"While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die."
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~
Chapter 16 ~ New Barriers
Harry clenched his fist around thin air, squeezing the life out of some unseen adversary within the quiet hospital wing. The silence was only broken by Kaylens' tranquil breaths, her chest rising and falling as steadily as the light breeze fluttering the curtains.
He'd been cooped up for days, still healing himself, and had been forced to watch her grow ever stiller. Surely he was trapped within one of the seven circles of hell, for each time he looked upon her his guilt rose like a fire, the flames threatening to consume him.
She had saved him. Despite everything he had screamingly accused her of, she had still nearly given her life for his.
Now she lay in this comatose state, and even Madam Pomfrey had been unable to rouse her.
Her skin still held the pallor of death, yet to him it seemed slightly rosier.
Perhaps it was his own wishful thinking.
He rose, unable to remain still, watching her with nothing save his thoughts for company.
Thoughts were such poor comfort...
Not allowed and unwilling to leave, he began sorting through the events of the past few days.
The vindication, the satisfaction, and everything he had expected to feel were conspicuously absent.
Bellatrix Lestrange was dead.
So why did he feel robbed?
The obvious answer came. Tonks had beaten him to the kill. She had killed the one person who's death he had desired above all but Voldemort himself. And now he would never have the chance to avenge Sirius the way he had wanted.
Worst of all, Lestrange's body was gone.
He had wanted to look upon the lifeless face of Sirius' killer and spit upon it.
Now even that cruel comfort had been taken from him.
All he was left with, were unanswered questions, and this cruel circle of hell called the Hogwarts hospital wing.
Still, the facts did not add up. Death Eaters held no loyalty for one another. To them nothing was sacred.
Yet they had salvaged the body.
There was no coming back from the killing curse...
So why do it?
He had unconsciously wandered, finding himself in front of the open third floor window. The autumn scented breeze blew across his bare chest, cooling him. His shirt lay discarded upon his bed, his shoulder gauze recently removed, exposing the claw marks that now indented his skin.
It was necessary, Madam Pomfrey had insisted upon having his wound exposed to the air. He was to be released soon, and she needed to ascertain that it would hold up on it's own.
His fractured scapula had been mended quickly, but werewolf wounds were slow to heal.
It was fortunate he had not been bitten, they had said.
Was he lucky? He was not sure. But even when Dumbledore and Tonks had come, he had felt nothing but hollow. His own apathy was almost enough to wish for death.
Only yesterday had Dumbledore's weathered eyes bored into his, recounting the events in full.
"Experimental spells, their effects unknown to the Order, have been added to Voldemort's arsenal of weaponry, Harry. Take heed..."
He had seen what happened to Lupin first hand, for his transformation had been triggered by the spell Lucius Malfoy had hit him with.
It had happened during the day.
Now, where Death Eaters roamed, the moon would no longer hold it's sway.
Harry shuddered in the breeze, contemplating the many horrors Voldemort might unleash in addition to daylight roaming werewolves.
Of course there was no need to speculate. Dumbledore had told him about the atrocities of late.
Forty seven innocents, four of them children, had walked upon the Earth. Now they lay beneath it's unforgiving soil, removed by the pitiless actions of Voldemort's minions.
Hermione's parents would soon join them, and his cold rational side realized that when it happened, part of Hermione's soul would be taken forever.
"The war is escalating Harry, far more swiftly than we ever expected..."
He was having trouble accepting any of it, for he knew at the heart of it, he was partly to blame.
For if he were truly the one with the power to defeat the Dark Lord, than every second he had ever spent reveling in life, and not searching for Voldemort's demise, had been another grave in the ground for the innocent.
A painful chill burned within the claw marks he bore, and he wondered if they had re-opened again, bleeding anew. He reached a hand back, gingerly touching it, the blood upon his fingers confirming his suspicions.
It was doubtful he would be permitted to leave soon.
His froze, turning from the window. He stared, taking her in as she blinked the sleep from her eyes, squinting in the morning sunlight.
"You're awake," He stated, slightly stunned. He had begun to wonder if she ever would.
She smiled weakly. "You're observant."
"You were out for five days."
She paled considerably.
He was slow to recover, and debated getting Madam Pomfrey. But she would be back soon, to check on his own wounds. She could find her awake then. Besides, he was afraid to leave her alone for even a second, fearful that she might fall into that unending slumber once more.
"So how is it?" Her voice was barely above a whisper.
He studied her, thinking about how to answer. His pride made him hesitant to admit weakness, but her eyes...
She would discern a lie if he told it, he realized, deciding on the truth.
"Painful," He watched her eyes flicker shut. "You?"
"Like hell..." She murmured.
"You look it."
She graced him with a wry smile, a lock of hair falling into her eyes. She looked almost annoyed.
She reached up, brushing the lock aside, revealing her deathly pale skin. Her controlled movements exposed her own pain to him in a way no words could.
As did her wrist. His eyes caught upon the dark bruise encircling it.
He crossed to her, catching her wrist gently. She glanced up, hazel eyes narrowed in confusion.
"You bruise easily don't you?" He asked, cautiously turning her hand in his. It was so delicate he was afraid it would break further than it already had from her fall.
Her eyes traveled to where his fingers lay.
"Apparently," Her voice was so faint...
"Pomfrey said she had taken care of this," He whispered aloud, gently relinquishing her hand. She let it fall upon her pillow, besides her face. "Your bones may not have healed properly."
She flexed it back and forth, grimacing slightly. "It's fine."
"Right," He said skeptically, withdrawing to the bed across from her, sitting upon the taunt sheets.
It was funny, but had she had woken a few days earlier he probably would have demanded answers, answers about how she knew Lupin, about what she really did or did not know about Death Eaters, but after days of sitting there, watching her frail figure sleep, the mere thought of interrogating her bothered him.
His answers could wait, for a little while at least.
"Tonks stopped by earlier," He said, breaking the silence. "She said Lupin sends his love."
Her eyes opened hopefully. "So he's..."
"Yeah," He finished.
She sunk farther into the mattress. "Thank God. Finally something's gone right."
She lay there, so still, for so long, he would have sworn she slept. It was part fear, fear that she would not awake, that drove him to the admission.
"You saved my life," He said quietly.
She stretched ever so slightly, the sheets sliding away to reveal her bare toes. Her face relaxed, almost serenely. "You saved mine first."
He wanted to argue, but lacked the heart, watching how her eyes broke from his, dancing away.
"That fall down the stairs you took...I probably wouldn't have held up as well."
Looking at how fragile she seemed, he realized she spoke the truth.
It was then that Pomfrey walked in.
He tore his eyes from her, and allowed Pomfrey to fuss over him willingly this time.
* * * * *
Several days later he had been prepped to leave. His left arm hung loose in a sling, preventing unnecessary movement.
Lupin's claws had torn into him just beneath his shoulder blade, right where several muscles came together. Apparently re-growing muscles was as tricky as re-growing bones.
He still needed to talk to Kaylens, but she slept. They had not shared a word since she had first awoken, content to sit there in silence. He was debating whether or not to break that silence when a frustrated looking Ron walked in.
Looking at Ron, he realized that there were other things that had to be taken care of first.
He had been dreading this conversation for days. Ron and Hermione would want answers. Answers about his absence... Answers about what had occurred in Dumbledore's office days earlier... Answers about Voldemort's intrusions into his mind...
Answers he could not give.
How could he explain the pressure he felt, or Voldemort's intrusions, without revealing the contents of the prophecy?
How could he explain what had gone on at Sirius', without revealing all he had seen?
And how could he explain why Hermione's parents had been taken from her? They would never accept 'because of me' as an answer.
He threw a last glance at Kaylens' sleeping form. They would talk later. He promised himself that.
He and Ron stepped into the hall. It was mercifully vacant, making the stone-lined corridor appear longer than usual.
It had been over a week since he and Kaylens had disappeared from the Headmaster's office, and one of the last warm weekends of the year had driven the student body outside.
As for him, during that time, Voldemort had left his mind alone. He had felt the beginnings of an intrusion days earlier, but Riddle had withdrawn, sensing that his decision had not yet been made.
Riddle had given him more time due to his injury, and for that, Harry had to give him credit.
As evil as Voldemort was, the creature had some class.
They walked in silence, Ron's eyes darting towards him. He knew Ron was trying to decide what was safe to discuss.
Harry decided to spare him the awkwardness. "How's Hermione?"
Ron shrugged despondently. "How do you think she's doing?"
"Not good," The absence of people made the corridor cavernous, and his breath echoed quietly.
"Harry what's going on?"
I wish I knew Ron... His own frustration at this very question had been building inside for days. Dumbledore had told him some, but there was still the question of Kaylens. How did she fit into all of this? Did she even? And Voldemort... There had to be more to it, because the pieces Dumbledore had told him did not fit with what he had seen through Voldemort's own eyes.
Not to mention the prophecy. How in the hell was he supposed to beat him?
There were too many questions to answer, before the most important ones could even be framed.
They walked the rest of the way in silence.
Hermione was there, waiting for them in the empty dormitory, sprawled out with a book on Ron's bed. Her eyes were rimmed with dark circles, similar to Kaylens.
Misery loves company, he thought. Ron sat besides her, placing a hand on her back. Only then did she seem to realize they were there.
"Harry...H-how are you?"
He smiled for her benefit. "The question is, how are you?"
She shrugged, re-burying her nose into her book. "They wouldn't let us see you."
"Why?" Ron asked.
Harry dropped his bag onto the bed, and began removing the few belongings Pomfrey had brought down for him. "Dumbledore's orders." His eyes would not meet theirs.
Ron frowned. "His reason?"
So he could have time to brief us on what we could or could not say to you, he thought.
"He didn't want us seen. We weren't in..." He shrugged with one shoulder. "No one should have seen us after it okay?"
Hermione's eyes roamed, landing on his sling.
He caught the unspoken question. "Werewolf wounds are slow to heal."
They both looked at him as if he were a new species.
"W-were you...?" Ron stammered.
"No. I was not bitten."
Hermione looked skeptical. "Harry that's not possible."
"Why?" She cringed at his forcefulness.
"Because the full moon isn't until..."
"This weekend. Yes I know 'Mione."
"Then how could a werewolf..."
His expression turned grave. "There are ways."
Hermione was no longer even trying to read, her voice unusually high. "That can't be. A werewolf can't change out of lunar sequence..."
"Don't be so sure of that," He said bitterly.
Ron looked between them. "How? How could it Harry?"
Harry stared him down, unblinking. "Voldemort."
Ron's blue eyes widened, his freckles standing out against his paling skin, putting two and two together. "So when you and Kaylens went to see Lupin..."
"He turned. Yes."
"Merlin..." Ron whispered, unconsciously rubbing Hermione's back harder.
"Harry I don't understand," She said haltingly, shoving her book away, it's pages flapping lifelessly as it fell to the floor. She spared it not a glance. "Please Harry. What's going on?"
"Too much to explain easily, 'Mione."
Ron took Hermione's hand almost naturally. "Then take your time mate. Start from the beginning."
Harry shook his head, hating himself. "Fine, the beginning then...." He steadied himself, and met Hermione's almost pleading gaze.
"You both already know that Voldemort has not given me a moment's peace since last summer. It's a private battle between him and I. We're both fighting for information, about the other side's comings and goings, about how much the other side knows..."
He talked steadily, opening his dresser drawer to put clothing away. His actions, however menial, lent a sense of normality to the otherwise ominous conversation.
"Your parents 'Mione, he said he will release them," He ignored her intake of breath. "If I tell him what the contents of the prophecy were."
Her expression drooped. "But how could you? It broke..." She glanced at Ron, searching for confirmation, repeating herself now. "You can't know what it said. Could you?"
He found himself nodding. "Yes, Hermione. It broke. But I still know what it said."
The silence that followed occupied years within his mind, yet it lasted no more than 3 seconds.
"What did it say?" She questioned cautiously.
He remained silent, until her pleading voice broke again.
"Don't ask me Hermione, not again. It is something I cannot share."
The betrayed looks upon their faces nearly broke his spirit.
Hermione's mouth opened and closed wordlessly. It was Ron who finally gave voice to their thoughts. "Why Harry? Why can't you share it?"
"You would not want to hear it."
"How could we not? Harry this is all we've worked for! Did it say how we can beat him..."
He swallowed hard. "No Ron."
"Then why won't..."
Ron's voice was hard. "Then if not us, him? It could save 'Mione's..."
The accusation in Ron's voice was too much. He could take no more. "Because I can't Ron! Don’t you think I would if I could?"
Ron shook his head. "I don't know anymore Harry."
Harry was having trouble keeping his voice level. "Ron, if I tell him there is no reason for him to keep the Grangers alive anymore. It's our biggest bargaining chip."
Hermione sounded so small now. "But V-voldemort said he'd...he'd l-let them g-go..."
His jaw dropped. Hermione was smarter than this wasn't she? "I'm sorry Hermione but once I tell him...."
"He'd let them go," Ron interrupted. "Make him release one at least Harry! Then tell him for God's sakes! What could it hurt?! Bargain with him!"
Harry lost his patience. "Don't you guys get it?! This is Voldemort we are talking about!" They both cringed at the name, his voice rising. "This isn't some war game were playing against the Slytherins! This is real life! Voldemort is eviler that either of you can even imagine..."
"Really?" Ron countered. "Were we or were we not there with you Harry? Huh? Did we not see what he was capable of at the Department of Mysteries?"
Harry shook his head, never more serious. "No Ron. You didn't." He felt almost sorry at Ron's crestfallen look. "You only saw what Death Eaters were capable of. That is nothing compared to him."
"Harry then why don't you just tell us how he..." Hermione started miserably.
"Because Hermione! There's no way to explain it..."
"There's no need to yell at her mate," Ron said coolly.
He laughed bitterly. "Oh but there is Ron. Because after everything we've been through you'd think you would both trust my judgment on this..."
"No," Ron squeezed Hermione's hand and stood. "Because we remember where your judgment got Sirius."
Harry felt as if his insides had frozen. There was no arguing this.
"If you had only listened to Hermione it wouldn't have happened," Ron continued icily. "And now your hesitation concerning this prophecy may get her parents killed as well."
Hermione had begun tugging on his hand frantically. "Ron..."
"No Hermione. He needs to hear this. Because it's like he doesn't even trust us..."
"I do trust you," Harry whispered.
Ron's eyebrows raised so far they disappeared beneath his hair. "Really?! Then why did you hardly breath a word to us all summer? Why won't you talk to us now?"
"I am talking..."
"No. Your blocking Harry. Like in chess." Ron pointed his wand out the door, summoning the chess board from the common room. Levitating it, Ron cleared the board save for the pawns, king, and queen of both sides, his brow furrowed in concentration. He then moved the pawns so they protectively surrounded the king and queen on one side, leaving the other side's king and queen unprotected.
"The way I see it Harry, all you have left are pawns." Ron continued, gesturing to the protected side of the board. "So instead of risking everything to take my king, you're protecting yours."
Ron moved a pawn on Harry's side away. "You're afraid that if you move your pawns for a second, that I might get in and take your king."
Ron's queen shot forward, moving through the opening Harry's pawn had left, taking his queen out with a violent whack of her chair. She then stood, posed to take his king on the next move.
"The king represents everything your keeping from us Harry." He continued seriously. "You won't let your king be taken, because if that happens..."
The chess board folded in on itself, slamming to the floor.
Harry shook his head, unable to deny Ron's accusation.
He was right. And for the first time Harry realized how truly different he was from them.
He loved them, but Ron and Hermione could never share his burden, no matter how much they wanted to.
The sound of the metaphorical wall falling between them filled his mind, and Ron spoke again.
