Chapter 84 ~ Take a Knee
"Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage."
― Lao Tzu
Dean Thomas was kissing her.
She made a startled sound. Her stomach dropped straight down to her toes, a horrible, horrible feeling flaring to life deep inside as Dean rather brutally pulled her against him.
There was nothing sweet about it; it was like she was his possession and he was taking advantage. Instinctually she shoved against his chest, but that did absolutely nothing, Kally cursedly aware that Dean was much, much stronger than she was.
He crushed her close, his mouth pressing so hard to hers that she could practically feel his teeth, and it was all Kally could do to not literally bite him.
Dean's lips were on hers.
The electric scent of the thunderstorm and something undeniably Dean assaulted her. Her pulse pounded unnaturally, upset firing through her. For a second she forgot herself – where they were, the danger they were in, why Dean could be kissing her…
Just thinking his name felt like a hole being torn straight through her chest.
The rain plastered her hair messily to her face, and when she tried to make a protesting sound the wizard muffled it by using his lips to full-on smother her. Dean's large hand swiftly caressed her cheek, but his 'caress' was anything but, forcibly turning her face towards him, using the size of his palm and fingers to physically block any and all visible reaction she might have had from the Death Eaters line of sight, so she wouldn't give him away.
This all happened within the span of a second.
In the next something far more reasonable penetrated her mind; the reason for why Dean was actually doing this.
The git stopped to breathe for a half-second,gasping against her and leaving her gasping in kind. Trying to catch her breath, Kally felt his lips move, the wizard carefully forming barely discernable words against her mouth. She physically felt the words form, more than her ears ever actually heard them, but she was faintly certain he'd told her to 'sell it'.
So she did.
Guilt and upset and fear swept through her in rapid succession, but she nodded. Kally nodded against her best sodding friend, her fingers that had grown stiff on the front of his saturated robes now clutching tight enough to ring water from the dark fabric, but she managed one more infinitesimal nod.
And then she kissed him back.
Kally stretched up on her toes, shoved her lips against his with nearly realistic enthusiasm, and kissed Dean back.
Off to the side Ron made a strangled sound, followed by a yelp and a splash as he tripped over his own feet and fell over. Kally ignored this, given she was allegedly confounded, and simply kissed him with enough eagerness to sell it. It wasn't hard. She poured every bit of worry and need and fear she had for him into it, because he was risking his life for them. He was lying to Voldemort for them, and she was utterly terrified that he was going to get himself killed.
Plus the asshole deserved to be bit, which she did, just a bit harder than necessary. And if she tasted blood well…then that was his own stupid fault for kissing her in the first place.
Dean grunted, Kally flat out ignoring this as she went to pull back-
He didn't let her.
It took a second for her to realize why. She couldn't help but feel Dean's large hand sliding down her arm, snaring her hand to shove it beneath his cloak, guiding her hand around his body to where she felt the hard piece of metal concealed along his back.
It felt suspiciously like a gun.
When in the hell had they all gotten armed?
Off to the side the nameless Death Eaters chuckled. "He's got you there, Detreck. His method does seem more enjoyable."
Dean Thomas hrmmed in agreement, not bothering to remove his lips from hers as he spoke. "Trust me, it is. Told ya, you'd want to share."
She smacked his chest. Hard.
"Then again," he chuckled breathlessly, "she does seem a little attached."
That same Death Eater let out a low whistle through the rain. "Thomas, that's one hell of a confoundus."
"Stop playing with the Dark Lord's pet," Broussard snarled, "stun them, put them both on a broom and get them away from here." The sound of shoes smushing in the muddy puddles indicated his approach. "You'll be lucky if I decide to be benevolent and not report your utter waste of time to him, Thomas."
A hand reached for her, snaring her viciously by the back of her shirt as if to yank her away, and several things happened all at once.
She felt Dean's entire body, pressed up to hers as it was, grow incredibly taut.
And then Dean's wand went off.
Somehow he'd gotten ahold of it, and the arm he'd had wrapped tightly around her body, his hand pressing against the small of her back in a deceptively romantic manner jerked, jabbing his wand's end directly into Detreck Broussard's abdomen. The force of the repelling charm launched the Death Eater back in a blazing flash of bright light, tearing the bastard's fingers off her.
Before he'd even landed Kally had pulled Dean's gun from its holster and fired. She fired it blindly behind his back, pointing it directly through his cloak, leaving a steaming hole in the soaked fabric.
Unfortunately she missed.
The pale blue siding along the home exploded in splintering pieces, the metal shell casing smacking hotly against Kally's wrist and burning her. The nameless Death Eater she'd been aiming at swore, firing a hex back with such speed it was actually shocking, it whizzing past and missing them both by mere centimeters. It would have hit her had it not been for Dean snaring her around the waist and bodily throwing her to the ground.
Which left him vulnerable.
Kally smashed into the water-logged grass, Dean whipping around and barely casting his shield in time. A malicious orange curse exploded against it, erupting like a misfiring blow torch, the force sending Dean sliding backwards through the mud and rain.
The Death Eater's hood had fallen off, revealing a young looking man with whiter-than-white teeth and such a twisted look of fury that he scarcely looked human. Maybe he wasn't. Maybe he was one of Voldemort's experiments. Kally blinked the mud and water out of her eyes, the stinging pain intense, and she looked frantically for the firearm, or her wand, or something.
White Tooth's teeth gleamed in the night. "YOU DARE BETRAY US!? For THEM! BLOOD TRAITORS!?"
Dean didn't respond with words. He just snapped his wand back down in a hard, diagonal line, a wall of wind whipping out at the bastard and slamming into him, the man barely holding himself upright as he gritted out a counter curse that shifted the spell and sent it rebounding back.
Her best friend dropped so fast her heart nearly stopped in sodding fear – afraid he'd been hit – but he hadn't. Dean rolled out of the way, slinging dirty water and blades of grass as he utterly destroyed this Muggle's front lawn and slashed his wand in a brutal line, a flash of red slamming towards his opponent's ankles and burning the stretch of lawn between them, the Death Eater having to abandon the curse he'd been about to cast in favor of leaping up, out of the way, as if suddenly taking up an interest in extreme jump rope.
Dean rose to one knee and didn't stop, White Tooth responding in exchange of spell fire was fast and furious, lighting up the night in a blaze of color bright enough to mimic daylight, and it lasted for all of five seconds.
Ron Weasley tackled the bastard-attentive-to-dental-hygiene around the mid-section, slamming White Tooth bodily to the ground in a furl of robes, landing atop him with enough force to send something audibly cracking, knocking his wand loose.
Then he knocked him out with one punch.
The Death Eater lay sprawled on his back, mouth bloodied and opened from his split lip, an incisor missing and his head lolling to the side in as undignified a manner as possible.
Ron simply shoved himself up, dripping wet and breathing hard, before leveling an irritated look in Dean's direction. "River dance? Really?"
Dean spluttered out a watery laugh.
"I'm bloody serious, Thomas!"
The dark-skinned wizard looked wrecked, as if he'd gone one-too-many rounds with a manticore and lost, but he still managed an exhausted snort. "Would you have preferred," he questioned, "ballet?" Using his sleeve to wipe the blood away from his eye, his eyebrow having been split wide open in the tussle, he drawled, "Because really, admire your ambition but I just don't think you've got the legs for it mate."
A disturbing red glow had begun to emit from the house's backyard, it clearly on fire. Ron, however, had priorities. Mainly murdering Dean, from the looks of it.
Kally spotted the gun submerged in a divot, snagged it, and eyed it as she debated who to shoot first.
Apparently that was what it took for Ron to remember she was there.
He rounded on her. "And you! How the hell did you miss that shot? He was right there!"
Kally's brow furrowed, mildly startled.
She was also annoyed. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to aim behind someone's back?" she asked. "I'm not exactly a marksman."
Ron balked. "Then what were you doing pissing around shooting anything for?"
At some point the rain had started to come down harder, the crackling behind the house louder. That fire was definitely spreading. "Can we just call it a win that I didn't accidentally shoot either of you?"
"Oh good, that's your line? Shooting me?"
Hazel eyes narrowed. "It's getting tempting…"
"Hey Weasley, Pomfrey ever told ya," Dean posed, getting gingerly to his feet, "that you suffered from high blood pressure?"
Now it was Ron's turn to sputter.
"It's just your face is a bit too red to be healthy."
If looks could kill, Dean would be dead. But seeing as how Ron was still missing his wand, he contented himself with kicking White Tooth in the gut and changing topics.
"You two," Ron accused, jabbing his wand between her and Dean, "are far too comfortable touching each other. How long has this shit been going on?"
Kally too clambered to her feet, shivering from the complete and utter cold coupled with being soaked. "You mean the snogging, the gratuitous violence guised as second base, or him dubbing me doll?" Based on the way she emphasized 'doll', it was clear which of the three she found the most offensive.
"Don't play dumb, Kaylens. Did he actually confoundus charm you?"
The growl Ron made was downright rabid. "How the hell are you planning to explain that to Harry?"
Dean made a sound eerily reminiscent of a dying giraffe, as if just remembering she was in love with a very dangerous wizard.
A wizard who wasn't there.
Her stomach lurched, upset stirring inside that she'd rather not think about. "Harry?" she feigned ignorance, traitorous body giving another spasmodic shiver. "Oh, you mean my boyfriend Harry? Well, if that Harry decides to finally show up and for some reason finds Dean's tactics unsettling, I'll happily remind him that he doesn't have a leg to stand on."
Ron looked like he was rapidly developing a headache. "What exactly-"
"It means it's war. Shit happens. Dean and I are friends. Besides, it wasn't even that good."
Dean shot her a glower. "Wounding me woman." He paused, wiping at his bleeding lip where she'd bit him. "Emotionally and literally."
"Besides," she ignored him, "it's not like Harry hasn't kissed his best friend too."
Ron Weasley stood there, covered from head-to-toe in mud and blood, blades of grass sticking liberally up in his hair, in the midst of a war, but at that he took the time to stop and incomprehensibly sputter at her. "Wha-are you daft? I've never bloody well snogged him!"
Overhead thunder rumbled, Kally shoving wet strands of hair out of her eyes. "I meant Hermione."
Ron bristled. "Harry doesn't kiss Hermione like that."
"Actually he's full on snogged her thanks to a horcrux," she informed tiredly, "but that doesn't mean a thing, Ron."
Now Ron was staring.
"If it helps any you two weren't dating yet."
A vein in Ron's forehead appeared to be twitching. "So you're saying my best mate snogged my best girl…before I did, and neither of them ever told me?"
Despite her chattering teeth, Kally offered him a pitying look. "In his defense, he was sort of time traveling at the time."
Ron rather looked like he wanted to kill something, and given the bloodied, bruised, torn-up-clothing look he was currently sporting in the middle of a dark and rainy night, he looked entirely capable of getting away with it.
"I need," he stated, as if consoling himself, "new friends."
Dean had staggered over towards Broussard, a quick stunning charm ensuring that the bastard would not be getting back up. Bending down with a dramatic groan, he retrieved their wands, only he stopped and eyed her suspiciously.
A second later he had whipped a warming charm at her, Kally hissing a welcome breath between her teeth. "Merlin Thomas," she muttered, "you're a saint."
"Yeah?" he challenged. "Maybe remember that next time before you try to bite my lip in half."
"Please, it was barely a nip."
"Oh gawd…I'm hearing foreplay from hell." Ron sounded appalled.
Dean snorted. "Please, like I'd be dumb enough to steal Potter's girl."
Kally leveled an irritated, golden eyed look in his direction. "Don't you mean try? You can't just assume it would work." Despite the warming charm, the Reach had crossed her arms tightly over her chest, bouncing up and down on the ankle that wasn't screaming, the heels of her shoes making squishing sounds in the sodden mess of a front yard.
Dean, however, seemed impervious to the frigid weather, imminent threat of aerial Kedarva-ing, or looks of abject malevolence. "I've been courting a witch with six very dangerous brothers," he said, ignoring the way Ron's claws extended. "And I routinely hit on you to rile Potter up. Takes balls. I'm good looking, and a damn good snog. So yeah, if I really wanted to go after you, believe me, I'd steal you."
Kally stared. "You do that to him on purpose?"
Her best friend was crouched over the downed Death Eater, but the crooked grin he shot her made it very clear that he was absolutely and certainly going to get himself murdered. Messily. By either her hand, Ron, Harry, or a Death Eater's. At this point it was just a matter of who could get to him first.
Hair hanging limply in her face, she made a soft, sputtering-sort-of-sound.
"Go within thirty yards of Ginny and I'll hex you impotent," Ron promised.
"I'll help," she agreed.
Dean snorted, having snagged what he needed. A second later he tossed Ron's wand at him, only it never made it.
It froze in mid-air, hovering for an unnatural second as rain splattered against the wooden surface…
Then an invisible hand jerked it away, it flying past Kally's face towards the sidewalk, the clouds overhead unleashing another one of those rumbling booms. Standing there, on the sidewalk, as if summoned by the god of thunder himself, were the outlines of three cloaked figures slowly rematerializing in the rain.
And one of them was holding Ron's wand.
That was when the quiet clapping started, slow and mocking, from a figure they couldn't see.
Her, Ron and Dean all froze. It was like antifreeze had flooded her veins, a chilled breath sucked in. They'd been being watched. This whole time.
It was safe to assume that Dean had rather succinctly summarized her and Ron's thoughts as well.
The rainy outline of the Death Eater holding Ron's wand waved it back and forth in a tisk tisk tisk motion.
Instantly Kally took a step backwards, moving away, towards Ron-
Ultimately the Death Eater holding Ron's wand didn't have to say anything. All they did was turn to look directly at her, their disillusioned form nothing more than a bunch of iridescent rain droplets in the night, and point Ron's wand in her direction.
Kally froze again, not moving and from somewhere off to the far left she heard a disturbing laugh. "Three for one special," the unidentified wizard drawled, an aristocratic note in the words. "My, my, what a productive night this has been. I must thank whomever fired that Muggle…toy. It was quite the summons." A pause. "Such…interesting conversations."
They were outnumbered, and these Death Eaters had clearly heard their every word.
They were also, regrettably, surrounded.
