Katrina placed a smile on her face when a young wizard she'd never seen before entered the parlour.
Only a week remained until she was done with this hellhole that doubled as a whorehouse. Only a week was left until she would marry Bulstrode. A week until she would be left to the mercy of a man who beat her senseless every time he saw her. But she hadn't endured everything she had during the last few months to not survive now.
"Hello," she said to the wizard, having caught his attention.
The wizard was scrawny and utterly unremarkable in every way, except for the heavy coin bag hanging from his belt.
Rising from her seat, Katrina beamed at him like he was the handsomest man in the world.
"Er, hullo," he replied, a look of astonishment on his face.
"A true pleasure, sir. I'm Katrina. What name should I address you as?" she asked as she placed her hand on his arm, leaning closer so that her cleavage brushed his chest.
"Um, Troy," he fumbled to say.
"Troy," Katrina purred before she curtsied deeply for him.
Troy flushed. It was clear he wasn't Death-Eater material and likely the son of a well-off merchant or Ministry official.
"No need to be nervous." She eased his left hand into hers and soothingly massaged his fingers. "Is this your first visit?" Katrina looked at him through her lashes and was pleased to see he couldn't keep his eyes off her chest.
"Y-Yes." He lowered his voice and said, "My father bid me to bed a witch before I'm to be married."
"Well, why don't you join me for the night? We have a lovely eight-hour package. I'll be able to show you all the ins and outs, as it were." She giggled and slipped her arm around his waist, pulling him to her.
"I-I don't thi—"
"Trust me, Troy." She glided her fingers across his cheek as if he were a cherished lover. "Four hours won't be nearly enough."
"If you're sure..."
Katrina grinned and grasped his hand, leading him to the till.
As Madame Cresswell observed from behind the counter, Katrina said, "For the whole evening, that'll be two hundred and eighty Galleons. Do you want to kiss me, darling?"
Troy blushed and nodded.
"Then that's three hundred and sixty Galleons, but with the first-timers discount of fifteen per cent, it comes to three hundred and six."
Katrina smiled at him warmly when he handed her his coin bag to weigh the correct amount, which she made short work of.
Madame Cresswell opened the till. With a slight curve to her hips, she said quietly, "Well done.".
Turning to guide Troy upstairs, Katrina smirked at Cresswell and then felt the knot of dread in her gut ease: she'd managed another night where she wouldn't have to service Bulstrode.
Katrina woke up bright and early, even though she could have slept in. She had finally been able to get off the first shift, a goal she'd been working towards for months, and last night had been her first day on the third shift, the best shift. Today, she wanted to enjoy a quiet morning stroll.
Unfortunately, the clothes provided to her did not include anything she could wear outside; it was all négligées and lingerie. With her wand under Mudblood-status usage, she couldn't Transform anything and had to don the clothes she had come to the brothel in. She was able to Transfigure her outer robe from a bright blue to a dull grey, which would hopefully help her to blend in.
Stepping outside for the first time in months, Katrina felt the warmth of the sun on her face, a pleasure Katrina hadn't realised she needed. Just being outside was enough to lift the perpetual pall of gloom that she had been living under.
As Katrina sauntered along Knockturn Alley, she enjoyed the calmness around her. It was early enough that the alley was sparsely populated, although Katrina knew if she wandered to either Diagon or Domice Alley more people would be rushing about.
She reached Diagon Alley and browsed the windows of each shop she passed, just for the joy of it. She'd loved window shopping, usually because it led to actual shopping. Seeing new products and colourful displays had always brought her some happiness, and it held true now.
Hearing some shouting further down the street, Katrina wandered towards it and discovered a demonstration of some sort. She'd heard rumours that protests and riots were occurring but had never witnessed one, not when she had been married to Thor and certainly not since she'd been virtually under house arrest.
Katrina drew closer, wanting to know what they were chanting.
"NO LAW, YES LOVE!" they repeated in unison, their one voice growing louder and louder in Katrina's ears.
The demonstrators continued their march at an alarming pace, and before she could avoid it, the large group engulfed Katrina. There had to be at least a hundred and fifty people squeezed together in the narrow alley.
As Katrina fought her way past, someone stepped on her robes, almost causing Katrina to fall. She began to panic. She had to get out.
Katrina started shoving and pushing until she reached the front of a shop. Pressing herself against the building, she managed to keep to her feet as the crowd swarmed past.
Hearing the tinkling of a bell, she glanced to her left.
"Alright there, miss?" a shopkeeper asked, poking his head out the front door of his store.
Katrina nodded, frightened by what had just happened but determined to enjoy the rest of her morning. She wasn't going to get very many more of these.
The day had finally arrived: Katrina's wedding day. Well, her second wedding day, but one that was as much a sham as her first.
