Hello folks. Longish chapter - we're still in the revenge arc, but it should end at the end of the next chapter, and we can return to the present, main storyline.
Special thanks to CheddarTrek, Constans and IdSayWhyNot over at DLP for helping me turn this chapter into something decent. It was crap at first. You guys rock. Without further ado, here we go.
PS: I had to make a quick change to the end of the last chapter to flow with this one better.
An hour later we watched as a dot moved across the surface of the map, flickering softly with a red glow. Slowly it came to a stop, pulsing, and a cursive script began to appear beside it.
"19 Coventry Street," Slughorn breathed.
I stared at the word for a few seconds, a dark gleam lighting up in my eyes.
"That's in London, isn't it." McGonagall said with a frown. "What is he doing there?"
"I guess I'll soon be finding out."
My trainers smacked against the pavement as I jogged, clad in a pair of white shorts and a t-shirt that stuck to my chest uncomfortably, because of all the sweat dripping from my body.
Panting with exertion, the hot summer sun burning against my exposed skin, I came to a stop beside a park bench, and its only occupant scooted to the side to allow me space without looking up. I sat down.
For a minute or so neither of us spoke - he sat quietly, a folder in his lap while I bobbed my head in tune to the music from the iPod Dudley had gotten me for my birthday. A few teenagers passed by, giggling as they took in the man's unusual appearance, but a glare from him and they run off quickly.
"You stink," the man muttered, without turning towards me.
"Shut it," I retorted, scowling, but didn't look in his direction. "Besides I told you to try and blend in. A leather trenchcoat on a very sunny day is not blending in. How the hell did they let you through Concealment and Disguise class?"
Even though I wasn't looking at his face, I could feel his sheepish grin. "Brockwell is a joke, he let's almost everyone through with a passing grade. Only one of the girls failed that class last year. She wore a bright yellow ballet dress to what was supposed to a muggle party."
"And this is any better than that?"
"It looked cool." was his only response.
I shook my head. "Did you find out anything?"
He nodded. "You were right." He took the time to swat at a bee that zipped too close with a brown folder before continuing. "Turns out there's an extra building in there, which's why the spacing felt all wonky and didn't make sense. It's veiled to muggle and wizard alike, so that explains why even your fancy glasses couldn't see anything."
"Is that all?" It was something to work with, now that my suspicions were confirmed. "Thanks. I should be able to pull together a few friends, call in a few favors. With enough luck we should be able to work something out."
Bill, George, maybe even Charlie and Percy. I'd been reluctant to involve any of them, but I could use the help. And I knew they'd be more than willing if I asked - I wasn't the only who'd lost family to the fucking sociopath. They all had a score to settle, same as I. I made to get up.
"Hold your horses. No need," Ben responded, and I looked up in surprise. "I'm right ahead of you."
He grinned, drummed his fingers along the folder on his lap. "I did a little bit more digging. It turns out the hidden building is a Gentlemens' Club, if you catch my drift." He wagged his eyebrows. "Top-secret, exclusive, hush hush stuff. Got everything on file here. Not on just any ordinary file too." A tone of pride seeped into his voice. "I snuck in and copied this from the vault of the folks at ITF."
"ITF?!" I hissed. "You could've been caught, you dunderhead! I told you not —"
He laughed, brushing my protests off. "Could have, but I wasn't. No risk no reward. All's well that ends well. Yada yada yada. Besides I told you, Kingsley seems to think the mole might be one of the senior guys. He's having a few of your buddies watched. He doesn't suspect any of the rookies a wink."
I exhaled. "You did good, but still that was stupid. I could've gotten it another way without you risking yourself. You need the work, and Sara'll have my head if I got you fired."
"Geez, that's the thanks I get?"
I exhaled. "Thanks. You've said me a lot of trouble. But next time I don't want you putting your head on the line. Not for me. Capische?"
He looked like he wanted to argue, but I threw him a stern look.
"Good." My glare lessened into a frown. "Anyway, how did the schematics of a strip club make its way in there? How come it's on file at the Ministry of all places?"
"Seems like some bigshot got a permit. A lot of private contractors do this sort of work, but this club has some heavy clout, it seems. None of the seedy Knockturn alley bullshit type. Unplottable, licensed internal port-keying, " he ticked them off his fingers, "anti-apparition wards, repulsion fields, undetectable charms, concealment charms, security wards, the works. It's a wonder you sensed anything at all."