"Kaylens," Ron muttered, "I'm beginning to remember why I really bloody hate you."
Right now she couldn't honestly blame him.
"What a shame one of you is a Weasley." There was a pause, the thick rain pattering down, the silence pregnant, thoughtful, as if the unseen wizard that was speaking was slowly coming to a decision.
His next words were rather clipped.
"If anything happens to him in transit, it would hardly be the worst of things. I would rather think given the…plethora of blood traitors in possession of the same genetics, that his particular 'talent' would not be hard to see replicated. How fortunate for us, Mister Weasley, that your disgrace of a mother saw fit to never keep her legs closed. It may prove quite fortuitous yet for my Lord's…research."
Ron made to lunge, Dean barely grabbing him in time.
A callous, cultured laugh cut through the night. "None of that Weasley. Besides, I would think you would be happy. With one less mouth to feed, your family's prospects of clothing themselves in more than rags improve considerably. A pity it won't do them much good, what with the way your father had already dragged your family name through the dirt." Kally could practically hear his lips curling, though she was hard pressed to pinpoint where the voice was coming from. "No matter. When you consort with Mudbloods, there ought not be any surprise."
Dean's hold on Ro had grown shockingly tight, every inch of Ron vibrating with repressed rage. "Don't you talk about my family," he snarled, throwing his shoulder to shove Dean away. "Get off!"
Around them the very rain itself seemed to move, as if a half dozen unseen figures or more were stirring, prepared to carry out any order the speaker gave.
It was obvious who was in charge.
That same callous laugh broke through the night.
"Your recommendation, my Lord?" asked the one holding Ron's wand.
It was a mark of how outnumbered they must be, that not a single one had attempted to disarm Dean.
He still had both his and her wands.
The leader appeared to be thinking, though he had yet to physically appear.
"Stun them," came the cold and remorseless order. "I'm sure our Lord will want the traitor alive to question persona-"
The order truncated abruptly, a wet gurgle replacing it. From off to the left, previously unseen, a current of red began to weep out of thin air, like a disembodied waterfall, and it poured out of a horizontal line that had appeared at the approximate height of where one might expect a tall man's throat to be.
The disillusioned wizard flickered into the visible spectrum, the disillusionment spell slipping – something that happened whenever a wizard was near death, Harry had told her once - the Death Eater's hood dislodged to reveal a long, pale face with equally long pale hair. The man's blue eyes had gone wide, glassy, staring straight ahead in shock, as if not comprehending what was happening even as he grasped at the remains of his own bloodied throat.
One of the other gathered Death Eaters managed a croaking sound of disbelief. "Lucius!"
Saying his name did not help the dying wizard. From between his long, pale fingers something twitched, and with a numb sort of horror Kally realized it was a severed artery spasming, undulating like a worm as the man's still beating heart sent pressurized blood pumping through it, the end jerking around like an uncontrolled fireman's hose. He desperately clutched at his throat, trying to stop it, his own fingers uncoordinated and digging into the wound, making it worse.
He hovered there for a second; then he fell forward, landing facedown with a splash in a centimeters deep puddle on some unassuming Muggle's front lawn, the rain splattering against his cloak.
Everyone present stared for precisely two seconds.
That same Death Eater, the clear second in command who had commandeered Ron's wand, made a furious sound and took a step forward, towards the body. Rain pattered off his disillusioned form, making him not fully visible, looking like a wraith in the night.
He didn't get far.
An axe appeared out of nowhere, whipping through the rain with lethal precision to embed itself deeply in his chest.
It struck with a dull thud, and just like the first wizard, this one too flickered into the visible spectrum, revealing a curly haired man staring straight down, a rasping gasp emitting as if he couldn't quite draw in a breath. Thick, viscous fluid welled up from either side of the metal blade, the man dropping bonelessly to his knees with a murky squelch.
Ron Weasley's wand fell from his hand, landing in the sodden grass, and that was when all hell broke loose.
Something cracked in the night. Sparks of iridescent embers of a non-existent fire erupted in a dozen colors, flaring alongside a disillusioned Death Eater, one that Kally could only see thanks to the rain wetting them down. The sparking fire took the shape of something with wings, and for a terrifying second Kally thought it might be fiendfyre…
That wraith in the night, that Death Eater, jerked to look-
He never got there.
In a flash that spark of light barreled its way straight through their skull.
Pieces of white bone and pinkish brain matter exploded out, and had not even finished raining down when another spark of light erupted, flying through the skull of the next Death Eater, and the next, and the next. Dean yelled, startled, and Kally instinctively ducked, dropping to a crouch in the grass as the firefly from hell darted through the surrounding Death Eaters like a bullet from a high powered rifle, the disillusioned men flickering into view one-by-one and falling lifelessly to the ground, in some cases their limbs and fingers still twitching.
Ron dove for his wand-
More bodies fell, dying in a circular formation around where they had been. They'd been boxed in!
Ron rolled onto his back, wand in hand, and looked for something to aim it at.
Suddenly everything went quiet.
The last of the bodies hit the ground, right as the side of the house caught fire.
An aberrant humming emerged, and all three of their faces darted towards it.
An unbelievably tiny fairy hovered there, covered in and dripping a chunky pink substance, a dangerous ember sparking across its skin, running like a current over every visible portion of its body. Its long, moonlit hair was covered in muck, and it made another humming sound that chilled Kalliandra to her very core.
Its voice was undeniably beautiful, but something unnerving and dangerous bled from the sound. Like the siren's, only worse.
It sounded satisfied.
Luna Lovegood materialized in the night alongside it, looking every bit the sister of the fae that had quite literally destroyed the skulls of no less than a half dozen men. The tiny creature fluttered its sparkling wings, resting on the witch's outstretched arm, and Luna smiled dreamily at it as the small creature licked chunks of frontal lobe from its lips.
The small fairy made a pleased, satisfied sound, then seemingly faded out of existence. Luna smiled sadly at the spot where it had just been, looking lonely, before seemingly realizing she had an audience.
Kally, Dean and Ron all outright gaped at her.
"Oh," Luna greeted, as if surprised. "Hello there."
Ron, from his spot on the ground, sprawled out on his back where he had sunk down several inches into the literal mud, blinked. "Holy shit."
Dean whistled, echoing the sentiment. "You can say that again."
"Bloody hell, Luna." Ron looked almost awed.
Dean's shield charm sputtered out, Kally jerking to stare at him. The wizard had somehow wound up directly alongside her, having cast a shield that had protected both of them. Her lips fell apart, not sure if she was more startled by how close he'd gotten without her noticing, the fact that he'd managed to cast a shield that fast, that Luna had just randomly appeared, or the homicidal fairy.
Then again, given that the fairy had seemed only homicidal towards the Death Eaters, she figured she was okay with it.
Wordlessly she reached out and grabbed a hold of Dean's sleeve, letting out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Dean's dark eyes simply shifted to catch hers, Kally quietly mouthing 'thanks'. The corner of his mouth simply twitched.
Ron noticed and shot them a foul look. "Stop," he growled, spitting out a piece of grass, "canoodling."
Kally couldn't help it: she laughed. Her throbbing ankle finally gave way and she collapsed down onto the muddy lawn in a sodden pile of torn clothes and once well-kept grass and laughed.
Dean eyed her with mild concern.
"So," Luna said, as if appearing into the middle of a verifiable ambush and killing everything that moved was normal, "are you all enjoying your zombie apocalypse experience?"
Ron's head darted back towards her, a low crease furrowing his brow. "Why is it that everyone keeps asking me that tonight?"
Luna paused, tilting her head as if giving his question some serious thought. "Perhaps it's your aura," she settled on. "It does seem awfully scowly."
"Yes. It's looking a bit black and blue with just a tinge of purple." She sounded faintly worried. "It's almost like you were recently beaten to a pulp. No wonder no one thinks that you're not having any fun."
Kally smacked her own palm over her mouth and pressed hard, unsuccessfully trying to smother her own giggling.
This whole night was positively absurd.
Luna sent her a curious look. "Oh no Kally, you were bitten by a Wardsmorth, weren't you?" She looked towards first Dean, and then Ron. "Their venom causes the giggling-madness."
At this point Kally could barely breathe, and she flopped back into the mud and positively shook.
"Luna," Dean said, sounding strangely reasonable, "do I wanna know what that flying friend of yours was?"
Protuberant blue eyes widened, confused. "Esmerelada," she replied simply, casting her pale gaze around the group. "I thought that was obvious? I made introductions."
Ron looked at the circular formation of dead bodies surrounding then, then shifted his gaze to eye her like she'd just materialized out of a direct portal to hell and proclaimed that she was the original Jack-the-Ripper. "You call that an introduction? Bleeding hell."
"Well, yes." Luna smiled benignly.
"How in the hell does it say good morning?"
Now Luna just frowned. "Esmerelda has a name, Ronald."
Ron made a choking sound.
Dean's jaw opened, then shut, as if working something out. Then he shook himself like a dog shaking off water after an enforced flee bath. "Brooms," he muttered, as if talking to himself. "We have enough brooms to get you lot away from here, before more of them show up." Shoving a large hand down into the mud, he glanced around-
It was like the temperature had dropped ten degrees, their only warning a change in the steady pattering of rain. Kally felt it before she even consciously realized there was danger. Dean had felt it too, because every inch of him had gone rigid, his wand flying up, looking for the danger.
The entire time Detreck Broussard had been there, sprawled on the ground where Dean's spell had thrown him. They'd all thought he was unconscious, but he wasn't.
He'd moved, the first syllable of the Killing Curse on his tongue, "Ava-" snarled venomously into the night. Kally heard it through the crackling flames and the rumbling thunder and her friends chatter and her stomach plummeted.
Dean had been right; they should have left.
Broussard's wand was aimed in her direction, rain splattering off its glowing green end.
Laughter died on her lips, and Kally instinctively understood that Detreck Broussard wanted to kill her. He hadn't forgotten what she'd done to his brother.
He'd been awake and biding his time this entire while. Through the pouring rain and faint smoke drifting by, she saw his mad gaze and sneered lips, the man enraged and murderous. There wasn't time to react, nowhere to run, nothing to hide behind.
Kally's fingertips sparked.
Dean was faster. "Expelliarmu-"
Something large and heavy dropped out of the sky, directly onto Detreck Broussard's head.
Kally might have screamed if there'd been time, but the poisonous green of the Killing Curse flashed at the very instant the bastard's body crumpled like an accordion, disappearing beneath a stone statue. The force of the Unforgivable exploded from beneath, and a crack ricocheted up the granite construct, slicing straight up to the statue's sharp toothed mouth.
It looked like one of those gargoyles Muggles put at the end of their driveways to flank it.
It also appeared to be grinning.
It'd absorbed the Killing Curse meant for her.
Kally gasped in abject shock, breathing unsteadily. Dean grunted, surprised.
The sky moved again…
A second statue dropped directly down onto White Tooth's head, crushing the skull and sending pieces of mushy flesh and once perfectly white teeth scattering. The impact was so strong that it reverberated down what was left of the headless corpse, the lateral force cracking the ribcage, the ribs splaying out with enough raw physical violence to burst from the flesh, the dark robes darkening more as blood poured out to be absorbed by the dirt.
Dean recoiled, head jerking straight up to look for the perpetrator, while Ron gagged from his spot in the mud.
Luna merely wrinkled her nose.
For an interminable moment there was silence.
"Kal," Dean managed on a swift whisper, "move."
Only she didn't. She was shaking too much to do a single, solitary thing to help herself, eyes glued to the sharp shard of white dripping stringy meat, the thick blood diluted by the pouring rain to create a pink-ish smear of white down the rib, pieces of yellowish fat clinging to it.
And then something else moved, and all heads darted towards it.
The sound of slow, measured steps from an unseen figure made its way through the grass. Large footprints sunk into the mud, made by that invisible figure that even the water didn't bounce off of, and Kally's golden eyes tracked it as it moved in Ron's direction. "Ron…" she warned.
Ron wand was already up, his entire arm shaking with repressed tension, but for some reason…he held. He didn't fire.
The footsteps halted alongside the downed body of the Death Eater with the axe in its chest. The handle of that axe suddenly jerked once…twice….as if someone were pulling at it.
It jolted free with a loud squelch. It was like popping a cork, the viscous red and mauled tissue pouring out in a bloodied heap on the ground, mixing with the puddling rainwater, the stench acrid.
Then that invisible figure tossed the axe down at Ron Weasley's feet, splattering him with blood and mud.
"Belated birthday present. Reckon you'll have fun with that."
Luna was still wrinkling her nose. "Harry, was that really necessary?"
Kally lost the ability to breathe. Every tiny particle of air had been sucked straight out of her lungs. The non-witch went completely still, sludge seeping slowly around where she sat, collapsed in the muddy grass, unable to move, speak, breathe.
The invisible figure flickered slowly into the visible spectrum, and her heart stopped.
The man's back was to her, rain splattering off the brown leather of a well-worn jacket. A jacket she knew. A jacket she recognized. A jacket that'd been inside an old crypt.
At Luna's question the man peered over his shoulder. His face was mostly obscured by a coil of thickening smoke, a chameleon like look remaining, his skin darker than it ought to be, but a dark eyebrow quirked all the same. "Yes," he replied steadily, "it was necessary." His head jerked pointedly towards the two crushed bodies. "You missed two."
He said this as if it were completely and totally reasonable to go around crushing living things with statues.
The blonde Ravenclaw huffed. "It's not Esmerelda's fault they were laying down," Luna pointed out. "She's tiny. They were hard to see. Besides, they weren't bothering anyone."
There was a beat of silence, a rumbling tension of restrained magic in the air.
Then his voice rumbled out, cold as ice.
"They aimed wands at someone I care about," Harry uttered calmly. "I'd see them killed for that alone."
Not a person who heard him would doubt that he meant that; not for a moment.
The downpour increased in intensity, the fire spreading to the roof of the house they'd been in mere minutes before. The blaze rapidly crept across the roof shingles, sending flickering shadows of flame writhing across the lawn, dancing.
Kally felt off. So, so off. Every centimeter of her felt unsteady, as if tiny currents of static electricity were dancing across her skin, coiling and twisting in her stomach. She was breathing shakily. She couldn't tear her eyes away.