"Game over Harry. Only you’re the only one who knows what game were playing."
* * * * *
Harry tromped through the corridor, feeling worse than he had thought possible. He preferred feeling numb, at least then he felt nothing at all.
They simply did not understand. Not that he had expected them to. Things were too dangerous now. Voldemort had made a hobby out of extinguishing anyone close to his heart, and he was not about to fill Ron and Hermione's heads with anything that might make them more tempting targets than they already were.
Which was why he had flat out refused to divulge anything else, and held his ground about not revealing the prophecy to Voldemort. Not even for Hermione....
Ron had stormed out telling him to 'keep his secrets' and Hermione had plead with him to 'not shut them out.'
The choice was no longer his.
No longer would they be privy to Harry Potter's bad decisions.
They wouldn't end up like Sirius.
He knew exactly where he was going, and rounded the corner to the hospital wing. His foul mood only increased when Madam Pomfrey stuck out her head, a forced smile plastered upon it, and asked him to wait.
The door slammed and the sound of argument resumed. Dumbledore's voice caught his attention. What was he doing in the hospital wing? Perhaps to see Kaylens, but he had already visited them once. It wasn't like the Headmaster to visit students though. And he should know, he had been in the hospital wing too many times to count, but could count Dumbledore's visits there on one hand.
A disturbing thought struck him. What if Kaylens had gotten worse?
He reached into his pocket and withdrew the extendable ear he had taken to carrying at all times. His decision made he slipped it beneath the door.
Madam Pomfrey's reproving tone came out clearly. "...cells need to regenerate before you can even attempt to perform magic again."
"But I'm behind enough as it is!" Kaylens... A twisting wave of relief washed through him. And to think, normally he had trouble resisting the urge to mute her.
Dumbledore spoke now. "Miss Kaylens I don't think Remus would want you over-exerting..."
"Well I'm not particularly concerned with what he thinks at the moment."
The silence was palpable, and he shifted nervously. She was okay, now that he knew this he really shouldn’t be listening...
Yet something about Dumbledore's tone made him. As outwardly honest as the Headmaster had been with him lately, his faith in the man was still recovering. It had been shattered too skillfully the previous year.
"Kalliandra, we did not want you burdened with this."
"Considering that I'm the one you can't cure, don't you think that should have been my decision?"
Cure? His stomach lurched dangerously.
"Kalliandra, looking at it as a death sentence will not help matters."
Her voice was strained. "You're right. Nothing will. You know that the odds..."
"Are only as good as you make them," Dumbledore finished. "That is precisely why we did not want to burden you with this."
"I'd prefer the burden," Kaylens hissed, her voice suddenly stronger. "Now is there anything else your keeping from me?" Her voice was strained and accusatory. "Because I'd like to know before I read about it in some stupid book."
"I thought so."
His entire body shook unsteadily. So much so that the approaching footsteps did not register until the door had swung open in front of him, revealing a pale looking Kalliandra.
He could only stare, words abandoning him. Her eyes had caught on the extendable ear.
Her garment bag slipped down on her shoulder, her entire form quivering.
"Potter..." She whispered chokingly. She locked eyes with him, her expression stunned.
A second later she was gone. The glistening of her eyes the harshest reproach he had ever seen.
"Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it."
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~
Chapter 17 ~ Kunnskap
Kunnskap is Norweigan for Knowledge
She shoved open the entrance doors, leaving the secure halls of the school behind, and walked out onto the rapidly cooling grounds. She blinked back the moisture that lingered within her eyes. No tears would fall, no matter how hard they threatened. This she promised herself.
She was furious, but her anger paled in comparison to her self loathing. She had been so unbelievably stupid! It had been bad enough to trust Remus, but to have nearly let down that barrier again...
"Damn't Potter!" She swore quietly.
Despite the pain they had been in, the time spent within the hospital wing had been pleasant. She and Potter had dwelt in silent companionship, both knowing there were things that needed to be discussed. Despite that he had not pressed her to talk, instead he had seemed to calmly accept her silence.
This change had been oddly comforting.
At least until she had stormed out, to find him standing there with an extendable ear.
She kicked the ground , scattering dirt in her wake.
She could not fathom why she had thought he would let her keep her secrets. But she had been a complete fool for entertaining the notion.
And for some reason his small betrayal hurt her.
Gods... She turned her tear filled eyes towards the sky, tracing along the darkening clouds, and noted how low they hung. It was the incoming storm that had drawn her outdoors after all. The strange feeling slithering through her, as if static electricity were tickling her very skin, had been hard to ignore.
She reveled in the small distraction from her thoughts, and allowed herself to simply feel.
The looming clouds pulsated with unstable vibrations, their rhythmic throbbing pulsated within her very blood, and her hair stood on end as if one had just run a balloon through her hair.
The storm front rolled in above her, and the more astute of her peers began to head indoors. The area surrounding the lake had been the first of the grounds to be abandoned, and her feet led her there.
She wanted the seclusion.
She had grown so used to despair, to feeling only constant numbness, punctuated by bouts of undiluted anger, that she had forgotten how to feel something as human as fear.
Everything had happened so fast the day she had received the shopkeepers note, and there had been no time for the cold truth to sink in. Only over the past days, as she and Potter had lain there in silence, had it finally registered.
Pomfrey's words had just driven it home.
Somehow, hearing the Healer's words had made it real, and now fear held her heart in a vice grip.
Despite the fear, she felt oddly detached, each aching step reminding her how she had already nearly died from her stout with the werewolf.
Perhaps death would be a blessing. She just had things to do before it found her.
The vibrations in the high sky were back, and she cringed at the electricity there. Being a part of such things, feeling such things, was not always pleasant.
It was often painful.
She rubbed her arms against the chill wind, thankful that God had some sense of pity. Fortunately for her, the human brain could only register pain as abnormal for so long, before it accepted the pain as the constant state of affairs. Then it would be ignored.
Oddly enough, it was very similar to how the fragrant scent of roses would lessen, if one were to stand amongst them, breathing them in for too long.
Still, acclimation could only do so much, and her body ached, protesting constantly.
Instead of leaving the grounds at the threat of rain, she continued meandering across the grounds, walking the circumference of the lake, observing it carefully.
She took it all in with her normal perceptiveness. There were spots where the grounds ended, dropping off sharply to meet the duckweed covered surface of the water.
In other spots the ground gradually sloped down, kissing the lake's rippling waves. There the dark earth was muddied, imprinted with the footprints of those who had braved the shallows to swim, before the weather had cooled in wake of the incoming afternoon storm.
She passed by both these areas, heading closer to the Forbidden Forest. Here she kicked off her shoes, allowing them to dangle freely from one hand as she picked her way across the far end of the lake. Here small stones formed a natural beach, and she sat down near the edge, letting her fingers trail across the rough pebbled edges beneath her.
She accumulated a small collection of flat bottomed rocks, gathering them within her hands, and she cast the first across the serene water, breaking it's glassy surface.
The giant squid lazily reached out a tentacle, swatting at and missing the cast stone.
She smiled ruefully, casting another towards him. This time the tentacle swung and connected, sending the stone flying high above her head.
A low rumble filled the sky, and the altocumulus clouds dipped threateningly lower, wafting the scent of rain upon the breeze towards her. The sky had grown darker, and she vaguely remembered the afternoons she and Sean had once spent, skipping stones across the lake near their family home.
But there had been no giant squid to play with there.
She skipped another.
A fleshy pink tentacle connected with it, hurtling it back.
To the side of her came an unmistakable grunt.
* * * * *
Harry winced, rubbing his forehead. That was definitely going to leave a mark.
It had taken him all of thirty seconds to decide to follow her. The memory of her watery eyes had been alarming, and he couldn't let her leave like that, not when she didn't understand.
He cast a glare at the giant squid, approaching her cautiously, carefully trying to not slip upon the slick rocks as he walked down towards her.
He treaded as close as he dared, pausing to hover uncertainly. Her shoulders had stiffened at his outcry, the only sign to indicate that she was aware of his presence.
He swallowed hard. From where he stood besides her, he could see the drawn line of her lips, and how her eyes gazed, almost longingly across the dark surface of the lake. He followed her gaze, the first drops of rain drizzling upon them.
The lake's once glossy exterior now moved with a life of its own. Each raindrop sending circular ripples outwards, each disturbance merging with the other furrows spreading across its surface. The effect was entrancing, and he drew his eyes away from the scene before him, to the girl before him. She was why he had ventured out here, despite the threatening storm.
"What are you doing out here?" He asked carefully. Another rock of thunder shuddered the sky, drowning him out, and the giant squid disappeared beneath the lake's surface.
"Enjoying the sunshine," Her hair fluttered lightly around her face. "I thought it would be obvious."
"It's not," He responded, the wind carrying his voice.
Silence reigned for some time, broken only by the increasing rhythm of rain, pattering around them. The water gradually matted his unruly hair to his forehead, and Kaylen's golden hair darkened with saturation.
She sat with a relaxed air, unbothered by the icy droplets pouring down. Slowly, with evident pain in her movements, she scooted closer to the lake's edge, dipping her feet into the churning water as casually as if it were a mid-summer day, rather than a windy October downpour. Never once did she look at him.
Her shoulders were bare, and her damp hair clung to them. He was close enough to notice the slight goose bumps prickling across her pale skin.
The conversation he had overheard forced it's way to the forefront of his mind as he watched her shiver.
Kaylens was sick...
"Here," He said, shattering their verbal lapse. He picked his way across the pebbly decline to her, shrugging out of his cloak. He felt no awkwardness as he picked up her damp hair, draping it across her shoulders.
She looked up, turning her questioning gaze towards him. He was at a loss, for the glossiness of her eyes could not be from rain water alone.
"You'll er...well you're soaked..."
Her eyes held his, and for the most fleeting of seconds the suspicion he was so used to seeing vanished. "Thank you," She murmured, inclining her head to the spot besides her.
He lowered himself besides her, afraid to speak. His heart pounded loudly in his chest. Never before had he been so fearful of reprimand. His luck may have lasted thus far, but even he would not blame her for screaming if she so chose.
For once he could admit to deserving it, and her silent acceptance of his presence was unnerving.
The sky thundered, lighting up as lighting flashed high in the clouds. It struck him as extremely unwise to be in their positions, so close to water.
"We should go in." His voice lacked conviction.
With the back of her wrist she rubbed the water from her eyes.
"Well?" Above the rumbling overhead he could tell she was speaking louder. Though the difference was barely discernable.
"I doubt you came here out of concern for my well being," She said, staring resolutely across the lake.
He opened his mouth to explain that that was exactly why he had come, but she went on.
"And since there are no conversations going on for you to listen to, I'm wondering what your doing here." Another flash of lightning illuminated her soaked features, and he found himself drawn towards her serene expression, confounded by her words.
Despite their content, her tone held no trace of the familiar sarcasm or malice.
Instead she sounded curious.
The realization sent an out of place smile across his face.
"Kaylens, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"I came to apologize."
To his surprise, she actually laughed. The sound had a haunting quality to it, for it blended artfully with the wind howling around them. The storm had crept upon them fast.
"You're right." She said, shaking her wet hair out in vain. "I don't."
He seized the opportunity to keep her talking. "Well I am. Kaylens I..."
"How much did you hear?" Her gaze turned pointedly down.
He sighed in frustration. "Enough to know that you shouldn't be out in this downpour."
She nodded, closing her eyes as if pained. "You have no idea how wrong you are."
He frowned. "I would if you just talked to me."
The look she shot him could silence the devil himself. "And why should I? You haven't been the portrait of honesty Potter."
"Perhaps if you would just listen you would find out."
She did not answer. Instead, she tilted her face towards the sky, allowing the rain to pour over her more freely. Her hair fell away from her shoulders, revealing her long neck. She remained this way for what may have been mere seconds, but to him, felt like hours.
"Okay Potter," She finally breathed. "Try me."
Such was his astonishment that for once, he did not hesitate.
And he explained.
He explained why he had followed her that day into Knockturn Alley, how her stubborn refusal to answer questions about Death Eaters had led him, to what he hoped, were wrong assumptions, and how, after days of watching her in a comatose state, he had feared that she had fallen ill once again.
He spoke to her, the rain cascading down their bodies as they sat, keeping each other's acquaintance, the storm forgotten. Several times she made to move, shaking her head disbelievingly, but his hand on her arm silenced her refutes. By the time he was done, a sad expression had crossed her features.
He studied her, puzzled. "Look, Kaylens I didn't mean to upset you if..."
She shivered noticeably, shaking her sopping hair. "No, it's not that Potter..." She trailed off, showing no intent of finishing.
He swallowed hard. God he just wanted things to be okay between them. There was still so much to talk about...
Her expression darkened at his words, and she stood abruptly, her shivering more pronounced.
"We should go in," She stated, interrupting him.
He nodded disappointedly, noting that the storm showed no sign of relenting soon, and stood with her. He already felt bad that they had stayed out there so long.
The second he was up she unceremoniously shoved his cloak back into his arms. He looked at it in surprise, and was about to argue, noting how far a walk to the school it still was, when he realized that she had already spun and taken off into the downpour.
"Wait!" He called, utterly confused. He stumbled after her, slipping on the wet rocks, and caught up to her on the grass.
"Kaylens keep it. You'll freeze otherwise." He went to drape it across her shoulders but she brushed him off.
"I'm fine," She said grimacing. "Really," She added, seeing his disbelieving look.
He matched her stride determinedly, noticing the reemergence of her stubborn streak, and threw it around her anyway. "Kaylens if you're sick you're wearing this until we're inside. I don’t care..."
She whorled on him, looking disturbingly distressed, her skin dangerously pale. "Look, Potter... Do yourself a favor okay? Don't worry about me."
He found himself shaking, be it from the cold or the icy palor of her skin, he did not know, yet all thoughts of speech were driven away.
It was as if she were transforming before him. Her icy barriers that he had not even noticed to be missing before, were coming back. What had he done to cause this? A few seconds ago they had been on almost civil terms.
The thought of her hating him again churned his stomach. He couldn't allow it...
She was backing away from him. "In fact..." She continued, sounding like a frightened animal. "For your own good, just stay the hell away from me."
She took off, leaving him standing there stunned, his sopping wet cloak on the muddied ground.
* * * * *
Over the past few days, since Kaylens had left him standing there in the pouring rain, Harry's mood had not improved.
He just did not understand what he had done, and every time he caught a glimpse of her he felt sick.
Everytime he had seen her, she had been with Draco Malfoy...
The fact that he still had a sneaking suspicion that she was clueless as to what a Death Eater was did not help matters.
It was enough for him to nearly send curses flying. At Luna's insistence, he had taken to kicking suits of armor instead.
Apparently the metallic noise made by kicking something attracted Crumple Horned Snorkacks.
Or something like that.
His reaction was puzzling, even to him. He could not deny that he felt oddly protective of her. How could he not? He had spent far too much time watching over her in the hospital wing, and the thought of further harm coming to her drove him mad.
Perhaps that was why he felt so crushed now that the fragile rapport he had, for a few exhilarating moments, thought they had built, had shattered.
But still... He could not fathom what it was he had said wrong. All he knew was that she was no longer openly hostile towards him. Instead she avoided him like the plague.
He had seen her alone that very morning, and it had taken all his patience to avoid hexing her into next week when she had practically sprinted down the hall to talk to Dean, upon catching sight of him.
Hell, he had come damn near closer to hexing her and Malfoy in Defense Against the Dark Arts that very day. He had walked in to find her and Malfoy chatting in hushed whispers, bent over parchment.
The second he had come within earshot the parchment had been rolled up and stuffed hastily into Malfoy's book satchel.
