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Wicked Blood by Elphaba and Boyfriends
Chapter 4 : Misguided Angel
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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The situation in the Mugbloods' tent grew increasingly panicked. The riot, though terrifying, had resulted in no major injuries. The Weasleys had run off to round up their younger siblings, and Sara now tended to the minor cuts and bruises Henry and Wyatt had sustained during the scuffle. Clio's disappearance drove the current hysteria.

“What do you mean you don't know where she is?” Charity yelled for the third time.

“I saw her jump onto one of the Death Eaters right before he Disapparated,” Emily said, voice shaking. “Who knows where he was going? Do they have a secret fort where they all hang out?”

“That's not funny,” Charity said.

“Sorry, that's how I deal with shit,” Emily muttered, flopping onto the couch where Bernie sulked, cracking his knuckles more times and in more ways than seemed humanly possible.

“I have to tell Dumbledore. He's the only person who has any chance of finding her,” Charity said, frantically throwing her belongings into her satchel. “If he can't ... he'll know what to do.”

“Shouldn't we report this to the Ministry?” Jenn asked, supporting a sleeping Hanna on her hip.

“They won't do anything about it until it's too late,” Charity said, throwing on her jacket. “Come on Derrick, I'll drop you at home, first.”

She grabbed his arm, making it clear that this was not negotiable. He nodded mutely, looking pale and shaken. His introduction into the wizarding world had ended on a decidedly sour note.

Charity dropped him in the garden behind his London flat, where he promptly bent over and heaved everything he'd eaten and drank over the last six hours into the bushes.

“You have to give me more warning next time,” he moaned, looking as green as Elphias Doge.

“Sorry, love.” She struggled with what else to say. “I have to go. We'll talk later.”

“When will I see you again?” he asked, wiping his mouth.

“Soon.”

“Are you going to explain to me what is going on?” he continued, just as she disappeared with a pop.

She landed again just inside her parents' dark and quiet house, shouted “Incendio!” and paused just long enough to grab a handful of floo powder from the decorative glass bowl above the mantle before flinging herself into the flames.

“The Hog's Head!” she called, choosing the one establishment in Hogsmeade that would still be open at this hour. She ignored the whistles and stares of the creeps hanging about the bar, charged out the front door and Apparated to the Hogwarts gates. She felt slightly queasy now, herself, but as she walked, then jogged, then ran to the castle she exchanged that feeling for fear.

She finally barged breathlessly through the main door, and almost knocked over Professor McGonagall.

“Good heavens, Charity! What are you doing running in here at this time of night?” she said, casting a critical eye over her casual muggle clothing.

“Is Dumbledore here? I need to speak to him!”

“He should be in his office. What is going on?”

“There were Death Eaters,” she had to pause for breath before continuing, “Rioting at the World Cup! Clio's disappeared.”

“Oh my,” McGonagall said, mouth pinching tight. She hustled to the stairs without another word, Charity running to keep up.

Dumbledore listened soberly to her story, which she pieced together from Emily and Jenn's accounts, then immediately cast his Patronus through the floo with a message.

“Severus, your immediate assistance is required. Be prepared for … enhanced interrogation.”

“Snape? You're joking,” Charity said with a scowl. McGonagall frowned as well.

Dumbledore smiled, eyes twinkling. “Who better to track down a Death Eater?”

Snape skulked into Dumbledore's office a minute later, a black cloak thrown over his black robes and heavy boots on his feet. He glanced around at Professors McGonagall and Burbage, registering immediately that they resented his presence. Of course that wasn't unusual; especially since the end of last term.

“You rang, Headmaster?” he asked softly.

“Yes, Severus. I'm afraid it's going to be a long night for you. I have a job that requires your unique set of skills.”

“I see,” he said stiffly, wondering when Dumbledore would get to the point.

“Professor Burbage has just come from the Quidditch Cup, where there was a Death Eater riot a little while ago. It appears that the Death Eaters all Disapparated before they could be arrested, and Professor Callimachus attempted to, ah, stop one of them.”

His face had gone still and white as Dumbledore spoke, and now he muttered, “Idiot,” under his breath before asking, “Where is she now?”

