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Tried and True

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"Kobe!" 

I wadded up a piece of paper and tossed it into the trash in my shared office. Absolutely no one applauded my efforts despite the fact that it was a perfect shot. There was even a little flair. Do Brits not appreciate flair? I didn't think their personalities were as dry as their food. I sighed, and kicked my feet up on my desk. Only the ticking of the clock and the occasional shuffling of paper filled the silence. It was suffocating. I was itching for something to do, something that didn't involve a pen and paper. 

Trying to keep my mind busy, I pulled out popcorn from my desk. It wasn't as good as way too buttery movie theater popcorn, but it filled the void. Passed the time. I only missed my mouth about half the time. Only when I decided to launch some at the red-headed man did he finally pay attention to me. 

"Would you stop?" He huffed, slamming his pen down on his desk. 

I flashed him a grin. "Oh good, you can talk. Man. You Brits are not as sociable as you'd like the world to think, huh?" 

"I'm trying to get work done," he replied, rolling his eyes. "Shouldn't you do the same?" 

I snorted, and brushed some papers off my desk. "Please. This isn't work. This is desk duty. Real work is out there, catching dark wizards. Bringing people to justice."

"Harry steps out for lunch and I get stuck with the bloody jabbering American," he muttered. I couldn't tell if he wanted me to hear or not. It wasn't exactly quiet. He turned to face me, raising an eyebrow. "Who are you anyway?" 

I feigned offense. "I've been here a whole-ass month and you still haven't learned my name?" 

His ears reddened, but he didn't say anything. 

I grinned. "That's okay. I haven't learned yours either, Red, nor your friend Glasses. We can wait for that pleasantry until we save each others lives in the line of work. Until then, you can call me...Superior. Since I am. Clearly." 

"How about jabbering American git?" He snapped. "Since you are. Clearly. And it's Ron."

I laughed. "Funny. You and I might get along after all."

"I doubt it, considering you don't know who Harry Potter is? The boy who lived? Who defeated Voldemort twice?" 

I rolled my eyes. "We're all alive, aren't we? I didn't exactly get a lot of news about Voldemort alright? Grindelwald's lingering cultists are a bit more of a concern in the States. But yeah. Y'all did a great job defeating him." 

Now his cheeks were red, a shade to compliment his hair. He turned away from me, refusing to indulge me any further. I frowned, and leaned back into my chair. Had I come on too strong? Maybe. My annoyance factor was dialed up high, but back home everyone loved that. Sure, MACUSA had strict regulations, but at least I could tease people, have a little bit of work-fun when I was actually in the office. Here, everyone was stiff as a board. Then again, maybe that was just because I was new. An outsider. No one here trusted me. If they could just give me the chance to prove myself instead of sitting here in the office all day, they'd see that I was the best damn Auror the Ministry could get. 

A deep longing ached in my chest. I missed home. Hard to believe how perfect my life had been a few months ago. Highest arrest record. Well on my way to becoming President of MACUSA. Found a venue for my wedding. That date had passed a few days ago. After all the death threats I received, we had to cancel the wedding. Indefinitely. I didn't know if I'd ever get to go back and see my fiance. It was becoming clear I had to think about starting a new life here, thinking of this as permanent and not temporary. And all because I had one attempt on my life! Scourers will always be out there, always looking to get rid of me because my parents were both No-Majs. 

I could still remember the day I was told about my relocation to the Ministry. I wasn't even allowed to go home for my things. My fiance, my friends, my family, they all found out by owl. None of them know where I went to, or what I was called. It was all for my own protection. As if my own skills weren't protection enough. Everyone knew my reputation, a reputation I worked my ass off to earn. That came with a lot of enemies. I knew it wasn't going to be a safe job, not with all the knowledge I'd gained. This was pointless. My time was more worth spent doing my job at home. 

Time ticked by slower than ever. Glasses, er Harry, came back an hour later. Barely paid me any attention. Judging from the fact that his wild hair was even more disheveled and his coat was not buttoned correctly, I guessed lunch was a little more than that. I tried to ignore the pain that struck my heart. I closed my eyes, and Nick's face flashed in my mind. I couldn't remember the last thing I said to him before I left for work that day. I kept telling myself it was "I love you," but I was pretty sure I just told him not to waste any more money on avocados. I knew for a fact that he was smiling at me the last time I saw him, one of those smiles that lit up his blue eyes like they were missing pieces of a summer-days sky. I relived that memory for hours. 

I exhaled slowly and opened my eyes. Everything was blurry. I swallowed over a lump in my throat and blinked away my tears. Ron happened to look over at me right then. I quickly wiped them from my face and flashed him a smile. 

"You kids know where a girl could get a drink?" I asked, masking my sorrow with a thick layer of obnoxious cheeriness. Hard to believe I'd made it through seven excruciating hours of mind-numbing desk work. "I've had a long day. Need to get wasted after...work."

Both of them gave me a concerned look, with just a sprinkle of pity. Just what every woman wants. I narrowed my eyes at them, waiting for an answer. When they didn't give one, I scrunched my nose and rolled my eyes. 

"Alright, I'll find one myself," I muttered. I grabbed my leather jacket and threw it on. "See you tomorrow, Red. Glasses." Halfway out the door, an idea popped in my mind. I turned around and poked my head into the office. "Hey, what's that place you're always talking about? The Three Broomsticks? Yeah, that's the place."

They exchanged a glance with each other, and nodded. I gave them another half-hearted smile before heading out.

I pulled a white beanie over my hair and wove my way through the crowded Ministry. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone. That led to conversation, which was the absolute last thing I wanted to do right now. I was Minnesotan. My whole life had been unfortunate small talk. Plus, I was about ready to burst into tears. Honestly, I hadn't really dealt with the fact that I'd left my entire life behind me. Simmering in anger about it had been my thing, because I thought I'd have at least received word from MACUSA by now. Now seemed like it was turning into forever. I wasn't ready to be here forever. 

I didn't know what to say when I stepped into the fireplace. I usually let out in the fireplace of a bakery a few blocks from my apartment since I wasn't personally connected to the floo network. Tonight, I decided I'd finally go to the Three Broomsticks. Seemed like the place to be. And if I needed to distract myself from my emotions that was probably my best option. 

It was fairly crowded when I hopped out of the fireplace. Almost enough to steal my breath away. Immediately, I regained my composure and headed for the bar. An older woman with unruly blonde hair pulled up on top of her head stood behind it, pouring drinks. She smiled at me when I approached. 

"You're new, aren't you?" She said, a knowing glint in her dark eyes. 

I nodded. "Yep. Please give me whatever's strongest. Firewhisky? Please tell me you have that over here."

The bartender smiled, and handed me a shot glass with steaming red liquid. "Don't get many Americans in here." 

"Yeah, well." I shrugged and downed the whisky. It burned my throat, but damn it felt good. "That's probably for the best."

She laughed. "Not if you're an example. You're always welcome here. I'm Rosmerta."

I downed a second shot and smiled at her. "You're going to regret saying that someday. Until then, please keep the alcohol coming." 

As the night wore on, buzzing filled my veins. At first, it was a comfort, an excuse to escape my thoughts. I chatted up just about anyone I could, not really comprehending what I was saying, only knowing that I was distracted. It wasn't until my sixth shot I began to feel ill. Roiling twisted my stomach around. The world spun. I headed for the door, using the table and strangers for balance. If I could just stare at my feet, make sure one was in front of the other, I would make it out fine. 

Before I knew it, I stumbled backwards, nearly tackling someone else to the ground. Someone familiar. I squinted as he caught me. 

"Oh, sorry Glasses. So not a good impression, huh? Whatever I've already impressed you at work. Or I totally would if Shacklebolt would give me a damn assignment. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Sorry for mowing you down. Super drunk." I pushed away from him, before he could respond. Instead, I reeled on the man I'd run into at the door. "Watch where you're going would you? You'd really hate to piss me off." 

He cocked his head, as if assessing me. I was doing the same myself. Objectively, he was incredibly attractive. Quite a chiseled jaw line. Matched his neat pale blonde hair. His calculating gray eyes bore into me.

"Yes, I'm sure I would," His voice was much warmer than I expected. Alluring. It didn't match his cold exterior at all. 

I swallowed back some bile. "Great. Now that that's covered. Glasses, Red, I don't know if you actually came here for me, but I'm gonna pretend you did, and I super appreciate it." 

With that, I raced out of the pub and turned down the nearest alley I could. The moment I stopped moving, I puked. Everything in my stomach came up, leaving me back down to two drinks buzzing in my veins. With the emptiness in my stomach, my memories flooded in place. I sat down, leaned my head against the cool wall and let my past take over me. I reached up to the chain around my neck. Dangling from it was my engagement ring, a simple beauty that brought me more joy than I could have imagined. I'd never been a materialist, but I'd do anything to keep the ring. 

"No," I murmured to myself. "I'd do anything to get back to you, Nick." 

Tears welled in my eyes. They rolled down my face hot and heavy as I rocked back and forth on my haunches. Sobs escaped my lips. I was finally here. I was finally breaking down. Probably not the healthiest way to deal with my situation, but I couldn't help it. I wanted to go home. 

I acted like a childish asshole to everyone here. And that had gotten me no friends, no work, no purpose. Nothing but painful memories and too much to drink.

 

Chapter Text

When I was all dried out, it was pitch black. I wasn't sure how late it was. Down the street, the pub was still roaring with laughter, its indiscernible chatter drifting on the cool autumn wind. Part of me wanted to go back there, to at least try and socialize properly with my co-workers. But the overwhelming majority of me wanted nothing more than to return home. If I mingled with Red and Glasses, if I used their real names, if I made friends that would make all of this so much more real.

Who was I kidding. This was real. I might never get to go home. Reality sucked.

I tucked my ring under my sweater and stood. Once I was on my feet, I composed myself. The only sign I'd had a breakdown was puffy red eyes, but with the nippy wind that could just be coincidence. No one would ever know. I couldn't let that happen. Not if I was going to build myself the same reputation I'd had in America. One sign of weakness, and I'd never get any cases. I'd never make something of myself. And that was truly the worst possible thing.

I took a deep breath, fixed my beanie, and stepped out of the alley. Almost immediately, I ran straight into the same blond man I had earlier in the night. Both of us stumbled before he smoothly regained his balance, and caught me. We stayed like that for a moment, before I cleared my throat and pushed away from him. Heat rose in my face when I caught him smirking at me.

"You really need to watch where you're going," he said, gray eyes twinkling with amusement.

I crossed my arms. "Why do you assume it's my fault? Maybe you're deliberately trying to get in my way so...so I can run you down and you can make wild accusations about me and prove the dramatized American stereotype. Oh that's diabolical ."

He raised an eyebrow. "Are you still drunk?"

"Don't change the topic," I said, squaring my shoulders. It didn't seem to affect him. Imposing attitude was my thing. Criminals feared me (and hated). But no, this cocky dude thought it was funny. My talents were sooo wasted here.

"Here." He offered me his arm. "Want me to walk you home?"

"I'm not as dimwitted as most Brits. Good effort, though. It's kinda cute," I said, mimicking his smirk. "Plus, I don't even know your name, Blondie. Little unorthodox to bring a stranger to my home, dontcha think?"

"You seem like you thrive off of the unorthodox."

I beamed at him. "You're absolutely right. I'm Y/N."

"Draco Malfoy," he stuck his hand out.

