Eat Your Heart Out, Robin Hood
Chapter 1 ~ When Harry Met Sara
"When it is all finished, you will discover that it was never random."
October 1999 ~ Somewhere in Honduras
Ginny Weasley was a bitch.
If he just kept telling himself that, maybe he'd begin to believe it.
Yeah, just like he could fool himself into believing she'd dumped him, even though it'd been the other way around. Not that he'd been given much of a fucking choice. A trans-continental address change sent a pretty clear signal, after all.
On an unrelated note, being celibate was bad for his health.
The airborne piece of plywood that nearly took off his head just cemented that utterly depressing fact.
After all, he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Ginny.
"Harry!" Ron bellowed into the deluge. "The next time you get dumped I'm picking the vacation spot!"
Harry glowered at him, slashing his wand and throwing an imperturbable barrier in front of himself just in time to avoid getting clubbed in the head by a crushed up can of Coke. "You're the one who dragged my ass out!" he snapped. "I was damn happy holed up in Grimmauld!"
"You were wallowing, Harry!" Hermione shouted, voice just a touch more shrill than normal. "It wasn't healthy!"
"What would you have preferred? Hexing half of Knockturn or copious drinking? Because really, Kingsley wasn't impressed with either!" And when Ginny had up and left him he had tried both. It'd been fun, right up until George, Bill and Kingsley had found him in a Knockturn Alley bar, slipped him one of Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes famous sleeping pills that conveniently changed his ears to neon green, and then drug his unconscious ass back to Grimmauld.
He'd woken up looking like a house elf, and found the three of them there, along with Ron and Hermione, in full lecture mode.
Apparently Ginny leaving him to play Quidditch for the American league wasn't an excuse for single handedly taking on suspected Death Eaters while pissed on firewhiskey. Nevermind that Harry'd had the exact same offer and turned it down. Nevermind that he'd had a fucking ring in his dresser drawer at Grimmauld. Nevermind that he had been positive that she was the one.
The one didn't up and leave like she had.
There was a lesson to be learned in this: never trust a Weasley, unless their name was Ron. They slipped you joke items, stole your firewhiskey, and broke your heart.
Hermione's normally bushy hair dripped freely into her face. "Harry it's not your fault you don't have coping mechanisms! You never had any breathing room or affection in your younger years to help you develop-"
He snorted so derisively that, despite the hurricane, it still cut her off.
"You know what, mate," Ron threw in, far too casually for someone stepping over the decapitated head of a goat, "when Hermione suggested we go to the tropics she didn't mention the whole 'world could end' bit, did she? Reckon we got mislead!"
He scowled. "Wouldn't be the first time." First Ginny, now Hermione. Maybe he should put a general ban on trusting the female sex…
"True that," Ron agreed, thumping his chest in a brotherly sign of solidarity. It sent water splattering out from the sopping fabric covering it.
An exasperated, wet sound erupted off to Harry's right. "Ron does know I can hear him?"
Before Harry had the opportunity to respond through the wet torrent pummeling them, Ron's booming voice cut in, "I'm counting on it, luv! I just needed an impartial, third-party witness to confirm that this once in a decade event was actually happening!"
"Ron it's just a storm-"
Through the black wall of rain something moved. A friggin' chicken plunged out of the air and unleashed an ear-splitting squawk, nearly taking off Harry's head, and judging from the flying feathers being torn out from the wind shear alone he doubted the chicken had suddenly learned to fly. Quidditch reflexes alone had him throw up his hands, snagging the furious bird barely an inch in front of his face, snaring the thing like it were a particularly large and lumpy quaffle. It hung upside down, and for a second they stared eye-to-eye. The two wet and disgruntled species looked at one another, Harry's black hair slung wetly in front of his spotted glasses and the rooster's comb hung comically downwards, sopping wet and dripping mud. Fuck, if Harry hadn't known better he'd say it looked startled. Then again a hurricane had launched it into the air with all the subtlety of a Slytherin trying to sabotage you before a Quidditch match.
At least Harry had just saved it from certain death.
It rewarded him by screeching and pecking his hand, Harry shouting and dropping it as blood welled up.
The thing scuttled chaotically through the mud, the ungrateful bastard leaving three-pronged footprints behind.
Just a storm his ass.
Hermione had continued undeterred by the sudden appearance from Fowl Peckery Airlines.
"-storms happen from time to time. This is hardly the first hurricane to hit the Americas."
Ron trudged forward, his wand slicing through the air and erecting a shield. Tiny bits of torn up and flying grass bounced off it. "That's not the event I was talking about," he said with deadly seriousness. "It's that for once in your life you were actually wrong about something. That's monumental. Seriously, I need to mark this down on that calendar your mum bought us." He made a gesture like he was turning pages. "You know, that flippy one on the wall?"
Because Harry was standing directly alongside Hermione, he got to see one of her rare confused looks. Ron wasted no time vanishing it for her, sending his girlfriend an exasperated look. "You were wrong about this being a relaxing vacation spot, 'Mione." Ron paused, as if thinking about something very hard. Harry could practically see the wheels turn as his best mate stared at Hermione and frowned, before his face morphed into something horrified. "Bleeding hell, you don't think this is relaxing, do you? Know we were on the run last year and all but…"
Hermione stared at him, speechless, her mouth in a silent 'o.'
Harry snorted. "Don't think hiding from Voldemort twisted her sense of fun that badly mate."
Hermione found her voice. "What kind of twisted and perverse person would find this fun?"
Ron shrugged. "Well you suggested we come here, and then volunteered us for this." He said this far too casually for one baiting the cleverest – and therefore arguably the most dangerous – witch of her age.
Fortunately for his best mate she was also one of the most patient. "Perhaps if you'd given us time to check the weather report like I suggested-"
"Hey, when the Ministry offers you a free international portkey you take it. You don't piss around checking that Muggle telly thing and waiting for those one dimensional Muggles to talk at you."
"Well those one dimensional Muggles on the television could have warned you about this."
"Nope. We were screwed either way. Fate's pissed about Harry escaping death one too many times-"
"Hey!" Harry took offense to that.
Ron continued, "-which is why he keeps having rotten luck. Clearly it's extracting its revenge. Since he's primarily alive because of your interference-"
"I'd like to think I had something to do with it too," he heard himself mutter.
"-kismet's targeting you specifically-"
Hermione's eyes brightened. "Ron you've been using our word of the day calendar!" Fuck it all, but she sounded proud.
"-we're obviously destined to get blown out to sea, where we'll surely drown and our bodies will get eaten by sharks. No one'll ever find our remains."
Now she rolled her eyes. "Don't you think you're being a little dramatic?"
As if on cue a shack's door tore free from its rusted hinges, the wind catching and throwing it a good three meters before it slammed sloppily into the mud, right by their feet. The sludge sprayed up, covering all three of them in the muck.
Harry's glasses got coated. With a heavy sigh he spat mud out of his mouth and cast a spell to clear his lenses. As soon as he could see again he saw that Ron had stopped dead in his tracks to throw Hermione a smug look. Apparently that was more important than getting out of the deluge, and despite himself, despite everything going on, Harry choked on a laugh.
Hermione closely resembled a drowned rat at this point; her ordinarily busy hair had been flatted to either side of her face. Mud and pieces of grass stuck out of it, reminding Harry of a small creature's nest. "Alright fine," she admitted, having to shout to be heard. "I concede your point, Ronald! Next time I pick a vacation spot to distract Harry I'll let you choose."
Given that hejust so happened to be the 'Harry' in question, he felt compelled to defend what little dignity he had left and shot them both a foul look.
Hermione dismissed his indignation as if he were no more frightening than a cute little toddler.
He wasn't sure if that irritated him or not; he'd defeated friggin' Voldemort, set the record for youngest trainee to join the Auror corps, been hunting escaped Death Eaters for the past five months and she was still unimpressed. Well shit. He definitely needed to reassess the women in his life.
Then again, that was why they were here, wasn't it?
Beginning their trudge through the now ankle-deep mud that had once been a walking path, Harry took a second to take stock of their situation: they were in the middle of a rundown, extremely rural but thickly populated part of Honduras near the coast. The hurricane bearing down on the region wasn't even there in full force, but most of the houses – shacks was probably a better word – were already a complete loss. Tin roofs had caved in, old boards had been stripped from the side walls, and some of the structures had outright collapsed down to their non-existent foundations. According to Hermione's phone app wind speeds were already exceeding a hundred and thirty kilometers per hour, and were expected to exceed a two hundred and eighty by the time it was all said and done.
But hey, with any luck maybe they'd drown. There was also that whole 'sharks eating them' thing.
It'd all started when Ginny had gotten an owl.
Really, if Harry could turn back the clock, commandeer a Muggle shotgun, get creative with the liberal use of silencing charms and stalk outside the Burrow without anyone's notice he'd have happily shot the thing out of the sky before it delivered its missive. There was a small problem with that plan though – he'd personally ensured that all the timeturners had been broken. Nothing like your teenage self unnecessarily raiding the Department of Mysteries, falling right into Voldemort's trap, and getting your godfather killed to ensure that karma royally screwed over your future sex life.
Yeah, Harry wasn't even a little bit bitter over that. Not in the fucking least.
To make it worse, when he'd made the mistake of mentioning his grand 'find-a-timeturner-to-kill-the-owl' plan to Ron and Hermione in a drunken stupor a month and a half after he and Ginny split, they had taken that as proof he needed 'time to deal'.
They'd staged a freaking 'friendervention'.
That'd been forty eight hours ago. They'd shown up at Grimmauld Place and quite literally drug him to an international portkeying station, where he'd been 'not so nicely cajoled' into taking the ass-feathered end of a taxodermied duck that had proceeded to portkey them from London all the way to fucking Honduras.
Apparently the Central American Ministry of Magic – a union between Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Managua, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama – was hosting an international symposium to discuss inter-Ministry cooperation in the wake of Europe's war, and Hermione had thought that sounded like a fun idea for a working vacation.
She'd justified it by claiming there was a beach.
Harry was fairly positive the storm surge had flooded that beach and washed it out to sea three hours ago.