Kaylens had refused to look at him. But he had not failed to notice how her hands shook for the rest of class.
It had been easy to notice since he had been sitting alone. Ron and Hermione had holed themselves up on the other side of the room. And unlike Kaylens and Hermione, who contented themselves to avoiding him, Ron had made sport of sending hostile glares his way.
At least the hostile looks from his roommates were understandable. He had had another violent dream with Voldemort that week, and had woken up in a right state, screaming at every one of them.
Even the suits of armor had taken to cursing him when he walked by. Apparently they didn't like attracting afore mentioned snorkacks.
Come to think of it, the only person talking to him now seemed to be Luna. And since she was in the year below him, he found himself sitting alone in classes, and eating lunch at the Ravenclaw table.
In short, the week had passed by in a dizzying haze.
Fortunately it would soon be over. Luna had already expressed her intent to get his mind off of things, and was planning on forcibly dragging him to Hogsmeade.
He actually didn't mind the idea.
He finally reached the door, and Crusantheus surprisingly opened without complaint, revealing Dumbledore's office. He stepped in for his lessons, removing his wand in preparation.
"That will be unnecessary today Harry." Dumbledore said, catching sight of him from behind his desk.
Perhaps it was because his thoughts had been elsewhere, but the idea of a wandless Occlumency lesson caught him off guard. He furrowed his brow questioningly.
Dumbledore caught the unspoken question. "Tonight, I have something different planned. Besides, I have taught you all I can regarding Occlumency Harry. The rest is up to you."
Somehow Harry strongly disagreed with this. If he had learned all there was to know about Occlumency, he would not still be having violent nightmares. "Professor, in all due respect, if I had actually learned everything wouldn't I be well...good at this then?"
Dumbledore cracked a smile. "Ah, you see Harry, therein lies the difference. You have learned all I have to teach about Occlumency. That is an entirely different matter from mastering the discipline."
Harry was stunned, all previous thoughts and irritation at the Professor driven from his mind.
Never in his life would he have imagined Dumbledore being unable to teach him something.
"Occlumency, Harry, is less about erecting mental barriers, and more about controlling one's emotions. Keeping your emotions hidden from the enemy is of extreme importance. And frankly, gets easier with age." Dumbledore stood with a rather large feather duster and began to attack a disgruntled portrait with it.
"Harry, you have become quite adept at creating barriers, visualizing a brick wall is your barrier of choice is it not?" Harry nodded but Dumbledore was continuing. "But the only way to strengthen that wall at this point, is to learn to mask your emotions."
Harry stared somewhat unabashedly as the previous headmistress made a rather crude hand gesture.
"Er... Professor?" He questioned hesitantly. "What exactly do you mean by 'masking' them?"
"Ah, not explaining myself very well am I?"
He valued his education far too much to respond truthfully.
"Well Harry, when one sifts through your mind, painful memories can get unearthed. It's natural to recall the emotions these experiences caused you. Such a distraction is all the enemy would need to delve deeper into your mind." Dumbledore was carrying on with all the air of one discussing a weekend outing. "And you have no shortage of painful memories Harry. It would be quite easy for Voldemort to find one to use against you."
He did not need Dumbledore to tell him that, he had already re-lived the guilt of Sirius' death all summer.
"So are you going to make me relive those memories for practice?" He asked, somewhat apprehensive.
Dumledore turned to look at him, balancing precariously on the stool he was using to reach ole Phinneus' portrait. "Why of course not. Certainly, I could go sifting about through your mind, forcing you to recall bad times in your life. But dredging up old memories and forcing you to deal with them would only help you build up indifference. We don't want that."
Dumbledore turned back and shoved the feather duster right where Phinneus' face had just re-appeared. The former headmaster cringed and jumped out of the frame again.
"Harry, what we do want, is for you to come to terms with the crueler parts of your past. And only you can define what those terms are. But I dare remind you, there is a difference between allowing the past to remind you, and allowing the past to control you."
Dumbledore jumped down from the stool, wiping his dusty hands on his robes. "Well now that’s done. Now I have something to show you."
He beckoned him to where he stood, withdrawing a worn, leather bound book from one of his shelves. "You know, I almost lost this after that squabble yourself, Mr. Weasley, and Ms. Kaylens had the other day Harry." He peered down his spectacles at him. "I trust that is now resolved?"
Harry found himself oddly stuttering. "S-sort of..."
Dumbledore shrugged. "Well, give it time, give it time. It may take her awhile to open up to anyone, seeing as how matters are."
The Headmaster was running his wand up and down the spine of the book in an odd zig-zag pattern, muttering something about mothballs. A loud 'pop' was heard, making Harry jump, and the book sprang out of Dumbledore's hands, falling open on the table before them.
"Now this Harry, is something you will not have seen, nor heard of before."
Harry had to admit that Dumbledore was dead on.
Inside the open book, where the pages should have been, lay a pink layer of fog. There was a sense of depth to the interior of it, and Harry had the vague sense that another dimension lay just beyond the peacefully swirls.
Dumbledore reached his hand into it. "It is a rather clever hiding spot for things. Not only is the locking mechanism for it rather tricky, but only a hand with my DNA could reach into this and still find their hand attatched."
Harry had been unconsciously leaning forward, trying to peer through the fog, but at this pronouncement took a step back. Dumbledore's hand fished around blindly for a few minutes, before emerging with a silvery chain. A small vial was attached to the end of it.
The Headmaster shut the book, muttering a few charms, and replaced it upon the shelf. "This is something that I have been wanting to give you for quite some time Harry. But until recently, the opportunity had not presented itself. The fact that it had not, is entirely my fault, and for that I am sorry."
The Headmaster, indeed, truly looked sorry. In fact he was looking rather grave all of a sudden. "Ever since the day that cursed prophecy was made Harry, myself and a few others have been working on this. I still feel that it is woefully inadequate, but for now, it is all I can give you."
At this pronouncement, Dumbledore handed the vial over. Harry took it with no small amount of trepidation. The vial, Harry found, was surprisingly warm
"The vial you now hold is a special form of pensieve, Harry." Dumbledore said by way of explanation. "It is called a Kunnskap. It means knowledge. And unlike normal pensieves, it does not have an unlimited capacity. It can only contain a select few memories, and I believe that there are 81 different lessons contained within this one."
Only eighty-one? He thought, slightly amused by the Headmasters definition of only. He turned the vial within his hands, noting that unlike in Dumbledore's pensieve, blue specs darted to and fro within the silvery substance here, colliding frequently to emit dark green sparks. It was like watching the reflection of fireworks in a silvery pond, only on a miniature scale.
A thought occurred to him.
"What do you mean by lessons, Professor?" He asked curiously.
"I was just getting to that." Dumbledore replied, looking strained. "But given the danger that you have been in ever since that cursed prophecy was made, I wanted to have a way of preserving, and passing on, knowledge of certain spells to you."
The Headmaster paused, shutting the leather volume. Whisps of curling pink tendrils snuck out around the edges as he placed it back upon the shelf.
"Times were dark." He continued gravely. "I did not know how many of us would survive, but we knew it was essential to pass on our knowledge to the next generation. This was our way of ensuring that at least one good wizard recieved that if the worst were to happen."
Such a glum pronouncement chilled him, for in admitting that he had once prepared for the worst, Dumbledore had admitted to his own mortality.
Despite his irritation and anger at all the Headmaster had withheld over the years, the thought of a mortal Dumbledore shook his concept of a stable universe.
The Headmaster motioned Harry into a plush plum armchair, oblivious to his pupil's dark thoughts.
"Over the years, myself, and others within the old Order, added select pieces of knowledge that we wanted to depart to you, to this. You'll even find some of my old school day lessons there. Things like apparition, curse-breaking, animagus studies... They are all in there."
Harry listened intently, not wanting to miss a word. The conversation had become oddly personal.
A house elf popped into existence then, extending a plate of biscuits to him. He scarcely managed to take one, for his mind was fixated on the cruel irony of the situation.
This vial was a true gift, yet he was only receiving it because of the prophecy's heavy burden.
Suddenly he felt rather blunt. "Professor, you made this to help me figuer out how to defeat Voldemort, didn't you?"
Dumbledore smiled sadly, sipping the tea that had materialized. "We made it, because we still have hope."
Hope... Why couldn't someone else have been wizarding kind's hope?
Dumbledore was mercifully oblivious to the dark thoughts still flitting through his mind.
"Harry, the Kunnskap does not work like a normal pensieve. Instead of entering a memory, the memory enters you. So once you unearth one, it's knowledge will remain permanently yours."
This piqued his interest. "So you mean that I can become an animagus just by looking at the memory in it?"
Dumbledore smiled ruefully. "No. This will teach you the theory, and knowing the theory of something is entirely different from putting it to use. However..." The man's blue eyes twinkled mischievously. "I have it on good word that learning and researching just the theory on animagi can take years. So all you will have left to do is practice putting what this will teach you, into use."
Thinking of what he, Ron, and Hermione had planned, he suddenly wondered, for the thousandth time since coming to Hogwarts, just how much that the Headmaster knew about his students.
Against his better judgment, he broke out into a small smile. Even Hermione, with all her convictions against taking short cuts to learn something, would probably die for a look into this thing.
God he would miss them... Perhaps one day, when things were different....
As if reading his thoughts, Dumbledore smiled. "For the time being Harry, I would keep this to yourself. Because of the Kunnskap's potential for misuse, only seven were made. We would not want this falling into the wrong hands."
Harry was taken aback. For once, Dumbledore was actually trusting him with something important. "T-thanks Professor. I'll look after it."
He'd be damned if he disappointed him.
Dumbledore smiled over his cup. "I'm sure you will Harry. Do try to use it in private though. When one uses it they tend to appear in a trance, and I would hate to see what your roommates would do if they stumbled upon you in such a state. And I would know, Mrs. Norris once caught me using this."
Harry nearly choked on his biscuit.
The past fortnight, he realized, had truly been full of surprises.
Thank you SticksN'Stones for the excellent banner!
"Choose to be not a product of your environment, nor of your experience, but a product of what your heart tells you the world can be in its finest hour."
~ A.K. Lovell ~
Chapter 18 ~ The Scars Life Leaves
Tonks threw open the shades, allowing the bright afternoon light to stream in, filling the room with yellow hues so bright that not even Remus, who was valiantly feigning sleep, could ignore them.
She marched to the side of his bed, throwing open the bed hangings.
"Get up." She clipped, her expression anything but amused.
"How did you get past the wards?" Remus groaned, pulling his pillow over his head so he resembled a burrowing animal.
She contented herself to narrowing her violet eyes. "Bill's a curse breaker. And when he and I have over two weeks with nothing to do but crack the wards on our stubborn arse of a friend's home we tend to succeed."
Remus emitted a low grumbling sound, indecipherable to any human ear. It was at this point that she decided she had had enough. She ripped the covers from his bed, and flung them out the now open window.
"Remus did you really think you could avoid us forever!" She hollered. "What the hell is the matter with you?"
At his lack of responsiveness she stomped her foot angrily, and began spraying him with water from the tip of her wand.
Remus jerked so violently that he rolled right out of bed, landing in a heap on the floor. He blinked groggily, his face scrunched up and dripping. He looked extremely disgruntled.
"You look like a sopping wet dog Remus! Now get your stubborn ass off the floor right now and get ready! We have an Order meeting in an hour and if you are not there so help me Merlin I will come back here, wards be damned, and make you come! You can't avoid us forever!"
He groaned unhappily.
She glowered down, deciding to not leave just yet. "And you know what else Wolfy? You are the singularly, most selfish individual that I have ever met!"
"Don't mrmph at me!" She practically shouted. "As if it's not bad enough for you to stay here, wallowing in self pity for two weeks, but you left me to talk to Harry for you! He deserved to see you there! Not me! Instead you hid here away from everyone acting like a baby!"
"Go. Away." He interjected moodily.
"NO I WON'T!" She screeched in a very un-Tonks-like fashion. "I am FAR from being DONE! I haven't even started on Kalliandra! Do you have any idea how much she probably needs you right now?"
He apparently had found something fascinating underneath the bed, because now he had taken to staring beneath it.
"She doesn’t need me. I nearly got her killed."
Tonks stomped again, very near his head. "You know that wasn't your fault Remus! No one knew what that spell would do!"
"You should go." He mumbled morosely. "I could still turn at any moment."
Her jaw dropped. "Is that what this self-induced isolation has been about? You think your going to turn again?"
When he didn't answer she actually laughed. "Remus you prat! You turned within an hour of being hit with that spell! Do you really think that it could possibly turn you again? Two weeks later no less!?"
"I can't risk it...."
"Well that's just too damn bad Wolfy because your going to." She didn't wait for a response and marched over to throw open his closet. She grabbed the nearest shirt and threw it at him. "Now go shower and get dressed. I don't have all day and so help me you are going to write to Harry and Kalliandra before we leave!"
He could be seen over his bed, fumbling with his shirt. "When we leave? Wasn't I kicking you out now?"
"I'd like to see you try. I'm not leaving because I don't feel like fighting with your wards again." She paused, and almost as an afterthought added, "And don't change the subject because you are writing to them!"
He shook his head, his shaggy hair falling around his eyes messily. It looked like he hadn't showered in days. "No. If they wanted to talk to me they would have...."
"Would have what?" She was far beyond losing her patience at this point. "Contacted you? Remus, Kalliandra tried! That damn pocket watch of yours has been glowing all week at headquarters! We tried sending it back to you but you keep sending it back! Kalliandra probably thinks your ignoring her by now and Harry..."
"Harry is safer if I stay away." Remus interjected, picking up his wand.
She growled in frustration and yanked the pocket watch out of her pocket. Mundungus had found it near one of the dead children after the attack.
"Well at least take this back Remus." She said, placing it on his worn desk. "I don't care what you say but she really does need you." She searched him for some sign that he accepted this fact, but he only leaned out the window and summoned his blanket back up.
Watching his pitiable movements, she suddenly felt like collapsing.
Remus had been the one she could count on, to hold together for her. Ever since Sirius...
She couldn't bear to think of it, let alone voice it, but ever since that wretched night she had grown to rely on Remus. She needed him so much it scared her.
It had been his cool, light brown eyes she had awoken to in St. Mungos. The healers said he had never left her side. Even then he refused, and took to sleeping on a make-shift cot in the corner or her room. He had claimed it was to not miss the fun of her griping, whenever the healers had poked and prodded her with their wands, but she had known better. He had been worried, and who could blame him when she had never felt worse.
But his presence had kept her thoughts from straying to Sirius.
She shuddered, remembering how he had found her curled up on her couch one night that summer, positively balling her eyes out, the few pictures of Sirius she had spread out on her coffee table. If only she had stunned Bellatrix when she had had the chance! By Merlin he would still be here!
With a cool cup of mocha Remus had sat with her, logically reminding her that hindsight is 20/20, and of the futility of blaming herself.
Catching the bastards was the only thing that could help Sirius now, he had told her. And as an auror, that would be her job. He had told her how she needed to hold together for that.
If he had not shown up when he had, she may have curled up in the nearest, damp broom closet, and not come out till Christmas.
She had passed out that night, vaguely suspicious that her mocha had been laced with dull firewhiskey. Remus always had claimed that alcohol assuaged the nerves....
She had only just realized how grateful she was for the small traces of humor he shared with her.
She had grown so used to him always being there, and it had taken Remus' absence to make her realize how much he meant to her.
Never again, did she want to experience another fortnight like the one she had just had without him.
The thought of him wallowing in self pity any longer made her physically ill, and she felt her shallow reserves of strength folding in.
She had to resist the urge to run over there and smack him.