"Magic always leaves traces, sometimes very distinctive traces."
"Mhm, if you say so, magic bloodhound. Anyway..." He started to say something but a red double-decker bus swooped past, the sound of rubber tires screeching against asphalt and the chunking of engines drowned out his voice. "...from the little I read it seems you have to be invited to get in. I wonder what a bloke has to do to get an invite..." he trailed off, musing.
"Should Sara be hearing about this?"
"I'm kidding, just kidding," he rectified. I smiled. "Sara is the only girl for me."
"Glad to hear."
He chuckled, before his voice turned serious. "That fire in Knockturn Alley, you had something to do with it, didn't you? The folks at DMAC had a hard time putting it out. Kingsley's getting very suspicious."
"Let him worry." I dismissed. "Any employee details by chance?"
"It's all in here," he said, thumbing the folder. "Names and addresses of the guys working security. Another link with the Ministry. The lot of them are ex-Hit Wizards, most of them." He gave me a searching glance. "The Poet. He's in there somewhere, isn't he?"
"None of your business. Just leave the folder and go."
"Come on. You can trust me, let me help."
"You're already helping enough as it is. The less you know the better."
This was an argument we had every time, and every time he lost. He sighed."Just be careful."
I stole a look at him. His face was lined with worry. "What, the rookie wants to lecture me now? I haven't been sitting on my arse since I left the Corps you know."
"Of course, I know." He chuckled and raised his hands in surrender. The tension left. "No need to get testy. I'm just saying, whatever you're planning - be careful."
"I'll keep it in mind. You can leave now if that's all."
"There's just one more thing." he paused, and this time it was with a strange note of hesitancy and uncertainty, nothing like his usual boisterous tones.
"Spill. I don't bite."
He gave me a weak smile. "It's about the little one. I know he's not even out of the oven yet, and it's okay if you say no..."
Curious, I looked up to see him twiddling his thumbs, looking down at his ridiculous Western boots. "...But Sara and I, we decided to name him Mike, after her dad, and we'd be honored if." he broke off, still looking down, "We want you to be his godfather, if it's alright with you."
I sat there for a few seconds, stumped. My eyes grew watery. Stupid sweat.
"It's alright if you say n—"
"I'd be honored." I said, my voice barely above a whisper.
He turned to look at me, and his eyes widened in mock horror. "Are you crying? That's some sappy shi—"
I laughed, blinking. "Don't push it kid."
"Wait till Sara hears this." Grinning like a fool he got up from the bench and left the folder behind. I watched, incredulous, as he pulled out a wide-brimmed cowboy's hat from out of nowhere. Smirking, he tipped it in my direction and muttered, "Good day, sir." He started to walk away.
"Thank you. For everything."
"Now you had to go and ruin my dramatic exit," he grumbled, but his eyes were teasing. The corner of his lips curled up into a wide smile. "No problem. You're welcome, but you owe me drinks when this is over. A lot of drinks."
"I'll buy you the whole beerhouse."
"I have an excellent memory, so no chance I'll forget that."
"If you say so Merlin."
With a chuckle, he stepped up against the edge of the pavement and then taking advantage of the lull in the traffic, sped across the road in his ridiculous garb. His boots clacked loudly against the asphalt. I watched him go, shaking my head in wry amusement. A few people stared at the cowboy in the hot summer sun.
The realization hit me. This was the first time since the funerals that I'd smiled, hell laughed with genuine happiness. As soon this was done, I'd be there to show him the ropes myself. He'd make one heck of an Auror. The thought itself made me smile again.
I slid the folder over, waited there for a couple of minutes till I was sure no one was looking in my direction before disappearing with a tiny pop.
In front of the glass window of the clothing store, a figure stood so still that nearby shoppers and wandering passersby didn't even take heed of his presence. His eyes were so fixed on an empty park bench across the street that it was easy to dismiss him as part of the store's mannequin display.
Which is why everyone was startled when the little girl with pigtails in the nice summer dress dropped her ice cream cone and screamed, her finger pointed at the moving mannequin.
For a second, there was silence, then someone started clapping. Like a ripple, it spread, as several bystanders laughed and applauded at what they assumed was one of those clever scare tv shows. Only one old woman frowned, bristling with indignation at what she saw as a cruel joke on a child no less. However even she was forced to smile as the man who had been pretending to be a mannequin knelt down beside the sobbing girl and gave her hair a small ruffle, before pressing a ten-pound note in her hands.