“None of us know,” Dumbledore said. “I'd like you to find her.”

He said nothing for what seemed like a very long time, nostrils flaring angrily, before nodding curtly.

“What did this Death Eater look like?” he asked, turning his cold eyes on Charity.

She quailed under his scrutiny. “I didn't see myself, but someone said he was big and … oafish.”

He sighed, rolling his eyes. “That narrows it down. A bit.”

“You may use my fireplace to go where ever you need,” Dumbledore said, holding out a cookie jar full of floo powder. “You're on your own for the return trip, I'm afraid.”

Snape grabbed a handful of the glittering powder as he swept furiously to the Headmaster's fireplace, which was just tall enough that he did not need to stoop. Callimachus was an even bigger fool than he'd previously assumed, if she thought she could do the work of an Auror. She'd be very lucky indeed to make it out of this unscathed, and now he'd have to risk his own very precarious status to find her. He grimaced at the thought.

“Thank you, Severus,” said Dumbledore. “One more thing. When you find her, please be civil. I'm growing rather fond of our runemaster and would like to keep her around.”

“As would I,” McGonagall reiterated.

“The Leaky Cauldron,” he droned, anxious to remove himself from the anger and fear flowing from Burbage's eyes.

 

He was barely through the floo before he began scanning the crowd gathered in the Leaky Cauldron, dark eyes sweeping from left to right and not finding those who he sought. He tapped the back wall impatiently and strode through the opening into Diagon Alley beyond, but this wasn't his destination, either. He turned down dark, twisted Kockturn Alley and followed his ears to the grimy pub where he was most likely to find revelatory Death Eaters at this hour.

There were three categories of people who the Dark Lord attracted. The first were the very old pureblood families who lived luxuriously and wished to keep it that way no matter the cost. The second were wizards of low status who aspired to live highly and were too dim to realize that their high class counterparts would never share. Luckily for Callimachus, the third category (nutters who enjoyed torturing and killing for sport) had all been locked away in Azkaban.

All except Black, that is. Black didn't-- he buried this thought deep before it had a chance to properly form.

It was the lowlifes that he would visit first. People like the Malfoys might enjoy torturing muggles, but they had always been reluctant to dirty their hands with wizard blood. If she'd been stupid enough to piggyback on Lucius Malfoy, then chances were she'd turn up at the Ministry the next morning, charged with trespassing on his property. The lowlifes had no such scruples. If she'd hitched a ride with one of them, then she might be dead already.

A small crowd had gathered at the back of the murky room, raucous guffaws rising up from their midst. He glanced at them casually as he strolled nonchalantly to the bar.

“Catechu vodka with absinthe,” he purred. The drink tasted disgusting, but one couldn't walk into a Death Eater bar at two in the morning and order nettle wine. “To the Dark Lord,” he said, raising the swirling black and green contents of his glass to the surly, scar faced bartender, and then to the rowdy group seated behind him.

“The Dark Lord!” they responded, like sheep.

He tossed the drink back, shuddering inwardly while savoring his ability to maintain a straight face. “How about a round,” he said to the bartender, gesturing to the group in the back. He had already identified his three most likely interview subjects out of the ten gathered there, and now he set about narrowing down the field even further.

He waved the bartender away from the tray of drinks, floating it himself to the table, barely pausing to tip a few drops of veritaserum from the vial hidden up his sleeve into the glasses closest to him. He sent the glasses floating off the tray to their intended recipients in a seemingly random fashion; though he didn't know why he bothered with stealth, as these brutes were half-drunk already. Someone pushed out a chair for him, and he accepted it with his own glass raised.

His friends, and he used this term very loosely, hoisted their glasses as a unit and repeated, “The Dark Lord!” in unison before drinking up. He smirked when they all winced.

“Did you come straight from the Cup?” he asked them.

They bleated their yeses, a few eyes sliding this way and that as they did.

“Well most of us, Rowle there had to make a stop on the way,” a young one with ears too large for his pin head piped up, earning scornful glares from the boorish blond and a few others. Snape pretended to ignore this statement for the moment.

“I hear it was quite the spectacle,” he said.