But hey, at least they were technically on the clock and getting paid. Kingsley was a real fucking pal, he was. Seizing on the chance to flaunt that the 'Man-Who-Conquered' was from mother fucking Surrey on the international stage. Nevermind that he, Ron and Hermione were still trainees with no seniority by any stretch of the imagination, they still got told to represent their entire country. He could see the promotional posters now: 'Way to go rest of the wizarding world! You may beat us in gross national product, progressiveness and foreign agendas, but the UK leads the way on production of mass murdering megalomaniacs and mentally scarred teenaged war heroes!'
If only that Ministry mandated squib psychologist could hear his thoughts now; they'd have a field day.
Wind slammed into them so hard it sent Hermione flying back into his chest. Harry grabbed her with a grunt and slipped and slid, nearly falling himself. He barely kept ahold of his far lighter friend. "Shit Hermione, eat some chips will ya?" he muttered, setting her back on her feet. "You'll get thrown around less."
"Shut up, Harry," Ron tossed back. "Fatten up your own bird if ya want, but leave mine outta it."
Hermione made a sputtering sound. "Excuse me but I don't think either of you have a say in my dietary preferences!"
Ron didn't miss a beat. "Can I use that excuse next time it's your turn to cook?"
Hermione let out an exasperated sounding breath. "It's not my fault your tastebuds are inelegant…"
"Inelegant? You tried to feed me kale!"
"Kale happens to be a super food, Ron-"
"So are pumpkin pastries."
Hermione hissed like one of Salazar Slytherin's pet snakes.
"Take it moving in together's going well?" Harry drawled, shoving her abruptly forward to get her moving and keeping a hand firmly planted against her back lest she fly into him again. "Should I start getting the domestic hex report prepared now or…?"
Both his friends ignored him.
"Come on Hermione, live a little," Ron encouraged, continuing what Harry suspected was a long running argument. "Eat something bad for a change."
"I'm not clogging up my arteries to appease your whims-"
"Please. You work for Mungos! A quick swish and flick and they're all cleared out. Better than what those Muggle nutters do. Heard they actually chop people's chests open. That actually true?"
"They're not nuts, Ron. They just can't magically unclog their blood vessels anytime they please. That requires surgery with major risks-"
Ron shot him a knowing look. "Like I said, nutters."
Harry gave serious thought to hexing them both, but repressed it. The entire time they had trudged slowly forward through the battering onslaught of rain, wind, and anything the latter managed to pick up and carry with it. In the past ten minutes since they'd left the Ministry he'd seen a chicken, a door, a lot of grass, a ramshackle mailbox, some wooden boards, a few pieces of plywood, and more trash than he could count fly past. Hell, until then Harry hadn't realized it was possibly to physically lean into thin air without magic without face planting, but it was; he was doing it now. The wind was literally holding him up.
At least he wasn't Hermione though. The wind was practically picking her up and driving her physically backwards, so he had that going for him.
He grit his teeth and shoved her through the mud, Hermione shouting, "I think it's getting worse out here!"
"Gee you think?" he tossed back.
She glowered. Harry smirked roughly. At this point the rain was flying literally sideways, each drop that struck him stinging his skin like a thrown pebble. Somehow he doubted this 'hurricane express' tour was in the Honduran vacation brochures.
"Shit this bloody well hurts!" Ron cursed from up ahead.
Harry snorted. "You mean this isn't that full body resort massage you lot promised? I mean I assumed a half-naked chick would be involved rather than raindrops from hell, but shit, beggers can't be choosers…"
Ron choked on a laugh, while Hermione made mildly traumatized sounds. Harry ignored them. The wind howled eerily in his ears, the sky nearly black despite the fact that it was mid-morning, and they still had a tenth of a kilometer to go.
See, apparently that whole International Ministry Symposium had been cancelled on account that a hurricane had been bearing down on Central America. It wasn't safe to meet, and the Ministry had sent out a notice that it was being rescheduled. Honduran officials had sent out notices to every nation's senior-most officials, but apparently the U.K.'s rep had been killed the preceding May at the Battle of Hogwarts, so their post was probably still sitting there in an unopened and unread pile collecting dust in some remote corner of the Ministry of Magic. And given how short staffed the Ministry was, no one had exactly checked the weather reports or made travel arrangements for them. They'd just given Hermione a 'galleon card' for expenses and sent them on their way with a merry wave.
That explained why they'd found a number of surprised Honduran officials when they'd appeared out of thin air in the middle of their packed atrium. And Harry did mean packed; a sea of panicked bodies had been shoulder-to-shoulder. The noise alone had exploded around them, Harry finding himself immediately assaulted by a barrage of Spanish and what Hermione had called "Misumalpan" sounding languages before getting jostled backwards into a literal grove of exotic palms growing right out of the floor. A carnivorous plant had also been growing in the trickling brook there, and it'd wasted no time in biting a chunk out of Harry's jeans before a Honduran official had rescued them from their display of local foliage.
As it turned out, the atrium had been repurposed into a hurricane shelter for the magical populace of Central America. Thus, the crowd. It'd taken awhile to figure out exactly what was going on, but they'd eventually been drug by a well-meaning but haggard looking witch in a bright orange poncho to the Minister.
The Minister of Magic, Enmanual Machado, had apologized for the commotion, the miscommunication, and proceeded to inform them that not only was their beach hut not ready, but they wouldn't be able to portkey out in time to miss the natural disaster bearing down on them like a rabid nundu. In fact, he had been amazed they'd arrived safely at all. Apparently the atmospheric disturbances caused by hurricanes messed with the magical ether and made it a lot more likely for wizards to fall into the void when apparating and portkeying.
Ron and him had stared at the man like he'd grown a second head; Hermione had fortunately understood every word.
The long and short of it was they were stuck there until Hurricane Mitch bid Honduras adieu, which was how they'd wound up recruited to go check on a local magical clinic that they'd lost contact with. The mediwizards and witches were supposed to have reported to the atrium six hours ago, with their inpatients, but they'd never shown. The Honduran officials were stretched to capacity as it was and had been unable to send a team out into the torrent to check.
So, in the spirit of international cooperation, Hermione had volunteered to help.
Then she'd volunteered him and Ron.
For some asininely suicidal reason he'd agreed.
Another chicken flew by, and Harry decided that he needed to reign in that whole 'saving people thing' he had going on. He needed fewer chickens in his life.
Abandoning the dilapidated shacks of the village they ducked out into an open field. Eight hours ago it had probably been a crop, but Harry would have been hard pressed to identify what. Perhaps corn? Rice? Long reeds had been bent down at sharp angles, muddy flows cutting violent paths across the field and flattening what remained. On the opposing side a building could be seen, it looking battered and abandoned, but a crooked and neon sign shone through the haze of rain, the words Clinca de Santa Juliana blinking brilliantly.
Given that the power was out everywhere, it was magic. Obviously.
Hermione stared down at a beeping, blinking magical locator with a distinct frown. "The clinic should be right across here!" she shouted, head darting up and pointing towards it.
Harry snorted. "It's what I appreciate most about you, Hermione. Your obsessive need to state the un-obvious."
Ron plunged forward, sinking up to his ankles and swearing.
By the time they slogged through, their shoes getting sucked into the mud with each painstaking step, he and Ron having to yank Hermione out of it more than once, Harry had developed a deep and abiding hatred of pebbles in footwear. His boots were laced tight as hell, but somehow the mud had managed to help those sadistic little sharp pointed bastards infiltrate his socks. Given that the world was blowing down around them, he didn't exactly have time to stop and shake them out.
The second they stepped off the field and onto concrete Harry felt the shift in the air. It vibrated unnaturally, the anti-Muggle wards rippling around him with a strange shimmer in the rain.
He squinted at the entrance. Two palms flanked it, both bending a bit low for comfort. Either way, Harry didn't particularly give a shit. It was a building: one with four walls and a roof that would get them out of the punishing wind. There could be dragon pox in there and Harry'd still take it.
The doors were locked.
Alohomora didn't work.
Neither did Hermione's attempts.
At this point the storm had grown worse. Water slid across the concrete like a living organism, moving like a violent mist that battered their ankles and sprayed up into their faces.
A palm frond snapped off and smacked Ron in the face.
"It must be pass-coded!" Hermione shouted above the roar the wind had turned into. She was ducked low, staring at the long metal door handles, hair whipping around her face as she pointed. "See the runes? Unless you know the spell to unlock each in the right sequence you can't break it!"
Ron and Harry took precisely three seconds to come to a decision.
"Let's blow it."
"I'm with you."
"Stand back, 'Mione."
Her head whipped up, eyes wide. Harry had already backed up to a safe distance, Ron bodily hauling Hermione and shoving her around the side of the building.
"Ron, you can't just blow it up!"
"Sure I can," he yelled back, sounding shockingly reasonable.
"There could be people in there!"
Fuck. She had a point. The doors didn't exactly have windows to peer though. Ron was already on it though, sonorous charming his throat and shouting through the doors, "OI! IF ANYONE IS INSIDE NOWS THE TIME TO ANNOUNCE YOURSELVES! OTHERWISE BACK UP FROM THE DOORS BECAUSE WERE COMING IN!"
He paused. Waited. Harry grit his teeth and grunted as a tin can smashed into the back of his calf with the strength of a bludger. He staggered and nearly went down.
Ron nodded at the door. "Blow it, Harry."
He lifted his wand-
Across the lot something groaned, like a ship hulk straining against the sea. The noise ricocheted across the concrete lot, until a loud popping began. Bolts exploded off a sign and fired in random directions, pinging against cars and fracturing asphalt. The blinking sign they'd supported broke off with a crack.
Creaking crashes were never good to hear in a windstorm, particularly one capable of picking shit up and launching it at your back. Really, Harry was rather attached to his spine, and he'd like to keep it exactly where it was at.
He jerked around in time to see the sign break free and drop. Just drop. It slammed violently down, only for its fall to be equally as violently halted. Wires had remained attached and it bounced in mid-air in stark defiance to gravity and logic before the wind snagged it. Now the thing swung like an off-track guillotine looking for Ann Boleyn's neck.
The metallic squeal as the wind battered it was like nails on a chalkboard.
Mercifully Hermione shot a silencing charm at it, right as Harry had clamped hands over his ears. He shot a grateful look over his shoulder at her, seeing that Ron had done the same.
