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Chasing The Inevitable by killthatrat
Chapter 22 : Chapter 22 The Trace
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 12


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In summer, the seaside town of Tinworth would have been beautiful, but mid-December left it bitter cold and gloomy, heavy clouds poised above. Smoke rose from the chimneys of Muggle homes as Harry followed Ron and Hermione through the small village, Ginny by his side. Shivering against the bitter wind and spray, his lips were dry and tasted like salt. Taking Ginny’s cold hand in his he squeezed it firmly, trying to warm her up as she too shivered against the cold. Her face was pink as she clutched her cloak around her shoulders and smiled grimly at him.

His wand was drawn in nervous anticipation; hers tucked away in her cloak. There would be no point her ever using it if they were attacked; her trace would give away her position if she were to use magic. Thinking of this, Harry couldn’t help but smile with pride at how tolerant she had been when they banned her from using magic. She had hardly protested, going about things the Muggle way for the six weeks since Voldemort had taken over, though he knew it was driving her absolutely crazy.

The four of them walked in silence, having nothing new to say to each other anymore. It had already been said, discussed over and over again in the confines of the tent until no one wanted to hear another word about their trek to Shell Cottage, where Bill and Fleur lived. Their plan was simple as always. Apparate to the Muggle village of Tinworth, spend the night in the tent and head south on foot the next day, following the coastline until they came upon Shell Cottage. The Fidelious charm had already been broken when Mr Weasley had told Ron what to do. Finding the cottage should be easy.

“Why do we have to walk?” Hermione had asked in disdain, not looking forward to a trek in the cold. “Can’t we just apparate outside their cottage?”

Ron rolled his eyes in frustration, his ears turning an angry shade of red. “I already told you, Dad wants us to walk there. He reckons using magic too close to Bill and Fleur’s might attract Snatchers. None of us can do magic until we’re inside.”

The idea that using magic outside of Hermione’s enchantments would attract attention wasn’t a comforting feeling to Harry, but he knew there was no reason to anticipate danger. The Death Eaters had no idea where Bill and Fleur lived, and even so if they were attracted there by a wizard using magic they wouldn’t be able to get past the Fidelious. It would only be Ginny’s trace that would draw them to their exact location.

The streets of the village were slowly coming to life as the sun rose higher, though it did little to warm them. A hundred yards to their left the waves crashed against the rocky beach with grand ferocity, a lone seagull circling overhead. To their right a café door opened, a waitress putting out a blackboard to advertise the daily specials. Harry’s stomach growled in protest as he saw the menu, wishing he had eaten properly that morning. Ahead of him he could see Ron eyeing the café just as hungrily, disappointed when Hermione turned his attention back to the street.

“C’mon, ‘Mione,” Ron pleaded uselessly. “It’ll be warm inside.”

“Ooh,” Ginny moaned, rubbing her stomach just like her brother as they passed the café. “If we were back at school, I’d be having porridge with brown sugar.”

Harry smiled, slipping his arm around her waist. “Of all the food you can have at Hogwarts, you’d have porridge?”

“Definitely. Don’t ever tell Mum, but the porridge at school is better than hers.”

“Now you’re just talking dung, nothing is better than your Mum’s.”

“What would you have?”

“That’s easy, scrambled eggs and bacon….on a sandwich.”

“Typical,” she scoffed as they began to cross the road, Ron and Hermione a few paces ahead. “Why do you have to have it on bread? It ruins it.”

“Shut up,” he rolled his eyes. Throwing caution to the wind Harry pulled her close and kissed her, sighing against her beautiful lips as they slowed their steps. Throughout the last two weeks of being on the run again, Harry had come to the conclusion that Ginny was far more than keen to have sex with him, she was absolutely determined, and he prayed that their arrival at Shell Cottage would take her focus off him. It was getting more and more difficult to keep rejecting her advances, harder to keep control of her wandering hands, and Harry was almost grateful that Ron and Hermione spent most of their time in the tent, minimising Ginny’s opportunities. Almost grateful.

“What was that for?” she asked with a dazed smile, her hand around his neck as her fingers trailed through his hair.

Harry shrugged and kissed her again.