She drew herself up, ignoring the pain prickling in her chest. "Harry does need you Remus." She started. "Your all he has left. Imagine how he'd feel if you shut him off now?"
Remus was flipping the comforter back onto the bed, straightening it meticulously. "He doesn't need me. Neither does Kally. They'll just wind up hurt..."
"Well damn't Remus! I need you!" She shot out, ignoring his shocked stare. "Don't you get that? I miss you! And I'm not the only one! Harry misses you! He sent me an owl because you haven't responded to his letters! I can only assume by that pile on your desk that you haven't read any of them yet! And you! You're just...."
She trailed off, frustration effectively silencing that train of thought.
"Go shower. I'll wait downstairs."
She turned in a huff and stormed out, resolving to send Harry and Kalliandra separate notes demanding that they pester Remus until he broke out of this self-created shell.
She missed the disbelieving eyes of a certain werewolf, following her longingly.
* * *
Harry allowed the book to fall closed. His head had long since fallen upon the table, his body slumped over in frustration. A thousand and one dark curses swirled through his mind, their counter curses eluding his memory in a maddening way.
Why, in the name of Merlin, had Professor Tres been so against teaching them this?
The sheer enormity of the task before him had hit home nearly an hour before, and the constant weight on his shoulders seemed determined to crush him now. It was pressing down on his chest, making his head spin, the realization of how little time he had to master this had finally sunk in.
Voldemort could come for those he loved tomorrow, and somehow he doubted the monster's minions would stick to simple jinxes.
For the first time in his life, he was starting to feel helpless. He had borrowed the book from Dumbledore's office, changing the cover so no one could know what dark arts it contained, and after only a few days of study he had come to a realization.
Avada Kedarva was amongst the most merciful of dark curses.
For the dark arts could do so much worse than simply kill in one blow.
The could burn you alive from the inside out, your screams confounding those around you, your skin not blackening as invisible fiery tendrils licked at you hungrily.
By the time those around you realized....
Help for victims of the mort ardente would be far too late.
Other curses could could slice your skin in slow, long slashes. The invisible attack lasting for hours, as medi-wizards and healers tried to save you, only to watch you succumb as slash after destroying slash undid their healing, spilling your life blood, killing you...
Others could slowly crush your chest, driving the air from your lungs, suffocating you under the pressure of a dozen hippogriffs....
He shuddered involuntarily, almost glad that death had been quick and merciful for Sirius and Cedric. He had not known before, but their lives could have been extinguished in much worse ways....
The school system had failed them. Harry knew this now. For they had not prepared them adequately for what they might face in the war.
Professor Tres had shown him that merely a week ago. Kaylens had been the one to bring it up, asking when they would learn the worse of the Dark Arts themselves.
He hadn't been sure whether to applaud her for her astuteness, or curse her for sounding like fanatical Malfoy.
But she had been right....
If one did not know what the curses sounded like, how could they defend themselves with accurate counter-curses?
So while her and Malfoy had argued their point, and lost valiantly as Tres started twitching under pressure, he had composed a letter to Dumbledore asking for access to materials about the Dark Arts.
Dumbledore had granted him that...
He propped himself on his elbows, reopening the ancient, blackened leather text. He was determined to learn every lethal curse the world had to offer him.
And before he found Voldemort with them, he would first find Pettigrew...
The man who had stolen his life from day one.
Pettigrew would pay. Harry would make him feel all of the pain he had felt ever since his arrival on the Dursley's doorstep.
Then Pettigrew would die.
Then, once he had seen what the curses did on a live human, then he would find Voldemort.
The creature was going to pay.
* * * * *
Kalliandra clutched Tonks' letter in hand and stormed to the foot of the gargoyle.
She had done exactly as Tonks had requested. She had already tried contacting him. She had tried saying, shouting, and cursing his name into that blasted compact of hers, had sent owls armed with letters and orders to peck at his hands until he replied, and even had sent a self-writing quill with the last one so it would write whatever he said down upon receiving it.
That particular owl had had orders to snatch whatever was written before Remus had a chance to snatch it up himself.
Well apparently Remus had been too quick for the owl, because she had gotten back a broken quill and a ripped, blank piece of paper.
Damn your stubbornness to Hades Remus! She thought in annoyance, stomping her foot outside Dumbledore's office.
She had grown so annoyed with him avoiding contact and canceling their tutoring sessions that she had finally slipped on Riley's ring and tried port keying directly to Remus, only that hadn't worked either.
Which was precisely why she found herself outside of Dumbledore's stupid stone gargoyle, shouting every candy that came to mind.
"Peppermint! Bat dung droppings! Bertie Pops! Apples! Peaches!" She exclaimed at it, abandoning candies in favor of fruits. "Oh damn it to hell! Peach Schnapps! Peach Cobble..."
The stone gargoyle had sprung to life, allowing her entrance.
"Peach Schnapps? You've got to be kidding me..." She muttered, springing up the stairs and bursting into his office, being careful to smack Crusantheus on the way in.
Dumbledore looked up idly from his desk, a bemused expression across his weather worn face. "Why Kalliandra, what a pleasant surprise."
She did not agree. "Professor what does Remus think he is doing?" She demanded, stopping in front of his desk. "He can't avoid us forever! Why doesn't my port key work anymore? And why are you now using liquors as your passwords!?"
Dumbledore looked rather puzzled. "Peach Schnapps? A liquor? And here I thought it was a rather clever form of candy..."
Had she not been so worked up she would have rolled her eyes. "No, it's not. But why won't this work...." She held up her ring for effect.
"Ah, I was wondering when you would ask." Dumbledore commented airily. "Remus requested that your port key be de-activated for the time being."
She glowered. "Did he say why?"
"I am sure you know why Kalliandra."
An odd, sinking feeling had wormed it's way into her stomach. "Yeah, I think I do. But doesn't he understand that it wasn't his fault?"
"On some level, yes. But much like someone else you know..." Dumbledore eyed her shrewdly, leaving no question about who he was referring to. "He has taken to blaming himself, shoving away those close to him in order to protect them."
She sighed defeatedly. "So there's nothing we can do to talk some sense into him?"
"I rather think, that this is something he has to come to accept on his own terms. We cannot force him into realizing that we would rather be near him with all of the risks, than away from him and safe."
"I wish we could..." She said sadly.
Dumbledore chuckled slightly, recognizing the irony of her statement. "You know Kalliandra, in our own way, we are all a danger to those we love, for the simple fact that true friends will go to any lengths to help each other, even if that means sacrificing their own lives in exchange for another's."
His words struck a deep chord within her, one she was not quite ready to hear. "Thanks Professor..." She muttered, all anger gone. "Can you at least give him this when you see him?" She extended a letter to him, it's addressee reading To The Obstinate Wolf.
Dumbledore smiled, "I'll see that he gets it."
* * * * *
Harry rested his cheek against the worn surface of the table, letting his dank hair drip over his face. The dripping water from his recent shower eased the dull ache that had begun in his scar.
A bead of wax broke free from the glowing candle, falling to soak into the unsealed ridges of the oak desk. The impact sounded cavernous, for his ear remained pressed against the desk's surface, amplifying the sound ten fold.
Across the common room, far from where he sheltered in the shadows of a single candle wick, the fire glowed warmly. Several straggling seventh years, no doubt putting in the extra hours for NEWT preparation, remained there, blissfully oblivious to the late hour.
Sleep would once again, not be his companion. When his scar ached so sharply, it was in fact the enemy.
Voldemort was there, just beneath the surface of his mind, waiting for a chance to get in as he dreamt. He knew Hermione's parents were as good as dead, but he would not allow Voldemort the information he demanded for their supposed 'release.'
If they were going to die, it would not be in vain.
Fiery shadows danced across his open text, and he wearily rubbed his scar, trying to memorize the counter curse for one of the many crushing hexes.
The one he was looking at would drive air from the lungs slowly, till the person could only claw at their neck in agony, blood vessels in their eyes bursting as oxygen left them.
The black and white illustration showed a wizard captured in a silent howl, his fingers already falling limp around his throat.
He shuddered at the sight, not noticing the determined expression flitting across her face.
He had never even noticed her studying him, concealed as she was, lying on the floor across the room, warming herself before the fire.
She made her way towards him, making up her mind.
Her voice pulled him away from his thoughts, and he swallowed hard, looking up as she slid into the seat before him. She leaned backwards relaxingly, her face falling into the shadows of the corner they sheltered in.
"Kaylens." He said steadily, heart hammering. Be it at her sudden interruption or the memory of the dying face, he did not know. "What are you doing here?" He slid a hand across the morbid photograph, staring intently at her.
She met his eyes, for the first time in days, holding them seriously. "Talking Potter. Just talking." Candlelight danced in them...
His scar gave a dull pound, reminding him of his own fragile state. Tonight was not the time for talking, even with her, whom he had grown curious about. "You know..." He stated carefully, watching her smooth her sleek locks behind her ears. "There is usually a reason for why someone sits clear across a relatively empty room from everyone else."
She nodded, a whimsical frown tracing her features. "Oh? And what's that?"
"Or they want to be left alone." She whispered, voicing his unspoken thought. "Believe me Potter, I know your unhappy with me. I wouldn't bother you if it wasn't important."
He was thrown. "I'm not unhappy with you." He said quietly, before he could stop himself. "I just don't understand why your so hostile."
Her eyes danced in the candlelight, her hands playing around the base of the candle, picking at the solidified wax. "It's not important why. I just am." She whispered, sounding clearly pained.
He nodded, accepting this. "If that’s the case, then am I, or am I not, supposed to stay the hell away from you?"
She chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully, fidgeting. "For someone who seemed eager to talk, your certainly making this difficult."
He smiled forcefully at this, probably looking like a grim clown. "And that has nothing to do with you storming off, then refusing to come within a ten meter vicinity of me?"
"Touché." She murmured. "But this isn't about you or me. It's about Remus."
Her voice held an essence of loss as Lupin's name fell off her lips, and for a fleeting second he understood. He did not know how the two knew one another, and felt the stabbing pain of betrayal that Lupin had kept better communications with her rather than him, his best friend's son, but in that instant, he knew that his former Professor had not spoken to her since that day either.
He felt oddly good about that. For a change, he was not the only one being ignored, or kept in the dark.
"Won't respond to any of your letters either then?" He queried, knowing the answer.
She shook her head, her hair coming loose from where it lay tucked behind her ears, falling to lay artfully over her eyes. "He's started sending mine back."
He felt a small grin tugging at the edges of his lips. "Hedwig is persistent."
He grunted in response, the ache in his scar was starting to burn slightly.
"We can't just let Remus shut himself off."
He jolted forward, dropping his head into his hands to cover the painful grimace now crossing his face. "Funny hearing you say that." He groaned as the first wave of pain attacked him. "Because isn't that what your doing?"
Through his fingers he saw a shrewd expression cross her face. "Do you want me to get Madam Pomfrey?"
"Why...." Picture the wall....The bricks...Their rough texture stretching infinitely upwards.... "Why would I want you to get the nurse?" He asked, barely guising the pain that was now coming forth in waves. She needed to leave. She needed to leave now, but not to get the nurse...
"Your in pain Potter. I'll be..."
Before she could even move his hand had shot out like a lightning bolt, attaching itself to her wrist. "Don't get her... I'll be fine." He hissed lowly, not keen to attract the attention of the seventh years still down there.
An unpleasant sensation swept through him, the feel of Kaylens' wrist turning barely registered as the dark room spun. He was no longer fully there as his eyes flickered half shut, half seeing the wall Dumbledore had taught him to so carefully construct, half seeing Kaylens kneeling down besides him.
"The only way to strengthen your wall at this point, is to learn to mask your emotions...." Dumbledore's words came back to him...
"Potter? Potter look at me." Kaylens spoke quickly, an unfamiliar edge to her voice. He waved her away, feeling her hands wrapping around his own. She had to leave...
Voldemort was prickling at the edges of his envisioned wall.
The creature's voice filled his mind, green tendrils leaking through red brick.
Been sssstudying the dark artssss I sssssee. It'ssss about time you learrrrned....
He turned his eyes away from his book, leaning away from Kaylens to slam it shut before Voldemort could learn more.
"Sodding hell Potter of all the times..." Kaylens murmured. He felt her arm sliding beneath his shoulders, a strange tingling trickling through him as he unconsciously leaned closer, allowing his body to sag against her as she hauled him up.
He rose his eyes, finding her own surprisingly close, flickering with that unfamiliar concern. "Kaylens leave..." He muttered, feeling a violent edge forming within his last coherent thoughts. He had nearly attacked Ron in a similar state, under Voldemort's egging influence...
Ah compannnnny.... Voldemort sounded almost cheerful, and Harry felt his face unwillingly turning towards her further.
Suddenly it was no longer he who was searching her features.
"Kaylens..." He gasped. "Get the hell out of here."
She grimaced determinedly, kicking open the portrait door. He heard her shouting something about Pomfrey to someone, but their form was so blurry... He couldn't make them out...
It doessssssn't matterrrrrrr who they arrrrre Harrrrrrry. Who issss sssssssheeeee....
"Leave...." He groaned, barely shoving the words out. She was dragging him down the hall now...
"Potter I'm not going anywhere." She got out, sounding strained.
It'ssss good to know they have not messssed up assss badly assss believvvvved....
Who messed up!?!? He thought, grasping lucidity, desperate to glean Voldemort's meaning.
Calling on his last ounces of mental reserves he dug his heels into the ground. He turned, squirming away from the reassuring presence of her arms, suddenly finding his own feet untrustworthy.
He was collapsing to the stone floor, the torch lit halls a brilliant blur...
Unable to tell the difference between speaking and thinking, his mouth opened to scream his own question into the dead of night...
Kaylens hand clamped over his lips, and he found himself breathing in her skin, damp with perspiration and the waxy essence of the candle she had been fidgeting with mere moments before.
"Damn you Potter be quiet!" She hissed dangerously.
He struggled dazedly, her chin coming to rest on his shoulder as she stilled him, frantic hushing sounds escaping her own lips. Had she had a harsh edge to her? He could no longer remember...
Jussssst a name Harrrrrrry.... What harrrrm everrrr came frrrrom a name Harrrry....
He relaxed, leaning against her again, feeling her arms stiffen. Of course.... It only made sense.... Voldemort would want to know of someone as fascinating as her, who wouldn't? He certainly did, no matter how infuriating she grew he was curious. What harm could a name do...
"Kalliandra Kaylens...." He murmured druggedly.
"Glad to see you remember formalities. Now please get up, I'm not strong enough to drag..."
A jubilant wave washed over him, so intense as to drown out every other word filtering through his auditory system.
Voldemort withdrew as quickly as he came, and he realized, with a sinking feeling, that he had just given the Dark Lord something he very much wanted, without realizing it.
The feel of Kaylens' hands tugging up on his shoulders, the feel of her long hair brushing against his face as she leaned over him, the dark shadows of the deserted Hogwarts corridor...
The sanctity of his mind restored, it all came into stark focus.
His legs becoming his own again, he powerfully thrust them into the floor on his own accord, scrambling eagerly away, his sudden departure sending her spilling across the cold, dirt dusted stone floors.
He rounded on her downed form, failing to notice her shocked expression. One thought was on his mind. One he had been putting off asking.
"What does Voldemort want with you?" He asked pointedly, the maniacal glint that always accompanied Voldemort's touch still in his eyes.
She glared up unflinchingly, golden hair limply splayed out across her face. "So were at this again are we?" She whispered, brushing it aside, revealing the steely glint of her own glossy orbs.
"Yes." He said seriously, his hand lingering near his wand. "Yes we are."
