Chapter 22 : Chapter 22- The Darkness Within
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“Grace!” I jerked animatedly when I heard Maureen snap at me. “Are you going to take a shower or not?” She asked me clearly irritated that I was dawdling. I will admit though that it is not like me to dawdle, but then again a lot of weird stuff is going on.
“Yeah… Sorry. I was just thinking about some stuff,” I managed to mumble out to no one in particular before slipping into the bathroom and sealing the door shut. Letting out a long sigh I fidgeted with my hair in the mirror before turning the water on and stepping in immersing myself in the stinging heat.
“If I make it through this day without completely humiliating myself in every way possible I’ll let Lily teach me how to have bouncy hair.” I spat out sarcastically to myself while vigorously scrubbing shampoo into my scalp.
“Grace, hurry up! Adia is threatening to tear this door down if you’re not out in the next five minutes and frankly I don’t think we want Professor Walker up here inventorying destruction of school property at this hour of the morning.” This time it was Beatrix hollering at me. While it wasn’t odd for Maureen to be awake around the time I usually got up, it was almost unheard of for Beatrix to be stirring this early in the morning and Adia had two free periods in the morning so she always got a chance to get her beauty sleep and then fawn over herself for nearly two hours.
“Tell Princess Honey-Blossom to get over herself and that she doesn’t need to spend an hour and a half every morning primping in the bathroom. I’ve only been in here for ten minutes for Merlin’s sake! Besides, why are all of you up anyways? Class doesn’t start for another three hours.” I hollered back trying to hide my irritation. I sometimes wonder if the founders ever realized what would happen if you made five teenage girls share one bedroom and one bathroom. Or maybe they didn’t take into account what the world would be like over a thousand years after their deaths.
“Look, I’m not trying to hassle you but could you try being done in the next five minutes?” Beatrix asked hopefully through the door while I muttered another sigh. It was going to be one of those days.
“Again, we have three hours before class starts. I’m failing to see why the rest of you are even awake, let alone fighting over mirror space.” I snapped to her while shutting the water off and throwing one towel to cover myself and another for my hair. Quickly drying off I threw on my uniform and walked over to the door throwing it open not realizing that Beatrix was right there.
“Woah, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.” She joked lightly wearing a forced grin. “But don’t you realize what today is?”
“Is it National Wake-Up-Three-Hours-Early-And-Ruin-Grace’s-Morning Day? I keep forgetting to pencil that in my events calendar. Next year send me an owl reminding me five days in advance.” I snipped at her while fidgeting with my tie while trying to prevent the wet towel on top of my head from falling on me.
“Beatrix, she was born under a rock and before you get any ideas, as prefect I am commandeering these facilities for…purposes.” Adia forcefully cut her way between us and slammed the bathroom door shut. An odd squelching noise filled the silence temporarily before Beatrix shot the door a withering glare.
“Merlin I can’t stand her.” She muttered darkly throwing the bathroom door one last evil eye. “But you really don’t know why today is important?” She asked in genuine confusion.
“Unless there was some secret election and we have a new Minister of Magic who happens to be visiting Hogwarts today, then I’m out of the loop as to why today is important.” I told her evenly. They’re all probably just dying to get to the Great Hall early to catch a glimpse of Al’s dad. I mean, he is the most famous wizard in the world…I mused to myself trying not to vomit over the vapid fanfare.
“You know, it’s not every day that the world’s most famous wizard comes to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts. This is the day that Harry Potter officially starts working here!” Beatrix exclaimed excitedly. I was probably the only person in the castle other than a Potter or a Weasley who wasn’t excited about this. Looking over at Beatrix’s bed, I saw that it was already made and she already had everything she was going to wear laid out perfectly including her make up and nail polish.
“Oh that…” I replied, trying to act noncommittal about the entire even when I am entirely paranoid about this entire day in general. Like I said, life can never be easy. “Wait a minute. You don’t take Defense Beatrix.” I pointed out while ruffling up the towel trying to dry my hair. Magic normally would be easier but the last time I tried that spell I only got a soft breeze that lasted for all of five seconds before I felt my hand go numb. After that fiasco I just figured that I would try to get it as dry as I could the old fashion way, comb it, and hope for the best and pray that blondezilla doesn’t make any appearance until after classes were over.