Harry was here; Harry was alive.
She still hadn't seen his face, not fully.
"Besides Luna," the wizard continued, not looking Kally's way, not even once. "I had to say hi to Tom's croonies. It would have been impolite not to. You know how these purebloods are about their customs." He gestured at the growling-faced statues and conveniently ignored the gooey messes beneath. "See? I even gave them a house invasion present. Better than them. Least they could have done was bring me a housewarming gift given they were planning to light my whole neighborhood on fire."
From besides her Dean wheezed out a mild laugh, and the wizard's green eyes snapped towards him with the calm and cool steadiness of a predator.
Kally's breath hitched.
He didn't look at her. Not once. Instead, Harry's eyes remained on Dean for a long, long time, and then…
Those familiar green eyes jerked back towards where Ron lay flopped in the mud, giving him a stiff nod.
Ron flipped him the finger.
Rain pounded down.
Finally her boyfriend turned to fully face her, Dean and Luna.
For the first time since he'd materialized Kally got a good look at him. His skin color shifted back to its usual hue, like a lizard's. A dozen instances of him testing it out, morphing in that cottage, trying to change the color of his skin, eyes, to blend into the night or background or wherever it was they happened to be flew through her mind. The way he'd dragged her against his chest, reclining on that pebbled beach, his skin mottled to match the stones…
He still hadn't looked at her.
Green eyes studied Dean, something severe and assessing in the look, and Kally knew – she just knew he'd seen them kiss. Her insides seized unpleasantly, lips parting to say something, anything, but no sound came out.
Harry just silently studied her best friend, looking rather like he wanted to snap him in half.
By this point the fire had overtaken the suburban split level, the heat inside the home building to the point that it burned through the strings of the piano. The loud DINGS of them musically snapping inside the house were heard even out here amidst the crackling fire and pouring rain.
Luna started to sway in the rain, humming along to the destructive rhythm.
Finally, a tense, indeterminable time later, Harry spoke.
Dean mustered up a tired, crooked grin. "Potter."
Harry's expression remained unreadable, tone deceptively bland. "See you've been taking care of things while I've been gone."
"Right," Dean was now grinning, as if entirely unconcerned that he was about to die, "take it you're not going to accept my best friends forever bracelet either then." It wasn't a question. "Tough night and bully for me. Your best mate over there rejected me too."
Harry stared at the dark skinned wizard with deceptive calm. "Rejection," and the word was a mere rumble of sound, her wizard tilting his head in silent mocking as he spoke. "That must hurt."
Kally's stomach plummeted.
"Well shit, guess that answers my question about whether or not our truce is still on then."
Harry made a sound like a predator debating its next kill, and whether or not it was worth the effort.
Dean's grin just grew more lopsided. "Nice knowing you, Kal."
She managed a very coherent sputter.
The whole time Ron had been eyeing the axe with mild disgust, as if thinking something over. "Hey Harry?"
"Yeah, Ron?" Not once did Harry's eyes leave Dean's.
"Neuter Thomas for me, would ya?"
At this Harry smiled, and it was not a nice expression. "Done."
Harry's wand flicked with such causal speed that even had Dean wanted to block it, there wouldn't have been time. It struck him, her best friend letting out a yelp; a very non-masculine yelp. He grabbed at that 'area' that no man ever wanted brutalized, making a strangled sound.
Any instinct she had to check on him was sullied by the cold look on Potter's face.
"Pipe down," Harry reassured in a not reassuring tone. "It's only temporary."
Ron made a disappointed sound and muttered a few things that sounded distinctly like Ginny, honor, gene pool, and trailed off with traitor.
"It'll wear off," Potter added, "in about a month."
Dean groaned, having sank down to the ground with a wince. A few deep breaths later and he had reclaimed the ability to form words in basic English. "Kal, no offense," he croaked, "but next time…remind me not to rescue ya."
She honestly couldn't blame him, managing to pull her eyes away from where Potter stood and onto him, wincing. 'Sorry' she mouthed softly.
Dean ignored her, bemoaning, "This has been a very bad night for my balls."
And at that…that was what it took to get Harry to actually look at her.
Potter's gaze barely shifted, but his eyes were sharp as flint. He didn't utter a single word; he just inclined an eyebrow, silently. The worn leather of his jacket danced with spray, wand loose at his side, rain sliding down his bulging forearm and the length of the holly wood in a steady trickle.
Kally lost her ability to speak, it physically hard to breathe at the sight of him. She parted her lips to explain, to tell him sodding everything, but the words wouldn't form.
All that came out was a faint breath, misting in front of her face.
Dean, fortunately, rescued her.
"Mind out of the gutter, Potter," he groused, sounding incredibly put out. "Merlin you're a touchy fuck. Mention balls just once…she bloody kneed me in them."
Ron looked far too happy about that.
Despite that, the wizard standing there, the one that looked so very much alike herHarry, and so very much not, still said nothing. His eyes were dark, two emerald flames that could have burned her alive, and his mouth was set in a taut line.
He said nothing.
Finally his lips imperceptibly twitched.
Kally let out an exasperated breath, a faded, hopeful smile touching her own.
Harry shamelessly studied her, but never said a word. There was something harder, darker in his eyes, and though he stood there, almost casually, any fool could see that every inch of him was tense. Black hair was matted wetly to his brow, his gaze sharp, and the waves of billowing heat from the Muggle's house sent the water against his scar sizzling. Heat rippled across the front lawn, and Harry…
He studied her with an intensity so hot it felt like a palpable touch on her skin. Barely restrained magic radiated out, and she knew it came from him because she could feel it, roiling beneath Harry's taut, calm surface, like running water beneath a paper thin sheet of ice. All it would take was a single misplaced step to break through.
Kally wet her lips, at a loss of anything to say.
Harry looked at her long and hard, like there was somethinghe too wanted to say, but was unsure how.
"Changed my mind. Thomas, kill me now," Ron broke in, shoving himself up. "Better than having to watch them start making googly eyes again." The partial wolf reached down, grabbing up the axe and holding it at arm's length, eyeing it with ill-concealed disgust. "Also, Harry, your gift giving skills suck mate. There's Death Eater gunk all over this. Maybe next time try a 'hi Ron, nice to see ya. Good on you for being still alive. Thanks for keeping my chick from being de-flowered by Thomas. How's Hermione?' By the way, I bloody well snogged her when you weren't looking, eh?"
Potter didn't so much as even glance at him. Instead his lips gave another one of those imperceptible twitches.
Kally's did too.
"I will be decking you for that," Ron pressed, clearly irritated at being ignored. "Later. In the face."
Harry didn't react at all. He just stood there with smoke coiling around him, and studied her unabashedly.
"Oh for cripes-Luna! Thomas and his best bloody buddies had brooms yeah? Let's get them and get the hell-"
Kally didn't hear him.
She didn't hear him because Harry was here, and alive. Drops of rain rolled down him in rivulets, leaving streaks on his glasses. His muscles stood out in fine definition, drenched clothing sticking wetly to every centimeter of his body, but unlike the rest of them Harry looked remarkably clean.
No torn fabric.
It was all Kally could do to not shamelessly beg him to drag her inside the already burning house to let her divest him of them.
Harry watched her right back, a crease formed in his brow, deep and thoughtful.
The tension radiating pressed down on them like a thick shroud, Kally sucking in a shuddering breath as she peered up at him. She hadn't moved. She'd been honestly afraid. Harry'd been gone for so, so long. She didn't know for how long. She didn't know if he was still the same man. She didn't know if he even wanted her anymore. He hadn't looked at her. And what he had undoubtedly seen with Dean…
She had to try.
Wetting her lips, she offered him a faint smile, and when she spoke she didn't say hi. She didn't apologize. She didn't plead. She simply tried to keep her voice from shaking.
"For what it's worth," she offered softly, words clear and careful, "he's not nearly as good a snog as you."
Ron choked on the literal air. "Merlin's soggy nutsack, Kaylens."
Dean just groaned in the background; something about 'and the hits keep coming'.
There was the slightest tic in Potter's face, but other than that…nothing.
Her insides twisted. The rain and fire and threat pressed in from all around them, the house rapidly being consumed by the fires devastating the block, all of it temporarily forgotten as Potter stood there, peering down at her.
The only thing she was even remotely cognizant of was him.
He was right there, alive, and she was so sodding in love with him that she could scarcely think.
His eyes guardedly watched her. Something in his face had grown harder, his expression unreadable, as if debating something, and Merlin…she was terrified of what he would say.
When he finally spoke it was like he'd had to dig the words from his throat.
"Highgate." The timber of his voice sent a chill rushing across her skin. "That-does that mean anything to you?"
There was no doubt that he was talking to her, and only her.
The wizard – her wizard's - jaw visibly tightened. Harry just stood there, staring at her with barely restrained desperation, his impossible hair soaked and stuck to his brow as he just looked at her.
It all snapped into place.
Harry may be mad about Dean, but that wasn't the problem.
He needed to know if she knew him, all of him. He needed to know if she remembered him and everything they'd been through.
He'd gone back in time for her. He'd killed for her. He'd shared his magic to save her life.
He'd also kept his promise; Harry'd found a way for her memories to come back to her.
Kally went utterly still, her hands sinking into the mud, and a small, breathless laugh escaped. "I don't care how close you and Weasley are, Potter. I'm not explaining that in front of him."
Ron frowned, glancing at Luna. "What the fuck is Highgate?"
Kally's eyes never left Harry's, gold meeting green, but a weak smile touched her lips. "Our sex life," she replied, something warm and wonderful coursing through her, even as Ron began to gag.
"You two have a fucking code for it?"
Kally ignored him, as did Harry. Luna merely stood on her tiptoes, reaching up to rearrange Ron's hair, asking quietly if his unstroked libido could be why his hair was so vibrantly red. Ron growled something about unappreciated sidekicks, brooms and leaving. There was also something sickeningly sensible about 'being the only reasonable one left' and 'it being bad when he was the only one sounding like Hermione', but once again she entirely missed it.
Harry stared at her, unmoving, but his eyes…his eyes flashed like lightning. "You remember."
"Yeah," she breathed. "I-" Water dripped into her eyes, Kally blinking rapidly as relief flooded her, her pulse swiftening beyond her control and she honestly didn't care to calm it. "Kismet? I mean really? Imagine if some imbecile had accidentally said that to me just before a battle. All those memories flooding back? I'd be incapacitated for ages."
It'd been the code word he'd left engraved in her mind, carved on a brick, the one that would unlock all the memories he'd locked so carefully away.
Kally tried to sound flippant. Merlin she did.
She completely and utterly failed; Harry barked out a laugh.
And still neither of them moved, just looking at one another through the pouring rain, the fires growing.
Ron looked impatient. "You two know there is something of a time issue here?"
Dean flat out snorted. "You're fighting a losing battle there mate."
"So we'll just hang around here until more Death Eaters find us? Again. Not like it hasn't happened twice already." Weasley paused, clearly waiting for someone to agree, and when no one did he swatted at Luna's hand – she'd progressed to rearranging blades of grass in his hair – and snarled with blatant annoyance. "Okay. Fine. But I'm going over there, where there's some cover, and I'm taking my axe with me. And then I'm going to find some brooms, and I swear to Godric I'm leaving your asses behind."
"I'll go with you," Luna said airily. "When there's a chance of someone burning to death fire fairies come out and Esmerelda could use a friend. She's been a little lonely late-"
Kally didn't hear the rest. She honestly didn't. She didn't hear Ron's horrified sputtering of 'you mean that firefly from hell?! It doesn't need friends! It needs a sedative!' She didn't see Dean get up, grabbing a broom out of the mud before giving it a morose look. She didn't see Luna frolic after Ron. She didn't even see them eventually disillusion themselves, taking off into the air. Kally simply remained right where she'd been, the non-witch having been thrown to the ground by Dean to keep her from being hexed minutes before. The muddy water seeped through her torn clothing, through the tops of her trainers, soaking her socks. At some point her entire form had begun to shiver, mud streaked clear up her exposed thighs, the fires indelibly spreading, but she didn't notice any of it.
She just saw Harry.
"I thought you were dead," she whispered.
Kalliandra's eyes practically glimmered, and if he called her on it she'd claim it was the rain. But he didn't. Malachite eyes, as hard as stone, held hers right back. Green on gold.
And then Harry looked away from her eyes, and his sweeping gaze left her shivering in a way that was most decidedly not from the rain. Something dark passed behind those snapping green irises when they met hers once more, the intensity of it practically burned. Kally's breath faltered.
Pieces of wood and a well-aged porch swing ignited, the storm sending the scent of cedar swirling out with acrid smoke, and it billowed across the yard like a sentient entity.
The old woman's house burned.
He was on her in three steps.
A crack split the night, the porch collapsing beneath the inferno's flames and taking the entire second floor with it. It sent an invisible flare of heat reaching out across the lawn to brush angrily against her exposed, pale flesh and it hurt, tangibly burning,but it was nothing, nothing compared to the way he was looking at her.
Kalliandra peered up and found a pair of green storm clouds looking down, his eyes ablaze.
The spent chaos practically sizzled.
He'd grabbed her before she could speak, jerking her to her feet, the feel of his hands against her like an electric shock. Kally wasn't consciously aware of the pained whimper escaping her lips, ankle nearly giving out. She wasn't aware of the upset sound he made in response. She wasn't aware of the inferno's heat pulsating out with enough strength to create its own wind, her wet hair wildly swirling around both their faces.
She wasn't consciously aware of anything until his lips were on hers.
And then she was aware of everything.
Harry was kissing her.
Potter crushed her to him with bruising force, and a tendril of fire licked out from the house, the heat tearing another whimper of pain from her. Fire didn't have to physically touch you to burn you. An angered sound rose in Harry's throat, but they didn't stop. Strong hands just tightened their grip, the wizard seizing a gasp against her mouth, a muttered word of unrecognized magic grated hoarsely out-
Everything erupted in fire, a thunderous roar of sound and light exploding in a blinding flash. The world constricted, as if compressing through a tube. It was like port-keying, but not. For a second Kally thought red-orange flames had burst around them, like wings stretching out and slamming down, wrapping as tightly around her as Harry's arms, but she couldn't be sure, and in the next she felt the world snap back into place.