She pushed herself up, slowly, wincing as she did so. "Does that really require an answer then?"
They stared at one another, both expressions unreadable.
Finally, an eternity passing them by, she tilted her head to the side. "How much do you know?" She whispered.
"Enough to know he was all too happy to learn your name tonight." He knew the consequences of this, if horrible, would be his to bear. It was not a thought he cherished, and a part of him almost wished for her to profess into the night her loyalty to the Dark Lord, so he could strike her down, guilt free.
Yet another, taking in the way her left hand shook ever so slightly, declared him the fool for not going to her to fix what he might have done.
This last thought was silenced by the way her eyes darkened coldly onto him. "And you were happy to give him that information. Weren't you Potter?"
His own hands, now balled in fists, shook with suppressed rage at himself for doing so. "None of this would have happened if you had just listened to me. Why didn't you leave when I told you to?"
She shrugged one shoulder, almost testingly, in an out of place manner. "You looked like you were having a fit Potter. I thought you needed the hospital wing..."
"Whether I need the hospital wing is none of your CONCERN!" He hissed angrily, albeit too loudly. Someone was bound to hear, but he didn't care. Let Filch just try and punish him...
She looked stricken by his words. "I see." She whispered, moving to walk past him, back towards where the Fat Lady's portrait observed in awed horror.
Once again, before he could stop himself, he had her wrist in his hands, spinning her around to pin her against the wall. He pressed his body against hers, their faces dangerously close. Her face remained an unreadable mask, save for the beads of perspiration glistening upon her forehead in the torchlight.
They stared at one another, each daring the other to speak. Releasing one of her wrists, he moved his hand to rest above her shoulder, cutting off any thought of her escape.
"I said I understood Potter." Her breath was barely a whisper, and beneath his palm he felt her wrist cooling, the cool October air prickling goose bumps across her arms.
"No..." He said quietly. "I don't think you do. Not really..."
She breathed in deeply, her chest rising to press against his own for the briefest of seconds. "Care to enlighten me?"
He nodded coldly, his moist hair falling to conceal his scar, a disturbing sizzling sound drawing Kaylens eyes uncomfortably towards it.
Her challenging demeanor vanished, confusion flickering in her eyes. Her free hand unconsciously reached upwards, but he stilled her motion by aggressively squeezing her shoulder blade.
"I wouldn't... recommend... doing... that..." He said coldly, ignoring how she bit her lip, her face clearly contorted in pain. If she couldn't take that what in the hell did she plan on doing when Voldemort got to her. He'd teach her what she was dealing with...
"Do you have any idea what your dealing with? I have a suspicion..." He spoke mechanically, as if lecturing a small child. "That you do not. So I am going to ask you one...more...time. What...does...he...want...with...you?"
She tilted her head up to his slightly. "What makes you think that he wants anything with me at all?"
He smiled cruelly. "Let's just say we have ways of chatting."
Her eyes instantly narrowed, her body tensing beneath his. "Are you saying your involved with him?"
"Perceptive..." He murmured coldly, leaning in till her breath breezed across his face. "But I never said friendly. You on the other hand openly admitted it."
"Lies..." She spat.
He could no longer tell if she were glaring or crying, for his forehead was pressed firmly against her own, driving her harder against the wall. Her words lingered on his unshaven chin, and he grimaced wryly, realizing how close he was to finding out the truth.
"I have news for you." He whispered. "You said you would rather be a Death Eater than be like me. So you either are one of his followers, or you are clueless as to what a Death Eater is. Now which is it?"
Her expression remained unfaltering for far too long for his tastes.
"Fine." He whispered. "Here is what I think. I think that you have no clue what one is. Either that, or you are the best actress I have ever seen. But for that to be true, you would either have to be a Muggle, which you clearly are not, or you would have to have been a recluse from wizarding society. So..." He tilted his face down, practically meeting her own.
"Which one is it?" He breathed, tension reverberating in the still hall's air.
She turned her wrist in the confines of his loose grip, her skin brushing against his own. He could precipitate her reactions, being so close, his eyes locked onto hers. She was going to run, it was like feeling what she was feeling... Fear...
Suddenly he knew what was occurring, why her body was shuddering ever so slightly in front of his own. He stared into her eyes for a moment longer, allowing his expression to soften misleadingly.
"Well if you don't want to tell me...." He murmured, releasing her wrist before she could bolt. She eyed him with surprise, and mistrust, never seeing his hand falling to rest upon his wand.
"Legilimency." He whispered.
Her life... It all flooded his mind in one over powering wave. A swirl of events that were impossible to discern... Until one scream filled his mind with a blinding red hue, bringing it all into stark clarity.
The swirl of images changed, becoming the congruent picture of a blond child, hair much lighter than he knew it would darken to become, was approaching a door, answering it...
A man smiled toothily down, removing his hat to reveal closely cropped, dirty blond hair, bowing slightly. The child smiled upwards, but the image of his smile froze, faltering, as if it had forever been burned into her memory.
And now his...
The door flew open, the man's foot connecting with it, sending it bulleting inwards, hitting her with it against the face. Blinding pain kept her conscious, for the world was black be-speckled, and her screaming form fell to land in the front foyer.
The guilt.... Almost overpowering... She shouldn't have screamed... My God if only she had not...
A golden haired man, only slightly older than they were now, came sliding into the hall. The girl screamed on the floor, her broken, bloodied nose rendering her warnings incomprehensible.
The blond haired monster dropped a knee onto the girl's back, pinning her to the floor. The flash of a buck knife drawn from a casing caught Harry's eye, and the young man, who now bore a look of the utmost fury.
"Wanna go boy? Come here!"
The golden haired man was already charging, but the monster had drawn a gun and fired before Riley could even reach her...
Riley... My God, Harry thought...
Her mistake... The guilt... If only she hadn't screamed.
The girl was bucking on the floor, screaming, nearly freezing in fear as blood pooled from Riley's chest wound, his eighteen year old body twitching spasmodically, his mouth gaping, gasping for breath...
Yet Riley had crawled, leaving a smeared trail of crimson death on the linoleum floor in his wake, for he had been unable to let his little sister be pillaged...
His dying breath came, the girl's eyes wide with horror for only her brother, as the buck knife plunged into young Kaylens', deep into the back of her eight year old shoulder blade.
Hot, fiery pain intensified, followed by a tingling sensation of the most curious kind...
He could almost feel what she had... Her shoulder was tingling, little pin pricks attacking her skin as they would when her foot would wake up from falling asleep...
Her hysterical screams only intensified, and Harry watched in horror as the monster gripped her hair, yanking her head back roughly as Harry once himself had done to her, before slamming her face savagely into the linoleum.
"Were going to have some fun aren't we little girl? Aren't we!?!?! Just as soon as you shut your bloody mouth and tell me where that sweet little brother of yours is..."
"Go away!" Little Kaylens was screaming her heart out.
In Voldemort's mind he had seen adults wither in pain and fall apart at so much less...
His heart broke as he watched her small form continue struggling, screaming, yet the man only pinned her face down to the floor harder, dragging the buck knife across her shoulder in a long, cruel line...
A swirl of colors, and he was gone. Thrust out not by magic, but by the savage grip someone had taken up on the back of his robes, yanking him away from her. He staggered backwards, disoriented, his arm flailed into the torch holder...
His sleeve was on fire, burning him, the flames licking up his sleeve when someone floored him, dousing him with water.
His charred skin throbbed, but not so much as his mind.
Kaylens stood motionless, still pressed against the wall, chalk white, silent tears streaming down her beautiful face. A single slender hand was clutching her shoulder. The same one he had grabbed roughly. The same one he had seen stabbed viciously...
It was as if he were seeing her for the first time.
"K-kaylens..." He whispered shakily, pleadingly.
"Shut it Harry!"
Harry rolled over to see Ron and Hermione, returning from nightly Prefect rounds, glaring hatefully down at him.
"The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic."
~ Joseph Stalin ~
Chapter 19 ~ Le Règne d'Enfer Commence
Once his mind awakened, his wits dimmed by the drugged wine he had willfully taken, it was not the darkness, nor his unfamiliar surroundings, nor even the cloaked figure patiently waiting besides him that he noticed.
It was the stale air.
They were coming...
Just as he had.
It was why he had isolated himself for the past fortnight. From Harry, from Kally, from Tonks...
Lucius Malfoy had not given up on recruiting him. After all, there were only so many pureblood werewolves.
Two days after the incident with Kally and Harry, he had received a blank envelope addressed to him, sealed with the Dark Mark.
After reading it's contents, it's offer of safe haven from the cruel, prejudiced Ministry standing in cruel contrast to the Death Eater's own prejudicial beliefs, Dumbledore had asked the one thing of him that he had felt unable to do.
He had asked him to consider joining them.
He had stayed in isolation, not wanting his affections for Harry, Kally, or Tonks, especially Tonks, to sway his decision.
The other werewolves began emerging from the underground corridors surrounding him. Here the walls were lined with bone. Femurs rising up like sadistic pillars from hell, supporting the long line of skulls outlining the subversive passages. Cool water dripped rhythmically from the damp ceiling, wetting his sweating scalp.
There was only one place in the world that flaunted such morbidity. Deep beneath the streets of Paris, over sixty million of a time long past lay dead. Their skeletons disassembled, grouped systematically to form walkways, a remnant of a darker time.
Upon drinking the drugged wine, the Death Eater had said he would awaken in the Empire of Death. Only now did he understand what he had meant.
A heart shape, shaped out of human skulls, lay set into the walls of the Paris catacombs besides him. A standing remnant of the macabre sense of humor, stretching endlessly into the darkness.
This was a prefect place of meeting. Public, isolated, and gothic.
Not to mention how winding the corridors were. It was doubtful that anyone would be there to witness their dealings.
"After our last meeting I must admit that I am surprised to see you here."
Lucius Malfoy stepped forth from a shadowed corridor, dropping his hood to reveal white blond hair.
He inclined his head. "Since then I've realized how my kind is rewarded for good deeds." He replied resolutely.
Lucius gave him an appraising look, before reaching forth a cloaked hand to beckon the others forward. Half a dozen other cloaked figures emerged from the shadows, forming a circle around him.
"Who's the gaunt one?" Growled one of them. Remus distinctly saw the glint of fang beneath the hood.
My God... It is true....
Voldemort had truly found a way to control their transformations.
Werewolves could now roam the world at will.
"The gaunt one..." Lucius said sneeringly. "Is a pathetic excuse of a pureblood, friend of the Potters...."
"Former friend." Remus interrupted nastily, snarling for effect. "I've seen how their sort repays my kind, thinking I'd betray them because of what I...."
"Spaaaaaare us the speech wolf." Interrupted the one who had brought him there. "What we need to know is if we can trust you."
"Of course we can't." Lucius snarled, threateningly extending his incisors and nails. "But we can make him one of us."
"If you don't trust me how do you plan on accomplishing that?" Remus countered, not wanting to sound too eager.
Lucius smiled evilly. "I'm so glad you asked." He withdrew a silver flask from his pocket, tossing it to him.
Remus caught it with his shirt sleeve, uneager to come in contact with the forbidden metal.
"Tsk, tsk. Not too trusting are we blood traitor?" Lucius chided.
"It's platinum. Wouldn't want to be carrying around something deadly now would we? Remember, I share the same curse as you."
Remus scoffed. "By choice."
"Ahh.... Still looking at it as a burden rather than the power it is?"
"You said you'd give me a reason to think of it otherwise."
"That I did. Now drink it." Malfoy ordered.
He eyed the solid flask distastefully, uncorking it to sniff. "What's in it?"
The Death Eater that had brought him there smirked. "You drank the other substance without question."
Remus shrugged. "Your not about to kill a potential ally before you have time to try and turn them now are you?"
Lucius laughed. "Always the shrewd one."
"It keeps me alive."
"So. It. Does." He said coldly. "That substance..." Lucius indicated the flask. "Will assure that you are one of us. But once you drink it, there is no going back."
Remus eyed him with distrust. "Meaning?"
"Meaning that you will gain the ability, like most of us here, to transform at will. The moon will no longer hold it's power over you."
He watched Lucius pacing down the damp corridor, rubbing his pale fingers along the rough bones. "And?"
Lucius halted. "Once it's drunk, you will know what the taste of human flesh feels like." His pale eyes shone with a homicidal glean. "They say once you know that, there is no going back. You will crave it forever. Your precious Mudblood lovers will never accept you back once you desire the taste of meat."
Remus felt his insides run cold. Now there was a catch neither Dumbledore nor himself had thought of. It was too perfect really. They didn't trust him, and they would give him something that would make him crave human flesh so much that he was bound to join their side, regardless of his intentions upon first coming there.
"I told you." Snarled a woman's voice. She must have seen his hesitation, smelt his fear. "It was a mistake bringing him here."
Remus knew what he had to do. He only hoped his will was strong enough to never cave.
He turned to the unnamed witch, smirking as evilly as possible. "The only mistake was not seeing what those Ministry bastards have kept from me my whole life."
He felt the air thicken with tension.
"And what's that?" Nott spat from besides him.
Remus curled his lips back, tilting the flask to his lips, chugging it down. Liquid fire flowed through his veins, energizing him, changing his molecular make up...
A delicious, tantalizing taste filled his mouth, leaking over his tongue, overwhelming his senses so that he nearly lost himself to it.
Reigning the hunger in, feeling the power his kind had always been meant to feel, rather than the pain, Remus met their gazes, his own teeth elongating. He was as changed as they were now. One of Voldemort's mutated creatures, even if he were internally against them.
Only now he understood what power it was to be the beast he was, even as his consciousness screamed out the consequences, his hunger beckoned.
He tilted his head back and howled.
Lucius stepped forward, a wolf like snarl on his face. "Welcome..."
* * * * *
The rain hammered down, darkening the tombstones. A small girl was crouched besides one, sheltering beneath the comforting dryness of her star speckled umbrella, her braids flapping lightly in the wind. The resemblance to her mother was striking.
Watching the child kneel, Tonks barely restrained her own tears.
Emily Bothan had just asked her mother to come home soon. She missed her bedtime fairy tales. While she told her mother's slab of stone this, Emily meticulously arranged, then rearranged, the flowers in the bouquet her father and her had brought.
Mummy only deserved the best.
Emily has said so herself, when she had spent the better part of an hour searching the floral boutique, seeking out the perfect arrangement of irises and hydrangeas. Mummies favorites.
Tonks sniffled, allowing the light breeze to inconspicuously dry her eyes.
"You saved my daughter's life." He said, finally speaking. "And for that, I owe you mine."
The thin line of Kenneth Bothan's lips gave away his carefully hidden despair. He was a man of private mourning.
"No Mr. President, if any..."
"Kenneth. Please." He implored, his dark eyes never leaving the small form of his daughter. "If anyone has earned the right to dispense with formalities it is you."
Tonks smiled sadly, not agreeing. The fiasco had been entirely her fault. Her own incompetence leading to why his young wife, his high school sweetheart, lay beneath his daughter's small feet. "If anything Kenneth, your daughter saved mine. She has the bravery of one three times her age."
"Like her mother." He whispered, looking loving upon his little girl, who was now recanting the events of her week into the grass.
One day, Tonks realized, the loss would hit Emily. But for right now, she was grateful that the child could still smile for her father's sake.
Because when she looked at Kenneth, she could tell he needed his little girl to remain just that. She prayed to God that Emily would never show the scars of what she had gone through.
"It's such a shame..." Kenneth remarked, gesturing to his daughter, drawing her from her thoughts. "That it takes something like this to happen, before wizards will let someone know of their existence, or of any danger from them."
She paused thoughtfully. "You were a history major. I trust that you are familiar with the Salem witch trials."
