His feet splashed lightly into puddles as he walked, robes swishing around him. A chilly breeze blew through the street, his cloak protecting him from the worst of it. Two Muggle children waddled across the lane dressed as pumpkins, curly vine hats pinned to their heads. His lips curled in disgust at the Muggle trappings of a holiday, almost mocking a world they should fear.
Power and triumph flooded his veins as he walked. Here at last was definitive proof of his success. Despite the efforts of both Potters, Albus Dumbledore, and the entirety of the Order of the Phoenix, the boy couldn't be kept from him. The child prophesied to defeat him would not live long enough to so much as lift a wand.
"Nice costume mister!"
He raised his head and the Muggle boy who was hurrying in the opposite direction got his first glimpse under the hood of the cloak. The child's face went three shades lighter, fear coloring his expression. He enjoyed watching that, the way fear started in the eyes and spread outwards, eyebrows furrowing and mouth dropping open.
He fingered his wand, contemplating, but decided that murdering this child was unnecessary. He had far more important prey to hunt tonight, and it wouldn't do to attract attention. Certainly a crowd of angry Muggles couldn't so much as rip his robes, but it would be an inconvenience he didn't need, and someone would undoubtedly notice a child simply dropping…
So the child would live.
His destination loomed in front of him, a cottage with a fire flickering in the windows. Such a charming, safe scene, but the place was no longer safe. The cottage's occupants sat inside, blissfully ignorant of how pitifully exposed they were, their Fidelius Charm shattered to nothing. Nothing stood between them and him anymore.
He paused by the dark hedge, staring over it. The curtains weren't drawn…
The tall black-haired man sat on the couch, one leg crossed over the other as he flicked his wand, little puffs of smoke bursting from the tip. The baby in his blue pajamas snatched at them, giggling happily. The baby in pink was nestled in her mother's arms at the other end of the couch, eyes shut and legs kicking softly.
The mother said something and the father stood up, taking the boy into his arms. He tossed his wand onto the couch carelessly and yawned. The mother smiled and said something that made him smile back as he passed the boy over. She moved from the room, the wand still resting uselessly on the sofa.
Their last defense, the core of the little power they had left, abandoned. Such fools…
His grip on the gate tightened and the gate itself creaked slightly as he pushed it open and strode up the lane, but James Potter didn't notice. His second mistake…
His wand slid from his pocket and with a flick at the door he was inside. James came flying into the room but he was still unarmed. This was really too easy… no challenge for something so important…
"Lily, take Harry and Lorena and go! It's him! Go! Run! I'll hold him off!"
He was chuckling as he stepped over the corpse of James Potter, the green flash fading from the room. Upstairs he could hear her screaming as she tried to barricade herself into the nursery. It would seem she had no wand on her either. And yet she still thought she had a chance?
Perhaps she did. She, at least, had nothing to fear. So long as she was sensible. He had promised to spare her if possible and he kept his promises, particularly if they were to servants as loyal as Severus Snape had been. It was his information that had brought him here tonight. Snape was the reason he was now so close to his goal, mere minutes away from destroying the thing that could possibly stop him.
With another flick of his wand the nursery door burst open, sending her meager barricade flying against a wall. Baby toys spilled across the floor and a rocking chair broke apart, wooden spindles rolling in all directions. One even rolled to rest mockingly beside her foot…
She stood in front of the crib containing both children, arms spread. Her eyes were blown wide and fixed on him as she tried desperately to find words to save her children, babble falling from her lips.
"Not them, not Lorena, not Harry…. Please, not them!"
"Stand aside, you silly girl… stand aside, now."
"Not my children, please no, take me, kill me, kill me and not them!"
"This is my last warning-"
"Have mercy… have mercy!" she moaned desperately. "Not Harry! Not Lorena! I'll do anything!"
"Stand aside. Stand aside, girl!"
He could have forced her away from the crib, tossed her into the wall as easily as that rocking chair. But he had given her several chances, yet she still stood between him and what he desired.