I raised an eyebrow at him. "Ah, Mr. Formalities, huh? Full name? Handshake. Man, you guys are sooo predictable."

Draco cocked his head to the side, as if he didn't fully understand that I was teasing him. "Would you still like me to walk you?"

I hooked my arm through his. "Why the hell not?"

Together, we headed down the street. I took a deep breath, inhaling the cool air, reveling in the crisp scent of the London streets. It was nothing like the pine forests at home. Maybe that was my problem. I kept looking for my house, my past, for anything that reminded me of my old life. But this was a different kind of home. It always would be. Maybe everyone was right. Different could be good. Different could mean safety. But what Auror becomes an Auror without a little thirst for danger?

I sighed, trying to shake my mind of my thoughts. Thinking was just the worst. “So, Blondie, what’s your story?”

“Draco.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, we are so not on a first name basis. Strictly obnoxious nicknames until we save each others lives, Dragon.”

“Is that your bar for everything?”

“Absolutely.”

He glanced over at me, still calculating. I wasn’t sure what he was trying to figure out. “Well, American, my story is long and painful. You’re probably the first person I can talk to without any prejudice, without worrying about what I say or having to endure distasteful glares.”

I frowned. “Why’s that?”

Silence. Beside me, he tensed. Whatever it was, it was some sort of deep rooted trauma that was definitely not something you revealed to a stranger who kept running you down.

“Nevermind. Sorry. Here, I’ll talk. I love talking. It’s what makes me charming. Or annoying if you ask my co-workers, but hey they don’t bother to get to know me so I have to try something. God, if only I could get an assignment! You know how painfully boring it is to just sit at a desk all day? That is not why I became an Auror.” Frustration swelled in my chest the longer I spoke. I hadn’t realized how upset I was about this. I really needed to address my feelings more. I paused and took a deep breath. “Sorry, now I’m unloading on you. You totally don’t deserve this. God, who wants to hang out with the annoying American, right?”

I laughed, but there was nothing in it. Today had been a rollercoaster of emotions.

Draco nudged me with his shoulder. “For the record, I like spending time with the annoying American.”

“That sounds like a line.”

“What if it is?”

I smiled, and pulled my beanie down lower. I knew it wouldn’t hide my obvious fluster but I could try. “Well I can’t say I don’t love the attention, but...uh I have a fiance.”

“Oh. They’re a lucky person.”

Something fluttered in my chest. A spark of attraction I hadn’t felt since the first day I met Nick. Not a good sign. Any time I feel that pounding of my heart, the butterflies in my stomach, I fall fast, and I fall hard. I’d only had it happen with one person before Nick - Naoi, my best friend. She wasn’t into girls, so that pushed me straight into Nick’s arms. It was happening again. It wasn’t supposed to. I was happy and in love. Wasn’t I? God. I had to get away before I did something I regretted.

I cleared my throat. “Um, okay this is my place.”

Draco looked up at the abandoned warehouse we stopped in front of. Obviously, it wasn’t my apartment. We’d only walked like two blocks. “You seem like you’re doing well for yourself.”

My smile grew, and so did that fluttering feeling. I needed to talk to Nick. “Are you genuinely making fun of my living space? I’ll have you know it’s very nice on the inside. I took interior design classes.”

A hint of a smile tugged at his lips. “Right. Well, I hope to see you around.”

Hesitantly, he turned to leave. I headed into the warehouse, just to make it seem like I wasn’t lying even though he almost definitely knew I was. After a moment, I called after him, “Hey, you know I’ll be at the Three Broomsticks like every day after work, right? Maybe I’ll see you again.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Maybe.”

We held a stare for much longer than we should have, and then I ducked inside the warehouse. Astonishingly, it was completely empty. No squatters, no dead bodies, no kids jacking off and snorting cocaine. Great Britain was more classy than America, I’d give them that.

I sat down on the cold ground and leaned my head against the wall. Slowly, that warm feeling spreading through my veins died away. What was it about Draco that made me so flustered? I was never flustered! Not even with Nick. Right away we clicked. On everything. I just felt so comfortable around him I didn’t have time for the nervous first dates and the fluttering butterflies.

I needed to call him. Ignoring President Hathita’s warning about contact, I pulled out my phone and dialed his number. At the very least, I was using a burner. I could take some precautions. Contrary to popular belief, as much as I loved the thrill of the danger, I didn’t actually seek to die.

The phone rang for an eternity. Just before I was sure it would send me to voicemail, he picked up.

“Hello?”

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Every emotion I just worked my way through in the alley flooded back. I hadn’t heard his voice in a month. I hadn’t heard anything from home in a month. And I desperately wanted to talk but I couldn’t. Nothing came out.

“Uh, hello?”

Another pause. My voice wouldn’t respond, but I couldn’t bring myself to hang up.

Nick’s voice turned soft, hopeful. “Y/N? Is that you? Listen I want you to know I don’t blame you for anything. I know you’re scared. I’m scared too. I just want you to come home. We all do. I can protect you. Just come home. Please.”

I took a deep breath, and hung up. My hands shook. Why couldn’t I say anything? Whatever, it didn’t matter. I heard his voice. I could hold out for a few more weeks now.

Damnit, I was really starting to lose it.

Clearing my mind, I stepped out of the warehouse into the night. Strangely, it seemed darker than when I entered. Like someone turned off a few of the streetlamps. Instinctively, I pulled my wand from my boot and slipped it up my sleeve, lightly holding it. The warm wood was comforting.

When I was halfway to my apartment, that was when I felt it. Someone was tailing me. Discretely I glanced over my shoulder to see my suspicions confirmed. A man in a suede jacket with a streak of silver shot through his dark hair was walking a good distance behind me, hands stuck in his pockets. I tried to convince myself it was just a coincidence, but I knew better than that.

Trying not to make it obvious, I picked up my pace. My knuckles whitened around my wand, as I slipped it out a little further. Behind me, the man’s footsteps quickened. Rounding another corner, and the man found a friend. So they were definitely following me, which meant I couldn’t go home. But where the hell was I supposed to lead them? If I walked too long they’d know. And then they’d attack. Not to say I couldn’t take them, but I was still a little tipsy and emotionally drained so I wasn’t sure how well I would aim.

I cursed under my breath as I turned down another street, heading back towards the Ministry. If they knew who I was then they surely knew where I worked so that wouldn’t be a problem. The problem was what I would do when I got there.

As it turned out, it didn’t matter. Heavy footfalls pounded on the street behind me. I guessed they figured out my plan. Smarter than I gave them credit for.

Acting on instinct, I whirled around and whipped out my wand. “Alarte ascendare!”

The second man shot straight into the air, his scream lost to the wind. Whenever he came down it would end in a hospital visit. I turned my wand on the man with the silver in his hair, a spell on the tip of my tongue. Before I could utter a word, he cast Expelliarmus. My wand flew from my hand and clattered to the sidewalk a few feet away.

“Everte Statum!” He yelled, as I made a move for my wand. A scream tore from my throat as I sailed backwards into the air. I slammed hard on the ground. The wind knocked out of me, and my head spun.

I groaned. My lungs burned as I took a deep, rattling breath. Dull aching filled my chest. That was not a good sign. Probably bruised ribs. Slowly, I pulled myself up into a sitting position.

“Epoximise,” the man said, aiming his wand at me. Immediately, I felt the effects of the spell. My legs were stuck to the ground like super glue. I could not believe he was using the spell we’d use in Ilvermorny to stick some poor Horned Serpent’s hands to their desk before a test. How childish.

The man squatted down in front of me. I felt like I recognized him from somewhere. Maybe I’d arrested him before? But the majority of my arrests were real bad news and ended up executed.

“I really thought you’d be harder to catch. You’re MACUSA’s best? Disappointing. You dropped off the face of the earth for a while there. Almost had us. But you’re sloppy. “

I rolled my eyes. “Hey, wanna make some introductions before you go criticizing me? Or I could just call you Silver based off of that monstrosity in your hair. It’s really not working for you. Although...I’m assuming fashion isn’t really your strong suit so I shouldn’t be too critical.”

He smiled, but it was devoid of genuine joy. More like...malicious delight. Super unnerving. “Cute. I like the snarky ones. Full of courage. Makes breaking their spirit all the more invigorating.”

I sucked my teeth and glanced around, searching for my wand. Hope fluttered in my chest when I saw it a ways down the sidewalk under the streetlamp. Sure the man caught up to me, and obviously did some minor research, but I doubted he knew I could do some wandless magic. One spell that I was very proficient in. Now I just have to wait for the perfect moment. “Super creepy thing to say. But I like the passion. Keep that up, and you might score someone like three tiers down from my league.”

Silver’s gaze darkened. I knew that look all too well. I was pushing his buttons, getting dangerously close to torture territory. Although I was sure that was where this was headed anyway. I was just moving up the timeline.

“So I reckon you’re going to do this the hard way?”

I scrunched my nose. “Ugh, who says reckon?”

Silver jabbed his wand into my throat. “You’re beginning to get on my nerves, so here’s how this is going to go. You’re the Head Auror, the best witch in all of MACUSA.”

“Aw, thanks.”

“You have high clearance. Information. And I need all of it.”

I smirked. “I’m sure you do. And I’d be happy to give it to you. That is, if you think you can ever catch me again.”

I turned my gaze to my wand and yelled “Accio!”

My wand flew into my hand. Silver’s eyes widened and bewilderment crossed his features.

“Infinite incantatem,” I said, pointing my wand at myself. Silver’s charm dissipated.

I leapt to my feet, chanted depulso at the man, and ran. I didn’t wait around to see if he recovered from the blast. Nothing mattered but losing him. Only when I was inside my apartment with the door locked did I take the chance to breathe.

Under my breath, I whispered, “Cave inimicum.”

A thin, silvery shimmer encompassed my apartment. Now Silver wouldn’t be able to find me even if he had managed to follow me and ended up somewhere in my vicinity. Just in case, I whispered a few chants of “salvio hexia” to fortify my hiding spell, and protect against hexes.

Exhausted beyond belief, I plopped down on my couch and heaved a great sigh. They’d found me. So much for dropping off the grid. I really had to be more careful. Especially since Silver’s friend never came back down. At least nowhere near me. Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes would have a field day tomorrow.

Chapter Text

I felt better the next morning. Barely. But enough to pull myself out of bed and face the day with the inkling of a hangover pounding at the back of my head. In a desperate attempt to get ahead of it, I chugged half a liter of water. Probably wouldn’t work but I had to at least try. When I got to work, it was going to be chaotic. The mess I made is probably the biggest case they’ve had in a while. If I wasn’t careful, I was going to pull Glasses and Red into my whole disaster of a past. And that wouldn’t end well for any of us.

Pulling on my jacket was more painful than it should have been. I lifted up my shirt in front of my mirror. Purple bruises marred the skin on my left side. I whistled at the damage. Definitely not my worst to come out of a grapple with someone, but it would be a bitch to hide from everyone at work.

Wincing, I put my shirt down, and pulled my beanie on. Just get through today. Everything would be fine.

I exhaled slowly. Confidence flowed through me. Keep an aura of normalcy and no one would ask questions. I hoped.

Walking through the streets of London was much more pleasant in the early morning. Gentle rays of sun caressed my face. Chilly wind tugged at my hair. Snow crunched beneath my feet. It was actually a rather beautiful day. You know what they say. Rainbow after a storm. Something like that. I had a good feeling about today.

