Chapter 1: Prologue
"Hand over the Stone, Potter," Quirrel said, bringing up his wand. "You won't like the consequences if you don't." His eyes were bloodshot, and his bald scalp contorted grotesquely as Voldemort stirred underneath.
Harry raised his own wand, but in an instant, it was wrenched from his fingers. He backpedaled until his back bumped the wall, then slid down to the floor. Quirrel sneered as he approached with deliberate, unhurried steps, each exacerbating the burning in Harry's scar.
Harry reached up to clasp his pendant; the memento of his mother always gave him strength. Eyes watering with pain, he prayed for someone, anyone, to save him. Having done this a hundred times back at the Dursleys, he knew it was futile, yet he couldn't help but repeat the silent plea as Quirrel drew ever closer.
"Greetings, little one," a soft female voice said in his head.
The pendant nearly slipped from his fingers. "M-mum?"
The voice laughed. "Mortals have called me many things, but never that. You may address me as Lilith. I can help you, but you must do as I say."
"What—" He yelped as he was flung against the wall. Quirrel flicked his wand, and his pockets turned themselves out one by one until a dark red stone was ejected. It froze mid-air before floating into Quirrel's palm.
"I have it, Master, I have it!" Quirrel exclaimed, holding up the stone reverently.
Harry slumped on the floor, gasping for air. Lilith was speaking again; he struggled to focus on her words through the ringing in his skull.
"There's no time, mortal. The two-souled one is going to kill you now that you're no longer needed. If you want to live, repeat after me..."
"I, Harry James Potter," he said, clutching the pendant for dear life as Quirrel's wand rose to point at him, "vow to yield to you what you desire the most in return for your protection!"
The amulet grew scorching hot, and he let go with a cry. He scrambled to yank it off his neck, only to pause and stare at his left palm: it held an angry red mark in the shape of a pentacle surrounded by a snake eating its own tail, but the color was already fading, and the pain receding.
"Good boy," Lilith's voice whispered in his ear, and he shivered at her predatory tone.
The air between him and Quirrel wavered with heat, and space itself split apart, revealing a barren, fiery landscape. Blistering wind washed over Harry, and a stench of sulfur assaulted his nose. Something—no, someone—stepped through, and the rift closed, bringing relief from the sweltering temperature.
Harry gaped. The stranger was taller than him, older—like the upper-year girls, perhaps—except she was clearly not human. Dark bat-like wings extended from her shoulder blades, and a smooth tail protruded through the waistband of her leather shorts, ending with a spade-shaped tip. Her hair flowed like fire to her bare midriff in waves of rich crimson. Two small horns poked out above the temples, rivaled in length by her pointy ears.
Her strikingly violet, slit-pupil eyes contemplated Harry before swiveling to spear Quirrel.
"What are you?" Quirrel demanded. "Another of Dumbledore's guardians?"
"I am Lilith," the stranger said, drawing back her arm, "and you are my prey."
"She's not of this world," Voldemort hissed. "Flee, you fool!"
Black flames gathered in Lilith's palm, and she threw them like one would a Quaffle. Quirrel hesitated, half-raising his wand, and it became his undoing: shadowy fire engulfed him, and he collapsed to his knees, screaming in agony.
"Potter, you imbecile!" Voldemort's voice was barely audible over his host's agonized cries. "You have doomed yourself for eternity..."
"Silence, vermin," Lilith said and kicked the possessed man's head.
Quirrel's neck snapped backward, and he toppled to the floor. A dark shade escaped through the mouth, zooming away with an angry shriek. The dark flames burned more intensely, consuming the corpse in seconds before fading away, only leaving a small pile of ash.
Lilith linked her hands and stretched them over her head with a pleased sigh. Her wings quivered, then shrank upon themselves, leaving only faint dark marks on her tan skin. Turning to Harry, she bared her elongated fangs. She was clad entirely in black leather: skimpy shorts, a tight bodice, and a choker around her neck. Had the situation been different, he might've been flustered about the indecent amount of skin that was on display, but as it was, he could only stare in shock.
"You—you spoke to me through the pendant." His hand rose to grasp it. "Are you... a friend of my mother's?"
Snorting, Lilith tossed her hair back. "Lily and I did make a deal, but I never got her soul. She was a cunning one, your mother... Unlike you."
Harry gulped, recalling what little he knew of the Bible. "You t-take people's souls?"
"A fair price for my services, is it not?" Lilith advanced on him, her smile widening. "Silly boy, there's no point in running away—you already belong to me. Kneel."
Pain lanced through Harry's marked palm, and he dropped to the floor, his body obeying without conscious volition. Lilith sashayed closer; he tried frantically to move his legs, but they didn't budge. His vision blurred with tears.
"You were supposed to protect me!"
"And I did just that, did I not? The fault is yours for not specifying any details. I swear, you mortals are getting dumber every generation." She bent down to grasp the collar of his robes and lifted him up to her eye level. A peculiar smell of burning sandalwood and spice tickled his nostrils. "I believe I'll collect my payment straight away. Opening a portal across planes at a moment's notice was no easy task, even with your unwitting help."
"Let go of me, bitch! You tricked me!" He twisted and punched, but she extended her arm so his swings wouldn't reach her, openly displaying her amusement.
She brought up her other hand—slender and feminine but ending in fierce nails—to graze his cheek. "Are you that attached to your useless life, mortal? I would treat you well in the Underworld. Maybe even make you my pet for a time." She licked his blood off her nail, her eyes narrowing.
He ceased struggling and merely hanged on to her wrist so he could breathe. Tears trickled down his cheeks, stinging the fresh cut. "Please don't kill me. Please. I want to live, I have friends, please—"
She let him fall to the floor, where he clutched his throat and coughed. "Tell you what." Her foot tapped the flagstones. "I'll consider letting you off if you manage to amuse me. Beg for your life."
He stared at her for a moment, then lowered his head. "Please spare me."
She yawned theatrically. "Boring. Tell me how worthless you are, worm."
"I'm—I'm worthless," he repeated, choking back tears. "I'm stupid and weak. Please don't kill me."
"Pathetic! Are all mortal children as feeble as you? I made my first kill when I was half your age." She stepped on his head, the heel of her knee-high boots digging into his scalp. "There's no fight in you, no pride! Just for that, I'll make you suffer before I put you out of your misery."
The pressure on his scalp vanished as Lilith wedged her foot underneath his shoulder before flipping him over with unearthly strength. The back of his head smashed against the floor, and the impact knocked his glasses askew. Pushing with his hands, he clambered away, his heart thumping furiously in his ears.
"Go ahead and struggle as much as you can," Lilith said in a sing-song voice. "It will make this more enjoyable."
He bolted to his feet and ran as fast as his legs would carry him, casting his gaze around. When it landed on his wand, which lay in a shadowy corner, he lunged towards it.
The demoness blew past him at a speed that shouldn't have been possible. She leisurely picked up the wand, her tail wagging side to side, and spun it in her fingers, giving him a toothy grin. "Looking for this trinket?"
He recoiled, panting. Too fast, too strong—never mind putting up a fight, there was no way he could even escape her. He slunk backwards, eyeing Lilith warily and expecting her to attack any second.
Something else caught her attention, however, for her cat-like eyes turned toward the entrance into the stone chamber. A scowl marred her pretty face, and black wings sprouted from her back, growing rapidly until they returned to their former size. She beat them several times, her crimson hair billowing out.
"Something powerful approaches," she said in a tone that wasn't quite as self-assured as before. Her eyes sought him out again. "You're in luck, little one. I'll give you seven years; to someone like me, it will be but a moment, but that's a long time for mortals, is it not?"
She tossed Harry his wand, then stalked over to the pile of ash that was all that remained of Quirrel, craning her neck and sniffing at the air. Suddenly, she raked her nails downward in a swift gesture, and the portal into a blazing desert reappeared before her, filling the chamber with the stench of sulfur. When she stepped in and the rift began to close, her voice drifted through.
"Wallow in fear and desperation... Suffering stains a soul in such exquisite colors."
The rift disappeared and the chamber fell silent. He braced against the wall, hardly believing he had escaped with his life.
A faint sound of hurried footsteps came, growing louder by the second, and his head pivoted towards the entrance. His mouth stretched into a relieved smile when Dumbledore appeared in the doorway, towering and furious. The headmaster paused at the threshold, then waved his pale wand to conjure a cool breeze before stepping inside. The eyes behind the half-moon glasses shifted from the mirror to the scattered pile of ash to Harry himself.
Harry inhaled the now-fresh air and swayed on his feet; the relief was so overwhelming it was making him lightheaded. He stumbled forward and collapsed into Dumbledore's arms, the august wizard somehow having crossed the vast chamber in time to catch him. Dumbledore was saying something, but Harry's head was spinning and there was a whooshing sound in his ears. Darkness crept across his vision, and he welcomed it gladly.
Harry lay in bed feeling groggy and sluggish. The Mirror of Erised, the Philosopher's Stone, Voldemort... Lilith. Here, in the airy, sunlight-filled hospital wing, it all seemed like a dream.
How he wished it were only that.
He lifted his trembling left fist, lowered it to the blanket, then lifted it again. Slowly, reluctantly, he unclenched it and stared. There, in the middle of his palm, was the cursed mark the demoness had given him. Pale, faded, but undeniable.
His breath quickened. Leaning over to the bedside table, he scrabbled for his wand and aimed it at his palm.
"Scourgify. Scourgify. Please, go away, please. Scourgify. Scourgify. Scourgify."
Soapsuds moistened the bedsheets as he scrubbed his palm raw, yet still the mark persisted.
"Scourgify! Scourgify. Scourgify..."
Splotches of red dyed the soapsuds. His voice cracked, and he furiously wiped his teary eyes with the back of his hand. Tossing his wand aside, he fumbled for his mother's necklace, and with shaking hands, he ripped it off his neck and flung it as far as he could. It clattered to the floor, but as distant laughter rang in his ears, he knew that it wasn't enough.
Seven years. His days were numbered.
Harry dithered, his gaze darting around the hazy King's Cross station. A small distance away, the raw-skinned creature—the thing he instinctively knew to be a part of Voldemort—continued to thump and wail. At his side sat Dumbledore: silent, content. Proud. He had said all he wanted to say and was now waiting patiently for Harry to make his choice.
And still he wavered. As he gritted his teeth, telling himself that he had to go back and—and finish the job, something rumbled in the distance. He turned his head and beheld a familiar steam train pull into the station, decelerate with a squeak of brakes and clangs of steel, and come to a graceful stop before the platform.
Harry gaped at the scarlet carriages, oddly sharp against the ethereal surroundings, then faced Dumbledore. "If I board it, will I be... free?"
"Free of all earthly burdens and concerns—but also pleasures and delights that only the living may revel in." Dumbledore looked upon him kindly. "Are you certain that is what you want, my young friend? Think of those you would be leaving behind."
"I am," he said curtly.
Emboldened by his decision, he rose to his feet and strode towards the train. Behind him, Dumbledore spoke urgently, perhaps trying to talk him out of it, but he didn't listen. He hardly dared to believe it, but here was a ticket out of the existence he had condemned himself to.
He marched up to the sliding doors and stared expectantly. When nothing happened, he wedged his fingers between them and attempted to pry them open. "C'mon!"
"How peculiar," Dumbledore mused, coming up from behind. "I would have thought, with your soul no longer corrupted by Voldemort's horcrux—"
"Open them!" He scratched his left palm. Was it just his imagination, or was there a whiff of brimstone in the air?
Dumbledore raised his bushy eyebrows but approached obediently. The doors slid open for him, and with a curious look at Harry, he stepped into the carriage.
"Was it waiting for me, I wonder?" the headmaster murmured. "Well, no matter. I urge you to reconsider, Harry. As long as you remain on the platform, you may return to your friends. Build a family and live a life free of madmen and prophecies that drive them."
It was tempting, but he knew better: as long as he carried the mark, his life, his very soul, was forfeit. He shook his head. "You don't understand. I have to—I have to go."
Bracing himself, he stepped over the threshold, then exhaled slowly. Just when he began to relax, a deep hum resonated in his bones, and pain lanced up his left arm. Crying out, he sank to the floor before an invisible force hurled him out through the ajar doors.
Skidding to a halt on his back, he squinted at the train. A whistle sounded, and the doors closed slowly, Dumbledore staring at him with shock and dismay on his lined face.
"No," Harry moaned, feebly extending his left hand. The mark on it was pulsing with angry red light, and he fancied he could hear gleeful laughter. Her laughter.
A blinding light bathed him, the pain in his palm growing unbearable—then, abruptly, he was lying facedown on the loamy forest floor, back in the real world, in the company of Death Eaters and their master. As he breathed in the crisp air, Dumbledore's last words echoed in his mind.
"My dear boy, what have you done?"
Chapter 2: Demon, Part One
The steady ticking of the antique grandfather's clock echoed in the study, and it took an almost physical effort not to check the time. Harry put the finishing touches to his testament, set the quill aside, and stoppered the inkwell. The parchment crinkled in his hands as he rolled it up and tied it with a cord before depositing it in the top drawer. Then and only then did he allow himself to look at the clock.
The deadline neared.
He snatched a potion bottle from his desk, uncorked it, and downed it in three big gulps. Even so, he nearly gagged at the pungent taste, and hurriedly washed it down with a glass of conjured water. He stood and stretched gingerly, then went over his equipment, making sure his spare wands were strapped securely inside his dragonhide vest.
The clock began chiming, and he shivered, clenching his fists until his knuckles whitened. He found himself hoping against hope that nothing would happen—yet when the familiar melody petered out, he caught a whiff of sulfur. He mastered his fear through hard-won mental techniques.
There was a crackling noise, and he pivoted to see a portal open next to a warded glass case holding his mother's amulet, spitting sparks down on the carpet. A lone figure was outlined against the blazing landscape, and Harry grinned fiercely in recognition. One way or another, his seven years of dread would end soon.
Lilith stepped through, unfurling her wings as the portal squelched closed behind her. Violet eyes scanned the room before looking him over.
"Your kind change so fast, mortal," she said. "You're different now, and not in appearance alone. Such composure in the face of death... Have you accepted your fate?"
He inclined his head. "I've put my affairs in order. Let's get this over with." His voice was so calm it even surprised himself.
She snorted and sashayed toward him, her nails lengthening into sharp claws. "Listen to you, all full of yourself. On your knees, prey, as befits you."
The mark on his palm flared, and he sank to the floor. Deep in Occlumency-induced tranquility, he didn't make any noise of distress, and his muscles remained loose and relaxed.
He looked up at her. "Before you kill me, would you mind answering a question?"
She leaned in to put a single nail under his chin. "Go on."
"What is your true name? I doubt I'm important enough to rate a visit from the princess of the underworld herself."
Her nail tapped his forehead. "Sounds like you've done your research. In that case, you should know that our names grant mortals the power to summon us and worse."
"There's no one else inside the house, and I'm about to snuff it. Come on, I just want to know who to curse when my soul is tormented for all eternity, or whatever it is you demons do to amuse yourselves."
Her carefree laughter filled the room. "It's Fiamette. Feel free to blubber my name throughout your ordeals so everyone knows who bested you. Do you have anything else to ask me?"
He gave her a serene smile. "Not at all. Collect your payment, demon."
Uncertainty flickered in her eyes before they narrowed and she drew back her arm to strike. He exhaled, sinking deeper into his trance, his muscles coiling like a spring; her movements became sluggish to his unblinking eyes.
"You've made me wait, mortal." Her voice seemed to be coming from far away. "But sooner or later, we always get our dues."
She struck, her razor-sharp claws hurtling towards his neck, while Harry urged his body to move with his entire being. It was when the tips of her nails punctured his skin that his muscles finally responded, throwing him out of the harm's way in an ungainly leap. He rolled on the floor, coming to a stop a few yards away.
His heart hammered in his chest as time sped up again. Clutching his neck, he drew his wand and aimed an Episkey at the wound. It was fortunate that it wasn't too deep, for he couldn't perform the more complex healing spells nonverbally.
Fiamette stared at him. "The pact is dissolved. What did you do?"
He got to his feet, his gaze lingering on his blessedly unmarred palm before he wrenched it away. "I'm hardly an expert on magical contracts, but I expect it took offense at you trying to murder the one you were obligated to protect."
Her tail flicked side to side as she bared her fangs. "You anticipated this! Wretched creature with the lifespan of an insect, how dare you defy—" She took in his stance, her eyes narrowing at his wand. "Are you actually thinking of challenging me?"
He gave her a wan smile. "I'd rather not, to be honest. Don't suppose I could convince you to leave?"
"Not without your head." She raised her hand and licked a fleck of his blood of her nail. "Hmm. You've grown, little one. Let's see how long you can last against me." She unfastened her choker and used it to pull her hair into a ponytail.
Harry tensed as her grin grew more predatory. Spreading out her dark wings, she drew back her arm and hurled a bolt of black flame. His wand twitched, and a chair jumped to intercept the attack, burning to ash in an instant. Summoning more furniture, he banished it at his foe.
Fiamette laughed as she danced through the air with inhuman grace. Two chairs broke apart when they hit the bookshelves behind her, and she shattered the third with her bare fist. She crouched, then launched herself at him, only to be knocked backward by a heavy cabinet.
He used the opportunity to escape the study, sealing the door behind him, but even as he barreled down the corridor, the reinforced wood was smashed to kindling.
Spinning around, he unleashed a sharp ribbon that gouged the walls as it zoomed forth, forcing Fiamette to leap over it. He didn't let up, chaining spells together and sending deadly magic buzzing down the corridor. The paneled walls were getting razed, the air filling with hurtling splinters.
She ducked and weaved, evading the jets of light by mere inches. During those instants when the noise from the blasts was at its lowest, he could hear her laughing. She kicked a vase into the path of his Bludgeoner, covering herself against the fragments with a wing, then vaulted over his conjured chains.
A twirl of his wand, and a lion rose from the debris, rushing down the demolished hallway. Unlike his father, Transfiguration was never his best skill, but he appreciated its utility in distracting his opponents. He returned to casting curses, hoping to catch the damned bitch off guard.
Fiamette didn't bat an eye, rising to the ceiling and incinerating the charging lion with her unholy flames. She then folded her wings and dived toward Harry, twisting in the air to avoid his last spell.
He swiveled and ran, mentally cursing Grimmauld Place's high ceilings. Sprinting down the entrance hall, he glanced over his shoulder just in time to dodge another black firebolt that instead scorched the tiled floor. He ducked around the staircase and into the kitchen.
Fiamette landed to enter through the doorway, and he held his breath waiting for the right moment. As soon as she crossed the threshold, he gave a mental command to the house's wards, causing a magical circle to light up beneath her feet. She swayed, then leaned against the jamb clutching her forehead.
Lips twisting in a victorious sneer, he sent the numerous knives in the kitchen soaring toward her; then, for good measure, he conjured five silver daggers out of thin air and fired them off at once.
Fiamette raised her foot and stomped, making the circle fizzle out as a floorboard shot up blocking several knives. She dropped to the floor, covering herself with her wings, and a sphere of black fire surrounded her, incinerating the remaining knives. Even Harry's next curse disintegrated with an angry hiss. He stared in astonishment, then frowned and began chanting a lightning conjuration.
Moments after the barrage ceased, the black flames sputtered out and Fiamette's wings folded back. She sprang up, thrusting her hand forward and returning one of the conjured daggers to him in a single graceful motion.
The blade skewered his right palm, and he dropped his wand with a cry, hot blood trickling down his fingers. Following Fiamette with blurry vision, he grabbed the handle and yanked the blade out. She appeared content to let him be, for she had her own wounds to tend to: some of the knives from his attack had gotten through after all, piercing her shoulder and thigh.
Sensing an opportunity, he dashed forward to grab his wand. Fiamette moved like lightning, ripping a dagger out of her shoulder and flinging it at him. Its bloodied blade sank into the wooden floor with a twang, missing his fingertips by inches.
He blanched and stumbled backward, glaring at her. "Is it too much to hope the silver'll kill you?"
She flashed her fangs. "Don't take me for some lowly imp! It may slow down my healing, nothing more."
For a time, both of them stayed in place. Fiamette had pulled the second dagger out of her thigh and was tossing it in the air while Harry's gaze darted from her to the wand on the floor.
Coming to a decision, he pretended to dive again, only to jump back as soon as she reared her hand to throw. Reaching under his vest with his intact hand, he drew a spare wand.
His aim was poor and the spell came out weakened, but the exploding kitchen counter forced her to shelter under her wings. Wrenching his gaze away, he aimed his wand at his bleeding hand and hissed as the battlefield healing spell forcibly knit his flesh, making the pain spike briefly.
In a rush of displaced air, Fiamette burst out of the cloud of debris and rocketed toward him. He ducked as he transferred his wand to his dominant hand, but it nearly slipped from his blood-slick fingers. Fiamette didn't give him time to recover, twisting mid-air to deliver a sweeping kick.
He blocked with his forearm, wincing when the impact jarred his bones and pushed him backwards. Grabbing her leg with both hands, he spun and threw the demoness with the momentum. He glimpsed the incredulous look on her face as she hurtled through the air, slamming into the fireplace hard enough to fracture the marble mantel. Reaching for his dropped wand, he grimaced when his muscles screamed in protest.
She grasped the sides of the fireplace and pulled herself out, cracking her neck. Bruises mottled her tan skin, and her hair was grey with pulverized marble, but her predatory grace remained.
"That was not a human's power," she said, her cat-like eyes wide.
"Re'em blood." He rubbed his aching wrist. "It only lasts a short while—maybe you should come back when I'm weaker."
She barked a laugh. "Don't insult me, mortal. Let's pit our full strength against each other and see who prevails!"
She shot forth, hair streaming behind her like a crimson banner, and he was forced to block with his sore arm again. As she bounced off his guard, he lashed out in retaliation, his fist glancing off a wing that got in his way.
Fiamette beat her wings, sending a gust of wind into his face and distancing herself from him before landing on the floor and springing forward, her clawed hand outstretched like a spear. Harry dodged, but she nicked his side. He grabbed her by the wrist and threw an elbow in her face, but she blocked with her other hand and used the leverage to pull herself free.
Closing the distance, he swung wildly, grinning when he felt something crack under his fist. The blow lifted her into the air, and she cradled her left hand upon landing. He kept up the offensive, making up with power for what he lacked in finesse. Unfortunately, she was on her guard now, dodging his clumsy attacks rather than attempting to deflect them, and he was tiring. He had trained, but he could hardly call himself a martial artist.
Sensing his diminishing strength, Fiamette grew bolder, probing his guard with fast, light attacks. As he struggled to block, she jumped and delivered a roundhouse kick that sent him reeling. A flurry of lightning-quick jabs to his torso followed, and only his dragonhide vest saved his ribs from shattering. Gasping for air, he punched blindly, but she ducked and swept his legs from under him.
Eyes widening, he rolled away to avoid another thrust that embedded Fiamette's claws in the floor. He scrambled to his feet and kicked mightily as she guarded with her wing, sending her tumbling backwards with a ripped-out floorboard still stuck to her hand.
Planting his feet firmly, he reached for the spare wand. He had to finish it quickly: he wouldn't last against her in a contest of physical strength, especially now that the effects of the Re'em blood were fading.
He drew a circle in the air, then crossed it with a jagged line. Watching Fiamette shake herself off and stand, he jabbed his wand in her direction and growled, "Fulminare!"
Knowing what to expect, he shut his eyes at the last syllable, but the flash dazzled him even through his eyelids, and the deafening thunderclap left his ears ringing.
He opened his eyes, blinked at the branching scorch mark on the floor, then looked up. Fiamette was in the air and swooping upon him; he swerved away with a yelp that sounded far away in his ears, but her gleaming claws sliced straight through his wand.
Harry stared dumbly at the silvery unicorn hair poking out of the stub in his hand before a kick connected with his chest and sent him flying. His back hit a wall hard enough to rattle his bones, and he slid down, mouth gaping like a fish. Wheezing in a breath, he winced at the stabbing pain in his flank.
Fiamette collapsed to one knee and was struggling to get up. After several tries, she managed to rise, but made no attack, limping in a semi-circle before him. Despite her battered appearance, she wore her broadest smile yet. As her lips moved, he struggled to parse the words, his hearing only partially recovered.
"...I can barely feel my leg. Hadn't I taken to the air, it might be me lying defeated at your feet. You've put up an impressive fight... for a human."
Harry surreptitiously flexed his limbs one by one to make sure he'd be able to move while his eyes searched for a weapon. Hope surged within him when his gaze landed on his original wand, the rare combination of holly and phoenix feather, still lying beside the silver dagger buried in the floor. He faced Fiamette in order not to give himself away.
"See, you can amuse me if you but try. Not that you ever stood a chance, of course, but it was a worthy attempt. I haven't had a brawl like this in decades, and never with a mortal." She sized him up, her expression hardening. "Alas, all good things must come to an end. Any last words?"
"Just two." He raised a trembling hand and flipped her the bird. "Get. Fucked."
Fiamette threw her head back and cackled until stopping abruptly and clutching her side. "That's the spirit, Harry!" she said, wiping away a tear. "I'll implant your soul into a behemoth and make you battle in our arenas on my behalf. Perform well as my gladiator for a few centuries, and you may even ascend into a full-fledged demon."
He watched her cup her palm, a black whirlpool forming above it, and tensed. His best opportunity would come when she was recovering after her throw.
"I'm told the agony of burning to death is unspeakable. You can tell me all about it later." She flung the black flames at him.
He leapt out of the way, but his right leg seized up, and he fell hard on his knees. The black fire streaked through the air and hit him squarely in the chest.
Face screwed up, he awaited the annihilation Quirrel had been subjected to on this day exactly seven years ago, but there were only heat and an almost pleasant tingling. Glancing down, he saw the demonic fire eat right through his enchanted robes and armor yet leave his flesh intact. He poked his burning vest and goggled when the flame fizzled out as it came in contact with his fingertip.
"A protective enchantment? No—no, it can't be!" A look of horror crossed Fiamette's face. She slung another firebolt at him, but he slapped it his palm without thinking, and the hellfire was extinguished. "The cursed Peverell blood runs through your veins!"
"The Peverells?" he croaked, crawling toward his wand. As his fingers clenched around it, warmth surged through his arm, and he rose to one knee, training the trembling wand on her. "What of them?"
"Your ancestors called themselves demon hunters and eradicated my kind from Earth," she spat. Her fiery gaze appraised his defiant posture, and she raised a quivering claw before lowering it and taking a deliberate step backward. "No matter; I'll return to strike at you when you least expect it. Live looking over your shoulder—you wore my mark once, so I'll find you no matter where you hole up."
She hobbled out of the kitchen, keeping her eyes on him until she was through the doorway. Groaning, he planted his palms heavily on the floor; it had taken all of his depleted strength just to hold up his wand. Had she decided to fight...
A hysterical laugh bubbled in his throat, followed by a stab of pain in his flank. Again, he survived by a hair's breadth. Again, he would live in fear until her inevitable return. He glanced at the doorway. It was his victory, wasn't it?
He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. Like hell it was.
Keening with effort, he tried to stand, but his legs gave out. He gritted his teeth, scrabbled for his wand, and aimed in the direction of a cabinet.
The cabinet's doors swung ajar, and a vial floated out jerkily, dropping to the ground halfway and rolling the last few feet toward him. He fumbled off the cork and knocked back the potion, shuddering as reinvigorating energy coursed through his limbs. Rising laboriously to his feet, he staggered out into the entrance hall and followed the stench of brimstone like a hunting hound.
By the time he stumbled into the study, Fiamette was standing before an open portal, the scorching wind from the other side ruffling her hair. Her eyes widened at his appearance.
"See you when you least expect it, mongrel," she said over her shoulder and stepped through. "Don't go around spreading your disgusting seed, or I'll be forced to hunt down your offspring as well."
"Not so fast," he snarled, forcing his exhausted legs into motion. Even as the rift began shrinking, he stuck his hand through and grabbed her swishing tail. Gripping tight, he yanked her out.
"Eeek!" Falling bum-first on the carpet, she rounded on him furiously, only to be met with a point-blank Confundus Charm. Her head swiveled uncertainly between him and the wavering portal. "Unhand me this instant, barbarian!"
He dragged her away, heedless of her increasingly absurd objections, until the rift vanished along with the suffocating wind. When she made to slash her claws at him, he twisted her tail, and she shrieked, lowering her hands to clutch her buttocks.
Satisfied that he had her under control, he jabbed his wand over his shoulder. "Accio collar!"
A few seconds passed until a smooth metallic ring floated in through the doorway. Before the demoness could regain her wits, he clasped the collar around her neck.
She gasped and sank to the floor, her vicious nails receding and her wings disappearing into her back. Letting go of her tail, he grabbed her by a horn and hauled her, kicking and screaming, across the pockmarked floor until she clung to the doorway for dear life and refused to move further.
"What trickery is this?" she exclaimed. "You dare tamper with my mind?"
Harry sighed; the confusion appeared to be wearing off already. He let go of her horn and bent down to scoop her up in his arms.
"W-what in the name of the Nine Circles are you doing?" Her small fists rained blows on his chest, but the hits barely registered, and she soon gave up, staring at her hands in shock.
Weaving around the craters on the floor, Harry kicked the basement door open and carried her down the stairs. Smokeless oil lamps lit up, illuminating crumbling brick walls along which loomed instruments of torture. He brought Fiamette to a corner, lowered her to the floor, and threaded a chain mortared into the wall through a ring on her collar.
She looked around, her eyes widening as she took in the medieval paraphernalia. "Human... Harry, I'm scared and cold, and this collar hurts so much. Please forgive me, Harry—I promise I'll make it up to you. I'll do anything. Let's talk about this."
He fixed her with a stony stare. "You just tried to murder me. Do you seriously believe that'll work?"
She laughed and reclined against the wall, now appearing perfectly at ease. "It was worth a try—and I would've won, were it not for your abhorrent heritage." Her hand rose to the metallic circlet around her neck, and she hissed, blowing at her reddened fingertips. "Consecrated silver, is it? You've studied."
He scowled. "I had a good incentive."
She smirked. "Well, I'm glad I motivated you to do something productive with your worthless life."
He lifted his wand, feeling a smidgen of dark satisfaction when the smirk was wiped off her face. Aiming at the wound on her shoulder, he chanted one of the more powerful healing spells in his arsenal. She jerked back at first, then stared in wonder as her flesh knitted not even leaving a scar. He repeated the process with her leg, then wiped the sweat off his brow and shuffled toward the stairs. Sleep sounded good—for about a week if he could help it.
"Showing mercy to an enemy?" she yelled at his retreating back. "Too soft, mortal! You should've killed me as soon as you had the chance!"
He shut the door, blocking out her shouts.
Chapter 3: Demon, Part Two
Harry whistled a jaunty tune as he climbed down into the basement the next morning. While still shaky from the aftereffects of Re'em blood, he had healed his injuries and consumed several restorative potions that were already working their magic.
"Good morning," he greeted Fiamette with a smile.
Huddling in her corner, she silently tracked him with her amethyst eyes. In addition to being disheveled and dirty from yesterday's fight, her knuckles appeared freshly bruised, but he wasn't worried about her escaping: the walls were enchanted to withstand a rampaging giant.
He came up to her, sniffed loudly, and waved his hand under his nose. "Ugh, you reek." It wasn't even true, but he was certain it would get a rise out of her.
"Whose fault do you think that is!" she snapped.
"My bad," he said, grinning. "Here, allow me to rectify that—Aguamenti!"
She shrieked and sputtered as he directed the stream of cold water over her. A few Scouring Charms, and her tan skin was left squeaky clean if slightly reddened. He washed the soap suds away with more conjured water.
"Y-you dumb brute," she said, teeth chattering. "I'll remember this!"
Drenched head to toe, wet hair clinging to her skin, her murderous glare wasn't nearly as effective. When he chuckled and channeled a hot wind at her, she leaned into the warmth with an involuntary sigh, her hair billowing out.
He ran his eyes over her immaculate body, not a single bruise in sight. "Your regenerative powers are really something."
She stuck her chest out. "Ha! Anything would seem impressive to a frail creature like yourself."
He snorted. "What does it say about you that you got defeated by one?"
Fiamette crossed her arms and pouted until he finished drying her. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye as she raked her fingers through her windswept hair. "So, how come a naive little boy like yourself owns a house with a basement full of torture implements?"
"I inherited the place from a Dark family and thought it would be a shame to toss them out. They add a certain ambiance, don't you agree?"
Her nostrils flared. "As a matter of fact, I do. This place smells of most delicious suffering."
"I'm glad you approve because you're going to stay here for a while. It won't feel long for an immortal being like yourself, I'm sure." He snickered at her disgruntled look. "Go ahead and settle in, I'll come back in half a day or so."
"You're... leaving again?" She stared in confusion, the tension in her shoulders loosening.
"Us mortals have these things called jobs, you see. I really need to come in today, but don't worry, I'll take a few weeks off so we can spend more time together." He patted her on the head in the way of farewell, then yanked his hand back when she snapped at him like a rabid dog.
"Wait," she called out as he was leaving. "What if I need to... there's no..."
He glanced over his shoulder. "Yes?"
"I need to use the restroom, you wanker! Do you get off on humiliating me like that?"
He blinked at the accusation. "Actually, I didn't know demons needed to go to the loo. Huh. Guess you lot have to eat and drink too." He furrowed his brows, then waved his wand and conjured a bucket. "Use this until I come up with something better. My house elf will take care of the cleaning."
She gaped at it before unleashing a litany of expletives insulting his parentage, questioning his intellect, and belittling certain bits of his anatomy. Harry shook his head and marched up the stairs as her swearing switched from English to what didn't sound like a human language at all.
Evening found him circling the basement to layer enchantments over each corner as he consulted a thick volume he brought with him for reference. Gleaming violet eyes watched him from a shadowy nook.
"What are you doing?"
"Oh, you're going to like this." He snapped the book shut. "The spellwork's meant for hospital patients, prisoners, pets during transit—not sure which definition best applies to you. Basically, it removes your need to eliminate waste. Isn't that amazing? Magic still manages to surprise me to this day."
She shook her head. "Bloody crackpot."
"You wound me, Fia," he said, putting a palm over his chest. "I'm doing this for your comfort."
Her eyes narrowed. "Don't call me that."
"Aw, why not? It's cute." He smirked when her tail flicked angrily. "That reminds me, I brought you a nutritional potion. I have no clue what demons normally eat, but if you can tolerate our food, it shouldn't do any harm."
He produced a bottle from his inner pocket, uncorked it, and took a sip to show it was safe before proffering it to her. Fiamette edged closer, chain jangling, and accepted it. She sniffed the bottle before pressing it to her lips and upending it.
He watched on in satisfaction until she suddenly jerked forward and spat the potion in his face. The empty bottle conked him on the forehead. He jumped back, sputtering, and raised his wand to clean himself off.
"The hell was that for!"
She crossed her arms. "As if I'd accept anything from my captor. I have my pride."
"Then I guess I'll start working on you earlier than I planned. I would've given you a break, but you brought this upon yourself, Fia." He gave her a dark look, and she shivered, even forgetting to complain about the shortening of her name.
He returned not ten minutes later, clutching a small box under his armpit. Pointedly ignoring his captive, he unreeled a long chain from a winch and levitated it through an iron ring on the ceiling.
Leaving the end of the chain dangling in the air, he set the box down on a table and lifted the lid to retrieve a pair of leather manacles. Unlike the other implements, these were brand new.
"What are you going to do?" Fia sounded meek, anxious, but he couldn't be sure it wasn't an act.
"Discipline you until you learn your position," he said evenly. "Extend your hands."
Backing into her corner, she folded her arms defiantly.
"See? This attitude is exactly what we need to fix." He rapped the manacles with his wand, and they flew toward her, clasping snugly around her wrists.
She gasped, in surprise rather than pain. After all, he purchased the handcuffs in a specialty shop, the kind you couldn't enter unless you were of age, and they were all about pleasing their clientele rather than hurting them—although, to be fair, there was some overlap.
He exploited her distraction to unbuckle her collar from the chain tying her to the wall and dragged her into the middle of the room. Once she began resisting in earnest, it was too late: he affixed the chain that linked the manacles to the thicker one dangling from the ceiling.
The winch creaked as he turned it, pulling Fia's shackled hands upward until her arms were fully extended but she was still standing comfortably on her soles, if unable to take a step in any direction. His pulse quickened, as much from nervousness as from anticipation.
"What should we start with, hmm? The cat o' nine tails?" He glanced at a multi-tailed whip ending in cruel barbs. "The wooden horse? The Catherine wheel? The iron maiden, perhaps?"
She remained silent, her gaze downcast, but her tail wagged agitatedly. He grasped her cheeks and forced her to look him in the eye.
"Would any of it—all of it—even come close to what you had prepared for me down in your plane?"
He fancied the alarm in her eyes genuine, but her voice showed no sign of it. "Not even close. You mortals are naive to think you know anything about torture. We perfected it into an art form. Our masters could make you spill your darkest secrets before so much as touching you."
"Splendid," he said blandly. "I know little about it, true, so I figure we start slow. Simple."
He crossed the room, her slit pupils tracking him unblinkingly, her shoulders drooping a fraction as he passed the rusty iron maiden; she had to have been posturing after all. He bent over his box to retrieve its rather more harmless contents.
Craning her neck, Fia stared incredulously. "This is the brutality you're going to subject me to? Feathers?"
He suppressed a grin. "Don't knock it till you try it.
Despite her scornful words, he could see her tense as he strolled behind her back. Her fiery hair was still bound in a ponytail, exposing the nape of her neck; perhaps he'd start there. Raising one feather, he brushed the tip against her skin.
The muscles of her shoulder twitched in reaction, and he smirked, letting go. The enchanted feather hovered where he left it, imitating him as it gently tickled her.
He circled her, trailing feathers across her exposed skin in search of more sensitive spots: her collarbone, her slender waist, her bellybutton. She watched him with an almost indignant expression on her face.
"Honestly, I'm embarrassed for you," she scoffed. "Whatever it is you're trying—"
Her breath hitched as a feather skimmed up her armpit, and he grinned as he left it to do its work. "You were saying?"
She glared, her cheeks coloring slightly. "What are you going to do—tickle me to death?"
"Would it work?" he asked distractedly as he trailed the third feather down her slender leg. Her inner thigh just below her shorts elicited a shiver unlike the ticklish jolts earlier, and he left a feather there.
"Don't be ridiculous." Her voice came out an octave higher, and she averted her gaze.
Encouraged, he continued adding and adjusting the feathers. He wanted her on the edge rather than bursting with laughter. Varied, unpredictable stimulation she wouldn't get used to.
Stepping back, he admired the fruits of his labor. Fia's cheeks were flushed, her body alternatively tensing and relaxing as the chain holding her up by the wrists jangled. Noticing his glee, she straightened up and glowered, but couldn't help squirming when a feather swept across her taut belly. Growling, she swatted at it with her tail.
Harry glanced at the last feather in his hand—yes, why not. Stepping behind her, he contemplated the hole under the waistband of her shorts that accommodated her limber tail. Experimentally, he whisked the tip of the feather against its base.
Her tail stiffened, and she let out a squeak. Grinning, he taught the feather to glide around the unexpectedly sensitive spot before leaving it to its devices. Her tail fluttered side to side, but there was no escape from the relentless teasing.
When he faced her, she was biting her lip and glaring at his toys.
"Well?" he said. "Feel like becoming my obedient slave yet?"
"Go bugger yourself," she said, squirming.
He shrugged. "Your loss. I'll just leave you to ponder things for a while. A couple hours should suffice." He stepped in, so close he smelled her sandalwood-like scent. "Don't count on it, though. I'm so exhausted from yesterday, I might just go to bed and leave you to stew overnight."
She reared her head and tried to ram her horns into his face, but with the chain holding her back, it was little more than a tap. "Do your worst, human."
Wrapping his hands around a horn, he wrenched her neck backwards and leaned in to whisper into her ear. "Be careful what you wish for."
The way her eyes widened helplessly was immensely satisfying.
In the end, he didn't go through with the threat and dropped by several hours later. Fia raised her head as he descended the stairs, but her glare was spiritless. A flush colored her skin, her chest was heaving—and were those tear tracks on her cheeks, or just sweat?
He rotated the winch to lower the chain, then waved his wand to unclasp the manacles. She groaned, swaying on the spot, then narrowed her eyes at him as if daring him to taunt her. Her legs trembled as she rubbed her wrists.
Wordlessly, he led her to the wall and attached the shorter chain to her collar again; her resistance was only perfunctory. Stepping back, he conjured her a blanket.
She reclined carefully, making sure there was enough slack in the chain and gave him a baffled look. "You're letting me rest?"
"Only until tomorrow. Sleep is important." After years of nightmares, he knew that better than most.
"Your attempts are an insult to the word 'torture'," she said with vague indignation. "You can't possibly think this would break me."
He yawned, snuffing out the lamps with a gesture. "Yeah, yeah."
"You're weak! Soft! Pathetic..."
He trudged up the stairs and shut the door behind him.
The next day, Harry came at noon carrying a platterful of sandwiches. Ham, cheese, bacon, tomato—his elf Melly had prepared some for every taste. He set it down, picked one at random, and nibbled on it, casting side glances at his prisoner.
Fia watched him with a hungry intensity. She did drink the water Melly brought her, he knew, but left the nutritional potions untouched, and he was getting worried. Well, only insofar as her fainting from starvation would rob him of the thrill of attempting to break her.
He finished the sandwich, brushed the crumbs off his chin, and picked up the platter. "Fancy some?"
Fia remained silent. Taking that as an invitation, he walked up and extended the food towards her. Slowly, her hands reached out to accept it, and Harry's lips quirked up at the small achievement.
As he stepped back to give her space, she sprang to her feet and slung the platter at him. The sandwiches splattered wetly on the floor, while the silvery disc whacked him on the forehead; he staggered back and rubbed his brow, finding it slick with blood.
He gave Fia a glare, then set about cleaning things up, her taunts falling on deaf ears. Once the mess was gone and his forehead no longer bleeding, he addressed her again.
"I admit, I'm rather averse to wasting food. A consequence of my childhood, perhaps."
"Is that why you were such a runt during our first meeting? Poor wittle baby not getting enough to eat?" She sneered. "Blame your own weakness! If your begetters aren't providing, you go out and pilfer what you need."
The spike of anger faded quickly as his Occlumency kicked in. What had he been thinking, opening up to her? He sighed. "Remember, you brought this upon yourself."
He spoke no more as he unchained her collar, clamped the leather manacles on her wrists, and attached them to the chain in the middle of the room, again forcing her to stand upright with hands raised overhead. She merely stared haughtily, secure in her perceived victory. His ire rose.
A jet of pastel green sliced the shoulder strap of her tight bodice, leaving her skin intact. She peered down, and her composure cracked at last.
"Hey! What are you doing?"
"Escalating. My first attempt was too soft, you've said so yourself." He tapped his wand against his palm. "Perhaps, if you were willing to apologize..."
"Get bent," she spat.
He brandished his wand in a barrage of Severing Charms, turning Fia's leather top into strips that dropped to the floor. Her supple breasts were bared, drawing his gaze. There were no tan lines on her olive skin, and her dusky nipples stood out in little buds.
An aghast expression crossed her face, but once she met his gaze, it had gone without a trace. "Why, Harry," she purred, "if this is what you wanted, you should've just asked."
He arched an eyebrow. "This?"
The chain jangled as she tiptoed a couple inches closer and tossed her flowing hair. "Few humans experience the pleasure of laying with a demoness. I could show you things you haven't even dreamed of."
Locking his eyes with hers, he closed the distance between them. His fingers trailed down her belly before tugging at the string tying her shorts. As their front parted, his fingers encountered soft fabric beneath.
Her lips curved into a triumphant smile, and her tail coiled around his leg, its heart-shaped tip caressing his crotch through his trousers. "Go on," she whispered huskily, "undo this pesky collar, and I'll rock your world."
"If I ever lay with you, it'll be on my terms." He yanked the shorts down her shapely thighs.
Her smile morphed into a snarl, and he stepped back reflexively; then his eyes landed on her exposed underwear, and his jaw sagged.
Pink knickers. Pink knickers adorned with a stylized picture of a cat. There was no other word for them but cute.
He raised his gaze, found her blushing, then resumed his inspection by circling her. The back of the undergarment had a hole to let her tail through, and its edges were hemmed by someone clearly amateur at needlework. What truly confounded him, however, was the white tag peeking from under the waistband. He pulled it out, ignoring her squirming, and had to rub his eyes before he believed what he was seeing.
"Made in Malaysia? I didn't know demons shopped Muggle."
"Would you shut up about demons this, demons that!" she exclaimed. "I'll have you know we were the ones who taught your ancestors how to dress themselves when they were living in caves!"