Many of the other women in the brothel were tittering as they helped her get ready. Katrina had a fake smile pasted on her face. She felt as if she were viewing the scene from a long way off but supposed she was giving the right answers to their bubbly questions.
Katrina was also worried that the Dark Lord or someone else skilled in Legilimency would be in attendance, so she studiously buried all of her mutinous thoughts, trying to make her mind as blank as possible.
"It's so exciting!" Flora chirped in her ear.
Katrina nodded, but her eyes were bright with unshed tears rather than with excitement. What if Bulstrode managed to kill her tonight? She didn't know exactly what had happened to Bulstrode's first fiancée, Ginevra Weasley; Katrina hadn't dared to ask him. While working on the tea for Astoria, she'd sussed out Weasley had suffered from the same blood curse as Granger, but it would not surprise Katrina if Weasley had actually been murdered at the hands of Bulstrode.
Since their engagement, Bulstrode had been exceedingly careful each time he visited her, careful not to hurt her too badly, to not cause injuries that would put her in St Mungo's for longer than a night or two. But he'd had to, hadn't he? If he killed her, he'd be banned from the establishment for good. And neither he nor Madame Cresswell wanted that. It was good business to let him to beat her. Cresswell made a lot of money allowing corporal punishment. Katrina snorted to herself. Corporal punishment. What a joke. She'd thought it would be a spanking or two, not the brutal, sadistic beatings Bulstrode had subjected her to. After the first time he had taken her, she had been thankful that the burn spots had healed. He'd lit the tip of his wand and covered her arms and chest with burns. She'd been horrified and had thought she was permanently disfigured. Thankfully, she hadn't been, but the blisters themselves had been painful and slow to heal.
Katrina shook her head; she needed to focus. Today, she had nobody else to rely on but herself and her own wits. She would survive this just as she had survived everything else in the last few months. If nothing else, this experience had taught her that she was far stronger than she'd given herself credit for.
"It's time!" Marietta called out.
As Katrina rose to her feet reluctantly, a handful of peonies, Bulstrode's choices, not hers, were thrust in her hands.
The gaggle of women then ushered her all the way to Madame Cresswell's office, afterwards quickly scurrying away. Katrina would be using the fireplace to travel to Bulstrode's home where they would be married. He had said the ceremony would be intimate and that there would be no reception. The better to begin the torture… Katrina clamped down on that unhelpful thought and steeled herself for what was to come.
"Thank you, Madame Cresswell, for everything," Katrina said, curtsying.
"Be well, Katrina." Madame Cresswell smiled, but the smile didn't reach her eyes.
Katrina didn't know if Cresswell was upset to lose a revenue stream or because she knew what fate awaited Katrina. Perhaps she was indifferent. In the end, it didn't matter. Katrina nodded her head and turned to the fireplace.
Grasping a handful of Floo powder, Katrina shouted, "Bulstrode Estate!"
Exiting the fireplace on the other side in a swirl of green flames, Katrina came face-to-face with her intended. He smiled at her, his eyes twinkling in delight. She swallowed hard.
"Ah, my beloved bride. You look just as I envisioned," Bulstrode greeted her.
Katrina extended her hand to him, and he lifted it, kissing its back. She smiled engagingly at him. If nothing else, months in the brothel had taught her how to act flawlessly.
"Shall we?" Bulstrode tucked her hand in his and led her from the reception room to a dimly lit sitting room.
Her surroundings looked as if it could use a few cleaning and brightening charms, and Katrina wondered if Bulstrode had a house-elf. It didn't look like it. Remembering Thorfinn's prying little rodent Rosey, she was glad.
Standing in front of a lovely view of the gardens and countryside was Gregory Goyle and another wizard Katrina didn't recognise.
"Katrina, you already know Mr Goyle," Bulstrode introduced her, and Katrina dropped a small curtsy. "And this is Edmund Travers," he gestured to the wizard besides Goyle, "he's a good friend of mine and attended Durmstrang. He'll be performing our bonding."
She gave Travers a polite smile and curtsied again. "A pleasure to meet you all."
"Let's get on with it," Bulstrode said, jerking Katrina closer and then moving them into position.
The ceremony was longer than Katrina would have liked. The whole time her body tensed tighter and tighter in anticipation of what was to come.
"So mote it be," Travers intoned, yanking Katrina from her dark thoughts.
"Excellent, thank you, gentlemen. I shall see you at Cresswell's next week, as usual. Come, wife," Bulstrode said, practically dragging Katrina out of the room into the hallway.
"Aren't you going to see our guests out?" Katrina asked politely.
"No, the wards will tell me," Bulstrode said vaguely as the stairs came into view.
He threw open the first door to the right of the stairs and shoved Katrina inside. "Ah, see. They've left. Alone at last, my dear."
Bulstrode took hold of her upper arm and shoved her towards the bed.
"Husband," Katrina said breathlessly, her heartbeat frantic, "would you allow me a wedding gift first?"