That changed as soon as I stepped into my office. Already, I could tell the air was different. Less stoic. Buzzing with energy. I didn’t even have time to think about taking off my jacket before Red and Glasses were talking to me. And not just a polite greeting. No, full on overlap of conversation, of which I could understand nothing.

“Whoa, guys!” I held up my hands to stop them. “Too much chatter at once. I was wasted last night, remember? Take it easy. Mmm...Red. Go.”

He crossed his arms. “It’s Ron .”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, Glasses you’re up.”

Harry slammed a case file down on my desk. “Huge break in the Death Eater legacy case.”

I tried to keep my nerves under control. This could be a coincidence. Just a huge coincidence. I opened the file to see pictures of the second man who’d been following me last night. His limbs were mangled, face marred. Bloodied and bruised, he was found dead beneath Big Ben.

Damn. I really couldn’t have been more wrong. It wasn’t a coincidence at all. But I knew for a fact, I had nothing to do with...this. For starters, I was nowhere near Westminster Bridge or Parliament. No way in hell did my magic send him that far away. And even if it had, I don’t do mangling. Not in spells, not otherwise. Someone deliberately picked up his body and made it noticeable. Like a calling card.

I swallowed back my rising terror. I’d caught plenty of Scourers in America who killed people like this to send a message. Instill fear. Let us know Grindelwald’s influence was never really gone, always just out of our reach. Now a similar thing was happening here. To a man who’d been intent on catching me. I had to assume this was about more than me, but maybe that was just hope. I knew I was an important asset. Maybe I had been too reckless. They were here.

I cleared my throat and closed the file. “So...why do you think this has anything to do with Death Eaters? Can’t it just be any old serial killer? You know, the muggle sort?”

Harry raised an eyebrow. “Look closer. If you still think that, then perhaps you don’t belong in Magical Law Enforcement.”

“Alright, no need to freeze the new girl out.” I opened the file again and peered at the photo. Really looked at it. The only thing that moved was a strange aura emanating around him, and a magical residue on the pavement. Invisible to an untrained eye, but thankfully I’d had years of intensive training.

I sighed and closed it again. “Okay fine. It’s definitely not run of the mill. But just because an obvious cruciatus curse was used before killing doesn’t mean it was Death Eaters. This dude was bleeding. A lot. That means he was cut with some sort of physical weapon. Already this seems way too personal, too out of the ordinary for Death Eater kills.”

Too familiar.

“Well, we won’t know for sure until we investigate it closer. Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes turned it over to our jurisdiction,” Harry explained.

“Since it’s obviously not an accident,” Ron added.

I sucked my teeth. “Obviously. Alright. Lead the way, partners.”

I followed them out of the office, mulling over the information. I had to hold as much control over the investigation as possible. I had to make sure they couldn’t tie this man to me. Not only would it blow my cover but it would endanger everyone else, and I might end up deported back to America.

But...why did that seem like such a bad thing? All day yesterday I was mourning over my old life. What changed?

I shook myself free of those thoughts. Right now, that didn’t matter. Keeping control did. Harry and Ron were already too far ahead of me. They were smart. They’d catch on that I was hiding something if I wasn’t careful.

I groaned internally. I hated being careful.

With a flick of my wand, I disapparated. I landed on the cobblestone just outside the crime scene with a surprising amount of grace. Harry and Ron crouched over the scene. I inserted myself between them, much to their annoyance. Ignoring their protests, I inspected the wounds at my own behest. It was an excessive amount of stabbings, which told me it was probably a personal attack.

“Oookay,” I said, kneeling down beside the victim. “Here’s what I’ve gathered. The wounds on his arms suggest he tried to fight off his attacker. But why not use a wand? I think the attacker took it, covered tracks. The marks on his skin, perpendicular to the Langer’s lines make it easier to uncover the length of the blade.” I pinched the skin together, completely unfazed by how disgusting it might have been. “See here? It’s like two inches long. My best guess is double sided dagger. Definitely not something a normal person just carries around, right? The real kicker is that the stabbing is not what killed him. It was the killing curse. Not too long after the attack. So why bother? To suffer. I think it was a crime of passion, really. Not connected to some web of dark wizards.”

Ron’s mouth was agape. I rolled my eyes.

“Oh, what? Yes, I know things. It’s why I’m the best in the business. Get over it.” I turned the man over, looking for more clues. At the sight of his face, I stifled a gasp. Despite the slashes meant to disfigure him, I recognized the ginger scruff, the bulbous nose. It was Andy Syers. My old partner in MACUSA. What the hell was he doing chasing me?

I swallowed back my shock, masking it with disgust. Even so, my voice betrayed me, just slightly wobbling. “Yikes. This dude got in with some real shady people.”

That much I was sure of. I knew Andy. I trusted him with my life on more than one occasion. I refused to believe he was in on some sort of conspiracy against me. This was all just a big misunderstanding. He...he was being blackmailed. Something like that. There had to be a reasonable explanation. One I couldn’t get because he was dead.

I breathed through my rising panic. Maybe it was a little more obvious than I meant it to be.

“Hey, you okay?” Harry asked, helping me up.

“Yep. Fine.” I closed my eyes, willing the world to stop spinning. Thankfully, it does. Everything was normal when I opened my eyes again. “Totally fine. Alright, get this mess cleaned up. I’ll see if I can find anything about the missing wand.”

“You know we’re a team, right?” Ron protested. “You don’t delegate orders to us.”

“Oh, delegate? Big word for you, Red,” I snapped. Yeah, I definitely wasn’t fine. How could I have been? My old partner, the partner I expected to return to work with in a few months was dead. Dead. Partially by my fault. “Just get it done. I will see you back at the office.”

I heard Ron make a snarky remark to Harry about me, but I couldn’t be bothered to care. Only wild confusion clouded my mind, held all my attention. And through that maelstrom of questions, one rang through clearer than the rest, one that struck me to my core.

What if he joined the Scourers?

Could I trust no one? Is that why the President sent me away? Did she know people were turning against me within the organization? What about everyone else? Was my whole life a conspiracy?

“Wow, Y/N,” I said, trying to calm myself down. “Chill. It’s way bigger than you. You are not that important.”

“You shouldn’t talk to yourself like that,” A voice echoed behind me.

I jumped, nearly screamed. I whirled around to find that same blonde haired dashing man called Draco strolling down the sidewalk. An astounded laugh escaped my lips.

“See now I’m convinced you’re following me.”

Draco smiled softly. Like he wasn't sure if he was doing it properly. “I’m not. Simply on my way to lunch.”

I scrunched my nose. “Lunch? It’s like nine in the morning.”

“Try noon.”

I checked my watch. Damn, he was right. “What, does time move differently in London? I haven’t been wandering around that long. Christ.”

Draco laughed. It was tentative, but invigorating. Something about his laugh made me want to bottle it up and get drunk off of it. Maybe someday I’d hear a full laugh, bouts of it, raucous, not as if he was asking for permission to be happy.

“You are quite a delight,” he said, his gray eyes twinkling.

I turned my gaze to the ground, a hint of a genuine smile tugging at the corner of my lips. Comforting warmth filled my chest and buzzed through my veins. I tried to push it away, to no avail. “You know, that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone say something like that to me since I’ve been here. And I know it’s because I really haven’t given anyone a reason. But it’s...nice.”

“Well you deserve to hear it more often.”

I snorted. “Spoken as someone who barely knows me. I could be a Death Eater for all you know.”

Draco winced, as if that was a sore spot.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you,” I apologized, internally chastizing myself. Somehow I always ended up going just a little too far with my defensive humor.

“Not offensive. Just opened up a lot of old wounds.”

I frowned. “Sorry. No need to address that. How about I take you for lunch instead? And then someday if you want to talk about it, I’ll be here.”

Draco rose an eyebrow. “You will?”

I shrugged. “Well, yeah, we’re friends aren’t we? Friends are there for each other.”

“Heh. Friends,” Draco said, rolling the word around like he’d never said it before. “Yeah, I’d love lunch.”

I hooked my arm through his. “Alright, little Dragon. Lead the way.”

Together we strolled through the streets, chatting pleasantly. Everything else was gone from my mind. The attack, my dead partner, my alive fiance. Nothing else seemed to matter except talking to Draco. And I admit, I rather liked it.

Chapter Text

I never liked math. Everything was always the same. Predictable, as math was. Two and two would always be four. Half of one hundred would always be fifty. At least things got interesting with trigonometry. But even then, every problem had one right answer. Usually, there was only one right way to get there too.

 I hated that. Life was never going to have one right answer. It was gloriously unpredictable. Chaotic. Terrifying. Pleasureable. Invigorating. The thrill of every day being different was what kept me going through life. It was the allure of chasing dark wizards. It was why death threats didn’t bother me. They diverged from the morality of living, gave me a reason to look over my shoulder, live on the edge, to have a plethora of solutions I could choose from. 

Now, I found myself inexplicably hoping for a one right answer, for life to have the same simplicity of math.

I couldn’t help it. I’d learned that over the last  few weeks. I couldn’t keep digesting the butterflies that fluttered in my stomach whenever Draco so much as looked in my direction. He was the only person to be genuinely kind with me these months I’d been away from America. In the wake of Andy’s death, and Red’s clear disdain for me, he was a comfort. 

Nothing had happened since that death. Glasses was practically pulling his hair out at the prospect of nothing . I myself was uneasy about it. Sure, I was in England. But this was what the Scourers did. Some big dramatic warning, then silence for weeks. When everyone’s unease finally simmered down, that was when they struck, when they brought entire cities to their knees. 

That was why I needed a simple solution. A single, practical answer. How was I to be sure this wasn’t the same? When could I go home? Why couldn’t I stop thinking about Draco? 

I guess I had too many questions for an answer to drop into my lap. Still, I could hope. 

“That’s it!” Harry slammed his hand down on his desk. 

I jumped, startled out of my thoughts, but recovered smoothly. Ron wasn’t quite so graceful, but that was hardly a surprise. “Huh? What are you talking about?” 

“The wand!” Harry exclaimed, running a hand through his wild hair. 

I rolled my eyes. “I already told you, Glasses. An-er, the victim’s wand was nowhere to be found. I’m not even entirely convinced it was his wand in the first place.”

I closed my eyes, allowing myself to relive the events of the night I’d been attacked. Andy had tried to fire some spells, but they didn’t aim properly. Either he’d been drinking or it wasn’t a wand well acquainted to him. And I hadn’t known him to be much of a drinker, the poor sap.

Silver though, he had great aim. Thinking about him again made me shudder. At the time, I’d run on arrogance, cockiness, and the element of surprise. But the cold malice in his eyes was nothing to joke around with. Or hide, for that matter. For some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to tell these two morons the dead man had attacked me before he’d been murked. 

“That’s it, though! Why would the wand be missing? If it was his wand, don’t bother taking it. There’s other ways to identify a body.” 

“Right, but like, we haven’t though,” I said, with a shrug. He made a good point though. Wands could be tracked, and I had an inkling Andy’s borrowed wand would lead us to Silver’s identity. “Not really.” 

Harry shook his head, as if he couldn’t come to terms with that. “We’re getting closer.”

Exasperation built in my chest. “We’ve had this conversation too many times. It was weeks ago. Unless we get another incident, the case is cold.” 

Ron nodded. “Yeah. Let it go, Harry.”

I huffed. “Don’t help me, Red.” 