President Bothan nodded. "Yes."
She smiled ruefully. "That's why. Were afraid of what Muggles would do to us. Even we can fall victim to guns."
Kenneth Bothan sighed. "Part of me understands. But it still saddens me." His brow wrinkled, pain etched in every line. "All the misunderstanding between both our kinds... Had I only known before hand I would never have let Emily's party occur. We could have remained inside. My family would have been better protected."
"They still would have found you." She spoke truthfully. "When the monster we spoke of wants to hurt someone, he will, no matter what the obstacle or cost."
Kenneth nodded sadly. "I suppose I knew that. Hindsight is 20/20."
The rain was letting up, a soft scent wafting towards them. One that had nothing to do with the flowers speckling the lonely cemetery.
Kenneth tilted his head to the sky, breathing deeply. Sometime in the future, he would swear to Tonks that sometimes, like right then, that he could still smell her favorite flowers in the breeze.
Watching him now, Tonks was thankful the Order had granted her and several other members permission to remain with him and his daughter as a rotating guard.
They would be needing it.
* * * * *
Harry hung his head over the butterbeer, not hearing a word Luna said. He had tuned her out when she had started talking animatedly about the special edition of the Quibbler that week, the one concerning how Cornelius Fudge's army of Heliopaths had drowned in a freak toilet flood accident in the Department of Mysteries.
The gentle chime of bells drew his attention to the door of the Three Broomsticks, just in time to see Kaylens, Dean, and Neville walk in, their hair windswept from the rough fall breeze that day.
He instantly looked back down into his mug, not wanting to have a repeat of their latest confrontation.
He didn't know what the hell he had been thinking, violating her like that.
That was just it. He hadn't been thinking. He had been suffering the familiar after effects of Voldemort invading his thoughts, and those included everything from temporary insanity to violence.
Needless to say, forcibly getting the information he wanted out of her had seemed like a good idea at the time.
Hermione and Ron had seen the entire thing, turning the corner right as he shoved Kaylens against the wall, hissing "Legilimens". Mione had gone on a tirade about their being no excuse for such violation of personal privacy, and him running after Kaylens' hadn't helped.
Particularly when he grabbed her again, desperately trying to stop her, to make her understand that he had not been in his right mind, only to find out that she had a rather nasty right hook.
"Harry why don't you just apologize."
Luna's voice got through to him, and he turned a startled face to her. "What do you mean?" He asked, feigning stupidity.
Luna smiled, looking at something just over his head intently. "If you like her, apologize. It's as simple as that."
His jaw dropped, flabbergasted. "What!?" Embarrassed by the odd stares they were now receiving from his outcry, he lowered his voice. "Luna I don't like her. I just feel bad becau... Wait a minute? How did you know I had something to apologize for?"
Luna's expression changed, her normally dreamy countenance gone, if only for a second. She looked like she was about to lecture a small child. "Every time we've seen her recently she hasn't glared, she just pretends your not there. She stated simply. "Before you both took every chance to be at each others throats."
Luna's dreamy demeanor returned, and she opened her purse, withdrawing a lime green straw. "Plus she just walked in, and now your staring into your butterbeer. You used to watch her you know. Or didn't you?" She looked up, puzzlement gracing her face. "With you it's hard to tell what you are or are not aware of."
Before Harry even had a chance to marvel at her astuteness, Luna had begun asking what kind of eulogy a Heliopath would like at it's funeral.
"I wonder if their flames go out when they die? If not then their burial methods would have to differ from our own, since they would burn right through their casket..."
"I guess you'll have to get a hold of one of their bodies to find out." He commented cynically.
Luna looked scandalized. Indeed, she was shaking her long, dirty blond hair with such vigor that it knocked over her drink. She didn't seem to notice.
"Oh no Harry." She said very seriously. "Daddy would never disrespect one of their bodies. Just because their a different species doesn't mean they should be less entitled to proper mourning."
He was so distracted by the absurd turn of conversation that he failed to notice Ginny until she dropped down next to Luna, grinning from ear to ear.
"So Harry, I heard Ron gave you detention." She commented mischievously, giving Luna a quick one armed hug. "Shocking isn't it? Considering how he's never exactly been the model Prefect."
Harry nodded miserably, longing for a return to the Heliopath conversation. Anything was better than talking about this again.
Luna nodded absentmindedly. "Harry was just thinking of apologizing to that... Well what would you call her hair color?" Luna seemed to ponder this for a second before shaking out her own dirty blonde mane. "Fourteen carat I suppose. But I think Harry's having a hard time getting up the nerve to talk to her."
Harry gaped. Since when had he been considering doing that? And her hair was golden, not...
He suddenly realized what he had been arguing with himself about, and hung his head.
Ginny shot him a sympathetic look. "Can't say I blame you. How's the eye by the way?"
His head shot back up instantly. Was there anyone who didn't know about that?
"Don't worry Harry. The only ones who know are us three, Kally, Dean, Ron, Hermione, Neville, and Seamus." Ginny said, ticking them off her fingers. "No one would have found out if that git of a brother of mine hadn't blabbed."
Harry fought the urge to kick something.
The table leg was saved by Seamus' arrival. He had been getting butterbeer for himself and Ginny. "Heya Harry."
He grunted in response.
Seamus chuckled, brushing his sandy bangs from his eyes. "Heard Kaylens decked yaaaRH!"
Seamus' yell of pain was preceded by a loud THUNK from beneath the table, and a scolding look from Ginny.
His Irish housemate was rubbing his shin rigorously. "Sorry... Couldn't resist ya know? Dean and I have had this running point system between you twooOW! Will you stop that Ginny!?"
Harry shot her a grateful look, to which she inclined her smirking head.
By this point Luna's ever-present dreamy look had once again vanished, for she was clutching her stomach with laughter, pounding a fist on the table, making quite a scene as she ceased to restrain her laughter.
"So glad my life's entertained everyone this week..." He muttered hollowly.
He spent the rest of the conversation sneaking surreptitious looks across the relatively empty pub at Kaylens. Dean and Neville seemed to be debating something, and he thought he caught the words 'bloody thesteral' more than once, while Kaylens stirred her butterbeer, sipping it through a straw like Luna, looking for all the world as if she were not listening to a single word her companions were saying.
He jumped, clearly startled when Ginny leaned down next to him, balancing on his shoulder. He hadn't even noticed Seamus get up.
"I'm not sure what's going on between you and Ron, but the git will come around, and everything will be okay." She said this so quietly only he heard. "Just remember, I'm not just his little sister, I'm yours too."
She squeezed his shoulder lightly, re-joining Seamus, where he patiently had been waiting several feet away, just far enough to have given her the privacy she had requested.
She linked arms with Finnigan, and a warm feeling billowed up inside him at her reassuring words. She was right, maybe not right now, but when this was all over things would be okay.
He watched her wink over her shoulder before sauntering out into the blistering wind, her red hair swirling around like a wild tornado.
He smiled stupidly.
He had a little sister.... Regardless of what Ron currently thought.
The thought was comforting, and he hailed Madam Rosmereta's new waitress, a small, happy looking brunette, over.
There was nothing he could or would do about Ron and Hermione. At least not right now.
But a new resolve to fix the things he had legitimately screwed up had been awakened. It would be hard, and he would probably wind up getting decked again, but it was worth a shot.
Luna smiled knowingly, humming Weasley is our King far too loudly for anyone's taste but his. Except at the moment he thought it should be more along the lines of Weasley is our Queen.
* * * * *
A single droplet, clinging to the earthen ceiling of the catacomb, broke free.
Remus caught the raw slab of meat that was thrown his way, not sickened as the four other werewolves with him dug in, watery blood dripping down their humanoid chins.
"Dig in Wolf boy. You're going to need your strength for this." Nott chided.
He eyed Nott with distaste. He preferred Wolfy, only from Tonks' lips.
He let her name fade, giving in to the irresistible craving he had been fighting since dawn. Ever since he had drank that cursed potion...
It was a craving for blood that would not go away, and for the dozenth time that day, he extended his canine fangs.
Only now he was using them to tear the proffered flesh, instead of just practicing his transformations, hoping Dumbledore could concoct a cure for this horrid craving he would now deal with.
His eyes rolled black, the pleasurable taste consuming him
For a moment, the only thing that mattered was the meat in hand. The thought of protecting the innocents later on, forgotten.
Now the blood dripped from his mouth as well.
* * * * *
Kally sighed exhaustedly, wishing for the solitude of her dormitory. At least there she could kick and scream, venting without the prying eyes of others following her every move, as Potter seemed to be doing from his seat in the shadowy rear of the pub.
Potter was not someone she wanted to think about right now though.
She relaxed, allowing her elbows to prop herself up. She cast a glance resolutely down the bar's counter, stirring her straw around in her empty, bear-sized, mug. It was a nervous habit she had picked up as a child, when she used to twist them into random configurations. It had always been her brother's biggest pet peeve.
"Can't take you anywhere...." Sean smirked, tousling her hair.
She swatted him away, glad to embarrass him in front of his friends.
A sharp nudge caused her elbow to slip, freeing her from that line of thought. She cast an annoyed look at her housemate, ignoring the shooting pain the sudden jarring had sent up her left arm.
"The physical scars, the nerve damage... They are the least of your children's concerns Mr. And Mrs. Kaylens..."
Dean was grinning lopsidedly back, ignorant to where her thoughts had been, taking her back nearly a decade. They hadn't known she was listening when they had spoken to the hospital's psychiatrist. But in their defense, her anesthesia had been heavy.
They had not been expected her to be waking up so soon.
"You look like your off in your own little world there Kaylens. I didn't drag you forcibly out of the castle for nothing today, so being a mute will just not do." Dean said cockily.
If possible, Dean's grin had grown even more crooked with his words.
The resemblance his smile had to Sean's was striking.
Perhaps that was why she put up with him, while she distanced herself from all others, save for Remus. Dean was not Sean, but just seeing such similarity in another human was oddly comforting. It did not hurt like she had expected it to.
Seeing him looking at her expectantly, she shrugged, knowing full well he was about to start prodding Neville. Dean was someone who seemed to think that it was his personal mission to make everyone around him laugh, and her stony silence was probably pushing him to the brink of insanity.
"Well look at this Nev." He commented predictably, nudging Neville so hard that the poor boy almost fell from his stool. "We've got ourselves a mute. I guess that means she can't back talk now can sh..."
"Don't even try it Thomas." She shot out, feeling the corners of her lips tugging up at his persistence. Not only had he been insistent about her needing to chat, but he had adamantly refused to leave the castle for this 'so-called' day of freedom in Hogsmeade, without her.
How Dean had convinced 'I'm-Afraid-of-My-Shadow' Neville to help in that endeavor was beyond her.
In the end, she had gotten sick of Dean's persistence and given in.
The counter vibrated as the Three Broomsticks' waitress magicked three butterbeers to them with a loud thud. The liquid frothed a bit around the edges.
Catching their questioning looks the young witch flashed a dazzling, dimpled smile. "Courtesy of the gentlemen in the back."
She eyed the new butterbeer with a profound sense of distrust, before exchanging glances with Neville and Dean. She spun around on the bar stool, catching sight of the only patrons still in the back of the pub.
No sodding way in hell did he send us this.... She thought with no small amount of anger.
After what he had done, any gesture of this sort was insulting.
She snatched up the butterbeer roughly, storming away from the startled Gryffindors towards Potter.
Best to get this over with...
She came to an abrupt halt in front of him, slamming the mug down so hard that the liquid sloshed over the sides, joining the already pooling puddle on his table.
"What exactly do you think you're doing?" She asked angrily, not bothering to keep the contempt from her voice.
The girl with him smiled dazedly, humming some unrecognizable tune, and Kally suppressed the urge to stare her down. But the most infuriating thing was Potter himself.
He looked rather pleased, though she could not deduce why, since she was within half an inch of using the only hex she was capable of on him.
"Buying you a drink." He replied steadily, wiping at the mess she had made with a spare napkin.
"Oh?" She quipped sarcastically. "And why's that? So you could lace it with truth serum and interrogate me in that swarthy pub down the street? I must admit Potter, if that’s the case you're losing your touch."
She leaned down till their faces were level, using the table for balance. "After all..." She hissed quietly, ignoring the blonde's expression. "Why drug someone for information when you can just hex it out of them."
Potter continued wiping at the table, unable to meet her eyes.
Kally jumped ever so slightly, ignoring Potter's amused expression. She turned an eye on the blonde, who had just slammed her hands down on the table top like an excited four year old. The girl's protrubent blue eyes were now so wide they looked ready to pop out of her skull.
"Harry you wouldn't mind if I excused myself would you?" She said excitedly. "All this tension could attract an Ira, and I want to be in the best spot to see one."
Without waiting for an answer the girl stood, not noticing their identical expressions of bewilderment, and began shoving spare straws into her lime green purse, speaking in a far off voice.
"You can only see one in your peripheral vision you know. It's why daddy hasn't gotten a good picture of one yet, but I'd so love to see one..."
The girl marched off to the other side of the pub, turned to face the wall, and stared blankly at it. Kally caught a few glimpses of pale blue eyes flickering their way, and each time this would happen the blonde girl would grunt unhappily, stamp her foot, and resume staring at the wooden siding as if frustrated.
What the hell was that abo...
His intrusion brought her back to the situation at hand, and she narrowed her eyes shrewdly. "Ah your famous line." She whispered harshly. "So which personality do I get today Potter? Because really, this split personality thing is getting to be a bit of a headache."
Potter's eyes rose, meeting her own in a way she had thought the coward incapable of, and for a second his pleased look faltered. He blinked oddly, drawing in a deep, audible breath. "Kaylens..." He said quietly. "I tried to apologize for that once already, and it's a bit hard to explain, but I wasn't exactly myself when I did tha..."
Her eyes widened considerably. "Did it ever occur to you, in that thick skull of yours, that I might not give a damn whether you apologized or not?"
His expression fell, the damp napkin dropping with an audible thump. "After you stormed off that day by the lake, actually, yes. It did occur to me."
Trust him to bring that up, she thought angrily, quick to push back the uprising of shame within herself.
She swallowed hard. "Glad to see your not quite that oblivious Potter." She muttered, forcing her voice icy. "I would think by now that any fabricated apologies would be a mute point."
She felt more than heard him drawing in a deep, frustrated breath. Jut like she felt, more than saw him leaning closer to where she stood. "I wasn't lying to you when I said I was sorry for all of those other things Kaylens."
He spoke so seriously, too seriously for someone their age. "And I didn't even get the chance to apologize for the other night..." He continued, his Adam's apple rising rhythmically. "Since I didn't fancy getting decked again, I figured sending you a drink was the best apology I could come up with on short notice. At least the best one that could keep me a safe distance away, while getting you to come over here."
She arched an eyebrow disbelievingly, eyeing the mug a bit too carefully. "Oh? So you thought buying me a drink would make up for that then?" She mused allowed.
He began to shake his head in the negative but she cut him off, the full weight of his insulting, woefully inadequate gesture sinking in.
"Will you just sit with me so I can try and expla...."
Impulsively she snatched up the mug, expelling it's contents all over him, a sopping, frothing mess now staining the front of his shirt.
"That’s what I think of your pathetic apology." She muttered shakily. "Enjoy."
* * * * *
Harry sat there sputtering. Of all the ways he had seen that possibly playing out, this had not been one of them.
Sitting there, stunned and sopping wet, he felt too shocked to respond effectively.
Instead his eyes fell upon her delicate left hand, hanging limply at her side.
It was shaking.
Inside he felt a horrible, twisting sensation , recalling precisely why her hand shook thus. How could he have failed to notice before?