"Did you teach them yourself?" Harry walked around her, not bothering to disguise his curiosity.
"Well, not personally," she said in a defensive tone. "Going by your time, I was only born a century and a half ago."
He snorted. "Ah. Practically a moppet, then."
"I'm still ten times more experienced and mature than you," she shot back.
He glanced down at her kitty panties. "Yes, I can see that."
"If you had to wear imp-sewn clothes, you'd understand! They chafe and are ugly—" She bit her tongue. "Okay, so humans do make some good things. There's nothing shameful about me using the handiwork of your lesser species! You lot serving us is just the natural order of things."
The crimson coloring her cheeks combined with her lecturing tone was too much; for the first time in what felt like years, Harry laughed heartily. "Listening to you like this, you almost seem like an ordinary girl. Not the scary, murderous demon who haunted my nightmares for seven years."
The chain clinked as she stepped closer, snarling. "Do you realize how insulting it is for one of my kind to be compared to one of yours? Know your place, puny human." Her eyes blazed, and her toned muscles bulged.
A pang of his old fear returned, his gaze flicking to her collar to make sure it was intact, but he suppressed it and leaned in to whisper in her ear. "I'll make you beg this puny human to spare you."
Whether it was the certainty in his tone, or his chest brushing her bare breasts, but she shivered slightly. Smirking, he drew back and set about making preparations.
First, he winched her hands a fraction higher, to the point where she could barely stand on the flats of her feet. He admired the way the position accentuated her breasts before ducking to rummage inside a cabinet. Surfacing with a length of jute rope, he tied it to an iron ring on the wall behind his captive.
Whistling, he unrolled the rope and ran it between her feet. She craned her neck as he went to the opposite end of the room and threaded the rope through a matching iron ring. He pulled the rope through, making it rise off the floor.
Fia scooted to the side as the coarse material brushed her inner calf on the way up before settling between her thighs. "Hey, what's the big—"
He yanked the rope to remove the slack, and Fia sprang to her tiptoes with a squeak. Deftly tying it to the ring, he smirked at his prisoner. She wriggled gingerly as she sought a more comfortable position, but with the rope taut against the junction of her thighs, she was forced to remain on her tiptoes lest it dig in harshly.
Given her superhuman strength, perhaps standing on her tiptoes for hours on end wouldn't have posed an issue, but he didn't intend to make it easy. With a wave of his wand, he made an array of feathers dance out of the box they had been stored in.
Despite her earlier derision, she seemed wary, and he stopped short of activating the enchantments on his fluffy toys. "Feel like asking for forgiveness yet?"
"Bring it on," she scoffed.
He was only too happy to oblige. Plucking one feather from the air, he brushed it against the curve of her hip, watching goosebumps erupt on her skin. "Looking forward to it much?"
"As if, you deviant." Her voice hitched as he left the first feather to its work and swept a second one across the back of her knee.
He laughed. "That's rich, coming from you. Do demons even have morals?"
"Morals are for the weak. The strong rule, that is all."
"How convenient." He trailed the third feather up her abdomen until it tickled the underside of her breast. She tensed as he slowly moved it higher, dragging its edge over her nipple and making her inhale audibly. "Since I'm the strong one here, you should have no objections to being treated like my plaything."
"Fuck you," she gasped out.
Grinning at the obvious effect the feathers were having, he leisurely put the rest of them to the task. Her nape, her inner thighs, her breasts; nothing was spared from the sweet torture. No longer talking back, she screwed up her face and concentrated on remaining on her tiptoes.
The cord of her tail flicked, drawing his attention, and recalling her reaction yesterday, he brushed the last feather up and down its length. Fiamette twitched and sank to the soles of her feet, straining the rope down, before gasping and straightening up. She seemed unable to stand still, squirming to and fro to shrink back from the relentless teasing, the rough rope rubbing her panties with every motion.
He cast an appraising eye over her. "This is a good look for you. How long should I leave you like this, I wonder... until evening, perhaps?"
"S-see if I care." Despite the rancor in her tone, her cheeks were flushed and her expression betrayed her discomfort.
He slapped her panty-clad butt, laughing when she sank down onto the rope. Her curses echoed in his ears as he trudged up the stairs, pausing at the top for one last leer at her helpless form.
Throughout the day, he found himself giddy with anticipation, but managed to stay away from the basement; if the wait felt long to him, it would be unbearable for the unrepentant demoness. Therefore, it was only when the sky outside the windows darkened that he set down the book he was skimming listlessly and went to check up on her.
Upon entering the basement, he halted and drank in the sight before slowly continuing down the stairs. Fia's tan skin glistened with sweat, and the fringe of her crimson hair was matted to her forehead. At his approach, she rose to her tiptoes, her legs trembling, but only remained in this position for a couple seconds, quickly slumping atop the rope and biting her lip to muffle a moan.
The glower she directed at him was hardly threatening. Her cheeks were flushed and her lower lip puffy. Hours of feathery caresses left her nipples puckered and her tail fluttering feebly. His eyes widened when he noticed her panties had darkened at the bottom; she was positively soaked. Were it not for the wards making that impossible, he would've suspected her of soiling herself.
He walked up to her, breathing in the faint scent of her arousal. She didn't attempt to stand anymore, dangling limply from the manacles.
He grinned. "How's it hanging?"
"I hate you so much." Her glare could have melted glaciers, but her voice was unsteady.
"Do you now?" He glanced down at the rope burrowing into her wet crotch and tugged on it. Whining, she backpedaled and arched her feet to stand higher. "From the looks of it, you rather enjoyed yourself today."
"W-who would... something like... sick pervert."
"You didn't like it?" he asked with mock surprise. "I suppose you'll be wanting me to let you down, then." He waited for a beat. "Well?"
Her ragged breathing was the only sound before she mumbled.
"I can't hear you." He yanked on the rope.
"Yes!" she cried, staring at him with misty eyes.
"There were go. That wasn't so hard, was it? There's just one thing I need you to do first." He met her eyes; her slit pupils were dilated, nearly rounded. "Look at yourself."
She glowered before grudgingly ducking her head.
"You drenched your panties with your nasty cunt juice. Hell, even the rope. Care to explain why?"
She turned away, her rosy cheeks burning brighter.
"Silence, huh. Just so you know, I'm considering leaving you like this overnight." He saw her shoulders tense. "But it's not really torture if you're enjoying it this much, is it?" He leaned in to whisper into her pointy ear. "Admit it—you're the sick one here, getting off on being dominated by a human."
She whirled on him, but the sudden motion made the rope dig into her flesh, and a whimper escaped her throat. He stared her down, daring her to talk back, yet she averted her gaze and remained silent. Smirking, he shooed the feathers away, untied the rope, and unclasped the manacles. Moaning in relief, Fia collapsed to her knees.
"Back to your cot," he ordered.
Her legs quivered as she struggled to stand, and after watching for several seconds, he deemed it wasn't pretense. Sighing, he gathered her up in his arms, and ignoring her startled protest, carried her to the corner. Her skin was hot to the touch, as if feverish, but he knew from his studies that was just the way demons were.
He put her down on the cot. She plopped down in a W-shape and reclined against the wall, quivering slightly, her red hair falling to her breasts. Sensing his gaze, she clapped her hands over her chest and pressed her legs together. Seeing her act so meek was more gratifying than her nudity.
"Take off your knickers." She scooted back, and he rolled his eyes. "You can sleep in those, or I could get my elf to wash them for you. Whichever you prefer."
She stared at him for a long moment. "Turn away."
He smirked. "Ordering me around, now?"
She glowered, then pulled the blanket over herself and stuck her hands underneath. He watched her wriggle awkwardly with a growing grin.
"Done? My elf will pick them up and bring them back come tomorrow."
"At least give me something to wear in the meantime," she said, clutching the blanket to her chest. "Oh, excuse me—I forgot you were a voyeuristic degenerate."
He shook his head in exasperation. "I don't have any women's knickers around. If you're cooperative, I might get Melly to pick some up for you. Now, one more thing... hands behind your back."
He summoned the manacles, and Fia curled into a ball, her eyes fearful. Snorting, he wrestled her hands behind her back—she was weakened, shaky—and clasped the manacles on, reducing the length of the chain between her wrists so they were almost fastened together. Lastly, he grasped the edge of the fallen blanket and threw it over her naked body before stepping back.
She stared as if disbelieving that was all he would do before tugging at her manacles. "What happened to letting me sleep?"
"Oh, but I am," he said with a grin. "I fear if I free your hands, you're going to spend all night touching yourself and not rest properly for what's coming tomorrow."
Her mouth formed an O. "You're delusional!"
"I don't know," he drawled, looking down pointedly. Fia sputtered when she followed his gaze to the bundle of wet pink fabric that had been revealed from under the blanket. "Considering you're someone who gets off on being humiliated by an enemy, I can't be too careful."
For once, she didn't hurl insults at him as he left. His lips stretched into a grin. He had been worried she would sniff out the lust potion he had laced the water with, and thus only used a couple drops, but even then, it was clearly having an effect. Either that, or she was every bit the pervert she had accused him of being.
Chapter 4: Demon, Part Three
When Harry descended into the basement the next morning, he was surprised to find Fiamette still snoring under her blanket. He sneaked closer, captivated by the peaceful look on her face, but despite his careful approach, she stirred, revealing her fangs in a languid yawn before stiffening. She backed against the wall and brought her knees up to her chest, her wrists still bound.
"Morning," he said cheerfully and proffered a bowl of fruit salad. "Breakfast?"
She glowered at him with blatant hostility.
"Suit yourself." He perched cross-legged on the floor and set the bowl in his lap. Picking up a fork, he speared a cube of mango and ate it with exaggerated gusto. "Mm. It's pretty good, you know. Sure you don't fancy a bite?"
Her stomach gurgled and she averted her gaze, her cheeks pinkening. Surmising that her pride wouldn't allow her to ask him for anything, he stabbed a strawberry and extended it to her. Her nostrils flared and she went almost cross-eyed as she beheld it.
"It's not poisoned. Could eat it myself, if you like." He drew the fork back a fraction.
Something akin to panic passed over her face, and she leaned to snatch the strawberry off the fork. She chewed and swallowed with a hum of pleasure. Harry grinned, then bit the inside of his cheek, trying not to show how pleased he was. The flavor of the fruit would mask that of the potion they were infused with.
Her eyes narrowed. "Wipe that smirk off your face! I simply decided to build up my strength so I can kill you later."
"Sure thing. Another one?" He picked out a piece of pear.
Not meeting his gaze, she murmured, "Yes."
Her reactions were adorable, as much as those of a bloodthirsty demoness could be. A grapefruit wedge made her wrinkle her nose, but kiwi elicited a widening of her violet eyes, whereas after scarfing down a pineapple cube she licked the juice off her plump lips with relish.
He asked idly, "Don't you have fruit in your plane?"
She considered him before deigning to answer. "Not like these. It is a harsh and unforgiving place where only the strong survive. We take pleasure in eating not for the taste, but for the strength that we gain from it."
"You seem to be enjoying the taste quite a lot, though."
She shrugged. "There's no shame in indulging in pleasure, as long as one doesn't grow weak and complacent."
He smirked. "You'd know all about growing complacent, wouldn't you?"
"It was sheer luck!" she growled. "A fluke of fate, bestowing you with the accursed blood of an extinct clan!"
"Perhaps. Doesn't change the fact that you underestimated me." Spearing another piece of fruit, he gave her a promising smile. "Eat. You'll need your strength for what's coming."
She vacillated, long enough that the hand he had extended began shaking, but ended up biting into the fruit with resignation. When she spoke next, the fury had gone out of her voice.
"What is it you're hoping to achieve, mortal? Your methods, as... unorthodox as they are"—she shifted on her knees—"will never break me. Sooner or later, you'll slip up, or the protections woven into this collar will dwindle, and I shall be free to take my revenge. Whether it takes months or years makes little difference to me."
He tilted his head. "Why are you telling me this?"
"Because I don't see the point of your actions! Had our roles been reversed, I would have flayed you alive, gutted you, and strangled you with your own entrails!"
"How graphic," he murmured. "Sorry, please go on."
"Yet you... you do this!" She jutted her chin at the bowl in his hands. "So I ask again, what is your goal?"
"Oh, that's simple," he said casually. "I want you in the same position you put me into. I want you to become mine."
She gaped. "Are you listening to yourself? You can't make a soul pact under duress—the subject has to agree of their own free will!"
"Yet you tricked me into one, which means there are loopholes. And even if there aren't any..." He stood, giving her a cold look. "I'll enjoy searching for them. Seven years I lived in fear and constant preparation. I won't give up until I take from you at least that much."
She appeared about to speak, but a flick of his wand yanked the blanket off her, leaving her stark-naked. He spied a patch of trimmed red hair above her smooth mons before her tail snaked in and covered her crotch with its heart-shaped tip.
Squeezing her legs together, she fixed him with a glare, but he turned his back to her and waved his wand in a well-practiced pattern of the Levitation Charm. When a massive wooden horse rose from its corner to zoom into the middle of the room, he heard a sharp intake of breath and allowed himself a satisfied smile she wouldn't see.
"I thought such barbaric measures were beyond you?" The unease in her tone seemed genuine.
Harry scrutinized the horse. It was made of four thick poles affixed at slight angles below a triangular wooden prism. The surface was darkened with age—no one alive knew when it had been used last—but the wood remained solid and uncracked. Magic had a way of preserving things long past their natural lifespan.
He ran his fingers along the topmost edge before spelling the dust off. It was smooth and slightly rounded—far from comfortable, but it shouldn't hurt too much.
Schooling his expression, he faced her. "Seeing how much you enjoyed my last attempt, I decided to spice things up a bit. Wingardium Leviosa!"
Fia squeaked indignantly as she floated into the air, lashing out with her legs and even her tail, but he stepped away, and her flailing turned out to be for naught.
"Insolent mortal, I'll carve your eyes out of your skull and feed them back to—"
He canceled the levitation, and she cried out as she plummeted the last inches that separated her from the wooden horse. Her knees slid down the smooth sides until her bare crotch collided with its blunted top.
Writhing, she sought him out with misty eyes. "I'll—I'll make you pay..."
"An amusing threat, given your current position."
He attached the chain hanging from the ceiling to the manacles behind her back, then turned the winch until she was forced to bend forward. Unable to brace with her palms, her weight rested largely on the junction of her thighs. He could see the muscles of her legs flex as she attempted to hold herself up against the horse's sides.
"So much for your moral superiority," she gasped out. "Even a goody-two-shoes like yourself wants to see his enemy suffer, no?"
"Oh, we've barely even started! I already know demons can take a lot of punishment, so appealing to my benevolence won't work." He smirked. "Do feel free to beg for mercy, though."
She laughed breathlessly. "Showing your true colors at last... Do as you like. You'll only lay bare your depravity while I stand defiant."
"As you wish."
He took his time rummaging in a cabinet because he knew the delay would stoke her anxiety. Surfacing with a riding crop, he bent it experimentally before letting go. It straightened with a snap, making Fia turn her head sharply.
Savoring her fearful expression, he languidly circled her naked form. He stopped by the winch and raised her hands a fraction higher, then paused to admire the view. Her supple breasts were hanging down, nipples hardened, and her hair fell in a fiery curtain. Her round ass was exposed and ripe for punishment, her tail flicking nervously.
She craned her neck to observe him as he stepped behind her. When he raised the crop and swiped down, she winced even though it hadn't landed anywhere near her body. Smirking, he swung it around to get a feel for it before abruptly laying a light swat across her bottom. Her hips jerked, her tail stiffened, and the gasp that left her lips turned into a groan.
"Quite a reaction," he mocked, stepping around to her other side. "Could it be that you're not so tough after all?"
Harry smirked as he swatted her other butt cheek. "Tut-tut, that's no way for you to address your master."
"Who's a master, you miserable hypocrite!"
He laid the crop atop a faint pink line marking her skin, and the gentle contact made her shiver in anticipation. Rearing his hand, he delivered another whack, but this time, she didn't move and remained silent.
Frowning, he used more strength and was rewarded with a jerk of her hips and a muffled whimper. Encouraged, he alternated between her cheeks, filling the basement with thwacks and painting red lines across her wriggling behind.
Her tail abruptly bent down, and his next blow connected with its black cord, making her shriek. He clicked his tongue.
"Now, now, we can't have you hurting yourself," he said with fake concern. "That's my job. But what to do... Ah."
A quick Sticking Charm glued the spade of her tail to the small of her back, leaving her ass defenseless. His resumed spanks made her whimper as her tail twitched helplessly.
Pausing, he walked around to revel in her pained expression before leaning in to whisper into her ear. "You know how to end this, Fiamette."
"Y-you're delusional if you think this'll work," she said through gritted teeth.
"I don't mean signing over your soul to me, necessarily." He flexed the crop in his hands. "Simply apologize. Say you're sorry for tricking me, for everything you put me through, and I'll let you off for the day."
Snarling, she tossed her head back to meet his eyes. "Fool! I don't have to apologize for doing something natural to my kind. You humans are little more than cattle to us."
"That so," he drawled, his resolve hardening. "Looks like I'll have to fix your attitude the hard way."
Walking back, he grabbed onto her arse and squeezed the pliant flesh roughly before slapping it with his palm. The crop followed with a resounding smack, making her cry out and arch her back as much as her suspended arms allowed. Giving her no respite, he rained blows on her jiggling arse, turning more and more of her olive skin an angry red.
"How do you like that, huh?" he growled.
It looked like she wanted to speak, but it was lost among the whimpers that unceasingly escaped her throat. Her body jerked and her supple breasts bounced with every blow. His arm began to tire, and he switched to his left, a dark satisfaction suffusing him.
Breathing heavily, he regarded the red stripes that crisscrossed her behind and shook his head. Letting loose was cathartic, certainly, but he couldn't let his rage get into the way of his ultimate goal. He wanted her sore, not injured.
"Phew... That was great for working off my frustrations," he said, almost to himself.
Fia's eyes were teary and her hair matted, but when her slit pupils zeroed in on him, she smiled wryly. "Is that it? I barely felt it, and your stamina is pitiful."
Squashing his irritation, he returned the smile. "Wizards are frail creatures—you've said so yourself. Luckily, we have magic to compensate."
The smile vanished off her face as he drew his wand. He sketched the shapes of an advanced animation charm before aiming at the riding crop and vocalizing the incantation. As the crop floated up, he took hold of it and smacked Fia's behind.
She gasped out loud, perhaps more out of surprise than pain. He spanked her, gentler than before, mixing in light caresses of the sensitized skin with the crop's end. Once he let go, the crop hovered above Fia's stinging behind for several moments before swatting it on its own accord.
Harry circled to her front to find her eyes squeezed shut and her lips pursed in a fierce struggle to stay still, yet she couldn't help the little twists of her hips as the spanks rained on her bottom, her breasts swaying hypnotically with her motions. Once she noticed his presence, her eyes widened.
"Oh, yes," he said, relishing her dismay. "I'm pretty handy with animation, so I reckon it could go on for weeks. Feel like giving in yet?"
She closed her eyes and ducked her head, but they flew open when he brushed her hair off her face. Growling, she made to nip at his hand like a wild beast, then grimaced when the abrupt motion made her groin rub on the wooden horse.
"And you call us uncivilized," he said. "Keep this up, and I'll see about acquiring something to gag that mouth. For now... this'll have to do."
A flick of his wand summoned the silken inset of the box that held his toys, and he folded it into a rectangular strip before laying it across Fia's eyes. She squirmed, but her resistance was feeble, and he was able to tie it behind her head.
His fingertips brushed the edge of her ear, and he marveled at the knife-like shape. "This is your world now, Fia. Nothing but darkness and unceasing torment. Nothing but those things, for as long as I deem fit." She appeared to be listening even as she panted for air. "As fun as this is to watch, I've got business to attend to. Try not to break down before I return, alright?"
When he was halfway to the stairs, Fia gave an incoherent cry. He pivoted, his lips stretching into a smile. "Something you want to tell me?"
From what he could see under the blindfold, her expression was hesitant, and her mouth opened as though to speak. Yet a second later, she bit her lip and ducked her head.
He watched her wiggle in ineffectual attempts to reduce her discomfort before turning to leave. This time, it wasn't her angry curses that accompanied him up the stairs, but the steady smacks of the animated crop.
Hours later, ensconced underneath his invisibility cloak, Harry crept down the basement stairs. The sconces along the wall remained lifeless, and the room was only scarcely illuminated by the lamps farther in.
Soft mewls reached his ears, decidedly different from the pained whimpers he had elicited from Fia earlier that day, and when his eyes centered on her bound form, he couldn't help but ogle her.
Oblivious to his presence, she straddled the wooden horse with bent knees, rhythmically rocking her hips back and forth. Her swollen lips were parted, and her cheeks below the tear-dampened blindfold were flushed. Her breasts jiggled with her motions, sensual noises escaping her throat.
Licking his lips, he drew closer. The crop was barely swiping at her well-and-truly reddened bottom; despite what he had told her, he couldn't make the charm last very long. Rivulets of her wetness trickled down the sides of the horse and dripped to the floor. The ancient tomes Harry had consulted over the years spoke of the demons' hedonistic tendencies—the legends of succubi had to come from somewhere—but Fiamette's reaction was beyond his wildest fantasies.
The little shakes of her hips were becoming faster, her whimpers breathless, her expression betraying her need. He parted his cloak and leaned in, unconsciously inhaling her scent.
"You're one kinky bitch, aren't you?"
She shrieked, actually rising an inch above the torture device before sliding down with a pained moan. Her blindfolded head whirled his way, and he jerked back to prevent her horns from carving another scar onto his forehead.
"Don't mind me," he said amiably. "Feel free to continue."
Her mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. She hung her head, and when he untied the blindfold, squeezed her eyes shut. Her blush extended all the way to the pointy tips of her ears.
"What's it gonna be?" he asked. "I came down here to let you off, but I can leave you be for a couple of hours if you prefer. Just say the word."
She shook her head furiously, making her tangled hair sway.
"Are you sure?" He waited patiently, but aside from a fleeting, teary glance, she didn't acknowledge the question. As disappointed as he was not to hear her beg for mercy, this was a start. "Up you go, then."
He unclasped the manacles and levitated her off the horse. Fia hastened to cover up her engorged, reddened vulva and her chest. He smirked as he set her down on her cot. Her warm skin glistened, her inner thighs especially so. He waved his wand, vanishing sweat and other secretions, then attached the wall chain to her collar. Throughout it all, her eyes avoided meeting his.
"I do apologize for interrupting," he said with a cheek-splitting grin. Her ears twitched, but it didn't look like he was going to get a reply. "As an apology, my elf will come by shortly with some clothes. She even managed to tailor the kind of leather shorts you seem to favor."
No response forthcoming, he turned to leave. It was only after he took several steps that she spoke.
"My tail." Her voice was hoarse.
He pivoted, arching his eyebrows. "What about it?"
"It's glued to my back because of your stupid spell!" She turned sideways and pulled at the appendage. "I can't sleep like this."
"Ah, right... Tell you what, I'll free it if you say the magic word." He grinned expectantly.
"Xyrrhes yshurruth aphr," she deadpanned, then flinched and clutched at her silver collar.
He blinked. "Come again?"
"The primary invocation for hellfire," she ground out, blowing on her fingertips.
He chuckled. "I see. Well played, but you know what I meant."
He tapped his wand on an open palm as Fia worried her lower lip in an obvious inner struggle. She glanced at him before lowering her gaze again and parting her lips.
"Please," she whispered, her cheeks burning.
He suppressed an urge to cackle at seeing her so docile. "Since you asked nicely."
A nonverbal Finite ended the charm, and she breathed a sigh of relief, her tail whipping up and down. On an impulse, Harry came up to pat her head; Fia's eyes widened and she gave him a bewildered look.
"That wasn't so hard, now, was it?" he said.
She growled and swatted his hand away.
Chapter 5: Demon, Part Four
Over the next couple of weeks, Harry became a regular at the specialty shop, purchasing implements of delicious torture to test on his captive. The results varied, although the sessions rarely failed to leave Fia flushed and breathless despite her insistence otherwise. Only the hot wax turned out to be a little too comfortable considering the environment she came from. He was having such a blast coaxing involuntary reactions from her admittedly stunning body that waiting for her to crack was no hardship at all.
It was well into the third week of her confinement that he saw a sign of the daily torment getting to her. They were eating breakfast together as was becoming routine, Fia unabashedly scarfing down the yogurt and fruit. Her earlier defiance had gone without a trace, but Harry never rubbed it in: it was in his best interest to keep her healthy and full of energy, and dosed with potions to boot.
Her breasts were on full display, but after her repeated acts of dribbling food on them and asking him to clean her off failed to get a rise out of him, she no longer provoked him even if his gaze lingered. And linger it did, because even though he was getting used to the view, that pair was out of this world.
Fia's spoon scraped the bottom of her bowl, and she let out a contented sigh. Giving him a sideways glance, she spoke up.
"How do I take these off?"
"Hmm?" He gave her a look of mild curiosity, inwardly cheering.
Not meeting his eyes, she tapped a nail against the lock-shaped button on the leather shorts Melly had provided weeks ago. "It doesn't open."
He feigned confusion. "Why would you need it to? I told you, the magic in here takes care of all your sanitary needs."
"They're—it's—" Color seeped into her cheeks. "What's it to you? They're uncomfortable to sleep in."
"Odd." He made a show of pondering the conundrum. "They're enchanted for comfort, after all. Maybe I should ask her to sew a new pair."
She threw her hands up. "Why make me wear these in the first place?"
He furrowed his brows. "I thought that was your style. If you'd rather be naked again..."
"Forget about it." She huffed, then muttered under her breath, "Freak."
His cheek twitched but he managed to keep a neutral expression. "What was that?"
"Nothing. Your useless round ears must be playing tricks on you." She rolled her eyes. "So, what kind of terrible tortures are you going to inflict on me today, oh cruel warden?"
"I was actually thinking of giving you a break since you've been so civil lately." He grinned. "Oh, don't look so disappointed—I'll make sure to prepare something extra stimulating tomorrow."
"I wasn't..." Her frown changed into a smirk, and she stretched her hands over her head, reclining against the wall. "Oh, I see how it is. You're running out of ideas! How about you admit your loss and set me free already?"
He rose to his feet and reached out to tousle her hair, to which she responded with her usual growling and clawing. "Look forward to tomorrow."
Fia ate in silence when Harry brought her a hearty meal the next afternoon. He could feel her speculative gaze on him while he cleaned up, but perhaps recalling his promise, she didn't make any snide remarks.
With measured steps, he walked over to the the medieval implements lining the walls. He passed the Catherine wheel, the rack, the torture chair, then hummed and backtracked. Brandishing his wand, he transported the chair into the center of the room. A Scouring Charm brightened the wood and made the iron manacles on its legs and armrests gleam in the lamplight. The latter had vicious spikes running along their inner surface.
He faced Fia. "Don't look so alarmed. You should know by now I don't intend to hurt you. At least not too badly."
"As if anything you can do would scare me," she scoffed, her eyes flicking off the chair to his. "You're merely a boy playing a role you're woefully inept at."
"And you're a big, scary demon who was captured by said boy." He smiled, approaching. "Let's get started, shall we? First, take those off." He jabbed his wand, murmuring the unlocking phrase.
She gave him a suspicious look, yet her hand was already dipping to the waistband of her shorts. Her eyes widened as the button came undone, giving him a glimpse of pink lace underneath.
Fia gave him a baleful glance and buttoned up again. "I knew you had something to do with this idiotic thing! Whatever harebrained scheme you're thinking off—"
"Didn't you hear what I said?" He tapped his wand against his palm. "Take them off."
She crossed her arms. "If you want my garbs so much, come here and take them yourself."
He snorted. "And you were so eager to get them off yesterday. Accio!"
Squeaking, Fia plopped down on her bottom and kicked in the air as the shorts were forcefully yanked off her legs, leaving only her panties to preserve her modesty. She winced and rubbed her bottom before draping her blanket over herself.
A swipe of his wand wrenched it away, and another unhooked her collar from the wall. He floated her into the chair, ignoring her flailing with practiced nonchalance.
"This would be a lot easier on both of us if you just obeyed my orders," he commented.
"Piss off." She spat at him, missing by several inches.
Sighing, he clasped the leather manacles around her wrists and bound her ankles with the iron ones attached to the chair. He then used the winch to raise her hands above her head, leaving enough slack for her to sit in relative comfort.
"There we go." Her cheeks were flushed from the brief struggle and her chest heaved, her fiery hair falling to her breasts. Her legs were spread so her kitty panties were in full view. "Not too uncomfortable, is it?"
Her eyes merely narrowed in response.
Unruffled, he continued speaking as he fetched his toys. "I could adjust the manacles, you know. Maybe even get you a cushion to sit on. All you need to do is ask."
"Why don't you adjust your face with that mallet over there?"
Harry chuckled. "It's nice to see you so sprightly. We're going to have so much fun today." He brought his feathers over and spread them in the air, leaving them to hover on their own power.
"These again?" she scoffed. "They hardly impress anymore. As I thought, you're out of ideas."
"Don't be so quick to judge. I've added some improvements." One by one, he tapped the feathers with his wand, making them glow briefly, before touching Fia's head between her horns with a muttered incantation. She eyed him warily. "You'll understand soon enough."
He pinched a feather by the quill and ran its tip along her collarbone. Undeterred by the lack of reaction, he plucked another from the air to tease alongside her flat belly. She gave him a demonstrative yawn, but he could see goosebumps erupting along her skin.
Grinning, he set up the entire collection, paying particular attention to Fia's tail and inner thighs. By the time he got to her breasts, her nipples hard hardened. Where the rest of the feathers moved with long, languid strokes, he set the last two to to whisk around her small areolas with light, barely-there brushes. She finally tried to shift away, but the feathers followed her unrelentingly.
He drew back. Fia feigned indifference as usual, yet she couldn't help but twitch when the tips of the feathers found a particularly sensitive spot. Nodding to himself, he blindfolded her. She didn't bother resisting this time, instead giving him a deliberately bored look until the silky fabric covered her eyes.
He sighed. "I guess it's pointless to ask if you've had a change of heart. You know the drill—I leave, you stay alone in the darkness and think about my offer."
"The only thing I'll be thinking about is your head on a p-platter." Her tone was affectedly apathetic, but the stammer rather ruined the effect.
"Whatever makes you feel better."
He strode to the stairs, his hand dipping into his pocket to withdraw his invisibility cloak. He climbed to the door, opened it, and staying inside, slammed it shut. Draping the cloak over himself, he grinned wryly as he weaved a Silencing Charm before retracing his steps downstairs.
Fia's muscles tensed and her nostrils flared. Swearing inwardly, he masked his scent with another charm, then stood motionless as she swiveled her blindfolded head.
"I know you're there!" she cried, making him flinch. "Stop skulking around and come out, little prick!"
His mouth opened to retort, but he clamped his jaw shut in time. Fia appeared to be holding her breath to listen. After half a minute, she exhaled explosively, the chain holding up her wrists jangling.
He heaved a sigh of relief. She must've been screaming those same words at the empty basement since he caught her under his invisibility cloak two weeks ago. It would've been amusing to call her out on it, but he was after a bigger prize. Taking a breath to calm his racing heart, he observed.
Even though she remained seated on the chair, her posture couldn't have been more different. Whereas she was rigid and unyielding before he 'left', she now wiggled and tugged on the ceiling chain, attempting to inch away from the feathers despite it all being in vain. She made noises too, little growls of frustration that gradually turned into squeaks, and at one point, into a breathless titter.
Initially, he expected to get bored quickly, but whether because of seeing his enemy reduced to such a state, or some voyeuristic pleasure, he found he couldn't tear his gaze away. Sweat beaded on her brow, and the muscles of her abdomen contracted in tune with the feather whisking along her tail. She tossed her head, grimacing when her crimson locks stuck between her back and the chair.
Without warning, she screamed, straining against her bonds and thrashing around with what little freedom the chain allowed. Harry jumped back in shock. A moment later, her body went limp and she groaned with palpable frustration.
Her spry tail, which had been doing little but undulate behind her back, curved forward around her waist. He watched with silent amusement as she used it to swat blindly at the feathers for several minutes before giving up. Yet she didn't draw back her tail, instead trailing it up her belly and between her breasts.
She stilled, tilted her head, then swallowed. Her tail continued its journey around her breast, squeezing it. Its heart-shaped tip smacked away a feather to rub her erect nipple, and her lips parted in a moan.
Realizing he wouldn't need to wait long for her to cave in, Harry tiptoed closer. Fia shivered in a way she hadn't before, her breathing quickening. Unwinding her tail from her breast, she brought its tip to her lips and lavished it with her tongue before grazing it with her teeth. A muffled moan sounded.
Her mouth remained open as she lowered her tail to the junction of her thighs. Its glistening tip skimmed over the band of her panties, poking. Groaning impatiently, she flattened it against her belly and slid it down until it slipped underneath the waistband.
She sucked in a ragged breath before venturing lower. Her limbs trembled as the lump of the tail's tip slithered beneath the pink fabric toward where she wanted it most.
"Fuck," she whispered, biting her lip.
Her tail slid down, then up, and she mewled, clenching her hands into fists. The tentative motions of her tail sped up gradually.
He gulped and adjusted his crotch; his pants were tight all of a sudden. The sight was so alluring he wanted to let her continue, but she was having too much fun for his taste. Stepping closer, he stuck out a hand above the writhing cord of her tail, grinned, then grabbed it.
She screeched, flailing so violently he would've been worried about her injuring herself were she human. The ropy muscles of her tail tensed between his fingers, the tip whipping back and forth, but he held on, giving it a squeeze to show he meant business.
She winced and ceased struggling. Letting go of her tail, which promptly retreated behind her back, he shrugged off the cloak and nudged her blindfold upward.
"What were you doing?" he asked evenly. "No, wait, you don't have to say anything. This is all the answer I need."
Having ducked her head in mortification, Fia saw his finger extend toward a wet patch on her knickers, nearly touching. Inhaling sharply, she turned away.
"Y-y-you and your tricks again! Lurking in the darkness, t-thinking yourself so smart! Depraved little peeper!"
Harry laughed. "And you fell for it again! So much for the famed craftiness of your kind." She glowered, her cheeks burning, but it only amused him more. "You can't explain this away by—what did you call it a few days back—physiological response, can you?"
She blew her bangs out of her face and straightened up as much as she could. "Don't get so full of yourself! What I did wasn't—that is to say, it was a natural—we demons don't have hangups about these things—" She growled at his widening grin. "You've achieved nothing but humiliate me for a moment! Appreciate what you saw, because it won't happen again!"
"That's where you're wrong," he said pleasantly. "We're only getting started."
He wedged a knee between her legs, stooping to trail his fingertips up her thigh and to her knickers, feeling her heat radiate through the fabric. Fia's breath hitched when his fingers hooked around the waistband. She opened her mouth, but he yanked hard, ripping the panties off.
She cried out, her glimmering eyes peering at the ruined undergarment in his hand. As if in disbelief, she glanced down and squirmed before bringing her tail forward to cover her crotch.
"Oh no, I won't have that," he said, tossing the knickers over his shoulder. Crossing behind her, he stuck her tail to the back of the chair. "You'd just start pleasuring yourself the moment I leave. Are all demons this horny, or just you?"
"Are all humans this pathetic?" she shot back breathlessly.
"You're one to talk about being pathetic," he said, circling back to sweep his gaze over her bare skin.
She mustered a contemptuous look. "I knew it was only a matter of time before you took advantage of me. For all your high-and-mighty talk, you're nothing but a scumbag." She took a shuddering breath, wincing as the feathers kept teasing her. "Go ahead, take what you want. You must be so proud of yourself, you big strong wizard."
He rolled his eyes. "That's rich, coming from someone proud of tricking a child. And if you think I'm about to screw you, you're sorely mistaken. Not because of any qualms I might have, but because I believe that's exactly what you crave right now."
"Are you sure?" she purred. "I would feel ten times better than any human woman you might've been with."
He shook his head ruefully, realizing she had managed to draw him into another dispute. Fia changed her tune so quickly, he could rarely be sure of what was genuine and what was pretense. Even her earlier loss of control might've been an act... No, he couldn't let her get into his head.
"What's the matter, Harry?" she asked, misinterpreting his moment of reflection. "Let me show you what I can do. You know you want to."
He raised his wand for a Silencing Charm, then lowered it again. Stooping, he picked the ripped knickers off the floor.
Her eyes narrowed. "I'll make you rue the day you were born for ruining my favorite pair! I had to open a portal to Asia just to catch the limited sale!"
His lips quirked up. "Don't worry, these will come in handy yet."
"What are you on about, cretin?"
"In keeping you quiet," he clarified.
Panicked realization crossed her face. His left hand darted out, squeezing her cheeks to open her mouth while his right shoved in the soaked fabric. She bent forward to spit it out, but a tap of his wand on her jaw and a whispered Petrificus trapped the improvised gag between her lips.
"Sorry about that," he said airily as she made muffled protests. "It's difficult to concentrate with your constant yapping. Now, where were we..."
He eyed the feathers, still hard at work, and plucked the three that had drawn out the weakest reactions during his observation. Crouching before her, he drank in the sight of her womanhood, pink flesh glistening tantalizingly between puffy outer lips.
He ran a feather up her inner thigh, then along her slit, eliciting a shiver. Encouraged, he repeated the action on the other side. The last feather he held up, glancing up to meet her eyes with a smirk.
"You should be grateful, Fia. I'm going to give you exactly what you wanted."
She shook her head, making noises through the gag.
"What's that? You can't wait? In that case, you're going to love this."
Gripping the quill of the feather, he gently lowered its downy end toward the top of her slit. A thrill ran through him as she twitched in anticipation before he even made contact. He flicked the feather at her little clit, barely peeking out from under its hood.
Fia shuddered. "Mmmph!"
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said insincerely. "Was that too much? Let's try again."
He went at it indirectly, teasing the sides of the hood. After a minute of watching her react, he whisked the feather across the sensitive tip again, eliciting a tremor from her. Leaving the feather to its delectable task with some regret, he straightened up and flourished his wand.
The dozen of feathers reoriented themselves onto her erogenous zones, now enhancing their ministrations with new, unpredictable patterns. He watched her wiggle before nodding in satisfaction.
"Yes, I'm sure you'll enjoy this." He met her misty eyes. "This is where the improvements I mentioned come into play. You'll see soon enough."
He brushed his palm against her cheek, but she jerked away, growling through the knickers in her mouth. He merely smiled, nudged the blindfold over her eyes, and departed.
Chapter 6: Demon, Part Five
Harry paced in his study, watching the hands of the grandfather clock creep around with agonizing slowness. He had tried reading—a task he had devoted at least an hour every day for the past seven years—but kept spacing off and couldn't absorb anything. Every task he sought to distract himself with failed to hold his attention, his mind wandering back to his captive.
In the end, he slipped into a tracksuit and Apparated to the nearest park, where he ran laps until his nervous energy was expended. Soaked with sweat, he popped back to Grimmauld Place and luxuriated in a hot shower before crashing on an armchair in his study.
The gong of the grandfather clock jolted him out of his jumbled dreams. Rubbing his eyes, he stared at the time with stunned disbelief. Midnight.
He sprang to his feet and located his wand. It was well past the usual time he would end whatever torment he chose for Fiamette that day, and considering the intensity of the current session, he had originally intended to cut it short.
Concern reared its head, but only for a moment. She was tough. More importantly, she deserved everything coming her way.
Wand in hand, he rushed downstairs, pausing before the basement door to smooth down his rumpled robes and comb his hair with his fingers. Taking a deep breath, he turned the handle and descended the stairs with even and measured steps. The sconces along the wall flickered on to light his way.
Fiammete was twitching feebly in her chair but did not react to his presence. A carnal scent he recognized well hung in the air. He halted before her and inhaled sharply at what he saw.
Her head lolled, strands of hair sticking to her sweaty skin. Drool dripped from the soaked gag, down her chin, and onto her glistening breasts. Her nipples were pebbled and dark from the relentless teasing. The crimson triangle of her pubic hair was damp, her swollen folds parted as though begging for attention, her juices trickling out, a puddle gathered on the chair underneath.
The swollen bud of her clit throbbed each time the feather floated in to caress it before withdrawing. When he realized the accompanying wriggles of her hips were attempts to prolong the contact, not avoid it, his lips curved into a satisfied smile. No matter what she tried, the toy would never bring her to the height of pleasure.
"Hello, Fia," he said softly.
She did not reply. Frowning, he slid up the damp blindfold to find her hazy eyes staring into the void. She blinked at the light, and her gaze slowly focused.
"Enjoying yourself? Oh, where are my manners. Finite."
Though able to unclench her jaw now, she made no attempt to do so. He tugged the soggy bundle gently out of her mouth. A soft whimper escaped her throat, and her lips moved without a sound.
"Yes?" he said.
Straightening a little, she drew in a ragged breath. The skin of her neck underneath the collar was reddened, suggesting she had tried to draw on her magic at some point. "How... long..."
"Ah, my bad." He scratched behind her horn, but she didn't even shy away. "I was so busy today it slipped my mind. But even without me, you've have enjoyed yourself a great deal, haven't you?"
Fia gazed at him with confusion, then glanced down, her lips parting as she saw the state she was in. She pulled feebly at the chain holding up her wrists, then stiffened as a feather returned to tease between her legs. Her breaths came in gasps as it twirled around her clit, then flicked across, only to draw back just as her whimpers were reaching a crescendo. Groaning, she lifted her hips needily.
"You seem frustrated."
"Make it stop!" she cried, tears pooling at the corners of her eyes. The strength of her voice gradually returned with each word that spilled out of her mouth. "Make it stop, make it stop, please, I'll do anything, by Lucifer I swear it, just make it—"
Her voice hitched as the stimulation resumed, the toys working in concert, intensifying their strokes across her nipples as another whisked the glistening edges of her labia. The Protean Charm linking their behavior had been but an experiment, but the results exceeded his expectations.
"Yes," she whimpered, the muscles of her abdomen rippling. Then the feather departed from her twitching cunt, the rest resuming their languid motions, and she hissed. "These... accursed things... how?"
"Magic," he said smugly. "You still don't understand? It wasn't easy, but I made them learn. Try different things, see what brings you the closest to the edge, keeps you there the longest. But no matter what, they'll never grant you that sweet release."
The primeval part of his mind, the one that understood little besides basic concepts like friend or foe, rejoiced at her dismay. He allowed that dark joy to wash away any hesitation.
"You asked me to make it stop, but that's not what you really want, is it?" He watched as another wave of pleasure built up in her body, never cresting. "You want them to touch you more. You want them to focus on where it feels oh-so-good, and not stop until you get what you want. Isn't that right?"
Fia thrashed against her bonds, tears rolling down her cheeks as she was once again denied what she craved.
"Well?" he asked, not really expecting an answer.
A few moments passed. She lowered her gaze and whispered, "Yes."
He found himself speechless. Was this just another of her tricks? Coming closer, he put a finger under her chin and locked his eyes with hers.
"That's not going to happen," he said. "I'll leave again, and your torment will continue. Unlike puny humans such as myself, my enchantments need no rest. They can't be reasoned with and don't know mercy."
If the panicked shake of her head was any indication, he was finally getting through to her. After looking her over one last time, he stepped towards the staircase.
"Wait, no, please—" Her words were cut off by a cry of frustration. He waited patiently for her to regain her breath. "You, you said—you p-promised you'd let me—let me rest at night—"
"That was back when I still hoped I could bring you to heel. An empty delusion, you've said so yourself. Now? Now I'll settle for breaking you. You'll remain here for hours, days... weeks, if necessary. There are spells to keep you awake, conscious. What's going to happen to your body? Your mind?" He resumed walking. "Even demons have to have limits. I look forward to finding out what they are."
Barely a whisper carried to his ears. "Don't go." Then, louder, "Don't go! Don't leave me like this! Harry... I beg you!"
Turning, he waited in silence.
"Harry? Please, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being so arrogant and—gah, hellfire consume these things—for tricking you. Please, if you leave, I'll—I'll—"
"You don't truly mean it, do you? You're just saying that to save yourself. Your kind don't feel—can't feel remorse." His unhurried steps carried him back before her. She avoided his gaze, not denying his words. "I understand. You are what you are." He bent closer. "And I'm what you made me."
Tears ran down her cheeks as she panted for breath. He stood before her, patient and unyielding.
"Curse you, mortal," she hissed. "Curse you, curse you, curse your entire bloodline—ahh!"
"Now you're being honest, at least," he said, brushing away her hair to take a better look at her contorted expression. She sobbed and sniffled, shamelessly wriggling her hips. "I'll give you one last chance to end this. You know what to do."