Distantly she realized the significance of what he'd just done. There were anti-apparation barriers up. She knew there were, because half the Order had been hospitalized, splinched trying to apparate through them.
Yet Harry had just apparated.
He'd apparated both of them inside a blur of fire, like a phoenix.
They'd wound up clear across the lot.
Her back slammed against something hard and solid; it was the min-van, the one out in the street, the back of her head striking the glass and eliciting a swift breath that Potter completely and utterly stole.
Harry's hands were on her. He bit at her lower lip and water fell in a torrent, the van's metal door denting in as he lifted her up, pinning her between him and its slick surface. The feel of his mouth against hers, of the hard planes of his body against hers, his jacket's zipper digging against her chest, the buckle of his belt digging hard into her waist…
For once Harry actually had a belt.
They'd lost a ridiculous number of them.
A breathless, relieved laugh escaped her lips, Kally's fingers wrapping in the front of his coat. Her boyfriend responded, pressing closer, his muscles taut and touching her at every possible point. His pelvis dug into hers, and she tightened her hold with a gasp. The leather under her fingers was intoxicating. The way he touched her sent her trembling. Harry was here,kissing her. He'd just killed people. Murdered them without batting an eye. More Death Eaters could be flying above. They could be attacked at any second. Plague-carrying members of the undead could come from behind and go for his throat…
Harry didn't appear to care.
Instead he went for her throat.
Kally made a sound she scarcely recognized, because it was scarcely human, and Harry's hand twisted hard in her hair. It pulled at her scalp, shots of pain and a building need for oxygen rising. He rocked his hips into hers, as if wanting to do more than kiss, so much more, Kally making a small, needing sound-
But he didn't pull away.
Kally was left gasping against him, Harry gulping breaths like a drowning man. He remained pressed hard to her, and she nearly whimpered in protest because he'd stopped. A strong – incredibly strong – hand slid down her side, clutching, kneading her bare skin where her shirt had been torn to shreds, the brush of his knuckles against her exposed flesh rendering her incoherent. Everything had happened so fast…she wasn't entirely certain she hadn't imagined it.
"Merlin…" she murmured, his scent – like smoky fire and pine and that nectar Fawkes drank - flooding her.
Harry Potter growled against her, and the sound sent her shivering for a whole new reason. The sounds he made…
He didn't hate her. He wasn't dead. He was right here.
Harry's grip tightened and his brow thudded against hers, Kally sucking in a sharp breath at the sensation. "Merlin?" he repeated thickly. "I was gone for a few months, and you've already forgotten my name?" Thunder rumbled overhead, with enough force to send the metal pressing against her spine vibrating, Harry's hand sliding down to tighten pointedly against her hip bone. "The hell, Kaylens?"
Rainwater streaked down their bodies, soaking them, but Kally couldn't help it.
"Thought you likedMerlin?"
"Not when his name is coming out of your mouth."
His breath ghosted against her lips, Kally managing a small smile. "Possessive?"
And just like that, she knew everything would be okay.
Not once had he stopped touching her. Harry's large hand had moved to her leg, her skirt bunching beneath as callused, Quidditch-roughened fingers slid against her thigh, agonizingly slow. He touched her like he'd never touched her before, hesitant and slow, as if he were trying to memorize every centimeter of her skin, his touch driving a spasmodic shiver through her entire form.
She sucked in a shuddering breath, Harry matching it with a harsh one of his own.
Kally was unable to take it. With a needing whine she pressed up, capturing his lips between hers. Harry groaned, the sound low and guttural and hoarse, the rough stubble on his face scratching her as he kissed her forcefully back, Kally harboring no intention of stopping for a long, long while.
Harry wasn't complaining.
Rain continued to pour down. The chilling bite from her complete and utter lack of clothing was physically painful, but Kally barely noticed. She simply didn't care.
Harry seized her lips with maddening impatience. Irritation rolled off him in waves, evident in the way he kissed her, touched. His grip slid to her ass, the wizard grabbing her shamelessly and without apology. He practically crushed her against the mini-van, trapping her, sealing her in the tight space between him and the door, his meaning clear that she wasn't going anywhere without him.
Harry had his mouth pressed to hers with enough force to rob the literal breath from her.
Kally didn't mind.
His rough assault paused, lips breaking away to seize oxygen. "So…snogging Thomas are we?" The timber of his voice was low and dangerous, and had Kally not been expecting it she may have been afraid.
She slid her hand into his unruly hair, lips teasing into a smile. "Well…you know how it is," she whispered, "when your boyfriend disappears and Death Eaters blow your friend's cover…" Harry growled so loud she physically felt the tremor through his chest, her lips twitching more. "Besides," she teased, her fingers playing in the dark strands of black, "would have thought you'd be more mad about the nude drawings."
"I will," he promised, "kill him."
Pulling back, ever-so-slightly, the non-witch allowed her weight to lean fully against the van as she peered up at him. "No you won't."
He shot her a withering look. "Problem is, I can't tell if you're kidding or not."
"About the nude drawings?" she feigned confusion. "Of course not. He had to move on from the topless ones at some point."
"Mmm, did he now?"
A shadow crossed his features, but something dangerously close to amusement flashed in his eyes.
Kally met them with her own, tightening her hold on his jacket, the leather slick beneath her fingers. "You can hardly blame him. You know how it is, my boyfriend was late for our date, again." She added this last word rather dramatically, and Potter made an annoyed sound. "What do you figure? After about a month surely the statute of limitations must have run out. Have to assume he stood me up and I'm single?"
Harry's eyes turned dark, like a storm. "Better make it a year. Give him some credit. If the bastard was late, sure he had one hell of a reason."
She wet her lips, nerves flitting through her. "Ah," she practically whispered, "but he's making a habit of it."
"Never claimed he wasn't an idiot."
"The King of them."
They'd had this conversation before.
Potter huffed a breath, the sound like an angered bull as he glared at her, but his hands…
They still hadn't stopped touching her.
Kally unconsciously shivered. She was in love with him.
The storm picked up, rain pouring down just a little harder. Potter watched her from behind wire-rim frames, water beading on his glasses, wet hair plastered to his face. The dark shadow covering his jaw gleamed with rain that had caught against the unshaven stubble.
Harry watched her.
Kally watched him right back, water clinging to her eyelashes.
Harry's grip tightened on her side, Kally sliding her hands up his chest, the zipper cold. Water spattered off the worn leather, Kally's eyes flickering over him, and for a second insecurity twisted through her. "Harry," she practically whispered, "about Dean-"
An angered sound cut her off. "Don't."
"No." His voice was low and scratchy, eyes dark as ink. "Fucking saw, Kaylens. All of it. I get it. Get why it happened. Just don't need to talk about it." A dark eyebrow crooked in challenge. "Unless you actually want me to kill him?"
The words sounded downright mercurial.
Her lips parted in a silent 'o' of understanding.
Harry's hand just slid to the side of her face, and his thumb left a trail of fire as it dragged across her cheek. "Kaylens…"
Her breath hitched, Harry's presence, his warmth as he pressed closer…
"Kally…" Her name on his lips was practically reverent. "Kally, look at me."
At some point her eyes had fluttered closed, it taking everything she had to pull them back open. Harry was close, so close, the darker flecks of green in his eyes visible, studying her in the dark. Shades of orange reflected against his messy, unruly dark hair, the flames igniting blades of grass and now creeping across that Muggle's front lawn.
But it was the scorching heat in his eyes that engulfed her like a wall of fire, and Kally stopped breathing altogether.
"Damn," she managed softly, "you're an understanding boyfriend."
For a long second he said nothing, merely trailing his thumb back and forth across her cheek, Harry staring at her with a peculiar sort of intensity. "Boyfriend…yeah, should probably do something about that."
And then he kissed her.
He pulled her against him, the hard planes of muscle both familiar and practically foreign, but it didn't stop her hands from exploring. Harry's mouth left hers, finding the slope of her jaw, slowly, slowly lowering along her neck, her pulse beating wildly beneath his lips.
Kally wasn't aware of the startled whimper escaping her, Harry's breath hot against her cool skin.
She clutched at him, her head falling back against the glass. Every centimeter of her was quivering beneath his touch. Harry's large hands seized onto both her arms, callused palms sliding down both simultaneously, reaching her hands. He was playing with her fingers as he kissed along her throat, jaw, back to her lips, Kally wanting to desperately beg that he never, never stop.
Slowly he did.
She made an upset sound, Harry bowing his head over hers, both of their breathing patterns erratic. "Not that I want to put this on pause," he growled, voice thick and raspy, "but Death Eaters are trying to burn down my street."
A blade of grass fell out of her hair as she managed an infinitesimal nod against him. "Alright."
"But after," he promised, "after…we are talking about this. About us." Lips finding hers, pulling her lower one between his, murmuring, "Just…after…"
Nerves thrummed through her veins, kissing back, but when he stopped… "After what?" she quietly managed.
Harry re-sealed his mouth to hers, silent command to shut up.
She didn't. "After the plague-carrier-extermination," she stole words between kisses, gasping, "project, killing the Death Eaters," another kiss, "or killing Dean?" Her eyes flickered open, and despite everything she fixed him with an innocent look, fingers playing along the back of his neck.
Her boyfriend flat out growled at her.
But he didn't let her go.
Instead he pulled her closer, words a low, threatening rumble. "If we had time…the things I would do to you in this van..."
"Mmm…now you sound like a serial killer."
Potter's lidded gaze slittened into a full on glare.
She was undeterred. "Driving around suburbia, picking up unsuspecting Girl Guides in skirts? I was just selling cookies. Perhaps we should put up a flier about you."
"And to think," he uttered flatly, "I was about to offer you candy."
"So uncreative, Potter. You'd have done better with ice cream."
Abruptly his hands grew impossibly tight, and his nose nudged up against hers. "Wench."
Her lips curved into a small smile. "Prat."
His mouth was closer. "Insane…damn…woman."
"Insane? That's a new one."
Harry sniffed derisively. "Can't keep using my finishing blow as harpy," he relayed, "lest you get bored."
"Of our game? Don't be ridiculous." She sounded scandalized.
But for a second, just a second there was a flash of insecurity there, in his eyes. Her lips parted to quell it – she'd never get bored of him, ever – but she never had the chance.
Harry's lips found hers, moving over them, and the magic roiled off him in waves. That aberrant tingling she alwaysgot when touched trailed over her skin, as if his magic was reaching out for hers, and Merlin…Kally trembled, feeling flat out shaken and warm and scared and wonderful and a dozen other things as they simply stood there in the rain, kissing.
Strangely he hadn't stopped playing with her fingers.
At some indeterminable point he broke away to mutter a quiet word, fire flaring back up around them, and this time it wasn't her imagination: fiery wings shot out around him, from his back, like a phoenix, and Harry wrapped his arms tightly around her waist as those flaming wings slammed back down around them, enveloping them like young fledgings.
Then that strange fire pulled them through a constricted space, her lungs constricting, but when she could breathe again she found herself still enveloped in Harry's arms, standing out on the front lawn of a chaotic scene.
She recognized it as the Dursley's house, two blocks from where they had just been. But unlike earlier in the day it was now littered with the bodies of the decapitated undead, multiple Order members were staging an offensive, there was one seriously dented vehicle that Mad Eye Moody appeared to be standing on and using as a podium to shout orders, and the shrubs appeared to be – quite noticeably – on fire.
Harry's green eyes peered down at her, something smug glinting within them.
Kally simply parted her lips in mild exasperation. "You are definitely going to have to share how you did that."
"Called phoenix translocation, luv. Thought it'd be obvious."
She bit down on her lower lip, thoughtful. "Please tell me you're not going to start molting."
From nearby there was an indignant squawk, Kally's head jerking towards it, finding Fawkes perched on a literal flaming shrub, his dark eyes fixed right on her in what she swore was a glare.
Harry merely closed his eyes and let out a long suffering sigh. "How many times have I told you that squawking's undignified?"
Now the phoenix fixed him with an angry look.
"What?" Harry stated. "It is."
Fawkes tail feathers literally sparked, as if the animal were contemplating homicide.
Harry just groaned, offering her a wry look. "Fawkes would like to point out that he doesn't molt. He selectively gifts wizarding kind with his feathers, and given he has only done that thrice in the past century…"
Fawkes made another one of those angry sounds, and Kally swore it sounded like the bird was correcting him.
"Right," Harry uttered dispassionately, cementing her impression of the situation. "Done that thrice intentionally, discounting that whole splitting into two of him fiasco-"
Kally's eyes shot to Fawkes in silent question, and she swore to undead things the bird struck a pose and smirked at her.
"-and leaving a few at Riddle's favorite shark-infested beach getaway. But yeah…point is, you don't have to worry about me molting."
Kally blinked several times, and Harry's arms slid away from around her waist, simply claiming her wrists, his fingers massaging along them in an unbelievably soothing fashion as he simply looked at her.
"About bloody time you two!" someone – possibly George? – shouted.
"Oh, leave 'em alone! They're adorable."
"Pink hairs right," came a growling voice. "Celibacy has been bad for his vigilance."
The two of-age practitioners ignored them. Kally didn't look over, and neither did Harry. She simply kept her gaze on her boyfriend, his on hers, something rebellious glinting in his dark green eyes.
"You remember me." It wasn't a question. Only this time, unlike the last time he'd said it, his gaze practically burned. "All of me."
Wetting her lips, she managed a small, infinitesimal nod. "Yeah." Her lips curved into a smile. "I really do."
"Good," he uttered, and the look he gave her was so incendiary it was a wonder she didn't catch on fire. "Remember that for when I remember I'm pissed at you later. Have it on good authority I can be a bit of a possessive bastard when it comes to you."
She offered a one shouldered-shrug, artless. "Makes it hotter."
Harry stared at her for precisely three seconds, tongue darting out over his lips, as if processing that. "Fucking hell, Kal." He caressed the inside of her wrist, voice fond and threatening all at once.
A second later he'd released her.
The loss of contact was palpable.