His cheeks reddened and he turned away from me. I couldn’t help it. Teasing him was just so easy. I’d eased up, ready to establish some form of friendship, but ever since I’d let it be known I’d been spending time with Draco, that line had been cut. Whatever. At least Harry wasn’t being a dick about it. Not totally anyway. 

Defeated, Harry deflated into his seat, rubbing his hands over his face. Pity struck my heart. I knew how much this meant to him. Every now and then we picked up on a Death Eater who didn’t have the stomach to keep going and turned themselves in. But he wanted the thrill of catching the real culprits as much as I did. It was hard to give up on something so big, so serious. I’d had my fair share of frustration on that end too. 

Uncomfortable silence fell over us. Guilt roiled in my stomach, washing over me in devastating waves. I knew I should tell them everything that happened. By keeping my knowledge a secret, I was impeding an active investigation. Maybe we could have gotten a lot closer by now. But if I was being honest with myself, that was partly why I hadn’t. Closer to the killer, closer to revealing myself to my enemies, closer to shit hitting the fan. Yeah, it was selfish. I hadn’t really known to be anything less. How else would I have gotten ahead, if not by only looking out for myself and taking no one’s shit? 

Unable to bear the pressure of my questionable decisions and the tense quiet, I pulled my beanie over my head and stepped out of the office. I tried to ignore the irritated glare Ron was burning in my back. Yeah, I was meeting Draco. He’d have to get the fuck over it. I found myself glad I didn’t go to Hogwarts. Too much drama between famous wizards. At least everyone in America was tastefully average. 

Crisp autumn air greeted me when I finally made it out of the Ministry. Signs of Halloween were everywhere. A thin layer of frost and snow coated the pavement, carved intricate designs in shop windows. I could hardly believe it was only a couple days away. At home, people were in a drunken stupor the entire week and absolutely hammered on Halloween. I haven’t caught a whiff of that here. Would I really have to teach all the Brits how to have a proper good time? The thought to throw a party crossed my mind. Maybe that would be a good way to make more friends. I’d been here two months now, and I had to try something more. 

I gnawed on my inner cheek. Socializing hadn’t ever been this hard for me. In America, I’d been with the same people for my whole life, and I already felt comfortable around everyone. Even strangers. Here, everything was different. I was so out of my element and it had thrown me for a loop. It was time to get out of the rut. The only way to get me back to my normal confident self was with a hell of a party. 

I’d already started planning out the night. Details could be saved for the hour before. Spontaneity was always the friend of creativity anyway. 

I turned a corner, taking a deep breath. It was well past dark now. I figured that was part of the reason Harry was so on edge. Shacklebolt had us doing paperwork from dawn to dusk, until our fingers were bleeding and eyes on the verge of falling out of our heads. Some part of me wondered if he was trying to keep all of us out of the field. Something big was going on in this city. I’d figure out what eventually. By myself, if I needed to. 

I huffed. I needed this drink tonight more than I cared to admit. 

Finally I made it to the Three Broomsticks. Warm air gusted across my face when I opened the door. Lively chatter hummed around me. I scanned the floor, searching for Draco. As soon as I met his glinting silver gaze, all my worries melted away. Instantly, nothing else mattered. 

“Hey stranger,” I said, greeting him with a smile. 

Draco perked up. It wasn’t noticeable, not to anyone with an untrained eye. But I caught the shift in his silver eyes to something warm, the way he sat up straighter, and yet relaxed. Man was he a walking oxymoron. “Hey.” 

I shrugged off my jacket and hung it over the back of my chair. “I don’t see any drinks.” 

Draco snorted, shaking his head slightly, in that rigid way he did. “Is alcohol the only thing you think about?” 

“At any given moment that’s probably your best guess as to what’s on my mind,” I replied, smiling wider. “So whatcha been up to?” 

“Nothing important.” 

I rolled my eyes. “Oh come ON. You always do that. Don’t shut down about your life, okay? Not with me.” An awkward pause of silence fell between us. I tried to ignore the burning in my cheeks. “Er, not that we really are that close I guess. Still, friends share, and since that’s what we are you aren’t gonna get away with thinking poorly of yourself. So, what has my alchemist been doing lately?” 

He chuckled, and I could almost feel the relief exuding from him. How long had it been since he’d had a proper friend? “I’m not a professional alchemist you know. Just dabbling.” 

I narrowed my eyes. “You’re doing it again.”

“Sorry.” He held up his hands in mock defense. I tried not to let him brush it off, but a smile tugged at my lips all the same. “I haven’t had a breakthrough in anything yet. Pansy’s been a bit of a help, though.” 

Now it was my turn to be mocking. I feigned shock. “What? Draco Malfoy accepting help ? It’s the end, huh? This is it. We’re all doomed, life is topsy turvy-” 

“Alright, alright, jabbermouth,” Draco said, cutting off my slew of dramatic phrases. “You think you’re funny.” 

I grin. “Nah. I know I’m funny.” 

He raised a perfectly kempt eyebrow. “Funny must mean something vastly different in the States.” 

“Uh, yeah,” I retorted. “Something worth laughing at. Not the dry shit y’all try to pass as jokes.” My stomach growled before he could get in another quip. I grinned wider. “On that note, I think it’s time for some drinks. I’ll grab some, you order food when she comes round again, yeah?” 

He nodded. 

I flashed him another grandeur smile before sauntering over to the bar. Rosmerta wasn’t working tonight. I knew she mostly worked days to corral the rowdy Hogwarts kids, but I had to admit I missed her kind face. Besides Draco, she was the only one I could interact with without some form of judgement. Always the loud American, otherwise. 

Tonight, I was in the mood for something that wasn’t going to get me shitfaced in front of Draco for the hundredth time. Though, I was tempted to dare him to down like four shots of firewhisky so I could be the one to help him home instead. Begrudgingly, I settled for quality butterbeer. The alcoholic kind so I didn’t feel like hurling myself into the void.

As I waited, a cluster of men sidled up beside me. I willed the bartender to pour the drinks faster. I mean how goddamn long did it take to pour it? In any case, I didn’t get to escape them before the comments rolled in. 

“Looking mighty fine tonight, aren’t ya?” One said. I didn’t spare him a glance. 

Another echoed the musings of his friend. “Hella fine. Who knew Americans were so...mmm delicious?” 

I slid my wand into my fingertips. I’d been through this shit before, I’d go through it again. At least having my wand gave me some comfort. Although it had been increasingly becoming more of a temptation than a solace. 

The third in the group made the bold move to put a hand on my waist. Before he could shift the touch any lower or get any disgusting comment in, I latched onto his wrist, whirled around and had the tip of my wand pressed into his throat. Fury burned through my veins. I hadn’t been in a bar fight in a long time, but part of me yearned for it to turn out like that.

“Touch me again, and I’ll rip out your spine and choke you to death with it,” I threatened, keeping my voice cool and steady. Let it shake, and they’d think they had the better of you. Thankfully, they backed off, though I caught the glimmer in their eyes. They didn’t take it seriously. Once they knew my name around these parts, they sure would. 

I turned and snatched up the butterbeers, hardly caring that they were sloshing all over my hands. My mood had greatly soured when I returned to Draco. His too, it seemed. I followed his steely gaze to the raucous men who’d harassed me. 

“You want me to do something about that?” Draco asked, crossing his arms, a slight growl in his voice. 

I shook my head and took a long sip of my drink. Pleasantly sweet, with a bit of a bite. “No. I can take care of myself. Besides having a guy step up for me? It’ll only encourage them.” 

Reluctantly, Draco turned his gaze away from them and onto me. That steel in his eyes melted to the soft glinting silver I was familiar with. “Are you okay?” 

I feigned a smile. “It gets easier.” 

“It shouldn’t have to.” Draco turned his eyes down to his mug of amber liquid. “But I know the feeling.” 

Butterflies fluttered in my stomach. I couldn’t help the morbid excitement. Was he finally going to tell me his past? Did he trust me that much? Did I trust him? My smile faltered. I hadn’t told him much about home. Why did I expect him to return the favor? Friendship was a two way street and it seemed we were both tentatively walking on opposite ends. I hoped we’d meet in the middle soon. 

I sensed what was going to happen before it did. In a split second, my wand was in my hand again. 

“Protego!” I screamed, on my feet. Thin silvery wisps left my wand, forming a protective sheild in front of me and Draco. Not but a moment later, a powerful spell rippled across the silver sheen, shattering it. I grabbed Draco’s hand and pulled the table down, taking shelter. Butterbeer dripped over me, but I didn’t care. Adrenaline pounded in my veins. Terror gripped at my throat. This was it. The waiting was over. The strike was here. 

Bar fight. Pff. Be careful what you wish for. 

Chapter Text

My heart pounded in my chest. Blood pumped in my ears, drowning out the screams, the frenzied shouts, the song of battle. The buzzing in my veins, the addictive thrill of the fight, it kept me distracted from the very real, very visceral fear swirling in the pit of my stomach. I peered over the top of the table to see who was attacking the pub. Standing in the door was a group of people clad in brown leather, the emblem of a white flower embroidered on the sleeve. I had no idea who they were, but I could only assume they were here for me. 

“Shit!” I hissed. 

“They’re after me!” Draco and I said in unison. My eyebrows shot up, mimicking the shock in his face. “They’re after you? They’re after me!” 

I cleared my throat, and threw my wand up, just barely catching an explosive spell that would have rendered the table into a pile of splinters. “Okay, stop. Why do you think they’re after you?” 

Draco’s jaw clenched. Everything about him was tense. His cheekbones were so pronounced, I probably could have grated cheese on them. It was then that I realized I was still holding Draco’s hand. Ignoring the burning in my cheeks, I released him and shifted my fighting stance. “Long story.” 

I flashed him a smile, masking my fluster, and my intrigue. “Fair enough. We’ll save it for when imminent death isn’t a very real possibility. Make a break for the alley. I’ll hold them off.” 

Draco shook his head, clearly appalled at the suggestion. “No! You can’t disapparate here if you get in trouble.” 

I snorted. “I’m constantly in a state of trouble. Now go before I make you.” 

Challenge flashed in my eyes unintentionally. The last thing I wanted was for him to get hurt. I’d used an Unforgivable curse before. I’d do it again to protect him. My reputation, my past, it was all bleeding into my present. On the job, I couldn’t deny there were times that I frightened even myself. Sometimes I looked in the mirror, unsure of what I’d become.

Before Draco could protest even more, I leapt up from the protection of the table. Immediately, they all swiveled their masked faces towards me. I sucked in a breath. That was decidedly not what I was hoping to see today. I cast protego again, desperate to defend against their attacks. No one else was in the pub anymore. No one of use, anyway. The men who’d puffed up their chests like the pompous assholes they were not moments before were scrambling on their knees, cowering, trying to escape. I scoffed. Cowards. In any case, I doubted they had anything to fear. These people seemed to be searching out someone in particular. 

Me, now. That’s what I got for making myself a target, I supposed. 

“Hey dickheads!” I shouted, as if I needed to draw more attention to myself. In the corner of my eye, I caught a streak of blonde hair darting towards the back alley. Good. I just had to buy him another minute or so. “You bastards wanna try your luck against me, or turn tail and preserve your pride while you can?” 

Ever so cocky. Thank god for arrogance or I wouldn’t have turned out so well an Auror. 

For a moment, we were in a tense standstill. Then everything went to hell. I threw protection charm after protection charm, but I could only defend myself on so many fronts. 