“It was!”

“All in good fun.”

“You should have seen the enormous knickers the wife was wearing.”

“And where were you?” someone asked suspiciously.

“Working,” he answered, “alas.” The sarcasm in his voice was so slight that his statement was easily accepted with sincerity.

“It was glorious until the fucking Ministry officials and blood traitors got involved.”

“Blood traitors?” he asked, feigning curiosity.

“There were at least three Weasleys trying to stop us.”

“I slashed one of them up, used that Sectumsempra Curse.”

“Weasleys,” he said, eyes expressionless. “You dispose of one, and another one pops out of the womb.”

They all laughed, braying like dumb beasts.

“Like rats!”

“The bloody Americans stuck their fat arses in, as well.”

“Bloody foreigners. If there's anything worse than a blood traitor its a blood traitor from the bloody US.”

“Rowle won himself a wand, though,” Jug Ears piped up, earning more glares.

“Did he now?” Snape asked, eyebrows rising at Rowle as if he were impressed. He made note of Rowle's blistered hands.

“It's a piece of shit,” Rowle said, kicking his young friend under the table. “Don't even work.”

“I've heard American wands are of inferior quality,” Snape said silkily, resisting the temptation to mock his grammar. “Let's have a look at it, then.”

Rowle reluctantly pulled the wand – roughly 11 inches, spiral pattern, golden honey color – from his robes. He'd seen that wand many times, riding on Callimachus's slender hip.

“How did you take it?” he asked, face white and still. Now was definitely not the time to recall the way it bounced as she ran up the central staircase.

“Son of a bitch jumped on me just as I was Apparating,” Rowle growled. “Scrawny little wanker. Stabbed me in the neck,.” He pointed to a line of puncture wounds that looked to Snape like fingernail gouges. Yes, there was still at least one nail lodged in the side of his fat neck. Rowle's throat looked red and blistered, as well. “I took care of him though. Apparated to an empty moor.”

“Fascinating.” Snape was growing impatient. “How did you take it from 'him',” he said, lip curling on the last syllable, as he probed into Rowle's thick head. He caught a glimpse of tanned, tattooed arm illuminated by firelight. Did Callimachus have a tattoo? He did another sweep, this time catching a wrathful brown eye. Idiot girl.

“I Crucioed him,” Rowle said, eyes shifting subtly. This was not entirely truthful. Snape saw Rowle tip and fall, heard him scream in a most unmanly fashion as flames licked over his cloak. The Death Eaters at the table laughed out loud.

“Then he Body-Bound him!” Jug Ears shouted. “Left him petrified. It'll be ages before anyone finds the body.” He cackled like a chicken.

Snape maintained his mask as he swept Rowle's mind a third time, looking for the location of the moor in question. Callimachus was extremely lucky that this imbecile hadn't the brain or ability to use Avada Kedavra.

Now, if she wanted her wand back, Callimachus would just have to lie in that moor for a little while longer. He bought another round, and let one of his companions order another. No one suspected that he was silently Evaescoing his drinks as he lifted each one to his lips. He feigned a slight tipsiness, playing the pensive, introspective drunk. He smirked at the cleverness of his performance.

Rowle's soft mind needed just a small nudge to leave her wand out on the table, and now it was passed around, each wizard having a go with it and getting no response. Snape picked it up last. The wand heated immediately within his hand. He remained collected even as holding it grew painful.

Placido, he commanded silently, sliding it into his cloak where it remained hot but did not burn.

“Hey, that's mine,” Rowle protested.

Snape lowered his voice, leaning in close to Rowle while the rest of his drinking companions distracted themselves with a hushed discussion of the Dark Mark. He would have to come back to that topic later. “What use do you have for a wand that doesn't work? Especially when, if you're caught with it, you will very likely end up in Azkaban.”

Rowle's brow creased in bewilderment. “Then what do you want with it?”

“I know a collector who will gladly pay for it,” he whispered, forcing Rowle to lean in even closer. And now he bore down firmly on Rowle's mind, overpowering him without him even realizing it. “He's practically a recluse, and will only deal with those he trusts. I'll deliver the wand to him, and tell him that you're coming to collect the payment. You can go tomorrow afternoon to collect, minus a small fee for myself for bringing it to him, of course.”