She opened her mouth, then gnawed her lower lip, her lust-darkened gaze glinting with hate, desire, and other emotions he couldn't place.
"It's alright, Fia," he crooned, leaning in so he felt her hot breath on his face. "There's no shame in submitting to someone stronger."
His fingertips skimmed her damp stomach, and she gasped, leaning into the touch. Her cheeks, already flushed crimson, glowed even more brilliantly, yet she didn't pull away. Watching her face, he ventured below her patch of curly hair, his fingers slickening as they brushed her burning sex. His breath caught, and he ran a mental cantrip to clear the lust clouding his mind.
Gasping, Fia rocked her hips using what little freedom of movement she had, but he kept the contact light, barely teasing her wet entrance as he watched her anguished expression.
"Just a taste of what I can give you," he whispered. "Your turn."
She rubbed against his fingers as if not having heard him. He lifted his hand. The feather darted in again, and when Fia's lips parted in a moan, he shoved his slick fingers into her mouth. Her hot tongue swirled around them as she moaned louder before catching herself and turning her head aside, panting.
"My patience isn't limitless," he said, turning her chin to make her face him.
"You'll... pay. I'll make... you pay... tenfold." Her fang drew blood from her lower lip. "I, daughter of Saleos and Neaira—" Her expression twisted into a rictus of need as the feathery caresses resumed.
"Go on," he whispered with bated breath and stroked her cheek. Would it work, would her desire for more torture rather than its end allow the pact to form?
"Swear myself... o-over... to you..." Her breath hitched as his hand moved down to cup her breast, giving her another promise of the reward that awaited her. "Swear to be your faithful servant... in return for—eternal blaze—touch me already!"
He drew back. Her face fell, and she broke into sobs that changed into helpless moans as the torture resumed once more.
"That's no attitude to take with your master, is it?" His heart raced, as much as from the near culmination of his plans as from desire. Never before had he such difficulty restraining himself around her.
"Please, I didn't mean it—Harry, I give—give myself—"
Unable to contain himself, he shrugged off his robes and carelessly tossed them aside. His shirt followed, then his trousers. Stepping closer, he slid down his boxers, and his cock sprang up, inches away from her face.
"Is this what you want?" he asked gruffly. "To be taken by me, like the demonic whore you are?"
She moaned, her cat-like pupils dilating further. "By Gehenna, yes."
"Then show me." A wave of his wand unclasped the manacles, and she slumped over with a feeble cry. He unglued her tail before grabbing her horn and dragging her out of the chair. The cloud of feathers followed on their own accord.
Her knees and elbows landed on his discarded robes in what had to be a painful impact, but she didn't seem to notice, her hand snaking between her legs, her eyes squeezing shut in bliss.
"Keep touching yourself, and you're going back into that chair."
Her eyes flew open. Blubbering apologies, she got on all fours and presented her dripping pussy to him as she sent a pleading look over her shoulder. Planting his knees on the robe, Harry grabbed onto and kneaded her firm ass.
Her tail bent back and poked around his crotch. He grunted in surprise as its cord coiled around his cock, then haltingly massaged it. The black skin was smooth and just as hot as the rest of her.
"Hurry," Fia whimpered, wagging her bottom at him, a string of wetness leaking from her sex.
It took unspeakable effort, but he forced himself to focus. "Do you swear to serve me, Fiamette?"
"By my name, I swear!" she cried. "Please, anything..."
"Good girl," he growled, emphasizing the words with a slap on her backside.
Heat flashed beneath his palm, and he yanked it back, but there was no damage to his skin. Instead, a red mark appeared on Fia's buttock, fading to a duller auburn before his eyes. A griffin with two wands crossed underneath. He stared, incredulous laughter bubbling up in his chest.
Fia hardly seemed to notice as she tugged his cock with her tail. "You p-promised." She slid one hand between her legs but collapsed face-first on the floor as the shaky muscles of her arm gave out. "Please!"
"Shush now." Inching forward, he allowed her to blindly guide him where she desired.
With a keening whine, she pulled him closer, her tail tightening almost painfully around him. When his crown kissed her nether lips, her body shuddered. She thrust her ass back, and uncoiling her tail in one fluid motion, impaled herself onto him. His breath caught; her insides were so hot it felt like being scalded.
With a low moan, Fia went rigid, her tail stiffening into a straight line. A violent quake swept through her body, then another, as her scream rang in the basement. Her inner muscles spasmed along his length with an intensity that had him grunting in surprise. He gritted his teeth and held on, steadying her bucking hips as her tail whipped about haphazardly.
It was unbelievable how long her climax lasted, and having her clench around him very nearly made him follow suit. By the time she collapsed on the floor in a boneless heap, his own breathing was labored. Still he stayed connected with her, his cock pulsing with a need that, for the moment, trumped the joy of his success.
Aftershocks still shook her body, but he could wait no longer. Drawing his hips back, he thrust into her, burying himself to the hilt. Fia stirred, her head turning weakly, her hair splayed over the floor. He started pumping.
"W-wait," she moaned.
"It's the servant's job to please her master. Not—not the other way around." Hell, was she tight.
"Let me... catch my breath," she pleaded, struggling to rise to her elbows.
Her objection fell on deaf ears. He plowed her quivering cunt, keeping her firmly in place by her hips. Her tail smacked weakly against his chest, and he grabbed on, angling it aside.
Fia whimpered, tightening around him, and he slowed down to rub his thumb curiously along the black cord.
She gasped. "D-don't."
Smirking, he quickened his pace again, complementing his thrusts with gentle strokes along the root of her tail. The portion above his hand twitched and writhed, the tip looping around to prod his fingers, but her resistance was for naught. Fiamette moaned with his every motion, her arse smacking against his thighs.
He raised a hand to deliver a resounding slap on her bottom. As she cried out, he could feel her clench. Feeling himself getting close, he slowed despite his urge to ravage her.
"Going to cum again?" Another smack. "What a poor servant you make."
"Forgive me," she whined, grinding her ass against him needily, "master."
The corners of his lips quirked at the address. "Showing your true nature at last, are you? Tell me what you want, you dirty little slut."
"I—your dirty slut wants to cum!"
His fingers clamped around her tail, yanking her closer to plunge into her with renewed vigor. "Go on, then," he growled, his own restraint shattering. "Cum for me."
It came as a shock when a shudder immediately rippled through her body, and she clamped down on him hard. His cry of fulfillment joined hers, his hips bucking as he spurted inside her scalding wetness.
Spent, he sagged over her and panted for air. His legs were still trembling. Never had he experienced such a thorough, all-consuming pleasure before, his satisfaction going far beyond sexual. Having his dreaded enemy submit to him so utterly... there was something primal about it, something that made his blood sing in his veins.
He straightened up and pulled away. Fia sprawled on the floor with a prolonged moan, her tail sagging like a wilted reed. His gaze swept over the expanse of her sweaty skin, lingering on the tattoo on her right buttock.
"Get up." He frowned when she showed no sign of hearing him and attempted to inject authority into his voice. "Get up."
Squeaking, she swatted at the tattoo as though squashing a mosquito, then sat up. She glanced around in bewilderment before peering questioningly at him. Now that his experiment succeeded, he wasn't sure what he wanted, so the two of them merely stared at each other for a time.
"Well?" She brushed her hair off her forehead with an irritated expression.
He blinked, then rose to his feet with a groan. He had won, yet she was far from the docile plaything he had fantasized turning her into. The desire to exert his dominance returned with a vengeance.
"You forgot to clean me up." He glanced down pointedly.
A spark of fire returned to her eyes, but despite no magic infusing his voice this time, she crawled over to him compliantly. "Right away, master," she purred. "How thoughtless of me."
Kneeling before him, she took hold of his cock at the base. Her long and nimble tongue swished around his crown before lavishing the underside with more attention than was strictly necessary given his order. He grunted inadvertently, and from the glint in her eye, he could tell she knew exactly the effect she had on him.
Peering at him with upturned eyes, she popped his stiffening member into her mouth. He gasped at the heat that enveloped him.
"You love the taste of your cunt juice, don't you?" he asked breathlessly. "Sucking on your soaked knickers for hours must've been a treat."
She growled with him in her mouth, her tongue stilling.
He chuckled at her peeved expression. "Enough." He nudged her until she let go with a soft pop. His cock wasn't fully erect yet, but getting there. "Stick that ass in the air. I'm not done yet."
Her brief bout of arrogance ended right there as she sent him a reluctant look. "Wouldn't you rather I pleasure you with my tongue?"
Biting her lip, she sank gingerly onto his stained robe. "Harry—master, I'm sore. Please let me rest a little."
"I'm going to take what's mine whenever I want to." He knelt to maneuver her roughly into position. Beads of sweat gathered on the small of her back, and their combined fluids dribbled out of her cunt. She moaned as he shoved his cock inside, and he felt himself harden in response to her slick heat. Bending over her, he braced against the floor to whisper into her ear, feeling her shiver. "And you're going to love it."
There was no easing into it this time; she was certainly more than wet enough. He drove into her, quickly building into a rhythm. Her words were drowned out by helpless mewls before she fully voiced them.
"Look at you" he grunted. "Getting off from being screwed by a human."
She made no reply, but her moans became muffled and her tail whipped more vigorously. He changed his angle, trying to find what she reacted to the most.
"How many times have you fantasized about this? Tossing around all night, dripping at the thought of your human captor fucking you?"
"Dream on," she spat.
"You came the moment I penetrated you. Just how much do you love my cock?"
"I—I don't!" There was only the sound of flesh slapping together until she gathered enough breath to speak again. "You—you can order me around—but I'll never enjoy this."
"Trying to convince me... or yourself?" If he had to pound it into her, then that's exactly what he was going to do.
Her tail flicked agitatedly. Recalling her earlier reaction, he grasped it at the root, slowly sliding his fingers up its length. Fia cried in complaint, but a slap on her ass turned it into a whimper.
Her tail kept trying to twist out of his palm as he went higher until reaching its heart-shaped tip. He fingered it curiously. Unlike the cord below that rippled with muscle, it was softer, spongy.
On an impulse, he brought it to his mouth and licked up its flat surface. Fia squeaked. Delighted, he gently bit down on the tip and lapped at it with his tongue, freeing his hand to hold onto her again.
"D-don't!" she said, yanking her tail hard enough for it to slip out his mouth.
"I know you love it," he said. "Bet you used that thing to pleasure yourself every night while you could."
He growled, more pretense than serious. "I see your attitude still needs adjusting."
His frantic pace was having its toll but damned if he wasn't going to make her cum first, if only to make a point. He eyed her flicking tail, the spade slick with saliva, and seized it again, this time yanking it lower. Spreading her ass cheeks with one hand, he ran its tip along her puckered hole.
Fia went rigid. "W-what are you—"
Pinching the cord below the tip, he pushed. It slid in a fraction, her tight sphincter squeezing at the intrusion.
"That's not—normal!" Fia's head whipped about to glare. "Impetuous human, stop this right now or—"
He pushed harder. The heart-shaped flesh yielded, compressing slightly until the thickest part passed through and her asshole clenched around the narrower cord beyond. Fia sputtered, her tail twisting side to side.
"How—how dare you?"
Snorting, he gripped her hips and resumed his steady strokes. She whimpered, frantically tugging her tail, but with the tip swallowed by her ass, she couldn't muster enough strength to pull it out. When her sphincter widened slightly to release a fraction of the tip, Harry shoved it in deeper, delighting in the shiver this elicited.
He pounded into her with abandon, and whatever protests she still had devolved into incoherent moans. She was tightening again, her asshole quivering around the tail that now seemed to be gliding in and out on its own accord.
He slammed into her with force, letting loose the rage that had pent up during those long seven years, even as he felt his loins tighten up. Fiamette mewled, slumping face-first, her cheek rubbing the cold stone floor with his every motion. It barely registered through the haze clouding his mind, but she was encouraging him, moaning her approval.
"Fuck, Harry!" she cried as he bottomed out inside her. Her nails scraped the floor, hands balling into fists, and her tail went taut, her ass clenching repeatedly around its tip as a climax shook her body.
His own pleasure crested, and he pressed against her ass to bury himself even deeper. She contracted around his pulsing cock, heightening his pleasure to the point where he lost control, babbling Merlin-knew-what as he spilled his seed in her depths.
"Mine," he grunted, "you're mine."
He withdrew and sat back heavily, feeling like he had run a marathon. She sagged to the floor. The sight of her splayed across his robes, drooling and quivering, was immensely gratifying.
Upon catching his breath, he began gathering his scattered clothing. He almost fell like crashing right here, but the stone floor was cold, and the air was thick with the smell of sweat and sex.
He paused over her prone form. "Get up."
The only response was a weak groan. "Can't."
His lips quirked upward, and he nudged her with his toe. "Come on, it's about time I let you outside. We both could use a shower."
She stretched like an enormous, lazy cat, the tail she had freed at some point whisking once before dangling limply. "Carry me."
His eyebrows rose. "That's not a job for the master, is it?"
"You're the one who did this to me." She turned her head a fraction, and a single purple eye stared at him balefully from underneath the fringe of her hair. "Can't. Move."
He looked her over speculatively. Perhaps she was even sincere, considering the prolonged incarceration and the suppression of her powers... and she wasn't hurling invectives at him anymore.
Checking if the brand on her delectable buttocks was still there, he crouched and reached for her collar. "Would this help? Reckon you don't need it anymore." His fingers unclasped the lock, sliding the enchanted silver off her slender neck.
She sucked in a breath, her muscles rippling under her smooth skin, and the air around her shimmered with heat. He drew back in alarm. Strands of her hair curled and twisted in the waves of power radiating off her body. Pushing off the floor, she bolted to her feet and tossed her head back.
Ebony wings sprouted from her shoulder-blades, growing to full size in seconds. She flapped them, sending out a gust that had Harry shielding his eyes. Her hands sketched a complex gesture, her lips moving in an incantation, and bright red flames licked up her palms. She spread her arms wide and allowed them to wash over her, leaving her hair lustrous and sleek, and her skin clean.
Harry watched, transfixed, until her eyes zeroed in on him and narrowed predatorily. He gulped, gazing around the room in search of his wand as his fingers tightened on the bundle of clothes in his hands.
"You sure have done as you pleased with me. No one, never mind a human, has ever subjected me to an act so..." She scowled, her hand rubbing her bare arse absently. "How did this happen? The pact should've never taken."
Despite his racing pulse, he flashed her a cocky grin. It was safe now, it had to be. "Perhaps deep down in your heart, you wanted to submit to me?"
Her tail flicked, and she bared her fangs. "I won't let this affront stand."
They moved simultaneously, her wings taking her to the air while Harry tossed the clothes into her path and dived toward his wand. She crashed into him mid-leap, her slender legs clamping around his waist as her hands did around his shoulders; he teetered before collapsing to the floor.
Yelping, he sought the leverage to push her off, but her face loomed closer, and their noses collided before her warm lips mashed fiercely against his. Before he knew it, her tongue was in his mouth, hot and demanding. He loosened up before stiffening and struggling to push her off again.
She drew back and pouted, contemplating him. "Subjugating me is one thing, but I won't have a human thinking he has better stamina. A demoness has her pride."
"Bwuh?" he said.
"Rejoice. I'll drain you dry tonight, and it won't even cost you your soul." Her hand snaked down to cup his balls, her ample breasts squishing against his chest and her fangs nipping his earlobe. "Get your tool hard again, and I'll ride you to the heights of ecstasy as I promised."
"You're, uh... forgetting your position." His brain felt fuzzy. He was still in control, right?
Her hand stroked him with an almost painful insistence. "You can't possibly claim to be my master if that's all you've got. By our standards, that was mere foreplay."
Any thought of ordering her to stop fled his mind. He squeezed her ass roughly, interrupting her rhythm. "Don't you worry, I was only getting started."
Chapter 7: Tomb Raiding, Part One
Harry nursed a pint of ale at the bar while observing the spectacle unfolding in the middle of the bustling pub. For once, he wasn't the center of attention; bringing Fiamette along had unexpected benefits.
She sat at a table opposite a burly ruddy-faced man, a half-empty bottle and a pile of silver coins between them. A pointy hat concealed her horns, and her tail was tucked underneath baggy robes. A gaggle of onlookers surrounded the table, watching the two with bated breath.
The man clumsily refilled their glasses, splashing some amber liquid on the table. His hairy hand seized his glass, and he knocked it back, groaned loudly, then slammed it empty on the table.
"Not bad for a mortal." Fia mimicked the action, draining her glass and licking her lips as her cheeks flushed with warmth.
"Merlin's beard," someone exclaimed. "That's her tenth shot and the lass hasn't batted an eye!"
The man glared at her blearily. His thick fingers groped for the bottle but were unable to get a proper grip. He frowned and opened his mouth, a bit of steam escaping in a burp, then slumped face-first onto the table.
The crowd exploded in cheers as Fia cackled and pulled the pile of coins over to her side. "Anyone else here foolish enough to challenge me?"
The pubgoers glanced around, murmuring, egging each other on. It didn't take long for another volunteer to appear.
"You're on, love," a grizzled wizard said, producing a jingling pouch from his robes. "You can't possibly outdrink old Jeffrey after polishing off half a bottle of Ogden's."
She bared her fangs at him. "Bring it on, old-timer."
Shaking his head in amusement, Harry turned his back on them and rested his pint atop the counter. A movement in his peripheral vision caught his attention, and he pivoted to watch a red-haired man in a leather jacket elbow his way through the throng and flag the barman. As the man slumped down several stools away and stooped over his drink, a dragon fang dangled from his ear.
"Bill?" Harry called. "Bill Weasley?"
The man turned with a start. Eyes widening, he snatched his glass and made his way over. "Blimey, Harry," he said, proffering his hand. "Didn't expect to see you out and about. Last I heard, you left the Ministry and became some kind of a recluse."
Harry shook his hand. "I had things to take care of." He shrugged at the questioning look. "Did a little soul-searching, you could say."
Bill didn't press further, perching down next to him. "Glad you're doing better. Mum was worried about you—the whole family was."
He ducked his head and took a long pull of his ale. He might've had a damned good reason, but he did sorely neglect the few relationships he had. Perhaps he ought to drop by the Burrow. "Anyway... what's new with you?" he asked, eager to change the topic.
Bill sighed and looked down, rolling his glass of liquor between his fingers.
"Fleur finally come to her senses and kick you out?"
Bill snorted, then downed his drink in one go. "After she hears what I did, she just might."
"That bad, huh?" Harry was beginning to think his cheeky tone wasn't appropriate. "If you want to talk, I'm all ears."
Bill gave him a speculative look. "How much do you know about Gringotts Curse-Breaking business?"
Bill nodded sagely. "Goblins prefer it that way, the shrewd buggers. It's like this: Gringotts bids for rights to excavate promising digs in a public auction. If they win—which they usually do—they send in one of their Curse-Breaking teams. That's us. We don't return until we loot everything or die trying, and we risk our necks gladly." He absently rubbed at a small scar on his thumb. "Whatever treasures we find are divvied up between the bank and the country's government, but every Curse-Breaker gets their cut in gold. Dig up a good cache, and you're set for years. But if you don't..."
Harry frowned. "You still get paid, though, right?"
"The wage'll keep you fed until the next dig, nothing more. Now, don't get me wrong, I knew what I was signing up for. It's just..." He gestured at the bartender for a refill. "The latest dig was brutal. Three months out in sweltering Egyptian desert, two teammates lost, fending off raiders every week. And for what?"
Bill slammed his palm on the counter, glaring into the distance. When he next spoke, Harry had to strain his ears to hear him over the hubbub.
"The place was barren. Sacked centuries ago, by the looks of it. And then that prick Urgnok had the gall to act like it was our fault for coming back empty-handed." He shook his head. "I gave him a piece of my mind. Didn't mince words either."
"I'm sure he'll understand."
Bill gave him a look that suggested he was questioning his sanity. "He's a bloody goblin. They're big on hierarchy and respect and all that shite. Best I can hope for is a few years of disenchanting teakettles for doddering grannies."
Before Harry could reply, a willowy arm draped across his shoulders, and Fiamette plopped into the seat on his right. "I almost feel bad, how easy fleecing—hic—these idiots is. Almost." She leaned back to peer at Bill, causing her pointy hat to sway precariously. "Who's this gloomy sod?"
He gave her a warning glance but wasn't sure if it was acknowledged. "Fia, meet William Weasley. Bill, meet Fia. She's not fond of her full name."
"Just Bill," the man said, looking her over curiously. "Pleasure to meet you."
"Likewise," Fia said with a wink. "I like your hair—it reminds me of home."
Bill eyed the crimson locks flying out from underneath her hat. "Ireland?"
Fia dissolved into laughter. "Something like that." She turned to wave at the bartender. "Oi, can a girl get something to drink in this place?"
Harry cleared his throat; the conversation was straying into dangerous territory. "Er, Bill, you were saying?"
Bill's fingers drummed against the counter, a golden band on display. "I fucked up, what else is there to say? Were I still single, I'd never have blown up on my boss. I'd have moped for a few days, then gritted my teeth and trudged on. But now I have my future to think about—our future. Fleur and I, we... we were talking about starting a family."
Harry blinked. "But you're already married."
Bill gave him that look again. "I meant having children, mate."
"I see." It was a foreign concept to him, having rarely thought about life beyond the deadline. He sipped his ale, his gaze straying to his right without conscious thought.
"Do you want me to bear your offspring?" Fia whispered, leaning in and filling his nostrils with alcohol fumes. "Cambions are rarely conceived, but if you keep breeding me as tenaciously as you have, sooner or later..."
He swallowed hard, nearly choking on his drink. "I'm putting you on the potion."
Her fangs grazed his ear. "Think about it: demonic ancestry and Peverell bloodline, united. Our progeny's potential would be... substantial. We could beget a clan that will eventually come to dominate the planes."
A rough hand clasped his shoulder and yanked him off the stool. His drink sloshed as he dropped it on the counter, staggering a few steps back. "Hey—"
"Get away from her," Bill barked, fumbling for his wand. Finding it in his pocket, he trained it shakily on Fia, who showed no sign of rising off her stool.
Harry stepped in between them, raising his hands. "Calm down—"
"Harry, she's a—" Bill halted mid-attempt to shove him aside. "So you know. Listen, whatever power she holds over you, it can be broken. I only know bits and pieces myself, but there are ancient scrolls in the library of—"
"Bill. Bill, please." Laying his palm atop the man's wand hand, he pushed it down. "She's perfectly harmless. Have a seat and let's talk about this."
Bill's brown eyes bored into him, then flicked over his shoulder to regard Fia, who grinned at him impishly.
"Rawr!" she said, clawing at the air.
Rolling his eyes, Harry flicked her forehead. "Behave."
The fact that he didn't get mauled seemed to convince Bill, who perched on the edge of his stool, his wand clutched between his fingers. Sighing, Harry sat down to put a barrier between the two. In hindsight, he shouldn't have been surprised that an experienced Curse-Breaker would recognize a demoness for what she was. Bill had no doubt picked up things during his jaunts through ancient repositories of knowledge and treasure.
"Don't suppose I could convince you she drank a botched Polyjuice Potion?" he asked dryly. Bill merely glared in response. "Hey, all of two people who asked about her eyes bought it."
"People are idiots. That's why her kind had walked among us for centuries, doing as they pleased before we wised up." Bill shook his head. "From your attitude, I gather I don't have a full grasp of the situation. Talk."
"The situation's probably much like you're imagining, only our roles are reversed. I'm the one holding her leash." He couldn't help the smugness in his voice.
Bill looked at him and Fia in turn. "Merlin's beard. How did that happen?"
Harry buffed his nails against his robes. "There's a bit of a story to that, and this isn't the best place."
Fia giggled, wrapping her arms against him and resting her chin on his shoulder. "We would get kicked out for public indecency."
"Bloody hell." Bill rubbed his forehead. "Don't fall for her wiles. Whatever control you have over her, she'll betray you the first chance she gets."
"I'm aware," he said, trying not to shiver as Fia nibbled playfully on his earlobe.
"You're playing with fire!"
"Bill. I know."
Bill drew back a little, then exhaled loudly. "It's your life, I suppose. Being a Curse-Breaker, I can't exactly lecture you on danger."
Harry watched him pocket his wand. "Are we good, then?"
"As long as she doesn't try to claw my heart out or something." He winced at Fia's giggle, then seized his glass and downed it in one gulp. "Shit, and I thought my life was complicated."
"About that..." Harry rubbed his chin. "There's all these ancient sites around the world, potentially brimming with riches, and anyone can bid to have a go at them?"
Bill nodded slowly. "That's the gist of it, yeah."
"Ever think of going independent?"
"Ha! It takes a thousand Galleons just to secure a promising dig, and half that much to hire a competent team. Not even the wealthiest purebloods would risk it. And going in without a license..." He shivered. "Britain gets a bad rep, but they'll at least give you a trial. Back in Egypt, they kill raiders on sight. Legally."
"What are you jabbering about?" Fia asked with a pout. Holding on to Harry's shoulders, she pulled herself into his lap.
"Oof. Well." With her arse wiggling against him, collecting his thoughts was suddenly quite difficult. He hugged her around the waist to keep her still, inhaling the spicy scent of her hair. "It occurs to me that I'm out of a job and bored, so I thought we could go on a trip. What do you reckon?"
"Things have been a little too quiet lately," Fia mused.
Bill goggled at him. "You've got to be bloody kidding me."
Bill stood before a blackboard, wand in hand, as a piece of chalk sketched a map of Eastern Europe. The rest of the team watched seated in their chairs, and in the case of Harry, the bed. (Fia was, of course, on his lap, never missing the chance to torment him in what little ways she could.) The room they had rented at the Three Broomsticks was too cramped for six, but it would do for the initial meeting.
"The dig's in modern Belarus." Bill tapped the location with his wand, and the chalk danced across to mark it. "Best we can tell, it's an unusually large burial mound dating to twelfth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Just a couple hundred years before Christians came cutting down sacred groves and burning idols."
"Fairly fresh," a woman remarked. Her short grizzled hair and square jaw lent her a no-nonsense look to rival McGonagall's.
"Which means whatever curses the pagans put there are unlikely to have petered out," Bill said with a nod. "During the Late Middle Ages, a Muggle duke ordered a castle built atop. There's a record of building crews arriving at a nearby village, but not a single stone was laid on top of the hill. Then, about three years ago, a wizarding couple on a camping trip saw strange lights. They did the sensible thing and reported it to the authorities. They didn't do the sensible thing and sent in a pair of Hitwizards to poke around. Neither came back, and the place has been sealed off since."
A burly man with a bald head and a scar across his bulbous nose snorted derisively.
"And that's our target." At Bill's gesture, the chalk began tracing a large round hill beside the map. "We'll come back to the details later, but now, let's talk assets. We have professor Samuel Coombs, an eminent expert on Baltic mythology and a veteran Curse-Breaker in his own right."
A middle-aged man in a brown jacket, oversized glasses, and tawny hair that rivaled Harry's in messiness rose from his seat. "Retired Curse-Breaker. I mostly worked up in Northern Europe, and my joints didn't appreciate the cold and the mud. Except, since Mr. Weasley talked me into this, I'm active again, aren't I? The pagan mythos is something of my specialty, you see—but I suppose William said that already." He craned his neck, blinking owlishly, then sank onto the chair. "Oh, excuse my prattling. Samuel Coombs, looking forward to working with you."
"Thank you, Samuel." Bill gestured towards the short-haired woman. "Everyone in our circles knows the name Hilda Werner."
She nodded and gave a small wave around. "Hullo, folks. I've delved into tombs everywhere from South American jungles to the Ural Mountains, and fortune permitting, will do so while I can lift my wand. This dig is a rich one, I sense it in my bones."
"Next up is Piotr. He helped us smooth things out with the Belarusians, so all we need now is to sign the papers and we got our license to go in. I can vouch for his skill."
The scarred man grunted in the way of greeting. "I know Weasley and Werner, and the professor man look smart."
"Thank you, my good fellow," Samuel murmured distractedly.
"But I have question." Piotr jabbed a thick thumb at Harry and Fia. "Who these kids?"
Fia burst out laughing, and Harry shushed her, frantically steadying the pointy hat atop her head.
"Yes, I was getting to that," Bill said. "This is Harry Potter, and he's bankrolling the operation."
Harry grinned cheekily at the calculating looks sent his way. They were a motley crew, but he trusted Bill to know what he was doing.
Bill took a bracing breath. "And he's coming with us."
"Not a wise course of action, in my humble opinion," Samuel said. "An untouched dig is no place for someone barely two years out of Hogwarts."
"Professor right," Piotr said, folding his arms.
"I can take care of myself!" Harry grimaced when his words came out a little more indignant than he'd intended. Fia shook in silent laughter, and he pinched her in retaliation.
"Fine, Potter, then tell me this," Hilda said. "You just triggered an Egyptian sand trap, and the only way out of the room is through a stone door marked with an active Firebrand. What do you do?"
"Er..." He looked around, finding everyone peering at him expectantly. "Touch nothing and listen to your orders?"
Hilda's smile wrinkled her face, somehow making her appear younger. "Sehr gut. If you understand this much, you might return alive. Just don't get in the way of our work."
"And girl?" Piotr grunted.
Harry's arms tightened around Fia's waist, and it wasn't for her protection. "She's with me."
Samuel hummed. "While this isn't entirely appropriate, it's not my place to criticize how a young man decides to entertain himself. As long as she stays in the base camp we shouldn't encounter any issues."
Piotr nodded. "If she cook and clean, all good."
Fia lunged forward, making Harry very glad about his precaution. "I'll cook your liver and feed it to your mother, you impudent mmph!"
"Trust me, you don't want to eat her cooking," Harry said, his palm clamped over Fia's lips. "Not unless you want your mouth and your, uh, other end to burn for days."
Fia licked his palm, then grazed it with her fangs, forcing him to let go. "Not my fault your kind can't stomach a little spice."
"She means Englishmen," Harry clarified.
"What's your name, dear?" Hilda asked kindly.
"Do you take me for a fool? If you must address me, call me mistress or queen."
Harry groaned. "It's Fia. Don't mind her, she has a peculiar sense of humor."
"There's one thing you have to know about her," Bill said, tension entering his tone. "Tell them, Harry."
He sighed. "Do we have to? I don't think anyone caught on—"
"We've talked about this." Bill stared at him, pointedly ignoring Fia blowing a raspberry in his direction. "The job's risky enough without unknown factors compounding it further."
"Fine." He cast a look around. "Guys, if you decide to leave afterward, I won't blame you. Just keep in mind that the non-disclosure agreement you signed applies to everything you hear and see in this room. Go get 'em." He gave Fia's bottom a playful slap.
She sprang to her feet and pranced into the middle of the crowded room. Making sure she had everyone's attention, she raised her hand to the wide brim of her hat. "Behold, mortals, and despair!" Striking a dramatic pose, she ripped it off.
"Bozhe moy," Piotr cried, his chair clattering to the floor as he jumped—but he was the only one. Hilda appeared nonplussed, while Samuel actually leaned forward to inspect her horns and pointed ears.
"Very cute, young lady," he said, adjusting his glasses.
Harry nodded at having found a kindred soul.
"C-cute?" Fia sputtered. She wriggled until her tail emerged from under the hem of her robes. "Do these demonic traits not strike an instinctive fear into your heart?"
"Prehensile, too?" Samuel asked, looking her tail over with academic interest. "Impressive, but you've got nothing on my cousin. I witnessed him transfigure himself into a chimera and back—and that was by wielding his wand in the jaws of his snake tail. And one time, I stumbled upon him swaggering through the house naked with four octopus tentacles on his back... His wife is Japanese, you see."
Harry didn't see, and judging from the perplexed silence, neither did anyone else.
Samuel slid his glasses up his nose and sighed. "Ah, the last one, it was a joke. My therapist said I should try those to build rapport with people. I'll have to let her know it was a failure. I do apologize if—"
"It's okay, Samuel," Bill said, holding up a hand. "But really, you're mistaken. That... that woman is a genuine demon from another plane."
Piotr took a few steps back, holding up his wand.
"She's also under Harry's control," Bill hastened to add. "I've thoroughly examined the seal that binds her, and we have nothing to fear while he's alive."
Fia glanced at him over her shoulder and wiggled her bum. "And you enjoyed it a great deal."
Bill had the decency to blush.
"Well, I'm not sure I believe that at all," Samuel said, running a hand through his hair. "Demons are legends from darker times—quite fascinating, but nevertheless having no basis in reality."
Fia strode over to him and grasped his collar with one hand before hoisting him up. "Is this real enough for you?" Rather than threatening, her tone was almost pleading.
Hilda swore and joined Piotr in aiming her wand at Fia; after some hesitation, Bill did the same.
"Oh my, what strength," Samuel said. Despite his legs dangling in the air, his tone was as even as ever. "Re'em blood, a strengthening ritual, or perhaps a deft lightening charm upon my person?" His wand materialized in his hand, and Harry blinked, unsure from where the man had drawn it. "Finite. Ah, not the third option, then. If it is the first, I do hope you've taken proper precautions. You can crack your bones or rip your muscles if you aren't careful while on Re'em blood. Quite a volatile substance."
Samuel's placid face turned a shade of puce that reminded Harry of Uncle Vernon, and he opened his mouth to order Fia to set him down, but she did so without being prompted. Taking a few steps back, she shook her head, the hem of her robes ruffling with the agitated motions of her tail.
"This—this isn't pretense. How is it possible that you feel no fear toward me, mortal?"
Samuel adjusted his collar. "I beg your pardon for not playing along, young lady, but this didn't seem like the time for tomfoolery. We're all professionals here, after all." He turned towards the flabbergasted Bill. "Could we please get back on the topic, William?"
Fiammete clutched her head. "Aaargh! What in the blazes is wrong with you?" Pivoting, she practically crashed through the door in her hurry to bolt out of the room. Her pointy hat plopped down on the ground, forgotten.
Samuel looked around, giving a double take at the extended wands. "Was I supposed to play along? I'm sorry, I was never very good at reading the mood."
Harry groaned and buried his face in his palms. This was going to take some explaining.
Chapter 8: Tomb Raiding, Part Two
"This is boring," Fia whinged, fidgeting behind him. "Why not blast our way into this pile of dirt and be done with it?"
Harry swerved his broomstick to circle the burial mound below. Covered in lush grass, its almost perfect roundness was the only hint to its artificial nature.
"Because we don't want our treasures buried under tons of soil," he said with practiced patience. "You're the one who insisted on coming along even though I told you to stay at the camp."
There was a rustle of fabric behind him. "And you insisted on sticking me atop this contraption when I wanted to fly under my own power! It's been ages since I got to stretch my wings."
"There could be lookouts from the local Ministry lurking about. We can't have you attracting undue attention."
Fia laughed mirthlessly, her hands tightening around his waist. "Do you know how many people ran away in terror since I stopped hiding my ancestry?"
Harry sighed, having a fair idea of what was coming.
"None! Not a single person, and I was practically flaunting my awesome horns! Some idiot in red robes and a badge asked politely if I needed help 'reversing the spell damage', and when I told him that was my true look, he laughed and told me to have fun!" She inhaled deeply. "And some strumpet with a dozen piercings had the gall to compliment me on my 'sick body mods'! What is the world coming to?"
Harry hummed noncommittally. Hovering over the opposite side of the hill, Bill waved him over. He nudged his broom in that direction.
"Perhaps I should go on an old-fashioned rampage," Fia mused. "While I favor subtler methods, at this point I'll settle for striking fear back into the hearts of your kind."
"No rampages." Harry saw others converge on Bill, Piotr's burly frame looking almost comical on his stubby broom.
Fia's breasts pressed against his back. "Aww, not even a minor one? I saw a tiny pathetic village on the way here—no one would miss it."
"No rampages," Harry repeated more firmly.
Fia huffed and fell silent until they flew up to the quartet of Curse-Breakers astride their own brooms. Wiggling back and forth, she moaned loudly. "This broomstick doesn't do much for me, Harry. I rather prefer your other one."
He glared over his shoulder. "Be quiet or you're going to get it later."
She leaned to whisper into his ear. "That's what I'm counting on."
Bill cleared his throat, his eyes crinkling at the corners. "You lovebirds see anything unusual?"
"Just grass," Harry murmured, trying to fight the heat rushing to his cheeks. "What about your spells?"
Piotr only grumbled something under his breath, but Hilda turned to answer.
"Enchantments blanket the hill and its surroundings, making it impossible to scan deeper. They're the same all over... Maybe there isn't an entrance at all."
Samuel shook his head. "This isn't your typical Muggle barrow. There had to be a way for the worshipers to approach and offer sacrifice, and for the pagan priests to pay respects to their ancestors."
Hilda shrugged. "Looks like nothing more than a big old grave to me."
Piotr spoke up, scowling at the hill below. "Maybe only believer see entrance. Flying is coward, we need show we... humble."
"Or brave," Samuel mused. "The pagans weren't quite as fond of humility as Christians. Yes, the idea has merit, I believe. We should approach from the east—they revered the sun, and would have wanted it to smile upon their forebears."
"Let's give it a try," Bill said, turning his back to the afternoon sun and descending at a shallow angle.
Everyone followed his example and soon alighted on a grassy meadow several hundred yards before the hill. Harry dismounted and handed his Firebolt to Bill, who stowed it in an enchanted rucksack, while Fia stretched mightily, her robes clinging to her shapely figure.
"I don't like the aura in the hill's vicinity," Bill said. "We walk in a single file, safety rope on, eyes peeled."
"Always a good sign when we need the rope before we even get into the tomb," Hilda murmured.
"Truly?" Samuel asked. "I would've thought the opposite, as such a hostile environment implies aggressive—"
"That was sarcasm, Sammy." She patted him on the shoulder.
Meanwhile, Bill sank his arm up to the shoulder in his rucksack to retrieve a length of Self-Adjusting Rope and tied it to his belt.
Harry considered the group. "You go first," he told Fia.
She scowled at him. "Are you using me as a sacrificial lamb?"
"Not at all. We're all fragile, weak mortals whereas you're a mighty demoness. I'm sure whatever nastiness the pagans cooked up won't even give you pause." He struggled to keep his expression straight.
"That much is true," Fia said. "Very well—cower behind me like the weaklings you are while I lead the way!" Raising her chin proudly, she completely missed the pitying looks the others sent her.
It took a short argument, but Harry secured the second spot; while he had no desire to put himself in danger, he needed to keep an eye on Fia lest she try some mischief. Linked by the rope, they set off gingerly across the meadow.
The grass swayed in a cool breeze that carried the smell of wildflowers. They had to shield their eyes from the glare at first, but as they neared the hill, it shaded them from the setting sun. Harry watched Fia's swaying hips as she sauntered in front of him without a care in the world, then shook his head and gripped his wand tighter. Bill had told them to stay vigilant, yet he wasn't sure what he was supposed to be on guard against.
"We're entering the bespelled area," Bill said behind him. "Tell me if anything feels unusual. Hair standing on the back of your neck, weird smells, a sense of foreboding..."
"Er, okay." He sniffed, catching a whiff of something earthy. Was that unusual enough to report?
"Suffering and death leave marks," Fia said over her shoulder. "If there are deadly traps ahead, there's no way I'll miss—glurble."
"Fia!" Harry goggled at the rope going straight into the ground, the turf wobbling as though it was floating atop a liquid. Coming to his senses, he seized the rope and pulled.
Bill ran up and tapped it with his wand. "Retractum."
The rope tore backward on its own accord, the momentum laying Harry out on his ass. The soil ahead parted, releasing Fia with a wet squelch. Mud coated her head to toe, and bits of vegetation stuck in the curtain of muck that was her hair.
"Disgusting cold slimy..." She hugged herself. A few steps ahead, the floating patches of turf fused together hiding the turbid water underneath, and soon there was no sign of the hole at all.
"There, there," Hilda crooned, pushing down the wand Harry had trained on Fia. "A basic Scouring Charm will do no favors for that beautiful hair. Allow me." She set about cleaning Fia's soggy robes and funneling the mud out of her locks, returning them to their former crimson color.
Fia sniffled, looking at her with something akin to gratitude. "You're not too bad for a human. When I take over your country, I'll make you my favored attendant."
"That's nice," Hilda said. "Turn around, dear."
While the shivering Fia was cleaned, Samuel walked at a right angle from the spot she had vanished in, tapping the soil with the tip of his boot. Piotr lagged behind him, his meaty fists clenched over the rope connecting the two of them.
"As I thought." Samuel adjusted his glasses. "It's not a single sinkhole, but a magically concealed quagmire that appears to surround the hill in its entirety."
Bill raised his head from where he was poking the ground with his wand. "Freeze it over?"
Piotr crossed his arms. "Same problem. We cheat, we not see entrance."
"If there is one," Hilda murmured, untangling a twig out of Fia's mane.
"When it comes to the locals, where there is a swamp, there is a way," Samuel said. "This harkens back to the times when they would lure the invading Teutons into marshlands, using their heavy armor against them. We're looking for a kūlgrinda. A hidden road."
Hilda straightened up. "As long as you're certain it exists, Sammy, I'll find it. Up you go, dear." She proffered a hand to Fia.
Harry's eyebrows rose when Fiamette accepted the help without comment. Hilda tapped her wand against the knot around her belt to undo it. They rearranged themselves, and this time he found himself in the middle of the file, still trailing Fia who was uncharacteristically taciturn.
Hilda took the lead, but for minutes she didn't move at all, her head ducked and her eyes squeezed shut as though listening to a sound only she could hear. Finally, she squared her shoulders and waved her wand in an arc before her.
"Zeig mir den Weg," she sang, her eyelids still closed. "Zeig mir den Weg..."
She swayed in place, then took off along the edge of the camouflaged swamp. The others hastened to follow her assured steps. Hilda's song-like incantation continued in an unceasing stream while she took hold of her wand with both hands as if it were a divining rod.
"Zeig mir den Weg..." Hilda stepped directly toward the hill, and Harry gasped when her feet sank several inches through the soil.
"It's alright, young man, quite alright," Samuel said. "These paths are always below the surface. That's what makes them hidden, you see."
"Ah," Harry murmured, ignoring a derisive snort behind him.
Hilda showed no sign of hearing the exchange. Tension became evident in her gait as she made several steps into the swamp then veered abruptly left. Bill was at her heels, mimicking the turn she'd made.
"Shorten the rope," he ordered, tapping at the portion between himself and their guide.
Everyone inched closer to one another until their boots were practically touching. The grass parted in their path, murky water swirling around their ankles and above the stepping stones underneath. Harry took hold of Fia's shoulders to better follow the sharp turns. He expected her to mock him, but she merely startled a little and extended her tail from under her robes to wrap it around his thigh.
"What is it?" he asked quietly.
"This place is leeching my power," she hissed. Her clothes bulged along her shoulder-blades.
He glanced down at the roiling water thoughtfully. "Keep moving, I'm sure it won't be much longer."
Hilda's voice rang again, and he nudged Fia gently. She took a shuddering breath, the wings underneath her robes receding, and inched ahead. To Harry, the walk wasn't taxing physically so much as mentally: they had to tiptoe at a snail's pace, squished against each other, all the while taking care not to slip off the slimy stones. A good fifteen minutes passed, and Hilda's voice was becoming hoarse, but they were still only midway to their goal.
Fia squeaked, one foot slipping off the path and sinking into the marsh up to the knee; the file stopped in their tracks. Harry pulled her up, grunting with effort.
"She's okay," he called out, steadying her trembling shoulders. "Keep goi—"
There was a mighty splash of water, and the turf to their right parted to reveal a mound of mud and gray plants. It floated ponderously closer until a smaller mound emerged ahead of the main body, opening two greenish eyes to peer at the group.
Harry jerked aside, and only a burly arm from behind saved him from plunging sideways into the marsh. He shakily trained his wand at the creature as others did the same. Well, most of the others.
"Oh, how utterly fascinating," Samuel said, crouching. "It's been years since I got a good look at one of these."
"Get back," Bill said tensely, the tip of his wand beginning to glow. The thing crept steadily closer, rivulets of muddy water trickling off its sides.
Samuel startled, looked around, then chuckled dryly. "Please, William, there's no need to be on your guard. This is but a maumas, a timid and docile swamp beast. I highly doubt it was intended as a part of the defenses; it must've wandered in centuries after the place was abandoned."
With half of its body now protruding above the surface, the maumas was reminiscent of a lumbering sea lion covered in tangled weeds—and stank accordingly. It directed its bulging gray nose at Samuel's extended palm and snorted loudly, spraying dirty water. A gaping maw opened among the muck, and the creature bellowed, blowing the stench of rotting plants at the group. Piotr swore, brandishing his wand, but the beast drew back and sank underwater.