Too bad the bastard coated universe with bastard filling decided to let the wires snap right then. He heard the loud pop, followed by the crashing splash of the sign falling to break against the ground. Glass shattered and metal clanged, small pieces clearly tumbling over the asphalt directly towards them.
But hey, at least it had waited until his back was good and turned so he wouldn't see the blows coming.
Harry might not have seen it, but he sure as hell felt it when a small chunk of fluorescent lighting flew past his ear.
With an oath he swore and threw himself down, another piece of sign whizzing past his ear. He physically heard the whoosh as it narrowly missed rearranging his gray matter, and he grabbed at the side of his head to make sure his ear was still intact. It was, though it was a bit slicker than he remembered it.
At least George wouldn't have to print him up a 'missing ears club' membership card quite yet.
When all the shrapnel had finished flying Harry pushed himself up, out of the water - the parking lot had flooded a few inches by that point – and winced as he saw several pieces of neon-painted metal impaled in the clinic wall.
They were conveniently all right next to Ron's head.
It had missed killing them both by centimeters.
Ron stared at them. "I bloody hate hurricanes, Harry!"
"Feelings mutual, mate!" he threw back, scowling and picturing his epitaph. 'Survived Voldemort; taken out by scrap metal.'
Well fuck that.
Hermione had run forward to check Ron, and Harry got to his feet. With a quick glance around the parking lot to make sure nothing else was going to become airborne in a misguided attempt to try to kill him – really, Riddle's from beyond-the-grave attempts were getting old – he deemed it safe-ish. Then Harry turned back to the doors, blocked out the seriously disturbing mothering Hermione was doing to Ron, and decided to screw it.
He stabbed his wand forwards like a common thug knifing a debutant dumb enough to take a back alley post premier of something 'uppity.'
The blue spell lanced out, slamming into the doors. They dented inwards, but otherwise did nothing. Harry was actually surprised by that. "Nice wards," he muttered, stalking forward and flinging another, and then another.
Ron began swearing at him to 'bloody well wait till he was out of the damn way!' but as usual Harry ignored him.
It was on his fourth hex that the doors finally exploded inwards, outwards, and in pretty much every direction except upwind.
And in the next several seconds Harry realized a few fairly vital things.
First, he needed to remember Kingsley's warnings about not putting all his power behind his spells. Not only did it drain him damn quick, but it tended to reduce whatever he was attacking into tiny bits that wouldn't stand a chance at holding up as 'evidence.' In the post Voldemort era the Wizengamot courts had gotten awfully picky about having it after all.
Second, given the narrow miss he'd just had at having his head removed, he really should have considered that tiny pieces of metal and wood could become airborne a lot easier than large ones. He'd obviously known that, but in his rush hadn't considered it before rendering the front doors of La Clinica de Santa Juliana to splinters.
Neither had Ron, obviously.
Judging from the hasty shielding spell that Hermione threw up, she had.
Which brought him to his final realization: if you were going to explode shit in a hurricane, you shouldn't stand downwind.
Hundreds of tiny, metal shards slammed into her shield mere centimeters in front of Ron's face, his friend frozen and staring wide eyed at them. Hermione was behind him, clutching onto the back of his coat, her wand whipped out and, as usual, saving their asses.
Problem was the deadly objects didn't fall; they just hovered there, vibrating against Hermione's shield charm, held up there by the hurricane-force winds like the sadistic, lung-puncturing sociopaths that they were. And judging from Hermione's fraught expression she was struggling to fight it.
Sometimes he forgot that she wasn't as magically powerful as he and Ron, at least not in terms of raw strength, even if her repertoire of spells far exceeded either of theirs.
With an oath Harry bolted forward, slashing his wand and vanishing nature's attempt to off his best friends from the gene pool. The mere thought brought several seriously disturbing visuals of the two trying to contribute to the aforementioned gene pool, and Harry soothed himself by promising to bathe his brain in acid at a later time.
For now he skidded to a stop in front of Ron and grabbed him by the shoulders, giving him a shake. "RON! Did any of it hit you?!"
His best mate stood very still, as if entirely unaware he was being shaken. Then he slowly lifted a hand up, looked at it as if surprised to see it there, then wiped the water off his face, blinking like a stunned animal.
It looked like he was in shock.
Harry felt a cold stone in his stomach. "Ron!" he snapped, giving him another shake. "Ron did you get hit!?" He felt panicked. Absolutely panicked. He didn't see any blood on him… "Hermione?" he asked desperately, but she had slumped against the building, drained from the exertion of keeping Ron's organs intact against that many would-be bullets.
Harry gave him another shake and began patting him down. "Ron, were you?"
This time Ron blinked at him through the swirling rain, and a peculiar grin crept on his face. "Dunno, if I was, you gonna keep shaking me, mate?"
Harry stared for a second, then choked on a laugh.
Hermione let out a shaken one.
Ron rubbed at his eyes, then patted himself down, straightening his clothes and failing in the wind, grumbling, "Shit…reckon you just got to second base on me, mate."
Harry snorted, but didn't wait any longer; being outside was clearly bad for their health. "Don't let Hermione hear you say that, she can still hex better than either of us." Fisting a grip in Ron's coat he shoved his best mate inside, that seeming to snap Hermione out of it. She followed without prompting, and in moments the three of them were inside the remains of the clinic.
The roar of the storm dropped a few decibels the moment they got inside the walls. Sure, rain followed them like a bad date that still had your floo-address, spraying into the hallway like a fine mist and rolling in to pool on the linoleum, but the wind had died down. Harry mentally downgraded the immediate danger from a rampaging Nundo to Crookshanks-when-Ron-had-stepped-on-the-thing's-tail-for-the-hundreth-time level. The storm had claws, could draw blood, but was unlikely to kill you with a single breath (or in this case, gust).
Harry figured it was an apt enough comparison
"Get away from the entrance," he muttered, stepping over one of the bludgeoned doors. "Shrapnel could still fly in."
Ron grunted agreement and gave an irritated jab at the gaping hole where the doors had once been, an invisible barrier rising like jelly. Harry was familiar with the spell. It wouldn't stop things from coming through, but it'd snare shit and slow it down. Faint gusts of wind could still breach it.
Better than nothing.
One such gust of wind snuck past, flapping Harry's coat, and now that the main danger had passed he took a second to orient himself. They stood in a long, poorly lit hallway. A half-dozen doors could be seen leading off it, some open and some not. A few gurneys and shelving units had been shoved up against the walls, hovering in shadows like ghostly sentinels. Papers rustled across the floor, and the ceiling leaked onto a disturbingly stained floor. An old, fluorescent light buzzed directly overhead, casting a strange yellow light across the otherwise pitch black hall.
Harry squinted. The damn thing just further blinded them, like a flashlight shone directly into your eyes on a night hike.
At least it was just the one. The rest all appeared to be filled with a dirty looking liquid, water sloshing around inside them. Ron noticed too, pointing his wand at one. "That can't be good. Thought eclectock and water didn't mix?"
"Electric," he corrected automatically.
"They probably short circuited from the leaks." Hermione slung her wet hair out of her face, squinting as well. "Must have been a Muggle building originally," she observed. "It's common practice for wizards to repurpose abandoned buildings in poorer areas like this one, rather than to waste time building their own. Less overhead cost, fewer supplies needed. St. Mungo's has a policy on the practice to help in the establishment of satellite clinics in third world areas. Honduras would certainly qualify. I read it last week on break at Mungos. It's Policy 311, On the Subject of Satellite Clinics in Underserved Areas. I'll bring you both a copy when we get back, because it looks like there's already a few violations of it." She paused, frowning. "Unless the leaking is just from the storm..."
Harry threw Ron a mildly amused look. "So, domesticated bliss hasn't driven the encyclopedic-like speech out of her I take it?"
Ron snorted. "I wish." He stepped forward, picking his way across the trash-strewn floor. "Keep hoping the mind-blowing sex will make her less interested in trying to educate my ass, but guess I'm failing there too. Woke up to flash cards the other day. Woman claimed there would be a quiz."
Harry winced and tried not to gag at the image of librarian Hermione threatening Ron with punishment for getting a question wrong.
The fact that such an image had even entered his mind was a testament to the fact that he needed to get laid, severely.
Hermione made an exasperated sound. "And I keep hoping that vanquishing a prejudicial megalomaniac would have improved both your literacy rates. Honestly, how many times did you both lament not knowing a particular spell when we needed it?"
Ron opened his mouth, but Harry shook his head damn quick. "There's no way you're winning this argument, mate."
Ron's mouth snapped shut, Harry choked on a laugh, and neither of them missed the triumphant smile teasing around Hermione's mouth. Harry reckoned they deserved that. Had it not been for her proficiency in warding their tent they probably would have been dead the first week.
"Don't we get any credit for passing the entry Auror exams?"
Hermione held two fingers up, indicating only a smidgeon.
Harry suppressed a snort and decided not to comment on the fact that Ron had barely passed. He hadn't fared much better. It made sense given they'd missed an entire year of the requisite NEWTs. But hell, the two of them were only in the Auror training program at all due to the severe losses suffered in the war and Kingsley having been a 'fifth of Jack' past desperate when he'd made the decision.
That reminded him what they were meant to be doing here in the first place.
Dripping wet he lifted his wand and cast, "Homenum Revelio!"
It happened immediately.
The spell shot out as a gust of air, no light, no spell-stream, but not ten meters in front of them it swooped low, lighting up with a bright green marker.
The area had been cloaked in shadows until then, but now – lit up as it was - Harry could clearly see a shadowy figure sitting on a gurney. One that had clearly been there the whole time, listening to every word they said.
Harry, Ron and Hermione's wands instantly snapped to them.
He was half-way through casting a body bind when the sound of a light laugh stopped him cold.
"You know for Aurors allegedly on a rescue mission," came an amused sounding, incredibly feminine voice, "you are awfully hex happy." The figure shifted, and Harry could now see that it was a willowy figure sitting cross legged. "Tell me, do you always hex victims or is it just a special occasion because I startled you?"
Given that all three of them had spent a year on the fucking run and had been within a hair's breath of hexing this girl, startled was one hell of an understatement. Their little trio had enough healthy paranoia to fuel a small town under post-apocalyptic, zombie-siege.