With everyone's eyes fixed on the now happy little girl, no one seemed to find it a little bit strange that there was a distinct lack of any tv cameras as the mannequin man walked away. And indeed, if anyone had followed him a little further as he turned the kerb, they would have been alarmed to see him disappear into thin air with a pop and a twisted grin on his face. A raven took to the clear sky with a loud caw, startled by the noise.
Three raps on the front door, there were footsteps and I heard the click of a bolt being unlocked. The wooden door creaked open on rusty hinges, revealing a heavyset man, his ripped torso and the hideous amount of chest hair peeking through his unbuttoned shirt. Brown eyes regarded me from underneath thick eyebrows set in a weathered, scarred face, as if someone had once taken a blade to his face. I ran a quick eye over the rest of his attire. He was unarmed. How shoddy for a Hit Wizard.
"Mr Taunton?" I asked.
"One and only." He grinned, showing rows of uneven yellowed teeth. His breath had that faint after-smell that came with too much Firewhiskey and mallowsweet pipes. "Who wants to know?"
"I just need a few questions answered. Selkies & Sirens. Ring a bell, no?"
His expression darkened, suspicion flitting across his beaten face. "How the hell do you -"
I pulled out my wand and his eyes widened in shock. I watched, amused as he patted himself for his wand, cursing when he realised he didn't have it. He turned to run. The hallway was too narrow and he wasn't quick enough. The jet of red light struck him in the back before he had gotten more than a few paces away from me and crashed to the floor. I walked in and shut the door. I knelt beside his prone body.
"Legilimens." I slipped into his undefended mind like an eel through water.
When I left the apartment about half an hour later, Mr Taunton was out cold, his memory of the past hour completely gone. He'd find 200 galleons shoved into his firewhiskey bottle and wonder who put it there. Provided no one came by and stole it before he woke of course. What can I say - I'm a nice man.
The hook behind my navel disappeared, and I was dumped in a small, brightly-lit alcove in the enclosed club entrance. I had never quite perfected my landings yet, even after all these years. Brushing my immaculate robes of any dirt, I made my way towards the red security booth, my polished shoes clicking against the gleaming paneled floor. Two other men were in queue ahead of me, but soon it was my turn.
Sharp eyes took in my appearance, before the guard, a burly guy who looked like he could wrestle a troll with little difficulty, asked, "Wand and portkey please."
I dropped a silver mermaid figurine and a slender brown wand in the tray he held out.
"First time, sir?" he asked without looking up, passing a short flat probe over the tray. The figurine glowed red, deactivating the portkey, and a thin slip of paper shot out of the probe's tip.
"Yes." I allowed a grin of anticipation to stretch across my face. I could hear the faint strains of laughter and music from behind the large ornate doors just beyond the booth.
He grunted, "Nice," and stepped out of the booth, armed with the glowing blue probe, a wand hanging from a holster attached to his wrist. "Arms out, sir"
He ran the probe over the length of my body. It flickered red for a split second as he moved it beside my feet, before reverting to blue again just as quickly. I stiffened. He frowned and gave it a flick.
"I'm sorry sir, but I'll need you to lift both of your feet for me."
I stood quite still and slowly raised my right leg. My eyes followed his every movement as he knelt down and brought his probe closer. He repeated the motion and this time the probe remained blue.
"Other foot sir."
The foyer was empty. No witnesses, if I was fast enough. I lifted my right leg slowly, running through a list of ways I could quickly knock him out without causing a racket. I eyed the back of his head.
A swift strike to the base of his neck will do.
Time seemed to crawl to a stop. He was moving the probe down my leg now.
I watched for any hint of a flash, ready to act. He run the probe around my shoe. No change. He straightened up. I let out a breath I hadn't realised I'd been holding. My fists relaxed.
"I apologise for the inconvenience, sir. The silly thing must be malfunctioning." He smacked the probe against his palm. "You're clean."
"Not to worry. No harm done."
"I put in an order for a replacement." He entered his booth and reappeared behind the glass partition. "Keep this with you, sir."
The slip of paper shot out of a tiny slot. I pulled it out. 11 inches, Acacia and dragon heartstring.