"See? Gentle, beautiful creatures." Samuel straightened up and produced a handkerchief to wipe his oversized glasses with. "The fellow must've been curious at the first people to cross here in a long, long time. Shall we be on our way?"
"Beautiful?" Fia snarled. "Hellhounds are downright kissable compared to that! We're plodding through this accursed muck, defenseless, while it creeps around waiting for a chance to drag us under! I can't take this anymore..." Trembling, she lifted her hands above her head. "Xyr-Xyrrhes... yshurruth..."
Piotr prodded Harry's back. "Control your woman, Potter."
"Incinerate this stinking muddy bog... while I still can..." Black flames gathered between Fia's outstretched fingers.
Harry poked the half-formed fireball with a finger, causing it to fizzle out. Grasping Fia's wrists, he pressed her arms down, then squeezed her trembling body in a hug.
"Get a hold of yourself," he hissed. "Your behavior is unbecoming of an immortal demon."
She squirmed in his arms, turning to glare at him with teary eyes. "It's precisely because I'm a demon, fool. This place is steeped in the faith of humans and their earth magic. It's the antithesis of my nature."
He blinked. "You should've told me."
She averted her gaze.
"You and your stupid pride." Bending his knees, he scooped her up into his arms. Her violet eyes were wide as she peered up at him.
"Better?" he asked quietly.
She released a shuddering sigh, then ducked her head, clutching the front of his robes. Smiling, he looked up to find everyone staring at them.
"I hope there won't be more temper tantrums," Hilda said tiredly. "Getting into the right state for divination isn't easy, you know."
"Right," Harry said sheepishly. He expected Fia to retort, but she instead snuggled into his chest as though trying to hide from Hilda's gaze.
"Yes, move," Piotr said. "I need take piss but not want swamp thing to come bite off my—"
"We get the idea," Bill said quickly. "Please, Hilda needs to concentrate."
Everyone fell quiet. Harry shifted his feet, hugging Fia closer, and gauged the distance to the hill. He didn't look forward to slogging through the marsh while carrying her, but despite accusing her of stupid pride, he was stubborn in his own way. He just hoped his arms didn't give out.
"Zeig mir den Weg," Hilda sang.
A dozen seconds passed before she stepped forward, then Bill, then Harry, then the two men behind him. A bead of sweat trickled down his nose, and he got a sudden urge to scratch it. Bloody typical.
He tried counting steps at first but lost count in the hundreds. The sky overhead began to darken, and Hilda's monotonous chants lulled him. Slosh, stop. Slosh, stop. He swayed on his feet as they changed direction again, murmuring his thanks when Piotr steadied him. Slosh, stop.
He crashed into Bill and staggered back, rough hands catching him from behind. Blinking, he looked around and found himself at the base of the hill. His boots were still several inches underwater.
"Careful, it's a bit steep," Bill called over his shoulder. He assisted a wobbling Hilda out of the water, then stepped out himself.
Hardly daring believe it, Harry inched forward and raised a foot to test the soil ahead. It held his weight. With a grunt, he lurched forward, then teetered on the edge until Bill yanked him onto solid ground. Moving to make space for Piotr and Samuel, he lowered Fia's feet onto the grass.
"Thanks," she whispered, so quiet he almost thought he had imagined it. Her skin was ashen in the evening gloom.
"Not a problem," he said, his arms shaking badly. "Are you okay now?"
She grimaced, taking a shaky step away from the marsh. "It's bearable. There's something about that water... It felt very displeased at my presence."
He furrowed his brows as he freed them both from the safety rope. "Like a guardian of some sort?"
"Nothing sentient, no. More like the general atmosphere of the place." She raised her head to consider the others. "Oi, mortals, what's the hold-up?"
Piotr paused in vanishing the muck off his trousers. "This place make you cry but now you want go deeper?"
She bared her fangs. "That's exactly why. I want us to hurry and desecrate it so these revolting magics would fade."
"See here, that's a misconception," Bill said. "We're not desecrating anything—we're excavating with the permission of the country's government."
Fia shrugged. "Whatever makes you feel better about yourself."
Bill frowned, appearing ready to argue.
"I say, look at this," Samuel said. He stood before the not-quite-vertical slope, the soil before him shifting and parting to reveal something dark underneath.
Bill swore and ran up to him. "Samuel, I know you can take care of yourself, but"—he blinked at the rectangular slab of rock—"is that the entrance?"
"I daresay it is. Our colleague's hunch was right—it reveals itself only to those who walk the path of the believers."
Piotr grunted, raising his wand to cast light upon the rock barring the doorway. "And how it open?"
Samuel leaned closer to scrutinize the carvings on its surface. They were dominated by a stylized depiction of the sun, with smaller squiggles underneath.
"A sacrifice to honor the ancestors?" he murmured.
Fia perked up, splaying out her claws. "Are you volunteering?"
Samuel blinked at her, then chuckled. "Oh no, young lady, not that kind of sacrifice. Let's see... Honey, perhaps, and since the harvest season is still a ways off, some bread. Rye, if you have it."
Bill shrugged off his rucksack and rummaged inside, at some point worming into it up to the waist. He surfaced with a small jar of honey and half a loaf of dark bread. Nodding his approval, Samuel stepped away from the doorway. Bill brought the offerings over as everyone gathered behind him, wands out.
"Here goes," he said, crouching.
Setting the offerings on the sill before the door, Bill rose and backpedaled. They watched with bated breath, the light of their wands casting the carvings on the stone in sharp relief.
There was a loud rumble, and the stone slab slid down with ponderous slowness, releasing a waft of musty air from the shadowy passage beyond.
Bill pumped his arm. "Yeah!"
Piotr slapped Samuel on the back. "Not bad, professor."
"Excellent work," Hilda murmured, swaying on her feet slightly.
Sobering up, Bill contemplated the group. "Question is, do we risk setting up inside, or fly to the camp for the night? Retracing our steps tomorrow would be easier."
"Inside," Fia said, her back almost pressing against the steep slope as she eyed the swamp.
"No one ask you," Piotr said.
"Molchi, tcherv'," she retorted, making him snort in surprise.
"We don't know if the door will open for us again," Hilda said.
Samuel was quiet, but he was bending at the waist to peer through the entrance as closely as he could without actually crossing the threshold.
Bill sighed in resignation. "In we go, then. One at a time, detection spells, tread lightly—you know the drill. Harry, you two wait until I call you."
He nodded, but Bill wasn't looking at him anymore, discussing something with his colleagues in rapid Curse-Breaker slang. He, Samuel, and Hilda went in first, fanning out inside, while Piotr followed behind ready to leap to their aid if needed. Harry watched, feeling rather useless, until Fia cuffed the back of his head.
"Stop looking so glum," she said. "A commander is expected to use his mercenaries to clear a path for him."
"They're not my mercenaries—well, not really." Multicolored lights flared inside as the Curse-Breakers investigated the place. "Watching them work, I realize how lacking my education is."
"If you want to learn to poke around dusty old crypts, then ask them to teach you." She grinned brazenly. "Don't tell me your soul needs to be on the line for you to achieve proper motivation."
He fixed her with a sardonic glare. "You do realize whose fault it is that I spent most of my Hogwarts years learning to fight to the exclusion of everything else?"
Her grin widened as she grasped his biceps. "And what a fierce warrior you grew into. You ought to be thanking me."
He growled, a mixture of anger and desire stirring inside him, and made to grasp her horn, but Bill's voice called him from the inside. Pivoting, he strode through the entrance, Fia following at his heels. He didn't need to look at her to know she sported a smug smirk.
He found himself in a roundish, low-ceilinged antechamber. The walls were built from drab stone and were honeycombed with recesses filled with scraps of decaying cloth and crumbling pottery. Most of the light came from their wands, shifting and casting shadows as their owners moved. Opposite the entrance, a passage extended into the darkness, wide enough for three to walk side by side.
Bill set his rucksack against the wall and retrieved a wizarding tent. "We'll start exploring tomorrow with clear heads. For now, we'll place proximity alarms and keep watch in turns." He waved his wand, erecting a cheery yellow tent in one go. "Hilda, you can skip tonight."
She put her hands on her hips. "Imply that I'm too frail to do my duties again, Billy, and I'll remind you why they call me Kastellbrecher."
He gulped. "Duly noted."
Fia appeared suitably impressed. "Why do they call you that?"
Hilda chuckled. "An old story. Come, dear, I'll tell you over dinner." She vanished into the tent, Fia following suit.
Bill held up the flap, warm light spilling out on the floor as he gestured everyone inside. Harry slipped in after Piotr, taking in the cozy room equipped with a large table and a kitchenette, where Hilda was already at work.
"It'll be a bit cramped compared to our base camp," Bill warned, coming in and zipping up the flap. "We're one bedroom short, so someone'll have to bunk together."
"I'll take one for the team," Harry said dryly. Cramped, really. These pampered wizards should see what the inside of a Muggle tent looked like.
"There's two bathrooms," Bill continued. "One each for the gents and the ladies, I suppose."
Fia looked up from her attempts to snatch some raw ingredients while Hilda wasn't looking. "Ha! I've been called a lot of things, but rarely a lady."
"Would you prefer 'infernal bitch'?" Bill quipped.
A knife whizzed past his ear, embedding into the wooden paneling behind with a thunk. His hand slowly rose to pat his ear, a few severed strands of ginger hair sticking to his fingers. Fia straightened up from her throw and flashed her fangs.
"Right," Bill murmured, "I'll just shut up now."
"A wise decision," Hilda said, not looking up from oiling the pan. "Would you fetch me that knife, dear?"
Fia strutted back to retrieve the knife, feigning a lunge at Bill as she passed by. To his credit, he only flinched a little. Her cackle was cut short by Harry chopping her head with the edge of his palm. When she glared at him, he grinned despite himself. Bringing her along on the expedition had been a gamble, but if nothing else, she proved an excellent source of amusement.
Chapter 9: Tomb Raiding, Part Three
Harry yawned as he tailed the Curse-Breakers through the dim corridor. The mug of strong black tea he drank that sunless morning was still kicking in, and he was content to let Bill and the others take point. So far, they had encountered nothing but the same drab stone walls and damp floor for a good hundred paces.
He glanced to his side, where the cause of his lack of sleep pranced on obliviously. By the time he had returned from his watch last night, Fia was sleeping like a log, so he decided to take on her part too. It wasn't entirely out of kindness: she had a knack for interpreting orders creatively, and if feeling vindictive, she could've easily sounded the alarm because of a 'suspicious shadow' or some such.
Her skin was still pale, but the uninterrupted rest must've helped her recover from yesterday's ordeal because she was pivoting her head to check out the occasional carving on the walls with idle curiosity, the swishing of her tail betraying her frustration with their snail-like pace. It was only because he was watching her that he noticed her nostrils flare and her tail stiffen. Peering ahead intently, she sidled towards the wall.
He cleared his throat. "Uh, guys?" Piotr and Hilda turned his way, then in front of them, Bill and Samuel. He gestured vaguely at the floor ahead. "There might be... dunno, something."
The Curse-Breakers tensed up, the beams of their wand-lights focusing on his indicated direction to illuminate an unremarkable patch of grimy stone. At Bill's gesture, they backpedaled, retracing their earlier steps.
"Revelio." A jet of blue light from Bill's wand splashed against the stone to no effect. Harry was beginning to feel rather stupid, but Bill had a thoughtful expression on his face. "Ronnie's debut, I reckon."
"Ronnie's?" Harry asked.
"Bit of an inside joke," Bill said, looking sheepish for some reason. "Don't tell Mum, alright?"
Bill's hand dipped into his trouser pocket and surfaced clutching a small rock that he dropped on the floor. An intricate twirl of his wand had the rock ballooning, turning pink, and sprouting four limbs, morphing into a piglet that immediately proceeded to sniff around.
"I suppose there's some resemblance," Harry deadpanned.
Snorting, Bill jabbed his wand, and the creature waddled forward with happy little oinks. It trotted past the illuminated spot, and Harry was about to apologize for wasting everyone's time when the flagstone underneath its tiny feet depressed with a soft click. A hair-thin blade swung out from the wall, bisecting the piglet before it could so much as squeak; the two halves flopped on the floor, spraying out blood.
Fia's clapping broke the stunned silence. "It even has guts and everything! Oh, oh—can you make a bigger one?"
"A classic," Samuel remarked. "Yet how unexpected to see a blade trap down here... Perhaps the builders of this place borrowed a few ideas from abroad. Intriguing."
Bill transfigured Ronnie's remains back into their original state and set about outlining the booby-trapped flagstone in green paint. Harry tried to clear the image of the piglet's gruesome end out of his mind's eye. He had been rooting for the little guy—but better it than Samuel or Bill.
He went rigid at the thought. Glancing at the four Curse-Breakers and finding them deep in discussion, he seized Fia by the arm and dragged her back the way they came. She struggled, but not enough to break out of his grasp. Once they were a short distance away, he pushed her up against the wall.
"You knew there was a trap," he said in an undertone.
"I had a hunch. That spot reeked of death." She squirmed a little under his glare. "What? If worst came to worst, I'm sure you could just wave your sticks and put him back together."
"Him?" Harry tried to recall who would've stepped on the booby-trapped flagstone if it weren't for his warning. "Samuel. He wasn't impressed with you, so now you want to kill him, is that it? Just how vain are you?"
"I merely wanted to see what would happen." She flinched when Harry slammed his palm on the wall beside her head. "You don't understand! That person, he... I don't"—her voice dropped to a whisper—"I don't think he's even human."
Harry gaped. Her beseeching expression, the conviction in her voice, her wide eyes... He broke into laughter. Wiping a tear from his eye, he gave Bill's group a thumbs-up to reassure them, then murmured a Muffliato for additional privacy.
Fia gave him a baleful look. "I'm serious. There's no darkness in his heart, no fear. It's not natural."
He snickered some more. "So you decided to see what his insides looked like? That logic would almost be cute if it weren't so twisted."
Crimson entered her cheeks. "Even when you were but a child, I could sense specks of blackness in your soul. That person is like the monks our loremasters tell stories about: incorruptible." She straightened up abruptly, her gaze straying toward the Curse-Breakers. "You don't suppose one of their wretched orders survived and is sending out inquisitors to smoke out my kind?"
"Samuel has a loving wife and three kids—he showed me the photos." Harry patted her head. "The man's no monk, Fia. He's just a devoted scientist."
"A scientist," Fia repeated, rolling the word around her mouth. "Yes, I've heard of their ilk. He must've gone through grueling training to become the way he is."
Harry didn't bother correcting her misconception; if he kicked the bucket and Fiamette returned to hell, perhaps she'd convince her fellow demons that scientists weren't to be trifled with, and they'd decide to leave Earth alone.
"Harry?" Bill called.
"Coming!" He fixed Fia with a stare. "If you have another hunch, I want you to tell us immediately. And no trying to take apart Samuel, even indirectly, okay?"
She averted her gaze.
"Very well," she said grumpily.
"Trouble in paradise?" Piotr asked as they rejoined the group.
"It's fine." Glancing at Samuel, who was pushing his oversized spectacles up his nose, he couldn't help but snort. "Let's go."
As the day dragged on, Harry found himself missing the excitement of that morning—not the deadly trap, heavens forbid, but something to break up the monotony. With the darkness creeping before and behind them, the claustrophobic passageway seemed endless. There were no forks, no rooms, no doorways, and the floor was wholly level. He tried to amuse himself by counting the flagstones, but even that grew old after a couple thousand. Beside him, Fia was climbing the walls—figuratively and almost literally.
For all their experience, even the Curse-Breakers weren't immune to boredom. Their conversations veered off tangent, their voices dulled, and breaks became more frequent, until Bill eventually ordered to set up camp in what was, according to his watch, early evening.
"We're getting distracted," he said curtly. "It's too dangerous to go on like this."
Harry volunteered to cook and busied himself preparing a hearty stew, trying to keep Fia's claws off the raw beef as he listened to the conference at the table with half an ear.
"If you gents have any bright ideas, I'm all ears," Hilda said.
"There's a curve to the passage—very slight, but it's there," Bill said. "Haven't the foggiest what it means though."
Piotr grunted. "We not walk circles, I guarantee. But is weird."
"Weird is right, my friend," Samuel said. "Nothing I know about the Balts would suggest they were prone to building such unfathomably extensive catacombs. Either this structure isn't what we expected at all, or... "
"Frankly, William, your guess is as good as mine."
In the end, they retired without coming to a conclusion—but not before gorging themselves on the stew. Fia promptly pronounced it too bland, but still polished off two bowls, to Harry's private satisfaction.
A night's sleep brought no clarity. They set off at the same snail's pace early in the morning. The first two Curse-Breakers scouted for danger, while the following pair experimented with increasingly obscure spells in attempts to crack the corridor's mystery. Behind them, Harry was fending off Fia's salacious suggestions to retreat into the tent for something more fun and catch up later. He didn't fancy getting lost, even if the corridor did appear straight as an arrow.
The monotonous slog was getting to everyone. Conversations dwindled, wands moved with less vigor and more dogged persistence, but their pace actually quickened as they grew less cautious. It was around afternoon that Fia spoke up, breaking the silence that had been stretching on for at least a quarter of an hour.
"Trap." She pointed dully ahead.
Startled out of his daydream, Harry peered ahead. Samuel and Bill were at the vanguard, trekking onward with almost mechanical perseverance and showing no indication of having heard her quiet warning.
He sucked in a breath. "Stop!"
Everyone halted in their tracks, Piotr actually jumping a little, and Harry had to shield his eyes when he became a target of four lights. "Uh, trap. Again."
The lights whipped forward in unison. Left in semidarkness, he glared at Fia.
She shrugged. "What? I did warn them."
"A bit louder next time, please," he said dryly.
"Pfft. Very well, I shall adjust my voice to the level of your mortals' feeble hearing."
Harry sighed, suspecting her next warning would put their eardrums in danger of bursting. For someone purportedly over a century old, she was such a brat.
There was a whoosh of displaced air ahead, followed by a squeak and a wet squelch. Perking up, Fia pranced toward the group, Harry lagging by a step. The Curse-Breakers had arranged themselves in a half-circle before an unremarkable patch of floor off which Bill hurriedly scrubbed the gore. If Harry squinted, he could just about make out a single flagstone sticking out a fraction above the rest.
Samuel ran his hand through his shaggy hair. "I thought it weird the first time, and my opinion hasn't changed. Such traps are completely out of place here, nor do they jibe with the Balts' modus operandi. Their sorcerers were about leading enemies astray, turning their strength against them... This is almost like a prank some enterprising youngster cobbled up while his superiors were busy."
"Prank," Harry repeated blandly.
Fia laughed. "For all their abominable faith, they must've shared my kind's humor."
Bill straightened up after painting the flagstone green. "The mechanism's far from elaborate, but the fact that it's entirely mundane makes detection difficult." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Thanks, Fia."
She looked away. "Hmph. I merely figured I still needed you to break into the heart of this place."
"The heart, huh." Bill considered the darkness behind them and moved his wand in an intricate twirl, leaving runes glowing mid-air. "We've walked four miles since the beginning and almost two since the last trap, and it doesn't feel one inch closer to me."
"Exactly the same type of trap," Samuel said, pushing up his glasses. "Spaced almost evenly apart."
Hilda's stared at the fresh outline on the floor. "Sammy, you're not saying—but no, this one was unmarked—"
Fia stepped closer, sniffing at the air. "It smells the same."
Heads whipped towards her, then to the floor again.
Piotr grunted, "Space fold."
"Impossible," Bill said. "Spatial magic was developed centuries after this was built."
Piotr crossed his arms. "In Britain, maybe."
Bill scowled, then gave a slow, reluctant nod. "You never know."
The tennis-like exchange was making Harry dizzy. "Sorry, are you saying we've been walking around in some kind of a... space loop?"
"Space loop, space donut, space-bloody-spiderweb," Bill said with a testy wave of his hand. "It can take any configuration you can imagine."
"It's the ones you can't imagine that are the worst," Hilda said with a wan smile.
"What I don't understand is how this happened." Bill scratched his head. "We left an offering and all. Surely the magic wouldn't trap the believers coming to pay their respects."
"If I may offer a hypothesis," Samuel said, peering at a carving on the wall thoughtfully, "we might've missed a crucial step—something a native would know intuitively, such as wearing all-linen or not carrying iron upon one's person. We cannot be certain now, but the fact remains that at some point early into our exploration we were transported into this endless passageway—a false passageway—to wander in confusion until our end."
Everyone's wand-lights appeared to dim a little.
"Which is not going to happen now that we know what's going on," Bill said firmly. "Checklist, people. Apparition?"
Piotr took half a step back, did an awkward twirl on his heel, then groaned and clutched his head.
"That's out," Bill murmured. "Portkey?"
Hilda rummaged in her pocket, produced a piece of pink string, and tapped it with her wand to no effect. "Blocked."
Bill hummed, glancing the way they came. "Retracing our steps?"
"That's just as likely to put us into another dimensional branch as going forward," Samuel said, appearing almost excited at the idea.
Piotr knocked at the wall with his knuckles, scowling. "Break through?"
The Curse-Breakers exchanged wary glances.
"That's risking a cave-in, but we're short on options," Bill said. "Unless there are better ideas... No? Piotr, you do the honors. Shields on the ready, folks."
Piotr pressed his broad back against the wall before taking aim at the one opposite. The other Curse-Breakers put some distance between them. Harry belatedly mimicked their actions, his fingers tightening around his wand.
"Three, two, one," Piotr said. "Reducto."
The jet of azure hurtled almost at a right angle toward the wall, rebounded upon impact, whizzed past Piotr's ear, then bounced again toward Fia, who somersaulted over it. Cries of alarm rang as everyone ducked, allowing the azure jet to ping-pong overhead, gradually losing its luster. Harry turned to witness the blueish light vanish in the darkness behind them.
"Bloody hell," Bill murmured, straightening up. "Is everyone alright?"
Harry looked around, finding the Curse-Breakers unhurt if shaken. Fia just rolled her eyes and brushed a non-existent piece of lint off her shoulder.
"How fascinating," Samuel said, rapping the wall with his wand. "I wonder if other hexes would trigger the same effect. Acid Orb might be effective—"
"Samuel! Samuel, hang on." Bill released a relieved breath when the man lowered his wand. "That sort of experimenting is our last resort. I don't fancy a repeat of Piotr nearly blowing his head off—for all that it would have improved his looks." He gave the man a shaky smile.
Piotr snorted. "You not beauty queen too, Weasley."
"Aha," Samuel said with a look of a man who had a revelation, "so that's how you use a joke to ease tension."
Hilda laid a hand atop his shoulder. "You're ruining it, Sammy."
Bill shook his head, but his smile looked more genuine now. "Let's take a break, sit down, and think this out before doing anything rash. Could we trouble you for more of your magical coffee, Hilda?"
Ten minutes later found Harry lounging in a camp chair and sipping the piping-hot coffee—which indeed tasted magical—as he watched Fia spike hers with a generous pinch of chili powder nicked from the tent's pantry. Around them raged a Curse-Breaking debate with which he had long since given up any pretense of keeping up.
"...that daft booby trap is like a landmark, we can use it to track the distance between the resets..."
"...It's no Möbius strip, William, it's a non-Euclidean manifold of some type—you mustn't think in terms of ordinary topology..."
"...recall that Hemlock's third theorem states that if there's an entrance into a space fold, there must be a..."
Clasping her mug, Fia scooted closer to Harry. "Does all that blabber mean anything, or do they just like the sound of their voices?"
"Er..." He took another sip to stall for time. "We have no clue how to get out. Basically."
She snorted. "Silly mortals. Hold my coffee."
"What are you..." He trailed off as Fia handed him her mug, rose to her feet, and cracked her knuckles.
The others' voices died down as she approached the wall and reared her arm theatrically. Before anyone could warn her, she punched.
Her slender arm juddered from the impact, and she staggered back with a cry. Harry barely noted the spiderweb of cracks across the stone before he laid the cups down and bolted toward her. She was cradling her right hand with a pained expression.
"Are you alright?"
"Of c-course. It's just a little tougher than I expected." Her fangs bared in a snarl.
He raised his wand. "Show me."
"Why would I?" She hid her hand behind her back. "I'm not a mortal to be injured by a little punch."
He shook his head, a wry smile finding its way onto his lips. "It actually hurts like a bitch, doesn't it?"
"I'm fine." She shoved him away before approaching the wall again. "That was just a warm-up. Now witness my true power!"
She flung up her right hand, its knuckles bloodied, and gathered black fire in her palm. Balling her fingers into a fist, she coated it up to her wrist in the flickering flames.
Bill said, "Wait—"
Heedless, Fiamette punched. There was another crack that made Harry wince in sympathy, but this time it was accompanied by an angry hiss of the black flame eating into the fractured stone.
Fia gave a triumphant cry, but an instant later, the flames were drawn off her fist and absorbed into the wall. An answering stream of white emerged in their stead, blinding in its brilliance, and Fia fell on her arse in her hurry to evade it.
Harry stared in horror as the white fire hurtled towards Hilda, who was seated against the opposite wall. "Protect her!"
Fia screamed, pivoting on one foot and lunging to shield Hilda. Her palms came up, summoning hellfire to meet the white conflagration head-on. White clashed with black in a sizzling spray of sparks, and her face contorted, her eyes narrowing into slits. The opposing energies were annihilating each other, but the white conflagration was pushing, gaining, almost concealing Fia's hunched-over form with its radiance. She snarled, pressing her back against the wall, while beneath her feet Hilda crawled to safety.
The torrent of white flames sputtered out, plunging the corridor into darkness. Something thudded to the ground. A horrible smell of burning flesh permeated the air. Harry's wand rose without conscious thought, illuminating Fia's prone form.
He sank to his knees beside her. "Fia!"
"She needs healing!" Bill bellowed.
Everyone seemed to move at once. Harry barely touched her shoulder to flip her over and examine her injuries when he was shoved roughly aside.
"Inside," Piotr said, waving his wand over her blistered palms.
Harry stared at him uncomprehendingly.
"Go!" the man snapped, jabbing his thumb in the direction of the tent Bill was erecting.
Catching on, Harry gathered her in his arms and barreled through the entrance. He laid her atop a couch and grimaced at the sight. Her wavy hair was singed, her smoking robes strewn with scorch marks, but it was her hands that suffered the brunt of the damage: they were reddened and blistered, and her sleeves were charred almost up to her elbows. Whatever the white flames had been, they had easily overcome her natural resistance to fire.
With a jingling of glass, Piotr arrayed several bottles on the table. Picking out three, he thrust one at Harry.
"Make her drink," was all he said before he stooped over Fia's insensate form to slice off her charred sleeves.
Harry scowled, but a glance at the bottle made him swallow his retort. It contained a purple liquid with a swirl of blue atop—pain reliever, something he had been unfortunate enough to familiarize himself with during the war. He glanced at Piotr with newfound respect, then crouched over Fia. Taking hold of the back of her head, he raised it gently before parting her lips and tipping the bottle to pour some potion into her mouth. Not entirely sure what he was doing, he massaged her throat, smiling in relief when she swallowed.
Her eyes fluttered open, and she stirred with a moan.
"Shh, don't move," he said, laying her head on the pillow. "You're in good hands."
And it was true. After cutting off the ruined fabric, Piotr slathered a greenish salve over the burns. His movements were both confident and gentle, something one wouldn't expect given his bear-sized hands. At length, he wiped his palms and waved his wand to swaddle Fia's arms up to the elbows in bandages.
"Done," he announced. The multiple sighs of relief made Harry realize with a start that he wasn't the only one worried. "Human need maybe week to heal. But..." He shrugged.
Giving Piotr a grateful nod, Harry reached for her bandaged hand but thought the better of it. "How do you feel?"
"Sore. Weak." Her gaze took in the gathered, and she licked her lips. "Hungry."
Hilda came up to stroke her hair. "Anything I could make for you?"
She propped herself up on her elbows. "Meat! Loads of it, and don't you dare skimp on the pepper! It'll help me get my strength back."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Is that really how it—"
"Great Astaroth, the agony!" she cried, cradling her hands to her chest.
Hilda tutted. "Oh, you poor dear. Just rest, I'll fry some up right away." She went to rummage in the pantry.
Bill trailed her with his gaze. "We're trapped in some dimensional fuckery, and you decide to cook?"
"Don't cuss, Billy, it doesn't become you."
"So woozy..." Fia murmured, sagging onto the pillow.
"Hang in there, dear, hang in there!" Hilda called as she slammed the pan onto the hotplate and fetched a huge hunk of beef from the icebox.
"I like it bloody," Fia said helpfully.
Harry shot her a suspicious glance, but the impish glint in her eyes notwithstanding, her injuries were genuine. He hid a smile. Since he was the one to effectively order her to sacrifice herself, he might as well let her have her fun.
Bill threw his hands up. "You know what? Screw it, let's eat steak and break out the Firewhisky while we're at it. Not like we have any better ideas at the moment." He headed for the exit. "I'll set up the proximity alarms."
Harry slid in behind the table next to Piotr. After watching him work on Fia's injuries, the burly man somehow seemed more approachable. "Is this standard Curse-Breaker procedure?"
Piotr grinned. "Good leader know when his team need break."
He nodded thoughtfully. Here, in the brightly lit and magically expanded tent, the prospect of being stuck in the gloomy corridor for the foreseeable future didn't seem so daunting.
Hilda laid the first slab of meat into the sputtering oil, and with a merry sizzle, a mouthwatering smell wafted through the room. Fia perked up and cracked open one eye, then quickly closed it when she noticed Harry looking. He chuckled.
After the food was done, he helped Fia to the table and drew her a chair. She plopped down, sniffed greedily at the steaming steak and greens before her, then contemplated her thickly bandaged hands. Her eyes scanned the room before settling on Harry. She rose and pranced over, planting her bottom in his lap and parting her lips expectantly.
Harry snorted. Pulling his own plate closer, he carved his steak and offered her a steaming pink slice. She plucked it off the fork with her teeth and chomped down, her eyes narrowing in relish.
"More," she demanded, the tip of her tongue darting out to lick the grease off her lips.
He proffered another slice, and she leaned forward in a hurry to snatch it. Harry shifted slightly as her bottom rubbed against him. Sensing his discomfort, Fia gave a theatrical shudder of pleasure as she chewed, meeting his glare with doe eyes.
In retaliation, he speared and brought up a green bean. She wrinkled her nose as he brushed its end against her lips.
"Go on—aah," he said in a sing-song voice. "You need your strength back, remember?"
"Vegetable healthy," Piotr said.
Outnumbered, Fia squeezed her eyes shut and ate it, making her revulsion known through an exaggerated grimace. There was a clink of silverware to his right, and Harry turned his head to find her tail wrap nimbly around a fork. Extending toward the plate originally set out for her, it poked blindly at the untouched steak. He grasped her tail, making her squeak and drop the fork.
"Weren't you too weak to feed yourself?" he whispered.
"I am," she said, her voice hitching as his fingers glided up her tail. "And it's your fault for giving me that unreasonable order."
"Then be a good girl and let me take care of you just like you wanted, hmm?" His fork hovered over the steak before stabbing more greens. He smirked at her tiny groan.
Their little game continued long after everyone else had polished off their plates—including Bill, who returned after setting up extensive protections outside. (His declaration that the night watch was canceled was greeted with subdued cheers.) At long last, after single-handedly consuming most of their meat supply, even Fiamette was satiated.
Now that poor Hilda was allowed a break from cooking, they broke out the promised Firewhisky, and she shared some stories from her long and colorful career with her rapt audience. Even Piotr was engrossed, his booming laughter drowning out Hilda's voice more and more often with every glass he downed.
Despite her injuries, Fia wheedled them into allowing her to drink too, lifting her glass with her tail. As the resident healer, Piotr approved it in lieu of painkillers. After watching her gulp down the liquor as though it were water, he predictably challenged her to a drinking contest, which ended with an equally predictable result of the much heavier man conked out on the table.
Suffice to say, not much thinking was done in regards to their current predicament—with the exception of Bill and Samuel, that is. While the others were merely passing time, the two men brought out a blackboard and engaged in a hushed yet intense discussion. Harry would've felt guilty about not contributing if it weren't for the fact that the topics they talked about were completely beyond his ken.
"Any luck?" Hilda asked when Bill sat tiredly at the table.
"Not as such." He considered the filled glass she nudged toward him, sighed, and accepted.
"Highly stimulating discussion, nevertheless," Samuel said, settling in beside the snoring Piotr. "We believe this could be an entirely new configuration of spatial magic. If no one objects, I would like to write a paper on it after we get back."
"I'm not entirely sure we are getting back," Bill murmured, staring at his drink.
"Chin up, William! We have some bright minds here, I'm certain we'll think of something." Samuel gave a thoughtful look to Fia, who appeared uneasy at his attention. "Such as the young lady's remarkable performance. The result was quite dramatic, I must say, and quite unlike the previous reaction to a wand spell. Just what was that magic, if I may ask?"
"Hellfire," Fia said, not facing him.
"And how would one learn to cast this"—he mimed quote marks in the air—"hellfire? I would be curious to try some things out for myself."
Fia gritted her teeth. "You'd need to live a life of sin, get reincarnated as a demon, and undergo training by your elders."
"Ah, so the charade goes on," Samuel muttered to himself. "Let's see... Could we pretend just for one moment that I am one of these 'demons'? What would be the first step in learning to create those black flames?" He leaned over the table eagerly.
"You—you bloody—" Fia's gaze darted around helplessly. "Ow, my burns hurt, and I'm so tired! I must rest!" Bolting to her feet, she fled into her and Harry's room, her flicking tail disappearing between the closing doors an instant before they slammed shut.
Samuel watched her retreat with a glum expression. "I get the impression young Fia doesn't like me very much," he commented, making Harry snort into his Firewhisky. "She does have the right idea, though. It's getting late, and I'm not as young as I used to be. Good night, folks."
"We have a busy day ahead of us," Bill agreed. "I'll levitate the beauty queen here to his bed so he doesn't wake up with a crick in his neck and act all grumpy tomorrow. Well, grumpier."
The room quickly emptied, leaving just Harry and Hilda. He rose to his feet, intending to duck into the bathroom while it wasn't occupied, but a creak of a door made him pause. Turning, he glimpsed a shock of crimson hair and one violet cat-like eye peering through a narrow gap.
"Thank the Prince of Darkness he's gone," Fia said emphatically, tiptoeing back into the living room.
Harry snorted. "I thought you said you were going to sleep."
"I was, but..." She lifted her bandaged hands. "I'm so sweaty and dirty, but I can't even clean myself with these. If only there was someone who could help me wash." Pouting, she batted her lashes at Harry.
"I'll help you, dear," Hilda said. "It's the least I could do."
Her gaze swept over Hilda, sizing her up, and her lips curved into a mischievous smile. "I wouldn't mind you joining in, but I'm not sure Harry would be up for it. He has such silly hang-ups."
"Oh?" Hilda blinked several times, then chortled. "Oh, dear. In that case, don't let me get in your way. I'll use the other bathroom tonight." Humming what sounded suspiciously like 'A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love', she departed.
"Well?" Fia said, arching an eyebrow. "Won't you please get me nice and clean?"
He sighed, privately amused. "You do realize the act isn't working on me, right? I've seen you shrug off injuries twice as bad."
Her eyes sparkled. "Isn't that the way you like me—helpless and dependent on your benevolence? I don't mind playing along if that's what gets you going."
Laughing at his peeved expression, she sashayed into the bathroom. Harry glared at the door, chuckled to himself, and followed.
While modest in size, the bathroom was furnished with porcelain tiles and brass faucets that wouldn't have looked out of place in a posh townhouse. He shrugged off his robes and unbuckled his belt, bouncing on one leg to yank off his trousers. Fia's gaze flicked down, and she licked her lips before spreading her bandaged arms and sticking out her chest expectantly.
"Couldn't you just use your magic to clean yourself?" he grumbled good-naturedly as he unbuttoned her ruined, sleeveless robes.
"The bandages would catch fire. Besides, I don't think I can even channel my flames properly given the state of my hands."
"So you were hurt pretty seriously," he said, pulling the robes off while she bent her arms back.
Fia shot him a wounded look. "Of course I was. And it's your fault, just like last time."
He stepped closer. "One could also say it was because of your overconfidence."
She frowned, not meeting his eyes. "The backlash caught me off guard, that's all. Those pagans had some nerve, weaving their disgusting sorceries all over this place. I can't wait to plunder it and laugh as their souls weep in the afterlife."
"Charming," he murmured, sliding the straps of her blouse off her slender shoulders.
The garment flopped to the floor, and Fia stepped out of it, now clad only in pink underwear. Smirking at him, she nudged up her breasts with her arms.
"Why, master," she purred, pressing up to him, "is that a lecherous gaze I sense?"
"Merely wondering what your kin would say if they knew of your fondness for stuff like this." He jerked his chin at the stylized kitty on the front of her knickers.
Her cheeks colored as she averted her gaze. "We're all about freedom from pesky things like rules and morals. There's no shame in indulging one's desires."
"Even if it's cutesy underwear?" he teased.
She stuck out her tongue. "Even then. Now hurry up and get me out of these—carefully!" She turned around.
"Watch the attitude," he warned, and swatted her bottom without any real anger. Ignoring the glare she shot at him over her shoulder, he unclasped her bra, then angled her tail to slide down her knickers. If he ripped another pair, she would never let him hear the end of it.
Hooking the knickers deftly on her toes, she chucked them into a hamper, then strutted into the shower without a backwards glance. His gaze was drawn by the sway her hips. Following her inside, he yanked the curtain closed and turned the tap, causing hot water to spray on their heads.
He groaned contentedly as the day's sweat was rinsed off his skin. Beside him, Fiamette made a show of alternatively sticking her butt and chest under the stream while she held her arms outstretched to keep the bandages dry.
"I can't reach," she whinged, thrusting her slick arse at him. "You won't make me go to bed all filthy, will you?"
Picking up the soap, he worked up some lather. "Come here."
She promptly stuck out her chest, shimmying her shoulders and grinning mischievously. Rolling his eyes, he started from her upper arms, massaging the scented lather into her skin. She moaned exaggeratedly when he moved on to her ample breasts, but he ignored her antics with practiced ease. Detaching the showerhead, he rinsed her off.
She turned and wriggled her arse at him. "You missed a spot."
"Yes, right here." Bending over, she parted her thighs slightly, her tail pointing down at her puffy mound. "This spot feels very dirty."
He snorted. "We might be forever stuck in an ancient graveyard, and you get horny?"
"That's because you've been neglecting my needs." She sent him a pout over her shoulder. "Not befitting a good master at all."
He gave her a flat stare. "You were fast asleep when I came in last night. Snoring."
"I don't snore!" she exclaimed, rounding on him. "And a true lord would've just taken what was his, so I'd wake up from being pounded."
The corners of his lips curved up. "I'll keep that in mind next time."
"Why wait?" She rubbed herself against him, hardened nipples sliding along his damp skin. He jerked when her tail poked at his crotch. "Don't tell me you're too tired. If so, perhaps I shall take up Hilda on her offer and ask for her help."
Stooping, he wrapped his arms around her legs and slung her over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. She squealed, pummeling his back with her small fists, although the punches lacked strength.
"Quiet," he said sternly, grabbing onto her flicking tail and making her gasp. "We don't want to wake anyone up."
A gust of warmth ruffled his hair, drying him off as he stepped out of the shower. He grabbed his wand before stepping up to the bathroom's door and nudging it open to peek outside. Seeing no one, he hurriedly hauled the warm weight on his shoulder toward their bedroom.
"Oh Harry, I can't wait for you to ravage me," Fia said loudly, wriggling against him.
He smacked her bare bottom. "Shut it." The stupid handle wouldn't turn; he struggled with it before realizing the door wasn't latched and kicking it open.
She moaned sensuously. "I love it when you're rough like that."
"Quiet, minx," he growled, torn between amusement and exasperation. Striding into the moderately-sized bedroom, he unceremoniously heaved Fia onto the bed, causing the breath to expel from her lungs, then doubled back to lock and silence the door. "Why do you insist on annoying everyone?"
"Oh, I don't care about them in the least," she said, rolling on her back. "It's just highly amusing to watch you squirm as if you were an innocent stripling with not two decades under your belt." She paused in mock consideration. "I'm sorry, I keep forgetting you are one."
Tamping down his irritation, he lay his wand atop a bedside cabinet. "If you wanted me to fuck your brains out that bad, you should've just said so. There's no need to think up all these ways to rile me up."
"Don't flatter yourself," she scoffed. "I'm only using your grotesque appendage to scratch an itch, nothing more."
"Looks like another lesson on watching your mouth is in order." He walked up to the bed, his cock standing at attention. "Get over here."
Rolling away, she stuck out her long tongue. "Come and get me."
He growled. "If you insist." Reaching out, he clasped both of her horns and tugged.
"B-brute! Barbarian! Unhand me this instant!" Her bandaged arms flailed helplessly as he dragged her closer.
"Isn't this what you wanted?" He yanked her down to his bobbing cock. When her lips stubbornly remained closed, he rubbed it against her face, gripping her horns as she attempted to pull away. "I know you've been dying for a taste, you horny succubus."
"That's nothing but an ignorant myth—"
Her indignant exclamation cut off as Harry shoved his cock into her mouth, Fia reflexively loosening her jaw to avoid grazing it with her teeth. She made a muffled noise of protest; heedless, he began thrusting.
"Look at you slobber over my cock," he grunted. "The proper position for a slutty demoness like yourself."
Her misty eyes peered up, her slit pupils dilating. He felt her hot tongue swirl along his underside.
"Bet you've been fantasizing about this all day. Pretending to be tough, while creaming your kitty panties at the idea of being ravaged by a lowly human."
She made a noise and flicked her tail angrily, but could do little else while he fucked her throat with abandon.
"Here it comes. I'd tell you to swallow, but you'll do it anyway, won't you?" Keeping hold of one horn, he brushed the hair off her forehead. "My little cumslut."
There was no fight left in her glistening eyes as they peered at him expectantly, her nose buried in his pubes as she took him to the root. Her limber tail was curved, its spade tip between her legs, jerking rhythmically up and down.
Harry groaned as he spurted deep in her throat, not allowing her to pull back. He felt her swallow, again and again, until he was completely spent.
He let go of her horns, but she only drew back a fraction, keeping him in her mouth as she lapped at his member. Her upturned eyes sparkled in a challenge.
"Enough," he gasped, pushing her away.
Kneeling back, she coughed softly, licked her lips, and gave him a superior glance. "Wasn't that supposed to teach me a lesson? You didn't last five minutes in my mouth."
"I merely took mercy and let you drink the cum you so craved."
She grimaced. "As if I had much choice, with you manhandling my magnificent horns."
"Don't pretend you didn't love every second."
Climbing on the bed, he clasped her tail and brought its glistening tip up to her face. "What's this, then?"
She looked away, blushing. He grasped her cheeks, making her part her lips, and stuck the tip into her mouth. Fia's eyes widened in surprise, but he could see her hungrily taste herself before pulling her tail out, a trail of saliva connecting it with her lips. She shot him a halfhearted glare.
"That's right, get it nice and clean. I worked too hard washing you to let it go to waste. That reminds me..." He pushed her down, her breath escaping her lips. "You said I missed a spot. Where was it, again?"
He claimed her lips before trailing kisses down her neck and collarbone, her skin hot as if burning with a fever, smelling mildly of soap and her own spicy scent. She shivered as he kissed down the valley between her breasts.
"Was it here?" he murmured, blowing on a puckered nipple before taking it into his mouth.
She gasped, her bandaged hand rising to his head before retreating.
"Hmm. Maybe here?" He trailed his lips down to her navel, feeling her deceptively strong muscles ripple under her skin. "Or perhaps..."
Scooting lower still, he nudged her legs apart and peppered kisses up her inner thigh. He paused before her puffy mound, smooth save for a neat triangle of crimson curls above, her pink nether lips peeking out and glistening with arousal. Her breath hitched in anticipation, but he instead trailed kisses down her other thigh. She growled, reaching for his head, but her bandage-swaddled hands found no purchase in his hair. Wriggling, she freed her tail and wrapped his neck to lightly tug him up.
"What is it?" he asked, giving her tail a lick and making it loosen. "I'm still looking for your dirty spot."
"Here, foolish mortal," she said, impatiently tugging him closer.
"I'm just a foolish mortal." He traced light kisses around her cleft. "So I have trouble finding my way around."
"Just... touch me already!" She tilted her head forward to meet his eyes, her pupils dark with desire.
He hid his smile as he teased her folds apart, inhaled her heady scent, and pressed a kiss to her peeking clit. She gasped and arched her hips to prolong the contact, but he ventured lower, teasing her inner lips with the tip of his tongue. She mewled, her bandaged fingers scrabbling at his head.