It went a long way towards their hex-first and ask questions later philosophy. But hey, at least he'd managed to stop himself, because the girl had a point: hexing someone you were trying to save wouldn't have gotten them any points with Kingsley, let alone the Honduran Ministry.
It was still incredibly fucking creepy that she had just sat there, observing them.
Harry recovered first. "You're a witch." It wasn't a question, and his voice came out harder than intended. "You've been there the whole time?"
The silhouette gave a careless shrug. "Well I certainly didn't ooze out of the walls. I'm not made of plasma."
He had yet to lower his wand, his grip remaining tense and sending the muscles in his forearm straining, but he heard Hermione's distinct snort.
Ron just frowned. "Plasma?"
"It's an ionized gas, Ron," Hermione answered immediately. "It typically has an equal number of positively and negatively charged particles so it moves differently." She frowned. "But not through solid walls. I'm afraid your physics is a bit rusty."
Rain continued to pound onto the roof, clanking against the clay shingles in a rhythmic fashion.
"Fair enough," she said, and something about the girl's voice had Harry hesitant to drop his guard. "My school hardly offered it as a subject. I just always assumed that was what ghosts were made of."
Hermione lowered her wand and appeared to be thinking.
Harry did not lower his. Instinct and over-the-top suspicion had kept him alive, and something about someone just sitting there and listening to them bothered him. It bothered him a lot.
Ron, however, had more important things on his mind than suspicions or the four states of matter. "If you were here the whole time then why didn't you open the bloody door for us?" he sounded appalled.
Harry thought that was a very good question.
The willowy silhouette now sounded like she was hiding a smile. "You don't knock, don't ring the doorbell, don't send owl post…it's a big building. Hard to get to the door in time to be a gracious host when my first warning was a sonorous charmed wizard angrily threatening to blow off the hinges. Honestly, I didn't even have time to grab a platter of welcome crisps." The figure patted the gurney softly. "I got to about here before you lot started putting dents in that carefully constructed steel, so figured if I wanted my limbs to remain attached I should keep a healthy distance."
The green marker over the girl's head shifted, casting shimmering shadows across her skin. While her features remained difficult to see, the Kedavra-like glow reflected eerily off the brown hair hanging messily around the girl's face.
But Harry barely noticed her face.
Her shadowed eyes had glanced up, the green glow glinting off an aberrant blue and brown that Harry swore was a trick of the lighting.
Hell of it was, it wasn't going away.
"We didn't really have time for knocking," Ron said, drawing Harry's attention away from the girl's questionable eyes as he defended their breaking and entering technique.
The girl simply tilted her head towards the debris-strewn ground. "Well, aimless destruction or not, bravo on raw power. Really Red, if your casual remarks about sex weren't spot on indicators that the brunette there has already called dibs, I might just have had to buy you a drink."
Water continued to drip from the ceiling, but Harry failed to suppress a chuckle.
Ron, however, made a choking sound.
Hermione, no longer an insecure school girl, saw the humor in this and actually laughed. "He actually wasn't the one who blew down the door."
The girl abruptly uncurled her legs from beneath her, leaning forward with rapt interest. "You? Wow….well you know I don't usually swing that way, but maybe I should give you my Floo address just in case you and the Stammering Scott there don't work out?"
The prospect of lesbian propositioning was apparently too much for Ron, who made a dying sound. Harry, being the good friend he was, walked over and smacked him on the back. Hard.
Harry hadn't dropped his guard, but he did finally lower his wand. "He's English, actually," he told the silhouette. And by the sounds of her accent Harry would bet money that she was as well, but he kept that thought to himself, for now. "If you're keen to sway Hermione, you might be waiting awhile. They just moved in together. They're still in that sickening lovebird stage where they think each other's bad habits are cute."
Hermione sent him a withering look. "Leaving dirty socks on the bathroom floor is hardly endearing." Something wicked flashed in her eyes, and she turned to offer the figure a full on grin. "And sweet as that offer is, it wasn't me either. Though it was him, and he is single."
And just like that Hermione tilted her head towards him, bringing him back into the conversation.
He seriously considered hexing her. Their attempts to get him laid since Ginny – or rather Ron's attempts – had apparently progressed from shameless to throwing him at complete strangers in dimly lit corridors during massive weather events. Really, this was a new fucking low.
It went a long way towards explaining the growl he sent her way. "How about we drop it-"
"Do we have to?" the girl asked lightly.
"-and get on with it?" His spell had long since come back to him, the only sign of life in the building the antagonist right in front of him. "Is it just you in here? Any house elves, or anything like that?" Homenum Revelio only went so far, and it didn't detect other species. The last thing he wanted was to leave a house elf in here alone and scared, abandoned by its humans, while the world went to hell around it.
Just the thought caused a painful internal cringe as he thought of Dobby.
The witch had apparently caught on to the change of mood and shook her head, all teasing dropped from her voice. "No, it's just me. I spelled the door shut and locked it so no one else could get in without me knowing about it." She dropped her legs off the side of the gurney and hopped down onto the floor, stepping out into the flickering fluorescent light. "You can see how well that worked." She sounded amused.
Harry wasn't. He found himself staring at a witch that was nearly his height, one with tangled dark brown hair hanging around her shoulders. Judging from the state of it, it was pretty clear she'd been outside in the storm, but unlike Hermione she hadn't had the sense to tie it back, and her features…
Harry's brow furrowed. In the shadows he hadn't been able to fully see her, but now…now he could.
Later, much later, when he finally sat down on his couch and allowed himself to think about it, when he would finally try to make sense of it and everything else that was about to transpire that day, he'd liken standing before her to a dream that he couldn't quite remember upon waking, no matter how hard he tried.
The blood pulsing through him quickened, something uneasy stirring within his stomach. She was familiar, yet unfamiliar, and he had no idea why.
That's what struck him as the yellow-tinged fluorescent light finally threw her into view, lending her and her plain features an unpleasant, jaundiced-like look as she stood not a meter in front of him.
She wasn't stunning or jaw-dropping. Hell, her features themselves were not even memorable. If he were honest about it they were decidedly unremarkable, the girl annoyingly plain.
Yet Harry stared. It wasn't the unplaced familiarity, or the mundaneness of her features. It wasn't even the strange lighting giving her an alien cast.
It was her eyes.
Beneath a fringe of deep brown hair lay a set of bright blue eyes, the irises framed with a dark, nearly black circle. The contrast was striking.
But even that startling contrast wasn't why he was staring.
Harry stared at her eyes because something was wrong with them. A deep brown was bleeding into the blue of each iris. It was as if a third of each iris had been taken over by the brown, like the universe had taken two pairs of eyes – one blue and one deep brown – and smashed them together to create the uneven mix reflecting within hers. The blending colors were asymmetrical, not matching, and as Harry stood there he realized that even the bright blues didn't perfectly match; her left eye was a bright, pale blue, while the right was almost imperceptibly off, more aqua. It was barely noticeable, but there.
Two colors had blended to form each of her eyes, and the hell of it was he couldn't look away.
Harry stood there and quite literally stared.
She tilted her head, arching an eyebrow curiously. "You were saying something about leaving?"
Harry managed to snap himself out of it in time to hear Ron snorting, "Can't exactly hang the hell out here all day, can we? Not until we find everyone who was supposed to be here." His friend had clearly not noticed the witch's eyes, or had chosen not to mention it.
Harry let out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding.
Hermione nodded, unearthing a magically charmed walkie-talkie and hitting the button. She rapidly began speaking into it, reporting back to the Ministry that they'd found one person in an otherwise empty station, the static crinkling of the station shockingly loud in the hallway.
The witch glanced towards Hermione, and Harry was grateful as hell. That got those bizarre eyes of hers to turn away and look at something else long enough for him to remember that he was an eighteen year old man, an Auror, a fucking war veteran, and that it took more to shock him into inaction than a nice set of eyes.
Or at least he hoped it did, otherwise he was going to get eaten alive by the general dating market whenever he dove back in. Or Kingsley when he found out how easily distracted he was. Either or, whichever came first.
Either way Harry remembered his Auror training and rule number one about assessing potential threats, so he gave the witch a quick once-over while she was distracted, assessing what type of threat she might be.
Too bad he honestly couldn't tell. The witch was wearing a literal black leather jacket and dark stained jeans – no wonder they hadn't seen her in the shadows.
While Hermione and Ron finished talking to the Hondurans with the commandeered and magicked Muggle technology - Mr. Weasley would have been drooling - Harry lifted a hand and waved it in front of the witch's face to draw her attention back. "Was anyone else with you? There were supposed to be a bunch of people in this clinic. Where'd they go?"
Her head snapped back to him, and one side of her mouth crooked up, her multi-colored eyes flitting between him and Hermione. "I sent them away. There's not a lot of time left and I didn't want to risk anything happening to them. Which is probably why all of you should be going." She tilted her head towards the blown off doorway rather pointedly.
Not a lot of time left…
He felt a cold prickling against his skin. "What do you mean," he ground out, "not a lot of time left?"
His voice had changed, and both Hermione and Ron reacted instantly. Hermione stopped relaying her message to the Honduran Ministry, the crackling of the walkie-talkie dying abruptly, and Harry could practically feel the tension radiating off of Ron.
The witch merely studied him. "It's a storm," she said calmly. "It's dangerous."
"It's dangerous everywhere," he countered.
He watched her wet her lips, as if thinking over her next statement very carefully. "This clinic is located in a particularly dangerous spot," she replied finally. "So I sent them away. They agreed, so they're safe. Unlike you three."
Harry didn't move, his brows knitting into a deep line over his eyes. "Sent them where?" he doggedly asked.
"To the Muggle clinic," she said, tone schooled into something he couldn't quite read.
The pace of water dripping from the ceiling picked up.
Hermione made an upset sound. "Please tell me you're joking."
Harry couldn't blame her. If this was a wizarding clinic that meant wizarding ailments, and mixing those with the general Muggle population opened up the door to all kinds of trouble.
The witch ignored their unease and shook her head. "No, I'm not. There's a Muggle clinic not too far from here, on the other side of the anti-Muggle barriers. They evacuated there." She paused, as if debating her next words. "I know it's practically taboo, mixing wizards with the anti-mags, but I'm sure the Statues of Secrecies will grant a concession given the circumstance. You three should follow suit. You could start the damage control early." Once more she nodded encouragingly towards the doorway, but her eyes lingered on him, and something about the way she did it, the way she had spoken, sent the hairs on the back of Harry's neck standing straight up.