Taunton's wand. Since all wands taken were not registered against identity (given how many members of the clientele were loath to giving out their real names) there's was little danger of me being found out. He tapped a button, and the wand disappeared in a flash of white light, gone to a secret holding. Hopefully Taunton would get it back during investigations. If not he could always buy himself a new one with the money I left him.
"You'll need it to retrieve your wand before you leave." The guard gave me a contrite look. "You know the rules, sir. I'd hate to have to throw you out if you broke any. Enjoy your stay and I hope you have fun."
"You have no idea." I chuckled and tucked the piece of paper into my robes. The massive mahogany doors beside the booth swept open with a grinding noise, and I stepped through into the heart of the most exclusive Gentleman's Club in magical England.
The air grew thick with the pungent but pleasant smell of mallowsweet fumes once I entered through the large doors, which was flanked by two menacing robed figures. They didn't spare me a single glance as I walked past.
Pink strobe lights hung from the ceiling and several well-dressed men sat in groups on a number of couches littered across the floor, sharp eyes and lecherous smiles focused towards the middle of the room. There, at the very center, on a raised dais littered with gold coins, three scantily clad girls gyrated around the stripper poles extending to the domed roof, their bodies glistening as they danced, every move designed to inflame the pleasures. A band played a soft, sensuous tune in a corner of the room, away from the main area.
Selkies & Sirens, spelt in glittering pink neon letters in front of the alcohol bar. A gentlemen's club that catered to less than savory pleasures of the crème de la crème of the Wizarding society - membership was by invitation-only. From the file Ben had given me, the building was located in an old muggle underground storage facility, carefully concealed by numerous charms and wards. Entrance and departure from the premises were by means of specially-issued arrival-departure portkeys obtainable at the security booths and renewed with each visit.
I made my way to an empty couch and sat, plopping my feet onto the glass table as I pretended to stare around in fascination. Not cavernous by any means, the room was still quite full and not a little bit loud. Several half-naked waitresses flitted through the couches and tables, taking orders or cozying up to some of the patrons. I watched one giggle as she led a man away from his table, and together they walked through one of the doors to the left and disappeared.
I waved one of the girls over, a tall, shapely redhead, and she strutted over, her breasts jiggling underneath a thin sequined bra. A short lacy skirt completed an outfit that left little to the imagination.
"What can I do for you, mister?" She held out a notepad, placing a high-heeled boot on top of the couch, taking care to show some skin in the process. "You have beautiful blue eyes, sir. Much like my own." She batted her long eyelashes at me.
I grinned, reaching a hand up her skirt. My fingers brushed against her underwear and she squealed with delight and moved to sit on my lap.
"What's your name?"
"Sasha." She twirled a lock of my blond hair around a finger. "But you can call me whatever you want."
"Want to get a room?" I whispered, and gave her ear a soft, small nibble.
Her pink lips curled up into a salacious smile as she nodded and trailed a long, manicured finger along my jaw. It was all the confirmation I needed.
"Lead the way."
Sasha led me through a narrow, dimly-lit corridor, lined with doors set an inch or so apart from one another. I knew they were magically expanded on the inside. Most of them had blinking signs that said Occupied. She stopped at one of the doors that didn't.
"You ready, lover boy?"
She laid her palms against the door and it glowed pink before clicking open. We stepped into an expansive room, just as I had guessed, and the door clicked close behind us.
Pink bedsheets and rose petals covered a massive waterbed in the middle of the room. Scented candles and jars of perfumed oils and soaps surrounded a bathtub in the corner, frothy with large iridescent bubbles. A number of wardrobes sat against the walls, no doubt filled with all manner of implements and devices designed to increase the experience of lovemaking. Several tapestries hung from the walls, showing bodies, man on man, on woman, on beast, entwined and writhing with passion and lust.
And then we were at it, with wild abandon and little ceremony. Arms groping, reaching, hair tousled. She mashed her lips against mine, tongue probing. I gave in with a moan, and pressed my palms against the curve of her back, squeezing. With a tinkling laugh, she pulled away before I could get more.
"Oooh, you're a big one." She gave my groin a healthy yank, and then with a smirk pushed me towards the bed. She did a little dance, then started to divest herself of the few articles of clothing on her body.
"You haven't seen big quite yet," I responded with a smirk of my own.