Harry stepped away, and it was like watching a veil pass over him. The second his hand left hers a taut tension rippled through him, and his barely restrained magic radiated out as he looked around the yard.
Kally's eyes followed.
The yard was still a yard, but only in definition. The protective wards that would keep anyone with a Dark Mark outside it shimmered faintly in the air where the grass met the street, and a disturbingly large mound of bodies had been piled along the curb. It was a barricade; a barricade of bodies, meant to impede any plague carriers who tried to rush the property.
Some sadistic soul had piled them up like sandbags stemming a flood.
Kally watched the fingers of one twitch, rain pouring down, the Reach only able to stare. A splash dragged her attention away, to the center of the yard, where there appeared to be a newly dug in-ground swimming pool, the edges merrily burning despite the downpour. An upside down vehicle floated in it along with a few bodies, the rain and what looked suspiciously like a broken water line filling it, while another hissing line ominously rattled, the distinct stench of gas radiating out.
Kally got the distinct and immediate impression that there'd been a rather large explosion recently.
Apparently so did Potter.
"What the hell happened here?" he demanded.
George staggered to his feet, wiping off intestine. "Something ugly."
"Real ugly," Lee affirmed, shoving another body onto the pile.
Potter stood there, rigid in the night and said nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"Looks impatient, doesn't he?"
"That he does, o-replacement-twin-o-mine," George said, giving Kally a little wave to show off his newly bandaged – and clearly healed – arm.
Her stomach jumped. George had been hurt, so had Fred, and Regulus. Panic jolted through her, swift and instant. "Fred and Regulus, are they-"
"Grumpy, and injured to high hell, but fine," George answered quickly, and his jovial expression lessened. The wizard nodded stiffly towards the inside of the house.
Relief flooded her. Her eyes darted towards the house, the windows battened down and shades shut, only shadows moving within. A chubby man about their age stood on the porch in a soaked bathrobe, brandishing the business end of a broom in one hand, and a fire extinguisher in the other.
Kally felt like she was on emotional overload.
Lee, however, was busy grinning. "Take it you'll be wanting the short version then?"
Harry let out a concerningly rabid growl.
Any trace of disquiet on George's face evaporated, the Weasley twin's head darting back towards Harry, the wizard shrugging as if the entire affair had been a causal night out. "Reckon that means the short version, mate."
"Fine, have it your way. But you're missing out on the good parts," Lee warned.
"Somehow," Harry stated dryly, "I doubt that."
George guffawed. "Voldie and his minions took out your city block. Deposited a bunch of plague victims. Tossed in a few ultra powerful ones for zest."
"Think we rounded them all up before they, ya know, went and did something pesky like contaminate the rest of London."
"Yeah, rest of the Order got your neighbors all out of the way in the meantime."
"Yeah, mostly. There's still that one old fella holed up in his house like it's the bleeding apocalypse."
"Look around though," Lee pointed out. "Can't really blame him for thinking that." As if to emphasize his point, a not-quite-dead and rather portly man groaned, attempting to slide what was left of its torso off the improvised barricade.
"True, true," George mused. "Dead are up and skulking about aren't they?"
"Well," Lee smirked maliciously, then sent a carefully aimed piercing curse through the crawling man's skull, "not all of them."
The end of Harry's wand actually sparked. "Which," he demanded dangerously, "neighbor?"
"The annoying one with the yipper dog. Number 16."
"Now that's not fair. That coulda been the wife yipping at him."
"True, women, you know how they can be. Difficult as bloody sin to argue with."
"Yeah, why? Didn't you get that memo?"
Kally made a frustrated sound.
George's head whipped around, a sinister smirk lighting his face. "Oh, by the way Harry, your girlfriend's pissed at you."
Harry's head shot back around to hers, a dark eyebrow rising in silent inquiry.
She didn't deny. "They're not wrong."
"Guess that explains Thomas," he muttered dryly.
George Weasley scented drama the way a shark scents blood in the water. "What's this now?"
Both Kally and Harry's heads whipped back around to glare at him, simultaneously spitting, "Nothing."
At the far edge of the yard something exploded, the sound of sod and dirt raining down an instant before Ron dragged himself over, looking worse for the wear. "Nothing?" he asked, as if he'd been part of the conversation all along. Tossing a rather singed looked broom to the ground, it splattered in the mud. "So that's what we're going with?"
Clearly Ron was still annoyed.
Various Order members were scattered across the property, scouting every possible angle that either the undead or Death Eaters could approach from, but in their immediate vicinity, within earshot, it was only her and Harry, Lee and George, and now Ron.
Kally's stomach twisted unpleasantly. "Ron, don't. You can't...you can't just talk about it so openly, okay?" Dean was a spy. They couldn't risk more people finding out, or-
Any thought she had froze at the look Ron shot her.
Harry had other priorities. "Where's Luna?"
"I'm here, Harry." The practically ethereal voice materialized out of thin air, the witch brushing pieces of a strange, crumbly black material out of her long blonde hair. "We're alright. We just encountered a little trouble on the way."
Ron scoffed, and the sound was so derisive it was a wonder his nose didn't fly off. "A little?"
The Ravenclaw girl frowned. "Well yes, the roof they threw at us was from the smallest house on the block. Didn't you notice?"
Kally blinked, startled.
Harry merely asked, "Roof?" in the way one does when they aren't entirely certain they actually want the answer.
"Yes," Luna replied, "roof. They really have been getting creative, though the one helping us managed to get us out of harm's way."
"Allegedly," Ron scoffed.
Kally instantly stiffened, her eyes flying towards the direction Ron had presumably come from. Dean. She took a step-
A hand shot out, snaring hers and jerking her back with enough force to send her knocking against a strong, strong chest. An arm sealed her against it an instant later, and Kally didn't have to ask who it belonged to. The jolt at his merest touch told her enough. His hand ran up and down along her spine, like he was trying to calm a skittish animal.
It warmed her, irrationally so, because even when Harry was furious with Dean, with her, he was still trying to comfort her.
Then again, maybe this was his whole possessive thing.
Kally honestly didn't care. She simply felt his fingers thread through her hair, something warm spreading through her.
"I'm sure their 'friend' is fine," Harry uttered flatly, intentionally avoiding Dean's name. "Now let's consider it a dropped topic, for obvious reasons, yeah?"
Ron shook what looked suspiciously like a broken off shingle out of his hair. "You're kidding?"
Harry fixed him with a mildly annoyed look, catching on to exactly what Ron meant. "Wars messy. If she thought she needed to do that to convince them, I'm okay with it," he said, words disturbingly calm and evasive. "You know, called being secure in my relationship. Ought to try it. It's refreshing."
The hold on her fingers was so tight it was actually painful.
Strangely George and Lee had gone quiet.
"How did you even know that impotence hex anyway?" Ron demanded.
Harry didn't so much as blink. "Tonks."
"You're welcome!" called an overly cheery voice.
"Fucking hell, it's like summoning Voldemort by saying his name," Ron muttered, directing a look back towards where the pink haired Auror practically bounced, standing alongside a rather tired looking Remus, guarding the boundaries.
Kalliandra felt Harry's face dip into her hair, the wizard inhaling deeply for a second, as if trying to calm himself. Her eyes practically fluttered closed…
"Amazing…" Lee breathed.
"Yeah, middle of a bloody war and they're at it."
"Almost like they don't care that there's dead people."
"Or that she's covered in blood."
Harry heaved a long suffering sigh, his warm breath tracing against the back of her ear, Kally shivering in his arms. And then, just like before, he slid his hands down her arms to her fingers, giving them a bit of a wiggle.
And then he let her go, leaving Kally standing there, alone, in the rain.
He started off towards Moody. "What's the status report?"
"So glad you could drag yerself away, Potter." His magical eye spun unnaturally in its socket, fixing right on her. "Good to see yer alive, girl. Hadn't been, Potter might've gone dark on us again."
"What do you mean again?" she asked suspiciously, ignoring the look Harry shot her. For now, there was a lull. No moving undead. No incoming hexes. No visible Death Eaters that they could see. She simply quirked a golden eyebrow in his direction, Moody snorting audibly.
"Wizard gets a bit testy when yer threatened. Or not around. Thought you'd have noticed?"
Harry's head shot back towards the grizzled Auror. "Can we please focus on the fact that we're in the middle of a battle for a minute? These are my neighbors. Is everyone accounted for? Who's still out? Who…"
It all faded to background noise as exhaustion flooded her. Unconsciously Kally rubbed at the underside of her wrist, where Harry's fingers had just been. The phantom feel of his fingertips lingered maddeningly-
There was something there.
Her eyes flickered down, seeing a beautifully red and gold, soft wristlet fastened around her wrist, the phoenix feathers brushing warmly against her skin. Hesitantly she touched it, sweeping her fingers across the soft, twined surface, the thing practically thrumming with magic. Fawkes trilled smugly off to the side, Kally remembering.
Sitting in a window seat, looking out at the churning, winter ocean, safely sealed in Harry's arms as he tried to twine it around her wrist, dropping it repeatedly because he was absolutely terrible at knots.
It was her Christmas present. Harry'd had to take it away when her memories had been sealed off, so she wouldn't remember. He'd-
He'd slipped it onto her just now, while playing with her hands.
Off to the side, unseen, Harry was watching her through the deluge, the vestiges of a smirk on his face.
But Kally didn't notice.
Things around her had gone strangely quiet, fires crackling in various spots. Tres and Amarante were extinguishing burning areas closer to the house, any lingering members of the undead hindered by the human-body-barricade covering the perimeter or already hexed down. Rain hissed against hot spots, and Tres was sodding alive, but she scarcely noticed. For the most part…
There was nothing.
Absolutely nothing going on anymore.
Thunder rumbled ominously overhead.
But Kally didn't notice any of that either.
She didn't notice, because as she'd run her fingertips along the phoenix feathers encircling her wrist, a bright green emerald had glinted on her finger.
A very particularfinger.
Water droplets ran down her fingers, trailing in little rivulets, catching on the ring, and that little gemstone had the audacity to glimmer. Light from the burning fires sent emerald hues dancing within it, the stone reflecting the writhing flames, and Kally could only stare.
Unseen by her, Harry's lips had twitched, before turning back to Moody. A rather loud conversation was ensuing, it like dull noise to her ears.
There was a ring, on her finger.
All of a sudden she could feel the magic within it, subtle, gentle, tingling against the delicate skin where the metal encircled, and she physically felt like she could no longer breathe.
It took her a concerningly long moment, standing there dripping in the rain, to find a way to form words, and when she did her face shot up, something golden sparking in her irises like a dozen radiant fairies.
"Harry?" she demanded. "What the hell is this?"
That wizard she'd noticed before, the one that was a bit portly and clad in only a mud-covered bath robe, perked up. "Oi Harry! That's your bird then?" He seemed to appraise her for a second, before making a mock approval sound, spinning the broom in his hand. "Nice."
Ron cast him an aghast look, then looked at her, frowning.
Kally's champagne colored eyes remained fixed on Harry.
Harry, who had been arguing with Moody, stopped, turned around, then leaned against the burnt up husk of the Dursley's former family sedan. He didn't say anything for a long moment, and neither did she. The wizard merely crossed his arms over his chest, looking rather relaxed.
And then he lifted a solitary eyebrow at her, as if in challenge.
Ron's eyes darted between the two of them, back to Dudley, then back to Harry. "Does anyone want to clue me in on what the hell is going on here?"
Luna tilted her head to eye him curiously. "Maybe we should get your eyes checked," she said worriedly. Squinting assessingly, she pressed like a Healer running over options, "Wrackspurt larvae infestations in corneas are rare, but when they happen they render you completely unable to see anything sparkly." Suddenly she frowned, the expression rather horrified. "Could you imagine? Never being able to see the sparkle in the world? Ron, we need to get you to Daddy immediately. If they're allowed to fester your sparkle rods could be permanently damaged and-"
Ron gaped and dodged as she tried to snag him. "Sparkle what?"
From off to the side Tonks let out a gasp, squealed, and began to bounce up and down on her toes, flinging mud in every conceivable direction. Remus' attention got diverted – he'd been responsibly scanning the perimeter - when a particularly large glob of dirt splattered up into his face, the werewolf turning around-
He realized what Tonks had caught onto a second later, and a slow smile lit up his weathered features. "Oh Harry, this is…" The former Professor trailed off as if lost in another time and place, his own fiancée smacking his arm adamantly in excitement. It looked rather like she was trying to kill an invisible fly that'd landed on him.
Ron Weasley gaped at them too, now holding Luna at bay via a firm hold on her shoulder and a straightened out arm. "And what the hell is wrong with them now?"
Neither Kally nor Harry appeared to notice, though Harry's next words did address Ron and not her. "Dunno mate," he said, eyes locked onto hers, "that witch hasn't been right in the head since Singapore."
Kally's lips parted in silent question. "Singapore?"
Harry smirked, drumming his hands against his forearms. "That time in the cage changed her."
A small, slow smile slid into place on her lips.
And then she lifted her hand, waggling her fingers at him in silent question.
Harry's eyes blazed like torches. "You never said no."
She let out an exasperated laugh. "You never asked!"
"True," he disclosed roguishly. "But really Kaylens, we both knew where this was headed." His eyes flicked towards her fingers. "You can't honestly say this is a surprise. Told you I hid it in my old desk drawer at the Dursley's. You're in their front yard. Two plus two equals..."
"What? Figured best to get it on you before I did something stupid, like lose it."
She sputtered, the sound not angry in the slightest. "So that negates asking?"
"Would it help," he inquired blandly, "if I got down on one knee?"
Darkening eyes darted down to the muddy ground, then back up, smirk firmly back in place. "But I'm so clean."
There was a loud, guttural grunt from atop the sedan Harry leaned against, Moody having thudded over to him. The ex-Auror wasted no time in smacking his peg leg against the back of Harry's head. Hard.
Potter grabbed at the back of his head and groaned, directing a glower up at the one-eyed man. "Can't you see I'm busy?"
Mad Eye ignored this. "Want me to hurt him for ya, girl? I'll do it. Wizard has it coming, doing it like that."
Something warm and wonderful filled her. "You've gone insane," she said, sounding absolutely awed.
