She’s cold. It’s London, miles from home and dripping down rain through this sticky bit of a night. Her back hurts, her breasts are aching, and her feet are unpleasantly damp. In some other life, one in which both she and Arthur can close their eyes and ears, they would have emigrated. Even if America were out of the question, there are other places. Australia, or maybe India. Countries without civil wars, where the locks on one’s doors need only simple wards to reinforce them.
There’s a lovely wizarding community in the south Himalayas which could be very nice. She’s almost sure that no one in a high-mountain town would step out of her fire on a Sunday evening and ask her, however apologetically, to leave her family and go into the great, ugly city on a small life-and-death matter. Certainly not a bare six weeks after she’d birthed not one but two children. Her very tiny, slightly eerie twin boys.
She hasn’t seen Arthur for days. The clock on the wall tells her he’s only away working, neither bleeding nor dying. But.
The house is warded. There are layers of magicks covering it, and all the power of two old wizarding families is soaked into the stones. She and Arthur made blood patterns round the walls of the Burrow, earlier this year. Marked their names and ancestries in careful runes. She hopes it’s enough. They haven’t come for any of the pure-blood families yet.
Bill’s still awake. He wouldn’t go down, no matter how long she sat with him. She left him in her kitchen, bedded in an old chair with quilts and pillows, and armed with her father’s wand. She isn’t sure Bill understands how to use it, but that might not matter. Sometimes when she touches him she can feel power running just under his skin.
All her children spark like that. Even the twins, six weeks old and improbably tiny, crackle when she touches them.
All that just so she can walk through grubby London streets, wrapped in her coat and soaking, inadequate shoes, pretending to be invisible. The strolls are east of this dark corner, and some of the girls there are frightening to see, but she’s been sent into the addicts’ quarter. Old, boarded-up warehouses full of drug-addicted Muggles.
There are others here, too. She has the names and faces of a half-dozen squibs on a folded paper in her pocket. Any of them might be targets. Old families, though not pure ones, produced these unmagical children. This, for some reason, makes it worse. And perhaps it did. They might never have had a chance. Certainly something pushed them down here.
It’s been over a year since they found the first bodies down here. Muggles born of Muggle families, lost souls for whom no one cared, but obviously tortured by magic. A training ground for His followers.
She has to wait for hours. Folds herself down into a heap of half-transfigured rags and plays all the stress and horror she’s been living into the illusion of a homeless woman, aged before her time and asleep among bin-bags. Only small charms to keep her dry and warm, so she won’t light up the night.
And they do come. It should be melodramatic and silly, these robes and the silence, but their sheer, striking menace keeps her from laughing. Men in black robes like something out of her childhood nightmares. Or one man, and a boy in a simpler mask. They’re teaching children how to do this, now.
She rises after they pass. Silent cat-feet, as the poem goes.
Stuns them before they even pass into the room where the opiated squibs are sleeping. Her knees ache as she goes down, but she unmasks them anyway, because she has to know.
It’s always family. Always.
Until she was eighteen, she spent her Christmases in this man’s company. She baby-sat that boy a dozen times in the first three years of his life. Before Voldemort lauched this nasty little war, she received an icily posed card from the whole clan each year, just in time for the holidays. After the first wave of killings, she took those photos out into the garden and burned them.
She casts two unforgivable curses, very softly. Transfigures them into big-bags stuffed with old leaves, after.
The people asleep on a filthy mattress in the corner haven’t stirred. The girl’s veins are all so clear, translucent beneath her skin. They have scars all over.
She’s seen Muggle addicts like them often enough to have learned that there’s nothing she can do for them. Nothing in her studies trained her to cure this level of misery. She leaves sandwiches for them anyway. Carefully wrapped and unlikely to spoil.
London dissolves. The countryside replacing it still smells like smoke. She has the same heart-catch she always does, thinking of blood and fire, before she identifies it as smoke from her own chimney.
Firelight inside. She can see Bill asleep in his blankets beside it.
She cuts her hand, lays the bloody place against the runes, and they let her in.