"We'll see soon, now, won't we, lover boy?" Even her voice came out in a husky whisper as she twirled her bra on a finger, swaying her hips to an invisible beat. She twirled around, and I could see her the curve of her arse showing through her thin panties. She wriggled them down her thighs, drawing out the movement, her eyes fixed on my flushed face with a sly gleam that said she was enjoying every moment of her slow torture. A sudden hotness seemed to fill the room. My robes came off first, in that heartbeat between moments. It was followed swiftly by my undershirt. I fumbled with my belt buckle, overtaken by a sudden passion. The front of my pants bulged uncomfortably.
"So, tell me, what turns you on?"
My collar felt too tight. "Right now, you."
She chuckled, and danced out of my despairing reach. "Get naked, and I'll see just how turned on you are."
It was like a command, and I obeyed. My mind was clouded with burning desire as a whiff of lavender and jasmine and a variety of exotic scents swept by my nostrils, clouding my mind with desire, with sheer need for the exquisite creature standing before my eyes. I inhaled deeply, wanting more, and gave my errant, disobedient belt a sharp yank. With a snap, it came off and I flung it onto the Turkish rug on the floor. My head felt light. Sasha seemed to radiate with an otherworldly glow, one that made me want to take her into my arms and make sweet, passionate love to her.
With a saucy wink, as if she could sense my thoughts, she looked at me slyly and gave me the come-hither look. I started to get up. My knees felt gone awol, and the traitorous bastards never even saw fit to alert me. Something brushed against my finger, something soft and small. I gave it a blank stare, struggling to comprehend what it was.
I squinted, and it slowly grew into focus. A single rose petal, red as blood.
Red as blood.
Hermione's... Neville, Molly, Rose, Hugo.
I blinked. Once, twice. My hands froze from where they had been unlacing my shoes. The sensual haze that twisted and wrapped its lustful tendrils around my mind snapped in one sudden terrible moment of clarity. My fingers began to tremble as I was filled with a slow, hot rage. The room grew even hotter. Only I wasn't angry at the room, or even Sasha. It was the way things operated here; everything was designed to inflame already present desires, to ensnare those who were willing.
And my hands were trembling, my eyes were watering because I had been willing. A tiny part of me yes, but a part of me all the same. Willing to give in, to lose myself to the mindless forgetfulness only sex and booze could bring. When I stared at Dolohov's face in the mirror that day after I found Fleur's broken body was taken, I had been sure that the hatred I felt could never be surpassed.
But now, as my heart strings twisted in my chest, I felt something infinitely more acute.
It wasn't enough that he had dared to take them away from me. By hiding here like a coward, by forcing me to follow to this wretched, glorified whorehouse where temptations run fast and deep, his earlier blasphemy was surpassed. Now his sin was far far worse - he sought to outdo his blasphemy by trying to make me forget - my love, vows, treasured memories, everything. And I had nearly given in, nearly been seduced by desire which tainted this place. It was almost ironic that in hiding, his inadvertent choice of hiding location had nearly proved to be his biggest coup of all...
With every passing second, the horrors I had planned for him increased in depravity.
Some say revenge is a dish best served cold - yes, in little cold slices of never-ending hell.
Sasha's voice coaxed me out of my demented fantasies. "You need any help?"
"I got it," I responded, fiddling with my shoe. I took in a deep breath, then exhaled slowly.
"You sure?" She pouted. A minute before now it would've been sexy as hell, now I was only filled with a faint sense of pity and revulsion for her - for what life had reduced her to, reduced us to.
"Wait for me in the tub. I'll join you soon"
"If you say so." She shrugged and walked over to the bath tub, nipples perking as she cupped her pert breasts with a hand. A finely trimmed bush glistening, beckoning tantalisingly from between her long legs. Only now, her movements held absolutely no promise of desire and temptation. She might as well as be a man. I had seen, loved, kissed and fucked perfection itself. She wasn't even fit to be labelled a pale imitation.
She flicked a tongue over her moist lips and stepped into the tub. "Well don't take too long, lover boy." Her long legs disappeared into the depths of the foamy water and soap suds.
The iron sole of my shoe came out in my hand, revealing a mokeskin pouch wedged into a hollowed out portion, filled with everything I needed tonight. Iron distorts magic - the security guy's probe had been weak enough that my deception had held underneath his scrutiny. I reached inside, a single request on my mind, and smiled as the familiar, knotted length of a wand jumped into my hand.