Rowle gazed dumbly at him with glazed eyes. “Where's this fellow live?”

Snape recited the address that Dumbledore had given him several weeks ago, with the expectation that he would show up with a potion as peace offering. He'd done no such thing. This opportunity, however, was one that he couldn't resist.

“Ask for Romulus. Tell him that you're the wizard who despoiled his reckless American friend, and you've come for your reward. Say it exactly like that, or he'll deny knowing what you're talking about and slam the door in your face. You will not remember this conversation.”

This was the closest thing to an olive branch that Lupin was ever going to get from him. If he didn't know how to take full advantage of it, well then, that would be his own damn fault.

Rowle was just stupid enough to swallow this story, and after remaining for a few minutes longer so as to make his departure not appear suspicious, Snape strolled out with her wand still nestled in his robes next to his own. He'd learned one bit of information that night that was of actual interest to him: someone had cast the Dark Mark, but no one knew whom. He considered the possibilities as he walked swiftly back through the Leaky Cauldron, fading into the London night and Apparating to a deserted moor many miles to the north.

 

*

 

Clio didn't know how long she'd been laying on the ground, willing herself to move, before she finally felt her fingers begin to twitch. She'd started with her neck, concentrating on turning her head to the side so that she could stop breathing in dirt.

Her head and neck felt squeezed in a vice. She'd slept on a lumpy futon mattress at Henry's for several weeks and on a saggy camp bed for the past few days, but laying awkwardly on her face was definitely the worst. Once she'd been able to turn her head, she'd started on her shoulders and arms. Now her fingers began to flex again, and she managed to roll herself over and pull herself up into a sitting position. She rubbed feeling back into her legs as she willed her toes to move. Her head throbbed in time to her heartbeat.

The sky was growing pale in the east, and she desperately wanted a drink to moisten her dry throat. She got her toes wiggling, wincing at the pain in her swollen, purple knee every time it tensed. She wished Sara were here; she'd heal it in a second.

She slowly hoisted herself upright, shifting her weight gingerly from one tingling leg to the other. She took one hesitant step forward, then another, walking off the numbness. Aside from the pain in her head and leg, her entire body was stiff from laying on the ground for most of the night, and the spot where he'd kicked her remained especially tender.

She scanned the lightening sky, trying to get her bearings. Brittle, uncut grass stretched out around her in each direction, but to the south she spotted lights from a distant city twinkling along the horizon. She headed, slowly, toward them. It was going to be a long walk, unless she happened upon a road where she could catch the Knightbus.

“If only I'd held tighter to my wand,” she thought. She'd had plenty of time, while laying petrified, to rethink her actions. She mentally kicked herself now for not Apparating back to the campground with him right away, during that time when she'd been racking her brain for a spell.

Now she had no wand. Tears sprung to her eyes, and she swept them angrily away with her arm. She was lucky to be alive. If she met him again she wouldn't make the same mistakes.

She caught a faint rustle in the grass ahead that couldn't have been the wind, and ducked into an especially tall clump to her right.

 

Snape walked deliberately through the moor. He was sure he had found the right area, but the grass was tall enough that if he wasn't careful he'd walk right past her. What he could really use, he reflected ruefully, was her wretched dog.

He thought about what he would say when he saw her, his lip curling as he recalled her parting words at the end of term. Perhaps you'd prefer if I minded my own business and simply kept on walking, Callimachus, he thought. No? Would you like me to unbind you? Only if you say 'please.' Oh that's right, you're unable to speak at the moment. I think I rather prefer you quiet like this. I could simply throw you over my shoulder and carry you back to Hogwarts like a sack of potatoes. Alas, our Headmaster has insisted that I be civil.

What would she say when he returned her wand? Would she thank him and take back every insult she'd dished out the previous year, or was she more likely to call him a foul name and stalk off?

The grass rustled several yards off, recapturing his attention.

 

“Snape,” croaked a dusty voice. He turned to the sound, just as she stood up from the clump of grass that she'd ducked behind when she'd heard him approach.