“Impedimenta!” I yelled, and then everything was moving in slow-motion. It wouldn’t last long, but long enough for me to escape the risk of being surrounded. I clambered on the bar, giving myself a better vantage point. Sure, a freer target. But there was always risk with reward. 

The spell wore off and their spells flew, hitting each other. I stifled a laugh, but the devious grin remained. “Aw, all turned around are we?” They turned to me. “Protego!” I cast it lazily, expecting the quick retaliation. “Really? Stupefy? That’s the best you’ve got? Have a little fun with it! Rictumspempra!” 

The victim of that spell collapsed in a fit of giggles as the tickling charm took effect. I grinned wider, reveling the sight of a grown man cackling at nothing. 

“Reducto!” A table near two others advancing towards me exploded. They ducked as wood flew everywhere. 

“Oh, and one of my personal favorites,” I said, dancing across the bar. “Ventus!” 

Wind whistled from the tip of my wand, first a miniscule swirl. By the time it reached them, it was hurricane strength, too strong for any of them to fight. Not even protection charms worked to counter that one. I watched with satisfaction as they all toppled onto each other, as they slammed into the walls. I felt a pang of pity for Rosmerta. This was going to be quite a mess to clean up. 

“Well,” I sighed, making a show of checking my watch. Definitely enough time for Draco to get away. I’d find him later. Better to escape while I still could. “This has certainly been fun, truly, but I-” 

I screamed, startled, when the bar suddenly was no longer beneath my feet. I tried to catch myself before I fell, but my head slammed painfully on the edge of the bar, and my wand rolled from my fingers. Dizzy, head pounding, I crawled towards my wand. Blood dripped from my nose, down the side of my face. Damnit. I went a little too far. I always did. If I was bleeding, it meant I wasn’t holding my own anymore. Where there was blood, there was fear, and fear meant something was going to happen. 

Just as my fingertips brushed my wand, a foot came down on my hand. I cried out, struggling to pull it back, but they only pressed harder. Not willing to give up, still pulsing with ungodly amounts of adrenaline, I twisted around and kicked upwards, connecting directly with his groin. 

I didn’t wait for him to make a show of pain. As soon as the pressure left my hand, I snatched up my wand, rolled over, and shielded myself for the next attack. 

Cold wrapped around me, shocking my system before I could get another spell out. I gasped, overwhelmed by the foreign sensation. Pins and needles prickled in my fingers. Fighting the feeling only made it worse. I glanced down to see the bare wisps of a dark shadow wrapping around me. It bound my arms to my sides, squeezing until spots danced in my eyes.

“What,” I panted, gasping for air, “the hell?”
Panic gripped my chest as they surrounded me. I couldn’t escape. Shit. I’d really done it this time. I didn’t even have the proper introduction to the cult about to kill me. 

“I’m always right, ain’t I, fellas?” said a broad shouldered man with dashing light brown curls. He didn’t look too much older than me. He pulled off his mask, revealing a chiseled face. “This one’s fun.” 

“I’d be even more fun if I could move my arms,” I promised, throwing them a sly smile. I exuded confidence, but felt terrifyingly empty inside. Something was very wrong here. The magic they were using was dark. Perverted. Unlike anything I'd ever seen. And I'd seen a lot. “Tell me, gentlemen of the asshole society, what’s your endgame here?” 

My eyes darted to my wand. Literally inches away. These guys. Dramatic, strong, sure! Tactical? Absolutely not. If I could run my mouth another minute, I’d be out of here. 

The man crouching in front of me, the man I’d kicked in the gonads, guffawed. “Honestly! A riot! My dear, the plans we’ve got for you and that friend of yours.” 

I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, you’re gonna have to be a lot more specific than that. I’m pretty popular, you know.” 

He nodded, almost sincerely. “Certainly, certainly. I’m Grayson, my dear. We are the Lightbornes.” He gestured extravagantly to the others surrounding me. They all still wore their masks, stood stoically. At least some of them had sense. 

“Aight, bold choice.” I clucked my tongue, inconspicuously shifting closer to my wand. No one had seemed to notice it. All the better for me. “Unnerving aura. Love-hate relationship. Please, continue.” 

Stall, stall, stall. Keep them talking, boasting about themselves. As long as they believed they had defeated me, they wouldn’t pay attention to what my hands were doing. The shadow wrapped around me was the only thing truly hindering me. It was as if it knew what I was doing. Sentient darkness was not something I’d been trained to encounter. I thought maybe it was an obscurial, but I’d seen those before. Helped them. This was nowhere near as innocent. 

Grayson grinned. It was almost charming. “We seek to purge this world of darkness, the stain Voldemort left on this world. We can’t do it without you, the greatest muggle born witch to grace the world.” 

My eyebrows shot up, and I stopped moving. My wand was within reach now, but I was too curious to grab it. “Sorry, what? Greatest ? You sure you wanna inflate my ego like that?” 

Tittering echoed around me. Glad someone appreciated my humor. “You’re trying to recruit me?”

“But of course!” 

I swallowed over the lump forming in my throat. That unease had risen, tightened, threatened to choke me. “So why am I restrained.”

A dark shadow cast over Grayson’s face. “Forgive me. Precautions. You understand.” 

I did. Honestly, I was flattered. “Right. Say I’m interested. What plans do you have for me and my friend?” 

“Just furthering your current one, I assume!” Grayson crowed. God, was I this insufferable? Was this what consistent arrogance looked like? I mean, I wore it great, but it wasn’t the best look on this guy. “Get close to the Malfoy boy, gain his trust, then take him out. Another blight eradicated!” 

My stomach plummeted. Intrigue burned out, replaced by dread. They wanted me to be a spy. Gain intel on the Ministry, probably. Pass secrets. Worst of all, lure Draco to his death. I wasn’t even sure I could flaunt my way out of this one. The prospect of being the cause of my friend’s doom was too much. 

Expectant silence hung over my head. Ten pairs of eyes bore into me. Painstakingly slow, I moved for my wand.

“Right. Yeah, that’s...um, my mission.” I couldn’t hide the shake in my voice. Fear meant something was going to happen . I was terrified. Whatever came out of this, I wasn’t sure I could escape it. 

Shockingly, no one seemed to believe my words. Grayson narrowed his eyes. “Is it not?” 

My heart leapt into my throat. Energy thrummed in every inch of my body, revving for a fight worse than I’d just come out of. These people were maniacs. Drunk on their ill-minded mission. No regard for collateral damage. I opened my mouth, ready to lie, but I knew my voice would betray me. There was no point. 

“Is it not?” He repeated, lowering to my level, his voice dangerously steady. The wisping darkness around me tightened. I gasped at the sudden shock of cold. 

I strained against the shadow, enduring the pain for the promise of freedom. Once my wand was in my hand again, confidence washed through me like a tidal wave. “No. And I’ll be damned if I let you hurt him.” 

I flashed him a dazzling smile, enjoying the incredulity on his face. 

“Finestra!” 

Every window in the establishment shattered. Glass rained down on all of us. The shadow uncoiled from around me. I threw up my arms, shielding my head. In the midst of the distraction, I bolted for the exit. Someone was right on my heels. I didn’t dare look back to see who it was. I just wildly thew battle spells over my shoulder.

I rounded a corner and ducked into an alley. Without hesitation, I disapparated. I didn’t even think of a place to go. Just to be gone. 

When I touched down, it was utterly quiet. Lungs burning, I leaned my head against cold stone. Sweat dripped down my hairline, soaked the collar of my shirt. I willed my breathing to slow, the pounding in my ears to silence. Finally, the buzzing in my veins ceased. I was safe. Bloody, exhausted, and in great need of a shower. 

“You’re a bloody idiot.”

I screamed and whirled around to see Draco sitting in a chair, eyes narrowed, taking in my disheveled state. “Jesus Christ, Draco. You scared the shit out of me.”

He crossed his arms. “You’re a bloody idiot.”

“You said that already,” I huffed, sitting down on the lavish cushioned chair beside him. “Where are we?” 

“Malfoy Manor.” 

My heart fluttered. It dawned on me then, that I’d been thinking only of Draco when apparating. So I’d appeared by him. “Right. Nice digs.” 

“Y/N,” Draco said, voice sharp and stern as ever. “You’re a bloody idiot.”

I sighed dramatically. “That’s three times now. I get it. No need to scold me like a child.”

“You could have died!” Draco protested, concern steeling his eyes to a stormy gray. “You have no idea who those people are.”

I snorted. “Trust me, I do now. And I know what I’m up against. So no need to worry.” 

But there was every need to worry. It twisted my stomach around. I wanted to throw up. I couldn’t let Draco know how terrified I was, for him, for me. How much these people, these Lightbornes scared me. 

“You need to understand the gravity of what just happened,” He insisted. And he was absolutely right. But I didn’t want to acknowledge any of it, not right now, not while my stomach was grumbling. And I definitely needed something stronger than butterbeer now. 

“And you need a healthy dose of fun.” I wiggled my eyebrows and made a crude gesture. He went bright pink. 

I rolled off the chair and strode around his living room, running my finger over the mahogany tables. Not a trace of dust. Fancy. I smirked at him, relishing in his fluster. “Tell me, Draco, where’s your firewhiskey at?” 

Chapter Text

I settled into the plush of the Malfoy manor’s stately parlor chairs, feet kicked up on the polished chestnut coffee table, bottle of firewhiskey in hand. I took a long pull of it, relishing in the burning in my throat, welcoming the distraction of everything that happened. Although I could have done without Draco’s judgemental stare. 

“You have got to stop staring at me like that. I promise if you look away I won’t do something stupid,” I said, slightly irritated. “Not here, anyway.” 

“You seem to be nursing that bottle pretty well,” he said, and it was snide, but I wasn’t sure if he meant it to sound that way. 

I blew a stray hair out of my face. “Okay, Malfoy.” I tried to ignore the hard to miss flinch when I said that. “Fine. Let’s talk it out. As if that’ll make everything go away.” 

He sighed, deflating a bit. “It will not make it go away. But I need you to understand. Because I need you to be safe.” 

My heart fluttered. I willed it to still. Friends cared about each other. That wasn’t out of the ordinary. “I appreciate the concern, but I can take care of myself. These Lightbornes, they aren’t gonna stop. I know that, okay? I’ve seen the type before. Obsessed with some prejudice. I’ll stop it, I just...I don’t know how right in this moment.” 

“I cannot believe I’m going to say this, but you have to tell Potter and Weasley. They’ll be able to keep you safe.” Draco took a sip of his water, and set it down on a coaster. I could tell it pained him to ask his former frenemies to help. I hated to agree.

I sighed. “Ugh, I hate it when you’re right. But, can it wait? Until tomorrow? I’m exhausted, and I don’t want to deal with anymore judgement.” 

Draco softened, his eyes twinkling, smiling even as his lips remained neutral. “Of course. You’re free to stay here, or I could escort you home.” 

I shook my head, amazed at his unwavering chivalry. “As long as you have Netflix, I would love to stay here.” 

Draco furrowed his eyebrows. My jaw dropped. 

“You cannot seriously tell me you don’t know what Netflix is. The wizarding world is so deprived. Here, let me help you with that dose of fun that you desperately need. I’m a professional. You can trust me.” I beamed, and then realized he didn’t even have a TV. “Okay we’ll wait on that then too.” 

“I have chess,” Draco offered. 

