Flies! Always these flies. Athena Greengrass genuinely hated them with all her heart. Even before she had arrived with the Aurors and her fellow Healers, the flies had already settled on the dead. The air was filled with the greedy vibration of their wings, only surpassed by the stench of burnt flesh and the tingle of abysmal, dark magic.

Athena sighed as she let her gaze wander. The stone pavement was red. Blood on the walls of the houses, blood in the gutter, blood in the well. Only the bodies of the poor Muggles had been drained down to the last drop of their blood. This time, vampires must also have joined the Dark Lord's forces.

She didn't even know the name of this small village they had been summoned to, but its inhabitants had been slaughtered to the last man, their homes nothing but smouldering ruins. There was nothing left for them to do here. In times of such horrific cruelty, healers could only bury the bodies of the victims and grant them in death the honour they had not been granted in life.

"A shame," she heard Helen's voice beside her, so low that only Athena could understand. "If only Crouch had let us come here sooner, we could have saved some more. For sure."

Athena looked to her old friend. Like her, Helen had started training as a healer straight after Hogwarts, filled with a desire to do some good in the world. But now, several years of bloody civil war later, all that remained of those noble intentions was resignation. She saw it clearly in her friend's dull eyes, in her soot-smeared face, in her prematurely greying hair. She herself probably looked even worse after the last few weeks. Instinctively, she stroked her belly before forcing her hand to pause.

"They had to make sure we were out of danger," she replied, "They can't lose any more healers."

"But isn't it our duty to help? Surely we can't just cowardly hide while the world burns around us and Muggles are slaughtered in droves. How can we call ourselves decent healers and wizards if..."

But Athena was no longer listening to her friend. For from afar, as if carried on the wind, a wailing cry reached her. It was a far more horrible wailing than she could have endured even in such a sea of human abyss, for it came from a child's throat, as Athena heard more with her heart than with her ears.

A child!

Athena ran without thinking about it, without being aware of her emotions, driven solely by one of the oldest instincts of mankind. Helen's surprised voice sounded behind her, but she did not notice it either.

She followed the wailing, and it grew louder and louder the closer she came to it, until she finally came to a halt in front of the smouldering remains of a chapel. Heart pounding, she passed through the entrance arch, which, along with the stonework outer walls, was still standing, albeit soot-covered. The wooden ceiling and the interior of the chapel, on the other hand, had been completely destroyed by the Death Eaters' flames. Athena recognised the charred remains of some villagers who had sought God's protection in vain. Some had their mutilated hands stretched out to heaven, and a couple lay entwined in the corner, as if they had not wanted to part from each other even in death.

The wailing was now very close, a heart-rending weeping. Athena stepped over to the charred remains of a bench and bent down. And there, under the bench, covered all over with ash, lay a crying baby, a girl, it seemed. The baby was completely helpless as she lay there, and even without the tragic circumstances, Athena's heart would have been filled with pity at the sight.

Gently she lifted her, and all at once, the baby fell silent. Unnaturally red eyes caught Athena's gaze, as if the fire was still blazing in them. But for Athena, that moment held an unearthly beauty, as if fate itself had willed that she finds the child. It was like a miracle that the child had survived this apocalyptic inferno and that it was she, of all people, who found her.

"Don't be afraid," Athena whispered as she brushed the ashes from the child's face. "I will take care of you. From now on, your life will be full of love and warmth, I promise you."

"She won't replace your daughter," a familiar voice suddenly sounded behind her.

Athena turned, smiling at her friend. "That's not the point. But she has no one else left..."

"You should give the child to the Ministry," Helen said. "They can take care of her. Maybe she still has relatives somewhere she can be taken to."

But Athena just shook her head. She had already made up her mind. A mother's love burned within her, and that love had lain fallow for too long after the loss of her unborn daughter.

"You can't be serious," Helen said incredulously. "What will Cygnus say?"

Athena looked to the baby in her arms, who was now nestling gangly calmly against her chest. "He will feel as I do, once he has seen her."

"I don't like it at all," Helen said quietly. "The whole place reeks of dark magic. And what about her eyes? Something's not right here, I tell you."

"Her eyes are beautiful," Athena replied, without taking her eyes off the baby in her arms, that gift from God in her time of need. And truly, her crimson eyes shimmered enchantingly in the soot-tinged air. "As she will one day become a beautiful woman. Never will I forsake her. Her sorrow shall be but an echo of the past, and the future a promising tomorrow."

But was she welcoming an innocent soul into her home … or something much more dangerous?


AN:

First of all, many thanks to Bigmax on the Harry/Daphne Discord Server for beta reading (Bigmax81 on FFN)!

Otherwise, as you can probably easily tell from the title, this story is clearly inspired by my Halloween oneshot "Blood Soaked Kiss", even though these stories will not necessarily be set in the same universe. However, unlike my last two multi-chapter stories "Frozen Heart" and "Team Potter", this story is not yet finished at the time I publish the first chapter (or prologue here). So I can't say when the next chapter will come out. Of course, encouraging comments can only help my motivation ^^

In any case, I would be very happy about your feedback, and otherwise, see you for the next chapter!