He looked completely out of place here in his black robes, she thought. He looked like he couldn't belong anywhere other than a castle.

His eyes flickered over her from head to toe. She was more brown than he remembered, except for her left knee, which was swollen and sported several shades of red. Her dark hair had been cropped short, her cheeks looked a bit hollow and her compact body held sharper edges, but Rowle was still a dunderhead for missing the small yet unmistakably feminine shapes beneath her loose shirt. And he was a dunderhead for letting her catch him off-guard.
“Either Dumbledore sent you, or you're here to finish me off,” she said huskily. Her dirt-streaked face remained wary, her eyes dead and glazed. She held her right arm behind her back.

“You're flattering yourself, if you believe I would ever waste time on you without direct orders from the Headmaster.”

Her eyes flashed; she was amused.

“What's that behind your back?” he asked silkily, eyes glittering.

“This? It's a rock,” she said, bringing her right arm forward to reveal the fist-sized stone in her hand.

He smirked. “Thought you might bash me in the head with it?”

“No,” she said, “I was thinking I'd throw it at your rather prominent adam's apple. I don't have much range, but my aim is fair.”

“You really think a rock has any chance against my wand?” he scoffed.

“You haven't drawn your wand, yet,” she said.

“I'd heard you'd been Body-Bound,” he responded with a frown.

“The reports of my binding have been greatly exaggerated,” she rasped, searching his black eyes for a hint of motive, and finding nothing. Staring into them was like falling into a bottomless pit.

“I've got your wand,” he said, a slight trace of taunting in his voice. He reached into his robes, watching her grip tighten around the rock, her arm draw back. She had quick reflexes.

“How did you get ahold of it?” she said, her arm held taut.

“I took it from the Death Eater who took it from you,” he said, taunting still. “You could have saved me the trouble by picking up a stone last night. Or by not having the arrogance to try and play hero.”

“Yes, you're right,” she said. “I'm an idiot, and by all rights should be dead now.”

“Say that like you mean it,” he snapped. “You're very lucky. This is the first and last time I will ever risk myself for you.”

“Understood,” she murmured, her voice suddenly and uncharacteristically contrite.

He didn't take his eyes off of hers as he slowly withdrew her wand from where he'd kept it tucked safe within his robes and held it out to her. It was still warm.

She lowered her right arm as she reached out with her left to take the wand, letting the rock thud to the ground as the exchange was made. The wings tattooed across her arm fluttered at him.

“Thank you,” she whispered, taking it gently and inspecting it for damage. “I owe you one.” A single tear tracked through the dirt on her cheek. She swept it away with an irritated swipe of her free arm.

“I am only here on Dumbledore's orders. You owe him,” he replied icily.

“Of course.” Her eyes flashed. “You didn't get the tub of shit's name by any chance, did you?”

He eyed her critically for a moment. “Thorfinn Rowle, and no, he won't know anything about your grandfather. He's only a few years older than you. Luckily, he believes he was attacked by an American boy,” he said with a sneer. “He won't come looking for you.”

“Lucky,” she murmured, her fingers fluttering self-consciously to the black ring on her right hand. “How'd you know where to look for me?” she asked.

He stared ahead blankly as he answered, “Rowle is a consummate braggart in addition to an idiot.”

She nodded, wincing as she momentarily shifted too much weight onto her bruised knee and quickly off again. Unconsciously, her hand moved to the area on her side where she'd been kicked, hiking up her shirt to inspect it. That bruise was deep red and suspiciously boot-shaped.

His eyes flicked over the ugly mark, thinking that the swelling would peak within 72 hours as the color shifted from purple to blue. “There's a simple spell to fix that,” he murmured.

She nodded again, grip tightening on her wand. “Sara can do it. I need to get back to my friends, to let them know that I'm not dead.”

He started to turn away, then turned back. “You're very lucky that Rowle is so dim-witted and easily manipulated, otherwise you'd have been walking for a very long time.” He paused dramatically. “If you were capable of walking at all.”

Her fingers spun the ring around her finger. “I know. I suppose I'll see you at school,” she said, then disappeared with a sharp crack. He stared at the spot where she'd stood for a moment before Disapparating as well.