My smile widened. “You dork. Get it out. Be prepared to lose.” 

He did not. I was amazed at how well he played, but then I supposed one needed something to entertain themselves with in such a lackluster if polished and rich place. My frustration grew as I watched Draco’s queen rip my King in half. 

I narrowed my eyes at him, irritated with his smug smile. “Fine. You win! For the hundredth time. Let’s do something I’m good at. Swing dancing!” 

Before he could protest, I charmed the guitar in the corner to start playing. I couldn’t find any other instruments, but it would have to do. I grabbed Draco’s hand and pulled him to his feet. I took his hands into mine, palms down, his up. 

“I do not know how to do this,” Draco said, frowning, and I could tell he was embarrassed by it. 

I shook my head. “You’d be about the only British person who did. I’ll back lead you, okay?” 

I tapped my foot a couple times, getting the beat, and started moving to it. He did his best to copy what I was doing, but as stiff as he was, it only leaded to stumbling. Pink flooded his cheeks as I helped right him. I laughed lightly. 

“No, no, okay, relax Draco. Mirror me. When I go right you go left. Vice versa. Then rock step.” I tried to be reassuring, but he clearly wasn’t convinced. Without really knowing what I was doing, I put a gentle hand on his face. “You don’t have to be afraid, Draco. It’s just dancing. No one’s here but me.” 

He nodded, flushing deeper. As I led him through the movements, he slowly became more fluid, comfortable. Finally, he was able to take over leading, and spun me a few times. Nothing fancy, but it made my heart soar everytime. Everything melted away, and it was only he and I and the strum of the guitar. 

When the music ceased, I was high on euphoria. A giggle escaped my lips when I caught the lopsided smile on Draco’s face. I’d never seen anything like it from him before. It was invigorating. And I realized in that moment, I would have done anything to keep him smiling like that. 

I pulled away from him, and sat down on the couch. Exhaustion overcame me as soon as I did. I patted the spot next to me. Hesitantly, he did. I rolled my eyes at the space he kept between us, but didn’t try to embarrass him more, as fun as it was. I figured I’d put him through enough for one night. 

“Tell me something,” I said, after a moment of warm silence. 

“Like what?” 

I shrugged. “I dunno. A story. A fun fact. Your favorite word, Draco. I don’t care. I just like listening to you talk.” 

The tips of his ears reddened. I took pride in that. Maybe just a little flirting. 

“Okay, um, I really love toad in the hole. My mother used to make it for me every day. I rarely had it at Hogwarts. It was the thing I missed most about home.” 

My stomach grumbled. “Never had one before. Guess you’ll just have to cook for me sometime.”

“Guess I will.” 

Silence fell over us again. I wanted to ask him more, but my eyelids were heavy as lead. I fell into a comfortable sleep, the most fulfilling one I’d had in ages. 

When I woke, I found that my head was in Draco’s lap, a blanket delicately hanging over my bare feet. I looked up to see he was deep in sleep, head resting on his hand. I couldn’t imagine sitting like that was very comfortable, and for some reason that warmed my heart. 

Quietly, I sat up, stretched. I didn’t want to wake him. We both had earned a good night’s sleep. I, unfortunately, knew I had to get to work. I slipped on my socks and laced up my boots. Before I left, I laid the blanket he’d put on me over him. I stared for a moment, biting my lip, drinking in the sight of him so calm, peaceful. Finally, I turned away, knowing I could only watch him for so long before it got weird. 

I ducked out the front door. Cool morning air brushed across my face. I took a deep, cleansing breath. On my chest, the engagement ring I always wore on a silver chain seemed to burn. It burned with guilt and desire, but desire that I knew was misplaced. After all this time I’d spent in England, all the time I’d spent with Draco, I realized I hadn’t missed my life in America in a long time. It had been a dull, aching pain. 

I kept telling myself Draco and I were just friends, but it was becoming increasingly clear, that maybe that wasn't the case. I enjoyed flirting with people to see them fluster, but with him, it was more enjoyable than anything. 

Fingers moving of their own accord, I unclasped the necklace, and put the ring in my coat pocket. Th e distant pain evaporated. So did my fear, my worry, my longing. For the first time since I’d been here, I wasn't weighed down by my past.

I felt free.

Chapter Text

“That is a terrible idea, Y/N,” Harry said, resting his head on his chin. He looked more disheveled than usual, glasses askew, hair a mess of wild curls. This business of the Lightbornes was really screwing with his proposal plan from what I understood. I couldn’t imagine that would be good for mental health. 

Ron shrugged. “I dunno. Might work.” 

“You’re just saying that because you hate me,” I said, rolling my eyes. I planted my feet on my chair and sat on my desk. Harry hated it, but doing it made me feel empowered. “But I’ll take support where I can get it.” 

Harry looked between the both of us, gesticulating with his hands like he was going to implode. I crossed my arms, raising an eyebrow in silent challenge. Ron was about the same. 

“Let me get this straight. You want to throw an enormous Halloween party in the middle of London broadcasting it across the entire wizarding world in order to lure out the Lightbornes with you as bait to get one step closer to catching them, all whilst having absolutely no security.” Harry shook his head in disbelief. 

I grinned. “You’ll be my security!”

The hint of a smile ghosted across Ron’s lips. Good to know I could humor him. 

“You’re insane.” 

“I prefer risk-inclined. So, you in?” I asked. 

There was a long pause. Heaving a great sigh, Harry nodded. 

I beamed. “Great! Because asking was mostly out of courtesy. You’re doing it whether you want to or not. Shacklebolt already gave me the go-ahead. And I sent a few owls out yesterday. And posted something in the Daily Prophet. Up to you guys whomever you wanna invite. Invite the Queen for all I care, so long as you two show up. See you tonight!” 

Ron grumbled something about the Queen, and I flashed him a dazzling smile over my shoulder. I hopped off my desk and grabbed my coat. Without saying much more, I headed out of the office. I had taken Draco’s advice and told them everything that happened at the bar when it was attacked, what they wanted from me, everything. But I still couldn’t bring myself to tell them about the Scourers. I wouldn’t, not until I was absolutely sure they were here. For all I knew, Andy’s death could have been a terrible encounter with the Lightbornes. He was a pureblood afterall. 

For some reason, that wasn’t comforting. 

-------------------

I bounced on the balls of my feet, staring out at the dark streets. Lights had been strung up all across London, alternating orange and white. They cast an eerie glow over the buildings. At the time I thought it was a genius idea but with the weight of what was to come it seemed less and less so. 

Music rang through the chilly air, drawing in onlookers. Already the party was nearing full swing and it was barely ten in the night. Muggles were intrigued, but as soon as they got close to the party, they shook their heads and turned away. A little charm of my own making; mix of confundus and disillusionment made for very befuddled no-maj minds. Putting civilians in danger was bad enough. No need to add muggles on top of it. 

I took a deep, cleansing breath. All my jitters evaporated. I’d never done something of this grandeur before, but I knew it was the best option to draw out the Lightbornes. Most risky? For sure. But that was what made it fun. 

“Hey.” 

Regardless of how confident I felt, I still jumped. I turned to see Draco next to me. I frowned. I hadn’t told him about this. I knew I made it super public, but I hadn’t expected him to show up. It didn’t seem like his scene. And I didn’t want him to be near the fray of danger. 

“Draco! What are you doing here?” I asked, blowing on my hands to keep them warm. 

“Heard this party was all the rage. Thought I’d pay a visit.” 

I ran a hand through my hair. “Well it should be. I threw it.”

Draco shook his head. “You have unerring confidence.” 

I half-smiled, unsure of whether it was a compliment or not. Normally I wouldn’t have cared. “And that’s a bad thing?” 

“It is charming,” he replied, nudging me gently with his shoulder. 

My half-smile turned to a grin. “Damn right it is.” 

Comfortable silence fell between us. I was distinctly reminded of the heartwarming moments I’d shared with him a few nights ago. Why did I feel so nervous? He was supposed to be the one that got flustered, not me. It dawned on me I’d never had the butterflies in my stomach or the thrilling anxiety of an awkward first date. Not with Nick. He wasn’t my first love, but he was the first that mattered. And it had never felt like this. 

Everything about being near Draco was exhilarating. Like a whole world of firsts. And I was addicted to it.

“Y/N?” Draco nudged me again, this time in a less playful way and a more checking-to-see-if-I’m-still-alive sort of way. 

I shook my head. “Whoa, sorry. Got lost in the party that is my thoughts.” 

“Are you okay?” He asked, clearly not taking my nonchalant shit. “This is a really dangerous risk, using yourself as bait.” 

I shrugged. “I’m sure it’ll turn out fine. Dance with me.” 

I held out my hand, waiting for him to take it. Hesitantly, he did. I tried to ignore the way my skin tingled at his light touch, the warmth that sparked in my veins. I knew he was worried about me. So was I. But I had to push past that worry or I wouldn’t make it through the night without a mental breakdown. 

Together, we walked into the center of the square amongst all the other guests. Some threw us disdainful glances but they didn’t say anything. I was thankful. Defending Draco would come with ease but it wasn’t the type of fight I was looking for right now. 

In the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of Harry and Ron arriving with their girlfriends. I recognized Ginny Weasley. Even I loved quidditch and she was one of the best players. Honestly, I was relieved. Having backup was never a bad thing, as much as I loved doing things by myself. 

Draco spun me, pulling my attention back to him. He also seemed to be distracted. 

“What’s up?” I said, twisting my arm and leaning back against him in a close, intimate dance that definitely didn’t suit the music. But being able to feel him flush in his fluster was worth it. 

He cleared his throat. “Erm, nothing. I just fear for your safety.” 

I turned back around and put a hand on his face. His gaze snapped to me, melting at my touch. I smiled. My heart fluttered. Desire overwhelmed me. There was nothing I wanted more than to pull him close, thread my fingers through his hair, turn that fluster into passion. I leaned towards him. We were drawn close by some unseen magnetic force. 

“Y/N,” Draco whispered. 

Our faces were a hairsbreadth apart. My heart pounded so hard I could barely hear him. Everything else drowned away. I felt the erratic thrum of his heart beating beneath my fingers as I placed one hand on his chest. Did he want this as much as I did? How much did I want this? All I knew was I yearned to know what his kiss felt like, longed to make the fluttering, euphoric feeling I had around him last forever. 

I could barely make a sound. “Draco.” 

“That man won’t stop staring at us.” 

Disappointment washed over me as he pulled away. I cleared my throat and glanced at the man he was talking about. Everything stopped. I gasped. Standing there, in the middle of the crowd, sipping a glass of bourbon was Nick. He looked as handsome as ever; every blond hair perfectly in place, his blue eyes flickering over us. Black spots danced in my eyes. My fiance was here. But did I even consider him that anymore? 

Before I could register what was happening, I was pushing through the crowd to get to him. The dull aching wounds I’d had, missing my home, it all opened again and I was searing with pain, desperate to be in Nick’s arms again. To have a tether to my past. 

His eyes lit up as I threw my arms around him. Nick pulled out of the hug and pressed a kiss to my lips. 

It didn’t feel the same. Everything I felt between us, all that love, the paramour, it was gone. I looked at him, and I knew I loved him. But I didn’t love him like that, not anymore. That revelation turned my blood to ice. Had being here changed me so much? 

I glanced over my shoulder at Draco, standing alone, staring contentedly at me. Warmth melted the ice in my veins. No. It was just Draco who had changed something inside of me. But how the hell did I tell someone who had been the love of my life a few months ago that my heart now belonged to another? 