“Oi!” Ron bellowed from ahead of them, stopping in the opposite footpath to glare at them. “A bit of…constant vigilance please!”

“Yes, Ron,” Ginny muttered in annoyance, and it was only then Harry realised that they were standing in the middle of the muggle road.

Ushering her to keep going they crossed the road and followed Ron and Hermione down the footpath. With his arm still around her waist Harry rubbed Ginny’s side and smiled at her.

Ginny raised her eyebrows at him, tugging at a handful of his hair. “You need a haircut,” she smirked.

“Yeah,” he agreed with a short laugh. “You know it’s time when I can tuck it behind my ears.”

“You know it’s time, when I can plait it,” she countered, fiddling with the hair at the nape of his neck. “It’s curly at the bottom.”

“No it’s not!” he started in dismay, glaring at her. “I don’t have curly hair!”

“Yes, you do. All the long bits are curly.”

“That’s dragon dung.”

“It’s true…you should keep growing it, and maybe Fleur can put some hair rollers in it for you.”

At these words Ginny tripped over a crack in the cement footpath, stumbling against him as he tried to catch her. Trying hard to withhold his laughter he watched helplessly as Ginny fell flat on her bottom with a yelp. She looked up at him from the ground with her mouth wide open, a blush forming on her cheeks as Harry finally broke into laughter.

“You pushed me!” she accused as he extended his arm to pull her up.

“Did not!” he laughed as she brushed herself off, looking around to see if anyone saw her embarrassment.

“I’m sure you did.”

Shaking his head Harry took advantage of her state and kissed her again, brushing her hair back off her face. Glancing over Ginny’s shoulder he could see Hermione look back at them as she and Ron continued walking, and even from a distance Harry could tell she was rolling her eyes. “Are you alright?” he asked dutifully.

“Yeah,” she nodded, glancing down at herself. “Not a scratch, I’ve always been good at cushioning charms.”

Smiling, he nodded in agreement, slipping his arm back around his waist as a horrible sense of foreboding came across him. His face falling Harry looked Ginny over, searching for the wand that she must be holding. But he could see it, tucked safely away in her cloak. “Did you just do wandless magic?” he asked in a mixture of awe and horror.

“No,” she scoffed without concern. “I know I’m great, but I can’t do wandless magic…”

She trailed off as Harry tore his arm from around her waist and clutched at his left forearm, gritting his teeth as a familiar burn swept across his skin, sending his heart racing in fear and panic. Glancing around their surroundings he pulled back the sleeve to see the Dark Mark darkening and growing to fill his entire forearm, the pain ceasing a moment later. Shaking his head to himself, he rebuked her. “You must have, I think they’re coming. Get your wand ready, just in case.”

Taking out his own wand Harry grasped her hand and moved to quickly catch up with Ron and Hermione, sending a stinging hex at Ron to get his attention. With a loud yelp Ron stumbled and clutched at the back of his ankle, turning around to Harry furiously. “What the bloody hell was that for?” he demanded angrily, frowning as he saw their panicked expressions. “What’s happened?”

“Ginny did wandless magic,” Harry hastened to explain. “We have to go.”

“Wandless magic?” Hermione asked in awe as she and Ron both withdrew their wands, looking around the street in anticipation of Death Eaters. “Are you sure?” she asked Ginny as she seized her arm, leading them back down the street they had come.

“I’m not sure, I think so-”

“Do you think they’re coming?” Ron asked Harry in a low voice as they began to cross the street again, heading towards the café they had passed. “No use panicking if they’re not really coming, eh?”

“Something’s definitely happening,” Harry explained, the bell above the door ringing as they followed Hermione and Ginny inside the café. “The Dark Mark burned right after she did the cushioning charm.”

Ron swore loudly, startling the waitress who was unprepared for their sudden arrival.

“Hermione, what the hell are we doing in here?” Harry demanded impatiently. “Let’s just Apparate somewhere!”

“I’ve already tried with Ginny!” she snapped, clearly stung by his words.

“You already tried?”

“Of course I have!” she snapped again as they sat down at a table, absently taking the menus offered by the oblivious waitress.