 

She reappeared sitting on top of the Mugblood tent, which Wyatt had just rolled up.

“Hey everybody,” she said. “What'd I miss?”

 

*

 

There was a heavy, unfamiliar knock on Remus Lupin's door a little after noon. Frowning, he set down that day's Daily Prophet. Sirius (who'd just sat down at the gnawed-and-clawed coffee table with a plate of bangers and mash and a bottle of beer) exchanged a look with his friend and then carried his lunch into the bathroom.

Remus put an eye to the peephole, and (not recognizing the large blond man on the other side) decided to pretend he was not at home.

The man knocked again, then yelled in frustration, “Romulus! Open up.”

Curious, Remus opened the door a tiny crack. The man's blue eyes looked glazed and he smelled strongly of absinthe, vomit and Madam Caldera's Burn Salve. “Please state your business here,” Remus said shortly.

“I'm here to see Romulus,” the stranger said slowly. “I want my reward.”

“Your reward?” Remus closed the door. “Romulus doesn't live here anymore,” he said loudly, rolling his eyes at Padfoot, who stood in the doorway to the bathroom on all fours.

“Wait!” The stranger butted his head against the door in frustration. “I soiled your reckless American friend! I want my reward for soiling--”

He didn't get a chance to finish, as the door flew open and he was hit with a red streak of light. He fell forward into the tiny basement flat, his feet dragged clear of the door by the enormous black dog.

Thick cords sprung up around his ankles and wrists, and a moist rag was stuffed into his mouth. Remus' face had gone pale and rigid, and his jaw twitched. His visitor unconscious on the floor, he crossed to the fireplace in two strides and grabbed a handful of floo powder.

The flames flared up as he threw the sparkling powder in, his head following immediately after. “Dumbledore!” he cried, unable to keep his voice from shaking.

Dumbledore had had a hunch that he would have a visitor that afternoon, and was waiting by the fire when Remus's face appeared there.

He cleared his throat. “Hello, Remus. What can I do for you?”

“Where's Clio?” His voice broke on her name. “Have you heard from her since the riot last night?”

Dumbledore smiled. “Yes, I have. Right now she's resting in her room.”

Remus released some of the air that had been trapped in his chest, “Has she … is she all right?”

“Yes, she's fine. I believe she's just catching up on missed sleep.”

“What happened?”

“You should ask her that yourself,” Dumbledore said gently. “I know she'd like to hear from you.”

Remus looked away, mouth trembling, and nodded. “There's a Death Eater here. I think he may have been Imperiused.”

“Ah, so you've met Mr. Rowle. Severus mentioned that he might pay you a visit. While you have him there, I wonder if you could find out who organized last night's festivities?”

Remus frowned at the mention of Snape, but nodded anyway, already anticipating the methods he might use to get Rowle to talk.

“Remus,” Dumbledore said, breaking into his dark thoughts. “If you're going to be acting on Professor Callimachus's behalf, then please consider whether she'd approve of your actions.”

“Of course,” he said, sighing heavily.

“Do you have anything you'd like me to pass on to her, for you?”

Remus stared down into the coals. “Tell her Elphias enjoyed her company.”

“That's all?” Dumbledore prodded.

He sighed, “She should keep her eye out for a shaggy black dog.”

Dumbledore's eyebrows lifted. “He's coming here? Is that wise?”

Remus heard his friend growling low in his throat from where he stood guard over the stunned Death Eater. “He's worried about Harry; whether it's wise or not, he's made up his mind.”

“And so have you, I take it?”

He nodded, looking down into the coals once more. “It's better this way, for her.”

Now it was Dumbledore's turn to sigh. “Well, I'm not going to argue right now. Best not keep your guest waiting.” Before Remus's head had faded from the fireplace he added, “Oh, Remus, one more thing. You'll probably want to relocate, as well.”

Remus emerged from the fire and took a moment to compose himself before turning back to Rowle. His anger returned upon seeing the burly Death Eater. He drew his wand.

“Rennervate,” he muttered. Rowle began to stir.

Remus ripped the rag out of his mouth.