Bulstrode frowned. "A gift?"
"May I suck your cock?" Katrina asked as beguilingly as she could.
His lips twisted cruelly. "With a request like that, how can I refuse?"
Bulstrode pushed down on her shoulders roughly.
As gracefully as she could, Katrina sank down onto her knees. She began unbuttoning his trousers and chanced a look up at him. His expression was sinister. She bit her bottom lip and then smiled, doing her best to look coy. Unsurprisingly, his cock was already half-hard. She stroked it a few times before placing a kiss on its head.
Bulstrode sunk his hands into her hair, loosening her pins. Katrina pulled out the most cumbersome one and placed it in her lap, letting it fall into the folds of her skirt. She brought her left hand back up to cup his sac, and his cock hardened further.
She sucked Bulstrode's length as deep into her mouth as she could, never taking her eyes off of his face. His member hit the back of her throat, and she sucked even harder, hollowing her cheeks and swallowing reflexively. He closed his eyes in pleasure. Ah, there it was. She moved her left hand from his balls to between her legs, moaning as if this act were turning her on too.
Katrina buried her hand deeper into her skirts, gyrating her hips, and her fingers found the hairpin she'd dropped—except, it wasn't only a hairpin. A quick twist and the blade hidden inside was revealed.
As hard and quick as she could, she stabbed Bulstrode's left inner thigh and then yanked out the knife.
Bulstrode shrieked and tore himself away from Katrina.
The arterial spray of blood on Katrina's chest told her she'd hit true, and she tossed the knife out of easy reach. The blood was hot and kept pulsing onto her; it smelled like iron, and Katrina was sure she would never be able to suck a cock again. While Bulstrode was distracted, she grabbed his wand from where she knew he stored it in his robes and then snapped it in half.
At the sharp sound, Bulstrode looked up from his leg.
Staring at his broken wand in disbelief, he shouted, "WHAT DID YOU DO, YOU CRAZY BITCH!"
Katrina rose to her feet and backed away a step. "Why husband, I thought you enjoyed it rough."
A haze of fury appeared on his face. "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" he screamed, lunging at her. "I'M GOING TO KILL YOU FOR THIS!"
Katrina tried to scramble out of his way, but her legs became tangled in her dress. Bulstrode landed on her hard, moving his hands around her throat.
"Get off me," Katrina croaked as she shoved at his arms, even as his hands began to tighten at her throat. She thrashed in his hold, but he was so much heavier than her. Tears rolled down her cheeks. Her lungs begged for air. The pressure in her head grew and grew.
Right when she thought she would lose consciousness, Bulstrode's grip loosened, and she wheezed in a breath. A few moments more and his hands went slack. Katrina fought not to panic, having thirteen stones of dead weight on her. She gathered all her strength and rocked her body. Again. And again. Until she could move out from underneath him.
Katrina's breath came in short bursts as she crawled away. Tears continued to fall from her eyes and mingle with the blood that was everywhere.
She counted to three hundred in her head, then scrambled forward, checking for a pulse. She cried even harder: he was dead.
She was free.
Now, all she had to do was get to the Muggle world. She looked down at her gory appearance. That wouldn't do. Dripping blood, she searched for a bathroom
Katrina showered quickly and changed into a dress she found in a wardrobe; all the clothes inside were new and had been too short. She guessed that they had originally been purchased for Weasley, and the dead bastard hadn't bothered to at least resize them for her.
She spent a few minutes rooting through Bulstrode's things, looking for anything useful. In addition to the three hundred Galleons she found on him, she discovered five hundred Galleons in a drawer. She added all the coins to her bag of Muggle currency she'd acquired after closing out her secret savings account at Gringotts the previous morning.
She searched for Bulstrode's owl and found it perched in his office. Smirking, she wrapped the knife in a piece of cloth and shoved it into an envelope. She addressed it and sent it off. Now, at least, her tracks would be obscured.
An hour and a half after becoming a widow, with only her wand and money and the clothes on her back, Katrina left Bulstrode Estate on foot. She hadn't come across a house-elf while exploring, which was all the better. It would be a while before Bulstrode was found, and hopefully, Katrina would be far away in the Muggle world by then.
After two hours of walking, Katrina found herself in a tiny Muggle hamlet. So far she hadn't had to interact with any Muggles. She was petrified to do so, but she was also exhausted and hungry and had only a vague idea of where she was.
A young boy, wearing odd trousers and a shirt with SWINDON emblazoned across his chest, stepped out of a nearby building. He dropped a white and black ball onto the ground and started kicking it around with his feet.
Katrina grinned; a small Muggle was much preferable to a full-grown one.
"Excuse me, young sir," Katrina said, waving her hand to get his attention.
"Me?" the boy asked, pointing to himself and glancing around to see if anyone was behind him.