“Note to self. Never disturb Grace in the morning. Ever.” Beatrix monotonously said to herself.
“I appreciate the gesture. If only I had a Time Turner to give you.” I jestingly told her while lightly smirking. The irritation that had been with me seemed to evaporate like the steam did when Adia opened the bathroom door. Currently she barricaded herself in her bed with the curtains drawn securely around her space.
“You know, I’m not asking for you to stay with me while Adia ‘commandeers these facilities’. God, what’s your problem? You never used to have an attitude.” Beatrix snapped at me. A twinge of guilt quickly stabbed my stomach and I knew I deserved nothing less from her after I quashed her enthusiasm because I’m too worried about getting kicked out of Hogwarts.
“What are you talking about Beatrix? I’m still the same old boring Grace. Things are just a bit stressful for me right now; I didn’t mean to take it out on you. Honest. Want to grab some coffee?”
“Look, I’m sorry also. Mornings are not my best time. I think I’m only half awake. Wait a minute…I must be dreaming.” I had finally managed to get my hair as dry as I could with my towel and quickly attacked my hair with a brush and trying to replicate Lily’s techniques from yesterday, I did my makeup without looking like a clown.
“Uhh…why would you be dreaming?” I asked her blankly.
“You would never die part of your hair blue. Or wear make up beyond mascara. This must be some bizarre dream world in which you become cool and stylish and well…normal.” She continued to look at me like I had grown an extra head until I picked up a pillow and smacked her with it lightly. “Oww! What was that for!?”
“To prove a point; now come on and get dressed. We can get coffee and I can explain myself once you’ve woken up.” I grinned at her actually looking forward to breakfast. Besides giving me an excuse to avoid Lily, Willow, Al, and Clive in one fell swoop it would be nice to have a normal breakfast with Beatrix.
“You mean this isn’t some eerily accurate and real dream. This is…real?” She asked me all the while looking at me uncertain. It was like she was seeing me for the first time. Before I could bring myself to say anything she saw that the bathroom was open and quickly slipped in and locked the door.
“I find myself asking that same question Beatrix. I really do.” I found myself saying to the door feeling strangely empty.
I stared at the door for a moment longer before admitting defeat and made my way down to the Great Hall. The halls were much more crowded than they normally would ever be on a Monday morning after a Hogsmade weekend. Part of the reason I even get up so early besides enjoying the sunrise is the chance to have a few hours to myself, to sort out all of the confusing thoughts. Or at least pretend that I am accomplishing any sort of sorting when in reality I obsess over things I have no control over while at the same time entertaining delusional fantasies about having some type of normal experiences here before I graduate. It’s bad enough that I’ve spent most of my days feeling guilty about skipping Transfiguration, Charms, and Defense Against the Dark Arts while I barricade myself in the library trying to prove the impossible and hide the fact that I can’t do magic anymore. Lately I have been having these weird dreams involving magic that could only exist in a dream world in which I have woken myself up from speaking in tongues that I have honestly never heard before. And as if that weren’t enough, there is of course the daily torment I face that I call my social life and don’t even get me started on the whole family thing. The least I could ask for is a couple of hours where I can pretend that all of this insanity wasn’t going on. This isn’t what I wanted when I said that I would let everyone see me for who I really am and I have gone further from figuring out what it means being Grace. The only thing that I was right about was that this year has been different.
“Hey stranger,” I heard a sly voice in my ear. I nearly fell over in shock considering I never realized that I stopped walking. I immediately knew it was Clive, one of the four people that I was hoping to avoid before going to my doom otherwise known as Defense Against the Dark Arts with Professor Harry Potter. However, after how the morning with Beatrix went, I couldn’t bring myself to be snarky or clever. It seemed no one liked it when I was acting like that.