The Elder Wand, for I could never seek to defile the Holly Wand in such a manner. The Wand chooses the wizard... And I had a feeling that though I was its master, Fawkes' second feather would not sing tonight, not to a tune of blood, not with the manner of arcane curses that flashed through my mind even at this instant.
But the black heart of the Deathstick would, even now as I grasped it, I could feel that morbid thrum of power, thirsty, whispering for the blood of those who had wronged me - and I would sate it, until we were both drunk on the red nectar of those who dared to cross us.
"You sure you don't need any help there, love?"
"I've got all the help I need." I pointed my wand at her.
She pulled her head out of the soapy water, took one look at me and let out the most earsplitting scream I've ever had the displeasure of hearing. It was little wonder she was in this line of work, her screams must be what they hired her for. She screamed and screamed then screamed some more, until an irritated flick of my wand cut her off. I was suddenly grateful for the soundproofed room.
With a silent whimper, now that she had been robbed of her voice, she backed into the tub, sending foam sloshing everywhere. I read her lips mouthing frantically, Don't hurt me, don't hurt me.
I rolled my eyes. "Relax, I'm not going to hurt you. Just promise you won't scream anymore."
Her head bobbed up and down in agreement, and it did all sorts of wonderful things to her ample chest. A simple wave and she had her voice back.
"That wasn't so bad, was it?"
"What do you want?" She shrieked. "How did you get in here with a wand?"
"Still too loud." I winced and wagged the wand at her. She quieted down at once. "And it's none of your business."
"What are you going to do to me?"
"I just need some of your hair. Nothing you can't give."
"What in Merlin's beard would you want my hair for?"
I laughed out loud at the inadvertent pun and she frowned at me, her forehead scrunched up. Easy to tell she wasn't very bright. All looks and no brains.
"Are you one of those weirdo fetish guys? Because I can still call the guards you know."
"If your screams didn't reach them, I doubt anything else you can do will."
"There's other ways."
"Bullshit. But by all means go for it." I gave her a dark smile. "You'd be down before you could lift a pretty little finger.
She slumped back, defeated. "I'm not giving you my hair."
"Don't be silly, I don't want all your hair. Just a strand or two. You give it to me willingly, and I'll even pay you for it, because I'm a nice man, and nice men don't steal from pretty girls. Or," I ticked off a finger, "I knock you out and take it, because I can be not-so-nice. Either way is fine by me."
"How much?" A shrewd look entered her eyes, now that she was certain she was in no real danger and there was money to be made. "Besides, aren't you a bit too young to be attempting a robbery? I'm not sure who you are, but the big boss is not a man to be crossed."
"Who mentioned anything about a robbery?" I slid a small bag of coins across the floor. She eyed it with wary interest, as if it could bite, but otherwise made no move towards it. "Though for the record, robbing this place would be a piece of cake if I put my mind to it."
"If you say so."
"Are you sure that's all you want?" She puckered her juicy lips in a lascivious manner. "I can give you a good, hard fuck. You look like you can use one."
"I've had better," I dismissed.
"Pity," was her only reply. She pulled out a long strand from her wet, glistening hair and held it out. I summoned it and started gathering up her clothes from the floor.
"Hey! What are you doing with those? I never said you could have them."
"Oh, I forgot to add one more thing." I turned my wand in her direction, smirking. She paled. "I get to knock you out either way."
I could hear the gears grinding as her mouth opened with a soft 'Oh'. She seemed to take a long deep breath in, and stretched her mouth wide open, preparing to scream.
I didn't let her get that far. "Somnius Somnium!" She slumped down softly, her hand draped over the edge of the tub. I pulled out a tiny vial, the color of molten gold. Felix Felicis, a generous gift from Slughorn. Enough time wasted, time to get to work.
My high-heeled shoes clicked and clacked on the floor as I wobbled back into the bar, taking care to avoid a lot of attention. Fucking heels, Sasha made it way look effortless the way she glided in them. The ensemble I had taken from her was now modified into something more dignified than a whore's attire; even though I now looked exactly like her, the thought that any of these men might have lewd thoughts about me made my skin crawl. If I had to escort anyone to a room, the chances were I'd break a nose.