His eyes hardened and he studied her shamelessly back.
Ron didn't bother with the subtle nuances of nonverbal language. He just spoke from his gut, like always. "You sent them out?" he blurted, incredulous and hooking a thumb over his shoulder. "You been outside recently? It's the bleeding apocalypse. Why in the bloody hell would you send sick people out there?"
Harry's mouth drew into a thin, firm line. He said nothing; he just quirked his own dark eyebrow at her in a pointed, silent question.
She was impervious to it. "Like I said, it's not safe here. But if you head out now and cut across the field South you'll hit it in about a kilometer." She spoke softly, determinedly. "It's behind a small hill that ought to protect it from most of the wind. The building has a big red cross on the outside of all four walls. You can't miss it."
"Yeah," said Ron slowly, in the sort of voice ordinarily reserved for mental patients, "because we should go out in a storm when a patronus charm will do."
The witch blinked, clearly surprised. Harry had a sneaking suspicion as to why: Ron was talking about one of the hardest spells in all of wizardry with the casual ease of a war veteran. He imagined that would shock some people into stunned silence.
It lasted only a moment. She adjusted the bag on her shoulder, telling, "Look, do what you want, but just don't stay here, alright? I'm sure the Muggle clinic could use your help."
Hermione reached out and grabbed Ron's sleeve. "Ron, we need to communicate with the people at that clinic. I don't…
And Harry didn't hear the rest.
She'd switched between the use of no-mags and Muggles.
She had a British accent, but the way she spoke…it reminded him of someone; he just couldn't put his finger on who.
Something about her was familiar.
Kingsley had patiently spent the past five months drilling what he called Auror 'instinct' into them. Right now those instincts were alive and well.
Behind him the hall lit up, glowing in dim blue light as a Jack Russell terrier and otter circled their casters. Ron and Hermione's voices spoke quickly and quietly, their patronus charms absorbing their messages and bolting out into the storm, presumably in search of the Muggle clinic full of wizards.
Hermione watched them go, worrying on her lower lip. "I hope no one sees them that shouldn't," she said.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Ron shook his head, his red hair strung out like a mop. He'd grown it a bit and looked uncannily like a younger version of Bill. "Well if they do we'll just obliviate them. It'll work out."
Despite their conversation Harry didn't move. He stayed right where he was, fixing the witch with the screwed up eyes with a look that promised infinite patience. He'd seen Kingsley use it in interrogations; it promised the prisoner that he had all the time in the world to sit and wait for them to tell him everything, so they might as well spare themselves some pain and just spill it all now.
And just like Kingsley had promised it worked.
The casual, relaxed demeanor of the witch vanished. "You really," she said, emphasizing the word, "need to go. Now."
"And why's that? I mean," he gestured with a hand at the hall, "you're here. Seems like a nice place to be so…"
And he waited, pointedly.
Her eyes grew about thirty degrees cooler. "Because, I have it on good authority that there's a slow-moving mudflow on its way here, and this place isn't going to be standing much longer." Overhead the light buzzed. "Unless of course you've somehow figured out a way to breathe underwater and dirt?" She arched a carefully sculpted eyebrow of her own, as if in challenge.
It took Harry a second to process that, the storm raging outside, the building actually giving a disturbing rattle from one of the gusts. "Depends," he finally settled on, "got any gillyweed on you? And if so does it work under mud or just water? Because really, if we don't know sounds like a great time for an experiment, doesn't it?"
The brunette stared at him, her lips opening and closing as if flabbergasted, before a laugh escaped. "You can't possibly be serious."
"Try me." He smiled grimly. "You sent everyone else away, so why exactly are you still here if that's really about to happen?" His eyes narrowed. "Because let me tell you, I can think of a few unsavory reasons someone might have stayed behind."
She let out a breath and almost growled. Then she spun on her heel, storming back to the gurney, where she promptly snatched up a satchel and waved it in his face. "Salvaging supplies. There's going to be a lot of people hurt by this thing and were going to need all the supplies we can get. It'd be a shame if they went to waste."
"Salvaging," Ron repeated with a frown. "You mean stealing."
She shot him an icy glare. "In a quarter of an hour this entire place will be under a wall of mud. It's not stealing. It's preventing it from going to waste."
Hermione, who had been observing the exchange quietly until then, shook her head. "That doesn't make sense. The city planner showed me the schematics of the area. The topography wouldn't direct a mudflow this way. We looked. He wouldn't have let us come out here if that or flash floods were a concern." She frowned. "Not to mention if one had already started, it would be here by now. How could you know-"
The witch shouldered the satchel and cut her off. "Topography can change."
Hermione blinked. "Not that quickly."
The ceiling drip changed to a trickle.
The girl tilted her head to the side, as if sizing Hermione up. "Those schematics…did you happen to look at the survey date on it?"
Overhead the lights flickered, and to Harry's surprise Hermione actually frowned. "Well no, but they wouldn't be using something outda-"
Once more the girl cut her off. "It's third world down here. Hurricanes and flooding hit this area every year, and the Hondurans don't exactly have the funding for frequent, extensive surveys. I'm sure they showed you the best they had, but I highly doubt what you looked at was even remotely current."
To Harry's surprise Hermione appeared to be considering it.
Ron, however, wasn't. "So you're just assuming they're incompetent, is that it?"
The brunette shoved hair out of her face, looking frustrated. "No. But you do realize there's this big bad world full of people out there, right? People that need help?Isn't that what you're supposed to be doing instead of arguing about whether or not the schematics you looked at are current?"
"If that's so then why aren't you helping too?" Harry asked edgily. Something was off. Something was definitely off.
"Valid question," Ron agreed.
Hermione remained silent, looking troubled.
The nameless witch's eyes flickered between all three of them. "Yes, you lot are definitely Aurors. Only Aurors would waste time asking inconsequential questions when there was an immediate threat of death."
Hermione's mouth opened as if offended. "I'm not an Auror. I'm just filling in."
Both Harry and Ron's heads swiveled to look at her, Hermione shooting them a scathing look. "Oh honestly, you know what I mean."
The nameless witch's lips twitched. "But I don't. By all means, continue."
Hermione shot her a skeptical look, but answered anyway. "I'm hoping to be a Healer, if you must know. I of course have to wait for Hogwarts to reopen to take my NEWTs, but the Auror thing is only temporary until construction is finished and Hogwarts re-opens in the Spring."
"Hermione," Harry muttered out of the side of his mouth, "now's not really the time."
His best friend's mouth formed an 'O' of understanding, and before anything else could be said the ceiling came caving in.
It started with a sharp crack directly overhead, and Harry's head shot up. That constant drip, drip, dripping, the water having slowly filled the non-working fluorescent lights, had increased to a steady stream of water and during the course of conversation no one had noticed.
That went a long way to explain why none of them had noticed the ceiling begin to bow in.
They sure as hell noticed when it finally buckled.
Harry grabbed the strange-eyed girl and all but tackled her to the ground. They slammed into the linoleum as the drywall ceiling caved in, smashing into the spot where they'd just been standing. Dust never had a chance to scatter, because a rushing torrent of water came with it.
As did a bunch of viciously hard and deadly projectiles.
Later on he'd find out they were shingles from the flat topped roof, but right then he didn't have time to think about them as anything other than 'more sharp things trying to kill him.'
The water blasted in. It was like someone draining a swimming pool right on top of them, and the gush of water slammed into Harry and the witch before he even had a chance to shout warning at Hermione and Ron. It tore his feet out from under him. They didn't stand a chance.
Needless to say the water picked them up and threw them down the hall. He shouted and grabbed at the witch, only for something hard and sharp to slam into his arm, and from the blazing pain that shot through his nerves clear down to his fingertips he knew it was broke. He instantly lost his grip on her, Harry choking on water as the world flipped him end-over-end, another hard shingle slamming into his back and eliciting a loud bellow that surely wasn't coming from him.
But it was, because getting hit in the back by a clay shingle was the equivalent of being beaten with a rock, and that really fucking hurt.
With a horrifying screech shelving units and gurneys were upended, thrown with them, Harry bashing into more than one on the way down.
He heard a scream from the side and he blindly reached out through the foaming water, instinctively grabbing at the nameless witch, feeling her hand grabbing back. Unfortunately she grabbed at his broken arm and he shouted, inhaling water for his troubles, and then a box filled with something – papers? – bashed into them, tearing away their hands.
He'd have shouted her name if he only knew what the hell it was.
The box smashed into his face.
The tumultuous transport ended when he slammed into the wall at the end of the corridor, the impact alone driving the wind from him. A half dozen bricks bashed into the drywall around his head, like small missiles, right before a gurney slammed a meter off to his right.
A half dozen alarms went off in his head, reminding him that every metal piece of furnishing was about to come barreling down on top of them, and he was really fucking certain they wouldn't survive that.
Reflex shot his hand up, Harry choking on thin air and dirty muck, the water forcing its way up his nose and into his mouth as he raggedly croaked, "Protego!" The blue light flashed through mud and water and debris, just in time for several hundred pounds of shelving and gurneys to slam into it. The impact ricocheted through his magic and straight up his forearm, smashing him back against the wall with even more painful force, like the insignificant human he was. Shielding charms might be magic but the caster always paid a price, and just when he thought he'd die the water pressure let up.
With a final whoosh the rush of abusive water pouring in stopped; the gurneys, shelfing units and pieces of roof all fell to the ground with an ear shattering slam, collapsing in a sadistic, jenga-like pile stacked to the roof.
The primo rooftop swimming pool had drained to leave the entire hall drenched in several centimeters of water. The rest of the fluid had spread out, seeping beneath doorways into the adjoining rooms. A good thing too, otherwise they might have all drowned.
He slumped there and coughed, groaning. His head spun, and it occurred to him that he must have hit it against the wall when the bastard edifice saw fit to bring his free water ride to an unceremonious halt. Blood trickled down his face from several places, Harry tasting it on a split lip. Every muscle and joint and bone throbbed, and a strange pressure pressed down on his legs.