“Welcome to Mary-Anne’s Café,” she began cheerfully, pulling a pen from her hair. “Today’s specials are Eggs Benedict, served wi-”

“Four coffees, thanks,” Ron ordered sharply, promptly taking the menus from Hermione and handing them back as he looked out the windows onto the deserted street.

“Would you like milk with those?”

“Whatever you reckon,” Ron replied, still looking out the window, tapping his wand against his knee beneath the table.

They waited in silence until the waitress was gone before Hermione spoke again. “I just tried to Apparate Ginny out of here,” she whispered, retrieving her beaded bag from her cloak pocket and slapping it on the table, opening the draw string and plunging her hand far inside. She withdrew the invisibility cloak and threw it to Harry, who promptly passed it on to Ginny. “But I can feel it already, there’s an Anti-Apparation charm cast on the area.”

“How wide do you think it is?”

“I don’t know…it can be as large or as small as required,” she answered as Ron stood up from the table and moved over to the window, looking outside vigilantly as he carefully flexed his broken arm, testing it. Hermione rustled around in her bag and finally withdrew a book bearing the Union Jack, the cover reading ‘Maps of the United Kingdom.’ “T…t…t…,” she murmured as she flipped through the pages. “Timsbury…Tintagel…Tinworth!” She brutally tore out the page she had found and tucked the book away, spreading out the large piece of paper on the table. “Help me find Stape Street, quickly!”

“Here,” Ginny indicated on the map.

“Right,” Hermione began, trailing her finger down the street indicated. “Yes, yes…we must be about here. Look Ginny, if we follow this street here…Baird Drive…then we can take cover somewhere along there, it looks like it could be a residential area to me….if we head inland we may just be able to outrun the jinx.”

“Assuming we don’t get caught that is.”

“Yes…” Hermione looked up at the street outside, her hands trembling with nervousment. “Assuming we don’t get caught.”

The door to the café opened, the bell above ringing ominously as they each turned to watch suspiciously as a foul smelling fisherman entered, shrugging of his large overcoat and hanging it up before approaching the counter. Harry held his wand ready as the man passed by their table and glanced up at the menu, waiting patiently for the waitress to appear.

“Why aren’t they here yet?” Harry asked quietly, feeling strangely let down.

“I don’t know…” Hermione began, still not taking her eyes off the fisherman, who greeted the waitress enthusiastically. “But I don’t like it either.”

“G’morning, Martha.”

“Morning Billy. Were the fish biting?”

The door opened again, a slightly built man entering. He looked at Harry, Hermione and Ginny sitting at the table before glancing across to Ron who stood by the window, noting their suspicious gazes with a raised eyebrow. As he moved towards the counter the girls began to relax, and Ron looked back out the window, but Harry couldn’t take his eyes off the man, sensing something familiar. He kicked Ginny beneath the table, distracting her from the map she and Hermione were studying.

“What?” she asked quietly.

Harry indicated to the man that had just entered, watching as Ginny turned around and looked at him. Shifting his chair closer to her he whispered into her ear. “Is that Professor Reed? From Hogwarts?”

Pausing for a moment, Ginny looked at the man long and hard before she finally answered. “The Potions Master?” she clarified. “I can’t see his face.”

“But it looks like him don’t you think?” he whispered again, focusing on his cropped blonde hair.

“Maybe…”

“I don’t know where the Peruvian Instant Darkness Powder is,” Hermione said urgently, rummaging through her bag. “Maybe it’s in the tent.”

In that moment Ron tore himself away from the window and marched back to the table, nearly knocking over the waitress who carried their coffee. “I think there’s someone out there, let’s go.”

“Where? Did you actually see them?” Ginny asked, standing up and starting towards the front to look out.

“C’mon,” Harry grabbed her arm and tugged her the other way. They walked past the blonde haired man, eyeing him suspiciously as Harry pushed open the door to the kitchen, quickly ushering Ginny through. Once out of sight the four of them broke into a run, meandering through the cramped kitchen as the cook yelled at them furiously, a wooden spoon flying past them precariously as they burst out the back door into a derelict alley, taking refuge behind a dumpster as Ron and Hermione caught up to them. “Which way Hermione?”