Green light flashed and she dropped, the ghost of her desperation and fear still lingering in her glassy eyes. The two children were silent in their crib, staring at him. The boy had risen up, clutching the bars and watching in interest.
The girl, on the other hand, merely sat where her mother had placed her minutes before. She just stared. Not looking terribly interested. Just staring, her head tilted curiously as if to say 'oh, it's you?'
He stepped closer to the crib, letting his wand lower slightly. The boy began to cry, making him frown. He'd never been able to listen to the small ones cry at the orphanage without wanting to wring their scrawny necks…
But he could stand it for a while. He had time; no one knew he was here, no one was coming. He could take a moment to contemplate, to savor his victory, the moment so close he could taste it.
And, of course, there was still one last thing to decide…
His wand was stowed in his pocket and he reached out, lifting the female infant from the crib, holding her at arm's length. She, at least, was no danger to him. She was almost interesting. She was still simply observing him, like she was waiting for something. Even as her brother cried, she didn't make a sound, just stared at him with green eyes so similar to her recently-deceased mother.
"You are no danger to me," he said aloud. "So the question becomes… what is your fate? Your father had to die, he was in my way. Your mother… she chose her death. And your brother, he will go. But you pose no danger. Should I kill you as well?
"It would almost be a kindness," he contemplated, turning the thought over in his head. "Orphanages are never kind to their occupants. You would learn that quickly, but not if I kill you here and now. Perhaps you would find your family in whatever afterlife there is."
The girl blinked at him. Her chubby little hand reached out towards him. He reared back, surprised. But the girl just continued to stare at him, hand stretched out. Slowly, cautiously, he drew her closer, watching with some sort of fascination to see what she would do.
When she was within reach, she laid her chubby palm on his cheek and, for the first time that night, made a sound. A cheerful gurgle, almost a greeting, like she was pleased to see him. Would she be nearly so pleased if she were old enough to comprehend what she had just witnessed? Would she reach out of the man who would murdered her family if she knew that he had just stepped over her father's corpse and left him to cool downstairs?
It was an intriguing idea, in its own way. To see what would become of the orphaned Potter girl. The one who, but by an accident of birth, might have been untouched by him. But now she would grow up steeped in the legend that he would become. The sister of the one who would have destroyed him if he hadn't killed the boy first.
She could become a trophy of sorts. He had always been fond of trophies. The girl whose life he had ruined, who he could perhaps have his servants raise to stand by his side. What a sight that would be: the daughter of the self-righteous Potters at his side. If that wouldn't crush the morale of those who would oppose him, nothing would.
But she could not escape tonight unscathed, no. Mother, father, brother dead and she without a mark on her? No, that wouldn't do.
He took the child in one arm. His free hand drew his wand from his pocket once more. He imagined he could feel a savage pleasure from the instrument at what it was about to do, the damage, both physical and emotional, it would wreak upon the baby.
He placed the tip of his wand against her left cheek. Her little mouth turned down as if she were annoyed. He dragged the wand in a large, elegantly curved S, the same as the one emblazoned on the locket of his ancestor. Where his wand touched, skin parted as smoothly as butter. Blood seeped from the thin wound.
Finally, finally the child reacted to him in a normal way. She screwed up her face and began to cry, trying to pull away from his wand, but he held her head tightly in place until he was finished. Her tiny hands clenched into fists in her irritation, face going red as she wailed her pain with all the gusto her tiny little lungs could muster.
The boy cried louder and harder at the sound of his sister's wail. His mouth turned down in a scowl once more as their voices drilled into his ears.
He set the wailing, bleeding girl down in the crib. He would return to her later. Now he turned his wand upon the boy, the reason he was here. It was almost comical to think that this screaming lump of flesh might one day destroy him, the greatest wizard who had ever lived, he who had delved farther into the mysteries of magic than anyone else ever had. And yet no chances could be taken.
He inhaled, aimed his wand at the child's face, and said the words.
The energy leeched from his body with breathtaking speed as he was ripped apart from the inside out. He staggered against the crib, the girl's face inches from him, watching him accusingly as his vision blackened. He had just enough time to realize he was dying before he was shattered.