"Yes, you. Is there an eating establishment close by?"
"Only place you can get a meal around here is the Swan."
"And where is this 'swan'?"
The boy gave her a strange look, likely seeing the bruises on her neck. He pointed down the street. "That way."
"Ah, yes." She gave a nervous laugh, wishing she could wield her wand. "Thank you most kindly."
The boy shrugged. "Welcome. Later, miss."
Katrina continued down the street until she came across 'The Black Swan'. Entering what was a pub, she spied a clock on the wall behind the bar and saw it was past three, too late for a lunch crowd and too early for a dinner crowd. Not ideal. It would have been better if she could have blended in.
She sat at the empty bar, and an elderly barmaid with greying red hair bustled over. "Anything to drink, dearie?"
"Water will be fine for now. May I have a menu?" Katrina requested.
Something in the barmaid's demeanour changed, and she gently handed Katrina a menu. "Here you go. I'll go fetch you your water."
Katrina glanced at the menu with trepidation. It was covered in some sort of clear, filmy substance and felt unnaturally slick. Thankfully, it appeared Muggles ate food very similar to wizards.
When the barmaid returned for Katrina's order, Katrina said, "I'd like the shepherd's pie." It had always been a childhood favourite. If there were ever a moment for comfort food, now was it.
"It'll be right up," the barmaid assured her.
Katrina nodded sharply and looked down at her hands. She'd scrubbed at them viciously in the shower, and they were clean, but Katrina thought she still smelt blood. She wrinkled her nose and then suddenly found herself fighting tears. Her hands trembled as she buried her face in them. So much blood.
"Och, there, there, dearie," the barmaid came around the bar and patted Katrina's shoulder. "Why don't you tell Miss Mary all about it."
Katrina flinched at Mary's touch, but it was more because of what happened with Bulstrode than Mary being a Muggle. Looking up, she wiped her eyes with the back of a hand, sniffing loudly.
"There's a good girl." Mary squeezed the fingers of Katrina's left hand. "What's got you in such a fuss?"
"M-my boyfriend," Katrina began, weaving the tale she had concocted, "he brought me all the way out here, and we had a fight. I-I can't…" She trailed off as a fresh wave of real tears came over her.
"Och, men can be nasty alright," Mary agreed.
"I'm stranded. And I slept on the way out from London. I don't even know where I am. But I do know I can't go back home; he's there..." That was true, regardless. Katrina would give anything to go back home. Back to Selwyn Hall where she grew up. But that was gone now. Forever. Just another thing taken away by the Dark Lord.
"Oh, you live in London. We're in Tilshead about two and a half hours west of London. And actually, I have to go to the city tomorrow. I also know a place you could stay. Why don't you kip here for the night, and I'll drive you up myself."
"I couldn't impose," Katrina said, knowing Mary would insist. This was the best thing that had happened to her in weeks.
"Och, think nothing of it, missy." A bell dinged from the kitchen. "That's your shepherd's pie. I'll be back in a jiffy."
Katrina gave her a watery smile as Mary patted her shoulder once more and bustled off. Things were going better than Katrina had ever imagined.
After the first tentative bite of her meal, Katrina grinned. The crazy plan she had devised weeks ago finally seemed to be coming together. And with it, her assumptions about Muggles were falling. She'd thought they were grubby, pig-like creatures; it's what she'd been taught. But glancing around this pub… it looked similar to most wizarding pub she'd been in. The floor was clean; the food was delicious. And Mary… Mary was exceedingly kind. Kinder than anyone had been to Katrina in months.
Katrina had been in London for two weeks, staying at the women's shelter Mary had driven her too. At first, Katrina had thought it was a brothel. She was pleasantly surprised to find out what it actually was; wizarding Britain had no such services for women, never had.
Besides providing food, a place to sleep, and counselling, the shelter also had a program with a store called Harrods. It would hire women from the shelter to be stockers in the back, and if they did well, there were opportunities for advancement.
Katrina's smart accent meant she was a shoe-in for a position and was hired on the spot. She'd never had a job before but thought it couldn't be that hard. Katrina had practically skipped into work on her first day.
She'd been right and wrong about the job. It certainly didn't require much of Katrina's brain power, but it was physically exhausting. She left the store bone-tired every single evening.
On the bright side, one of her co-workers was looking for a roommate, and Katrina jumped at the chance to get out of the shelter. Her roommate, Jacqueline, was almost never home, preferring to spend nights at her boyfriend's. All the better for Katrina.
Katrina avoided all wizarding parts of London. If anyone even suggested going near Leadenhall Market, Katrina found herself incredibly busy doing something else. She was desperate for information from her old world but knew if she were spotted that she'd be taken to Azkaban, or worse. Katrina was not about to let that happen. Even though she would never be able to use her wand or visit wizarding Britain again, at least she was finally controlling her own life. She would manage. She was a survivor.