“Just follow me,” she said, lacking certainty as she took the lead down the alley and onto a side street.

The angered cook burst out the back door after them, still yelling as they followed Hermione out into the open street, their wands poised and ready. This street too was nearly empty, and they ran as though in a daze, and though they encountered no cloaked figures, the pounding of Harry’s heart told him they were not safe yet. Quickly they slipped around the corner into a small residential street, noting that there was no protection outside the tiny front yards of each home. Looking over his shoulder he swore he could hear the heavy boots and yells of pursuing Death Eaters, and hoped that he was simply imagining the worst. Speeding up his own footsteps he looked at each of the front gardens, steering Ginny towards the one that would provide the most cover. Ron and Hermione followed his lead as he pulled Ginny down to her knees, ushering her to spread the cloak around the four of them as they huddled close together.

“Bloody ‘ell,” Ron muttered, checking the hem of the cloak to ensure that they were adequately concealed. “This is a bad start to the day.”

“No Ron, it’s a great start!” was Ginny’s sarcastic remark. She opened her mouth to continue further until Harry elbowed her in the ribs.

“Shut up, both of you. Do you think you can Apparate now, Hermione?”

“No, I don’t think so…” she replied, straightening up a little and looking up and down the street. “Are you sure you saw someone back there Ron? There’s no one here.”

“No, Hermione, I just felt like scaring the hell out of us!”

“Alright! You don’t have to be sarcastic!”

“You two, shut up!” Harry hissed, uncomfortably aware of how far their voices would travel on a quiet day. “Hermione, of the three of us you’re the best at Apparition. Try again…”

“You think I haven’t been trying? Well I have! There’s just no way to Apparate through an Anti-Apparation jinx unless you know the counter charm!”

“Well how are we supposed to get out of here?” Harry whispered in dismay, annoyed that they hadn’t anticipated something like this.

They each looked at Hermione expectantly, her eyes widening in horror. “Why are you looking at me?” she demanded.

“You’re the one full of great ideas,” insisted Ron.

“Me? You’re the genius who insisted we walk to Shell Cottage…I wanted to Apparate!”

Almost about to laugh at his friends Harry quickly sobered as he heard loud voices coming their way, and he threw his hand in the air, immediately silencing Ron and Hermione, who turned to follow his gaze.

“Look in all the yards!” someone yelled as they finally came into view, swarming the street menacingly. “Check everywhere, he’ll be under that cloak.”

Placing his hand atop of Ginny’s, Harry’s heart only sank further into the pit of his stomach as he watched the group of Death Eaters progress towards them, knowing they were likely to be caught if they didn’t do something to save themselves. It was unlikely that the four of them could simply out run the Apparation jinx while under the cloak. If they had any chance at all, they would need a distraction sufficient enough to completely draw the Death Eaters away. Too soon to be fair, a cloaked figure marched into the front yard where they hid, his wand drawn as he looked for any sign of them. Plants and weeds were torn from the garden beds with a flick of his wand, a heavy hydrangea bush soaring towards them in an explosion of dirt and weeds. The four of them instantly acted as one, scrambling away to avoid detection. For one blissful moment everything was okay until Hermione gave a small yelp from behind Harry, tripping over the hem of her cloak, slimy water spilling across the grass as she bumped into a terracotta bird bath.

The bird bath toppled over instantly, smashing into pieces as the invisibility cloak became askew, exposing Ron’s sneaker. For one awful moment, none of them knew what to do, freezing completely except for the rapid pounding of their hearts. Ginny reached forward and threw the cloak back over Ron’s foot as the Death Eater turned and caught the barest glimpse of his heel. They all held their breath for a long moment as they waited for the inevitable shout of success, but the Death Eater did nothing of the sort, frowning slightly as he looked from the broken bird bath to the hydrangea bush he had torn from the ground. He began to move toward them again, forcing them back across the lawn towards the garden bed to get out of his way, and they held their breath as he curiously kicked a piece of terracotta, perhaps wondering if he had done that himself. Raising his head he looked around the yard for some sign that Harry might be concealed under his cloak, his attention waning as he marched out of the yard to join the others.

