encompassing Madame Bones's house chimed, announcing an Apparition into the property. Neville went to check out the newcomer.

In the courtyard of the Bones's Mansion stood an average looking wizard with brown hair and a ratty beard. "What's this about? Shacklebolt told me to come immediately after my shift."

Neville had no idea who the person was, but, he knew that voice. "Forget to change something?"

"What? Oh, sorry, Nev." Tonks shifted back into her normal form, the wizard's clothes draping from her. Since Charlie's capture, she drove herself spare looking for him, skipping meals and sleep for two or three days on end, but for a nap here or nibble there. "What's going on?"

"Come, see for yourself."

Tonks raised an eyebrow. Neville led her through the foyer toward the main sitting room.

"It sounds like a family reunion in there."

Neville turned back to her, a genuine smile showing itself for the second time that day. He hadn't managed that since Su had died. "Exactly."

Tonks eyebrows pulled together in confusion before widening in disbelief, only to widen again. "Is that . . . You got him!" And before he could tell her that he had nothing to do with it, she hugged smacked a kiss on his lips. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Then, Tonks raced to Charlie, wrapping her arms around him, or, that was her intent. But Tonks being Tonks, she tripped crossing the room and plastered herself against the floor.

Charlie, lying on a cot, held his broken ribs and laughed until she crawled into his cot and bathed him in kisses and tears. He told his story, and then had to reassure her two or three times that he was okay, except for his two missing fingers.

Neville approached once he decided it was safe. "Did you tell her who rescued you?"

"Not yet."

Tonks laid another kiss on Charlie's cheek before looking up at him. "Wait, you didn't" —she looked around the room— "Who are the rest of these people, and if you didn't save him, then—Harry?"

Charlie nodded, and recounted the tale, right down to Dobby Apparating onto his broom.

". . . You should have seen him," he ended an hour later. "Merlin's sweet arse! What he saw and did last night, I think it broke him."

A tingle of unease snaked its way down Neville's spine. "What do you mean?"

"Whatever restraints he held are gone. And that elf . . . we need to find rock and hide."

"Why's that?" Tonks asked.

Charlie took her hands in his. "It's about to rain blood."

X ~ X ~ X ~ X

The sudden appearance of two bodies and the resulting pop that echoed back off the walls shook the wizard and his wife, lounging on their couch. The wizard should have gone for his wand, but the sight of a sixteen-year-old madman and a house-elf dripping someone else's blood and flesh onto the carpet demanded his attention.

"Hello, Death Eater."

That was all he managed before his raged exploded. Harry approached and with one hand, picked the wizard off the couch and threw him across the room. A flick of his wand disarmed the wizard, and then he closed the distance between them, stopping along the way to pick up a heavy iron poker from the fireplace. His fingers tingled with the newfound power that coursed through his veins, fed by the fear of those he was killing.

A primeval scream erupted from his throat and he unloaded, bringing the poker down and burying it two inches into the wizard's side.

The wizard howled in pain and curled up, face first to the floor.

Harry wrenched the poker away, then brought his boot crashing against the Death Eater's head, snapping him against the wall. He held an arm up to fend off Harry's attack, but it did little good. A second swing shattered the bones in the man's forearm.

"Stop it!" The wizard's wife screamed.

Harry forgot about her. "Or what?" he asked, turning her way.

"Or I'll make sure the Dark Lord knows what you've done, and that he pays you back ounce for bloody ounce . . ." her voice trailed off as the mirrors and windows shattered inward and swirled in a mighty windstorm around the house-elf, standing in the middle of the room.

"Dobby decideds. Bad Death Eater wife not talking to nasty Dark Lord!" And then, Dobby floated a foot off the ground and a lilt tinged his next words. "Dobby says it's time for bad wife to die."

He thrust his hands forward, palms together. Glass whistled forward like a cannon shot, slicing through the witch. Then, a rip the same size as Dobby's hands opened between the witch's breasts. He wrenched his hands apart, and the woman's torso exploded.

"That takes care of her," Harry said, turning back to the Death Eater. And before the wizard could grasp his wife's death, Harry cracked him across the head with the iron end of the poker. Once, twice, three times it came descended. The wizard's skull split open. Then, Harry double-fisted the poker and completed the coup de grâce, driving it through both temples into the wooden subfloor.

Then he turned to Dobby. "Did they have any children?"

"There being only one."

"Old enough to be loyal to Voldemort?"

The elf shook its head. "She being three and a halfies. I be taking her to safe spot."

Harry nodded. "And hurry. We have five other houses tonight." Dobby Disapparated, and then Harry heard a pop as the elf Disapparated again with the child in tow, headed wherever the elf was taking her.

Harry had just set the Pottermark when Dobby reappeared. "Do you need a rest?"

Dobby shook his head. "Dobby not being done for long time. Maskies be dying for hurting Winky, and Dragon-Weasley, and baby witches." Then that feral look Harry had seen on the roof earlier the night before reappeared. "Dobby and Greatest wizard be making them bleed. They be crying and bleeding, and Dobby no help, but Dobby is happy to watch. And then they die, all die. And Dobby is happiest elf."

"My thought's exactly," Harry said. "That list you nicked two houses back had a hundred names of recruits, and the Masks that recruited them. We're going to be real busy."

"Then we be wasting no more time."

Dobby and Harry linked hands, and they Disapparated to the next house on the list. That night, Seven Potter Marks appeared in the skies over Britain, and throughout the rest of the summer, Potter Marks went up over flesh-decorated charnel houses throughout the island.

But in Diagon Alley, Fleur and Gabrielle grew more unsettled each day. They searched Wizarding communities across Britain following Potter marks, without luck. The thought of joining Jaycinda and through her, others fighting Voldemort, tempted them, but they were beginning to draw attention to themselves and didn't want to endanger her or Mr. Fortescue.


*The math here is correct. At 300 miles an hour, they flew for a little over thirty seconds, which would put them at about 2 3/4 miles high, and right close to three miles above sea level. At that height, Line-of-Sight is right about a hundred fifty miles. Breathing is difficult with rapid accent, though definitely not impossible (there's Freeways across the Rocky Mountains that almost reach that height, over twelve thousand feet if I remember right). That LoS is more than ample for seeing both coastlines, and the cities mentioned from the middle of Scotland.

Note also that the affects leading up to G-LOC (G-force induced Loss Of Consciousness) are correct, or as accurate as I could find through research. I stole this concept from another fic I was working on, but will never see the light of day. The numbers are as follows: that high up, the broom was flying at 350 miles an hour (no wonder they put Speed Governing Charms on professional Quidditch brooms!) The radius of the turn they were making was 1500 feet, or approx. three seconds. The g-force at those speeds and turns amounts to 5.4 Gs, which is enough to knock out someone who isn't used to it.