"You'll hurt yourself," he chided, taking a moment to pin her hands to the blanket. "Keep still or I'll stop."
She whined but obeyed as he returned to his languid ministrations, delving deeper to lap at her intoxicating nectar. His tongue nice and wet, he flicked at her clit, glancing up to see her muffle a moan by biting her lip. Pleased, he left it alone in favor of teasing around her entrance.
Her tail bent, its tip sliding down her pubic hair. He intercepted it before it could reach its destination, holding on firmly to the smooth cord.
"You want it here that bad?" He swiped his tongue across her little nub. "Do you?"
"Yes," she gasped out.
"Well, I have other plans." He eased a finger inside her; to this day, her incredible heat never ceased to amaze him. At the same time, he brought the heart-shaped tip of her tail to his lips and ran his tongue along its edge.
Fia groaned, clenching around his finger. "You're the real demon here."
"You must be rubbing off on me," he said as he curled his finger inside her. "After all, we've been doing a lot of that."
"I hate—youuuu!" Her voice broke as he sucked lightly on her clit; feeling her clench, he switched back to teasing her tail. Her frustrated groan was music to his ears.
"You want to cum?" he said, stroking inside her. "Beg for it like the slut you are." He nibbled lightly on her tail.
"B-blasted mortal." She panted. "Just service me as is your lot in life."
He sighed exasperatedly. "I try to be nice, yet you keep acting up. You want to be punished, is that it?"
She jutted out her chin, but the display of defiance was lessened by her flushed face and heaving chest. "What are you going to do—lick me to death?"
"Maybe." His lips twisted, and he infused his voice with authority. "You're not allowed to climax."
Letting go of her twitching tail, he spread her apart for better access and laved her clit with his tongue, giving her everything she had been craving and more.
"Fuck," she said, writhing beneath him. "Yes, just like that..."
Her muscles tensed, relaxed, then tensed harder. Bucking her hips, she mashed her cunt to his mouth, but it was futile; her pleasure kept building and building, like a dammed river, yet found no release. He slipped in another finger for her to clench feverishly around and kept at it.
"By Luficer!" Her limbs thrashed, hands scrabbling at the sheets, her whimpers growing almost pained. "Let m-me—"
He replaced his tongue with his thumb, circling her quivering clit lightly but steadily. "Not till you ask properly, slut."
Her eyes were teary, her breath coming in ragged gasps. "Ple-please—"
Prying her legs farther apart, he returned to lapping at her exposed nub. She trembled, and a desperate moan swallowed her words. He worked a third finger into her throbbing cunt without breaking his rhythm.
"Master," she whimpered, "your slut... can't..." She sucked in a breath, her head tossing side to side. "P-please..."
"Cum." Sucking her clit into his mouth, he stroked her front wall with his fingers.
A scream erupted from her throat, and she arched like a bow, her thighs squeezing his skull. Her body convulsed as all the pent-up ecstasy crashed over her at once, her head tilting so far back her horns scraped the headboard. She gushed and spasmed around his fingers, and he could hear her primal cry even with her thighs crushing his ears.
He had been beginning to fear for his life when her legs at last loosened. Pulling away, he rolled his neck and admired her quivering form. He glanced at his right hand, slick with her juices, before stooping over Fia and brushing his thumb over her lip.
Her glassy eyes gazed at the ceiling, not acknowledging him, yet her lips parted obediently. He shoved his slick fingers inside, feeling her tongue roll around them in between gasps of breath. His cock twitched, rock-hard for a while now. Propping himself on an elbow, he reached back to angle it at her opening.
She stirred, her hazy eyes centering on his. "Impatient much?"
"Just taking what's mine," he whispered, slipping inside her scalding heat.
She gasped into his ear, her inner muscles squeezing as he penetrated her. Any thought of holding back fled his mind, and doing good on his promise, he took her as he pleased.
Fia moaned, locking her eyes with his, and he stooped to kiss her. She spread her knees to better accommodate him, her body molding to his as she returned the kiss hungrily.
He thrust deeper. Her hands snaked around his shoulders, pulling him closer, her laborious gasps hot on his face. Bending over her ear, he licked and nibbled his way toward the pointy tip.
She hooked her ankles around his waist, clinging to him tighter. He met her half-lidded eyes, nothing but lust in their dark depths.
"Yours," she breathed, tightening around him, "yours."
An involuntary groan erupted in his throat. He sped up for the last spurt, each thrust burying him deeper. The slick tip of her tail came up to caress his tightening balls.
"Harry," she moaned, "My master."
Her nails raked his back, and her legs clamped around his waist, the contractions of her inner walls coaxing out his release. Sheathing himself fully in her, he threw back his head and came with an animalistic cry. She clung to him desperately as he filled her with his seed, milking him for every last drop.
Slumping, he groaned into the nape of her neck. When her death hold on him loosened, he rolled off her and caught his breath. She snuggled into his chest, and he hugged her close, feeling an occasional tremor ripple through her. His eyes fluttered shut.
Chapter 10: Tomb Raiding, Part Four
Everyone awoke later than usual the next morning, which suited Harry just fine. After a quiet breakfast, the Curse-Breakers exited the tent to perform some tests—rolling steel balls down the corridor, pulling out measuring tapes, observing the swings of a pendulum—that he found mostly incomprehensible. While he didn't want to interfere with their work, Fia had no such compunctions, flitting around and bombarding them with questions.
"Is that a weapon?" she asked Hilda, who was tapping the wall with what looked like a crystal tuning fork, creating high-pitched chimes. "A torture device, to drive your victims mad from the sound?"
"I'll explain later, dear," Hilda said kindly, then shot Harry a glare. Really, that wasn't fair.
He rubbed his forehead and grumbled, "Leave the woman to her work, Fia."
"Alright," she chirped and pranced over to where he was slouching against the wall.
Bill's head turned at the unusual display of obedience. Harry offered him a weak smile, then eyed Fia. Her olive skin glowed warmly, and her hair had a healthy sheen to it. All in all, she looked more rejuvenated than ever since her involuntary dip in the swamp. Whereas he felt drained and had a crick in his neck.
"Damn succubus," he muttered. Most books mentioned the demons being able to steal humans' vitality, although none agreed on the extent. At least, given their pact, she wasn't capable of permanently harming him.
She clung to his arm and nuzzled against him like a cat. "You know how to service a woman, I'll give you that. If you enjoy the role that much, how about turning the reins over to me? I'd treat you well, for a servant."
"Keep running your mouth off, and I'll have to discipline you again."
She stood on her tiptoes to whisper into his ear. "Maybe that's what I want."
The corners of his lips twitched. "Maybe I'll think of something new that you won't enjoy quite as much."
She pressed her thighs together and squirmed, her tail flicking side to side. "Looking forward to it."
"Lovebirds!" Piotr bellowed. "Come listen!"
Wrenching his gaze away from her sparkling eyes and pouty lips, he took her by the elbow and rejoined the team. Bill rolled up a sheet of parchment with scribbles all over as he nodded at them.
"None of our measurements make the slightest bit of sense; hell, half contradict the other half. So, since we can't figure out the topology of the place at all, the logical conclusion would be that it isn't a space fold." He glanced victoriously at Piotr, who crossed his arms. "Our working hypothesis is that the enchantments alter our perception. At a really deep level too—most of us know at least a smidgen of Occlumency, but that obviously didn't help."
"A true believer would stroll straight through these catacombs, guided by their faith," Samuel added, pushing up his glasses, "while heathens like us flail around, blind as bats, believing to have advanced miles, when in truth wandering in circles. Ingenious."
Piotr scoffed, "If you right."
"Unless you have a better idea, we're going with the plan." Bill clapped once. "Break camp, people."
Several deft spells later the tent returned to Bill's enchanted rucksack and the Self-Adjusting Rope came out. They tied themselves into a file, Hilda at the front, and Harry at the very back just behind Fia.
"Führe meine Hand," Hilda chanted, raising the crystal fork high. "Zeig mir was verborgen ist." She struck the wall to her left, and a high, clear sound rang out, lingering in the air. Taking a couple steps, the others following after a beat, she struck again. "Führe meine Hand..."
Bill glanced over his shoulder and whispered, "Tenser's Tuner. It emits a pure sound always, unaffected by mundane interference nor magic. A hard-won artifact from one of Hilda's most storied digs."
Harry furrowed his brows. "Sound? How does that help us?"
"She reckons she can tell if she hits upon a hidden passage or even a curve in the wall by echo alone. Woman's a bloody genius." The rope tautened, and Bill took a hurried step, Fia and Harry following in turn. "Quiet now."
Step, ring, chant. Step, ring, chant. The peal of the tuning fork resounded again and again, resonating in his teeth, ringing in his ears long after the sound should've faded. Ahead of him, Fia's pointy ears kept twitching until she clamped her hands over them, sucking in air through her teeth.
Step, ring, chant. Hilda's voice never wavered. No one else spoke. Their steps acquired a mechanical efficiency, the rope between them remaining loose as they stepped exactly on the right time to follow the person ahead. It might've been ten minutes; it might've been five hours.
The crimson curtain of Fia's hair swished as she tilted her head curiously.
"Trap?" he asked, a little hoarsely.
She shook her head, raising a long-nailed finger to her lips. He strained his ears and tried to figure out what caught her attention.
"Führe meine Hand," Hilda chanted, and the tuning fork rang out, exactly the same as it had the last thousand times.
Fia glanced over her shoulder, smiling, then rolled her eyes. "You couldn't tell? Maybe I expected too much."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he hissed.
"Zeig mir was verborgen ist," Hilda sang, markedly louder than before, and Harry shut his mouth sheepishly.
Two more rings, with no difference that he could discern—then silence. He raised his foot machinely to step forward but bumped against Fia, who had remained still. Sticking his head out to peer at the front, he found Hilda tapping a stretch of wall with the tuning fork but producing no sound whatsoever.
"You... did it," Bill said dully, then laughed. "You really did it!"
"Nice, very nice work," Samuel said.
Piotr just grunted.
Fia cackled. "Not bad at all. I see not all of your kind is hopeless." She shot a meaningful glance back at Harry.
"Don't mention it," Hilda said, a little tiredly. Her weathered hand rose to brush the rough wall. "Hmm. Feels no different from the rest."
Samuel rapped it with his knuckles, eliciting dull thunks one would expect from solid stone. "Remarkable." He sniffed loudly, then raised a palm. "Not a hint of a breeze from the other side, no change in smell."
Bill liberated everyone from the rope, leaving them free to investigate. Along with Samuel and Piotr, he began casting diagnostic spells, while Hilda merely stared at the span of false wall with a thoughtful frown. Fia aimed a kick at it before losing interest and observing the men's spellwork with a snooty expression.
Hilda raised her tuning fork again and tapped the wall silently. "Sieh da!" she cried as her hand sank into the stone.
Harry rubbed his eyes. The wall had wavered for an instant, then returned to being perfectly solid again. An experimental poke of his finger only encountered damp, cold stone.
"I believe... yes," Hilda murmured, now sticking her arm through and making the wall blur slightly. "It's a matter of knowing, in your heart of hearts, that this is only an illusion."
"Simple," Piotr said, nodding curtly. He strode forward, smacked face-first into stone, and recoiled with a yelp.
"Yet effective," Samuel remarked.
Fia broke out in laughter. "You should've seen your face! Ah, watching clueless mortals fumble about is the best entertainment one could ask for."
"You go," Piotr growled, rubbing his nose with a peeved expression.
She bared her fangs. "Watch this."
Taking a deep breath, she glared at the wall as if daring it to stop her, then squeezed her eyes shut and stepped through. Everyone goggled as she vanished.
They waited. And waited some more.
"Reckon she got stuck on the other side," Harry said wryly. "No way would she miss the chance to come back and boast otherwise."
"Alright," Bill said, "get me through. We need someone with experience to check for danger first."
Hilda linked her fingers with Bill's and slipped through. Bill extended his free hand backward as he followed her. After a moment's hesitation, Piotr grabbed onto it, but it slid out of his grip when he bumped against the shimmering wall again.
Samuel gave him a distracted glance before adjusting his lapels absently and stepping right through with no aid. Harry tried to follow, but bumped against hard stone and exchanged a commiserating glance with Piotr.
"Excuse me, gents," Hilda said, emerging up to her shoulders, "Billy had an idea. Confundo, Confundo."
Harry blinked, trying to recall where he had put his wallet. They must be serving treacle tart in the Great Hall right now. There was a woman's head sticking from a wall, staring at him.
"You're not a house-elf," he accused.
"Entschuldigung," the woman said.
A hand appeared underneath her head, grasped his lapels, and yanked him in. He puckered his lips as was only polite in such a situation. The world spun upside down, then righted itself. The witch's head had grown herself a body. And friends.
"Oh, hello," he said brightly. Two of the friends were red-haired, and one had funny appendages upon her head. "Are you two sisters? I always wanted to get into a broomstick closet with two redheads."
The sister with shoulder-length hair and a fang earring raised her wand. "Finite."
Harry froze, realized he had been making kissy faces at Bill, and recoiled in horror. Fia, predictably, was laughing her delectable ass off. Upon regaining his own wits, Piotr clapped Harry's shoulder in silent sympathy.
"Bill—thanks, but fuck you." Harry massaged his temples. "Can't believe that worked."
Bill chuckled. "Hey, if it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid."
"A bit redundant for a statement, but truthful enough," Samuel murmured, looking around.
Harry cast a Lumos, his head still spinning from the disorientation. The light tore stretches of smooth stonework from the darkness: a hallway, but wider and straighter than the one they escaped. He turned around and did a double-take at a seemingly solid wall behind them.
"We can worry about getting back later," Bill said to his unspoken question. "It might be possible to disable the protections from the center of this place."
"We must be going in the right direction," Samuel said, peering ahead intently. "I'll say, look at this!"
"Samuel," Bill said, grasping him by the elbow. "We're all eager to be back on track, but do be careful."
The two took point, casting multicolored detection spells, with Hilda and Piotr following, their wands raised overhead to light the way. Harry and Fia didn't have much to do but trail leisurely behind.
It wasn't long before the Curse-Breakers paused to converse in an undertone, the light-bearers waving their wands wildly. Harry sidestepped to peek ahead. The corridor widened into what appeared to be a chamber, hidden by deep shadows.
Bill slung his rucksack off to retrieve a handful of candles, then proceeded to light them with taps of his wand and send them floating forward. Gradually, the true extent of the chamber was revealed.
"Goodness me," Samuel said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. "This is a goldmine!"
"Gold?" Fia asked, standing on her tiptoes to look over Bill's shoulder. "Where?"
"In a figurative sense, dear," Hilda said, sending her an amused look. "This should be safe enough, but just in case, stick to the middle of the room while we check things out."
Fia's tail wagged as she waited for the Curse-Breakers to filter inside, and Harry had to admit to some impatience as well; after three days of monotony, any change of scenery was a welcome prospect. When he and Fia finally entered the chamber proper, the Curse-Breakers having spread out in search of traps, he couldn't help but flinch.
Arrayed along the edges of the vast circular chamber loomed wooden idols of pagan gods, their crude, fractured forms casting ominous shadows in the wavering candlelight. Before each idol stood a low stone plinth with a bowl-shaped indentation, some still holding the remnants of age-old offerings. One spot was conspicuously empty, its unfortunate inhabitant long since decayed into wooden detritus. In the middle of the chamber stood a truncated pyramid of fieldstone, its top blackened with soot. On the opposite side was a rough stone door.
"The wood is in remarkably good condition, given its age," Samuel said, sketching the contours of a long-bearded man with a broad forehead onto a notebook. "This surly fellow here is Perkūnas, no doubt. We have just stumbled upon the best surviving depiction of the old Baltic gods."
"Safe," Piotr said, lowering his wand.
"Well, I should hope so," Samuel said, not turning to look. "This was a place of worship, after all."
"Yet the way ahead is barred," Bill remarked, tapping the stone door lightly.
"This place still rejects us," Hilda said, craning her neck at a curly-haired god holding an enormous mallet atop his shoulder. "We cheated to get his far."
Bill hummed thoughtfully. "Alright, there's no hurry. Let's take a break and consider what might get that door to open for us."
For British, a break meant tea, and thus Bill quickly boiled some water on a portable brazier and laid out a teapot, mugs, milk, sugar, and a basket of assorted sandwiches. Everyone knelt around to partake, save for Samuel, who kept wandering around the chamber taking sketches and murmuring under his breath. Yet hunger eventually took the better of him too, and he joined in, cramming half a sandwich into his mouth.
"I shink I mmph nh pff," he stated, lifting a finger.
"Swallow, dear," Hilda chided.
Samuel made an enormous gulp and said brightly, "That's what I always tell my wife!"
An incredulous silence descended, broken by Fia's giggle. She clamped a palm over her mouth, glared at Samuel, yet couldn't help but erupt in laughter. Harry cracked a smile, more at her antics than the joke.
"At least someone appreciated it," Samuel murmured.
"Try to pick a less off-color topic next time," Hilda advised, patting him on the knee. "Now, you were saying?"
"Ah, yes." Samuel adjusted his glasses. "My first thought was to present offerings to each god depending on their domain, but then I realized that the solution might be a lot simpler. That over there is an aukuras—a fire altar."
Everyone's gazes followed his extended finger toward the small pyramid in the middle of the chamber.
"So we just light a fire atop?" Bill asked, rising to his feet.
"That would be the gist of it, yes." Samuel quickly finished his food and brushed the crumbs off his lap. "There is ceremony to be observed, although I can't imagine anything too complicated. Washing up before approaching and acting with respect should be enough. Would you give me a hand with that, William?"
Bill launched a stream of water from his wand. Samuel rinsed off his hands and face, then approached the altar. He paused before it to sketch an awkward bow, then flourished his wand. A jet of blue fire shot out, sticking to the top of the pyramid and bathing the room in its cold azure hue.
The door didn't so much as budge.
"I should have known." Samuel scooped the blue flames into a conjured jar to hang from his belt. "An artificial fire won't do, and neither, I suspect, would conjured wood." Leaning over the altar, he blew on it, raising a cloud of soot. "I don't suppose you brought any kindling, William?"
Bill shook his head. "Sorry. Standard enchanted cook gear, as you well know."
"Oh no, the fault squarely lies with me. I should have stocked up on things like these before we delved into the barrow, but my excitement took the better of me." Samuel scratched his nose, blinking owlishly. "An experienced practitioner could duplicate even the tiniest quantity of wood, and the result should still be considered genuine. We need but a twig... or even something as simple as a wooden comb. Ladies?"
"Don't look at me," Hilda said, raking her fingers through her short hair. "These don't need much primping, and not to brag, but I'm a deft hand at cosmetic Charms."
Everyone exchanged glances. Piotr ran his hand over his bald scalp, making Harry chuckle. Bill stared pointedly at Fia until she snorted and tossed her head back.
"I don't need primitive tools to maintain my exquisite looks."
Piotr snorted. "You look like drowned rat before Hilda fix you."
Fia rounded on him. "Keep yapping and I'll fix your face, zalupa."
Bill hid a smile. "Alright, cool it. Save the fights for when we get out of here. Anyone have any bright ideas on that front?"
Harry cast his gaze over the plinths before the idols. "Would any of these gods have taken anything wooden as offerings?"
Everyone stared at him, then at the plinths. Most held little but grime, but there was a glint of metal atop the one before the mallet-wielding god, and what appeared to be rotting leather atop the next one.
"Good thinking, lad," Samuel said, already striding to scrutinize the offerings. "It's worth a try, even if I can't think of any offerings that would be suitable for our needs. Even Gabija, the fire spirit, was traditionally offered bread and salt... honey, water... flowers, certainly..." His voice faded to a murmur as he poked at some detritus with his wand.
They spread out, lighting their wands for better visibility. Harry suppressed a shiver as he stooped to rifle through what once might've been fruit or berries, imagining the stern idol looking at him with condemnation from above. The god hadn't been real, he told himself. Just something created by a long-dead people.
There was a clatter, and he turned to find Fia dumping an armful of crumbling wood atop the altar. Everyone's heads turned her way. She dusted off her palms and laid them on her hips proudly.
Samuel furrowed his brows. "Young lady, where did you find this?"
"That corner right there," she said, jabbing her thumb over her shoulder. "Your mortals' eyesight must be feeble indeed to miss something that obvious." She aimed an open palm at the pile. "Anyway, we just need to set this on fire, right?"
Harry raised his hand. "Don't—"
"I'm not stupid," she said, rolling her eyes, "I won't use hellfire for this. Shrrax."
Warm, orange flames blossomed under her fingers before hurtling toward the altar. Samuel's dismayed exclamation and Hilda's warning were swallowed by a whoosh of hot air and the crackling of wood as it ignited with supernatural swiftness.
Everyone froze. A grinding of stone resounded, and their heads whipped toward the door. A gap had opened at the bottom, widening gradually as the entire slab of stone rose into the ceiling.
"See?" Fia said smugly. "And you call yourselves—"
A wolf's howl echoed somewhere in the distance. Another joined in before the first faded, then several more, growing in volume until it sounded like hundreds of wolves on a hunt. The harsh, discordant sound bounced off the walls, making the back of Harry's neck prickle. Then it faded the same way it had started, with the voices dropping gradually until only one remained.
"Scheiße," Hilda exclaimed, raising her wand.
Samuel dabbed at his forehead with a handkerchief as he stared at the merrily crackling fire. "A major goddess is missing—Žvorūna. That debris must've been all that remained of her idol."
Piotr growled. "Stupid girl burn pagan god!" He ran to the slowly opening door and squatted to shine a light beyond.
Fia appeared even more pleased with herself. "I did? Ha! Take that, ugly gods!"
Bill trained his wand on her. "You... did this on purpose, didn't you?"
She scowled and opened her mouth, but the chorus of howls echoed again, its crescendo rattling their bones and making the idols shake as though in anger.
"Save your recriminations, Billy," Hilda said. "We have bigger things to worry about. Something's coming our way, and it doesn't sound happy."
"This isn't over." Glowering, Bill aimed at the corridor they had come from and raised his voice. "Piotr, Samuel, scout ahead! Hilda, Harry—you're with me! We'll hold the line!"
"What about me?" Fia asked, strutting in the direction the howls were coming from with unconcerned curiosity.
"You try not to bollocks things up any further!" Bill waved her impatiently out of the line of fire between them and the corridor.
Fia jabbed a finger at him, her lips moving in an angry retort, but not a word could be heard through the blaring howls. The noise spiked until Harry could take it no longer and pressed his hands over his ears. The floor began to tremble as though with the steps of a giant.
Shadows stirred in the corridor, and out of them burst an enormous four-legged beast. Its nails scraped sparks from the floor as it skidded to a halt. Raising its metallic hackles, it howled like a thousand wolves; dust rained off the ceiling, the fire on the altar wavered, and most of the floating candles went out, plunging the chamber into twilight.
Harry's jaw sagged as he took an involuntary step backward. The howl diminished, and the iron wolf turned its head to consider them with an empty eye-socket.
"Incredible," Samuel exclaimed behind them.
"Focus, professor!" Piotr yelled.
The wolf's crude ears twitched, and it lunged with predatory grace. Harry reacted without thinking, a jet of turquoise light leaving his wand—but along with Bill's and Hilda's hexes, it bounced off the wolf's breast. The beast hurtled towards them unimpeded, all sharp angles and fury, but at the last moment, Fia sprang up to meet it mid-air. Her kick rebounded with an echoing clang, and she crashed into Hilda, but the wolf too fell backward.
Iron claws raked the floor as the beast staggered. One of its thick legs caught on the altar, scattering embers and fieldstones across the floor. The chamber darkened further as the fire went out. Stone grated on stone.
"Door close!" Piotr bellowed.
"Hold it up," Harry snapped at Fia.
A crimson blur shot past him, and the grating noise lessened. He pummeled the wolf with increasingly malicious curses, but they glanced off the interlocking plates that made up its hide, as did Bill's and Hilda's more exotic spells. A jet of acidulous green went on to bounce off the wall and zoom back at Hilda, melting the idol behind her into sludge. Harry's wand stilled in hesitation.
The wolf pounced. Lightning arced from Bill's wand at its airborne form, doing little but blind them, and it was only thanks to Harry's desperate Knockback Jinx that it smacked into him with its flank rather than spearing him with its dagger-like teeth.
Air left Harry's lungs as he skidded over the floor. Groaning, he pushed himself up. Bill was slumped against the wall, blood trickling down his temple, Hilda kneeling beside to help him. Fiamette trembled as she struggled to hold up the half-closed door. Samuel's white face peered from beyond, while only Piotr's lower half was visible, his thick fingers hooked underneath the stone slab to add his strength to hers.
The wolf's head swiveled between them before centering on Bill and Hilda, its hindquarters coiling like a spring. Harry aimed his shaking wand at the idol above the pair.
The idol toppled, smacking the lunging beast's snout with a metallic clang. Snarling, the wolf tore into it, scattering wood chips across the floor. Hilda used the opportunity to sling Bill's arm over her shoulder and drag him to the door.
The idol fell to the floor in two halves, and the wolf unleashed a howl that shook the chamber. Fia had collapsed to one knee, keening as the descending slab bore down on her, wings bulging under her robes. Hilda slung Bill off unceremoniously and pushed him through the shrinking gap, Samuel pulling from the other side, then aimed her wand at the advancing wolf.
"O-over here." Harry cleared his throat. "Oi!"
The wolf kept stalking toward the door. He sketched the beginning of a Blasting Curse, then thought better of it, and levitating one of the loose fieldstones, banished it at the wolf's rump. The stone smashed into the iron plates in a flare of sparks; the beast snarled, turning around with a whine of unoiled iron.
A bloodcurdling scream drew its attention back to the door. Fia had collapsed to all fours while numerous hands on the other side struggled to keep the stone slab from crushing her. Sparks erupted from under the beast's claws as it raced toward her.
"Go!" Harry yelled, reinforcing the order with a Banishing Charm.
He met Fia's wide eyes an instant before the spell connected and shoved her through, the door slamming shut in a plume of dust. A second crash followed as the wolf smashed into the stone. The beast lurched back, bent iron plates scraping against each other, and slowly faced Harry. Regarding him with empty eyes, it threw its head back and howled.
The thick stone muffled the howl the way the illusionary wall hadn't, but everyone still cast wary glances at the closed door. Hilda propped Bill against a wall, and Piotr proceeded to dress his scalp wound and feed him a potion, while Samuel tapped the door with his wand.
Fia rose unsteadily to her feet and staggered up to the door. "You... fool." Rearing back her arm, she punched. The impact was resounding, but when she recoiled with a pained cry, there was no mark on the stone save a bloody imprint of her knuckles.
"Physical invulnerability," Samuel noted before resuming his work.
Fia panted for air and cradled her hand as she watched him wave his wand.
Hilda walked up and laid a palm on her shoulder. "If anyone can crack these protections, it's Sammy."
Bill braced himself against the wall to stand and joined them. Despite the fresh bandage on his head, his wand moved steadily as it traced shapes over the doorway. Muffled crashes from the other side reached their ears, but they seemed to be dwindling.
"Tried Transfiguration yet?"
"Of course I tried, William—tried being the key word. Look at the matrix here..." A tangle of multicolored lines lit up at Samuel's gesture.
"Weaved into the stone itself." Samuel shook his head. "Impossible to disenchant in any reasonable timeframe."
Bill clenched his jaw. "Brute force?"
"I would suggest experimenting with something light, given the earlier result."
Bill aimed at an angle. "Flipendo."
A blue jet of light bounced off the door and went on to ping-pong along the walls, making Piotr duck and swear, until fizzling out. Bill exchanged a glance with Samuel, and his shoulders slumped.
Piotr folded his arms. "This why taking newbie dangerous."
"If it weren't for that young man, we wouldn't have made it through the door," Hilda said, shaking her head.
"Damn it." Bill kicked at the door. "We ought to be the experienced ones, the smart ones, the ones who protect him! What the hell was that thing, Samuel? Even Egyptian tomb guardians aren't that resistant to magic!"
"Something from a city-founding myth," Samuel said softly, gazing into space. "Perhaps this iron wolf is what gave rise to the legend, or perhaps the builders of this place were inspired by the legend to construct it. An incredible discovery either way."
Bill growled and grabbed him by the lapels, but when Samuel merely raised his eyebrows, his hands lost strength. He raked his fingers through his hair. "Sorry. I just... There must be something we can do."
"We could rush ahead in hopes we come across an exit or a means to disable the protections," Samuel said.
"No," Bill said firmly. "I'm not getting the rest of my team killed by running head-first into a trap."
Hilda nodded. "Quite right. Had you suggested that I would've knocked you out myself." Her lined face didn't betray much emotion, but the knuckles of the fingers gripping her stubby wand were white.
"Then I see no other option," Samuel said. "Breaking through this door would take hours at best—days, more likely—and by that time Mr. Potter will have... well."
There was a snort. Bill turned to where Piotr was redoing the bandages on Fia's hands, and his eyes narrowed. "Get away from her."
Piotr gave him a questioning glance but stepped aside.
"You planned this, didn't you?" Bill said, lifting his wand. "Triggering the defenses. Separating him from us. From you."
Samuel looked from him to Fia with befuddlement, while Piotr slowly aimed his own wand at her.
Fia sneered. "And why would I do that, you blithering cretin?"
"Simple. If he perishes, you'll be... loose."
At those words, even Hilda straightened up and fingered her wand, only Samuel blinking confusedly at the proceedings.
Fia tossed her head back and laughed. It wasn't a happy sound. "Whatever scraps of knowledge you've gleaned from your dusty scrolls clearly isn't enough. True, we steal, we deceive, and we stab one another in the back to achieve our goals, but..." She shook her head. "You don't truly understand us."
"Then help me understand," Bill snarled, light pooling at the tip of his wand.
Fia's eyes flashed with an inner fire. "I refuse to waste my breath."
Ignoring their outstretched wands, she walked up to the door and took a deep breath. Before anyone could utter a word, she punched hard at the wall beside it. With a crack, a hairline fracture spread through the rock. She punched again. And again.
"What are you doing?" Bill asked.
"If you can't. Open the door. You make. A new one." Wet squelches now accompanied the smacks of her fists, but she didn't slow down. "Stupid. Mortals."
"You're... you're just pretending to care," Bill said, but his wand wavered.
She didn't say a word, whimpering with every hit. Blood soaked her bandages and dripped to the floor. Thin cracks expanded through the stone, but not a single fragment had crumbled off yet.
"Enough. Enough, dear." Hilda hugged her from behind, pushing her hands down. "Even if we tear down the wall..."
"Don't lump my master with you lot," she panted, wriggling feebly against her hold. "A weakling wouldn't have been able to subjugate me."
Hilda drew back, sympathy shining in her eyes. "Let us take over. It'll take time, but we'll get through, I swear." She swiveled her head. "Won't we, gents?"
"I... we owe it to Harry to try if nothing else." Bill sighed, lowered his wand, then swung off his rucksack. "At least the wall's not immune to damage... If we keep chipping away at it, we're bound to break through eventually."
"Simple solution best," Piotr said sagely. "Start think how fight volk also."
Bill submerged in his rucksack up to the waist before surfacing with a small hammer. "This is the best I've got. Engorgio." He yelped as it grew to the size of a sledgehammer, and the massive head slammed to the floor.
"Eat more meat, Weasley." Plucking the hammer out of his hands, Piotr hefted it up with a grunt and swung at the wall. A puff of dust rose, and a sliver of rock fell to the floor.
Bill backed away from the swinging hammerhead. "We'll have to conjure anything else, and I'm no good at that, I'm afraid."
"I believe I can help." Samuel brandished his wand. "Extodolabrus! My goodness, that's not right... Was it Exoriodolabrus? It's been so long since I used this one..."
Hilda tapped him on the shoulder. "Could you conjure me a hardwood log, Sammy?"
He blinked at her. "A small one, certainly, if you're not fussy about the type."
She rolled up her sleeves. "Please do. I'll put on the finishing touches myself."
"Forgive me for asking, but what good will a log be in this situation?" Samuel flourished his wand even as he spoke.
"I'm making something." Her lips stretched into a smile. "A battering ram."
Harry wiped the blood trickling from the corner of his mouth and glared at the iron wolf. It circled the chamber, its paws landing on the floor with deceptive placidity, until its legs flexed to propel it toward him. Jabbing his wand sideways, he brought down one of the few remaining idols, and the aged wood met the beast in an explosion of splinters.
Shielding his face, he backtracked as the beast shook itself off, none the worse for the wear except minor dents in its armor. No spell he had thrown had as much as scratched its hide, but physical attacks at least kept it away. Binding it in chains might've worked, but alas, he hadn't inherited his father's talent for transfiguration.
Before the beast could pounce, he jabbed his wand at the stones on the floor and banished them one by one, gritting his teeth in frustration as they clanged off the iron plates. A gap between them, too small to hit while the wolf was on the move, drew his eye. Perhaps, if he could get closer...
Glancing around, he tossed the last two standing idols at the beast, the impacts knocking it to the opposite side of the chamber. While it tore the wood apart in animalistic rage, he slipped his robes off and wound them around his right hand, transferring his wand to his left.
"Duro," he said, pointing at the robes.
His right arm sagged under the weight of what was now cold, hard stone. Taking a deep breath, he visualized a candle flame within himself, burning brighter and brighter. Heat infused his limbs, chasing away fatigue and pain, and his lips curled into a violent snarl. With practiced ease, he sought out the Occlumentic tranquility to counterbalance the battle-lust.
The wolf's claws scraped the floor as it freed itself from the rubble. Harry raised his right hand.
"Bring it on, tin can."
With a cacophonous growl, the wolf barreled at him. He planted his feet and met it head-on, shoving his stone-encased hand at its snarling jaws. Dagger-like teeth crunched down, pulverizing the stone, as the impact drove Harry backward. His knees buckled from strain, and he sank to the floor. Looming over him, the wolf bit down, and he cried out as the daggers sank into his flesh.
Forcing his teary gaze away from its jaws, Harry thrust his wand into the gap between the bent plates of its foreleg. "Confringo!"
The blast blew them apart, Harry's back slamming into the wall while the wolf skidded backward. His ears rang, and something hot trickled down the back of his neck. Blinking through red afterimages, he fumbled for the wand that the explosion had wrenched out of his fingers. It was nowhere in sight.
Metal jangled as the wolf rose on its three legs, only a mangled stump remaining of the fourth. A cacophony of snarls erupted from its muzzle as it limped closer, blood dripping from its teeth.
Despite the fear clenching his heart, Harry's lips curled into a sneer. He slammed his right hand at the wall behind, breaking off the remaining stone, and stooped to pick up an arm of a broken idol. The candle flame inside him burgeoned into a roaring blaze, and the dim chamber suddenly was brighter to his eyes.
The wolf tossed its head back and howled before pouncing in an ungainly leap. His improvised club exploded into splinters upon its breast, blowing it backward. His muscles burned, imbued with more power than he had ever dared draw upon, but he ignored the pain, discarding the broken weapon in favor of another one. The wolf attacked again.
Charging iron met wood and was repelled, once more leaving him weaponless. His gaze darted around before homing in on the wolf's severed limb: a hollow pillar of iron, rigid and lifeless, tapering into sharp claws. Hearing iron scrape the floor, he rolled out of the beast's way and sprang toward the limb. Gripping its thicker end, he lunged and impaled the wolf above the joint of its hind leg.
The wolf yowled and snapped at him, but its jaws closed on air as its hind leg gave with a screech. Grabbing onto its flank with one hand, Harry used the other to drive the severed limb deeper.
The wolf thrashed, throwing him to the floor on his back. It hobbled toward him with ferocious persistence, iron plates breaking off around the ruined joint. Harry tried to kick himself out of the way, but the wolf pinned him, its maw closing over his throat.
His hands shot up to hold it back, razor-sharp incisors slicing them before his fingers found a safer spot. His muscles trembled. The wolf bore down, closing its jaws another inch and bringing its teeth toward his neck. A whimper escaped his throat as he sought any reserves of strength and came up empty.
He'd been cocky. A lucky victory over a demoness and a smidgen of power he acquired left him feeling invulnerable. Yet look at him—about to die to a guardian protecting gods long-forgotten. After coming across his corpse, she would no doubt mock him for his weakness.
The daggers grazed his flesh, and a chorus of growls resonated in the wolf's bowels as though trumpeting its impending victory. He gritted his teeth so hard his jaw ached. A responding growl rumbled in his chest as something primal rose within him. Heedless of the blades slashing his fingers, he tightened his grip on the jaws and pulled, his muscles bursting with a strength they were not built to handle.
The wolf's growl cut off and it drew back. Before he knew what he was doing, Harry wrapped his legs around its neck. It shook its head, but he held on fast. Smash. His vision grew hazy as he was slammed into the floor, but he only clung on tighter. Any measure of Occlumentic rationality was long lost, and only single-minded determination remained. Smash. Blood poured over his right eye. Snarling, he bent forward and wrenched the jaws apart with all he had. Through the ringing in his skull, he heard a screech of iron. The wolf convulsed. Smash.
He slipped off onto the floor, sinking and sinking even though he lay atop cool stone. The iron wolf swayed above him, its mangled jaws consuming his vision. Then there was only darkness.
Chapter 11: Tomb Raiding, Part Five
Harry cracked open one eye, the other glued shut, and saw nothing but black. His nose was clogged, and his mouth tasted of copper. He was very cold.
So he was alive.
Why was that strange, again?
He blinked. His brain felt too large for his skull. He tried to move. His fingers twitched, but he couldn't feel his legs.
There was light, just a little, then voices.
"Mein Gott. It's not moving."
"Look at that damage." A low whistle. "How in the name of Merlin..."
A snort. "Told you."
"I see blood. Quick, widen the hole—"
Pebbles clattered onto the floor. There were racing footsteps, and then Fia was kneeling at his side and lifting his head into her lap. Her violet eyes peered at him with concern.
"You..." His lips cracked painfully in a grin. "Came back... for me."
"Hmph. This is but a passing interest in an admittedly remarkable example of your pathetic species." Her gaze roved over him as she spoke.
"He's... he's alive! Wingardium Leviosa." Metal groaned, and Harry felt something shift. "Blast it, this thing must weigh a ton—help me out!"
Other voices echoed the incantation, and Harry gasped as an immeasurable weight slid off his lower half. His head spun in a sudden bout of dizziness, his heart fluttering. Bright lights shone at his face, making him squint his sole functioning eye.
He drifted in and out of consciousness as strong hands peeled off his blood-soaked clothes and poured a foul-smelling liquid over his wounds. Then he was in a well-lit tent, and Piotr was holding a vial to his lips. He swallowed spasmodically, too exhausted to grimace at the sickly-sweet taste of Blood Replenisher. Piotr flourished his wand over his legs, swore, flourished it again. Then came another potion, and another. Someone swaddled him in a blanket. Throughout it all, Fia hovered nearby, observing.
"Done," Piotr said tiredly. His large hand patted Harry's shoulder. "He hurt bad, but he live."
Harry tried to protest that he felt wonderful, warm and comfortable and not the slightest bit in pain, but overtaken by sudden drowsiness, he couldn't seem to form the words. Meeting Fia's keen gaze, he smiled—she averted her gaze, looking oddly uncomfortable—before sleep claimed him.
Harry awoke from the sound of clinking dishes. His gaze darted around, taking in a white privacy screen partitioning the couch he lay on from the rest of the tent. A smell of sandalwood tickled his nose, and he turned his head to find Fia snoozing at his side, dressed in kitty-print pajamas.
The bandages on her arms appeared fresh, thicker around her knuckles, and soaked through with a salve. She had appropriated most of his blanket, but her body emanated enough heat so that he didn't feel cold despite his state of undress. Glancing down, he discovered a bandage across his chest, and another when he raised his hand.
His stomach gurgled. Outside, the clinking of utensils and the muted hum of voices went on. He rose gingerly to a seated position, groaning as his sore muscles protested the movement.
Fia's ears twitched and her eyes flew open. She knelt up, took him by the shoulders, and looked him over. "Are you well? Have your wounds healed yet?" As if catching herself, she looked away and smoothed down her pajama top. "Really, you mortals get banged up so easily. Do you need anything?"
He licked his parched lips. "Water. Food."
She smiled widely, sprang to her feet, and shoved aside the screen. "Oi, minions! My master requires sustenance!"
A stunned silence fell as Bill, Piotr, Hilda, and Samuel turned to goggle. Everyone began speaking at once. Upon proving he could stand on his own power, Harry was gently ushered into a chair that everyone crowded around.
"It's good to see you up and about, mate," Bill said, looking immensely relieved.
Hilda placed a bowl of porridge before him. "Eat up, dear."
"You stupid wizard." Piotr clapped his shoulder. "But brave. Good you come with us."
"Indubitably," Samuel said.
Grinning, Harry pulled the steaming bowl closer, picked up a spoon, and dug in. He hadn't been lying: he was ravenous. As he reached toward a mug of tea with his left hand, he froze. A third of his ring finger was missing, ending in a stump below the first joint.
Piotr grunted apologetically. "That bit crushed like farsh. Can't reattach."
"Oh." Harry lifted his hand and stared. How peculiar. He had been missing a part of himself and hadn't even noticed.
"If you jerk with other hand, not problem, yes?"
"Piotr, really." Hilda slapped his upper arm.
Piotr opened his mouth, but Harry laughed, interrupting whatever he was going to say. "It's fine. A reminder not to get overconfident in the future." Hooking his remaining fingers around the handle, he brought the cup to his lips.
"Excuse me, young man, but I've been burning with curiosity ever since yesterday. However did you manage to defeat the iron wolf?" Heedless of Hilda's glare, Samuel peered owlishly at Harry. "Not that I doubt your skill with a wand, but it's precisely because wands weren't doing us much good that has me contemplating what method you employed. My idea—regrettably belated—was to transfigure a construct of my own, but we saw nothing to suggest that was the approach you used. Why, it almost looked like you fought with your bare hands!"
Harry opened his mouth, then closed it again. "I have my ways."
Bill's eyes narrowed at Fia. Whatever was going through his mind was probably not too far off the mark: Harry had ingested her blood in a ritual so he could channel a smidgen of demonic magic. Never hellfire, not with his Peverell heritage, but he could strengthen his body to the point where he punched harder than Dudley's the boxing champion. He grinned at the memory of rupturing the punching bag in the gym Dudley frequented.
Samuel threw up his arms. "Goodness, do you youngsters have to act so mysterious all the time? The puzzle will keep me awake all night."
"We'll find you something else to puzzle over," Hilda said. "The end is near, I feel it in my bones."
Harry swallowed a mouthful of porridge. "It is?"
Bill answered, "There was light at the end of the corridor that looked natural, even though my watch said it was midnight. Might be the center of this place, might be a second exit. We didn't risk scouting further and ended up setting up camp in the idol chamber."
He nodded. "Shall we check it out today?"
Bill exchanged a look with Piotr, who shrugged. "You sure you're up for it?"
Furrowing his brows, he rolled his shoulders. "I'm sore all over, but if there won't be another iron wolf to fight, I'm good to go."
Piotr chuckled. "And yesterday I say you sleep for two days."
"Youth," Hilda said wistfully. "Back in my day, I could dismantle half the wards on a tomb and still have enough left in me to take on a horde of Inferi."
"No such thing as an old Curse-Breaker," Bill said, grinning. "We just get tougher and smarter. Couldn't have gotten this far without you, Hilda."
She batted her lashes at him. "You're charmer, Billy. Were I two decades younger..."
Harry laughed with the rest, relishing the companionship.
The mood was upbeat as they finished breakfast and prepared to delve deeper into the dungeon. Harry ducked into the bathroom to wash up, then struggled to thread his arms through the sleeves of a new shirt until Fia barged in and helped, not missing the opportunity to make fun of his feeble constitution.
When he exited the tent at the heels of the Curse-Breakers, he was greeted by the sight of repaired idols towering around the chamber and the altar standing in its middle. Only the heap of dead iron yards away remained a silent testament to yesterday's battle. The interlocking plates were rife with scratches and dents, gleaming dully in wand-light.
Fia kicked at the wolf's rump, and a gong-like noise echoed throughout the chamber. "I can't believe something this pathetic nearly ended you. Your fangs have grown dull during this year of peace."
"I didn't see you doing so well either."
Fia huffed. "It would've taken me but a minute to turn this construct into scrap." She gave him a hesitant glance. "Yet you sent me to safety... why?"
"I'm not sure," he said slowly. "Don't look too deeply into it. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision."
"It was stupid," she said, averting her gaze. "Had you gotten yourself killed, I would've found a way to call your soul back just so I could mock your idiocy."
He frowned. "Hey, I handled myself just fine."
"That would sound more convincing if you hadn't painted half the room in your blood." She pursed her lips, still not looking at him. "But yes... I'll admit it was a worthy victory."