Potter, still rubbing his head, glanced her way, wry smirk firmly in place. "Clearly," he agreed. "Question remains."
"Completely insane," she clarified.
The words were all repeated from a long, long time ago, from when he'd first asked her out, back in the boy's dormitory.
Kally's heart felt like it was pumping wildly in her chest, every nerve ending in her body on fire, and she simply looked at him across the yard, through the pouring rain. Harry looked right back. He studied her intently, malachite locked onto liquid gold.
"That is not asking, trainee," Moody growled, from atop the vehicle. The grizzled ex-Auror's coat whipped around him in the storm, looking like a god of lore casting judgement. The end of his wand even sparked.
Potter didn't so much as glance up. He kept his eyes on her, as if he couldn't imagine looking anywhere else. "I love her, Alastor."
"That's nice," the Auror grated. "On your knees boy."
Harry's lips twitched. "Shocking as it might be, Moody, but reckon I've got it from here."
"No, you don't. You're botching it. Thought the nympha-maniac-dora and I taught you better than that."
"Holy shit," Ron blurted, catching up, eyes now glued to her hand. "Bloody hell, Harry."
"Language," Harry chided. "Really Ron, there are children present."
"Oh he means me, doesn't he?" Tonks chirped excitedly, bouncing up and down in the mud and tugging on Remus' sleeve. "Harry you mean me, right?"
Remus slapped a hand over her mouth.
Harry ignored them all, still studying her, features crafted into an out-of-place smirk. "Today's technically," he revealed, "my eighteenth birthday."
Her lips parted, forming a silent 'O'?
"Yes, oh." That jaw of his, the one she'd run her lips over more times than she could count, turned subtly. "Time travel…it's bloody exhausting."
Lowering her hand, the ring fiercely felt against her skin, it took everything she had to not show just how shaken she felt at the revelation. He'd been gone for over a year. "You were supposed to be gone for six months," she half-whispered, eyes flickering over his wonderfully familiar face.
"Yeah well, funny that…met a girl."
Ron's head snapped towards him and gaped. Luna merely reached up and shut his jaw.
Kally bit down on her lower lip, hiding a smile. "Did you now?"
He held her gaze without blinking. "Damn right. Hot one too."
"How many other people exactly are you two snogging?" Weasley demanded, looking genuinely annoyed. When neither of them deigned to respond he threw up his hands. "I give up. They're all insane. They're all morally deficient, bleeding snogathoners that…"
She didn't hear the rest of the rant over the pounding rain. It'd gotten remarkably quiet, fires burning and the deluge increasing, but otherwise…silent.
"You still owe me," Harry continued, "a present."
Now Kally simply tilted her head in silent question, a mischievous glint in her eyes. "What'd you have in mind?"
"I think you know." He gave her a burning stare, voice low and scratchy.
"You know, since you never asked, I don't have to say yes."
"That's okay," he said, nonchalant. "So long as you never say no." He paused. "Besides, I was thinking something more along the lines of your middle name." The rain continued matting his untamable hair to his scalp, strands of dark black sticking wetly to his brow. It was incredibly hot. "Seem to recall someone promising that when I got back. Might need it, you know, if you want me to do this properly."
Now he tilted his head in silent challenge.
Moody grunted something about hopeless trainees in need of another instructional round in the cage.
Kally had so, so many questions about that cage, but for now, standing there, soaked through her clothes and shivering, she couldn't suppress the undeniably warm feeling bubbling up in her. "I could have sworn," she countered, "you promised me yours in exchange."
"James." His response was instant. "Now you."
Something startlingly like surprise shone in that familiar green gaze. "Marie?" he repeated.
Hazel eyes narrowed in his direction. "Yes," she affirmed, and it was a dangerous sounding yes."Why?"
Harry simply grinned. "Nothing. I like it. It's simple."
She eyed him skeptically.
"Besides," he added roguishly, "it's easier to spell than Kalliandra. When I inevitably sustain one too many head injuries on top of the ones I've already got-"
"I apologized about that!" Tonks exclaimed, petulant.
"-I'll at least still be able to remember that one."
Kally couldn't help it: she laughed.
Remus was frowning. "Did you two seriously not know one another's middle names?" He sounded concerned. Oh so concerned.
Ron apparently couldn't contain himself any longer. "You two have serious problems, you know that right?" he demanded. "At least I had the decency to learn Hermione's favorite color, birthday, name, all of that before asking her out." There was a tic of silence. "And we don't snog other people!"
Harry leaned back against the rusted sedan, never taking his eyes off her. "Do you want to be my main warlock or not?"
"Of course I bloody well do!" Ron burst, indignant. "Just saying you don't shack up with time travelling witches and should've learned your girl's full bloody name before propositioning her is all." Abruptly he frowned, as if realizing something. "Wait, what do I have to do for it, exactly?"
Her boyfriend snorted. "Next to nothing."
"Plus, you'll be sharing responsibilities with Moony."
"Thank fucking Merlin."
Clearly Ron wasn't exhilarated at the prospect of any potential work. Remus just chuckled.
The wizard she was in love with kept his eyes firmly on her. "So I was thinking next Tuesday-"
Tonks made an angered sound, like a disgruntled grindylow off its feeding schedule.
Harry cast her a look. "Alright…since apparently Tonks has strong feelings regarding when we do this…"
"Two weeks. Two weeks after us. We're getting married in two weeks, so you go after. We absolutely must be at yours. But I want-no, require a proper honeymoon with this hunk-o-man," she punctuated the words with a firm slap to Remus' ass that left the man wincing, "before being yanked back into civilization and forcibly stuffed into reasonable attire for company."
She received multiple blank looks.
The metamorphmagus hissed. "I fully intend to spend as much time as possible bare ass naked with this man on a beach, and there will be a nudist clause in our marriage contract regarding our honeymoon period."
Remus was frowning. "Contract? I don't think marriage works like-"
"Don't be ridiculous, of course it does," she interrupted. "There'll be plenty of clauses, and this one'll be between clause number two and clause number four-"
"You know that's called three, right?" Ron asked.
Moody grunted. "Counting was always her weak spot."
Tonks carried on as if she hadn't heard. "-right where it belongs between naked Sundays and doing it in new and unusual places where we stand a reasonable chance of being arrested by bobbies at least twice a week."
Now the professor-werewolf looked torn between fondness and fear. "Dare I ask, dearest, what clause number one is?"
Her hair cycled to pink. "Breakfast in bed, with you wearing glittery chaps."
"Now would be a good time then, to point out that given the plague, international travel isn't exactly allowed? Not sure beaches are open." Remus said it blandly enough, but his hazel eyes glinted.
He was clearly enjoying goading his wife-to-be.
Harry rolled his eyes. "How's the fourth Monday from now work for you then?" he asked dryly, getting back on point. "You know, since Tonks apparently has to approve our date."
Kally opened her lips to tell him he was insane again, but didn't get the chance because Ron interrupted. Again.
"Who gets married on a Monday?" Weasley sounded scandalized.
Harry shot Ron an extremely irritated look. "I am not waiting another four days, just to satisfy your need for a weekend wedding mate."
"Are any of you unromantic sods even remotely bothered by the fact that Potter hasn't actually asked her?" Moody cut in.
Kally didn't know what was more terrifying: the fact that Harry was doing this in the middle of a zombie infestation and battle, that Remus was quite possibly being held against his will be a sex-deviant, or that Mad Eye was bandying about terms like 'romantic'.
She settled on the latter.
"Technically he has," she said with a small smile. "Sort of."
Harry's eyes softened. "Maybe not in those exact words."
"True." Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Was really more of you just informing me you were going to marry me, actually."
"Look at yourself. Can you blame me?"
Kally felt like a strong wind could honestly knock her over.
Standing there in the fog and smoke and rain, Harry Potter looked at her with an intensity that would have sent lesser witches crumbling. "I am going to marry you," he uttered, and there was not a doubt in her mind that it wasn't a question. No. It was a promise.
"Good," she whispered back.
Her single syllable had been soft and straightforward, but judging from his expression it told Harry all he needed to know. Potter's bright gaze rested on hers, and she could only look back, the darker flecks of green behind his glasses intoxicating.
"I suppose I'll have to take that as a yes then?"
"Any chance," she dodged softly, "of you kissing me sometime soon?" Quirking an eyebrow, somewhat challenging, she murmured, "Because really, if not…heard there might be other suitors who would."
Harry growled, the sound so low and deep it was a wonder nearby glass didn't break. "What the hell do you call what we were just doing?"
She bit down on her lower lip, feigning deep though. "I don't know. Lead up?"
There was that growl again. "You're not nearly as funny as you think you are." But at that he shoved himself away from the car, taking a menacing step forward-
Amarante and Tres chose that exact moment to walk right in front of him, splashing their way through what was left of the yard. The sight of Treswas enough to finally divert her attention away from Harry.
He was alive.
That insane plan Harry'd made at two a.m. back in Dumbledore's cottage had actually worked.
She honestly wanted to hug him.
Harry clearly didn't share the sentiment, because when the youngest of the Gai brothers impeded his path to her, it earned him a blacker than black look. In fact, Harry appeared to be outright contemplating Unforgivables. "Tres," he grunted stiffly.
"Not to break up this happy little moment," Amarante stated with remarkable calm, "but is anyone else concerned about why it suddenly got so quiet?"
"I would be," Tonks called gaily, "but this," waving her hand at her and Harry, "has been far more interesting."
Ron sputtered. "Was anyone planning to tell me Professor Gai was fucking alive?" he demanded. "Or did that just get filed under the 'surprises we're dumping on Ron today' category?"
"Just wait," Luna placated, "to see what we have planned for tomorrow."
"Still," Amarante said with a frown, focused on the issue at hand, "seems a bit odd that the fighting would all just stop, doesn't it?"
"Their portkeys of the undead were all timed," George pointed out, also having made his way over, shooting Harry a shit-eating grin. "Maybe last one already came?"
"And the Death Eaters?"
Ron scoffed, loudly. "Luna's little friend probably killed them all."
Luna looked thoughtful, then spun in a circle, peering at something no one else could see. "Is Ronald right, Esmerelda? Did you?"
The air gave a happy little shimmer, and a severed off tongue promptly materialized, falling out of mid-air.
A literal tongue.
"That," Ron summarized, "is fucking horrifying."
Luna nodded sagely. "I suppose that means yes."
An ear followed, landing in bloodied muck, looking like it'd been physically torn off someone.
Everyone else recoiled, wrinkled noses, grimacing. Kally though…Kally felt like her heart had stopped.
The ear was brown. She took a step back, alarmed in a sickening way-
"It's not him."
Her head jerked to the side, finding Harry right there. In the commotion Luna had caused he'd gotten close. His hand caught her by the arm, steadying her, but his gaze remained tensely on the torn off body parts. Leaning his head closer, voice lowered substantially, he promised, "That ear has an empty piercing hole in it, Kaylens. He doesn't. It's not him."
Despite everything, despite everything that insane night had resulted in, Harry was trying to reassure her about Dean's safety. That Esmerelda hadn't killed him.
She managed a shaky nod, and Harry tightened his hold. The way his fingers flexed against her skin…Merlin. Thunder rumbled overhead, and for a fleeting second Kally was overwhelmed with too many emotions to count.
Harry pulled her against his chest, his arms surrounding her. Kally'd been trembling, like a leaf in a windstorm, the non-witch not realizing how momentarily panicked she'd been at the sight of a black ear torn off on the ground, because there weren't many black Death Eaters, but Harry…
Harry had known. He'd intuited her reaction without her saying a single, solitary word, and any teasing he'd been doing had dropped. Instantly.
He'd gotten around the Gai brothers and to her without making a sound.
Now he just held her.
Kally practically melted against the leather of his coat, breathing in his familiar scent. She'd been without it for so, so long. She clutched at him, feeling his hands moving soothingly up and down her back, his breathing somewhat unsteady.
"Fuck," he muttered, tugging back to look down at her. For once he seemed affected by something. She could see something in his eyes, something unrestrained and raw, a desperation that had her parting her lips to ask-
He cut her off with his mouth, his lips pressing firmly to hers for a brief, mind-numbing moment. Her fingers curled against his coat, his chest, feeling his heart thundering beneath her hands, and with a low groan the pressure increased, stronger, harder, more urgent, right there in the yard.
Kally kissed him back for all she was worth, and when they finally broke apart she was gasping in a way she shouldn't have been, the kiss not nearly long enough to rob her breath the way it had. Eyes fluttering open, she found Harry's clouded eyes looking right back, a conflicted storminess swirling within them. "Kaylens," he grated, "you know I-"
"Yes," she assured softly. "I know."
Suddenly his hands were on either side of her face, his brow thudded against hers, strands of his wet, dark hair dripping into her eyes. "Kaylens," he croaked, "about this, can we-"
"We're okay," she promised, nudging his nose with hers. "Idiot."
She said it with a shocking amount of fondness.
Harry huffed a relieved breath, and she silenced him with her lips.
That lasted nearly a minute, Harry's mouth slowly moving against hers, savoring every moment. It wasn't long enough. It wasn't. Not nearly. Rain pelted them and there was a war going on, a rising need to rejoin it building, but Kally honestly didn't care. She didn't. Harry groaned against her, and she could have happily died of a hex to the back without complaint.
Moody cleared his throat.
Sucking in a breath, the movement of Harry's lips on hers slowed, before he reluctantly, reluctantly stopped. "I fucking hate," he growled lowly, "mood killers."
She laughed breathlessly, Harry breathing equally hard as he shifted, keeping his arms tight around her in silent request for her to not move, the wizard keeping her close even as he lifted his head to look around at the others. She could feel the tension and rigidity slowly returning to his musculature.
That alone sent her trembling.
"You all asked why it got quiet," Harry said easily. "It's Voldemort. He's coming."
Golden colored eyes drifted up, landing upon his scar.
Only then did Kally realize that it was sizzling. "Harry…"
He slid his grip to the back of her head, raking his hands calmly through her thick, tangled hair, something he did to relax either him or her or both. "It'll be fine," he assured, green eyes shifting down to find hers. "Promise."
In that instant she knew that he wasn't going to run. He wasn't going to leave. He was going to wait right here, right where Voldemort knew he could find him, and he was going to face him.