Beside him Harry heard Ginny give an audible sigh of relief, and he turned to glance at her. Like the others she was pale with fear, and it was only then he realised she was clutching his forearm rather tightly, as though trying to ensure he didn’t take off from her. He pulled her hand away and squeezed it reassuringly before turning back to the street, rocking on the balls of his feet as he began to form a plan of what he must do.

Across the street a middle aged Muggle was interrogated in her pink frilly night gown, berating the strange men who ran rampant through her property, and a large dog barked loudly somewhere further up. Eyeing each Death Eater carefully, Harry released Ginny’s hand and carefully lifted the hem of the Invisibility cloak, ducking out and slipping across to what was left of the garden. He took refuge behind the low fence as he glanced back to where he had come from. Satisfied that his friends were still adequately concealed Harry ignored the furious whispers of Ginny, moving further along the fence before she tried to reach out and drag him back.

He could see the street better from here, and he looked down the way they had come, trying to decide what the best plan of action would be. Turning his attention back to the Death Eaters he began to count them, counting seven in total, with two more completely concealed behind their masks. Looking at those two in particular, the cold shiver that wracked his spine told Harry it wasn’t someone to be messed with, and he had the distinct suspicion he knew who they could be.

Steeling himself for a moment he looked back at the others who were clearly pre-occupied, and waited for the right moment to act. If he managed not to get himself caught today, Ginny was going to kill him for sure. At this thought a lone car entered the small street, heading towards them and providing a perfect distraction.

They were spreading out again, scattering themselves back along the street and searching in the gardens as they regarded the car suspiciously. For a moment Harry had a sudden flash back to the night that war broke out, when Snatchers pursued the four of them through the streets of St Ottery Catchpole. He certainly hoped today’s outcome would be better.

“We’ve lost him again!” someone yelled as the car passed Harry and continued down the street.

“Keep looking! Split into pairs and find the others, he’ll come for them!”

At these words Harry burst out from the garden, leaping over the low fence and dashing down the cement footpath, the car providing him a few seconds of cover to get a head start. There was a moment where all he could hear was the thud of his footsteps and the pounding of his heart before the Death Eaters caught sight of him. Chancing a look over his shoulder Harry watched as one or two cloaked figures turned as though in slow motion, raising their wands to him. Miraculously he rounded the corner before any of their curses could reach him, a flash of green light split the trunk of a nearby tree with a loud crack.

He was heading the wrong way to outrun the Anti-Apparation jinx, he knew that as soon as the ocean shore line came into his vision, but he tried not to think about this too much as he dashed across the small street and slipped back down the derelict alley behind the coffee shop, only just out of sight from the Death Eaters. Praying that Ginny wasn’t following him Harry dove behind the large dumpster and lay flat on the ground as the heavy thud of footsteps and the loud voices drew nearer.

“He’s back in there!” someone yelled to the others as they appeared at the mouth of the alley. “I saw him go in!”

Panicking now he took a deep breath and shuffled underneath the dumpster, pulling his cloak over his mouth before he dared breathe again. The stench of old rubbish was almost unbearable, the ground wet and slimy beneath him, but he had no other choice than to endure it. He could almost picture the look of glee on Voldemort’s face if he was told Harry Potter had been caught hiding under a muggle dumpster.

At this thought his scar began to burn, his face contorting painfully as he tried not to cry out. Flickers of Voldemort’s excitement and anticipation overpowered his fear, unwittingly helping him to stay calm as heavy boots swarmed the alley around him, overturning smaller bins and smashing open the rear doors of all the shops. The yelling intensified as Harry felt himself coming back to reality, the Death Eaters bursting into shops in search of him. For a moment he thought he may be safe until he heard the familiar drawl that made his heart freeze every time.

“Haven’t you found him yet?” Lucius Malfoy sneered, proudly marching down the alley.
“He’s here somewhere, we saw him!” someone yelled, the heavy footsteps coming to an abrupt halt.

There was silence, and Harry thought for sure that his pounding heart and short gasps for breath would give him away. Wand held ready in front of him he listened carefully, twisting his head to see the feet of those around him as the commotion inside the shops grew. The present Death Eaters shuffled their feet in anticipation for Lucius’ next remark.