He studied her profile, her lightly flushed cheeks, while she seemed to take a great interest in the wolf. At length, he turned to watch the Curse-Breakers squeeze themselves through a hole beside the door, pebbles crunching under their feet. Shadows danced on the ceilings as their wand-lights went through one by one.
Piotr glanced back and motioned them to follow. Harry trudged up, eyeing the hole with interest. The wall was at least a foot thick, the edges jagged, the comprising stones broken into pieces rather than ripped out whole.
"What was it like after we were separated?" he asked, squeezing through.
Behind him, Fia made a noise of contempt. "The usual: mortals yapping uselessly until I set them straight. They wouldn't have gotten anywhere if it weren't for me."
Grinning wryly, he decided not to point out that if it weren't for her, they wouldn't have run afoul of the dungeon's guardian either. "Thanks, I guess. Didn't know you cared."
"Like I said yesterday," she said, dusting her robes off, "this is but a passing interest. Don't get too full of yourself."
"Yeah, yeah." As Bill and Samuel took point and began creeping along the straight hallway, Harry's eyes lingered on a thick log capped with steel that was bent badly out of shape. "Kastellbrecher," he murmured, looking up.
Hilda caught his eye and gave him a wink. He grinned in response until Fia clung to his arm with enough force to make his bruises hurt. He winced, but let it slide.
They strolled onward at a leisurely pace while the Curse-Breakers made sure the way ahead was clear. It wasn't long before their surroundings began growing brighter.
Standing on his tiptoes, Harry squinted at the warm light ahead, the Curse-Breakers' figures casting long shadows on the floor. A slight breeze tickled his face, carrying scents of wildflowers. Hilda and Piotr extinguished their wands. Everyone's steps quickened as what looked like the exit loomed closer.
"Blimey," Bill said, stepping into the light, "it's enormous."
Samuel chuckled thinly. "Still think space expansion was beyond them, eh, William?"
"Guess I owe you that Galleon."
A silence fell until Fia tiptoed closer and whinged, "Hurry up!" She seemed about to shove the nearest back onward before realizing it belonged to Samuel and shrinking away.
"Right," Bill said. "Right... it should be safe. Come on through."
The remaining Curse-Breakers filtered out of the corridor, clearing the path for Fia and Harry. He stepped into the light, his feet leaving hard stone and sinking into grass—real, green grass—and shaded his eyes to look around.
A lush meadow sprinkled with wildflowers stretched before them. It was bisected by a burbling stream and had a cluster of thick oaks looming at its center. The sunlight beating down on him was emitted by a ball of fire directly at the top of the dome of the sky overhead. Following the stream with his gaze, he saw it disappear into a hole in the dome not too far away. He rubbed his eyes as the realization set in.
"The place is artificial," he murmured.
Fia stooped to pluck a stalk of grass and nibbled on the end. "Seems real enough."
"Oh, it's real alright," Samuel said, gazing around in awe. "This is no mere burial mound... It's the last sanctuary of a dying religion."
"That's all fine and good, but where's the gold?" she asked grumpily. "Precious jewels, powerful artifacts, weapons?"
Piotr jabbed a thumb back the way they came. "There was powerful weapon. Your boyfriend break it."
"As is only proper when a dumb beast bears its fangs at you." Her tone was proud, as if she had been the one to defeat the wolf.
"Don't get discouraged, dear," Hilda said. "If this is a secret temple, there should be more than grass and trees. Places like this always hold surprises."
"Often unwelcome ones, unfortunately." Bill waved his wand in a broad arc, and a wave of yellowish energy burst out, ruffling the grass as it extended in every direction. He put his hand to his ear. "No pings."
"Let's us proceed, then," Samuel said, rubbing his hands. "A surviving sacred grove is a rare enough sight in the region. To find one underground is unheard of! I'll be the envy of my colleagues across the continent."
"Don't be too hasty," Bill said, but he too was already drifting toward the copse of oaks. "Too many Curse-Breakers perish in the last leg of the expedition because they get complacent."
"I believe all of us here know that, Billy," Hilda said gently.
Bill's cheeks reddened a bit. "The warning's mostly meant for our young employer and his... companion." He glanced back at Harry and Fia. "Don't touch anything without our approval. Please."
Fia glowered and opened her mouth, but Harry squeezed her hand. "Don't worry, Bill. I'll be keeping a tight rein on her."
Her frown was chased away by a toothy grin. "Why, master," she purred into his ear, "just how do you plan on doing that?"
He gave her a stony stare. "Down, girl. I'm still recovering."
"Oh? I watched Big-Nose treat you, and I don't remember any important parts being injured." Her palm slid up his thigh before cupping his crotch.
He shivered, his eyes darting around to make sure the others weren't watching, then seized her wrist. When she made to pull back, he grasped her horn and yanked her head back. His muscles ached, but the widening of her eyes and the parting of her lips to draw in a sharp breath were worth it.
"Watch it," he growled, "or I just might make the reining-in literal."
Her fang grazed her lower lip, her cheeks coloring. "Why, if that's how you want to play, I'm up for it any time. Just borrow some rope from the ginger."
Shaking his head ruefully, he let go. "You'll be the death of me."
"Certainly, if you grow complacent." Her eyes sparkled. "If you're tired of being on your guard, you're always welcome to release me from your service."
"Keep dreaming." He smacked her arse, making her squeal and rub it. Ahead, Piotr glanced over his shoulder at the noise. Harry waved him on and hastened to catch up.
They walked across the virgin grass craning their necks at the curve of the dome and the nearing trees. The oaks' trunks were stocky and heavy with branches, the dense foliage providing welcome shade from the manufactured sunlight.
A carpet of dead leaves replaced the grass under their feet, and the gurgle of the stream faded as did the barely-there breeze. No one spoke, their steps slowing as they entered the grove proper.
The oaks were arrayed in three vast concentric circles around a small clearing. At its center, the artificial sun shone down onto another fieldstone altar that burned with a smokeless, barely visible fire. A rectangular plinth stood nearby, draped over with a fraying brown cloth, atop which lay a set of white robes and a long, gnarled staff with a hooked end.
Samuel gasped. "Oh, Hilda, you were more right than you know. Unless I'm much mistaken, that over there is the regalia of the last Kriwe-Kriwajto—the high-priest of the Baltic pagans. This would make this place Romuva, their legendary temple."
Fia's nose wrinkled. "But where's the treasure?"
"Not all treasure is gold," Bill said. "But I confess, this does seem a little underwhelming."
"Underwhelming?" Samuel cried, adjusting his glasses. "To a layman, perhaps. Do you truly feel nothing standing here, before the very centerpiece of an archaic religion? Something the ancestors of the locals secreted away centuries ago in hopes a successor would appear one day to resurrect their faith?"
"A wooden stick," Fia murmured to Harry. "That's what finally gets him to show emotion? What an incomprehensible creature."
"You're right, Samuel, of course," Bill said, raising his palms. "I'm just not as familiar with the lore of the region as you are. Do you think it's safe to approach?"
The Curse-Breakers conferred, occasionally casting a detection spell, until Bill, as the leader of the team, was chosen to go first. Wand at his side, he crept toward the plinth, the others watching with bated breath. About a dozen steps away, he halted, shook his head, and took another step. Then, doing an about-face, he strolled back and stooped over the rucksack he had left behind.
The others exchanged befuddled glances.
"Billy?" Hilda asked tentatively.
"I just realized I could really use a cup of coffee," Bill said, rummaging inside.
Piotr raised his eyebrows. "Now?"
"Yeah, does anyone else fancy a..." Bill stopped and furrowed his brows. "Huh. I'm not sure what came over me."
"While you figure it out, William, shall I inspect the artifacts?" Samuel said, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Receiving no objections, he strolled ahead, but came to a halt midway, murmured under his breath, and retreated. "Just in case, I should probably wash my hands first. A sign of respect, you know. Wouldn't want to arouse the anger of another guardian, if there is one."
Hilda and Piotr exchanged knowing grins. She looked like she was about to speak, but at his gesture, held her tongue. Piotr watched with amusement as Samuel washed up before retracing his steps and pivoting around at the same exact spot.
Piotr chortled. "Ward screw your brain."
"What? No, I only recalled I had to perform a—" Samuel blinked, glanced over his shoulder at the plinth, and tittered. "Oh, that's clever, very clever. I didn't even notice, although I suppose that's the entire point. Only a faithful person of the purest intentions could approach unimpeded, I imagine."
"Don't suppose a Summoning Charm would work?" Bill said, waving his wand. The robes and the staff didn't budge. "When does it ever? Let's see, then... Samuel, assist me?"
Bill's wand swished like a conductor's baton, sending out translucent waves of energy that gradually dissipated in the air. A fraction of the ethereal light lingered on the fieldstones that made up the plinth, and some glowing motes stuck to the ground below, forming a pattern like iron shavings under a magnet. Before they faded, Samuel sketched out the ward's boundary in green paint.
Bill sighed, lowering his wand. "Much like before, the ward's anchored into the stones. We'd have to destroy or dismantle them at the very least."
"Out of the question," Samuel said indignantly. "We've wrought enough destruction in this place of worship already."
Fia made a derisive noise, and Harry had to admit to a bit of irritation himself. It had been self-defense, after all.
Bill tapped his wand against his palm. "Well, the only other way I see is animating a mindless construct—and there might be hidden protections against that—or getting through on sheer willpower." He perked up, no doubt eager to watch others make fools of themselves like he had. "Any takers?"
"Give me a minute." Hilda sat cross-legged with a groan. "My Occlumency's not too shabby. Perhaps I can manage to get into a mindset that will trick the wards into allowing me passage."
"By the Nine Circles, this is painful to watch," Fia scoffed. "How weak-willed can you humans be? I'll go fetch the stupid stick so we can get out of this wretched place already."
Bill exchanged a long glance with Samuel, shrugged, and gestured at the plinth. "Be my guest."
"Watch and learn." Fia tossed her hair back and strutted past him, her tail arched proudly. She didn't stop after crossing the glowing outline on the ground, but just when it looked like she would get through, she shuddered and turned about.
"It's just messing with your head!" Harry yelled, waving her on. "Keep going!"
"Don't be stupid," she retorted, prancing back. Her eyes were glazed over. "Mortal magics won't affect a being of my caliber. I just have an itch that really needs to be scratched; the stupid stick can wait."
The others watched incredulously as she strode up to Harry and pulled him into a deep kiss. Her bandaged hand fumbled with the buckle of his belt without much success before her tail whipped around to slip into his trousers.
He yelped, grasped her shoulders, and shook her lightly. "Oi, snap out of it!"
She stiffened, then slowly turned to survey the others. Bill, Piotr, and Samuel were looking on with varying degrees of amusement, and even Hilda cracked open one eye from her seat on the ground, a small smile playing on her lips. Fia's hands trembled.
"Xy-xyrrhes..." she said, forming a sphere with her fingers.
"Fia?" Harry pressed her arms to her sides. "C'mon, don't be stupid."
She struggled against his grip, her face beet-red. "Let me kill them! We can have the reward for ourselves, and tell everyone they perished here." Her voice dropped to a conspiratorial whisper. "Don't worry, I won't leave witnesses."
"Now, that's not very sporting of you, young lady," Samuel said. "I understand that you're new to the business, but a Curse-Breaker who backstabs her team won't get many job opportunities."
"She was just joking," Harry assured, still holding her hands down. He lowered his voice to speak into her ear. "Either stop this, or I'll make you..." Straightening up in a flash of inspiration, he stared at the plinth.
Fia slipped out of his grip and threw her arms up. "Hah! Despair, mortals, for the time of reckoning has come!" Hellfire swirled in her palms, causing her bandages to smolder.
"I might have an idea," Harry said, casually sticking his finger into the black fireball.
Fia glowered as it fizzled out. "Hey!"
"Let's—let's hear it, then," Bill said, eyeing her nervously. He had retreated several steps and trained his wand on her.
Harry gave his fuming servant a speculative look. After getting her injured the last time, he was squeamish of putting her at risk again. "May I order you?"
She appeared to lose her steam. "What are you on about?"
"I want to test something. Mind if I give you a command?"
She gaped at him before huffing and folding her arms. "You may not."
"What?" He looked up to find Bill observing them with undisguised curiosity and lowered his voice. "Why not?"
"Because you're an idiot," she said.
He scowled. "Oh yeah? Well, I'm going to do it anyway."
She laughed in his face. "Then you should've done that from the beginning." Her nail poked him hard in the forehead. "Are you my master or not?"
He shook his head, unable to comprehend her train of thought. Just when he thought he was beginning to understand her, she surprised him again. "Right. I want you to approach the plinth and wait for us there." He took a breath and narrowed his eyes. "Go."
She whirled around and stalked toward her destination. When she reached Piotr, who happened to be standing between her and the plinth, she raised her hand as if to swat him aside, and the man hastened out of her way with a muttered oath. A shiver went up her tail as she crossed the ward line, but she continued onward until coming to a halt before the plinth.
"Remarkable," Samuel breathed. "What remarkable mental resilience, young lady!"
Hilda's eyes fluttered open, and she accepted Piotr's hand to help her up. "She actually did it? Goodness, I'm getting old."
Fia jerked as though waking up from sleepwalking and turned to meet their impressed stares. "Of—of course! I told you these magics were nothing to me!"
Harry snorted as he watched her preen under the attention. Might as well let her enjoy the moment.
Bill came up to clap him on the shoulder. "A tight leash, huh?" he said in an undertone. "A bit unorthodox, but nicely done."
"If it's stupid and it works, it's not stupid, right?" Harry said, grinning. He raised his voice. "Oi, pull me in!"
Ignoring the alarmed exclamations, he raced toward Fia. As he entered the wards, his mind went blank, and he pivoted on one foot, overtaken by a burning need to relieve himself behind one of the oaks—but before he could make good on it, Fia reeled him in by the collar.
"Could've been more gentle," he choked out, rubbing his neck. He waved at the rest of the group. "Come on through!"
One by one, they mimicked him, and in short order were assembled around the plinth. Before them lay the carved wooden staff, untouched by age, white robes of coarse linen, and an ornate brass brooch. A vague sense of dread overtook Harry as he regarded the regalia.
"Should we, I dunno, should we disturb it?" he asked, gulping.
Fia snorted. "Bah. The dead need no trinkets, and I sense power here. Repugnant, foreign, but power nevertheless."
"Don't worry, mate," Bill said, setting down his rucksack to retrieve several sacks. "The Belarusian government wants everything preserved. Whether they put it in a museum or hand it over to their researchers to study is no longer our worry. Would you like to do the honors?"
Harry shrugged, forgoing the robes to stretch his hand toward the staff. Goosebumps erupted on his arm as if from static, and when his fingers brushed the smooth wood, it jolted him painfully. He drew back and hid his hand under his armpit as he stared at the staff. It felt... how had Fia put it? Displeased at his presence.
He forced himself to smile. "It feels wrong for me to take it. You guys did all the work."
"Don't sell yourself short, dear," Hilda said, while Piotr clapped his shoulder. "But if you're certain, I'd be happy to take your place. You folks don't mind, do you?"
Yet as she looked around for approval, Samuel's hand was already extending toward the staff. His fingers wrapped around it, not a sign of discomfort on his awed face as he hefted it up. Harry let out a breath he didn't realize he had been holding.
"I am holding in my hands a krivūlė, the ceremonial staff of the pagan high-priest himself," Samuel said reverently, raising its hooked end toward the sky. "Back in the day, it would rally all the faithful of the region for whatever purpose suited them."
"Sound important," Piotr remarked.
"All the nearby countries will want it," Hilda mused. "If we're lucky, there'll be a bidding war."
Fia broke into a smile. "Well, if your kind are stupid enough to pay for this rubbish, who am I to stop them?" She stared into space, no doubt already seeing all the snacks and clothes her share would buy.
Bill helped Samuel wrap the staff in a cloth before depositing it into an expanded sack. "We'll celebrate once we're out of here and our efforts are paid for, but I do believe the run was a success. It's been an honor, ladies and gentlemen."
As the Curse-Breaker cheered, Harry examined his reddened fingertips before sticking his hand down his pocket. He watched Fia puff out her chest proudly as Hilda and Samuel heaped praise upon her, dark thoughts churning in his head.
Chapter 12: Angel, Part One
Harry carefully rolled up an ancient scroll and laid it atop a growing pile on his desk. Sighing, he reclined in his armchair and rubbed his eyes. Investigating the history of the Peverells had proven more difficult than expected. Fables, hearsay, and anecdotes were abound, but there were precious few facts, especially relating to the whole demon-hunting business. It was as if the records had been expunged over the centuries.
A wave of dread swept over him. He sprang to his feet, his wand jumping into his fingers, and cast his gaze about. Try as he might to make sense of the feeling of impending danger, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, yet with every tick of the grandfather clock, his anxiety built. Striding out of the study, he allowed himself to be led to its source.
His legs carried him to the room he had magnanimously allotted for Fia's use. He raised his knuckles to knock, then changed his mind and gripped the doorknob, wand at the ready. Yanking the door open, he leapt inside.
Hot, sulfur-saturated air washed over him. A Quaffle-sized rift hovered above the floor, expanding ever so slowly. Fia circled it, peering through the haze to the other side. An open bag of spicy crisps and a magazine lay forgotten on her bed.
"What are you doing?" he asked. When she rolled her eyes at him, he amended, "What's happening?"
"We're getting a visitor," she said in a tone that suggested he was stupid for asking. "Well, I am."
"Who is it?"
"I don't know. Opening a portal without a summons or some kind of an anchor on this side is burdensome to everyone but the strongest of us." She eyed the rip in space and nodded to herself. "It can't be anyone above a president. I'm letting them through. Darart shkleist."
His belated warning was drowned out by a howl of a sweltering wind. The portal ballooned, revealing a burning landscape. A dark-skinned, long-nailed hand emerged from the other side and groped around; Fia squealed in delight, grabbed on with both of hers, and tugged. The rift disgorged a winged demoness, who crashed into Fia knocking them both down, before squelching shut.
"Nuri!" Fia exclaimed. "I haven't seen you since you were summoned by that decrepit warlock in Brazil. Did you end up nabbing his soul?"
"Yes," the visitor said in a deep, husky voice. "Mother was ever so proud." Extricating herself from Fia's embrace, she stood and effortlessly helped her up. She was stockier and curvier, her skin dark as chocolate, and her purple hair short and frizzy around her curled horns.
"I'll bet she was! Look at you, barely a century old and already hoodwinking mortals like the best of us." Fia hugged her and nuzzled her cheek before drawing back. "How are things back home? Are the imps properly feeding my hellhound? Is father still warring with that featherbrain Stolas?"
"Yes, our legions are gaining ground," Nuri said absently as her yellowish eyes looked Fia over. "Praise the Prince of Darkness you're whole. When the portal wouldn't open, I feared the worst."
Fia waved dismissively. "Probably just the mortal magics around this place interfering."
"Clearly not interfering enough," Harry muttered. He would have to look into fixing that at the earliest opportunity.
Nuri's eyes narrowed at him, and she flapped her wings once. "This human speaks out of turn. Is it a servant of yours?"
"Well..." Fia tittered. "In a manner of speaking."
Nuri's eyes bored into Harry, and her fangs flashed between her full lips. "You lie, sister."
Without warning, she lunged at him. He leapt back, his wand twitching, but Fia dashed in, grasped Nuri's extended arm, and tossed her over her shoulder, laying her out on the floor.
"What's the big idea, Nuri?" Fia blew a lock of her hair away from her face.
"So the rumors were true." Nuri's tone was resigned as she rose to her feet, her pretty face twisted in a scowl. "You, who were once known as the Scourge of Italy, consorting with a mere mortal. Have you forsaken your pride? Forgotten who you are?"
"Have I?" Fia's wings burst out from the slits on her blouse, beating so mightily the others were forced back. "Do you truly think I renounced my heritage for him? I serve the Great Plan, always."
"By fraternizing with humans? You're acting against your nature!"
Fia bared her fangs. "Your youth is showing. Hasn't our kind always stood for freedom? Leave the rigid dogmas for the celestials high up in their lofty towers."
Doubt crossed Nuri's face, but a glance at Harry's raised wand had her glowering again. "I refuse to believe you're acting of your own free will! This one must've brainwashed you. The elders warned me of the wizards' insidious magic, lesser creatures that they are."
"Oi!" he said indignantly.
Fia tossed her head back and laughed. "Even if he had, so what? Did the same elders not teach us to use any means at our disposal to make our desires come to fruition?" Locking her eyes with Nuri's, she pranced up to her. "He overcame me with strength and craftiness worthy of our kind. Why don't you stay and see for yourself, hmm? How long has it been since you have lain with a human?"
Nuri averted her eyes. "I..."
She gasped scandalously. "You skittish prude! And you dare lecture me about proper conduct for a demoness?"
Air whistled through Nuri's teeth. "I see no reason to dally with lesser life forms!"
Fia abruptly leaned in and kissed her on the lips. Nuri tried to pull away, but Fia's hands snaked around her neck, holding her close. The tension in her shoulders loosened gradually as she melted into the kiss.
"Your lips are as delicious as I remember," Fia murmured, sporting a devious grin. "Come, I insist on lending him to you."
"I don't need a—" Nuri gasped as Fia's tail coiled around hers.
"Are you sure?" she purred. "His carnal proficiencies are... not inadequate, and his energy is most potent."
"Don't," Nuri breathed as Fia's hands groped her arse, "we're being watched."
She snorted. "When has that ever stopped us? Now, let us rectify your inexperience. Don't worry, I'll hold your hand if you're scared."
Nuri's yellow eyes flashed, and she pushed Fia off. Breathing heavily, she glared from her to Harry. "I see I'm not getting through to you. I'll return home and beseech the rulers to aid me in breaking the sorcery over your mind." Her hand raked down, creating a shimmer of heated air.
"That's quite enough of that," Fia snapped, striding up to her. "Catching the attention of the marquises, or worse, is the last thing either of us—" Air wheezed from her lungs as a punch in the gut sent her staggering back.
Nuri kept one hand in a defensive stance, while the other struggled to widen a nascent portal. "It's for your own good."
Fia growled. "So is the beating I'm about to deliver, bitch."
She rushed past Harry in a crimson blur. Her sister danced away, and Fia's fist smashed into the wall, sinking down to her elbow. Snarling, she yanked it out and kicked, but Nuri deflected it with a wing.
"Oh, come on!" Harry took aim yet stayed his hand lest he hex Fia. "Just when I got this place furnished!"
The sisters paid him no heed, wrestling, scratching, and biting at each other in a tangle of limbs. The doors of Fia's wardrobe got ripped off, her bedspread was slashed, and the souvenirs she had collected over the years plummeted from the shelves and shattered on the floor.
"You've grown weak!" Nuri snarled, bleeding from the scratches on her face. "I've never been able to overpower you in a fight!"
"I'm trying not to destroy my quarters, you stupid bint!" Fia froze before her head whipped toward Harry, her eyes glinting. "This blockhead is my half-sister, Nuriye—" She grunted as she parried a strike. "Restrain her, won't you?"
Harry furrowed his brows as he recalled the Cardinal Binding. His wand began sketching glowing lines that lingered in the air. "Nuriye, daughter of Saleos... By Varuna, I bind thee from the West... By Indra, I bind thee from the East..."
"No!" Nuriye's gaze darted around in a panic, black flames gathering around her clenched fists. "I'd rather destroy us all than be enslaved by one such as you!" The flames flared to surround her in a roiling sphere. From its surface, black tentacles extended toward anything they could reach, hungry and out of control.
"Not my clothes!" Fia leapt in front of her ruined wardrobe and threw out her arms protectively.
The room was cast into darkness as the hellfire consumed light itself, black tongues lapping at the walls and the ceiling. Swearing, he abandoned his incantation and thrust his left palm at the fireball. His skin tingled as the flames pulsed, shrank rapidly, and died with an angry hiss. As light returned, he caught a glimpse of a spade-shaped tail slipping into a narrow portal before it closed.
"My favorite hoodie!" Fia cried, lifting a smoldering garment whose hood had triangular appendages sewn on to accommodate her horns. "She might've meant well, but I'm not letting this slide. Next time we meet, her cute ass is going to get it."
"Some family you've got." He eyed the destruction with weary resignation, then waved his wand over the hole in the wall. "Reparo."
Fia sniffed. "You're one to talk. Your mother dealt with demons, and your godfather left you a house filled with torture implements."
He grinned wryly. "Got me there."
Harry breathed easier when the massive doors of Gringotts swung shut behind them. Feeling the guards' beady gazes linger on their backs, he ushered Fiamette away.
"What was that all about?" he asked in an undertone. Seeing the normally grumpy goblins act so deferential had been downright disturbing, although Fia had taken it all in stride.
"I sensed Gehennic ancestry in them. Probably some of Zagan's lot, to be so obsessed with coin, marooned on this plane millennia ago." Her tail, sticking out through a slit in the back of a frilly red dress, wagged briskly. "My demonic attributes must've struck fear into their puny hearts."
"Huh." Goblins were jerks of the highest order, so it made a twisted kind of sense for them to be descended from demons. "Maybe you should go back to hiding your tail. We wouldn't want weird rumors spreading."
"Absolutely not! Do you realize how uncomfortable it is to keep it bound under my dress? It chafes."
He sighed. "I still don't understand why you can retract your wings but not your tail. Seems oddly arbitrary."
She gave him a catty glance. "I'll have you know there's a perfectly good reason. My wings are magic, while my tail... Well, it would be like you trying to retract your di—"
He clamped a palm over her mouth. "Not in front of children."
Fia pushed it away and glanced around, narrowing her eyes at a little boy who was tugging on his mother's hand and pointing. She blew him a raspberry, then squeaked when Harry pinched her.
"Can we go back to the bank?" she asked sulkily, rubbing her rear. "It was nice to be treated with the respect I deserve for once."
"We got what we came for." He patted the heavy pouch under his robes. The gold comprised a good chunk of returns from their Curse-Breaking stint, but that's what it took to acquire the exotic materials required to ward the house from hellish incursions. Only one shop in Knockturn Alley could supply the ingredients, and even they had to import some from the continent. "Don't mope, I'll treat you to ice cream."
Her expression brightened before she tugged on her bonnet that utterly failed to cover her horns. "Hmph. I'm not a child to be bought off with treats."
"You might change your mind after you try Fortescue's. People say it's the best ice cream on this side of the world." He grinned at the way her tail perked up.
"If it doesn't live up to my expectations, I'm taking it out on you," she said pompously, and attached herself to his arm.
Together, they made their way to Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour and commandeered a small table outside. Fia immediately wandered off to peer at the display window. Harry went for vanilla with raspberry sauce, while she made Fortescue pile four scoops of different flavors topped with syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, hot fudge, and rum-soaked cherries into an enormous bowl.
He watched queasily as she began polishing off the unholy abomination. "Is that... good?"
"By Gehenna, I might have to reconsider the worth of humanity," she said, her tongue darting out to scoop a gob of cream off her upper lip. "I've tried ice cream before, but it was nothing like this."
"You must've had the Muggle kind. Wizards have their own tricks to make it taste better."
She took a particularly large bite, squeezed her eyes shut and clutched her forehead, then immediately took another one. "Could we—no, I demand you provide me with this delicacy at least twice a week."
He chuckled. "Once. If you're good."
She glared at him, but he only looked back impassively. An impish glint entered her eyes, and lifting her spoon, she sucked on it with a loud moan. Unflapped, he glanced around. If any patrons gave their table a second glance, it was because of her antics, not his fame. It was amazing how a few years out of the public eye and a change in physique could make him unnoticeable.
"Harry. Harry Potter?" There was a girlish squeal. "Enfin je t'ai trouvé! It really is you!"
Drat, now he had gone ahead and jinxed it. Plastering a smile on his face, he turned to the voice. A young woman of striking beauty stood before him, wavy blonde hair framing a youthful face that shone with happiness.
"Do you..." The intensity of her sky-blue gaze made him trail off. "Have we met?"
The woman frowned adorably. "You don't remember? It's me." She looked at him expectantly before sighing. "Gabrielle. Gabrielle Delacour. You truly forgot?"
"Gabrielle?" he choked out, looking over the white sundress hugging her slim, yet undeniably feminine figure. Catching himself, he forced his eyes to meet hers.
Her cheeks pinkened. "The very same." Her gaze flicked to Fia, who was still demolishing her ice cream, and her lips pursed. "Do you mind if I join you?"
"No, go right ahead." He nearly knocked over his chair in his hurry to stand up and get her one, but Gabrielle already borrowed one from an empty table nearby. Fia snorted into her rapidly emptying bowl.
Perching on the edge of her chair, Gabrielle glared. "And you must be the demon. I saw the evil in you right away."
Fia preened. "Good eye, young one!"
She stomped her foot. "That wasn't a compliment!"
Frowning, Harry produced his wand and cast a privacy charm. "How the hell do you know—Bill. He told your sister, didn't he?" He rubbed his forehead. "Damn it. He promised he'd keep quiet."
"Ginger's wife leads him by the pecker," Fia said sagely. "I could tell as soon as I heard him speak about her. It was all 'Fleur said this, Fleur wanted that'."
Gabrielle nodded absently before leaning over the table. "It doesn't matter how I found out! Harry, you need to get away from this... this creature before it's too late."
He savored a spoonful of his own ice cream before speaking. "Why?"
She peered at him in confusion. "She's a demon. A spawn of hell. An amalgamation of all that is evil, given a comely female shape to lead men astray!"
"Ooh, I like that last one," Fia remarked.
He sighed. "Like I told your brother-in-law: I know. Look, it's not that I'm not happy to see you after all these years, but why are you here? Surely it's not just to enlighten me as to her nature."
She blinked, drawing back. "I—well, not just that. I'm here to save you from her clutches before she corrupts you completely." Her voice grew more certain. "Just like you rescued me, I shall do everything in my power to rescue you in turn."
He gaped at her determined expression, then groaned and massaged his temples.
Fiamette cackled, waving her spoon around. "Do you hear that? This little girl wants to save you from my"—she nearly choked with laughter—"my clutches! By Lucifer, you mortals never cease to amuse me!"
Gabrielle's face was beet-red, but she didn't relent. "What's so funny?"
Fia leaned toward her, making her shrink back. "What if I told you that I were the innocent maiden who needs rescuing from him?"
She shrugged. "It's closer to the reality of things than the delusion you've built up in your pretty little head."
Gabrielle's golden locks caught the sunlight as she shook her head. "Don't try to befuddle me with your deceitful tongue, fiend. Even if he has some control over you, I know you're still plotting to steal his soul."
"Of course I am," Fia said. "What of it? I'll take any opportunity to backstab him, as he's well aware."
Gabrielle goggled at her, then at Harry.
He shrugged. "It keeps me on my toes."
"That's... but..." She sputtered, fidgeting with her handbag, before pointing a finger at Fia. "You must be poisoning his mind, eroding his morals, for him to think that way!"
He snorted. "Hogwash."
Gabrielle rounded on him. "It's what demons do! They're treacherous and wily and can ensnare you without you even noticing. My great-grandmother told me stories..." She shuddered.
"Fia, are you corrupting me?" he asked jokingly.
"Yes," she said.
"See? I told you she wasn't..." He stared at Fiamette, who slurped her melting ice cream without a worry in the world. "Explain."
She squirmed in her seat. "There's no need for the voice. I'd have been happy to answer." She lowered a hand to rub her buttock. "You didn't think using demon magic would have no consequences, did you?"
He narrowed his eyes as old suspicions came to the fore. "Consequences? Like what?"
"By cultivating your strength beyond what is attainable to ordinary mortals, you become less like them and more like us. Your very being transforms." She laid a palm on his shoulder, her violet eyes shining with an unholy light. "With your growing power, we could eventually carve ourselves out a realm in one of the lower circles. I heard Morax was weakened in a fight with Decarabia and wouldn't pose much of a challenge."
He fixed her with a stare. "That was your big plan? I'm sorry, but fighting for scraps in a burning wasteland doesn't appeal to me."
"Think about it," she purred, caressing his chest. "You would be a king. Swimming in riches, being waited on hand and foot, having your pick of concubines—and I would live as a queen at your side."
"Concubines, huh." He barked a laugh. "I have my hands full with just one demoness as it is."
"A dozen or two is customary, even if they do little but strut around your throne room. They are a symbol of a virile and prosperous ruler."
"Get away from him!" Gabrielle stooped to push them apart. "Do you believe me now, Harry? Whatever evil magic she taught you, you must never use it again!"
"But it's dead useful!" he whinged. Aside from saving his hide in the pagan barrow, it came in handy more than once against the remnants of Death Eaters seeking revenge for their lord, or upstarts looking to test their mettle against the one who ended Voldemort's reign.
"Emphasis on dead," Fia said, fishing out a cherry and popping it into her mouth. "Nothing better for pummeling your enemies to a pulp or incinerating them."
"Oh, Harry... you're further gone than I feared." Gabrielle worried her lip, her eyes glistening. "But don't you worry, I won't give up! I'll do whatever it takes to restore you to the proper path, I swear—stop laughing, fiend!"
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "And how do you plan on doing that, exactly?"
"I'll show you how dangerous she is, convince you to cut her loose—"
"Not happening. She still hasn't repaid her debt to me." He looked at Fia stonily, but she was humming and swinging her legs as she poked at the remains of her dessert.
"I'll..." Gabrielle gulped, then put a hand over her chest, her cheeks flushed. "I'll take her place, then!"
Fia giggled. "Êtes-tu prêt à le servir en tant que femme?"
She jutted out her chin. "Si c'est ce que ça prend!"
His gaze alternated between them before he threw his hands up. "French, too? Just how many languages do you speak?"
"Most of them. How else would I make deals with you mortals?" Fia smiled smugly. "Would you like to know what the little strumpet said?"
"I don't particularly care. If you're done eating, we're leaving." He glanced at Gabrielle, who looked very flustered for some reason. "Where are you staying? Don't tell me you came here alone."
She crossed her arms. "Nowhere yet. I only arrived this morning, and I've been searching for you since."
He sighed. "Go home, then. Your parents must be worried."
"I'm a Beauxbatons graduate as of a year ago, and an adult in both worlds," she said proudly. "No one can tell me what to do."
"I see," he said evenly, rising to his feet. "Enjoy your time in Britain, then." He strode out into the alley with Fia in tow.
"Wait—Harry, please wait!" Her feet pattered on the cobblestones as she caught up and fell in step. "I'm coming with you!"
He spared her a glance. "No, you're not."
"Yes, I am! If you're not banishing her, someone needs to watch out for you and make sure she's not... tainting you further!"
As if to spite her, Fia clung to him, pressing her breasts against his arm. Gabrielle took a deep breath, then resolutely clasped his other hand.
"Er..." Harry arched his eyebrows at her, but she wasn't meeting his eyes. "This is ridiculous. Find a place to stay the night and go back to France tomorrow. There's a Portkey agency just down the street."
"I'm not leaving, not while you're in danger," she insisted, "and neither am I letting you out of my sight. It was pure coincidence that I stumbled upon you. No one could tell me where you lived, and your address isn't on the Floo Registry!"
"That's kind of the point. Do you realize how annoying dealing with solicitors was before I took measures?" It was good to know they were still working.
Gabrielle's mouth opened, then closed. "But I'm here to help, not bother you!"
"Most people who clamored for my attention after the war claimed the same."
Her lip trembled, and tears pooled at the corners of her eyes. He observed warily, hoping she wouldn't start bawling in the middle of the street, and breathed easier when she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Now now, master, surely you won't leave a poor naive girl to fend for herself?" Fia sent Gabrielle a saucy wink. "Think about it... A pretty young thing like her, navigating a foreign country all alone, is just begging for disreputable wizards to take advantage of her."
Gabrielle stared at her, then sniffled theatrically and batted her lashes at Harry.
He gave Fiamette a suspicious look. "Why are you sticking up for her? She hates your guts."
She shrugged, flashing her fangs in a vague grin. "Maybe after getting to know me better, she'll see I'm not so bad after all."
"I'd never, ever—" At Fia's arched eyebrow, Gabrielle swallowed, then ground out, "I'm willing to give it a try."
"Splendid! What say you, master?"
He groaned in resignation. "We have room to spare, I suppose... Just for a week or so, you hear?"
Gabrielle squealed happily and hugged his arm, but he barely cracked a smile. He had a hunch his life was about to become a lot more complicated.
Chapter 13: Angel, Part Two
Harry Apparated the girls to the front steps of Grimmauld Place and made sure no one was missing body parts after the double Side-Along. Shaking off her disorientation, Gabrielle craned her neck curiously, her small nose wrinkling in distaste at the dilapidated facades around them. He unlocked the door and motioned her inside. She didn't take two steps into the house before Fia overtook her and barred her way. If one included her horns, she stood a good head taller, forcing Gabrielle to look up to meet her eyes.
"Not so fast, little witch." Fia stepped so close the tips of their shoes touched. "I have to search you first."
"You have to what?" Gabrielle squeaked as Fia pawed at her, the thin fabric of her dress the only barrier between their flesh. "S-stop it!"
She backpedaled, but Fia grinned and wrapped her tail around her bare leg to keep her in place. When the red-faced Gabrielle wedged her fingers underneath and pry it off, Fia used the opportunity to seize her handbag. Gabrielle tried to recapture it, only to gasp when Fia's tail nudged up the hem of her dress. Chucking the bag aside, Fia pirouetted behind her and proceeded to fondle her modest chest.
Harry found himself ogling. "Er, I'm not sure this is strictly necessary." He shut the door without moving his gaze away from the spectacle.
"You'd be surprised at the places one can hide a stiletto in." Fia struggled to keep Gabrielle still while dragging her fingers over the wrinkled dress. "It would wound my pride if I allowed my master to be assassinated."
"That's enough." He cleared his throat and tried to sound more sincere. "Let the poor girl go."
"Not before I've made certain—" She yelped and staggered back as Gabrielle headbutted her. Her tail whipped side to side as she threw out her hands and lengthened her claws. "I was trying to be gentle."
Gabrielle's cheeks were flushed and her breathing rapid, but her glare hadn't lost strength. "I won't let you toy with me, demon."
"Big words for a feeble little human," Fia taunted.
Gabrielle's gaze darted to her handbag that lay the floor, and she lunged toward it, only to squeak and flinch back from a slash of claws. Fia laughed as she stepped on the bag with her platform shoe.
"You keep your wand here? Silly witch. What good is it if you lose it before the battle even started?"
"There won't be any battles." Harry stepped in between the two, the back of his neck prickling under their glares. "Cool it, Fia. You started it."
"It's all right, Harry." Gabrielle laid her palm on his upper arm and nudged him gently but insistently out of the way. "If it's a fight she wants, a fight she'll get, wand or no wand."
Choking back laughter, he turned her way. "No offense, but what can you possibly..."
His jaw sagged. In her anger, Gabrielle's face had become angular, sharper, and her blue eyes almost glowed with icy anger. Even more strikingly, her nails had lengthened into wicked bird-like talons.
"So the strumpet thinks she can—"
Fia's breath was knocked out of her lungs as Gabrielle tackled her to the floor. Snarling, Fia rolled them over, but Gabrielle raked her talons across her cheek and made her shrink back with a cry. A clumsy two-legged kick had Fia staggering away, but as Gabrielle rose to her feet, Fiamette pounced, her frilly skirt swishing, and smashed her against the wall. She threw her claws at Gabrielle's throat, but the shorter girl ducked, and the claws instead gouged a deep furrow into the plaster wall.
"Not again!" Harry cried, drawing his wand. "Do you know how much renovating this bloody place cost me?"
Fiamette reared her arm to strike again, then froze, curiosity replacing the fury on her face. Grabbing a fistful of Gabrielle's dress, she leaned in and sniffed. Harry trained his wand on them but didn't interfere, nonplussed.
"You stink," Fiamette whispered.
Gabrielle's talons froze inches away from Fia's neck. "I do not!"
"Yes, you definitely do." Fia stooped and sniffed all over her front, while Gabrielle wriggled bashfully. "You reek of celestials."
"What?" Harry and Gabrielle said in unison.
Fia slipped her hand behind Gabrielle's neck and underneath her dress, groped around, and yanked it out, eliciting a squeak. Her pinched fingers held up a small downy feather of pure white. Gabrielle shot Harry a mortified look as she twisted to rub her shoulder blade.
Fia chortled. "A descendant of exiled angels! Your blood is so diluted you can't even bring out your wings. What a delight it is to see one of your heritage brought so low."
"I might not be able to bring out my wings," Gabrielle growled, "but I can still do this." Brilliant white flames erupted above her splayed-out fingers.
Fia took an alarmed step back before sneering. "Please, your power is like a candle to the black sun compared to mine." Hellfire burst into being over her cupped palm.
Harry suppressed an urge to pinch himself to check if he was dreaming. Two ancestral enemies under one roof. His roof. What had he done to deserve this?
"Right, that's quite enough of that." Poking Fia's palm, he snuffed out the hellfire, then turned to Gabrielle and tweaked her nose, causing her to squeak and clasp her palms over it. Ignoring their outcries, which sounded comically similar, he schooled his face into a stern expression. "This better be the last time you fight in my home."
Gabrielle gave him a teary-eyed look. "But—"
"Your butt will be what I glue a Portkey to if you cause a scene again," he said, staring her down. "I'll try to direct it to France. In the general direction, anyway."
"Haha!" Fia crowed as Gabrielle ducked her head. "Way to put the brat in her place!"
He fixed her with a glare. "Same goes for you. Attack her again, and... and I'm not taking you shopping next week."
"The new collection," she gasped. "You wouldn't!"
"Watch me," he said, folding his arms.
Fia gnawed on her lip before speaking. "Oh, very well." She shot Gabrielle a grumpy look. "I'll play nice with the retrogressed celestial."
"I mean it." Just in case, he laced his voice with authority. "Don't hurt her."
"I won't do anything she doesn't want me to—pinky swear," she chirped, her eyes affectedly innocent.
He sighed, figuring that was the best he would get.
After showing Gabrielle to a guest bedroom and making sure she had everything she needed, he retreated into the study and jotted a letter to the Delacours that half informed them of the situation, and half begged them to save him from the attentions of their stubborn daughter. He didn't know the address, and France wasn't exactly small, but owls had their ways of locating people, so he tasked Melly the house-elf with delivering the letter to the post office in Hogsmeade.
That done, he went back to poring over the faded scrolls on warding off demons. Protecting a home from them was expensive and complicated, but entirely feasible. The issue was that he only wanted to prevent portals from being opened while allowing a certain demoness to stay.
"Barrier from intrusion," he muttered, checking his Aramaic dictionary, "but I don't need the aversion part." There was no helping it; adjustments would have to be made to the ancient ceremony. What a pain.
He lost himself in the work, the ticking of the clock fading into the background, until a soft pop shook him out of his contemplation. Setting down his quill and swiveling on his chair, he saw Melly curtsy for him.
"Ah, you delivered the letter?" He yawned. "Good job."
"Melly delivered it hours ago," she said with a note of reproach. "Dinner is ready. Sir's ladies are already waiting downstairs."
Startled, he glanced at the clock, then at the navy blue sky outside the window. He ran a hand over his face. "My ladies, huh. Please tell me they're not fighting again."
Melly wrung her hands. "They glare and scream at each other, but Melly doesn't understand the foreign words."
He flinched. "Blimey. I better hurry before they bring the house down on our heads."
He barreled two floors down to the kitchen, where he preferred to dine over the stuffy living room. Female voices grew in volume as he neared it, yet when he nudged open the door, he was greeted by an abrupt silence. Gabrielle was glowering at Fia, who turned his way and smiled pleasantly, her wings vanishing into her shoulder blades.
"About time you got here!" she said. "We didn't want to start without you."
He arched his eyebrows. "I heard an argument."
"We were just engaging in some friendly girl talk. Isn't that right?" She bared her fangs at Gabrielle in an approximation of a smile.
Gabrielle concealed her talons under the table. "T-that's right. Girl stuff. Nothing you would be interested in, Harry."
"Well, so long as you stick to our agreement." Hiding his smile, he joined them at the table. "What's for dinner tonight?"
"Steak!" Fia exclaimed, banging the tabletop. "I was promised steak!"
"And you shall have it, mistress," Melly said, levitating a lightly charred slab of meat from its resting place on the counter to her plate. Harry's and Gabrielle's portions followed, somewhat smaller and more generous on the vegetables.
Fia dug in, making her pleasure known through exaggerated moans. For every disgusted look Gabrielle sent her, she became even louder.
"Well done, little she-imp," she said, looking toward the counter. "When Harry makes me his queen, you will be in charge of preparing our food."
The elf inclined her head. "Melly is honored."
"Harry's not making you his anything," Gabrielle hissed, her knife clinking against the plate as she put too much force into carving her steak.