"That’s what I think of your pathetic apology." Kaylens snapped shakily. "Enjoy."
His mouth flapped wordlessly, his words never reaching her ears, for Madame Rosmerta's alarmed cry stole the words from his lips.
"Lara what are yo.." Rosmerta questioned shrilly. Her eyes were fixated in confusion upon the young waitress, the friendly one from whom he had ordered drinks earlier.
The same dimpled girl now had her wand drawn, a blank expression drawn upon her features, striking a horrifying similarity to a porcelain doll.
"Stupefy!" She hissed mechanically.
As if in slow motion, Rosmerta fell, her limp form disappearing behind the bar's wooden counter. The glass she had been cleaning took flight, hovering in mid-air for a small eternity, before breaking free of it's unearthly suspension, shattering across the counter.
For the first time in it's history, the Three Broomsticks fell silent. Only the howl of the October wind, leaking in through the windows, proved to him that he had not fallen into some horrific silent film.
The gentle chiming of bells broke his attention from where the porcelain girl stood, smiling cruelly down.
Ginny Weasley, floated slowly in, Professor Très following closely, their movements oddly halting.
Hours seemed to have passed, but the clock registered mere seconds.
Seeing Ginny's wand haltingly rise, her movements faltering, as if some invisible force were yanking her arm forcibly up against her will, was what finally broke him free of his slow motion reverie.
His blood ran cold at her blank expression.
"EVERYBODY DOWN!" He shouted, overturning the table. Liquid splattered, and their empty clay mugs had not even struck ground before the first green curse flew from Ginny's wand.
His own already drawn, he screamed a stunner, watching the killing curse miss Ron's dismayed face by inches.
Ginny side stepped easily, and Professor Très turned an eerie eye upon him.
"Kaylens move!" He hollered, but she did not need telling twice. She was already dropping down, covering her head as a slew of wooden shards whizzed by, an onslaught from the now smoldering chair before her.
A stunner grazed his ear, and his body jerked instinctively away from the heat, and in that single second he lost sight of her.
Somewhere in the dim background of his mind the screams of the other patrons began to register.
Less than a foot away from where he stood, a decorative pumpkin exploded, a poorly aimed stunner searing right through it, striking the wall. Stringy orange pulp and seeds erupted, hurtling outwards, covering the floor and himself with slippery orange clumps.
A red light flew from Très' wand, and he dove to the ground, sheltering behind the table as the curse blasted through it. The screams of other students could be heard, pleading with the Defense Professor.
Très could not hear their pleas, with his ear length hair flung over his eyes, his arm jerkily fired blindly at students, patrons, people...
Grabbing the side of the overturned, round table, Harry heaved it to the side, rolling it with all his strength, scrambling behind it like a rat until it hunkered to a halt. Unable to go any farther, for an unconscious body now blocked it's progress, he found the entrance to the bar in sight.
It ran the length of the pub, and Ginny and Très' backs were now to it. If he could just get behind it he'd have safe cover until he was right on them...
He dove for it, leaving the cover of his table behind, rolling across broken chair legs and glass until he came to a crouch behind it.
The waitress was hiding behind it as well, firing curses over the counter.
"Stupefy!" He whispered, letting the red light fly.
Her body went careening to the side, her wand flung from her grasp as she passed out next to Rosmerta's limp form.
He scampered down the length of it, snatching both their wands up, passing wine bottles, clean mugs, and storage areas as he went.
Reaching the end near the shade covered windows, he hastily pocketed the wands in his trousers, leaping to his feet, the disarming spell partially formed on his lips.
His words died there.
The jet of green light erupted from Ginny's wand like a volcano of death, less than an arm's length from where he stood.
Across the room Ron leapt to his feet, abandoning the temporary shelter of a overturned bench to dash to where Hermione and Luna fought unaided.
There was no time to think, to duck, to react.
The green light hit Ron mid-stride, flinging his body backwards against the wall.
Hermione's brown eyes widened, her mouth caught in a strangled, silent wail, and Luna only just pulled her to the ground before the next green spell whizzed by.
All was still.
The blank look of the Imperious curse faltered upon Ginny Weasley's face, unabashed pain replacing it for but a second.
The mask was re-erected, his own wand turning to her, tears of anger streaming down his face at what had been just done to the only brother and sisters he had ever had.
Before the disarming spell could leave his lips, a hard fist collided with his skull, sending the world blurring until it's hellish glory faded to black.
* * * * *
The sound of small feet, pattering in the rain, accompanied Emily's return. The sound of her quiet humming lingered like a breath of fresh air upon Tonks' ears.
The small child stepped out onto the pebbled path, quickly shutting her tiny umbrella before scurrying to huddle beneath Tonks'.
Tonks smiled uncertainly as Emily's tiny hand interlaced with her own. Why Emily was choosing the comfort of her, a stranger, over that of her father was puzzling to her. Kenneth would later on smile, informing her that she had a lot to learn about how children think.
But for now, Kenneth gave her a small, pained smile, before setting off across the soggy cemetery grass.
She had been right, he was a man of private mourning.
She adjusted the umbrella so the runoff would not drip onto the little princess' head, never noticing the thoughtful look that suddenly passed across Emily's tiny face.
Feeling the insistent tugging on her arm she looked down, two small brown eyes meeting her own. Emily looked rather pensive.
As Tonks inwardly wondered what one should say to a child who has just lost her mother, Emily spoke.
"Your friends are in trouble Nymph."
Le Règne d'Enfer Commence is French for The Reign of Hell Begins
Recommended Stories of the Week:
Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon by Edward Ollivander (He has a fabulous and creative 6th year fan fiction featuring a HP/GW pairing, and it is completed.)
Dark Tendencies by Two Sadists (They have a 7th year fan fiction featuring a HP/OC pairing.)
Photograph couresty of the previously mentioned public domain website. Accreditations can be found via my personal website.
Disclaimer: All characters, places, and ideas taken from the Harry Potter book series are property of JKR. However, the idea of a Reach is owned by me, since I have taken the idea of a Reach from a series that I am writing, and adapted it ever so slightly to fit this fan-fiction series.
"Some believe that the benefit of death, is that it is possible to see farther on the other side."
~ A.K. Lovell ~
Chapter 20 ~ Nowhere to Run
"Tonksie are you okay?"
Emily's sweet voice carried upon the wind, nearly drowned out by the sound of rain pounding upon the umbrella.
She could only shake her head, shaken as a cool breeze swirled around them. Thankfully such subtleties of expression were lost upon the child, who's head was tilted back, her mouth wide open, catching rain drops.
"The waaaateeer's driiiippiiiing on meeee." Emily gurgled gaily.
Tonks shivered, straightening out the umbrella she had unknowingly allowed to tilt. It had hung so low that a sudden cascade of water had fallen down like Victoria Falls onto young Emily's head.
"Sorry Em..." She gasped out, her voice wavering.
"It's okay I like the rain." Emily declared, darting out from beneath the umbrella, stomping her feet merrily in the collecting puddles. "I like puddles too!"
Tonks blinked in surprise. The child's mother had been drowned in one barely a fortnight ago.
"Your friends are in trouble Nymph."
Emily's sopping wet braids swung about her face, her arms held out as she spun in circles, her head tilted skyward catching the rain.
"Tonksie come play!"
Tonksie... Only Remus called her Nymph.
"My God..." She whispered, her body temperature dropping in a way that had nothing to do with the wind.
Over Emily's twirling figure she could see Kenneth Bothan kneeling in the soggy cemetery grass. His wife's grave lay before him, the carefully placed irises scattering in the heavy wind.
"Kenneth! We have to leave here now!"
* * * * *
Remus' ovular eyes opened upon the worst of sights.
It's empty locale lay before him, dead leaves billowing across the dusty pathway leading through the heart of the village.
Not a soul was in sight.
It was here Nott and the others had spoken of. It was here the recruiting had been done. It was here where the Death Eaters would make their first stand. Here in the village, so close to the school...
It was a Hogsmeade weekend.
"Merlin..." He whispered, staggering, the October breeze biting chilly lines across his skin.
Werewolves had no use for clothing.
Roughly, an unclothed forearm scratched across his chin. Flecks of dried blood flaked away, sprinkling the ground with a sinister looking dust. It's morbidity was a stark reminder of his recently fulfilled thirst.
Instinctually, angrily, his claws extended, breaking his skin with a fiery pain. He did not answer Nott, instead he growled lowly, extending his ears into long points.
The hair sprouting, prickling his pointed ears, brought the deathly quiet village to life. Farther off... In the heart of town.... Pleas..... Offers of salvation in exchange for allegiances.....
"That fool of an old man will never know what hit him." Nott's guttural voice was flooded deep with hate. "Well be here and gone before he even gets out his walker."
Not if I can help it...
Lucius' indecipherable growl cut in, breaking through his angry thoughts, arousing something far darker...
It was time to change.
An unnatural heat filled his veins.
Upon the ground where Remus Lupin had been, now stood a werewolf, the pungent scent of freshly spilled blood inundating it's senses.
The wolf pawed the ground eagerly.
* * * * *
His body, felt like it was being drug across glass. It ached, splintering as individual shards sliced his skin.
Shards.... Shards... He tried to grasp onto the word to no avail. It's elusive meaning fled from his pounding skull.
The tight grip on his ankles disappeared, and his feet dropped unceremoniously to the floor. A moment later the reverberations in the floor boards indicated another body being dumped besides him.
With a jerk he was awake, the salty tears of anguish tainting his lips.
It couldn't be real. It couldn't have happened. Not again...
He turned his head in a vain search, struggling to make sense of the blurred world before him. A flash of the palest of yellows caught his eye.
Drifting in and out of focus was Luna Lovegood, sitting cross legged, her wrists tightly bound within her lap, dreamy blue eyes fixated upon him concernedly.
"Why hello Harry." She said congenially.
Just thinking sent a sharp throb through his skull, and he quickly discovered his arms to be bound behind his back.
With a frustrated thump he hit his hands against the floor, a stabbing pain ripping his fist.
He did not need Luna's proclamation to know that a shard of glass now stuck from his hand. The warmth welling from it, trickling down his fingertips, was enough to inform him.
A single crimson drop fell free, it's sound reverberating through his hollow chest.
The suffocating weight of despair struck him hard, paralyzing him.
Ron was gone.
Ginny's unwilling hands had done the unthinkable.
Death Eaters were in Hogsmeade.
A strangled sob shattered the silence.
His fists snapped shut, tugging at the bindings. His eyes, blurred with rage, searched the ruined pub, taking it in with cold calculation.
The floor now resembled a greenhouse, a shattered plant holder had sent soil strewing across it.
Butter beer and other concoctions pooled together in frothy puddles, broken chairs and overturned tables creating hazardous paths.
Broken glass glittered in the afternoon sunlight, casting surreal spectrums across the floor.
He squeezed his fist, the blood flowing down, and began counting.
In the spaces where neither glass nor soil lay, patrons did.
Half a dozen, either unconscious or dead, lay upon the floor at scattered intervals.
The rest, the conscious, had been bound and lined up against the walls.
"Stupid crying Mudblood!"
She lay collapsed against the far wall, her arms bound like his own.
Before her towered a ranting figure clad in black, and clenched within the cruel confines of the Death Eater's fist trailed long locks of bushy hair.
A large bruise ran the length of her tear stained cheek.
"I should have finished the job when I had the chance you filth." Scowled the Death Eater, throwing back his hood.
His breath caught in his throat.
The image of Hermione's limp form in the Department of Mysteries flashed through his mind. She had nearly died at Dolohov's hands...
"What do you think here Ludovic? Should I finish her off?" The Death Eater called out, kneeling in front of her. "Or what about you Mudblood? Care to join your worthless red-headed friend over there?" Dolohov chided, poking her like a slug with the end of his wand.
Hermione's sparkling eyes met Dolohov's unflinchingly, her lips curling back to spit in his face.
He recoiled, a look of the purest revulsion over-sweeping his wasted features. "Oh you filthy..." He muttered, frantically wiping his face in the folds of his cloak.
"Hey Antonin!" An overly cheery voice called out, stopping Dolohov's hand mid-strike. "Since were only supposed to watch the kiddies until He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named gets back, what do you think of..."
Dolohov whorled on the cloaked figure, who had just emerged from behind the bar, waving a salvaged firewhiskey bottle.
"Ludovic he is our Lord and shall be addressed as such!" Dolohov roared dangerously. "One more slip and I'll make sure the Mudblood lover isn't the only corpse in here!"
Ludovic appeared unconcerned, and began filling two whiskey glasses. "Antonin what you need is a good, stiff drink."
Dolohov scowled, quickly aiming a powerful kick to Hermione's midsection. The crack of her ribs echoed between the pub's walls, as did Harry and Neville's cries of protest.
"Now Antonin was that really necessary?" Ludovic asked nervously.
Dolohov turned, his wand raised threateningly. "One. More. Word. Ludovic. Just. One."
Ludovic raised his hands in a conciliatory manner, knocking his hood from his face in the process.
"Now Dolohov she's just a girl. All I was saying is tha...." But the rest of his words were lost upon Harry, for beneath the vise of the dark hood was the boyish face of Ludo Bagman.
* * * * *
Kenneth Bothan's head shot up, while Tonks ran forward, wrapping a protective arm around Emily. The fallen umbrella lay forgotten, spinning in concentric circles upon the pebbled ground, a toy of the billowing wind.
"Kenneth we should leave!" She cried, hoisting Emily into her arms.
Her barely concealed urgency rang true within the President's ears, for he was already sprinting back to where they stood.
He was a man who understood the world's dangers.
Emily squirmed, her auburn head following her father's progress towards them. "Daddy, your knees are all muddy." She scolded seriously.
Kenneth smiled grimly, his jaw set. "I can take her."
Tonks nodded, relinquishing the girl to withdraw her wand. The ever-increasing chill was closing in. It wouldn't be long...
"What's going on?" Kenneth asked urgently.
"No time to explain." She responded, taking off down the path. She could hear Kenneth's heavy footfalls behind her, splashing in the muddied water.
They rounded the bend in the pathway, the heavy grove of trees falling away to reveal the dismal lot. The car, their escape, was in sight, yet heavy despair drenched her soul.
Nymphadora's feet slid in the gravely mud, and she came to a halt, throwing out an arm out to stop what was left of the Bothan family.
It was right then that little Emily Bothan began to whimper.
Kenneth's dark eyes quickly blinked away water. "Tonks what's thi..."
"Daddy we need to run. Please daddy run." Emily was pleading hysterically, her face buried into Kenneth's shoulder.
Staring ahead at the looming figures, Tonks could only shake her head.
"I don't think we have time to run."
* * * * *
Ludo Bagman's bluish eyes turned on him, a pleased smile replacing his previously perplexed one. "Ah... Harry boy. I was wondering when you'd come around."
Dolohov scoffed. "Precious Potter indeed. Tell me Potter, how was your wittle nappy?"
"So tell me Harry," Ludo interjected, seeming determined to steer the conversation his way. "How have things been?"
"Yes wittle Potter. How have things been without that mangy old dog of yours?"
In the distant background he could hear Neville's choked stuttering.
"H-how have they been?" Harry repeated, dumbfounded. How have they been!?
"Not too good Mr. Bagman." Luna's misty voice drifted out, answering for him as he gaped like a fish. "Harry's been having a rough year, as you can see."
A pitiless snort came from Dolhov's direction.
"He lost his godfather, and with people such as yourself switching sides and betraying him, I trust you can see why." Luna continued casually.
Bagman was suddenly refilling his drink.
"After all, Harry doesn't want anyone else to die, and when people he trusts start killing people..."