“You’re right. You are a stranger. You look vaguely familiar but I can’t quite remember. For some reason I’m connecting your face with heavy doors. What’s your name?” I asked playfully trying my best to act natural and not the neurotic mess that I actually am. He rolled his eyes at me but then began to grin. It was a nice grin, something warm and could let me temporarily forget that I was a terrible human being that will become karmas victim in the immediate future.
“Clive. And notice how there are no doors around for me to bash your head in with this time. Now I believe I need your name for this to be fair and all.” He cheekily responded to me. I couldn’t help but let a small smile escape as I fell into pace with him as we made our way to the Great Hall.
“Well I’m Grace. However you can call me Illyria, Queen of the Smurfs.” I honestly don’t know what made me throw in that last bit but Clive apparently found it funny and began laughing.
“I knew you died part of your hair blue, but I wasn’t aware that you were thinking of making it an all over treatment. And Illyria? That’s quite the exotic name. Where in the world did you run across that one?” He asked me interested. As soon as my brain heard him say that name my mind flashed to nightmarish images of destruction, armies of demons, and powers that were too fantastic to ever exist. Quickly shaking my head and pushing the images out of my head I quickly tried to cover myself in case the terror that was pumping like ice through my body was showing on my face.
“You’ll probably think I’m crazy, but the name Illyria is something that came from a dream I had one night.” I quickly told him hoping to Merlin he would drop it being satisfied.
“Are you all right Grace? You’re pale and look like you just remembered something extremely unpleasant.” He asked looking worried.
“Umm…it’s nothing. Really. I just didn’t sleep well last night,” or for the past two weeks I thought to myself, “plus I had a fight with Beatrix this morning. Not exactly the way to start out the morning.” And neither is waking up speaking in tongues you never heard of at half past three in the morning, but who’s being technical here? The irksome voice in the back of my head supplemented for my own sick amusement.
“All you need is some breakfast. Come on, let’s grab a bite to eat then I can walk you to class.” Clive offered casually while opening the door for the Great Hall taking special care to keep me a safe distance away considering my track record.
“You don’t have to walk me to class you know. But I can’t pass up on breakfast. If I don’t have my coffee I’ll be a zombie. Trust me; it’s not a pretty sight.” We quickly managed to squeeze in somewhere in the middle of the breakfast madness. The owl that brings me the Daily Prophet was waiting for me to slip a Knut into his coin purse which I dutifully did while pouring filling a fug with piping hot coffee settling in my usual role.
“As long as you don’t try eating my brains I think I could be comfortable with zombie status. You know caffeine is extremely unhealthy.” He pointed out to me pulling out his own reading source and settling into his own routine.
“No it’s not. It just becomes a problem when you become addicted to it.” I countered while relishing the rich texture and the sudden energy rush. I quickly loaded my plate with a sampling of scrambled eggs, toast, and a banana.
“Mhmm…and you’re about ready to start your second mug aren’t you?” He asked while never truly taking his eyes out of his book.
“I could easily drink a pot of coffee for breakfast and call it a day you know.” I offered up casually before an article about the death of a high political figure caught my eye and I began skimming through it, taking in the words but not really bothering to process the information at this point.
“It would explain how you do the crosswords so fast.” He joked. After that we fell into a comfortable silence following our own morning rituals. It was strangely nice, not being interrupted while I read the paper front to back, slowly working my way through the food on my plate and drinking far more coffee than I should. For his part, Clive was absorbed in his reading and only absent mindedly eating the bit of buttered toast he had on his plate.
“How can you focus on reading in here?” Lily squeezed her way in by my side and before I could do anything she snatched my paper away from me.
“Umm…Lily, not that I don’t like your company, but what are you doing here?” I asked rather nervously. I’ve come to realize that when she’s around something is bound to happen.
“What? Can’t I visit my friend who lives in Ravenclaw?” She asked feigning offense.
“Willow isn’t here yet.” I commented dryly finishing the last bit of my breakfast before it became too cold.