"I'm already his closest and most faithful companion," Fia retorted.
Gabrielle stared at her incredulously. "You as good as admitted to scheming against him!"
"Yet as his only companion, am I not by definition the most faithful?" She glanced at Melly. "No offense, little one—you know the kind of companionship I mean."
"None taken, mistress," Melly said.
Gabrielle growled while Harry chuckled to himself; he couldn't argue with that logic.
"Since I am his lover," Fia continued smugly, "it is only obvious that I should be the one to stand at his side once he assumes a position worthy of his burgeoning power."
Gabrielle gripped her utensils so hard her knuckles whitened. For a good minute, she stabbed at the food on her plate in silence. "You... you shouldn't be doing that, Harry."
"Doing what?" he asked absently, relishing the meal.
"You know. Indulging in... relations with her." Gabrielle's cheeks were red as she stared down at her plate. "You're presenting her with a means to manipulate you. Given who you are, I'm sure you can find a witch even prettier than her."
Fia laughed. "How about that! Are you aiming for my position, pipsqueak?"
"I didn't mean myself!" Gabrielle shot Harry a fleeting look. "But... if that's what it takes to save him..."
"I don't need saving," he said tiredly.
"Are you certain? A beautiful angel coming to save you from an evil demoness... It's almost like a fairytale." Fia sighed theatrically, then giggled at his grouchy expression.
He focused on his food and refused to get drawn into the argument any more, half-amused, half-exasperated by his dinner companions sniping at each other across the table. It was painfully clear that despite all the years, Gabrielle still harbored a crush on him, but while she was very attractive, he wasn't about to give up his current arrangement with Fia. There were the seven years she was supposed to serve him, true, but if he was honest with himself, her quirks and sharp tongue had grown on him.
Not to mention, she was a wildcat in bed.
Smiling into his cup of after-dinner tea, he almost missed the bombshell said wildcat dropped.
"So, when are you going to bed her?"
He choked, wiped the tea from his chin, and glared at Fia. Her wide eyes were innocence itself. "I'm not. Why would you say that?"
She shrugged. "I just wanted to know if I should join you tonight or if you prefer to break her in alone."
"You'll definitely join me tonight so I can show you the consequences of running your mouth off," he said, making her shudder dramatically. Catching himself, he turned to Gabrielle. "I'm sorry. Pay her no mind, she's yapping because that's all she can do."
Fiamette stretched languidly. "Yapping, you say? Lucifer strike me down if I'm about to speak a lie: the reason this little chick came here was not to rescue you, but to have you for herself."
"I did not!" Gabrielle fidgeted under her skeptical stare. "Fine, it's true that I have—I have feelings for Harry, but unlike yours, they're pure! I only want what's best for him. If he doesn't feel the same way about me, I'll gladly leave him in peace once we're rid of you!"
She laughed. "Rid of me? You got spunk, saying that to my face." Her tongue darted out to lick her lips. "How about giving her your spunk, Harry?"
He groaned. "And you act like my puns are bad."
Harry's palm impacted Fia's panty-clad butt with a resounding slap. She gasped, wriggling over his knee. His hand quickly rose and fell, alternating between her arse cheeks.
"That's what you get for giving me cheek," he remarked.
Her mouth opened, but before she could say a word, he slapped her arse so hard her feet rose off the floor.
"We've been over this." Slap. "Many times." Slap. "Yet you keep acting up." Slap. "I'm beginning to think you're enjoying being turned over my knee and spanked like a misbehaving schoolgirl." He paused to knead her sensitized arse, scrunching up her panties.
Her tail wiggled feebly as she panted for air. "You mortals... and your silly sensibilities. Just because I suggested giving the little hussy some proper education—"
He yanked up her panties, making them dig into her flesh. "That's another matter. What will it take to get you to act civilly toward her?"
"I wasn't uncivil," she gasped. "Merely reminding her that I'm your first."
"There you go with that nonsense again." He slipped a hand between her legs and stroked her over the damp fabric, causing her to moan. "I'm hurt, you know. I thought you'd be more possessive of me." Hooking his fingers under the waistband, he tugged her panties down her hips.
She wiggled her slightly reddened arse, a tattoo of a griffin with two wands crossed underneath prominent on her cheek. "A large harem is a status symbol. I won't have my master seen as a weakling."
He spanked her, causing her flesh to jiggle. "I couldn't care less about how demons see things. It's your world, not mine."
Her head turned, and one misty violet eye peered up at him. "Would a normal human have the audacity to try and make a demoness into his servant? You're more like us than you admit."
He frowned. "I did what I had to. What you forced me to do."
"Perhaps," she said, sounding unconvinced. "Yet you took pleasure in it."
"Enough," he growled. "Don't think your words will get you out of your punishment." The slap of his palm echoed in the master bedroom, almost drowning out her whimper.
"Did that... hit a nerve?" she gasped out.
Scowling, he proceeded to methodically spank her. His left hand caressed the small of her back as his right gradually picked up speed. Fleshy slaps resonated in the room, interspersed by her whimpers. Each time his palm made contact with her bare bottom, a shudder went through her body and her tail became rigid.
By the time he reached a count of forty, Fia was gasping for air. Her hot body twisted atop his lap as her tail curved around her thigh and to her crotch.
"Are you getting off on this?" He caressed her reddened cheek, even that light contact making her shiver. "Horny slut."
"As if," she gasped, her tail rubbing unceasingly.
He tutted. "That won't do." Slap. "Tell you what." Slap. "You may touch yourself." Slap. "But you may not cum until I'm finished, or I'll lock you in a chastity belt."
She gulped convulsively, her tail halting.
"If you understand, then beg for it like the dirty little slut you are." He gave her another swat, then traced his fingertips down her thigh.
"Please," she gasped. "Please punish me."
His lips twisted into a crooked grin. "Well done." Slap. "Fifty more to go. What do you say, slut?"
"T-thank you... master."
He quickly regained his rhythm. As he rained open-palmed blows on her bruised flesh, Fia's tail rubbed furiously at the junction of her legs. At times she would halt, shudder, then resume again. Her moans changed in pitch, became breathless. He purposely slowed as he approached ninety.
"Ten to go." Taking hold of the base of her tail for leverage, he slapped her ass hard. "Count."
"O-one," Fia gasped. "Two... three..." Her voice hitched. "P-please, don't stop—"
"Don't—tell me—what to do," he said, interspersing his words with spanks. "Count."
"S-seven!" Her legs shook, then stiffened at another spank. "Eight!"
He halted, fondling her lightly. She squeezed her eyes shut and bit her lip hard. A string of wetness stretched from her vulva to the heart-shaped tip of her tail as it stopped rubbing and drew back an inch. He spanked her once more.
"Nine! Please, please—" She quaked with need.
His palm descended one last time, and the sound of flesh on flesh reverberated through the room.
"Ten!" she screamed, tossing her head back. "Oh! Oh!" She ground against his lap as pleasure rippled through her body.
He caressed her abused bottom as she came down from her high. When she slumped limply atop his knees, he eased a finger into her scalding heat. She shivered and thrust up her arse, taking it deeper. He pulled out and laid a light swat on her bottom.
"Up," he said.
Fia rose and sat on his lap, locking her glazed eyes with his. Brushing her lip with his thumb, he slipped his slickened finger into her mouth. She moaned as her tongue danced around it. Her tail brushed his tented crotch, and he trembled.
"On the bed, ass in the air."
She obediently clambered onto the bed and presented herself to him. He ripped off his shirt and yanked off his trousers, breathing hard in anticipation. A slight noise came from the door, and he turned to look.
"Master." Slipping a hand between her legs, Fia spread her dripping pussy. "Don't make me wait. Please, I need your cock so bad."
All other thoughts forgotten, he climbed on the bed. "As you wish."
Chapter 14: Angel, Part Three
Harry awoke with Fia curled up beside him, her body giving off heat like a furnace. He admired her sleeping face—she looked almost innocent when she wasn't mouthing off—then reluctantly rose, tucked the covers around her, and headed into the en-suite bathroom. If he started anything, she would keep him in the bedroom for another hour, and he had the warding to work on.
After washing up, he dressed and tiptoed out of the bedroom, furrowing his brows at the ajar door. Fia was still soundly asleep. Had he forgotten to close it last night? He would have to be more careful; they were no longer alone in the house.
He shut the door behind him gently and went to the study, where a letter awaited him on his desk. Rather than an answer from the Delacours, it was a notification to pick up his order at the apothecary down Knockturn Alley. His eyebrows rose; it was much sooner than he expected, but that wasn't unwelcome. Settling into his comfortable armchair, he retrieved yesterday's notes and set about modifying the ward.
All too soon, Melly called him down to breakfast, and he descended into the kitchen to find Gabrielle already at the table, wearing indoor robes she must've packed in her expanded handbag.
He offered her a smile. "Morning."
"Good morning," she mumbled, meeting his eyes fleetingly before staring down at her lap.
Before he could ask what was bothering her, footsteps pattered behind him, and a warm weight latched onto his back, making him stumble.
"Harry," Fia whinged, hanging off him with her bare legs wrapped around his waist, "how could you leave me alone in that cold lonely bed? I love to wake up to you—"
"Okay, that's enough," he said, drowning out her next words. "You know I'm working to prevent any more unwelcome visits from your family."
"Pfft, we can handle Nuriye and whoever she calls for help." Fia let go of him and pranced to the table, grinning ear-to-ear. Her tail protruded through the back of a comfy dressing gown she favored when lazing around the house. "Hey, little girl. Sleep well?"
Gabrielle fidgeted but didn't speak.
He frowned. "Was the bed uncomfortable? I could ask Melly to prepare a different room."
"It-it's perfectly fine!" Gabrielle assured. "Thanks for letting me stay, Harry. Your house is very nice."
"So it is," Fia said, her eyes still centered on Gabrielle. "Especially the thick carpeting."
Gabrielle's cheeks pinkened, and she ducked her head.
Harry pondered the mystery of the girls' odd behavior before giving up and digging into his breakfast. The surreptitious glances Gabrielle shot him when she thought he wasn't looking and the knowing looks Fia sent her in return were an improvement over the constant bickering his ears had to suffer yesterday.
Taking a sip of his tea, he addressed his guest. "Any plans today?"
"Saving your soul from eternal damnation," Gabrielle said without skipping a beat. "Stop laughing, demon!"
"Beauxbatons is famed for its enchantments curriculum, right?" he asked. "Care to look over some notes for me?"
She perked up. "I'd be happy to!"
"It can't be helped," Fia drawled. "I too shall bestow upon you my immense knowledge."
He gave her a skeptical glance. "Last time, you started whinging about being bored after five minutes, and I had to kick you out of the study when you tried to..." He cleared his throat.
She shrugged. "My well-being is at stake. The sooner you finish that silly little project, the sooner you can go back to paying me the attention I deserve."
"Damned fiend," Gabrielle muttered. "Even in helping him, your motivations are selfish."
Fia flashed her fangs. "Everyone's selfish, little birdie. Us demons just don't pretend to be otherwise."
"Don't call me that!"
Her smile widened. "What are you going to do about it? Sprout your rudimentary wings and cluck—eek!"
Rolling his eyes, Harry let go of Fia's tail. "Stop provoking her. If you're both serious about helping, I won't have you wrecking my study. Coming?"
Fia rubbed the part of the tail he had squeezed and peered at him balefully before perking up. "Not yet, but soon, I hope."
His lips twitched. "If we finish charting out the ward quickly, that can be arranged, you horny..." Swallowing back the words, he shot Gabrielle an apologetic look. Living with no one but Fia, he got used to saying things that wouldn't fly in polite company.
"What about my horns?" Fia asked innocently, brushing her hair away from them.
"They're majestic as always," he said dryly. "Let's go."
Between Fia's knowledge of languages and Gabrielle's surprisingly keen understanding of enchantments, they rapidly made headway on adapting the ancient ceremony to ward the house. Only one problem remained.
"The purifying incense." He pulled away from the notes laid out on the floor and rubbed his eyes. "It's an integral part of the protections, but as it is, it'll prevent any demon from entering the house. I hate to say this, but we just might need help from a Potions master."
Fia scoffed. "You would seek advice from a mortal when you have a wise and beautiful demoness at your beck and call?"
He looked around. "Where?"
Her tail whipped against the floor. "Do you wish to hear my insight, or would you rather keep blundering as you did for the past week?"
He gave her a skeptical look. "Are you saying you can tweak the recipe to exclude only you from the incense's effects?"
"I can do better." She smiled at having got his attention. "Replace it."
His eyebrows rose. "With what?"
"Why, your blood. Think about it... it's anathema to us demons, but since you ingested mine, I should be able to bypass the wards entirely."
"You can't be seriously considering that, Harry!" Gabrielle exclaimed. "Blood magic is illegal and dangerous!"
Fiamette laughed. "Why is it that humans outlaw everything the slightest bit exciting? Trust me, the protections will be much stronger than if you used your puny herbs. You'll have to bleed a great deal, though." She dipped a nail into an inkwell and sketched a glyph on an empty parchment. "My father used similar sorcery to protect our castle from intruders. It will keep out anything but the greatest Princes—and me, of course."
He hummed thoughtfully, watching a schematic emerge under the deft movements of her index finger. "Tomorrow evening, then, after we pick up the rest of the ingredients. Nicely done, Fia."
She gave him a toothy smile. "As you well know, I aim to please."
Gabrielle grasped his sleeve. "Don't do this. It could be a ploy to drain your blood."
"It's not his blood that I'm interested in draining," Fia said, giving her a wink.
Gabrielle spluttered, then shook her head, her locks whipping her pink cheeks. "She's just biding her time, she said so herself! This is a great opportunity for her to weaken you and strike when you're vulnerable!"
"It is." He rose to his feet and stretched with a groan. "But I don't think she'll betray me just yet. She enjoys serving me too much."
"You wish." Black fire licked up her nail, burning off the ink stain. "Your strength and wiliness proved greater than mine, but the moment you slip up, I'll pounce."
He snorted. "As if I'd be scared of someone who goes bonkers over Hello Kitty."
"You—" Fia sprang to her feet, shooting a flustered glance toward Gabrielle. "Not a word more, or..."
"Or what?" he said, crossing his arms. "It seems last night wasn't enough to remind you of your place. Perhaps I need to take harsher measures."
Her nostrils flared, and she ran her tongue over her teeth. "Attic?"
"Attic." It had been a while, and he was looking forward to a good workout.
She gripped him by the collar and pulled him toward the door. "Stakes?"
"One request, within reason." Freeing himself of her claws, he followed her through the corridor.
"You're on, mortal." In contrast to her words, her tone was gleeful, and the tip of her tail swished side to side as she lead the way upstairs.
Hearing softer footsteps behind, he glanced back to find Gabrielle trailing him. "You should stay away for a while."
"Why? Are you going to... to have some alone time together?" She averted her gaze, her fingers clenching the fabric of her robes. "N-not that it's any of my business! It just sounded dangerous—sorry if I misunderstood—"
"Oh, let the birdie watch," Fia said from a few steps ahead. "She seems to have a predilection for that."
Gabrielle let out a meep, her cheeks coloring. Harry gave her a glance of passing curiosity, but he had bigger things to worry about.
"Stay in the corner and put up a shield," he said, unbuttoning his robes as he walked.
Ascending into the attic at Fia's heels, he shrugged off his robes and hung them on a hook, leaving him in joggers and a T-shirt. He rolled his shoulders and stretched while Fia took position on the opposite side between the attic's slanting walls. Gabrielle halted uncertainly at the top of the stairs.
"Can we begin already or are you going to keep stalling?" Fia called out, tightening the belt around her gown.
"Bring it on," he said, not rising to the bait. The flame within him roared to fill his limbs with heat, and he lifted his fists defensively.
"Don't mind if I do," she said in a sing-song voice.
She darted left, then right, dancing toward him. He lowered his stance, his muscles taut. A couple steps away, she planted one foot and pivoted, her other foot hurtling sideways at his head. He grunted as it connected with his raised forearm, making him skid along the floor. He grabbed at her extended leg, but she slipped away before lunging again.
He leapt back from an upward swipe of her claws, feeling a single nail slice his shirt. There was a loud gasp, and he glanced back to see Gabrielle erect a spherical shield.
A fist struck his stomach, doubling him over; only his flexed muscles saved him from puking his guts out on the spot. Staggering, he lifted his head to glare.
Fia responded with an impudent grin. "Stop ogling the birdie or I might get jealous and seriously hurt you."
He coughed, righting himself. "I barely felt that. Your sister was right: you're losing your edge."
Her pupils narrowed, and she sprang forward in a flurry of lightning-fast jabs. He backpedaled covering his vitals and taking the rest of the attacks. When she clawed at his neck, he evaded, grasped her arm, and flipped her over his shoulder. Her head rebounded off the floor on impact. He raised a foot to stomp her, but she rolled out of the way and kicked at his legs. Leaping over the kick, he pinned her down.
Her hot breath washed over his face as the air was driven from her lungs. Her leg brushed his crotch sensually, and when he stilled in surprise, she reared her head and slammed his. He reeled, seeing stars.
Bending both knees, she kicked mightily and sent him soaring. He landed in a heavy crouch, barely staying upright, and rubbed his ribs struggling to draw a breath. Fia didn't relent, gathering speed before jumping at him in a flying kick.
Allowing it to graze his side, he grabbed her leg, spun on the spot, and tossed her at the wall with the momentum. She twisted mid-air to brace with her hands and feet against the slanted wall before kicking off it.
Again and again they met in a blur of fists and claws, Fia dancing around him while he stayed low to the ground. Knowing he couldn't beat her in dexterity, he deflected what he could and counterattacked whenever the opportunity arose.
Frustration became evident on her face when she failed to whittle him down. Gaining some distance, wings bulging under her gown, she thrust out a palm and molded a ball of black flame.
Harry glanced anxiously at Gabrielle. "Oi, don't be daft—"
The admonishment died on his lips when Fia flung the fireball. He threw his hand forward, catching the scorching flames. In the instant that it took for them to fizzle out, Fia darted up to him and spun in a roundhouse kick. It connected with his ribs and tossed him aside. He rolled several times along the floor, groaned, and gathered himself up.
Fia traipsed toward him leisurely. "Ready to give in?"
"Too tired to go on?" He wiped his lips, the back of his hand coming away bloody.
She gave him a predatory smile and lashed out with her fists. He grunted as pain lanced through his ribs with every blow. His tattered shirt flapped around irritatingly; throwing a haymaker to force her back, he ripped it off and wrapped it around his right fist.
She licked her lips. "Giving the birdie a show?" Her gaze flicked to the shimmering sphere at the top of the staircase.
He lunged and reared his right arm as though to punch, but instead threw the bunched-up shirt at her face. When she stumbled back, he swept her legs from underneath her and tackled her to the ground.
She strained against his hold, but he forced more unholy strength into his muscles and held her down. Her violet eyes met his, her crimson hair splayed out on the floor, strands matted to her sweaty forehead.
"That wasn't fair," she panted. "Well done."
"I had a good teacher."
She bent her neck, but rather than the headbutt he expected, her lips mashed to his. He stiffened before stooping over her and kissing her back. The coiling of her muscles was his only warning before she flipped him over, straddling his waist and pinning his wrists.
"You haven't learned enough," she breathed, her pupils dilated. "The victory's mine."
He glowered as he stoked the flame within himself. Even knowing he would pay for this later, he recklessly channeled more power into his screaming muscles. With a bellow, he threw her off. Rising to his feet, he tried not to show the pain he was in as he met her wide eyes. "Not even close."
She shivered. "You've gained in strength again. That's... impressive progress." Worrying her lip, she untied her tight belt and parted her gown.
He blinked. "What are you doing?"
"Evening the odds," she said, eyeing his naked torso. "It's not fair if I'm the only one distracted."
Slipping the gown off her shoulders, she allowed it to fall to the floor, leaving her in a lacy purple bra and sheer panties. His gaze swept appreciatively over the expanse of glistening tan skin.
She bounded toward him, her breasts bouncing, and slashed at his head. Ducking, he hesitated to return the blow, and she tittered when her follow-up punch connected, knocking him into a chest of drawers beside the wall. Snarling, he yanked out a drawer and swung it at her, but her wings erupted from her back, forcing him to shield his eyes from the blast of wind.
Panting, he watched her take to the air in the center of the narrow room. His strength waned; he had to end this. Letting go of the drawer, he purposely stumbled, falling to one knee.
Fiamette bared her fangs and swooped down in a kick. He dodged at the last instant, and her foot crashed into the chest of drawers, plunging through several layers of wood. Before she could yank it out, he scooped her up around the waist and slung her over his shoulder. Her legs kicked in the air and her fists pummeled his back until he grasped her tail and twisted.
She screeched. "N-not fair!"
"I thought unfair was good," he said, holding down her legs one-armed while squeezing her tail. "Do you give?"
"Eternal blaze consume you, you brazen—" She squeaked as his grip tightened. "Fine, you win, barbarian! Next time, I won't go easy on you." She went limp, and the warm wings draped over him rustled as they shrank into nothingness.
His pulse raced, he was sore all over, and his legs trembled under her weight, but he couldn't help grinning. There was a primal satisfaction to winning a contest of strength, doubly so against someone who haunted his nightmares for years. It reaffirmed his victory all over again, and he could never get enough of the rush.
Oddly enough, neither seemed Fiamette.
"Excuse me," he grunted, pushing past the wide-eyed Gabrielle to trudge down the stairs. She stuttered something, but the thumping in his ears was too loud, and the inner flame he had uncaged all-consuming.
Sweat dripped from his brow as he hauled Fia a floor down. Even a single flight of stairs left his legs feeling like jelly, so rather than keep descending to the master bedroom, he headed toward the nearer bathroom.
Fia squirmed, her bra-clad breasts pressing against his back. "What unspeakable things will you subject me to now that I'm at your mercy?"
"Shower," he said, saving his breath. Kicking open the bathroom door, he strolled in and set her down.
"Excellent—I feel very dirty right now." She reached behind to unclasp her bra, and her pert breasts sprang free, her nipples pointed. Bending forward, she wiggled her panties down her hips. Harry wrenched his gaze away and turned to close the door, but before he could grasp the handle, she seized his other hand and guided it between her thighs. "Ah... See? It's your fault for pummeling me so hard."
Any rational thought fled his mind. "I was just thinking that if pummeling the message into you didn't work, I'd try pounding it in next."
Biting her lip, she pulled him backward into the shower cabin. He yanked down his bottoms, and jumping on one foot, kicked them outside.
Her gaze drifted to his raging erection. "And... what is the message?"
The nozzles came on, spraying hot water over their sweaty bodies. Fia's hair clung to her tan skin, falling over her ample breasts. He seized her horn to yank her head back and claimed her lips.
"That I'm your master," he said, drawing back.
"That's quite a message," she breathed. "I'm not sure it will sink in."
"We'll see about that." He turned her around and shoved her against the tiled wall.
"You ought to be more gentle with a maiden." She spread her legs, sending a smoldering glance over her shoulder.
He chuckled. "If you're a maiden then I'm a bloody Hippogriff."
"You might be related to one, given the size of your organ." Her tail wound around his thigh, tugging him closer. "Before you get any ideas, I meant your brain."
Taking hold of her narrow waist, he drove into her molten heat. They both gasped, Harry pausing to collect himself before he started pumping. The tail around his leg tightened spasmodically as moans escaped Fia's lips.
"Keep riling me up," he panted, "and you'll get more than you bargained for."
Her palms slid along the foggy tiles, his thrusts reverberating through her body. "It'll take more to impress me."
Sinking his fingers into her wet locks, he got a good grip and pulled, making her arch her back with a moan. He leaned closer to graze her neck with his teeth, working his way up to her earlobe. As he nibbled on it, he could feel her walls start to flutter around him.
"Finished already?" he grunted. "So much for the famed succubus."
Her retort dissolved into a whimper as the hand he had around her waist slid down to her damp curls. As his fingers brushed her little nub, she stiffened, throbbing around him. Gritting his teeth, he struggled to keep up his rhythm as she came around his cock.
"Yes... oh!" Tremor after tremor wracked her body, her nails scraping the wall as she slid down, her arse pushing against him.
He held her tight until she loosened and her tail drooped from his leg. As he pulled out, she made a dissatisfied noise.
He spun her around and crouched to hook an elbow under her knee. Lifting it up, he pushed her back against the wall, leaving her standing on one leg. His arm trembled under the weight, but his need overrode the burning of his muscles.
Her left leg bent around his hips, and her glazed eyes locked with his. She was spread before him, pink and dripping. He inched closer until he slipped inside her.
Fia's eyes flew wide open. "Again?"
"I promised, didn't I?"
He thrust his hips forward. Her lips parted in a moan. Taking hold of her hip with his free hand, he drew back and drove into her again, building into a rhythm.
Fia hugged him around the shoulders, peering at him through half-lidded eyes as her breath left her lips in gasps. When he sped up, she arched her neck, and he bent to suckle on her skin. She bit her lip so hard her fang drew blood. He licked up the crimson droplet, hot and coppery. Moaning against his mouth, she trapped his lower lip between her teeth.
Pressing his forehead to hers, he stared into her dark, bottomless pupils. "This what you wanted? To be slammed against the wall and fucked?"
She tightened her leg around his hip, tugging him closer. "Yes... yes!"
He pounded into her like possessed. "For all your talk... You get off on being dominated."
"Love it," she cried, her voice going up an octave.
"My little cumslut." His vision swam as his pleasure built and his exhaustion threatened to catch up to him. "I'll pump your cunt full of my cum."
"Please." The tip of her tail caressed his tightening balls. "Give it to me."
Letting out an animalistic grunt, he buried himself to the hilt. Ecstasy crashed over him, so intense he nearly blacked out. He spurted deep inside her, over and over, barely registering her claws raking his back as her cry joined his.
"Yes, oh!" She convulsed around him, her tail massaging him. "Master, my master..."
He gulped down air, struggling under her weight. "That's right. Good girl, Fia."
Her leg around him slackened, and he let go with a groan, bracing a palm against the wall. Silent for a change, Fia snuggled into his chest, and he wrapped his arms around her as warm water rained from above.
After a filling dinner, he retired early and slept like a log throughout the evening and night. When his eyes next fluttered open, morning light was filtering through the drapes. A groan escaped his mouth as pleasure surged through his body, a wonderful moist heat enveloping his cock. He glanced down at the tented blanket and lifted it to find Fia's horned head bobbing up and down. Her violet eyes practically shone in the darkness underneath as they turned his way.
He groaned again as she increased her pace, and it wasn't long before he bucked into her mouth. She hummed, pumping him with one hand as she gulped down his seed.
"Pah. Good morning, master." She licked her lips, grinning mischievously. "Have a good dream?"
He caught his breath. "You're insatiable."
"It's not my fault," she said, pouting. "I woke to this thing poking me like it wanted to come out and play."
"Well," he said, reaching down to caress her crimson hair, "it's not the worst way to start the day."
Her tail wagged, rustling underneath the blanket. He hid his grimace with a smile; simply extending his arm was torture on his biceps. He rolled on his side, Fia scooting away, and slung his legs over the edge. Drawing a bracing breath, he rose and stumbled into the shower. He could sense her eyes boring into his back.
Cool water poured from above. He shivered but didn't turn up the temperature. Reaching for the soap, he swore as the bar slipped from his fingers.
"Silly, silly, silly Harry," Fia said in a sing-song voice, joining him. She shuddered as she stepped under the spray, and turned the tap, warming the water up. "You're in pain, aren't you?"
He grunted noncommittally, not looking forward to being mocked.
She tutted as she picked up the soap and worked up some lather. "I warned you not to test your limits before your body caught up physically." Her hands began soaping him up. "But I can't say I dislike that about you. You don't shy away from a challenge."
He flinched as her fingers skimmed over a scratch on his shoulder blade.
"Does that still hurt?" Hugging him from behind, Fia planted a kiss on his shoulder.
"You've got to learn to go easy with your claws."
"You're one to lecture me about going easy." She squirmed against him. "I'm still sore from yesterday, and I don't mean our spar."
Hiding his smile, he leaned into her wonderful touch. He knew it wouldn't last, but having her act deferential was worth nearly tearing his muscles for.
After the shower, he asked Melly to fetch him some Pain-Relieving Potion and slogged down to the kitchen, where Fia took obvious delight in perching on his lap and feeding him breakfast. It was ostensibly to take care of him, but by the way Gabrielle glowered at the pair of them, it was evident Fia only did it to annoy her.
Having gotten through the breakfast and the girls' usual sniping, he entertained the idea of picking up his order from Knockturn Alley but decided that Apparating in his current condition was asking for trouble. Instead, he jotted a note that he would come by tomorrow, and asked Melly to deliver it to the shopkeeper.
The afternoon was spent lounging on an armchair before the living room's fireplace with a book—one that had nothing to do with demons, for a change. Gabrielle had declined his suggestion to go out and see the sights, claiming she needed to watch out for him so that "the demonic slattern" wouldn't take advantage of his weakened state. Fia naturally took that as an invitation to cling to him and make suggestive remarks. It was only Harry reminding them of his warning that prevented their bickering from devolving into a brawl.
Unable to focus on his book, he brought out a pack of cards, hoping to distract the girls into giving him some peace. The two took to Dragon Poker with surprising readiness, treating every match as if it were a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, his idea ended up backfiring when Fia suggested betting articles of clothing, and Gabrielle, after a glance at Harry, agreed.
On the whole, it turned out to be the laziest day he had allowed himself in a long while, but between Fia showering him with affection, and Gabrielle appearing elated just to be at his side, he had such a good time that he couldn't beat himself up over it.
Chapter 15: Angel, Part Four
Harry strode down Knockturn Alley, steering clear of the rubbish-strewn gutters and the stalls of shady hawkers. It was hard to tell which smelled fouler. Fia clung to his arm, baring her fangs at anyone who dared approach, yet preening under the attention. And she got plenty of attention: between her bat-print kneesocks, a ruffled skirt so short it could be called a belt, and a midriff-baring top that accentuated her breasts, she sported more skin than the local harlots.
Gabrielle clutched his other arm, her blue eyes wide as she craned her neck at the sights. He hadn't objected to her closeness. While the dangers of Knockturn Alley were often overstated, it still wasn't a safe place—especially to young women dressed in scanty sundresses that screamed "I don't belong". He would've left her at Grimmauld Place, were it not for the risk of Fia's sister returning with reinforcements at any moment. That, and Gabrielle insisted on coming along as though it were him who needed her protection.
"Try not to act like a tourist." He tugged Gabrielle along when her gaze lingered on a warty hag behind a blood-splattered stall. "You might attract trouble."
She gulped, then said in an undertone, "Merde! I'm fairly certain that... woman is selling human liver."
Fia glanced over her shoulder. "Hmm? Perhaps I should buy some while I have the chance."
He sent her a perplexed look. "What are you going to do with something like that?"
"Why, eat it, of course." Fia giggled at his expression. "Just jesting, I doubt humans taste very good... Except you, of course." Her breasts squished against his arm, and she skimmed her tongue along his jaw.
Gabrielle gawked, then upon meeting Fia's amused gaze, quickly faced forward, her cheeks glowing.
He jerked his head away. "As long as you don't gouge out my liver."
"Never! If there's one part of you I'm interested in eating, it's your—"
"Shush," he chided good-naturedly. Knockturn Alley was the last place he wanted to cause a scene. "At least wait until we get back."
Her tail whipped around to caress his arse. "Is that a promise?"
"If you behave."
Fia licked her lips and fell silent.
Passing a pawnbroker's and a dingy pub, they approached their destination: a narrow, windowless storefront that had "Seymour's" written in peeling paint above the door. As Harry extended his hand toward the doorknob, the back of his neck prickled. He whirled around and narrowed his eyes.
A bell tinkled as the doors of the apothecary across the street swung open, releasing a hooded witch clutching what looked like a jar of fingernails. Her gaze lingered on Harry's companions before she sniffed and hurried off. In a dark side-alley next to the apothecary, a black-robed man swore under his breath as he tapped his smoking pipe with his wand, spark after spark lighting up his unshaven face.
Gabrielle pulled on his sleeve. "Harry?"
"It's... nothing. Just my imagination." Pivoting, he pushed the door open.
Sputtering oil lamps struggled to illuminate a dusty interior. The only way in for daylight was a tiny window above a narrow door into a cramped courtyard. Stacks of antique books and dubious trinkets burst from the crooked shelves around, but he knew it was only a front for the store's real business: smuggling and selling stolen goods.
A middle-aged man in robes that hung loose on his bony frame shuffled out of the back and up to the counter.
"Ah, Mr. Potter! Here to pick up the goods, I presume." His rheumy eyes considered the trio, lingering on Gabrielle. "And with yet another beautiful lady on your arm. You should know better than to bring someone like her to a place like this."
Harry raised his eyebrows. "Surely your store is perfectly safe, Mr. Seymour."
The man tittered. "Of course, good sir, of course. Just thinking out loud." He produced a threadbare handkerchief and dabbed at his forehead. "Well then, please excuse me while I retrieve your order."
Sweeping the three of them with a rueful look, he vanished among the shadowy shelves. Harry drummed his fingers on the counter. Fia wandered off to poke at murky crystal orbs, while Gabrielle remained at his side, glancing around curiously.
Minutes passed. He frowned and opened his mouth to call Seymour, then glanced back at the sound of the door creaking open. A bald wizard with a scar along his scalp entered, eyed the trio, then plucked a dusty tome from a shelf and proceeded to peruse it with great interest.
Harry forced himself to look away, his fingers now tap-dancing on the counter. He surreptitiously freed his left hand from Gabrielle's hold and patted the pocket holding his wand.
The door opened again, and two sets of footsteps stomped in. His heart beat faster. Swiveling around, he clasped Gabrielle's hand and strode toward the exit, but two strangers barred his way. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the baldie who had entered first toss aside his book and edge closer.
"Excuse me," he snarled, but before he could bull his way through, a wand jabbed into his back.
"No sudden moves, guv," a man's voice lisped. "Same goes for your bitch. I see her claws come out, I blow a hole right through your chest."
Harry slowly looked back to find a fourth wizard pulling off an invisibility cloak and giving him a gap-toothed grin. The other three trained their wands on Fia. Her narrowed gaze took in the situation, and her nails retracted.
"That's right, nice and easy, and you come out of this in one piece." Gap-Tooth gave a rasping laugh. "Me and the gents here, we have a business proposition, so why don't we get out of here and have a talk?"
"Do as he says." Harry himself was surprised by how even his voice sounded despite the adrenaline flooding his body. At his side, Gabrielle shivered, her eyes wide as saucers. He couldn't let loose, not yet, or she might get caught in the line of fire.
"Glad to see a reasonable man, bloody delighted I am." Gap-Tooth shoved him toward the door into the courtyard, the wand digging in between his shoulder blades. "Walk."
Harry didn't resist as he was marched out into a cramped yard surrounded by overhanging eaves. Baldie separated Gabrielle from him and jabbed his wand under her chin; the other two held Fia at wandpoint at a healthy distance. When she sneered at them, they actually took a step back.
"Alright, guv, 'ppreciate the cooperation," Gap-Tooth said. "Here's how this is going to go down. You'll tell the redheaded bitch to go with us, all quiet like, and then we part ways and you go on to live a long happy life. How's that sound?"
Harry's jaw sagged. "You're here for her?"
"'Course we're here for her! She's some kinda exotic half-breed, ain't she?" Gap-Tooth spat on the ground. "I don't care enough to know, but there's rich folk offering a pretty Knut for her, and here you are parading her around in broad daylight."
He barked a laugh. How refreshing, not being the target for once. Just good old greed, nothing to do with the whole Voldemort business.
The wand poked into his back. "What's so funny?"
"Sorry, go on. How much are you willing to pay for her?"
The men exchanged stumped glances. Gap-Tooth grabbed Harry's collar and stabbed his wand to his throat. "Your life for starters, you daft git."
His gaze darted around. "Alright, fair argument. Let us go, and you can have her. I promise I won't look for you afterward." There was little point in that, as Fia will have turned these idiots to ash by then.
Laughter greeted his words, but it sounded unsure, forced.
"Listen to 'im, 'e won't look for us," grunted Baldie.
"Not if he knows what's good for him," Gap-Tooth said. "Nigel, hand him the cuffs."
One of the men targeting Fia produced a pair of manacles forged from a dull grey metal and tossed them at Harry, who caught them with a grunt. There was a respectable heft to them.
"Right, guv, go on 'n cuff her," ordered Gap-Tooth.
Harry's fingertips tingled as he ran them over the chain links. Consecrated silver... This complicated things.
"Go on, then!"
He walked as slowly as he dared, sinking into an Occlumentic trance with every step. His concern for Gabrielle's well-being faded into the background as cold logic took over. Knowing he would have to move quickly and with precision, he drew on his inner flame, not allowing the accompanying pain to affect his expression.
A dozen eyes watched his progress, Fia's slit-pupil ones among them. She held her head high, but he could see her stiffen as she eyed the manacles.
"Extend your hands," he said loudly. Then, leaning closer, he whispered, "Shield me."
Her eyes widened. He spun and flung the manacles at Gap-Tooth. Shoving his hand down his pocket, he drew his wand and disarmed Baldie, who yelped out half a syllable before his wand was wrenched from his fingers. It sailed toward Harry, but rather than catch it, he ducked, his ears ringing with yelled incantations. Leathery wings folded around him, and the incoming curses fizzled out against a sphere of hellfire.
The opening salvo petered out, and Fia unfurled her wings with a snarl, scattering black fire everywhere. Gashes opened in the walls and screams rent the air as the hellfire incinerated everything it came in contact with. Harry saw black flames lap at the hem of Gabrielle's dress and took aim, but she thrust her palm down and conjured her own fire. The opposing forces annihilated in a burst of sparks.
A yellow curse buzzed past his ear, and he rounded on Gap-Tooth. To his right, Gabrielle swore up a storm in French as she kept Baldie away from his fallen wand. He could hear Fia take to the air with mighty beats of her wings, drawing the enemy spellfire.
Jets of light lanced between him and Gap-Tooth, gouging the flagstones or rocketing skyward as they were deflected. Harry gradually whittled down the thug's surprisingly competent defenses but couldn't land a finishing blow. Fia's scream resounded behind. He rushed toward his opponent and parried an Entrail-Expelling Curse before slugging him in the stomach. Strengthened by the momentum, the punch knocked Gap-Tooth right through a wooden wall.
He spun around. Fia was on the ground, wingless, one loop of the manacles clasped around her ankle. A thug approached with his wand trained on her, another but a pile of ash.
Harry summoned the manacles to pull Fia toward him, and the thug's curse missed its mark. As she skidded over the flagstones to come to a halt at his feet, he pummeled the thug with Bludgeoning curses until one got through, caving in his sternum with a sickening crunch. The man crumpled in a heap.
Harry rounded on Baldie, who had reclaimed his wand and was dueling with Gabrielle. Under their combined offensive, the last standing thug was forced on the back foot. Sweat trickled down his scalp, and a look of desperation came over his face.
The emerald jet of light streaked at Gabrielle. Harry lunged toward her, feeling as if he were wading through molasses. A crystal orb rocketed past, and blocking the curse's path, shattered in a deafening blast. Gabrielle fell back with a cry as she was sprayed with the fragments.
Skidding to a halt, Harry snarled a Paralysis Curse, and Baldie toppled over. He strode over and stomped the man's wand hand, finger bones crunching under his heel. His own wand pointed between the man's wild eyes, light pooling at the tip.
Gabrielle's gasp made him regain his composure. The three thugs in the courtyard were incapacitated or worse, and the one he had slammed through the wall wasn't coming back for more.
He rushed up to Gabrielle and looked her over. Her dress was in tatters, but she appeared uninjured except for a few scratches on her face where the crystal shards had grazed her. He lifted his wand.
"I'm—I'm fine," she said, her chattering teeth belying her words. "I saw her steal it. The orb." She tittered hysterically. "Wanted to tell you. Call her out."
"Shh. Hang in there." He proffered his hand.
Hauling her to her feet, he ushered her toward where Fia sat on the ground with a peeved expression. He knelt to examine the manacles. Not a seam was visible on the loop of grey metal locked skin-tight around her ankle. Fortunately, it didn't appear to cut off circulation.
"Latched on like a snake while I was flying," she said. "Nasty piece of magic. I would dearly like to have a word with its maker."
He rapped the loop with his wand, then grabbed on and tried to pry it open. "Shit, we'll have to deal with it back home. Better get out of here before the Aurors arrive." He glanced at the trembling Gabrielle. "Can you Apparate?"
She drew a shuddering breath and nodded resolutely. A funny little twirl later, she clutched her forehead. "It's jinxed!"
He glanced around, then scooped Fia up in his arms. "Must've been one of these pricks. Let's try getting out into the open. Follow close."
He plodded up to the hole he had smashed in the wall and stepped through, finding himself in a dusty storage space. Gap-Tooth was slouching against a barrel and moaning; upon seeing them, he feebly raised his wand, but Harry kicked him so hard his neck snapped back with a crack.
Damn it, he was still boosted. Looking away from the man's glassy eyes, he awkwardly stuck his wand from under Fia's legs and aimed at the opposite wall.
Chips of wood clattered onto the cobblestones ahead, and the stench of Knockturn gutters washed over them. Jumping over them, he set Fia down and supported her by the shoulders. Gabrielle hopped down next to them.
"Back to Grimmauld, quick," he said, breathing heavily.
Visualizing his destination, he spun on the spot, then groaned as he crashed into what felt like a brick wall. His head swiveled around. The hawkers had fled at the first sign of trouble—one had to have outstanding survival instincts to live here—but the pipe-smoker conspicuously stood in the side-alley, his wand weaving through the air.
Their eyes met. The pipe fell from the man's lips, and he fled. Harry's first hex whizzed past his shoulder, but the follow-up connected, and the man fell face-first onto the grimy pavement. Harry raced toward him, hauled him up by the collar, and slammed him against the wall.
"Who sent you?" The man's eyes bulged as he struggled to breathe; Harry relaxed his hold a little. "Where did you get those manacles?"
The man's lips moved, but a series of cracks drowned out the words. Harry looked into the main alley and saw red-robed Aurors surrounding Fia and Gabrielle.
"Drop your wand!" one yelled to Harry.
He gritted his teeth, glaring at the thug he held against the wall. Useless fucks, popping up after the fight was over—
"Drop it or we're taking you down!"
He tossed his wand at the pavement and let go of the thug, who promptly collapsed to his knees. In moments, they were surrounded by Aurors. Taking a deep breath, he tamped down his power and his rage alongside it.
They were promptly searched, disarmed, and taken to a holding cell at the Ministry. Harry only gave monosyllabic answers when asked something until the two Aurors who were processing them tried to separate him from the girls.
"They stay with me," he said.
"You'll be questioned separately," said a younger Auror. A fresh recruit, from the looks of him, too young to remember the horrors of the war. "Them's the regulations." He took the wide-eyed Gabrielle by the elbow and began ushering her out of the cell.
Harry clamped his hand over the Auror's forearm. "They stay with me."
"Out of the question! Now let go before—"
The Auror yelped and dropped his wand as Harry tightened his grip. His colleague turned and lifted his own wand.
Harry raised his left palm in a gesture of peace, yet didn't let the first Auror go. "Call Shacklebolt for me, would you?"
The Aurors exchanged uncertain glances. The older of the two took a closer look at Harry's face. Harry schooled his lips into a smile and let go of the first, who snatched his arm back and rubbed it.
"I'll relay the message," said the older Auror, "but the Head Auror is very busy."
"We'll wait until he finds time for us," Harry said amicably, and went to sit on the cell's bench. Gabrielle looked from him to the Aurors, then scampered to sit down at his side opposite Fia.
The first Auror picked up his dropped wand and glowered at Harry looking like he had something to say, but his colleague led him out of the cell, speaking under his breath. Harry grinned when he caught a "Potter" before the cell doors slammed shut and the Aurors left the room. It was good to know his name still meant something around these parts.
Reclining against the wall, he prepared for a long wait. Fia sulked, swinging her right leg and making the shackles scrape the floor. Settled on his other side, Gabrielle stared at her lap. She kept worrying her lip and shooting Fiamette surreptitious glances for what felt like the longest time before clearing her throat.
"Why... why did you save me?" she asked. When Fia didn't react, Harry nudged her with an elbow, making her twitch as if waking up. "You could've done nothing, and no one could even blame you."
Fia blinked before her lips stretched into a grin. "Because you're amusing to have around. Think of it as defending a pet you've grown fond of."
Harry chuckled. "Like the hellhound you mentioned?"
She leaned forward to leer at Gabrielle. "Except much easier on the eyes."