He managed to pry his eyes open with considerable effort, his hair slung into them. Sprawled over his legs lay the witch, splayed out like a dying fish out of water, and she too was coughing and choking. His vision didn't seem to be working right, everything blurred, but he could see enough to tell that every inch of the witch's clothing was stuck wetly to her, leaving nothing to the imagination, and in his recently concussed state Harry kicked himself for even fucking noticing that.
His head throbbed three times in a row, his gaze dotted black. Then again, maybe those weren't spots. Maybe he was just seeing shadows. It was dark. Their only pathetic light was the dim, jaundice-like fluorescence being cast clear from the opposite end of the hall, which was now blocked by a towering pile of unstable furniture. Tiny shafts trickled in through twisted metal, but they were mostly in the dark.
The girl on his legs moved.
With a groan he did too. His arm screamed, but he managed to fumble for his wand, a stab of relief shooting through his core when he found it. He hadn't lost it. Casting a quick lumos, he assessed the actual damage.
The first thing he noticed was his left arm. It was shaped…well he didn't know what shape to call it, but he knew it wasn't one found in nature. With a groan, the blinding pain still making him see spots, he shot a look towards the witch to make sure she hadn't drowned when she'd rolled off him. She hadn't. In fact, she'd rolled over, affording him one hell of a view of her torn and unzipped jacket. In the tumult it'd somehow wound up tugged halfway down her front, the black leather falling open to reveal a torn up blue shirt and a soaked white slip of fabric that the more intelligent part of his mind identified as a bra around seriously nicely shaped mounds.
And in that second Harry realized that her face might be plain, but shit she was nicely shaped.
Nothing like a bit of heart break, a vacation from hell, excruciating pain, a beating from mother nature herself, and a long bout of celibacy to inspire his male mind to all new lewd heights at the most inappropriate times.
On the upside, at least Ginny hadn't broken his libido when she'd left. He was happy to report that it still was in fine working order. In fact, he might need a damn sedative given it clearly didn't understand things like 'timing'. Shit, his old dormmates would be proud.
His inner-Hermione that seven years of verbal tongue lashings had implanted inside his head gave him a good, swift kick in the nads to refocus his attention.
He shoved himself gingerly off the wall and absolutely did not make any un-masculine, screaming like sounds as his broken arm shifted. No. He simply grunted, "You alright?" at the witch and her cleavage, which most definitely hadn't been showing before water had forcefully shoved its way down her jacket. He would have noticed.
The witch lay flat on her back, chest heaving up and down as she caught her breath, but she managed a weak thumb's up.
He sucked in a breath, contemplated moving, then decided against it in favor of collapsing back against the wall and clutching his arm. "Fuck."
At that her eyes cracked – those spectacular fucking bizarre eyes - and in his dim wand light he saw them spin with confusion, then widen in alarm. "You're hurt…" It sounded like she had tried to exclaim it, but it came out quiet and raspy.
He snorted with the derision of a man well accustomed to the universe taking a piss on him. "Well spotted," he croaked. "What gave it away? My new S shaped forearm or the giddy expression on my face?"
The girl sloshed in the water, somehow getting to her knees, but Harry missed how she executed that feat. A pity. He could have used a tip or five on how to regain use of his muscles. What he didn't miss was how she suddenly had her wand out and pointed directly at him.
Before he'd even registered what he was doing he'd dropped his own wand, the light extinguishing as it fell in the water, his hand shooting out lightning fast. He had her forearm snared in an iron grip before either of them could so much as blink, and in a single, violent move Harry'd twisted it so her wand was aimed anywhere but at him. His fingers tightened ruthlessly into the underside of her wrist, his gaze darkening to damn near black.
She whimpered, and he heard it. Through gritted teeth he haltingly ground, "What…the fuck…are you doing?"
Pain billowed up in his injured arm, it so bad he could physically hear his pulse in his ears, but adrenaline kept him awake.
She stared at him for a second, as if not believing what she was seeing.
Then she hissed like the angry and recently drowned cat she resembled, annoyance flashing in her eyes. Later on, down the line, he'd give her a lot of credit for what she did next.
She called him an asshole.
Then she opened her mouth, her annoyed gaze dead steady. "I'm a Healer," she said slowly, as if speaking to a particularly dense child, "and you're not going to get anywhere safely like that." She put emphasis on that final syllable.
Despite the bone deep pain throbbing through him, he managed a cringe, eyes narrowing at her skeptically. She didn't look any older than him. At least her face certainly didn't, his mouth speaking before his brain could catch up. "Ah, right," he grunted. "You forgot your Healer sign." He paused as his nerves reminded him of their presence, groaning, "How good are you, exactly?"
He completely and utterly failed to keep the skepticism out of his voice, which got him called an asshole again.
"Given I'm the only one you've got," she asked shortly, arching a skeptical eyebrow, "does that really matter?"
Despite the situation he snorted. "Fair enough," he replied. Still he didn't let go of her wrist, her water-slickened skin strangely warm and soft beneath his fingers, her pulse steadily beating beneath. Harry wasn't the best at putting trust in people, particularly ones he'd just met, and like hell would he let them aim wands at him under ordinary circumstances. Then again these were hardly ordinary, and he felt his stomach twist as he tried to decide what the hell to do when his head and arm and dick were all pounding, all demanding equal amounts of attention as he and this girl and her barely covered breasts stared at each another in a silent battle of wills.
One she won, for obvious reasons.
Fuck this girl seriously needed to pull her shirt up.
Harry closed his eyes and released her wrist, solving at least one of his problems. "Alright," he grunted, acceding. Reaching down into the cold water he fumbled for his wand, muttering, "You take off my arm though, I'm reserving the right to hex yours. Just saying."
And despite that her lips actually twitched into a mirthless smile.
It took her two or three minutes, the witch's face contorted with deadly seriousness – Harry strongly suspected she wasn't quite comfortable with what she was doing - but eventually his arm had been snapped back into place and in her words, 'lightly mended, but don't try to punch in any doors'. And hell, she was even polite enough to pretend he hadn't screamed.
Once the pain died down he registered the loud sound of rain slamming down and the seriously loud roar of the wind. The new skylight in the clinic ceiling was letting all of ole Mitch's furious sounds in on surround sound. Ron and Hermione's shouts had almost been lost in the noise, and Harry peered blearily past the Healer-witch towards the sound, another hasty lumos revealing the problem.
A substantial, towering pile of debris had blockaded the corridor not three meters in front of them. Crumpled and destroyed gurneys, caved in shelving, and an assortment of tiles lay twisted together like Grawp's version of Jenga.
And in between the small cracks in the twisted metal, he could see that the ceiling on the opposing side had caved in.
Thank fucking Merlin for shield charms. Had he not cast his when he had they'd have been crushed to death.
At least Ron and Hermione sounded okay, if their arguing was anything to go by. He breathed a sigh of relief, feeling a weight leave his chest as he slumped back on the wall. "Great," he muttered. "Just great…"
Abruptly the voluminous noise from the storm dropped in volume, as if someone had taken a dial on a Muggle stereo and turned it down. He'd bet money Hermione or Ron had cast a shielding charm on the skylight.
The witch and her substantial cleavage didn't notice. They both looked at him, her full lips drawing into a thin, firm line. "I wasn't kidding about time being an issue," she said plainly. "The mud flow will get here eventually, and when it does it's going to block our exit routes. If we don't get out we're going to get crushed at worst, and suffocated at best. Besides, it's not exactly," her eyes flickered towards the bowed in ceiling directly above them, "sturdy."
He snorted. "Even better," he muttered. He had questions. Oh, he had lots of questions for her, like how she knew a mud flow was mysteriously defying Hermione and the city planner's meticulously plotted out path, or why she had really still been in the clinic, or how she'd known to send the patients and staff away in the first place.
But right now wasn't the time.
And then, because despite the alleged time crunch it was the right thing to do, he cracked an eye at her and this time made sure to keep his eyes determinedly on her face. "How about you? You okay?"
Harry couldn't be sure, but something in her guarded expression changed. "You want to know if I'm okay?"
"I asked, didn't I?"
The dripping around them was shockingly loud.
The witch blinked, that strange expression lingering a moment too long, and in that extra second he placed it. As someone who had grown up without anything resembling affection, he should have recognized it immediately.
She was surprised he'd bothered to ask.
He couldn't decide if he should be offended by that or not.
He quirked an eyebrow at her, pointedly waiting.
The girl hastily brushed her wet hair back behind her ears. "Yes," she said, injecting enough casualness into the syllable that Harry wondered if it helped her almost believe it. "Yes, I'm fine. You know, if we discount the utter beating we just took and chalk it up to a bad massage from a poorly skilled masseuse." She paused, nose wrinkling in thought. "Swore they said the huts here had those."
"Take it you were here on vacation?" he remarked dryly.
Again, that peculiar look. "I suppose," she stated carefully, "you could call it that."
"Yeah, well," he ground, "me too. Though me getting drug here was more or less unwilling…"
Her lips parted in a knowing, "Ah. So what was it? Work, booze or girls?"
"A girl," he emphasized the singular portion of that, rather irritatedly.
It looked like she wanted to ask him to elaborate, but she didn't, and he didn't give her the chance. Talking about Ginny was at the absolute bottom of his to do list. So he shoved himself up, or rather tried. His arm was still curiously numb so it didn't go as planned, Harry's hand slipping and sending his torso bashing against the wall.
If only his Auror mates could see him now. Harry-fucking-Potter, wizarding savior and all around stumbler.
The witch fixed him with one of those irritated looks only females could master, and grabbed at his good arm, giving him a pointed tug.
It got him to his feet, but that only resulted in them both stumbling into one another in the sole-deep water and splashing it into their already water-logged shoes. Judging from the look on her face she wasn't much more pleased with that then he was, but they managed to stagger towards the towering pile of hospital crap now blocking the hallway. Harry felt oddly steady now that he was upright, a testament to the multiple beatings he'd taken during Dudley's 'Harry hunting' days and Voldemort's 'Boy-Who-Lived' chasing ones.
The girl with him, however, didn't.
He let her lean on him and shot her a skeptical look.
This time she at least had the good grace to wince. "My ankle seems to be twisted," she admitted.
Harry just nodded, and without a word slung his arm around her waist, using his good arm to hold her steady while he assessed their current situation. Her weight pressed subtly against him as she bent one knee, taking her weight off it. She had her wand out, aiming it down at her foot with a concerted expression, gnawing on her lower lip as if she couldn't quite remember something important.