I sashayed amongst the tables, sticking closer to the ones where there was already a waitress or two entertaining the drunken occupants. Luckily for me, there were fewer people now, the missing ones likely writhing in passion in one of the pleasure rooms or gone home early, to resist arousing the suspicions of trophy housewives who had long since traded sex appeal for the layers of fat brought on by living lives of excessive luxury and indulgence.
Some of the more paranoid folk came under various layers of disguise, unassured by the all-encompassing terms of the contract. Despite that his graying hair was dyed and he had a fake beard on, I recognised the portly Sir Bristlewood, general manager of Thunderstrike Racing Broom Company, speaking quite amiably to young Julian Fortescue, heir to the Fortescue fortune and an utterly despicable fellow who was nothing like his deceased dad. Rita Skeeter and her ilk would make a fortune if they ever got their hands on any of this information.
I felt a hand squeeze my backside out of nowhere, and I clamped down on the all-consuming urge to smash the face of whoever had dared. He squeezed harder and my hands twitched towards my wand. One word, all it would take was one word to wipe the insipid look off from his likely smirking face. Instead I turned, pasting what I hoped was a sensuous smile on my face.
The man, a pasty-skinned, watery-eyed fellow, old enough to be my father twice over, tapped the spot beside him with a thick meaty hand, adorned with several jeweled rings. Keeping a scowl off my face, I sidled in beside him.
"What's your name, sweetheart." He leaned in, too close for comfort, and his alcohol-reeking breath washed over my face.
"Sasha." I blurted out the first name that came to mind.
"Sasha," he repeated, as if tasting the name. "What a wonderful name!" He let out a hearty laugh suddenly, and his walrus beard was still quivering in mirth as he swept a heavy arm around my shoulders. I stiffened but didn't resist. "Now Sasha -"
But I wasn't listening to him any longer. I heard something behind me, something that made my heart race with excitement. Faint stirrings of a conversation reached my ears, and I drowned out the walrus' voice.
"...Come on, Malfoy... a .. bit... there's... beautiful... fun."
I turned and flinched as a spray of spit flickered onto my cheeks. I had forgotten about the walrus. He started to speak, his beady eyes angry, but I swept a hand over his mouth and another snaked onto his thigh. He quieted down at once, outburst forgotten and I felt him shudder as I brought my lips to his ear.
"Not tonight, fattie!" I hissed quietly, and dug my wand into his side. "Somnus Somnium!"
He didn't even have the time to look surprised as the invisible sleep spell struck him at point blank range, invisible but effective, and his head drooped forward onto his chest. Disgusted, I pushed him away from me and he slumped onto the cushion, fast asleep.
The voices were coming from one of the tables closer to the strippers' stage, where two men sat, a number of empty bottles in front of them. One of them, a lean man with a trimmed goatee, waved a waitress over with his walking stick. The other one, a well-dressed half-drunk brute of a man, ogled her as she danced her way over, a tray of expensive decanters perched precariously in her hands even as her hips swayed with exaggerated motions. I listened closer.
"You are a riot, Malfoy." The brute laughed and held his glass out for the waitress.
Score one for Felix and the Felicis!
Interesting. So the lean one was Lucius. I smirked; poor Narcissa mustn't quite be cutting it anymore. The waitress, a tall, leggy blonde, set the drinks down and poured out a generous amount. She reached for Lucius' glass but he waved her off, an irritated look on his face.
"Wanna spend the night with me?" The brute grabbed the blonde by the hand and pulled her closer. Laughing, he turned to Lucius and gave him a hearty slap on the back. "What say you?"
"No more, Antonin," Lucius hissed. "That's quite enough."
It was as if someone had turned the sound down, because all I could feel was a dull buzzing noise as a tide of potent red hot fury washed over me, carrying me away on a veritable sea of rage.
I was dimly aware of the seat rattling.
The sound of his heartbeat as it pumped frantically, not to keep him alive, but because it could sense this was the last lap, that the one who would rip it from its hallowed place had come.
There he was, the coward who had stolen everything away from me. Laughing as if with no cares in the world. The anger I had kept caged behind a dam was threatening to burst. My hand snaked towards my wand - just a few words, a few words and I could bathe in his blood, dance to the music of his tortured screams. My vision tinged with red.
The Wand of Destiny thrummed against my thigh, eager to another mark to its deathly tally - almost fervent to slake its unending hunger with flesh and blood and death as was its sole purpose since it had been born of Death's bony hands.