“Keep looking for him!” he bellowed, thundering down the alley and parting them where they stood. “Every moment that the Dark Lord waits for Harry Potter, he grows impatient!”

Their reaction was instantaneous, springing back into action the moment these words were spoken. The moment a cloaked figure crouched down to look underneath the dumpster, Harry was prepared, casting a hasty Confundus charm to protect himself. The man’s eyes slid in and out of focus for a moment, and he blinked rapidly as he stood up and stumbled away, Harry’s plan backfiring as the man’s confusion was recognised by the others.

“Donnelley’s been confounded!” someone yelled, drawing everyone’s attention. “He’s here, Potter’s definitely here!”

Panicking even more now, Harry’s mind raced as he tried to keep himself calm, knowing that he was horribly trapped. Covering his mouth with the collar of his cloak he took another deep breath and held it, turning his head from side to side to watch the feet of the Death Eaters, trying to prepare himself for when another came closer. There was a terrible scraping sound as the dumpster began to roll above him, set the reveal his location any moment now as the search continued. He didn’t have time to think about it, using his elbows to shuffle along the ground just in time to stay hidden, his head smacking against the ground and the bottom of the dumpster as he hastily moved.

Upon finding nothing from beneath the dumpster a close by Death Eater gave a furious bellow, lashing out and kicking it. The metal sound reverberated loudly in Harry’s ears, and he groaned in pain and gritted his teeth as Malfoy kept yelling instructions.

“Keep looking! Check all the shops, again, he’s still here!”

To his great relief the Death Eaters quickly dispersed, bursting back into all of the shops and cafes along the alley, their voices growing dimmer by the moment until all Harry could hear was the pounding of his heart and his short gasped breaths. Turning his head to the right there was only one set of feet remaining, slowly turning on the spot as though the owner was still looking around the alley. Although he couldn’t see any more than the leather of the boots, the sick feeling in Harry’s stomach told him it was Lucius Malfoy, still staking him out.

Malfoy slowly began to move towards him, his boots making intimidating thuds against the concrete ground as he drew nearer and nearer the dumpster. Harry could hear him muttering something, and it wasn’t until he came closer that he could hear exactly what.

“Potter, Potter, Potter…come out…come out…”

There was another loud bang from the dumpster, even louder and more painful than the last, and it was all Harry could do not to cry out in pain. Thrusting his knuckle into his mouth he bit down hard to relieve the pain, panting in discomfort and fear. There was blissful silence for a few moments as Malfoy stood exactly on the spot, not even the hem of his cloak moved as he listened for any sign of Harry.

“I’ve got her,” he sneered, making Harry’s heart turn cold. “She came running after you, begging us not to hurt you…she’s paying for her mistake as we speak…”

Harry couldn’t help it. A small sob of despair escape his clenched lips, the mere thought that Ginny could be hurt was tearing at him as he tried to reason with himself. Malfoy was just goading him, trying to make him panic….Ginny wouldn’t be so stupid. He stayed exactly where he was, unmoving and silent as Malfoy quickly grew impatient. Harry watched as he slowly stepped away, backing himself up against the far wall a few feet away, and he held his wand ready, anticipating an attack at any moment.

Nothing came for the longest time, but a moment later the hem of Malfoy’s cloak fluttered as he raised his wand high, and Harry tensed himself for the attack.

It happened before he could adequately prepare himself. One moment he lay safely under the dumpster, a moment later there was an almighty bang as it was torn from above him, revealing his location to Malfoy. Harry looked up at him in horror, seeing the relieved and gleeful look on his face before his body finally began to respond to his thoughts. Propping himself up on one elbow Harry raised his wand to Malfoy, thinking quickly.

“Stup-”

Before he could adequately cast the charm, Malfoy fell limp to the ground before him, time slowing as Harry watched in confusion, his curse dying on his lips. Confused, he wanted to look around for the source of Malfoy’s attack, but his instinct told him to roll onto his back instead. Looking above himself he watched the dumpster that had so recently been his sanctuary hit the stone wall behind him and began to fall back down. His jaw dropping, Harry watched its decent in slow motion, already trying to anticipate the injuries he would sustain if he didn’t move. Broken bones? Cracked skull? Internal injuries? He knew Hermione was efficient with a sling and splint, but there would be no helping him if he were crushed.