He strongly suspected that it was the spell for fixing sprained ankles.
"Harry, you alright mate?" Ron shouted, voice overly loud for someone who couldn't be more than two meters away. Harry winced, seeing his friend's blue eye peering through a hole in the debris. His freckled face looked decidedly wet.
Harry nodded, even though he doubted they would see. "Yeah," he assured. "Turns out our no-named witch here's a Healer. Fixed me up. How about you lot?" Blue-brown eyes shot up to him, her lips parting in an out-of-place, almost startled look. Harry simply widened his eyes and mouthed, 'Well what is it?' at her.
For a moment she simply stared at him, the witch quickly lowering her face to hide a slight smile.
Despite himself, despite their situation, Harry smirked, lowering his head alongside her ear to mutter, "Fine. Brat it is then."
Before she had a chance to call him an asshole again Hermione's voice cut through the hulking and twisted scrap metal. "Harry, what exactly do you mean by fixed up?" She sounded rather shrill.
"We're alright, Harry," Ron cut his girlfriend off hastily, before she could start worrying. "Roof caved mostly in, but Hermione's got some kind of shielding charm on it so the wind and rain aren't getting through so much now. Bit of protection and all."
Ah, well that explained why the noise had died down.
"We can't move this contraption though," Ron continued. "We could try with magic, but Hermione reckons it's holding the rest of the roof up and if we move it…" a loud clapping sound indicated Ron smacking his hands together, promising imminent doom for all parties.
The witch besides him closed her eyes. "Let me guess," she muttered, "it'll come crashing down on our side and squash us flat."
"About sums it up," Ron replied.
The four fell silent for about ten seconds, and then-
A pale purple light spilled out of the witch's wand, encircling her ankle, and Harry felt her fingers tighten against his forearm as the spell did whatever it was going to do. She took a second to simply breathe, casting another one that sent bandages wrapping around it quickly.
Then she stood there, leaning heavily on him, breathing hard and deep, as if the magic had taken something vital out of her.
That was actually mildly concerning.
Harry nudged her to get her attention, doing what he always did when shit was dour: downplayed it. He tilted his head at his own recently healed arm and the bandages she'd wrapped around it. "We match."
He was undeterred. "What? Thought witches liked that sort of thing."
From the other side of the barrier came an awed sort of voice. "Hermione," Ron hissed, "I think he's hitting on her."
Both Harry and the witch's heads turned slowly, staring at the pile of debris. She looked aghast, while Harry flat out glared.
His best mate's blue eye blinked through a tiny hole at him, and Harry seriously considered poking it with something.
Ron let out a mock sort of whistle.
The witch's lips parted, a slight sputter emitting. Harry couldn't blame her. He was going to pummel Ron when they got out of here.
And then, as if the universe was in favor of sparing Ron Weasley's life, a tiny piece of drywall flaked down from the ceiling, falling right in front of their noses to land softly in the now ankle-deep water.
It occurred to Harry only then that the water was getting deeper.
"We need to go."
She reacted before he did, speaking at the pile of debris separating them from his two best friends. "Can you both reach the entrance?" she called earnestly. "The water's getting deeper!"
"Ron…" Hermione said.
Harry shook his head. "Can you two reach the entrance? If so get the hell out."
"We're not leaving you!" Hermione snapped.
He almost smiled at her concern. He handled dragons and she was afraid a hurricane would do him in. "Don't worry Hermione, this witch knows the layout. We'll get out another way." He paused, glancing at the witch at his side. "You do know the layout?"
Her lips twitched, as if amused. "We'll have to go out one of the back windows, but yes." She glanced over her shoulder, adding, "The back exit is a bit…compromised."
Something about the way she said that made Harry strongly suspect she'd had something to do with it. "Oh? Is it now?"
She shot him an exasperated look.
"Just curious how it got to be that way."
The girl closed her eyes, taking a deep breath. "Okay, Mr. Auror-man," she said, oddly not making it sound insulting. "This is a sturdy looking building that people are going to be attracted to for shelter, but I knowit's going to be levelled, so…what would you have done?" She fixed him with a challenging look. "I couldn't exactly risk anyone sneaking in the back, now could I?"
Harry considered this. "Fair enough."
Still, he couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't right here, and it didn't take his year on the run or training as an Auror to know that.
His jaw set in a taut line as his gaze flickered across hers. She held it determinedly. Everything about this girl set him on edge. The way she'd just shown up, relaxed on a gurney, casual as Crookshanks in front of the common room hearth. The way she'd bantered back and forth with Ron and Hermione, as if toying with them for her own amusement. The way she'd claimed to be a Healer, yet looked no older than him. The way her hands had shaken, nervous as she'd fixed his broken arm. The way she hadn't been able to remember a simple spell for a sprained ankle immediately. The way she'd seemed surprised that someone had helped her.
But most of all it was the way she now stood there, soaking wet, her clothing torn and disheveled, dark hair hanging in a messy fringe around her face. That face was plain: beyond fucking plain. It was the kind of face you'd pass in a crowd and not have a prayer of remembering. She was so plain, so physically boring to look at it was actually painful. Yet her eyes...
Brown bled into blue, the blue startlingly bright.
Right now those weird eyes held his, dark lashes narrowing slightly, water dripping from her equally dark eyebrows as she waited, impatiently.
Harry's mind racked the facts he had at hand: she'd been certain that the clinic would soon be buried under mud, even claimed they'd evacuated preemptively; she'd ignored Hermione's assurance that the city planner claimed the clinic to be in a safe zone; and she'd made that flippant, too casual comment that topography could change, as if the lay of the land could suddenly just shift without rhyme or reason, as if the ground could just up and move.
Harry might not be an expert on storms, but he was pretty certain that landslides, mudflows, and flash floods didn't exactly give you a ton of advance notice before they hit.
There was no way she could know that. Yet something about the way she was looking at him, about the look in her eyes, told him she was deadly serious.
Something crawled straight through his blood. She'd done something, but he didn't know what.
Now though wasn't the time.
Hermione spoke up and he yanked his gaze away from hers. His best friend was protesting the wisdom of splitting up, and taking a deep breath he cut her off. "It's reasonable, Hermione. You two go, get out of here and we'll meet you outside. If we for some reason get separated we'll meet you at that Muggle clinic. Alright? Worst case scenario we'll coordinate by patronus charms."
He could practically feel Hermione tensing, it bringing a wry smirk to his face.
He snorted. "I'm always careful."
"Like hell you-"
Her outburst was truncated by Ron deciding he'd had enough. Harry heard a grunt, a minor scuffle, followed by a Hermione-like squeak. "RON! Put me down!"
Judging from the sounds of someone being drug, Ron had ignored her. His best mate did manage to shout out an apology for his girlfriend, barking out, "See you soon, mate!" in parting.
Then, through the barrier, Harry distinctly heard Ron growling at Hermione 'to stop worrying so much, because if he could face down a psychopathic Muggle-murdering nutter alone then he could surely handle some wind. Besides, it wasn't Harry's fault he attracted so much trouble. The poor bastard was probably just born under a bad sign, or something. Hell, did she reckon that'd explain Neville?'
Harry stared at the barrier as if that would allow him to see their retreating backs and scowled. "You let someone Avada your ass just once…" he muttered darkly, ignoring the startled look the nameless witch shot him.
And that was how he found himself standing in now calf-deep sludge, water dripping from the ceiling, his arm looped around the waist of someone he didn't know, wasn't at ease with, while his two best friends in the world walked out into a hurricane without him.
They were walking into danger without him.
He let that sink in. With the exception of the Battle of Hogwarts, when they'd all been rushing to find Ravenclaw's diadem and when he'd gone on his suicide mission, they had never split up when in danger. Never intentionally, but they had now.
They'd just walked out into that storm alone, based on the word of a witch whose name they didn't even know.
His pulse quickened. Without thinking he drug his free hand over his head, fisting his fingers in the roots.
He had to compartmentalize or he was going to start making mistakes.
He took a deep breath, and did exactly that. First problem: they had to get out of here. He glanced down at the witch by his side. "Can you weight that?" He nodded down. "Your ankle. Because if you can't were not getting very far." What he'd give for his broom right then. Hurricane or not, he'd bet he could still fly it.
"Yes." She lifted it, then put it down in the water, as if testing it. "Yes, I'll be fine."
"Good." It came out harsher than intended, and when her eyes darted up she seemed to flinch.
Harry took another deep breath, the witch wordlessly sensing his mood and extricating herself from his hold. She paused for only a second, giving his arm a quick squeeze, uttering a quiet, "Thank you, for not letting me fall while I fixed it."
He didn't have a response for that, so he didn't give her one. "Let's find a window," he said instead, "and while we do that maybe you can explain how you're so certain this imminent 'threat' is about to happen. Because if I just sent my two best friends back out into that unnecessarily-"
"Would you believe," she had sloshed gingerly to the nearest doorway, shoving at it, "that I scouted the area before Mitch made landfall?"
His derisive snort answered that.
The door still hadn't budged, so he stepped forward, flicking his wand at it and unlocking it. The click and the look on her face – that look of 'shit why didn't I think of that?' – was more satisfying than he cared to admit. So he didn't, he just arched an eyebrow. "What did you mean by Mitch?"
He frowned. "You named it?"
She cast an odd look over her shoulder. "Muggles always name storm systems. Didn't you know?"
He hadn't, but he kept his mouth shut on that as he shoved the door open with his foot, gesturing for her to go first. Mainly because he had no desire to turn his back to her.
The room they had entered was full of clinic beds and curtain partitions, the water having seeped into here too from the ceiling. The dripping water had left long, dark stains down the fabric in straight lines, and the wet streaks looked almost like blood. Clearly particles of rust had mixed with the rainwater, leaking in from the roof.
On the opposite side of the room were two windows, plenty large enough for two people to squeeze out of.
The witch tried to step towards them, and Harry reached out and grabbed her by the back of her jacket, his fingers sinking into the leathery fabric. "Wait," he ordered, dark gaze jerking across the long row of glass. Easily breakable glass, that could be turned into hundreds of deadly, tiny shards.