Just overhead, a light shook and flickered.
Suddenly even the most innocuous of objects looked murderous, wicked, perfect.
I could shove the corks down his throat and watch as he choked helplessly for air. I could ram his head against the table until brain matter was indistinguishable from bits of bone and blood.
A spiderweb of cracks slithered through the surface of the glass table with a shudder.
I could feel my hands trembling with warmth as phantom blood gushed everywhere... I held his head above mine, dripping bits of blood and spine and sinew, proof that all wrongs had been righted. I could —
"You alright, Sash?"
A clenched hand flew up, stopping just short of a startled face and the person who had spoken. A girl with a heart-shaped face and short black bangs stumbled back in fright.
The Elder Wand quieted down, its fevered song dulling to the faint strains of a dying tune. But I could sense it, gone but not forgotten, only lying in wait, biding its time. It had learnt patience, if nothing else, through its long and bloody sojourn across history. Since its birth on that fateful night, when three luckless wizards met with the master himself. Death.
"What the hell, Sash?" she asked, her face lined with worry and a little fear. I drew in a deep breath which did little to calm the sea of roiling anger I felt. "Are you alright?"
I nodded and gave her a stiff smile, not trusting myself to speak.
"Did one of them do anything? I can have Oswald throw them out."
I had no idea who Oswald was, probably one of the guards, so I shook my head. "It's nothing, don't worry about it."
She gave me an anxious, searching look. "If you say so." She shrugged and walked away.
As though it could sense her departure, I felt a soft heat start to rub against my thigh. The Elder Wand was already stretching, awake from its short slumber.
I grasped three wooden corks off the table. No one seemed to be paying me any attention. I snuck them underneath the cover of the table, cupping my wand tip to reduce any light from filtering through, and whispered, "Portus." There was a soft blue glow as the spell worked. I looked back up, at the table of those who had brought me so much pain. The blonde waitress was leaving. With a smile that had very little to do with happiness, I got up, slipped my bra down just a little bit and strutted over.
The Elder Wand was getting hotter. Soon, my love.
"Hello, gentlemen." I swept away the bottles and glasses on top of the table and sat, bracing my arms behind me and crossing my legs. I hitched my skirt up and Dolohov wolf-whistled. "What does a girl have to do to get your attention?"
Tear those lips off his face, so he can never smile again. Rip out his throat, the world has suffered senseless his laughter for too long.
Dolohov burst into a deep laugh, and my blood boiled at the sight. It was a struggle to keep the hatred from showing in my eyes. My own smile didn't waver any, thoughts of how I wanted to rip his throat out serving as ample motivation. Lucius had looked up at my bold behavior but now he wore this look of disinterest.
"What's your name, pretty thing?" Dolohov asked. He swiveled me around, so that my knees were now on either sides of his face.
"Sasha." With a purr, I lifted his chin with a finger, and flicked my tongue at him. "But you can call me whatever you want, lover-boy."
"Sasha. I like the sound of that," Dolohov rasped, his voice husky with desire. He turned to Lucius and bumped the aristocrat on the arm. "Can I keep this one? She's a real looker."
"Send her away," he replied without sparing either of us a look.
"Spoilsport," Dolohov grumbled. He turned to me, covering his mouth in a conspiratorial manner, and stage-whispered, "He's been grumpy all night. I've been trying to get him to loosen up a little bit."
"Allow me," I whispered back and nudged Lucius with the tip of my shoes. "Yeah, don't be such a sourpuss, Lucius. Live a little." My voice tightened with murderous humor. "After all, you never know when you're going to die."
Both of them stiffened at once, and Lucius' eyes narrowed, which narrowed on my face. "How the —"
With a vicious smirk I drew my knee back and smashed it down into his nose. His head snapped back as he howled in pain, spurting blood everywhere. I felt a sudden movement - Dolohov's hand was flying towards his pocket. With a snarl, I slammed my knee into his chest, stopping him cold.
"Don't move motherfucker," I snarled into his ear, jabbing the tip of my wand into his cheek, "or I'll blow your fucking brains out."
There it is. I'm quite eager to know what you think, so drop me a review - what's working, what's not. If you took an hour or so to read this, surely you can spare a minute or two for a comment. Thanks in advance and cheers!