“Who sent you here?” Remus asked, his voice uncharacteristically steely.

“I don't … no one. I just … I had to come here, to see Romulus for my--”

The rag shot back into his mouth, stuffing itself down his throat. “Yes, we've established why you're here,” Remus said. He'd been Imperiused a bit too well. Obviously Snape's work.

He ripped out the rag again. Rowle coughed and gasped for air. “Who else was involved with the riots last night?”

Rowle spluttered at him. “I don't have to tell you shit!”

Remus brandished his wand, considered Crucioing him until he pissed himself, then hit him with a Stinging Hex, instead.

“You'll answer my questions, or my friend here will have his way with you. And he doesn't share my restraint,” Remus said, gesturing to Padfoot, who stalked up now, growling menacingly, saliva dripping from his bared fangs.

Rowle began talking. With a few more stinging hexes, and Padfoot's teeth snapping barely an inch from his nose, Remus got the names of the organizers.

“It was Malfoy's idea! Lucius Malfoy planned everything.”

“Who cast the Dark Mark?”

“I don't know,” he said, lower lip trembling. “We all split, they had us surrounded.”

“Who had you surrounded?”

“The Ministry! Those fucking Weasleys. Fucking little prick jumped on my back. I fucked him up good. He'll rot on that moor before anyone finds him.”

“Who?” Remus imagined Percy or Ronald lying hurt and abandoned.

“I don't know! Some scrawny American. Fought like a girl.”

Rowle shook under the force of another hex. His face, neck, hands and arms were now layered in welts and blisters.

Remus tucked his wand into his belt and stuffed the rag back into Rowle's mouth before he let his anger get away from him. Why had Severus sent him here; was this intended as a favor or torture?

“I think I've gotten everything of use out of him that there is to get,” he said. Rowle's saucer-sized eyes jumped from him to Padfoot as Remus continued to talk to the dog.

“Hauling him before the Ministry to charge him with assault would be pointless, don't you think?” Even if the testimony of a werewolf were taken seriously, Clio's identity could be exposed, putting her in further danger, he thought. Padfoot stared up at him with his measureless eyes. Remus nodded at him as he rolled up his sleeves.

“Yes, I agree that fists might be more appropriate in this instance.” He didn't think Clio would object to him whaling the tar out of this reprobate.

He waited until after dark to dump Rowle (red and blistered, bound and gagged, and stripped down to his underwear) in the urine-soaked alley behind a row of muggle dive bars.

He Apparated back, where Sirius had already begun packing. Not that there was much to pack. His possessions all fit in a single trunk, and Sirius owned even less. The furniture he had salvaged from various back alleys and dumpsters could stay behind, to be used or thrown out by whoever inhabited the basement flat next, depending on their level of desperation. The coffee table already had to be propped up by bricks on one side, from when he'd bitten through the legs during the last full moon.

His anger had burned out by now, replaced with regret for letting his emotions get away from him in the first place. Rowle had picked the absolute worst time of the month to knock on his door, just two days before the full moon.

Heavily cloaked despite the summer warmth, they Apparated first to Mundungus Fletcher's, where Buckbeak waited in the utility shed. Dung bought and sold so many black market magical items that his request to house the rogue beast had not even raised an eyebrow. The hippogriff was ornery from being kept cooped up, so they had to bow for an extended period of time before he let them approach. Sirius offered him a few sausages to placate him before jumping astride his back and taking off into the night with a whoop.

Remus watched them dwindle and disappear from view with deep longing. He felt lonely already, and tempted to Apparate straight to Hogsmeade to beg Clio's forgiveness. Instead he concentrated on Edinburgh, where another temporary home – complete with a cage to lock himself in – awaited. Picturing Edinburgh ripped open a still fresh wound, letting last year's mistakes surge through his mind. That night in the club had been the beginning of the end. If he'd controlled himself then they could have remained “just friends.” He'd hated to see her disappointed, though, and had been foolish enough to think he could be better than he was. He'd avoided Edinburgh as long as he could since leaving Hogwarts. The city was, however, home to the one other place where he would feel less alone, and less of an outcast.


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Wicked Blood: Misguided Angel

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