“She isn’t my only friend who lives in Ravenclaw you know.” She told me giving me a reassuring smile. I quickly scanned the Gryffindor table and saw the apparent problem
“Ok, but why does your brother look extremely peeved and why is his friend Jack trying his best to avoid making eye contact with him, and for that matter anything else.” I pointed out objectively as I could from my limited investigation.
“Well if you must know, I’m hiding from Al and from Jack.” She told me rather sheepishly.
“Déjà vu.” I commented to no one in particular. It seemed like I was in a time loop and was back on the train when I first met Lily, Willow, and Al.
“Look, I need you to provide me with an unobtrusive escape. Please?” Remembering what happened the last time I froze in the moment and the fact that their father happens to be here in a professional role, I knew I had to get her out of here as soon as possible. It would be humiliating enough for both parties, especially since it is his first day teaching here and since I did kind of bail before properly introducing myself, the least I could do was prevent some sort of scene.
“Go. I’ll cover for you in case Al decides to make his way over. I guess we can have that walk some other time Grace.” Clive pulled away from his book and gave me a quick nod telling me the coast is clear.
“Yeah. That would be nice. I’ll see you later Clive.” I got out before I grabbed Lily by the arm and quickly escaped the Great Hall.
“Oh la la…Grace Adler. I can hardly believe you! I want details.” Lily gushed when were a safe distance. The watch I did own died a long time ago and I never bothered repairing it, but I figured we had about forty-five minutes before I had to be in class.
“Missy, if anyone here needs details that would be me. Did you and Jack finally break up?” I asked trying not to sound too hopeful. Normally I don’t try to butt into other people’s romantic lives but Lily needs someone better than Jack. I mean, from her perspective it’s a match made in heaven. He’s older, on the Quidditch team, and is quite good looking, but from the bits I’ve heard through the years, all he does is use girls and dump them once they get bored. Lily deserved better than that. Heck, anyone deserves better than that.
“What makes you think we’re even dating?” She asked seriously.
“How about the fact that I saw you two leaving a broom cupboard together at ten thirty last night when I was leaving the library. You two had definitely had a good snog.” I stated dryly.
“Look, it’s complicated between us. He’s the one pressuring me to date and I keep telling him that I don’t want to date him. We kind of got into a heated argument last night and Al happened to be on patrol for prefect’s duties. You can connect the dots.” She grimaced at the memory but we continued walking until I got off on the second floor causing her to chase after me. “You should warn someone before you do that you know!”
“How’s Willow?” I asked trying to avoid explaining the Clive situation, if there even was one.
“Struggling. Hogsmade was really bad for her. I’m worried, and not in the way I say that about people who wear stripes and plaid at the same time.” She tried giving a light hearted chuckle that sounded more like an irritating cough. “I’ve never seen her like this. Never.”
“Do you think it has anything to do with her abilities?” I asked uncertainly.
“They certainly don’t help. I can’t imagine what she is going through. She really liked James…he always looked out for her and she did hang out with my family a lot. I mean, it’s not surprising that she fell for him and to have to learn that he is getting married to someone he is madly in love with that isn’t you…It’s bad enough knowing the facts, but she felt everything he felt for her and knew that he would never think about her that way and would never have those feelings for her. Her heart’s broken. That isn’t something you exactly bounce back from.” Lily seemed to age right before my eyes. Sometimes she is clearly a fifteen year old girl with a penchant for shopping but at times like this I’m glad that she isn’t completely superficial.
“Should I try talking to her? Or do you think she will try blasting me through a wall like last time?” All I wanted to do was help her. Or at least her know that I was here for her whenever she was ready.
“It wouldn’t hurt trying. I tried yesterday but she was too busy violently stabbing a voodoo doll, tearing it apart limb by limb to notice anything I was saying. Just don’t expect much. She’ll come around when she’s ready to.” She offered up somberly before walking away.
“You know, you don’t have to protect my sister from me.” Al sneaked up behind me, but I had finally adjusted to him doing this so he didn’t cause me to fall over in shock.