Gabrielle looked away, her cheeks pink. "I should've known it would be something like that." Not meeting Fia's gaze, she added grudgingly, "Thanks anyway."
"Think nothing of it, little birdie. I did it because I wanted to, not to create a debt."
Gabrielle scrunched up her nose thoughtfully and went quiet. Fia's shackles kept scraping the floor, over and over. He was about to ask her to stop when she groaned loudly.
"No one's coming! Can't we break out of this place already? Please?"
He snorted mirthlessly. "Just be patient."
Hours dragged on. By the time Shacklebolt deigned to grace them with his presence, Harry was seriously considering Fia's suggestion. The Head Auror contemplated the trio for a minute, then opened the cell door and motioned them out without a word. Settling behind a guard's desk, he slapped a sheaf of parchment atop and waved Harry into the opposite chair.
"What am I going to do with you, Potter?"
"I don't know what you mean, Shack," he said innocently.
Shacklebolt gave him a dirty look. "You raised quite a commotion. Trainee Chase had to visit a healer to treat his contusion. Resisting an Auror normally carries a fine in itself."
He folded his arms. "The bloke was being unreasonable."
"And so you called up me. It's not the Head Auror's job to question suspects, you know."
"I wasn't aware I was a suspect."
Shacklebolt sighed and leafed through the parchments. "You left three corpses in your wake, one incinerated so completely not even the bones remain. I couldn't stop the investigation even if I wanted to. After giving your statement, you'll have to make an appearance in a week or so to answer further questions." He flicked his wand, causing a Dicta-Quill to hover over an empty parchment. "What did the riffraff want with you?"
He jerked his chin back at Fia. "Her, actually. I got the impression they were traffickers of some kind."
"Hmm. The survivors said they were after—excuse my language, young lady—an unusual half-breed." Shacklebolt's gaze scrutinized Fia.
Harry flashed her a warning look over his shoulder, mentally begging her to stay quiet. "It's not a crime to be one."
"Of course not." Shacklebolt was silent for a moment. "It's just that, one of the involved was convinced she was some kind of a... demon."
He snorted. "Probably a superstitious Muggleborn."
"What about her eyes?"
"Human Transfiguration. She lets me practice on her."
Shacklebolt's eyebrows rose. "And the shackle around her leg?"
"A fashion statement." There was a choking noise behind him, but he maintained a poker face.
"A fashion statement," Shacklebolt repeated blandly.
He shrugged. "You know how young people are these days. Always wanting to look like rebels."
"I hope you're aware this will be on record," Shacklebolt muttered. His gaze moved above Harry's shoulder. "And how does Miss"—he glanced down at the documents—"Delacour figure into this?"
"Nohow. Just a fan, not knowing to stay away from the mess that is my life."
"I'm not—" Gabrielle gulped when Harry's and Shacklebolt's gazes centered on her. "I'm no fangirl—I'm Harry's friend! Please, sir, he's not at fault here. He was just defending her and got caught up in everything."
Shacklebolt glanced at the Dicta-Quill. "Are you prepared to repeat this in court, should the need arise?"
She jutted out her chin. "I am."
"Very well. Don't leave the country—we'll owl you when we need you to come in again. Same goes for you two."
Harry grinned, rising to his feet. "Cheers, Shack."
Shacklebolt grimaced and reached out to shake his hand. "Try not to get into any more trouble, Potter—Harry." He tugged Harry closer, his dark eyes flicking sideways to indicate Fia. "I don't know what game you're playing, but if it gets out of hand, even I won't be able to cover for you."
"I'll keep that in mind," he murmured.
Shacklebolt clapped him on the shoulder, and they were free to go.
"Now you can see exactly why I wanted you to stay away from me." Harry shrugged off his dirty robes and deposited them into Melly's extended hands. "This isn't the first time this kind of thing happens. I'm used to it, and Fia actually welcomes the fight, but..."
"I can take care of myself!" Gabrielle bristled at Fia's snort. "I was just caught by surprise. It all happened so quickly... I'll do better next time, promise! My Defense Against the Dark Arts grades were top of the class. Well, nearly."
He goggled at her. "Are you being serious? After all this, you would risk your life by staying with me?"
"Yes, I would." Her misty eyes met his squarely. "For you, I'd do anything!"
He threw up his hands. "Then you're an idiot."
"You're the one who's an idiot, you great prat!" Gabrielle's teary gaze flicked to Fia. "Those men were there for her! If you just sent her back where she came from, none of this would've happened!"
"Not that this isn't entertaining, but will someone please help me get this thing off already?" Seated on the step separating the foyer from the house proper, Fia lifted her right leg and dangled the shackles in the air.
Harry and Gabrielle exchanged a glance. He looked away first, embarrassed by his outburst, but not ready to change his position either.
"Let's go down to the basement and see what we can do," he said.
He descended the stairs, hearing metal clang behind him as Fia kicked and dragged the manacles along. Against his expectations, Gabrielle followed, her eyes widening as she took in the torture implements and the chain rings mortared into walls.
Fia grinned. "Curious? I'll tell you all about how Harry used these on me some time."
"He—he wouldn't, surely." She shot him a glance, which he ignored. "Even if he did, I'm sure you deserved..." Her voice trailed off as she eyed the rusty iron maiden.
"Coming to terms with your crush not being a storybook hero yet?" Fia said.
"It's permissible to use whatever means necessary to fight evil." There wasn't much certainty in her voice.
"Wouldn't that mean becoming evil yourself?" Fia asked, clanging her way down. She laughed at Gabrielle's perturbed look. "See, that's the problem with your kind's morality. We just do whatever we want and don't pretend to be guided by some lofty principles."
Harry pulled a battered worktable away from the wall and patted the surface. "Get on."
"Why, master," Fia purred, "in front of her? You've grown more daring."
Rolling his eyes, he lifted her and deposited her atop. The tip of his wand tapped the shackle around her ankle, then the chain links, his detection spells producing clinks of differing pitch. Someone more experienced could tell what enchantments had been embedded in the metal by sound alone. He only knew that they were bespelled to high heaven, and likely beyond his ability to break.
He went on to try every unlocking and canceling spell he knew anyway, Gabrielle occasionally piping up with a suggestion or attempting a charm herself. When all failed, he moved on to darker variations of the Severing Charm, conjured acid, even fire. Nothing left so much as a mark on the grey metal.
An hour into the work, Fia's loud aspersions as to his spellcasting ability began getting on his nerves. He produced a large vice, clamped the shackle—her ankle and all—between its jaws, and hacked at it with a hammer and chisel. Besides relieving his stress, that didn't accomplish anything either.
"Damn it!" He chucked the hammer at the wall, immediately feeling guilty when Gabrielle jumped at the noise. "And Bill just left on another tomb run! I'll owl him and ask to refer me to a Curse-Breaker who can keep his mouth shut." He unscrewed the vice. "You'll have to bear with it for a while longer."
Fia banged her fists against the worktable. "But I hate this thing! It makes my skin crawl, I can't use magic, and I can't even walk around properly! Get it off, get it off, get it off!" She swung her leg, and the manacle whooshed dangerously close past Gabrielle's ear.
He observed her tantrum with a knowing exasperation. "You're just mad you won't be able to go shopping in Milan on Thursday, aren't you?"
"Do you have any idea how long I've been waiting for that?" Fia hopped off the table and step-dragged her way to press up to him. "Harry, won't you please—"
"I'm not Portkeying to the continent to buy clothes for you."
She shoved him. "Traitor! Miser! Slave-driver!" Bending down, she clawed at the shackle. "If this cursed thing wasn't the antithesis to my powers... Wait." Straightening up slowly, she stared at Gabrielle.
Gabrielle fidgeted with her dress when the pressure of her gaze didn't relent. "What is it?"
"You're a celestial, aren't you?"
"So you claim. Honestly, it's just a veela origin myth no one truly believes—"
"Oh, shut your beak. Regressed or not, you can still bring out your flames, can you not?" Fiamette clambered back on the table and patted the shackle. "Melt this off."
Gabrielle swallowed. "Are you sure? You could get hurt."
"I'm certain you will be very, very careful when wielding those flames around me," Fia said, baring her fangs. When Gabrielle didn't appear convinced, she sighed and added, "Think of it as repaying me if you prefer."
Indecision warred on Gabrielle's face before she took a bracing breath and stepped forward. Fia stuck her shackled leg out from the edge, rolling her foot side to side impatiently.
Gabrielle cupped a palm and squinted down at it. "I haven't practiced much—I'll try, but it usually only comes out when I'm angry."
A sly look crossed Fia's face before she sneered. "Pathetic. Back where I come from, even children know how to channel their rage into magic. And you had the gall to introduce yourself as an adult?"
Gabrielle gaped. "W-what?"
"Is your hearing as inferior as your breeding?" Leaning forward, Fia looked her over and sniffed. "And you think yourself worthy to stand at Harry's side with your feeble power and your twig-like body that would never satisfy a man. I should pluck you like the chick you are for your insolence."
A growl rose from the back of Gabrielle's throat, her cheekbones sharpening, her nails lengthening. White flames flickered into existence above her palm.
Fia leaned back. "You're welcome."
Gabrielle froze. "You... you..." Her voice lost its harshness. "You riled me up on purpose? You didn't really mean it?"
"Of course I did it on purpose." Fia smirked. "Doesn't mean I didn't mean it."
Gabrielle ground her teeth, the flames burning brighter, and thrust her palm at Fia, who flattened herself on the table. Not to be deterred, Gabrielle brought her flaming hand down, making Fia roll away with a fearful cry.
"Stop! I said stop, you crazy bint! Wait—I take that last part back!" Fia tried to clamber off the table's other end, but Gabrielle grabbed her ankle with her other hand and dragged her closer. Fia's wide eyes sought out Harry's. "My powers are sealed! This lunatic will seriously kill me—why are you laughing?"
Gabrielle's giggles joined his. She sounded adorable and all the more sinister for it, given how she held a Snitch-sized, blazing-white fireball inches away from Fiamette's chest.
Fia's tail whipped agitatedly as she caught on. "So the birdie can play," she said, narrowing her eyes. "I'll keep that in mind."
"And don't you forget it." Gabrielle drew back, looking very pleased with herself.
"The flame, stupid girl, the flame!" Fia cried, pointing.
Gabrielle looked at the spark hovering above her palm and yelped. Cradling it in both hands, she stoked it while Fia extended her leg. Bringing the fire underneath the shackles, Gabrielle set it to lick at the metal. In no time at all, a reddish spot spread among the dull grey.
Harry repeated the detection spell, which now produced a crackle rather than a clink. He whistled. "The enchantments are unraveling. That's some fire you've got there."
"Legions of our soldiers perished to it during the Great War," Fia hissed, her face twisted in pain. Harry extended his hand, and she clasped it so hard his bones creaked.
"Are—are you alright?" Gabrielle asked. The fire wavered.
"Keep going! Just..." Fia gestured with her free hand. "Compress it. If you can, shape it into a blade. Ever done that?"
"No," Gabrielle breathed, her face a mask of concentration, "but I'll try."
The white orb shrank yet brightened, the metal now glowing orange at the point of contact and red toward the edges. The bottom of the loop began to warp. Fia bit her lip to smother a whimper. Harry was losing feeling in the hand she was squeezing.
There was a loud crackle. Multicolored lines flared along the manacles' surface before fading as though never having been there.
"Enough!" he barked, brandishing his wand.
As Gabrielle fell backward on her rear, he launched a stream of water at the glowing shackles. A cloud of steam erupted with a hiss. He split the inert metal with a Severing Charm and examined Fia's blistered ankle.
"Melly!" The house-elf popped in, her ears drooping at the sight. "Please fetch some burn salve from the apothecary on Diagon Alley."
"Don't bother," Fia said, twisting her foot experimentally. "She was careful. It was only the mundane heat that hurt me, and that'll heal in a jiffy."
"Maybe you shouldn't move yet—"
"Ha! Don't underestimate my power."
Black wings emerged from her back, her crimson locks billowing out. Landing gracefully on the floor, she proffered a hand to Gabrielle, who took it after a moment's hesitation. Hauling her up, Fia kissed her soundly on the lips.
"Thanks," she said, grinning. "I guess some of you celestials aren't that bad." Leaving Gabrielle red-faced and speechless, she linked her hands and stretched them above her head. "Now that I have my powers back, shall we amuse ourselves by hunting down those who humiliated me so? As I recall, two of them were still among the living."
"The Ministry will see to their punishment." Satisfied that Fia was alright, Harry set to putting the tools away.
"The Ministry," she mused. "We could take care of them along the way. Those fools acting as if we were at fault for crushing our enemies was an affront in itself."
"T-there are laws against using deadly force, even in self-defense," Gabrielle piped up, her cheeks still pink.
"Another absurdity of your way of living," Fia scoffed. "We're strong, and they're weak. It's simply unnatural for them to force their rules on us and not the other way around."
Against himself, Harry laughed. "What do you suggest we do, then—wage war on the government?"
"Are you forgetting that I can sense your kind's power?" Fia balled a fist, a sinister smile on her face. "We could've obliterated most of those red-robed warriors without breaking a sweat, you and I."
Gabrielle appeared disturbed at the turn of discussion, but he took it in stride, long since used to Fia's antics. He pushed the worktable back against the wall and dusted off his palms. "And after that?"
"Don't play stupid—you install yourself as their overlord and have them cater to your every need. And your queen's, naturally."
He hummed, pausing to pat Fia's head before heading up the stairs. "I'll think about it."
"You will?" She caught up and took his arm, her tail swishing.
"Harry!" There was a patter of lighter footsteps behind them. "Harry, please tell me you aren't going to overthrow the government!"
Chapter 16: Angel, Part Five
Come evening, Harry opted for a long soak in the tub to soothe his muscles. After drying off and changing into fresh underthings, he walked languidly into the bedroom, only to halt at the threshold. Fiamette knelt atop the bed, clad in black side-tie panties and a matching bra with straps that connected it to a frilly choker around her neck. Her hand held what looked like a potion bottle.
She smiled, brushed back her flowing hair, and patted the sheets. "Lie down on your stomach."
Admiring her shapely figure, he walked up and slumped face-first on the bed. There was a sound of a bottle being uncorked, and he couldn't suppress a groan when warm, slick hands began kneading his shoulders.
"What's the occasion?"
She poured some oil lower on his back before massaging it. "It's a servant's job to tend to her master after battle. Is this not to your liking?"
It was very much to his liking, so he said nothing and relaxed under her touch. Fia hummed in approval, her fingers tenderly but firmly kneading out the knots in his abused muscles. When she reached the waistband of his boxers, she patted his rear.
It took some effort since his muscles had turned to goo, but he flipped over. Fia straddled him in reverse and worked her way up his legs, wiggling her panty-clad butt closer and closer to his face. He shivered when her fingers traced his inner thighs.
Fia's eyes had a gleam to them when she turned around to knead his pecs. Her knee skimmed his crotch, then again. He looked at her in question. She smirked, and abandoning any pretense of accidental contact, straddled him and rocked to and fro.
He groaned. "After today, I can't believe you still have the energy."
"I'm merely giving you a massage," she said, her tone affectedly innocent. "It's not my fault if you get aroused by my magnificent body."
Her hands roamed his chest, keeping up the charade as she humped him. When his front was as slick and warm as his back, she wiped her palms on his abdomen and rose to put away the bottle. He exhaled at the loss, but Fia shortly returned to drape herself atop him and kissed him.
"What happened to 'merely a massage'?" he murmured.
"I'm not finished. Haven't tended to this part yet, have I?" She caressed him over his boxers. "Lie back and let your servant take care of everything."
He squeezed a bra-covered breast. "Isn't that just something you want?"
"Me?" She scooted back, planted a kiss atop his boxers, then slid them down. The vertical pupils of her eyes dilated. "Look, your thick cock is raring to go. It would be remiss of me to leave you unfulfilled."
She gently stroked his shaft with an oil-slickened palm, then bent down to lave his balls with her tongue. Her hand moved with tantalizing slowness, and the teasing went on until he was twitching with need.
"You look ready to burst." She lapped a bead of precum off his tip. "I thought you didn't want this?"
Laughing at his mock glare, she rose to her knees, the straps attaching her bra to the choker pulling up her breasts. Under his fascinated gaze, she unfastened the whole ensemble.
Her breasts spilled free, and she cupped them with a moan. Not breaking eye contact, she extended her tongue to drool onto his cock, then sandwiched it between her soft breasts. He tilted his head back with a groan.
Squeezing tighter, she glided back and forth, the swollen head of his cock popping up and disappearing between her tan mounds. His breathing quickened, and he began thrusting lightly, but she drew away, leaving his cock bobbing in the air.
"I want to drink your cum," she said throatily, and his frustration evaporated.
Wrapping her lips around his length, she began bobbing up and down. Where her motions had been playful and teasing, they were now vigorous and demanding. Her crimson hair was wild around her face as she worked him. Not a minute passed before he clutched her horns and finished in her mouth.
Fia swallowed and sucked and swallowed again, making muffled noises of approval. Breathing heavily, he brushed the hair away from her glowing face. He would never admit it, but the look of happiness she got from pleasuring him melted his heart.
Then he invariably recalled that she was a demon, and thus probably just thrilled about draining a bit of his vitality. He grinned.
Fia released his cock from her mouth and licked her lips sultrily. Edging forward, she straddled him. Her panty-clad crotch pinned his softening member to his stomach.
"Like my new knickers?" She rocked against him. "Silky smooth, are they not?"
"Yeah," he breathed, feeling her heat through the damp fabric.
"Not as smooth as me, though." Her slender fingers pulled at the ribbon tying her panties at the hip. "Should I?"
The ribbon tautened, and the knot began to loosen. He stared as if mesmerized, then exhaled when she let go of the ribbon.
Her eyes glinted. "Silence? Why, if you prefer, I can finish you off like this." Wiggling atop him, she leaned forward, her hair cascading over his chest. "But wouldn't you rather spill your seed inside me?"
He sighed in mock exasperation. "What did I do to get saddled with such a horny succubus?"
"You defeated me and bound me to your will," she said, peering into his eyes, "so you better take responsibility, or I might seek diversion elsewhere."
"Oh?" he growled, propping himself up on his elbow and running a palm up her waist.
"I might"—she gasped as he cupped her breast—"I just might go tease the birdie if you neglect me." It was difficult to gauge from her flushed expression whether she was serious.
A muffled noise came from the hallway. He turned to look, but Fia blocked his line of sight. "Did you hear something?"
"Not a thing. Your silly round ears must be playing tricks on you." Pushing him down, she peppered kisses along his jaw. "So, how about it? If you're too tired, I could amuse myself by thoroughly investigating how celestials differ from my kind."
"You're, ah, not allowed to hurt her."
"Oh, I wasn't thinking of hurting her." She kissed her way down his neck.
"I mean it." He frowned, struggling to focus. "I still haven't used my request for defeating you, have I?"
She smiled expectantly. "What unspeakable, deviant acts will you subject your poor servant to?"
"Be kinder to Gabrielle."
"Kinder. Kinder?" She pushed off his chest, tossed her hair back, and laughed. "Between the two of us, you're more unkind to her."
He furrowed his brows. "What are you on about?"
Fia tilted her head, sniffed the air, and smiled predatorily. "Why don't you have a look yourself?"
Her legs coiled like springs, and without warning, she somersaulted off the bed to land deftly on the floor. She dashed toward the door—the slightly ajar door—and ripped it open, revealing a wide-eyed Gabrielle.
With a panicked squeak, Gabrielle scampered backward, fell on her butt, and tugged down her hiked-up nightgown. Fia walked out into the corridor to loom behind her.
"A feeble mortal like yourself will get a cold kneeling at the doorway like that," she said. "The house is drafty, after all. Why don't you join us in our warm bed instead?"
Gabrielle's blush was such that her face practically glowed in the darkness. Her gaze darted around frantically before Fia's words percolated through her mind. "W-what are you saying?"
"You heard my master, did you not? This is me extending kindness toward you."
Fia's fanged smirk was anything but kind, and it seemed to jolt Gabrielle into action. She sprang up and tried to flee, but tripped over her own bare feet. Fia caught her by the elbow before she could fall and whispered into her ear.
Gabrielle struggled a bit, then went still. Emotions cycled over her face as she regarded first Fia, then Harry, then dipped her head and stared at the floor. She did not resist as Fia ushered her into the bedroom.
Harry belatedly pulled the blanket over his crotch. "What the hell are you doing? Let her go!"
Gabrielle glanced at Fia uncertainly, who rolled her eyes before whispering again. Her tail nimbly yanked the door shut behind them.
Gabrielle clenched her nightgown as her foot scuffed the floor. "Harry, I... I'm sorry. If—if you're okay with me... What she said..."
Fia waited a beat, then sighed. "What the birdie means to say is that she's been peeping on us every chance she got and wishing it was your cock rather than her fingers up her little angelic cunt."
Gabrielle's head shot up. "I... I didn't!"
Fia clasped her wrist and lifted it. "Oh? Then what's that on your fingers?"
Gabrielle ducked her head again, blushing up to the tips of her ears.
"You knew she was watching!" Harry accused.
"Of course I did. Not only are my senses superior to a mortal's, but I could also feel the baser desires in her heart from the time we met—and they've been welling up ever since." Fia gave Gabrielle a strangely approving look. "You don't mind if I watch, do you? My master breaking in his first concubine is quite an occasion."
He groaned. "There won't be any breaking in. She needs to leave."
Fia arched an eyebrow skeptically before whispering to Gabrielle. The younger woman gaped, then screwed up her face and stooped to grasp the hem of her nightgown. Her trembling hands lifted it an inch, exposing her creamy thighs.
Rolling her eyes, Fia grabbed the shoulder straps of her nightgown and yanked it down in one go. Gabrielle squeaked and clasped an arm over her bare chest, her other hand splayed over the white knickers protecting her modesty.
"No, you're doing it wrong," Fia said patiently, prying her arm away. "Flash a pair of tits at a male, and you'll have them salivating at your feet." She glanced at Harry, then regarded Gabrielle's small pale breasts. "Didn't work? I suppose they aren't much compared to mine."
He pinched the bridge of his nose. "And it won't." Gabrielle appeared crestfallen, so he added quickly, "It's not that you're unattractive, it's... Look, you're just a girl with a silly crush, and... I don't want to take advantage of that."
"I can't say I understand humans' fussiness about these things. A fertile, willing, and"—she ran her eyes over Gabrielle critically—"not hideous female is throwing herself at you, and instead of pounding her until she's reduced to a drooling mess, you prattle on." She swatted Gabrielle's rear. "Go on, see how long his resolve lasts."
Gabrielle's gaze flicked to Harry before she hesitantly reached down to her knickers. Not meeting his eyes, she shimmied them down and allowed them to fall to the floor. Stepping away, she covered herself shyly. He gulped.
"Look, she even shaved," Fia cooed, nudging her hand away. "I have to say, she's quite a morsel. If you don't want her, perhaps I should take her for myself? Defiling a celestial has a certain appeal to it." The heart-shaped tip of her tail snaked to the junction of Gabrielle's thighs.
"N-no!" Gabrielle pushed it away. "I was saving myself for Harry!"
Fia hugged her around the waist, tan skin contrasting starkly with pale white. "Hear that, master? It would be most unkind of you to refuse to ravish her, would it not?"
He sat up and caught her eye. "Gabrielle, listen... I'm not the hero you think I am. This isn't a fairytale."
She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. "I understand. I've understood for a while now. I might be young, but I'm not that naive." She smiled and clasped her hands behind her back, baring herself to his gaze. "If you'll have me... I'll settle for just being at your side."
He swallowed and glanced at Fia, searching for the right words.
Gabrielle seemed to understand. "I have confidence in my looks and heritage. In time, I'll s-steal you away from that temptress."
Fia laughed. "Not in another century, but you're welcome to try. Now hop on the bed so we can have our fun at last." She slapped her bare butt.
Squeaking, Gabrielle staggered forward and slumped across Harry's legs. She stammered an apology, clambered off him, and scooted to his side farther away from Fia.
"Um," she said, her cheeks flaming, "please show me what to do."
Fia prowled around the bed to settle beside her and stroked her hair. "Leave everything to us."
Gabrielle's gaze alternated between her and Harry. "But—"
"Shush now." Fia kissed her on the lips, then positioned herself between her slender legs. Taking hold of her knees, she pried them apart.
"W-what are you doing?" Gabrielle tried to push her away, but Fia caught her hand and interlaced their fingers.
"I'm going to loosen you up for him." Fia planted a trail of feathery kisses along Gabrielle's inner thigh. "It is your first time, and he's pretty big."
A shiver ran through her body. "You... don't have to..."
"Do look happier about it," Fia murmured, kissing her way up. "A proud demoness is servicing you."
"Ha-Harry." Gabrielle turned her helpless gaze at him.
"If you don't want it, just say the word." He smirked. "She's pretty good with her tongue, though."
Fia swiped the tip of said tongue up Gabrielle's cleft, making her gasp. "Calling me merely good is an insult. Besides, you're aching to watch me eat her out, aren't you?"
Gabrielle stared at him, to which he just shrugged; there was no need to deny the obvious. The hand she had been trying to pry out of Fia's grasp lost its strength as she exhaled and reclined on the pillows.
Fia's spread Gabrielle's cleft apart. "Look at you, barely touched yet already sopping wet." She dragged her tongue along her pink petals, eliciting a quiver. Her tail whipped side to side. "Don't tell me no one's done this for you before? Oh, you'll have to wait your turn, master. I might have too much fun with this one."
He settled on his side. "Go wild."
Gabrielle's chin jutted upward as a moan escaped her parted lips. "So... so hot!"
"Demons are like that," he murmured, brushing her hair away so he could admire her expression.
Fia explored Gabrielle with long swipes of her tongue, now and then suckling her tiny clit. Each time, it elicited an involuntary noise of pleasure from Gabrielle, which soon started being followed by frustrated groans.
"Poor thing wants it so bad," Fia cooed, replacing her tongue with her fingers. "Don't worry, I'm not cruel like Harry. Fly, little birdie."
Her tongue resumed its dance with renewed vigor. Gabrielle's hand desperately clutched her horn to keep her in place. Fia didn't tease her further, giving her everything she wanted and more. It wasn't long before a cry escaped her throat and her lithe hips arched against Fia's mouth.
Gabrielle sagged on the sheets, but Fia didn't relent. In no time at all, Gabrielle's half-lidded eyes fluttered wide open, then squeezed shut, and with another moan, her face contorted in ecstasy.
"Again?" Harry murmured, entranced.
Fia hummed, her upturned eyes narrowing in satisfaction. Gabrielle's breaths came in ragged gasps, and her head tossed and turned. Whimpering, she tried to nudge Fia away, but the demoness only ventured lower and slipped her tongue between her pink folds.
Gabrielle draped her arm over her eyes, her lips moving in an incoherent protest, or perhaps encouragement. Her chest heaved, her dainty pink nipples erect. Not content with watching, Harry traced his fingers up her belly to squeeze a perky breast. Gasping, she lowered her arm to look at him, and he sidled closer to peck her on the lips.
"She's good, isn't she?" he whispered, indicating Fia with his eyes.
Gabrielle opened her mouth as if to answer, but instead, a stream of French left her lips before another tremor wracked her petite body. Fia held on to her bucking hips and sucked at her clit as she rode out her climax.
Drawing up, Fia smiled at Gabrielle's panting form. "The little hussy is dripping wet and ready for a good dicking." She prowled over on all fours to kiss Harry.
He stiffened in surprise at the foreign taste on her lips before returning the kiss hungrily. Her hands pulled off the blanket and found his erection.
"Someone's excited," she whispered, breaking the kiss. "Aren't you harder than before?"
He broke into a crooked grin. "Jealous?"
"Why would I be? The number of concubines reflects your status. I'll be the shame of the Nine Circles if word gets out that I'm serving someone who has none." She stroked his cock lightly. "Enough talk. I want to see the celestial's face when you spear her virgin cunt."
He looked into Gabrielle's hazy blue eyes. Lust and hesitation warred within him. Was someone like him worthy of her?
Fia climbed to Gabrielle's other side and nudged her thighs apart. "A gentleman like yourself won't make her beg for it, surely?"
"Harry." Gabrielle met his eyes and extended her hands toward him. "Come."
His resistance crumbled. He climbed on top of her, peering into her eyes. A rim of sky-blue circling dark round pupils. How long had it been since he looked at a human's eyes up close?
He leaned in and claimed her soft lips. Her eyes fluttered shut as their tongues intertwined. When he pulled up after a long while, she tried to prolong the contact by tilting her neck forward.
"Are you sure?" he whispered.
She gave a tiny nod. "Come."
She trembled in anticipation as he reached down to angle himself at her hot, wet entrance. He slipped inside, gasping as her tightness enveloped his crown. Slowly, he went deeper. She winced. He froze, but then her legs wrapped around him, tugging him closer.
"Please," she whispered, "I want to feel you... all of you."
He eased himself inside inch by inch, watching Gabrielle scrunch up her face as he touched her where no one had ever touched before. "God, you feel amazing, Gabby."
Her brows furrowed cutely. "Gabby?"
"You don't like it?"
She smiled shyly. "Love it. It'll be my pet name only for you."
Returning the smile, he kissed her. She gasped against his mouth as the motion made him stir inside her.
"You can, um, continue," she whispered, a determined look on her face.
He kissed her again. "I'll be gentle."
He drew his hips back a fraction, then slowly slid into her snug heat. Her eyes widened as if in an epiphany. He eased back and forth with torturous slowness, sinking slightly deeper each time.
"By Lucifer, I'm getting sick from the mawkishness." Lying on her stomach, her chin propped on her elbow, Fia swung her legs. "Can't you give it to her harder? This is boring."
"Shut it," he snapped. He brushed a few golden strands of Gabrielle's forehead. "You all right?"
Her arms wrapped around his shoulders. "Oui... It surprised me, how much you filled me, but..."
"Silly thing," Fia murmured, slinking closer. "Relax and enjoy it. There's no reason for it to hurt when you're practically gushing." Leaning in, she licked her ear.
Gabrielle growled and turned her way, but Fia took that as an invitation to kiss her. Abandoning the attempt to chase her off, Gabrielle looked up at him.
"It's alright to go faster... if you want."
He wasn't sure he would've held back for much longer anyway. His rocking gained a gentle but steady rhythm. Gabrielle mewled with every thrust, her inner walls squeezing around him.
"Tu me fais me sentir si bien," she moaned.
"God, Gabby... You're so tight..."
Fia's tail wound around his tightening ballsack. "Already? I might actually get jealous." Her palm slapped his rear. "Go on, make her walk bow-legged tomorrow."
Gabrielle gasped when the slap made him drive into her harder, then gasped again when Fia's fingers snaked down her belly. When they found the spot they sought, she tightened so much it almost undid him.
Grunting, he pumped into her, no longer holding back, but not going out of his way to be forceful. Gabrielle clung to him, sweet noises escaping her parted lips.
"Harry's about to cum," Fia whispered, stroking her clit in little circles. "His balls are full to bursting, and all of it is going into your little cunt."
"Oh... oh... oooh!" Gabrielle's legs locked around his waist, her muscles spasming around him.
"Gabby!" He shuddered as he released into her. Her inner walls milked him while Fia stroked his balls with her tail as if intent on making him deliver on her promise.
Gabrielle panted for her breath. Her eyes fluttered open, and she gazed at him with a look so loving it made his heart flutter. "I feel so warm inside."
He gave a breathless laugh. Sagging over her, he kissed her tenderly. She was too good for him.
"How was it?" Fia stroked Gabrielle's golden locks idly. "His cock is pretty great, right? As long as you remember that I get to have him first, we'll get along fine."
Gabrielle's dazed eyes regained some sharpness. "You... you ruined it! Sticking your icky claws between us!"
Fia tilted her head. "Did you not enjoy my touch? I saw your eyes roll back in your head."
Her lips moved without a sound for a time. "That's not the point! Love isn't just physical pleasure, it's about... you know, making a deeper connection, and..."
Nodding in understanding, Fia pressed a finger to just below her navel. "Like when he went this deep inside you?" She cackled as Gabrielle growled and pushed her hand away.
Harry pushed up, and Gabrielle craned her head forward to watch their bodies separate in wonder. He motioned toward his crotch.
"Put that mouth to better use," he told Fia.
She shuddered. "How filthy. Let's get those nasty celestial fluids off you."
Scooting over, she laved him with her tongue before popping his cock into her mouth. It wasn't long before her ministrations grew a little too enthusiastic for his liking.
He patted her head. "Enough."
She released him and glanced at Gabrielle, who was watching with wide eyes. "I do hope you won't command me to do the same to her. What a humiliation it would be... Forced to clean up a mere concubine..." In spite of her words, her tail wagged in excitement.
Gabrielle squeezed her legs together and cast the two of them an uncertain glance, her cheeks red.
He chuckled. "Did you develop a taste for celestials, or is it that you get off on being forced to service those you claim are beneath you?"
Fia's fangs made an appearance. "She's far beneath me, certainly, but while the blood of our eternal enemies is thin, it still runs in her veins. You humans, on the other hand, are nothing more than cattle."
"Harry's not cattle!" Gabrielle piped up.
He laughed, patting Gabrielle's leg as he locked eyes with Fia. "It must titillate your masochistic side to be serving one of those humans, then."
"I only put up with you because you're a decent source of food and amusement. Speaking of..." She rubbed her thighs together. "I recall us being in the middle of something good before we were interrupted."
He sat back and raked a hand through his hair. "Damn, give me a few minutes."
Fia edged up to him, prodded his limp member, and shot a glare toward Gabrielle. "Little tart, you wrung him dry."
"I did?" An inordinately pleased expression came over Gabrielle's face.
"Oh, don't look so full of yourself. You did little but lie under him and make noise." Her predatory grin stretched from ear to ear. "Allow me to demonstrate how to rock his world."
Harry yelped as she shoved him in the chest, splaying him on his back. She slunk forward until her crotch hovered over his face, then lowered her hand to rub herself over the darkened fabric, moaning.
"Won't you please taste me?" Bringing her fingers to her mouth, she licked them sensuously. "I'm dripping just imagining it."
"I don't know," he drawled, "you've been acting spoiled."
"If I have, it was only because I was aching for you so badly." She undid the side-ties and peeled off her skimpy panties, a string of her juices briefly connecting them to her vulva. "Forgive your servant for being a dirty little slut."
Swallowing, he glanced up to see a glint of thrill in Fia's eyes. Another one of her little games.
She spread her glistening pussy with two fingers. "This naughty servant is craving your touch, master. Won't you please take mercy?" Her tail snaked around to slip inside. Trembling, she diddled herself before bringing the wet tip to her mouth. "I'm delicious, promise."
She wiggled lower, whimpering at his exhalation. It was difficult to resist such an offering. With an impatient noise, he inclined his neck forward and licked her.
Fia moaned, her hand sinking into his hair. Her tail traveled down his stomach until it found his member, and after a few attempts, wrapped around the crown. He groaned.
She rode his mouth. "Little Fia's sopping wet, isn't she? Imagine how good it will feel to stick your cock inside her."
The cord of her tail coiled around his cock, tightening and loosening, while the slick tip massaged the underside. Harry lapped at her folds, making his way up to her clit. A quiver went through her body, and her hand in his hair clenched painfully.
"Sorry, master," she gasped. "Fia can't wait."
She scooted back and positioned herself above his cock, angling it up with her tail. He felt her juices drip atop his crown before it parted her hot nether lips.
"You're stretching me," she whimpered, sinking. "Stretching me so good."
He didn't feel fully recovered yet, but there was nothing he could do except hold on when she began rocking back and forth, her tail coiled tightly around his root. Her head tilted back in a gasp, her nipples hard peaks on her swaying breasts. Noticing his gaze, she fondled herself.
"Feels so good... but not as good as when you touch me. Please?"
He reached up to knead her breasts, and she leaned in, giving him better access. His thumb brushed a hardened nipple, eliciting a gasp.
"Yes," she breathed. "No one ever touched me as good as you do."
He gently tweaked her nipples, feeling her tighten around him in response. She braced her palms against his chest, her cheeks flushed as her gyrations picked up the pace.
"You're so hard inside me... I'll cum, master..." She ground against him, her tail squeezing, her eyes dark with desire. "I'm cumming, I'm—ooh!"
Her back arched like a bow, her inner muscles squeezing. He throbbed, close to the edge himself. She slumped atop him, her breath hot on his neck.
"Forgive this worthless slut... Your cock felt too good." Rocking her hips slightly, she moaned. "I'll strive to please you too, master."
He panted, looking up at her. Her crimson hair sprawled over his chest, and a look of intense concentration crossed her face as she rode him.
"Does Fia's wet cunt feel good?"
"Yeah." He ran his hands up her hips. "Feels great."
She beamed at him and adjusted her angle to bounce up and down his shaft. He gritted his teeth; being sheathed within her tight heat over and over was too intense to handle.
"Don't hold back," she breathed. "Please, your little whore wants her reward."
Tightening his grip on her hips, he thrust upward as his head tilted back in a grunt. Fia sank on him, her tail uncoiling to press the tip flat against his pulsing balls.
"Fill my womb, master," she moaned. "Breed me."
She rocked her hips in encouragement until he was spent. Brushing her hair back, she turned to Gabrielle. Harry followed suit, finding her with a hand between her legs. She went still as a statue at the attention.
"And that's how you do it." Even though her voice was throaty, Fia's demeanor was nonchalant. "Whether it's acting innocent or lustful, I can drive him so wild he can't help but rut me like an animal." Glancing down at Harry, she gave him a saucy wink.
Gabrielle belatedly removed her hand from its compromising position and hugged a pillow to herself, her cheeks flaming.
Fia giggled and stuck out her chest. "Don't feel ashamed—you witnessed a demoness at work, after all."
Giving Harry a satisfied smile, she rose off him. Their combined fluids trickled down her thigh; she scooped them up with a finger and popped it into her mouth. Gabrielle goggled.
Sensing her gaze, Fia spread herself shamelessly. "See how much he rewarded me? This proves that I'm more adept at the pleasures of the flesh between us two."
Gabrielle stared before hurriedly averting her gaze. "I... I made him feel plenty good too."
Fia rolled her eyes. "Silly chick, spreading your legs for him isn't enough. Even if you lack my natural gifts, you can do more than that to please him." She licked her lips, eyeing Harry's crotch. "Do you need another demonstration?"
He narrowed his eyes at her, too exhausted to even sit up. "She doesn't."
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure. If she has the gall to mouth off, she clearly hasn't accepted her position as your second." She reached down to fondle his balls. "Besides, you still have more to give, don't you?"
He groaned and ran a palm over his face. "Are you trying to kill me?"
Peals of her laughter rang in the bedroom. "Surely this much is nothing. I recall you being a lot more ferocious when you tamed me." She bent to run her tongue along his limp cock. "Is it because you exhausted yourself in battle? You should've ripped their hearts out and drank their lifeblood to rejuvenate yourself."
He grimaced. "We don't do that."
"Well then, I suppose it falls to your servant to restore your vigor." Her claws lengthened and gripped his balls as she tapped a finger against her lips. "How did the invocation go, again?"
"What are you—"
The claws dug into his scrotum, not hard enough to draw blood, but enough to make him freeze. Fia spat out a harsh incantation. Heat surged through his loins, spreading through his limbs, setting his veins ablaze. He jerked up to a seated position, then glanced down incredulously. His cock was back at full mast, veins bulging, crown purple and engorged.
"There," Fia said smugly. "Worked out nicely, didn't it?"
He twitched as she trailed a thankfully clawless finger along his shaft. He was so hard it was almost painful. "Bloody hell... How long will this last?"
"Until I've had enough." She grinned, her gaze fixed on his crotch.
He grasped her chin and glared. "And who allowed you to mess around? Just when I thought you'd become more sensible, you act out again."
"I was merely providing a helping hand." She squirmed under his unrelenting glare. "If it's too much for you to handle, you can always order me to undo it. I'll understand."
He growled and pushed her away; no way was he going to back down after that. "On your hands and knees, slut."
"Are you sure?" She wiggled her arse, leaking cum onto the sheets. "A mortal like you might just break before I'm truly satiated."
"Shut up and lift that ass."
Glancing around, he zeroed in on his wand and the bottle of oil atop the bedside cabinet. His lips quirked up. He crawled over and cast a half-forgotten spell from the time of Fia's incarceration before putting the wand down. Picking up the bottle, he returned before Fia's invitingly raised ass.
"I'll be disciplining her for a while," he told Gabrielle, who was hugging her pillow and watching with wide eyes. "Feel free to take a shower or whatever."
She squeezed the pillow tighter. "Can... can I stay?"
He shrugged. "Sure. Knowing her, I wouldn't be surprised if she gets off on being watched." He leered. "You could even help me out if you want."
Gabrielle's hair whipped her flushed cheeks as she shook her head.
"Having a little girl peep on me does nothing for one of my age and experience," Fia said, the proud words at odds with her current position.
He slapped her ass. "I told you to shut up."
Edging closer, he drove into her cunt. Both of them gasped, Harry feeling weak in the knees as her velvety heat enveloped his oversensitive cock. Breathing heavily, he uncorked the bottle and tipped it over, pouring the oil down the crack of her arse. He massaged her sphincter before slipping a finger inside up to the first knuckle.
Her tail whacked his hand. "What are you doing, stupid mortal?"
"This is nothing to one of your experience, surely." He fingered her arse in tandem with the thrusts of his hips, adding more oil to keep her slick. She was clenching around his digit so tightly he wondered if he would ever fit more than one.
"I told you not to play around with that hole!" she exclaimed.
"All your holes belong to me. Take it like a good little whore."
Feeling her loosen up, he worked in another finger. Fia soon slumped face-first on the sheets, moaning, even thrusting her ass back at him. His lips curled into a grin.
Pulling out of her, he poured more oil on his slippery cock before tossing the bottle away. Pulling out his fingers, he pressed his crown against her puckered sphincter.
Fia's tail went rigid. "Not... not that! It won't fit!"
"Sure it will," he grunted, pushing. "A proud demoness like yourself can take it."
"No—it's too big—"
"And whose fault is that?" He caressed her ass cheek. "My cock's going inside your arse one way or another. Relax and make it easier on yourself."
Fia's tail drooped. Harry proceeded to push inside, her sphincter so tight he thought he'd go insane. Then the head of his cock slipped through, and Fia clenched so hard he had to pause and catch his breath.
"Good girl," he breathed, kneading her ass. "Halfway there."
Grabbing the base of her tail, he used it as leverage to go deeper. Fia raked the sheets and blubbered while he whispered encouragements until his thighs pressed against her ass.
"Well done," he said. "Now I'm going to fuck your arse, and you're going to enjoy it."
Fia whimpered as he stirred inside her. Laying one hand on her hip, he grasped her twitching tail with the other. Whenever he felt her loosen up, he deepened his strokes, not giving her time to adjust. Her ass squeezed his throbbing cock almost to the point of pain.
It wasn't long before he worked up a steady pace, not going too hard as much out of consideration for her as the intensity of the sensation. Fia's hand found its way to her cunt, and her whimpers became moans. Her tail spasmed in his hand as if trying to escape his grip.
"How's having your every hole claimed by a human?" he growled. "You love it, don't you?"
"Hate it," she moaned, pushing her ass into his thrusts. "Hate you. Pull it out!"
"Not before I finish inside you." He sank his fingers into her hair and tugged. Her back arched, and she clamped on him hard. "Go on, beg for it."
"N-no... this is wrong... don't you dare finish in there... I can't give you a child if you do..." The fingers between her legs were rubbing frantically.
He sped up, his thighs slapping against her ass. "Don't worry, I'm going to keep fucking all your holes until you can't stand."
Pulling on her hair, he plunged deep into her and came with a guttural grunt. She cried out, her tail snapping into a straight line. He pulsed inside her again and again before pulling out and depositing the last rope of cum across the small of her back.
Fia flopped on the sheets and rolled onto her back with a groan, her chest heaving.
"Are... are you okay?" Gabrielle blurted out.
Fia giggled throatily. "Harry's most fun when he is riled up." She grimaced. "I didn't expect him to get this rough, though. He's been threatening to punish my ass for a while, but he ought to have been more tender."
"It's because you did that strange magic to his... thing."
"Curious about what that monster would feel like? I don't think you could handle it."
Barely listening to the byplay, Harry eyed his still-erect cock with dismay. He recalled rumors about a seventh-year back in his Hogwarts days who imbibed too much of a certain potion and had to go to the Hospital Wing for this same problem. Should he have Fia undo the spell?
Then again, she couldn't have done it if it could hurt him, and he had a point to make.
"Enough chatter," he said sternly. "You neglect your duties, Fia. Clean me up, and we'll keep working on adjusting that attitude of yours."