Bagman's glass stopped halfway to his lips, eyes widening defensively. It was a moment before his composure returned.
"Now I've never actually killed anyone per say Miss...."
"Lovegood." She supplied.
"Lovegood." He continued. "It's just that...."
A strange calm had overtaken him, the slight shaking of his own hands lost upon him. "It's just that your content with allowing others to do it for you." He said disdainfully. "Your content with being a coward, with siding with what is easy rather than what is right."
Bagman eyed him apprehensively, swallowing hard. "Now Harry, you know how the Ministry is." He began imploringly. "They never support anyone but themselves..."
"At least they don't kill anyone!" Harry bellowed, arms shaking with suppressed fury.
"But Harry j-just think about this for a s-second. He-Who-Must-Not...I mean my Lord...." He quickly corrected himself, spying the malevolent look of Dolohov. "He just desires the Ministry's downfall. So long as people stay out of his way no one will get hurt. Now I ask you Harry, my boy, is that really so bad?"
"Replacing one dictatorship with another. Sounds logical to me." He retorted sarcastically.
Besides him Luna nodded approval, her fingers drumming against her bindings to some unrecognizable tune.
"When you disappeared my grams was worried about you! Y-you...Your...." Across the room Neville Longbottom's voice rang out, surprising everyone.
Harry caught a glimpse of Neville's uncharacteristically contorted face.
It was frightening.
"Your no better than Bellatrix you slime!"
The poignant accusation hung thickly in the air, no one speaking. Bagman had become very interested in his drink, shifting uncomfortably under the angry eyes of all save for Dolohov.
For someone to turn their backs, on even the Ministry, in favor of Voldemort...
It was unforgivable.
He had nearly forgotten how his own hands bled, the light headed feeling out of place for the situation. Fortunately the free flow of crimson life was slowing, his coagulation factors finally kicking in.
Harry shook his head, ignoring the slight spin of the world. "You were acquitted once Bagman." He hissed, eyes scanning the room for a way out. "So tell me, were you a spineless coward back then too, or just stupid?"
Bagamn cringed. "Harry I was never a Death Eater!"
"But you are now." His voice quivered. "So tell me, why'd you do it?"
Dolohov's smug expression betrayed even his interest in the answer, and Harry was not about to let the Death Eaters distraction go to waste.
Keep them talking...Keep them distracted...
His hands began roaming across the floor behind him, feeling for another sharp sliver of glass.
"Well you know Harry, goblins, they're nasty business." Ludo said, fidgeting. "You know how they are if they're after ya and..."
Harry did his best to glare, feigning interest as Ludo's brow creased curiously.
"Come to think of it you probably don't Harry. But it's not fun business, goblin debt collectors that is. And since the Ministry wasn't about to increase my salary these boys said they'd be glad to help me out of my jam..."
"That you got yourself into!" Neville shouted furiously from across the room.
Bagman eyed Neville warily. "I can see where you'd think that but..."
"BUT WHAT!?" Neville roared.
Luna inconspicuously sent a broken bottle piece sliding his way, his fingers coiling around it like a snitch.
"But these Death Eaters, they're not so bad."
Harry very nearly dropped the shard, his eyes bulging out.
"Not so bad?" He repeated gruffly.
Bagman nodded vigorously. "No! Not at all Harry! In fact their rather..."
"Tell that..." He hissed lowly. "To my mum and dad. Tell that to Sirius. Tell that to Ron!"
An odd expression crossed Bagman's face. "Now Harry really...."
Harry's lips parted, accusation dripping as thick as the blood from his coiled fists, only the sound never came.
The soft sound, and flicker of movement upon the floor, drew the breath straight from his lips.
"Kaylens..." He breathed softly. He had nearly forgotten...
"Ah another one to join the fray?" Dolohov called cheerfully, sauntering over to where she lay, partially concealed by an overturned table.
The Death Eater reached her, roughly dragging her squirming form up.
"Can't leave you free to roam around now can we?" He hissed, drawing unnaturally close to her.
Harry's stomach lurched wretchedly as Dolohov's lips grazed her blood stained cheek.
"After all, fiery tempers like you..."
"Get. Your Hands. Off. Her." Harry spat dangerously, drawing Dolohov's attention to him. Anything to get him away from her... She looked ready to collapse...
The Death Eater regarded him coldly. "Or you'll do what exactly?"
"You don't want to know." He hissed lowly, ceasing the sawing movement upon his bindings. He couldn't afford to let Dolohov see....
"Oh but I do!" He said menacingly, a cruel smile lighting his dead eyes. "I'd very much like to know what Precious Potter thinks he could do to me."
His eyes narrowed, a cruel smile of his own crossing his features.
"I could show you why Voldemort is so afraid of me." He whispered threateningly.
The cords winding around Kaylens' wrists snapped tight, Dolohov's tense grip betraying his agitation.
Harry went on, the room swaying unnaturally as he spoke with malicious measure. "Or you could do yourself a favor Dolohov, and leave. Leave before you make me really angry."
Dolohov shifted uncomfortably, mirroring Bagman's movements. He took the opportunity to slowly slice at his bindings yet again.
The glass, slick with his own blood, nearly fell from his grip. Thankfully the error was lost upon the Death Eater, for Dolohov had chosen that moment to turn Kaylens around, hissing something into her tangled tresses furiously.
His wrist rung with the pain, brought about by another slip of the glass, as Kaylens body was tossed besides him.
His sawing movements halted, his eyes drawn to where she lay, panting faintly besides him.
"There... " Dolohov sneered. "Enjoy your mudblood friends Precious Potter. Once our Lord gets here we'll see how brave you really are."
He swallowed hard, watching Kaylens' eyes flicker open. He wanted to say something, anything...
He had failed her...
Hermione's soul wrenching tones brought a grimace of fear to both their features.
"Brave?" Hermione's weak voice chided from where she sat, propped against the wall. "You ask him about bravery? He's sixteen, not even a fully qualified wizard, yet you fear him so much as to disarm him and bind him."
She spat all of this into Dolohov's approaching face, just before his hand reared back, slapping her roughly to the floor.
She let out not a cry, peering upwards through her narrowed, swelling eyes, just in time to see a dark boot rearing back.
Dolohov's thick eyebrows disappeared beneath his mangy hair. "You presume to order me around boy?"
Neville shrugged casually. "You can contaminate yourself if you want." He sounded uncharacteristically Slytherin. "I didn't realize dirty blood suited a Death Eater."
Dolohov laughed roughly, buying Harry more time.
Neville you're a saint...
A bead of salty sweat broke free from his forehead, rolling into his mouth. Setting his jaw he worked, the glass shard digging into his thick bindings.
The shard slid so low, so fast, he nearly cut too deep, the breath of pain catching fast in his throat.
The bindings were looser.
Twisting his hands testingly, he found with the first fiber's severing had come a greater range of movement.
Eyes locked onto Dolohov's fist, slamming into Neville's jaw, he twisted his wrists, ignoring the burning sensation of dried wounds ripping open. Warm, thick life blood welled from these spots, his scabbed over fingers feeling in his cloak...
They had taken his wand, but Rosmereta's... The waitress'...
Polished mahogany brushed beneath his rough skin, Kaylens' luminous eyes meeting his own, comprehension shining within their fiery depths...
He could reach the sequestered wands.
He was armed.
* * * * *
"Pumpkin...Honey mummy needs you to do mummy a favor. Can you do that honey?"
She whimpered, her face buried in her father's rain soaked suit. She wanted to look away, but she couldn't. The cold feeling was there. She could hear her mum, she wanted to see her, to hug her, but she was too scared to look away from the safety of her father's arms.
"Do you miss your mummy little girl? Would you like to see her?"
Emily squeezed her eyes harder, willing the voice away. "It's not mummy..." She whispered. "I can't see mummy..."
Ah, ah, ah, ah... Little darling your mummy is busy now. Can't you see that?"
She shook her head frantically, squeezing her dad's neck. "No... No...."
"Open your eyes you little bitch!"
The cruel lady's dark eyes danced in her mind. She didn't want to see the lady again. She didn't want to.
"Daddy..." She whimpered frightfully.
"No not daddy. Mummy! You wanted to see her little brat, so here, LOOK!"
Daddy would open his eyes... He would. He wasn't afraid of anything. Maybe if she opened her eyes the lady would go away again.
Emily swallowed, counting hard to ten.
Emily's watery eyes opened, a dark suit coat staring back.
Mummy needed up. She needed air. The mean man was there again, shoving her face into the puddle. Her mummy didn't like water.
Emily cried out, screeching, shaking her head back and forth, throwing the images away. She wanted them to go. Her damp, rain-soaked braids flung into her father's face as she shook, but she did not notice.
"Kenneth take Emily and go."
"You can't see them Kenneth, but they're there."
"No..." Her own whimpers rang in her ears, her icy hands shaking her mum. Whey wasn't mummy waking? She had to... "No..."
"Tonksie!" Had she shouted? Could the nice lady hear her?
"Kenneth get to the car. Drive away."
"Tonks I can't leave..."
"I'll be fine. Just go. NOW!"
Emily's reeling world reeled more, for her father had taken off at fast sprint, splashing water over her legs.
In the dim background, somewhere beyond her mother's screams, she could hear the nice lady shouting something.
Her world dimmed away as a silvery dog ran past.
Mummy always liked dogs...
* * * * *
Releasing the wand for what he promised would be only moments, he continued sawing at his bindings, slowly, rhythmically, trying to gain precious centimeters of mobility...
He was armed, and the realization had numbed him, his next move horribly elusive.
With the rhythmic sawing of the shard, his mind fell curiously blank for the first time in what felt millennia.
His gaze fell upon her as she moved, shoving herself up from where she lay on the floor, arms shaking fiercely, be it from shock or the pain he knew she daily bore, he did not know.
"Kaylens." He whispered softly, grasping for something, anything familiar in the horror that was his life.
She fell into place besides him, so close, her bloodied sleeve nearly brushing against his skin. She was blocking Dolohov's view of what he was doing, he knew it without even asking, for her eyes swept the room as those of the hunted would.
She was being as cautious as him, despite the slight sway to her stature.
Another thread of the rope broke free, it's release masked by her sudden, purposeful coughing.
Her head fell forward, her coughs lingering long enough to seem genuine, and her golden, tangled locks came cascading down, falling over her eyes, veiling her expression from all but him. To his eyes each shimmering strand, glinting in the dull afternoon glow, as well as her watery orbs, remained visible, as well as her bound wrists, white and torn from where she had frantically pulled, struggling for release in Dolohov's arms.
The bastard would never again lay a finger upon her.
He would never again lay a finger upon anyone.
Harry Potter had a few dark spells he was quite eager to try out.
"How much longer do you think it'll be till he finishes questioning the village Antonin?"
Dolohov sneered. "Ludovic you are trying my patience as much as the half-blood and these..." The dark gaze of the man scanned the room, taking in the few conscious students and the two patrons bound and lined against the walls. "These spares."
"But what if the ministry...."
Dolohov kicked the floor, sending shattered glass skittering across Dean's fallen form. "We will be here and gone before those fools catch wind of this. Besides, these things are delicate matters..."
Questioning? His ears listened, silently taking it all in. Besides him Kalliandra appeared to be doing the same, while Luna shifted the glass shards on the floor around with her feet.
Bagman seemed besides himself with questions. Harry mentally egged him on to be loose lipped.
"Perhaps we could stun them all and take them back ourselves?"
Dolohov scowled in his direction. "He will not be needing all of them. And you would do well to keep your mouth shut from now on or I will shut it for you."
The discussion ended.
It was then that he heard it.
Only he had heard her whispered accusation, for it could be nothing else. The sheer revulsion in that one, whispered word left nothing to question.
Her eyes had moved from Dolohov, drifting into the background beyond, liquid fire boiling beyond their depths. Lifting his own he followed her gaze to where Ludo Bagman stood, pouring himself another fidgety drink.
He turned his confusion upon her, noticing her chest's rhythmic rising as her breaths came quicker, deeper, faster...
Golden eyes flickered shut, a pained expression falling across her.
"How sorry were you?" She breathed to herself, only barely, for the hatred saturating her soft tones was not lost upon him.
It was chilling.
His own boiling blood froze as he studied her, taking advantage of the lull in activities.
"Kaylens." He whispered, almost pleadingly.
Her hateful gaze burned right through him, straight to Bagman.
Her eyes fell shut, her fists opening and closing on thin air. "You're bleeding Potter, are you alright?" She whispered shakily.
Gently brushing his arm against her own, he waited for some sign that she was alright.
Minutes passed, before delicate eyelids flickered open, her eyes alight with an aberrant glow.
"Good." She murmured. "Because I can only give you a moment."
His mouth flapped wordlessly, shocked at the transformation before him.
Where his skin lightly touched her own, an unnatural tingling had begun.
* * * * *
The energy reverberating from him drew her nearer, an eternity passing before she was able to forcibly draw away.
His confusion radiated in startling quantities, but he would understand soon enough.
They would all understand...
She would not stray near him again, for her world was moving unnaturally slow, as if the events occurring around her were illusory, fleeting images from horrible dreams that would surely vanish with a waft of merciful consciousness.
Only no such merciful breeze came.
Her bound hands rose from her lap, tracing the tender line of her jaw, feeling her cooling skin. Somewhere, amidst the fighting, she had fallen, shoved away by Dean. The dried smear of blood along her cheek gave evidence to that.
She could feel the heat radiating from Dean's limp form.
He was alive...
The small girl's fingers had curled around fallen chunks of her bloodied, uprooted hair, as if the resolute Gryffindor had wanted something to hold onto, something solid and tangible to prove the afflictions had been real.
Her eyes fell willfully shut once more, immersing herself in the peaceful oblivion of darkness, where no demons save her own reigned.
The memories of a resurrected night, long due revenge, beckoned.
A limp hand lay splayed across the front corridor...Blood trickling onto the wooden porch boards...
"God forgive me..." She breathed, the palpable chill filling her lungs.
She had made her decision.
The chilling rain pelted down, something dark mixing with the muddy water licking at her nose...
The tingling began softly, like a light feather playing across her skin, traversing it's way upwards, inwards...
It was their blood swirling within the puddle....Sean's blank eyes staring back...
It was rolling in discrete waves, operating by it's own indiscernible rules, pulsating from the living, evaporating from the dead.
A boyish face appeared above her, sympathy in his oceanic eyes. "I'm awfully sorry about this kid..."
His voice had echoed through that night, and again this day.
He had stood idly by once, and was again.
She squeezed her eyes shut ever tighter, involuntarily shudders traveling through her, the heady pressure in the very air building, pulsating in uncontrolled waves outwards.
The world was taking on a hotter quality, every nerve burning with fiery intensity as she began reaching, feeling...
The acrid presence of Ludovic Bagman filled her, and she began drawing.
Her intent was to kill.
A/N: Please forgive the author's note, but I believe a proper thank you is in order.
Thank you for making this story the Number One Favorite Story on the site, for making me the Number One Favorite Author on the site, for making this the 7th most read story in the site's history when it has been out for less than a year, and for making this the story with the Most Reviews Ever.
I honestly can't express how shocked I was to see that. I truly feel that I do not deserve such an honor, because having read many of the other stories on this site, I feel that my writing pales in comparison to the wealth of talent displayed by others such as njill22, Edward Ollivander, The Dark Lord Nedved, KawaiiAce2003, IchigoPan, Violet Gryfindor, Timeturner, BitterEpiphany, Ginny Weasely, Arios, Cocoapuffshooter, Winky, and too many others to name.
I have the best readers in the world. I truly do.
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Photograph couresty of the previously mentioned public domain website. Accreditations can be found via my personal website.