“I thought something terrible had happened to you,” Nick said, stroking my hair. 

I put my hand over his, brought it down to his side. “No. Just keeping a low profile.” 

Nick raised a prim blond eyebrow. 

I rolled my eyes. “Okay, well not so much anymore, but I didn’t have much of a choice, not if I wanted to get back to…” Him? “...MACUSA. Take down the Scourers. And a new misguided group of assholes that surfaced here too. You know. The usual.”

Nick paused for a minute, as if debating what to say. It was the one thing I hadn’t ever missed about him. Always calculating the right words. I just wanted him to speak his mind. “Taking down the Scourers seems ambitious.”

“Well, I didn’t get my title being demure.” I stepped away from him, longing to be near Draco again. “It’s really great seeing you Nick. Really, it is. But what are you doing here?” 

Nick looked me up and down. “Where’s your ring?” 

I swallowed over the lump rising in my throat. It wasn’t the time or place for this awkward conversation. “Long story. Seriously, Nick. It’s not safe for you to be here. I have work to do right now.” 

I turned away from him, unable to contain the warring emotions inside me. My worlds were colliding, my past exploding into my present. And I wasn’t sure what to do.

Nick grabbed my hand, lacing his fingers through mine. “Wait, just...let me look at you. I’ve been missing you for months.” 

I sighed. “Yeah...yeah, I missed you too.” 

He swiped a floating cup of apple cider from the air and handed it to me. “Just give me a minute to bask in your presence. Right here.” 

I smirked. I couldn’t help the boost to my ego, the reminder of the compliments he used to shower me in. “Ah, yes, worship me like the goddess I am.” 

Nick beamed. “The goddess of my world.” 

He leaned in for another kiss. Nonchalantly, I blocked it by taking a sip from my cup. Thankfully my longstanding flirty nature didn’t arouse suspicion. I hoped. 

“There is not enough alcohol in this,” I muttered, taking another sip. I turned over my shoulder to see Harry and Ron heading my way. I sighed in relief when they approached. “Hey! Glasses, Red! So great to see you. Seriously. Nick, these are my friends. They’re also aurors. Guys, this is my...um, Nick.” 

They all awkwardly stared at each other. So not the tension diffuser I was looking for. To make it worse, Draco approached our group. I was overjoyed to be near him, but there was already enough bad blood between everyone here who wasn’t me. 

“Oh, and this is Draco!” I said, trying to hide my smile. Ron rolled his eyes, and Harry offered him a polite smile. Nick tensed. Something dark flashed across his face, so fast I almost missed it. I hated when he got jealous. At first it was cute, but then it got annoying. “Draco is like my best friend.” 

“And that’s all?” Nick said, turning to me, suspicion lining his words. I guess he had every right to feel that way. 

I glanced at Draco, hiding the heat rising in my face. No . “Yeah, obviously.” 

I tried to ignore the hurt that flashed on his face, and instead focused on Nick’s relief. He smiled wide. “Great to meet you guys! I trust you’ve been taking great care of my fiance?” 

The guys shared uneasy glances. 

“Well, uh, she’s been taking care of herself pretty well,” Harry offered. I smiled in thanks. 

Ron snorted. “Yeah no kidding.” 

I grinned wider, edging past the tension. “See? I’ve been nothing but a delight.” 

“Indeed,” Draco said, casting a shy glance my way. I forced down the urge to jump in his arms, and instead shifted slightly to my left to put him out of my vision. I hated to feel like I was giving him the cold shoulder, but I couldn’t do anything about my care for him until I sorted out the situation with Nick. 

Nick nodded. “Sounds like my girl.” 

Before anyone could say anything else, a spell struck the ground a few inches to my right, where I’d been standing moments before. Instinctively, I screamed. Withing seconds, my wand was in my hand, ready for defense.

Screams echoed everywhere. Chaos erupted. Just like that, everything was in disarray. Drinks flew. Spells careened above our heads. I looked around, searching for any sign of the distinct costumes of the Lightbornes. Instead, I caught a glimpse of Silver, of people I’d hunted before and somehow had managed to slip through my grasp. 

Scourers. They’re here. Shit

I freeze as Silver sets his sights on me. How the hell did I not think this would happen? Not only was this a major oversight, but quite possibly the biggest one ever. My breaths quickened. My heart pounded. A spell sailed straight towards me, but I couldn’t even register that. I’d put everyone in danger. Especially myself. One thing in common with the Lightbornes and the Scourers - I seemed to be number one on their agenda. 

“Protego!” All four guys shouted the spell, keeping a protective shield around me. 

“Y/N, snap out of it!” Nick shouted. 

“Are you okay?” Draco asked. 

I shook my head. “Oh, stellar!” 

“What is going on?” Harry asked. “This isn’t what you described.” 

I cast expelliarmus at a Scourer heading towards us. “Ahaha, right. Well. Because it’s not. There MAY be something that I left out when I told you everything. These are Scourers. Must have followed me from America. Pretty much all they want is to kill me.” 

“That would have been good information to have.” 

“Yeah, well. Now you have it.” I stared out at the chaos, surging with lethal amounts of adrenaline. 

Harry narrowed his eyes at me. “You didn’t get permission for this party did you?” 

I laughed sheepishly. “Yeah, no it definitely wasn’t sanctioned. Gotta give me props for hiding it this well from the Ministry though, right? It was a plan to draw out my enemies. Careful what you wish for right? I’ll give you this one, Glasses. It was not my best idea. I’m gonna lead them away from you all okay?” 

Already, there was a cacophony of protests around me, but I ignored them all. This was my fault. I’d be damned if I let anything happen to the people I cared about. Granted half of them I wouldn’t tell them I thought of them as my best friends, but I did care. I hoped my dumb actions proved that. 

I bolted through the crowd, leaving my distressed friends in my wake. I clambered up a pedestal to get to higher ground where everyone would be able to see me. One second past, then another. A few noticed me, and made their way through the waning crowd. Finally, all the Scourers had their sights set on me. 

I took a deep breath and prayed this didn’t get me killed.

Chapter Text

I remembered the first death threat that showed up at my apartment. Just a simple letter, with a tactless remark. I didn’t think much of it. Not until they got worse. Some came with candid pictures of me, of Nick, of my blissfully no-maj brother who lived in the middle of Kenya bringing medicine and water to those in poverty. I remembered the way my stomach dropped, the way my heart clenched at the thought of someone killing him because I was a powerful witch in a magic world coexisting with a plain world. A world my brother knew nothing about. I knew how serious it was then. Thankfully, MACUSA gave him a new identity, moved him to a different country. Not even I could have found him. Not unless he reached out to me. But I knew he wouldn’t. He didn’t even know who I was. Not anymore. 

But once he was safe, I brushed off the dire situation. I could handle myself. Even after the attempt on my life that nearly succeeded, I didn’t see the weight of the death threats. 

Now, I understood. Standing in front of dozens of Scourers, all with a lust for murder glinting in their eyes, I realized I might actually die. Nothing snarky came to mind. Only the cold spindles of fear clenched around my heart, caging it in as it beat so hard, so fast, it felt like it would explode. 

I ran. I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Pressure had never been a problem for me. In fact, I loved the rush of adrenaline from completing something with the deadline looming over me and just barely making it. I’d never run from something before. I didn’t like the feeling. 

I darted through the waning crowd, heading for the shadows of the dark London alleys. If I could hide, I could wait them out. I could prepare myself for a fight. Footsteps pounded behind me, and all inklings of a feeble, wisping plan faded from my mind. I gripped tight to my wand. God, what was wrong with me? Why was I all of a sudden so incapable of doing my job? 

Nick’s face flashed in my mind. Then Draco’s. Everyone I made friends with here. My life had changed so much. I was stressed. That had to be it. If I could just get my focus off of my clouded, pining, overwhelming thoughts then—

I was on the ground before I could even register someone had cast a spell at me. I didn’t dare turn around. Looking forward was the only way to do this. Running was the only way to ensure I saved everyone. I had to save everyone. I made this mess. 

I scrambled to my feet, bolting for the nearest alley. My lungs burned, desperate for relief, but I couldn’t stop. Not until I lost myself in the nooks of the city so deep I wouldn’t even know where I was.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ducked behind a dumpster in the alley behind a rundown apartment building. Sitting with my knees drawn to my chest and my back pressed against the cool wall, I felt like a coward. How could I just leave everyone I cared about back there? 

I closed my eyes, steadying my breathing. Sweat plastered my hair to my forehead. I still hadn’t loosened my grip on my wand. I never wanted to again. 

“Y/N,” A voice echoed from the entrance of the alley. I snapped my eyes open, and pressed my back harder into the stone wall, as if I could melt into it. “Come on out.” 

Silence. I could hear them walking down the alley. How did someone find me all the way down here? I tried to still the beating of my heart. 

“I know you’re here,” the man continued. His voice was familiar. Shit. Shit . I knew who was here. Silver. “Greatest witch of our time, and she chooses to hide instead of fight.” 

Irritation flared in my chest. I tried to push it away. Fury burned away any sense of rationalization. No, I didn’t hide. I grit my teeth and clenched tighter to my wand. Fine. This guy sure knew how to get under my skin. 

I slipped out from my hiding place, head held high, anger coursing through me. “You sure you’re ready for round two, old man?”

His hands were clasped behind his back, his shoulders relaxed. That irritated me more than I thought it would. This man didn’t fear me. “Round three, if I remember correctly.” 

I narrowed my eyes at him. “What are you talking about?” 

Silver stared me down, his eyes like those of a hawk; sharp, incessant, punitive. My eyes widened, as he flicked out his wand in the bat of an eye, and cast legilimens. Memories flashed in my mind, so full, so raw, it drew an audible gasp from my chest. I grit my teeth, forced myself to ignore the emotion, to ground myself in reality. 

“Get out of my head!” I growled, momentarily extracting myself from his hold. The world around me was wobbly, blurry, like everything is underwater. Why was it so hard to fight him? I was a highly trained occlumens. This shouldn’t—

I was plunged back into my mind, forced to relive the horrible night that I nearly died. I watched myself walking down my home street, idly spinning my apartment keys around my fingers. Darkness shrouded me, cloaking the figures silently slinking in my wake. My heart pounded as I watched myself spill my late-night coffee. I stopped. I cursed. I groaned dramatically, complaining about a waste of money, and then cleaned myself up. 

As soon as I righted myself, he was there. Immediately, I knew he was an assassin. I barely managed to duck out of the way as he chanted the killing curse. I threw up protego, cast expelliarmus, gave him everything I got. In that moment, I was terrified. Throwing spells around willy-nilly because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. I was driven by a panicked survival instinct. I got lucky. I knew it then, I knew it now. I wasn’t anything except lucky. 

I separated myself from the memory, turned off my emotions, became stone. Silver left my mind. I stumbled back, reeling from the heat of that memory. How dare he violate me like that? 

“I was there. In the shadows. Ready to kill you.” Silver tucked his wand away into the folds of his trenchcoat. Why wouldn’t he keep his wand out? Why wouldn’t he fear me? 

“Why didn’t you?” I prodded, never wavering in stance, ready to kill him if it came to it. 