He allowed himself a moment of sheer panic before he acted, raising his wand above him and casting the strongest Shield charm he could muster. The falling dumpster stopped in mid-air a few feet above him, sending reverberations through his wand and into his arm as he tried to sustain his magic. He took a gasping breath and rolled away, relinquishing the charm and allowing the dumpster to fall to the ground with an enormous bang, rubbish spilling out as it landed on its side. There was utter silence as he lay there in shock, waiting for the commotion to draw out the other Death Eaters, who surely weren’t far away.

Looking to his right he blankly looked at Malfoy. His long blonde hair was splayed out around his face, but Harry could see his chest rising and falling, still alive. He scrambled to move away from him, leaning up against the dumpster for a moment until he collected himself, still trying to process exactly what had just happened. Chest heaving in panic, Harry didn’t even notice the figure standing at the mouth of the alley until they slowly began to move towards him. Harry didn’t raise his wand when he finally noticed his presence, feeling no sense of fear at all as he recognised the man who had saved him.

“Reed?” he asked softly, watching the Hogwarts Potions Master moving towards him. Though the new teacher wasn’t particularly liked by students, Harry couldn’t help but feel relieved that he was no longer alone.

“Are you okay, Potter?” the man asked swiftly, extending his arm to Harry, his expression hard and serious.

“Yeah,” he nodded, hesitating before taking Reed’s hand and allowing himself to be pulled to his feet. He swayed unsteadily for a moment, looking at the man in confusion. “How did you-”

“That’s not for you to know,” he stated cryptically. He frowned as he looked at Harry’s face. “Stay still, you’re bleeding,” he instructed, raising his wand to Harry’s face and siphoning away the blood that he was unaware of. “Remain close to me, listen and do exactly as I say, and you’ll be fine. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Harry agreed, blindly trusting his professor, following him down to the end of the alley. He watched as Reed looked from one end of the street to the other before turning back to him.

“Take off your cloak and your jumper, and put your wand away out of sight.”

“What?” Harry said in dismay. “Are you kidding me?”

“Do as I say, or I’ll leave you to be caught!” Reed rebuked him furiously, and the conviction in his voice was so strong that Harry didn’t dare argue further.

But he swore under his breath for good measure, taking off his cloak and jumper and dropping them to the ground behind him, kicking them out of sight. Tucking his wand into his jeans he pulled the bottom of his shirt over to conceal it, shivering against the bitter cold. “Now what?”

Reed ignored him for a moment, still looking out into the street. He finally turned around and looked Harry up and down fully, down scrutinising him. Reed raised his wand to Harry’s head again, and a moment later he felt his hair shortening ever so slightly, turning sandy blonde as Reed nodded in approval. “Do not draw your wand unless you are attacked, do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“You’re going to follow the street up this way,” he began, indicating towards the shore line where he and the others had initially been. “Stroll. That’s very important, you must stroll, skip a little if you have to, do you understand?”

“I, er…yes.”

“You’ll cross the adjacent street, go behind the Muggle shops and down towards the beach. Follow the coast line north, and once you’re out of sight try to apparate. Keep your head down, don’t look around, and put your hands into your pockets…..understood?”

Harry didn’t respond for a moment, looking out into the quiet street himself. There was no one around, and it must be too good to be true. Surrounded by Death Eaters one moment, and then alone the next, with Reed as his salvation. Distrust crept up inside him, and he looked at Reed suspiciously as he withdrew his wand and raised it towards him.

“Get away from me,” he commanded lowly.

To his surprise, Reed shook his head to himself and stepped away, throwing his wand to the ground in frustration. “There! Are you happy?” he demanded. They stared at each other for a long moment, sizing each other up before he continued. “Now, go!”

Hesitating for only a moment, Harry wondered if he was walking straight into a trap by following Reed’s orders, but knew he had few other options. With his wand still raised he backed out of the alley and onto the street, facing forward and lowering his wand as he walked. The adjacent street that Ginny had first performed magic on was only a few yards away, and drawing nearer he could hear the commotion in the shops growing louder. He paused at the corner and hid his wand in the waist of his jeans, looking back over his shoulder to see if Reed was pursuing him.