The last time had nearly killed him.
"If you get yourself killed," she whispered fiercely, "I swear-"
"What's the matter, Kaylens? Worried about me?"
She smacked his chest half-heartedly, his gaze glinting with out-of-place amusement.
"Come on," he requested, sliding his hands down her body to find her hands, "we have a few minutes. Let's go get my neighbors before they do something rash. Or burn alive."
And that they did.
Harry'd shrugged out of his jacket, throwing it around her shoulders with a muttered, possessive word that she was never leaving the castle again looking like that. She'd simply pulled it tightly around herself, the warmth and scent that was undeniably Harry clinging to it. And if Harry had noticed her dipping her face to smell the collar, he was smart enough to not say anything.
He did, however, smirk.
They left the relative safety of the Dursley's property and it's heavily warded front lawn. Mad Eye made his distaste of that decision loud and clear, Harry tensely telling him that they had at least ten minutes, given that Voldemort was bound to the same anti-apparation barriers everyone else was and had one hell of a walk still to get there. They had time to save his remaining two neighbors. Mad Eye cussed and threatened to hex him, but ultimately began ordering people to spread out to cover them from the yard.
Ron and Luna actually followed them out of it.
Not once did Harry let go of her hand.
"I want it noted," Ron growled, "that I am one hell of a best mate for doing this."
Harry cast him an odd look. "You realize we not only didn't ask, but we're only walking two houses over."
"Doesn't matter. It's you. You could find trouble inside a cardboard box locked inside a closet," Ron countered, somewhat churlish.
Luna hopped in a puddle. "He does have a point," she said airily. "It's one of Harry's charms, don't you think?"
Harry flat out snorted, the wizard lacing his fingers between hers just a bit tighter. "See Ron, Luna thinks I'm charming."
"I've got an alternate word for it."
They managed to walk the twenty or so meters without incident, the four of them staring at the house, which appeared to be, quite literally, catching on fire as they watched. The shrubs closest to the home had ignited, and the outer shingles on one wall were starting to smolder.
"They're seriously still in that house?" Ron choked. "Don't the idiots realize it's on fire?" Without waiting for anyone to say a single thing, he stomped up to the threshold, rapping loudly on the door. "Oi! Get the hell outta there! We're here to rescue you from your own stupidity and the masked wonders waving wooden sticks that shoot light!"
"Get off my property or I will be forced to defend myself!" shouted a man from within.
"Oh for Merlin's fucking sake…we're not going to kill you, you imbecile! We just want you to come out so we can take you somewhere!"
"Oh yeah, that's a great way to get them to come out," Kally called to him. "You sound like a serial killer."
Ron stopped pounding on the front door, then waved a hand at it. "Well what should I say?"
"I don't know." She shrugged complacently. "Just try not to sound like a mass murderer?"
He pounded on the door again. "Oi! You lot! We have candy!"
"Merlin's soggy nut sack…" came a disillusioned voice from the side. "You lot seriously don't understand the meaning of get into and stay in the safe warded zone, do you?"
It took every ounce of restraint Kally had to not whip around and throw herself at him. Dean. But she didn't, because the rest of the Order in the Dursley's front yard could still see them, and if she started hugging disillusioned men they might have questions.
Harry grunted unhappily. "Oh good, you're here."
Rain pounded down, splattering on the cement.
"How the hell do you think their entire house hasn't burnt down with them in it yet?" Dean's disembodied voice demanded. "Do you have any idea how hard it is to put out shrubs? Brings a whole new meaning to the term burning bush and I'm not even talking about Ginny's."
Ron's fist froze on the door, the wizard's claws shooting out and leaving marks in the frame. "What the hell did you just say?"
"You heard me." Dean sounded smug. Far too smug.
Kally merely slid closer to Harry, snagging at his free hand in hopes of keeping him from murdering her friend. "You realize it's getting harder and harder to keep them from killing you, yeah?"
Luna simply frowned. "Should we? I told Esmerelda to leave him be, but-"
Ron had stopped trying to break down the door, his attention fully fixed on Luna.
He appeared to be smiling.
"Luna, I can't believe I am saying this, but please don't set your brain-happy fairy loose on our friend."
"Your friend," Harry muttered.
The muffled shouting had resumed. "Get off my porch or I'll shoot!"
A woman's voice, elderly sounding, erupted right after. "Samuel! Stop threatening to shoot the neighborhood children this instant!"
"I'll shoot whomever I damn well please woman!"
"You're not even supposed to have that gun!"
They all stood there, exposed and potentially in danger of being shot or hexed in that Muggle's front yard, listening to the fight that ensued. Corpses littered the street, some still smoldering despite the thick downpour, the husks of what had once been houses burning in many spots. She should have been horrified. Merlin she should have been, but she wasn't.
Harry was alive, standing there with her, and her stomach fluttered in a way that was entirely out of her control.
She was desensitized to everything but him. Kally didn't give a sod about where they were, sliding her arms around Harry's mid-section, his jacket giving her a delightful sense of warmth. Harry wasted no time in wrapping his arms right back around her, an unbidden shiver coursing through every centimeter of her body.
They stayed like that while Ron argued, negotiations with the Muggle man clearly breaking down.
Harry's fingers clenched hard on her spine. "You know Thomas," he informed roughly, "Kaylens and I are getting hitched."
Ron made a disgruntled sound and began knocking harder. "I cannot emphasize enough how much I need you to come out so I can leave," he practically begged. "Seriously, there's sap out here! My eyes!"
Off to the side, where Dean had been, there was a long beat of silence.
An incredibly long beat.
Harry smirked like a jackal. "You're not invited."
Kally smacked his chest, peering up with a scolding glare. "Harry."
He glanced down with a smug, unapologetic look. "Yes?"
Shifting in Potter's grip, she peered towards where she thought her best friend might be, assuming Harry hadn't wandlessly killed him already. "Dean, want to be my maid of honor?"
Harry shot her an utterly betrayed look.
There was a disembodied, choked guffaw. "I can't decide if you're trying to get me killed, Kal, or if goading Potter is just your preferred method of foreplay."
Harry let out a snarl that was practically rabid. "Ever utter my fiancée's name and the word foreplay in the same sentence again, Thomas, and I promise it'll be the last thing you do."
Something impossibly warm flooded her, and Kally practically purred
Dean chuckled. "Take it our truce is still off then."
"I can think of a few other things I'd like to cut off."
"Oh Harry, we have Esmerelda for that," Luna offered. "Though I'm not entirely certain where she's at. The Unseelies may have summoned her back by now." The pale girl brushed her even paler hair out of her face, squinting at something no one else could see. "Yes, I think she's left. Would a raincheck be okay Harry?"
Harry looked far too happy about this.
"Luna," Kally said with remarkable calm, "can you please not offer to have your…." Pausing, because even she knew that insulting fairies was a bad idea, and calling it a homicidal firefly from hell would probably qualify, she chose her next words carefully. "Can you please stop offering to have your friend cut off my friend's dick please? Really, he's going to need that later if Harry pisses me off enough."
Harry's head darted back, a smoldering glare leveled on her. "That is so not funny."
Kally offered him a saccharinely sweet smile.
Kally stretched up on her toes to kiss him on the tip of his nose.
From the front porch, Ron gagged. "I changed my mind. Shoot me," he pled to the insane Muggle. "I'm standing directly in front of your door. Just aim the shotgun right in the center and you're guaranteed a direct hit."
"See Veronica? The lad's been bitten! He needs dealt with good and proper." The distinct sound of a shotgun being primed echoed loud. "There's no curing this! You're doing the noble thing, lad!"
The Muggle woman practically shouted. "What would you know? You go to bed right after you get mad at the news!"
"I know things!"
Harry's entire body had gone concerningly stiff, but his eyes narrowed towards where Ron was most likely about to die. "I'm fairly positive we're hearing Ron and Hermione's future."
Ron apparently overheard. "I don't have a future, Harry. Getting shot will be better than listening to your two's perverse levels of foreplay!"
"Foreplay?" Luna questioned, sounding truly naïve.
Dean's response was immediate. "I'll show you later, Lunes."
Every muscle in Harry's chest instantly rippled. "Touch Luna and die."
"How exactly did you get a member of the Unseelies on your side anyway, Lunes?" Dean asked, ignoring Harry with practiced ease. "They're not exactly known for liking humans."
"She owed Daddy and I a life debt," she said serenely, "on account we saved her young one from drowning."
One of Harry's incredibly dark eyebrows lifted up.
"We floated a leaf to them," she explained. "It was no trouble, but the Unseelie take these matters very seriously."
Dean choked on a laugh.
"Oh," Luna said, as if remembering something, "you wanted to cut something off Dean, didn't you, Harry?"
Now Dean just choked.
"Can we please focus on getting the Muggles out of here?" Ron demanded, at the end of his tether. "Seriously, I have things to do."
"What things?" Harry actually sounded curious.
"Deck you for snogging my girl for one."
"Right," Dean interrupted, tone no longer joking. "How about you lot just get those two out of there, and then get the hell back to the warded lot? You don't-just you need to go."
None of them had to ask why they needed to go. Dean was probably under some form of vow to not say why, but Kally knew why.
So did Harry.
"Alright," Harry uttered tonelessly, his fingers squeezing against her spine for a harsh second, before slowly releasing her. Darkened eyes shifted towards the Muggle's home, as if thinking things through. "I'll get them."
"Thought you had to have been inside a place in order to apparate in," Dean commented, hastening to add, "That's been my problem Otherwise would have forcibly removed them already."
"I have been inside," Harry told calmly. "This is the Pritchard's residence. Of all the people my uncle used to make me do chores for, they were the ones that were actually nice about it. I've been inside their house before."
He stood there, barely a few centimeters away, but the absence of Harry's hands physically on her… "What do you mean," she whispered, "by they were actually nice?"
"My aunt and uncle told all the neighbors I was at a school for juvenile delinquents. That didn't exactly endear the neighbors to me."
Kally hissed a breath between her teeth, sounding remarkably snake-like. "I'm going to play with them the way a cat plays with a mouse."
"You can't kill your future relatives, Kaylens."
"You said killing them was off limits; you never said anything about light maiming."
Harry cast her a doubtful look.
She threw one right back. "Will you just go get your neighbors so we can go?" Her eyes slid towards the Dursley's yard, her expression anything but friendly.
It looked for a second like Harry was going to say something, to her or Luna, but stopped himself.
Instead his voice was directed at Dean.
"Can I trust your ass to keep them both safe and keep Kaylens from killing my family for five minutes?"
The reply came from a different spot on the drive, but it was Dean all the same. It was obvious he was nervous, pacing.
"Don't even have to ask, Potter. Reckon you already know I'll do whatever's needed to keep her safe." There was a pause, words meaningful. "Whether you like it or not."
Huffing a breath, Harry didn't look anywhere near the direction of Dean's voice, and neither did she.
"You really," Dean said bluntly, "need to hurry."
Without another word Harry stepped back, putting some more room between them. The tread of his boots splashed in the accumulating water on the drive, the cement cracked in spots and weeds growing out of them, but when he got a reasonable distance he shot her a wink.
Then he disappeared in a frenzy of fire.
There was a choked sound from Dean's direction. "Did he just-"
"Spontaneously combust?" Luna filled in. "Why yes, I think he did."
Ron had also stopped pounding on the door, staring at the spot Harry had been in. "You know what? I'm not even surprised anymore," he said flatly. Without further word he threw himself down into a porch swing, the chains creaking so loud that the Muggle inside heard it.
"Get off my porch!"
Ron scoffed. "Make me."
From inside the house there was another sound, followed by the distinct shouts of the Muggle man, a thunderous boom ricocheting out as a shot gun presumably went off. Ron jumped, startled, and fell right off the swing and onto his ass. The porch, fortunately, gave a bit.
Kally just winced, really hoping her boyfriend was intact and in possession of all four of his limbs.
"So," Dean said, "Potter huh?"
She ran her fingertips unconsciously over the wristlet, the burning heat from the feathers warming her. The sounds of the scuffle grew louder. "You could try," she chastised, "to make his name sound like less of a cuss."
"I could, but I won't."
She shot him a scathing, sidelong look without actually turning her head towards him. "Seriously?"
"Seriously," he deadpanned. "Where'd be the fun in that?"
She hissed like a serpent, and her gaze flickered over the front of the house, Harry presumably inside given that she could hear him negotiating with the Muggle to cease fire. The shades of a lower story window rustled, a small tree smacking against the glass and bouncing off as if there'd been a physical scuffle.
"I'd assume the fun would be in not suffering a prolonged and excruciating death at Harry's hands," she replied dryly, "but you know, maybe you're into that."
Dean snorted. "Marry me instead, Kaylens. I'll let you spank me anytime you want."
There was the distinct sound of choking from the front porch.
"Already engaged," she said calmly. "Besides, I thought you were marrying, Ginny."
"I am. But really Kaylens, we could start a harem. Don't be so closed minded. Hell, play your cards right and I might even let Potter join us occasionally."
There was the sound of splashing, Ron storming over to look back and forth between the two of them, rather enraged. "What the hell is going on here?"
"I believe," Luna said serenely, "they're starting a harem."
Something inside the home crashed, glass breaking, what looked suspiciously like a clock radio flying out a top floor window and landing on the lawn. No one seemed to care, but there was the distinct sound of Harry shouting, "For fucks sakes!" before something bright and orange-red flashed in what was left of the window.
"You could join too, Luna," Dean invited. "Can't say I've ever been into blondes before, but hell, consider Kaylens kind of the gateway drug for that. Suppose I could dig it."
Kally's lips parted, aghast, and she seriously had to restrain the temptation to kick him. But she couldn't, because Moody was watching, and Moody didn't know.
Plus it was a little hard to kick someone you couldn't see.
"That's it," Ron stated with remarkable calm, "I'm going to kill him. Hold still, Thomas."
"What?" Dean sounded disturbingly blasé. "You wanted in too? Sorry mate. Not that I couldn't get into another ginger, but really, Ginny's already in it. Can't have siblings. Besides, having Harry and Ginny making a go of it again, with us at the same time, ought to be weird enough as it is."