He smirked, which simultaneously made my blood run cold and lit me with a new sort of vexation. “Too easy a target. You think I didn’t know you were drunk that night? Never knew you to take coffee without copious amounts of that foul muggle alcohol, bailey’s, in it. Overworked, delirious. Honestly, you were quite the disaster. I’m quite amazed you managed to pull yourself into some semblance of functionality.” 

“Stupefy!” I yelled, voice vehement. Like it was nothing, he blocked it swiftly, easily, his wand a blur in his fingers and then back to his coat. Panic gripped my throat. It was getting hard to swallow. 

Silver hardly seemed bothered. Amused, actually. “Scared then, scared now. You’ve always been a coward, haven’t you? Why else so reckless? To distract you from the fact that you are nothing more than a scared little girl in over her head.” 

I clenched my jaw. Rage scorched through me, taking control of my movements. “Aqua eructo!” 

A jet stream of water erupted from the tip of my wand, spiraling towards Silver. He sidestepped, whipped out his wand, cast protego. My fury grew so intense, I could almost see it sparking from the tips of my fingers. 

“Baubillious!” Bolts of lightening exploded from my wand, cracking on the pavement where he was standing not but a moment before. “Bombarda!” Half of the alley wall exploded, showering both of us in dust and debris. “Everte stratum!” The spell was deflected with a slick flick of his wrist. “Filipendo tria! Impedimentia!” 

I cast spell after spell, none of which hit him. Tears blurred my vision as frustration coiled through me, holding a vice grip on my lungs, knotting my stomach. I couldn’t find it in me to chant words anymore. I threw nonverbals as best I could. Nothing had an effect on him. 

“Obscuro,” Silver chanted, almost lazily, though clearly fed up with my outburst of attacks. I gasped as my vision suddenly went dark. Before I could open my mouth to defend myself or fire stray attacks, he cast carpe retractum . A searing hot rope wrapped right around my upper body and drew me so close to him I didn’t need to see to know his expression: cold, bored, victory.

He wrestled my wand from my grasp. Somehow, that hurt even more than a spell. I’m powerful in magic, not in strength. It was like an insult, a show of power, of how beneath him I am, why no-maj’s aren’t cut out to be witches. 

Slowly, the darkness faded from my eyes and my vision came back into focus. I could move. I could fight. But my wandless magic wasn’t limitless. And it was mostly for household things when I was feeling lazy, not battle magic. Internally, I scorned myself. Perhaps I really wasn’t the best. 

I shook that thought from my mind. No, I was the best. Why else would he feel threatened enough by me to chase me all the way through London? 

I watched as Silver slipped my wand into his jacket, simultaneously with his own. I couldn’t tell how he did that or where they went. I was almost certain if I actually searched his trenchcoat nothing would be in there. But then I saw the handle of my wand protruding from a pocket obviously enchanted to be invisible. 

“What the hell are you?” I ask, eyes wide, still pulsing with ungodly amounts of anger and adrenaline. 

“Skilled,” He replied, with a sinister smile that made me wish to curl up in Draco’s arms and pretend my life wasn’t constantly in danger. “Although you have a good eye. There is a reason you’re the best of this age. Not even Newt Scamander could tell where the wands went. There’s something special about you.” 

My mouth went dry. “Newt...Scamander?” A realization dawned on me. “No, but that’s...that’s impossible.” 

Silver smiled wider. Above our heads, I heard the faint, muffled sound of footsteps on the rooftops. I risked a glance up to see the silhouettes of masked figures peering down at us. Great, just what I needed to make this night a full party. 

I knew what was coming, and I knew I had a slim chance of escape. But I’d be damned if my wand didn’t make it out. So someone could find it, at least. I used my practiced wandless accio to call for my wand. It fluttered in Silver’s coat, and as expected, he reached for it assumedly to prevent it from answering my call. I took his momentary distraction to sweep my leg under his knees. I gave a swift kick to the chest to send him flying. I planted my foot on his chest and punched him in the face. I took pride in the shock that crossed his features. That was one thing purebloods would never have over me: the beauty of good old fashioned no-maj brawling. 

My wand fell into my hand, its familiar warmth comforting and invigorating. I had a split second to make a run for it, to apparate away, but the Lightbornes watching above us were already on the ground, surrounding me. I could sense the power in the air, could feel them ready to knock me unconscious. I did the only thing I could think to do: chuck my wand straight into the air and attempt my first ever wandless expelliarmus at my own weapon. Searing pain shot through my fingers as red sparks erupted into the sky, striking my wand dead on. It sailed into the night, and I lost track of it. Good. That meant it would turn up somewhere. I hoped. 

That brief victory faded as I turned to see the menacing figures all around me. I had no wand, no hope to defend myself. Now I was really fucked. 

 

Chapter Text

I awoke in a cozy room, curled up on a plush couch. Blankets wadded beneath my head in a makeshift pillow and another lightly covered me. Groaning, I stretched out my aching limbs and blinked the sleep from my eyes. It took a minute for the cloud of grogginess to pass. When it did, I jumpstarted awake, fully alert. Where the hell was I? 

I thought back to the night before. I assumed it was morning now, though I had no real way to tell as there were no clocks nor windows in the room. Did the Lightbornes take me? I assumed so. What happened to Silver, then? I supposed it didn’t matter. Worrying about myself took precedence. 

I rolled off the couch, and strolled the length of the room. Soft, plush carpet tickled my bare feet —wait, where were my shoes?—and I couldn’t deny how cozy the slowly burning hearth made me feel. Beautiful, colorful, intricate art hung from the tastefully burnt orange walls, each worth probably more than I’d ever see in my life. I was just thankful none of them were portraits that no doubt would have talked my ear off. Although, I maybe could have done without the zany electric blue and yellow painting that swirled around and reminded me of my one time on molly. 

There was only one door, which meant only one obvious way out. Unsurprisingly, it was locked. Alohomora did nothing. Maybe if I’d had my wand it would have worked. I pounded on it until it was clear I wasn’t so much as splintering the thick oak wood. I huffed and turned my sights on the fireplace. Sweltering heat blasted my face as I ducked my head into the hearth. Soot showered down on me when I turned my head upwards. No foreseeable exit. If the heat of the fire had been lower, I maybe could have attempted climbing out of it just to see if there was an end in sight. But already, I was sweating and could practically feel my skin getting crispy. Trapped in that room was better than being cooked alive. 

I perused every inch of the room, meticulously digging my fingers in every groove of the wooden wall panels, picked at every stray thread from the carpet. Nothing. I couldn’t accept that there was no escape. There was always some way out. Conventional, unconventional, improbable, wild...there was always some way out. 

Frustration exploded in my veins. I screamed, enjoying the brief catharsis. 

Boredom numbed my mind after another hour completely alone. I wished the lights would turn off to grant me some darkness to nap. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything better to do. I’d exhausted myself trying to find a way out. Even though I was obviously a prisoner, they clearly wanted me to be comfortable. Napping was a part of that. 

As soon as I lay down on the couch and pressed a pillow to my face to block out the light, muffled voices on the other side of the door caught my attention. I sat bolt upright and inched towards the door. The moment it was open I was going to make a break for it. That was my only chance and no way in hell was I going to waste it. 

I crouched by the door, waiting for it to open. Locks clicked. Soundlessly, the door swung open. Sparing no hesitation, I launched myself at the young woman standing on the other side. Her eyes widened, and she couldn’t defend herself fast enough. Both of us tumbled to the ground. Water spilled. I guess she’d brought it for me. I didn’t care. Freedom was what I needed. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far. My entire body went rigid, completely locked up. I fell to the ground, stiff as a board. God I hated the immobulus charm. I couldn’t do anything to fight back as the pretty young woman hosited me up with the help of another man, scruffy, with a distant look in his eyes. 

They gently laid me down on the couch. Grayson, their eccentric leader entered the room and closed the door behind him, locking it shut. The other man who’d carried me stood guard by the door, glowering. Only then was I freed of my own stiffness. Groaning, I rubbed feeling back into my arms. 

“Mia was only trying to bring you water. I’m sure you’re thirsty,” Grayson said, his voice chipper as ever. 

I glared at him. “What the hell am I doing here?”

He settled into the armchair, sighing. “No one ever wants to beat around the bush huh?” 

“Why would I when instead I can get my answer, kill you, and be on my way?” I snapped.

Grayson guffawed. I grimaced at the grating sound of his laugh. “Ahah! See friends, this is exactly why she’s perfect!” 

Neither of them responded. It seemed Grayson was the only one who was having any fun. 

“Why am I here?” I repeated, gritting my teeth, my voice low and lined with warning. 

Grayson clapped his hands together, clearly not getting a read on the room. “Your disappearance will help us put the last of the most dangerous pureblood line behind bars! Once that happens, you will be free to leave. Without your memory of course.” 

A lump rose in my throat. I should have guessed as much. “Draco.” I hardened my glare. A familiar tingling feeling rose in my fingers. I was tired of people underestimating me. I had cast expelliarmus without a wand. Surely there was so much more I could do. After all, people kept saying I was the most powerful no-maj born witch. 

I raised my hand, fueled by fury, by the terror that Draco would think I had somehow betrayed him. All I could think of was confringo. I’d never used the spell on a living being, but I imagined it would have the same effect. It would still cause them to explode. But as soon as the spell passed my lips, it fired wildly around the room, completely missing Grayson. Mia covered her head as it struck the ceiling above her head. Debris rained down over her. 

Heaving breaths, I raised my hand to try again. Before I could do so, Grayson cast incarcerous . Ropes wrapped tightly around my wrists, pinning them together in front of me. I cried out. I tried to pull free to no avail. They just kept getting tighter. I only stopped when the rope began to cut into my skin. 

Grayson turned to me, his eyes steely and lackluster. I always managed to press buttons hard enough to reach that point where they stopped kidding around. It was a gift, really. “I’ve tried to be hospitable. I don’t want to hurt you more than I have to. You are a blessed witch with muggle blood. But I will not hesitate to kill you if you continue to misbehave. Malfoy will find himself in Azkaban no matter how you comport yourself. If we don’t pin him for your kidnapping, we’ll pin him for your murder. And the best part is you won’t remember any of it. You’ll sell it. I know you will, or your blissfully unaware brother will not live to satiate another poor man’s hunger. I hate to threaten the muggles, those who don’t deserve the darkness of our world. But I must, as you are inclined not to listen.”

My chest tightened. I couldn’t let my brother get in the middle of this. He didn’t deserve that. But then, neither did Draco. 

“That’s a good girl,” Grayson said, rising from his seat. “This’ll be over soon. I promise that when you walk the streets of London again, it will be purged of pureblood scum. No longer will Malfoy hurt you.” He paused for a moment, staring at me, as if drinking in my sorrow. “Surely you know he was no good for you. Once a death eater, always a death eater.” 

Time stopped for a moment. So that was Draco’s big secret, why he always wore long sleeves, why he felt so alone all the time. He didn’t want me to know about a mistake he’d made a long time ago. I wished I could have hugged him and told him I understood. There was too much I regretted in life. Things that would make being a death eater look like nothing. 

As Grayson and the other two filed out of the room, time snapped back into place so fast I almost gave myself whiplash. A scream tore from my throat. “No! No, you can’t do this! Please, you can’t do this to him!” 

The door closed. 

I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block out the sting of tears. But they rolled down my cheeks when I opened my eyes again. I forced myself to get a grip. Crying wouldn’t help anyone. For now, I would play along. But now that I knew I could do wandless destruction, these people were going to rue the day they ever crossed paths with me.