There was no one there. For a moment Harry expected Ginny to appear out of thin air, praying that she had stayed under the invisibility cloak, that the three of them were safely far away by now. Taking a deep breath Harry turned front again and shoved his hands deep into his pockets, lowering his head before emerging out onto the street, a sudden gust of wind picking up. With only the protection of his threadbare shirt Harry’s body was wracked with violent shivers as he crossed the street, trying not to look around as instructed.

Keeping his head bowed he glanced towards his right as he crossed the street, seeing two or three Death Eaters that payed him little attention after the first glance they took. With the absence of his heavy cloak and his new blonde hair, he strolled across the street undetected, looking up only as he reached the other side and looked for a way down to the beach. He remained surprisingly clam despite the situation, descending the short concrete steps between two buildings, encountering no one. Moments later, the cold and windy beach came into view, the sand littered with ocean debris.

It was not a beach someone would take their family on a warm summers day, Harry could see that already. The powerful waves crashed over large rocks and onto the shoreline, the receding water leaving behind the occasional tangled mess of seaweed. A lone seagull circled overhead, staking out its prey in the rocky pools of water a few yards south. Standing close to the building Harry remained out of sight and out of the wind, looking back the way he had come. He was itching to draw his wand, to be prepared for attack, but knew Reed wanted him to blend in, probably as a local muggle. Taking out his wand would only draw attention.

Looking left and right, Harry mulled over which way he ought to go. Heading south should eventually bring him to Shell Cottage as the four had originally planned, but Reed had clearly told him to head north, the opposite direction. For a moment he wondered again what had happened to the others, if they were still patiently waiting under the Invisibility cloak for his return, or if they had taken off on foot again. He truly hoped it was the latter, that they were far away by now, safely back in hiding, but he knew it wasn’t likely they would leave him completely defenceless against the Death Eaters. Putting them out of his mind Harry focused on his surroundings, wondering what he ought to do.

Ignoring Reed’s instructions he headed south, clumsily jumping down an embankment and trudging along the sand towards the line of trees that would provide him cover. The beach wasn’t overly large, and he passed the rock pools and entered the trees, drawing his wand. He was shaking against the cold, the heavy canopy blocking out any warmth from the sun, and he lit his wand to better see his surroundings.

A small branched snapped beneath his feet, echoing loudly through the trees as Harry stopped dead in his tracks. Frozen where he stood, he could feel his mind racing back to last August when he had first truly been on the run from Death Eaters after making his lucky escape. At least he had his wand this time, and shoes on his feet, but nevertheless his heart turned icy cold at the similarities, his stomach churning uncomfortably as his mind kept racing. It had been raining last August, almost incessantly, and it was no wonder he had developed pneumonia, no wonder he had become so cold and weak that he could hardly stand. Even over four months later, Harry could still feel the awful ache in his legs, and the scary way his bare feet were numb as he trudged through the muddy earth. The wounds on his chest and back began to ache again as he thought of this, a familiar head ache sending him swaying on the spot before he took a deep breath and forced himself to keep moving.

He had barely taken more than a few steps when somebody close by screamed, “Crucio!”



 

A/N Thanks for your patience, I hope I haven't lost too many readers due to the long delay between chapters. The last few months I have struggled to tell Harry's story, to write anything really, and I look forward to your reviews helping me get back on track.

Next chapter almost done, just need to finish the ending. It's going to be great, I know you'll love it. To make up for the long delay, I promise that chapter 23 will be posted within a week.

Big thanks to Spell Maker and Geneva Jameson, who have been a great encouragement and sourse of ideas/inspiration. Thanks guys.

Got ideas? Got criticism? Got requests/pleads? Please leave a review, and help me keep writing, and to deliver exactly what it is you want. Always know that I take them into consideration, and that by the end of this series, I will have fulfilled one of the most common requests.

Thanks for reading. ;-)
 
 


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Chasing The Inevitable: Chapter 22 The Trace

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