The witch went instantly still, and his gaze darted across the glass paneling as he tried to strategize how to go about this. They might be in a hurry, allegedly, but one thing Kingsley had drilled into his head was to never rush at anything. Hurrying made you reckless, and reckless Aurors wound up buried six feet under or lit up on a funeral pyre.
Besides, Harry'd had seven years of rushing into situations with more guts than brains, and while Voldemort might be gone, there was still a long list of deaths that he, Harry-fucking-Potter, was responsible for to go with it.
So he waited a second and studied the windows. They were all closed, but the panes would tilt out to open. Problem was the wind on this side of the building was coming straight at them. There would be no way they'd force the panes open against that, and even if they did he sure as hell wasn't going to put his vital organs between a two hundred plus kilometer an hour wind and something sharp. He briefly considered going back out into the hall to try a room on the opposite side of the building – it'd eliminate the wind issue – but then realized that there were no doors on that side of the hall, not ones they could still get to, anyway.
So they were stuck here.
Harry's fingers flexed in thought, tightening in the dark leather covering the no-name witch, and he swore he felt her subtly shift until his knuckles dug deeper against her spine. He didn't comment upon it, and neither did she.
"I think we're going to have to break them," he said tensely.
She nodded sharply, but otherwise remained silent.
He still hadn't let go of her, his breathing and hers sounding oddly loud in the otherwise quiet room, once you got past the Category Five raging outside.
"What are you better at?" he finally asked. "Shielding and vanishing charms or breaking shit?" He felt, more than heard her sniff of amusement, and deciding he didn't give a fuck he gave her a pointed tug back.
She thudded effortlessly against his chest, Harry snaring her like a damn snitch. Her spine pressed against his pectorals, her hair in his face, and his jaw set for a tense, irritated moment as he tried to not enjoy what she smelled like. They were in the middle of a fucking hurricane and had just taken a verifiable bath in stagnant rooftop water; she shouldn't smell nice.
She said nothing; she just shivered against him.
Harry tried not to think about how much he liked that.
"I'm serious," he ground humorlessly. "The second we break that the wind is going to throw every shard at us at two hundred kilometers an hour. Fuck up a shield charm and were dead, and I'm not sure I can cast both fast enough. Not back to back." He paused. "I'm good, but I'm not that good." After all, he hadn't gotten to Ron in time, and the image of his best mate frozen outside the clinic doors with dozens of deadly shrapnel hovering centimeters from his chest had been seared into Harry's mind. Ron could have died, and had Hermione not been there he probably would have.
If Harry were honest, it'd rattled him.
Which meant if they were going to break the fuck out of here they'd need to use teamwork.
The girl remained leaning against his chest, her back to him, so he tilted his head to get a better look at her face. "Unless you've got some unfulfilled, lifelong desire to impersonate ground meat," he questioned, tone dour as fuck.
The witch took a shallow, shuddering breath. "In that case," she said, "I better break it. You do the shield or vanish what's left. I've never been the-" she paused. "I wasn't the best in charms or defense."
He blinked. "And you're a Healer?"
She shot him a glare. "Asshole."
He smirked for a half second. "At your service."
A ghost of a grin touched her face, and his heart pounded in a way that had him seriously pissed off at his most vital of organs. He did not trust this witch, and he reckoned the muscle powering his very existence should know that. He chalked it up to his recent celibacy.
Ginny really was a serious bitch. He had half a mind to owl someone to request the storm get renamed after her.
The brief, momentary flicker of mirth seemed to dance in her eyes, fading slowly. It faded into something else. Harry's stomach lurched straight up, then twisted in on itself, rather like it did when diving on a broom mid-match. They should be moving, blasting their way out of here, yet neither one of them was moving. Rational thought had clearly fled his mind.
Abruptly the witch turned her face away, averting her eyes. Her dark, wet hair fell to veil her profile, but he could still see a hint of those plain features. She wasn't pretty, her long eyelashes framing those remarkable eyes the only real interesting thing about her. He didn't get it, and he didn't try to.
Perhaps that was unfair though; he did like her cleavage.
He drug in a rough breath and released his hold abruptly, stepping away to get some distance. Judging by the look on her face she seemed equally relieved.
"No offense," he said, "but do you have the power to actually do that? Blasting spells aren't exactly easy and you don't exactly look…" He let his gaze drop up and down her pointedly. She didn't look particularly strong at anything, so he was right to be skeptical. In the post war world where war hero tales still flew, it had become almost fashionable for people to claim prowess at exploding hexes, but not many actually could. It required a raw power that most witches and wizards lacked.
She made an unamused sound. "You're really trying to cement that asshole impression, aren't you?" This time it was not said affectionately.
"What makes you think it's just an impression? Maybe I really am one."
She spun in the water and looked at him. Just looked. And Harry looked right back, studying the shockingly blue irises, the brown bleeding into them unevenly. The asymmetry made it hard to look at her, and yet he couldn't look away.
He took a step forward, nodding past her. "Well just in case I have to identify your body later, got a name?"
Her nose crinkled immediately, like a startled rabbit. "What?"
"Your name," he repeated. He kept his voice calm, controlled, but there was a tight edge to it. "What is it? Unless you want me to just keep calling you the no-name witch in my head?"
Right. There it was again, that taken aback look, like no one had ever cared enough to ask her simple questions like 'are you alright' and 'what is your name?' At least this time she actually answered him. "Sara."
It was an oddly common name for someone that seemed anything but. He had the distinct and instant feeling she was lying.
He set his jaw. "Alright, Sara." He extended a hand. "Ready when you are."
At this her lips fell apart. "Oh hell no," she said. "I gave my name up, so not going anywhere unless you do too." She stood there, in the ankle deep water, and quite literally crossed her arms over her chest as if prepared to wait. "Come on then, out with it."
Harry gaped, aware that this wasn't the time and that Ron and Hermione were probably waiting for them outside somewhere, in a less than safe spot. Still, it was his turn to sputter, "Seriously?" His face had been plastered all over the wizarding papers worldwide, much to his chagrin. Not being recognized wasn't typically an issue.
She just lifted her eyebrows at him. He'd seen that look before. He'd seen it on Ginny, Hermione, Tonks, Mrs. Weasley, and even Lavender back when she'd been trying to cajole Ron into going to Puddifoots. It meant Sara wasn't taking no for an answer and would happily wait him out, storm be damned.
For some strange, inexplicable reason he didn't want this witch to know he was Harry Potter. Not when he didn't trust her and when he'd bet almost anything that she'd given him a false name herself. So he opened his mouth to give her one of his own.
He was mildly startled when the word, "James," came tumbling out.
Something triumphant sparkled within her eyes, as if amused. "There, not so hard now, was it?" And with that she spun on her heel as the lights flickered ominously. The witch planted her feet shoulder width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other, bringing her wand up to bear directly in front of her chest. She took several short, quick breaths, as if steeling herself, her nose scrunching up in concentration. Hell, it would have been cute if not for the situation.
She cast a glance over her shoulder, "Ready?"
He nodded. "Ready."
He saw the oxygen tanks right next to the wall a second too late, his yell truncated when she shouted the blasting curse, the bright light exploding right above them.
And that was how Harry Potter helped blow the wall off the side of a hospital.
Thank you to both Nauze and Pwrless for letting me bounce ideas for this off of you! It has been tremendously helpful!
Plot Warnings (since every story needs these):
This is a Daphne/Harry fic.
This story is rated M for sexual scenes and violence during both natural and man-made disasters. You can't say I didn't warn you.
This is canon compliant through the end of book 7, discounting the epilogue. I am also keeping with canon in that Astoria inherited her family's blood curse. However, I am taking some creative liberties as I see fit (because this is fanfiction). For instance, Harry will not be the richest wizard on the planet as that would make life too easy for him. (Discounting JKR's stance on his family inheritance.)
There will be no Weasley bashing in this story (despite it's opening line, we must forgive Harry for being upset about his breakup after all). I'm all for conflict, but superfluous bashing makes 0 sense to me without substance. You will not find that here.
A note on Daphne: The stereotypical appearance of Daphne Greengrass (blonde hair and blue eyes) is purely due to fandom. JKR never took a stance on it in the actual books. The whole 'pureblood princess ice queen' persona is also purely from fandom (though I do enjoy fics with this persona). So, as is the purpose of fanfiction, I have taken creative liberties. If you can handle that, read on. If you're 100 percent married to fandom's ice queen persona and her fandom appearance, this may not be the tale for you.
To answer a question that came up several times: Daphne is doing something illegal and none of the trio recognized her, so yes, she is disguised. Magic is fabulous for things like that. Plus, the little bit we know about Auror training mentioned stealth and concealment, so there are obviously charms in existence for appearance changing. We will use these in spades.
A genetics note (because I'm a geek): Heterochromia is a type of eye coloring where the person has different eye colors. This, contrary to popular belief, is not an exotic thing. In fact, it's more common then green eyes (Harry you dog you). I personally know 6 people with this mutation, and I've found that most people don't even notice when their friends have it unless it's extreme (which Daphne's is not).
There are several types (and causes) of heterochromia: Complete, where both eyes are completely different colors, such as having one blue eye and one green (less than 1% of the population); segmental/partial, where both eyes could have multiple colors mixed within them prominently (1 to 2%); and central, where there is a ring around the pupil that is a different color than the rest of the iris (1 to 2%). At any point in time between 2-5% of the world population has some variation of it (some variations are more rare than others). Statistically speaking, heterochromia is more common than green eyes, as only 2-3% of the world population has green eyes. In desktop view the story image shows an example of what Daphne's eyes would look like for those who are curious. My stats are coming from having worked in an advanced genetics lab in my younger impressionable years, where eye color was studied. A lot of studies state it's 1% of the population, but those are usually only taking into account one type of heterochromia and not the whole gambit of types, including the subtler versions.
That being said, have fun. I appreciate constructive comments (not flames, as it takes no intelligence to flame) so I know what people think plot wise. It's my first Daphne fic attempt so any feedback on it will be highly appreciated. I also do not currently have a beta so take mercy on me if there are any typos in these behemoth sized chapters. Sadly I do not get paid to write fanfiction (blast!) so I don't always have time to re-read things 30 times prior to posting to ensure all typos are completely expunged, but I do my absolute best to make sure there are none or they are kept to a minimum.
In the meantime thanks for reading!