"Ginny and Harry did that?"
Of course Harry chose that instant to show back up.
There was a burst of flames on the front lawn, Harry materializing. His hair was a verifiable mess, sticking up in every conceivable direction, his lip was cut, and his shirt was burnt, with a long and blackened gash down the side. It looked concerningly like gunpowder residue.
Ron's head shot to him like a shark scenting blood, the werewolf stalking towards him purposefully. "HARRY! You'd tell me if you were into other men, yeah?"
Potter shot her an utterly confused look. She shrugged complacently. "Dean might have suggested a foursome."
"Fivesome, actually," Luna piped in.
"And what's this about you and my sister!?"
Luna grabbed Ron by the back of his coat, tugging him to a halt and making soothing sounds.
Harry looked ready to kill something.
"Jesus, Potter," Dean chuckled, "you make this too easy."
Her boyfriend took a menacing step forward, Kally quickly intercepting and placing both her palms flat on her chest. "Mad Eye's going to have questions about you assaulting thin air," she pointed out.
Harry looked right around her, his lip bleeding profusely. "Fuck," he said clearly and distinctly, "Mad Eye."
Dean let out a low whistle. "Damn Potter, didn't realize you were equal opportunity in the sack. Mechanical limbs and all do it for you?"
Ron made a sound similar to what death throes in strangled mermen sounded like.
"Calm down, Ron," Harry muttered, shooting Dean such a fierce look that Kally just knew he was mentally trying to set him on fire, "I never touched Ginny. No offense, but she's not exactly my type." He stood there, glaring aggressively, his lower lip completely and totally split and swelling.
"Harry," she interceded, "what happened to your face?"
Her wizard didn't even blink. "Got sucker punched by an old lady with a cane."
Kally's lips formed a small 'o' of surprise, and she did her honest best not to laugh.
Oh good, now she was the one being glared at.
Her fingers curled in the front of his shirt, his very wet shirt. Her fingernails scraped through the thin material, now that his jacket was no longer on him but instead on her, and instantly she forgot all about restraining him. She could basically see through it now that it was soaked from the rain. Harry stood there, tension rippling through him, and it was all she could do to tear her eyes away from his pecs.
When she finally succeeded it was to find Harry fixing her with a darkly amused look. "Alright there, Kaylens? Seem distracted."
Wetting her lips, nerves rifling through her, she found that it was suddenly very, very hard to speak.
Potter chuckled darkly.
Kally simply slid her hand down the hard planes of his chest, heartbeat erratic. "I am definitely…definitely going to borrow your jacket more often."
Viridian eyes flicked over her. "Good," he assessed. "You look good in it."
Her eyes flitted back to his. "You just like seeing me in your clothes," she murmured.
"Damn right I do." He didn't even attempt to deny. "Means you're mine. Tells the rest of the world that too."
"I thought that's what this was for," she said, tapping her ring finger against his chest, and Merlin just the feel of it against her own skin…
Deep inside her boyfriend's chest, something rumbled. Harry's larger hands rose, dropping down atop hers to seal them against him, and Merlin that familiar tingling trailed across her skin wherever he touched. "That too," he admitted.
"Gag me." Dean then proceeded to make a gagging sound.
Harry's grip tightened on her, Kally honestly concerned that this time he might actually kill him. Fortunately there was the sound of more splashing, though this time it was unsteady, like someone who was undeniably exhausted trying to navigate a flood.
"Hermione, thank God," Ron choked, rushing to her.
The curly haired witch was wrapped up in a bear hug, actually squeaking at the force.
Slowly Harry seemed to forget about killing Dean, his attention diverted for now. "Evening 'Mione," he said calmly. "That was quite the…dignified sound."
Brown eyes shot a glare in their direction. "Can one of you please," she chastised, "explain what you are all doing out here? The wards are back there and being outside them is dangerous! You could get yourselves-"
"Yeah, yeah," Ron interjected, "believe me, we know."
"Had to get my Muggle neighbors out first," Harry explained, clasping onto Kally's hands and tugging her with him. "They were being a bit…difficult." His tongue darted out over his split lip, wincing.
Hermione eyed him with blatant concern, opening her mouth as if to ask, then thinking better of it. Her attention shifted towards the house, flames now lighting up the entire outer West wall. "They're not still in there are-"
"No," Harry cut her off before she could get too far down that rambling path. "Dropped them off at the apparition border. They'll be fine, if not a little miffed at being translocated."
The most brilliant witch of her age's lips flapped. "Translocated?"
"Holy shit," Ron said, dropping Hermione down to her feet, as if awed. "Harry knows a word Hermione doesn't."
"I know what it means! Just you can't-there's apparition wards up, Ronald. He can't just-"
Kally bit down on her lower lip, hiding a smile. "Try telling him that."
"I find Harry's magic doesn't response well to absolutes," Luna mused airily, skipping as if on a summer walk and not in the middle of a decimated road. "Can and can't don't really apply to him very well."
Hermione appeared to be thinking about that.
Harry seemed unbothered by the conversation, tilting his head towards the Durley's lawn. "Let's get back. Voldemort will be here any minute."
Cold iron swirled in her stomach, Kally clutching onto Harry's hand just a little tighter. Harry glanced down, concerned, but never got to say anything.
"How are you so calm about this?" Hermione asked, sounding honestly concerned for his mental health.
"Easy. I get to see my boy Riddle. Haven't gotten to spend any real quality time with him in a few months, so really, it'll be a reunion. Come on 'Mione, you know me, no one tries to kill me at least monthly I get antsy."
Hermione looked ready to slap him.
Harry took it in stride, setting off at a fast clip towards the property. Kally wanted to call back to Dean, to tell him to leave, to get out of there, but she sodding couldn't. Hermione was there, and Hermione didn't know.
It was unreal, how the Dursley's home looked completely ordinary, completely intact. The wards prevented anyone on the outside, at least anyone living, from seeing what lay within. It didn't necessarily stop all spells, but the wards prevented anyone with a dark mark from crossing the threshold or seeing what lay beyond.
It was shockingly clever, safe.
Except from the zombie hoards, of course.
They got back to the property line and passed through the shimmering blue wards, the mass chaos rematerializing just in time to hear the conversation.
"Well what about Chang? Did she live? Or what if there are more of those 'kill yourselves' singing succubi out there?" George was demanding. "I nearly offed myself. Look at me. I'm beautiful! I take offense when someone tries to remove that from the gene pool."
"Yeah," Lee said with a merciless grin, "had to tackle him and everything."
"Got to third bloody base on me."
Lee waggled his eyebrows. "Yeah I did."
"Too bad you two can't reproduce together," Tonks was muttering beneath her breath.
"Zhia got more fried than a piece of rib at a Texan barbeque," Tres assured tiredly. "I do not think she is someone we need to be concerned about, at present, even if her singing could feasibly affect those within the wards."
So the wards weren't perfect…
Mad Eye hopped down from the car, peg leg thunking against the ground and sinking deep, nearly throwing him off balance. Luna grabbed him, just in time, and it suddenly made a lot more sense about why the Auror had taken position up there, rather than down near the very soft dirt on the lawn.
"What the hell was that about anyway?" Ron demanded, his ability to fixate on snippets of conversation coming out. "That creepy singing thing Cho's mum did that had half of you lot ready to off yourselves. It didn't bother me." He paused. "Much," he added, almost as an afterthought.
Harry gave her hand a squeeze, releasing it, wand back out and already scanning things. "That's not surprising, Ron. That it didn't work on you."
"What do you mean?"
Instantly Hermione's cheeks turned red, Ron eyeing her oddly.
"Oh, I know this one."
Everyone turned to eye the slightly chubby man in the blood-covered bath robe, the stranger making a face. "What? I listen," he said indignantly. He turned towards Ron and made an attempt to speak authoritatively. "People who are actually in love with someone aren't affected by that singing demon thing. They can resist the seduction, on account they are already seduced. I get that right?"
Tonks beamed as if he were a prize show dog. "Right in one Duddles!"
Harry just snorted. "Yeah, but you have to be in love. Really in love for it to not bother you." A strange expression had crossed his jawline, as if he were in slight pain, and his breathing had deepened. Kally instinctively snagged her own wand out from where it'd been tucked in what was left of her skirt.
It was one thing to snag moments of levity. It was entirely different to forget where they were at.
Catching Harry's eyes, he offered her a weak grimace.
"See Hermione?" Luna said. "You had nothing to be worried about."
If possible Hermione blushed even more
There was a long, long pause, followed by… "Crap," Ron groaned, "does this mean veelas won't work on me anymore?"
Everyone looked at him.
"What?" he said. "I kind of enjoyed that."
"You know it amazes me that Hermione hasn't mercy killed you already," Harry uttered dryly.
Ron's eyes darted back to her, his expression frozen. "Ah shit."
Kalliandra didn't hear what else transpired. She didn't because she had been busy watching Harry, watching him grow tenser. "Remus…."
The former Professor followed her gaze, it landing exactly where hers rested: on Harry, who was standing at the threshold of the lawn, every part of his musculature undeniably tensed, as if…waiting.
"Everyone get inside," Lupin ordered. "Now."
Few needed telling twice.
Ron and Hermione could not be persuaded.
Kally literally electrocuted Dudley when he attempted to drag her in on Harry's orders. That'd resulted in him flopping to the ground in convulsions, his robe thrown open and revealing way too much skin, Tres and Amarante having to drag him up the literal porch.
Now it was just her, Harry, Tonks, Mad Eye, Hermione, Ron and Remus.
"Kaylens," Harry half growled, "get the hell inside."
"Not as long as you're out here," she countered, shooting Tonks a dirty look when she tried 'stealthily' approaching to grab her. "I'll electrocute you Tonks, I swear to god."
The Auror froze, and Kally felt like she wanted to scream.
Harry just grimaced, trying again. "Would it help if I said please?"
"I'm still waiting for you to get down on one knee, so no, probably not."
"Kalliandra," Remus tried, "I'm afraid that Harry is right in-"
"If the wards are as good as you claim they are," she said simply, "then I'll be perfectly fine right where I'm at."
Despite the situation, despite where they were and the burning bodies, the devastated street and the flipped over cars, Kally thought she saw the corner of Harry's mouth twitch just a little bit. "You're impossible," he groused.
"And you're not?" she countered, shifting on her feet, ankle throbbing. "Why are you insisting on this?" She knew. She sodding knew. She just wished she didn't.
Harry answered anyway. "Riddle might not be able to get the hell past the wards, not easily, but a killing curse could. If it hits the house…" He trailed off, it left unsaid that many of his neighbors and his family were inside. "A shield charm can't block the killing curse, but when thrown from him? For some reason I can." His knuckles flexed tensely around the holly wood of his wand. "That's why I'd feel a hell of a lot better if you'd get the hell inside with the others, please."
He cast a dry look back, over his shoulder. "I'm never going to win any arguments with you, am I?"
Lips curving into a slight smile, she shook her head slowly. "Sorry." She didn't sound sorry at all, echoing words he'd told her more than once, "But if it helps, there's still time to run."
Harry barked out a laugh. He'd told her the same words more than once over the course of this…whatever this was.
It was wonderful and warming and overwhelming.
She was in love with him.
She rubbed her thumb along the underside of the ring, something brilliant coursing through her at the feel.
Harry's voice washed over her like a warm summer rain. "Fat chance, Kaylens," it rumbled. "Told you, regrettably you got under my skin."
"Mmm, imagine that." She practically hummed the words.
"Hermione," Ron muttered, "he just likened her to a flesh-burrowing parasite."
Hermione let out a long suffering sigh. "Your point, Ron?"
"I ever do that, hex me dead on the spot. Never want to talk that way to you."
Everyone's attention was fixated out in different directions, watching, waiting, but had anyone been looking at Hermione they would have seen a rather awed expression cross her face.
They all stood there, another layer of defense, waiting for the inevitable. There hadn't been time to run, to get the remaining Muggles or Order members outside of the anti-apparation zone. Harry couldn't have made that many apparition jumps if he'd tried. So there they waited. The rest of the Order was fortifying the Dursley's home.
It was silent, but not silent in the comforting, ordinary way; it was silent in the way dead things were.
Instinctively something deep inside her shivered, and it was not a good feeling.
Overhead dark storm clouds hung low, the night an inky black as the rain pounded down, the slowly flooding street dancing with spray.
When Harry finally spoke, his voice was rough as gravel.
He didn't get down on one knee. He didn't even look at her. He simply stood there in the pouring rain, alongside a pile of bodies, and asked.
Harry growled. "It's like you're allergic to the word yes."
Kally's lips twitched into a teasing little smile. "Yes."
Something changed in Harry's expression, and his eyes practically smoldered. "Good."
And though she was undeniably afraid, she stayed right where she was, several steps behind Harry, because when she'd tried to move closer he'd flat out protectively snarled at her.
"And they call us the dogs," Ron muttered beneath his breath, Remus snorting agreement.
The fog parted two minutes later, and though the rain continued to barrel down, the street remained eerily silent. A figure emerged, broad shouldered and dark eyed, and it moved with calm confidence down the direct center of the road as if the bodies and debris littering it did not exist.
It was Viktor Krum, and in his hand he carried a sharp metal rod, the severed head of a bushy haired, middle aged woman impaled upon it.
Author's Note: So I was really hoping to finish up this plot arc in this chapter, but it got too long so I had to cut it somewhere. The next chapter has about 3,000 words of it written.
Thank you as always to Nauze, Ruben, Charles, and Justin for letting me bounce sections off of them at odd hours. Also a huge thank you to TNT220 for quite possibly the nicest PM I've ever received on this site.
Let me know what you think. I've never written a proposal scene before so that was a bit of a challenge.
I have a discord channel (information in bio) and the new Luna/Harry story has been posted. That one is a murder-mystery-romance set ten years post Hogwarts era, where Harry has become a dark-magic-detecting PI and is a bit rough around the edges. And oh yeah, he also has a thing against birds. The next chapter of Robin will be up in a couple of weeks. Sorry for delays there, but I update this story more frequently than others.
Updates I am hoping will be regular again. Fingers crossed that delta and delta plus don't cause absolute chaos though, as combatting that will always come first.