“I seem to recall a train ride not so long ago that would beg the contrary. That argument was bad enough to bare witness to, I didn’t want your father to have to bear witness to it in front of the entire Great Hall.” I snapped back. My wishes for a morning in which I could avoid the people that make my life complicated were quickly being dashed by running into person three out of four that I wanted to avoid before making a dunce of myself in Defense. Al let out a sigh of defeat and opened the door and I followed him, surprised to see two people already there.
“Hey Al, how did you break free from Adia?” A pale guy with blonde hair that I didn’t recognize shot Al a sarcastic grin until he got a good smack to the back of the head by Al who sat down by him.
“Morning to you too Scorp. Hey Rose, got any ideas of what today is going to be like?” He asked a girl with bushy red hair that had to be Rose Weasly, the girl that I allegedly have an ongoing feud with. In all honesty, I knew nothing about her. And if she was Rose Weasly, that meant that the pale blonde had to be Scorpius Malfoy, her boyfriend.
“Knowing Uncle Harry, he is probably going to divide the class into pairs and make us practice dueling today because that is a practical lesson and it’s something he can do in his sleep.” She stated matter of factly.
“Nice!” Al and Scorpius said simultaneously.
“Grace, wanna be partners if we end up dueling?” Al called across the room to where I had retreated. Suddenly I felt two more pairs of eyes dart to the back corner desk furthest away from the three of them.
“Just as long as you promise to not transfigure my hair I’m game.” I shot back without really thinking and retreated back into my paper. I lost track of time until I heard the door open and a couple more people rustled in and felt a couple more set of eyes looking at me very directly. Trying to ignore the uncomfortable stares, I continued reading until I couldn’t take it anymore and looked up and saw that half the class was staring at me. Looking around I quickly saw that Mr. Potter had an amused look on his face as I quickly folded up my newspaper and shoved it into my bag.
“Well now that all of us are here, let’s get started. Professor Milani has left detailed notes on what this class has covered and the topics she had planned to finish out the year with before your N.E.W.T.s. However, I currently have no clue on your abilities. In order to get a better idea, I will need you to divide into pairs and we will have mock duels. At this point I would hope you would know the damage a misplaced curse can do, so I am asking you to use your judgment. However, if I feel that I need to place more direct boundaries on what is allowed I will do so. With that said, partner up and begin. I will be making my way around the class observing.” Mr. Potter was surprisingly kind but direct and no one questioned his authority. I quickly found Al and hesitantly drew my wand out waiting for him to make a move.
“Al, you’re going to have to make the first move in this. I kind of have to wait until your dad is close. I’m not going to waste valuable energy. Just, hit me with some sort of minor spell that will do the trick.” I requested nervously. My eyes could never look directly at his, probably because I was too busy watching everyone else and trying to figure out where Mr. Potter was.
“Fine. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt at all. I promise. Alvas!” Quickly pointing his wand at me, I felt my limbs go heavy and I felt uncharacteristically tired considering the three mugs of coffee I had at breakfast. My eyelids grew heavy and soon the world became dark.
He must have used a Sleeping Hex. That’s good. There is no counter curse to it, so I’ll have at least ten minutes, if not twenty of being useless because of his clever choice. Note to self, when I get out of class I need to thank him.
“Or destroy him.” A dark voice beckoned, carrying with it an energy I never felt before. The darkness began to stir, blend, molt, and solidify. Slowly a woman emerged from the darkness, draped in robes of black darker than midnight. She was simultaneously ancient and youthful. Her body never aged, but her spirit was smothering me. The magic she carried radiated off her body, washing my body with its nightmares. Portals opened from every possible angle bringing forth every grotesque demon that ever plagued my deepest fears into the light. It was such a surreal sight that it couldn’t be real. If I wasn’t sleeping I would be too petrified to ever speak again. But being asleep protects me, I reminded myself. In the dreamscape I can’t be harmed physically.
“Why have you called me here?” The woman demanded. I could barely look at her. My lungs were being crushed by an iron weight, depriving me of breath. She casually waved her hand and the immense pressure that was crushing me evaporated instantly.
“I didn’t call you here. My friend put a Sleeping Hex on me. You appeared to me. I had no say in your being here.” I tried saying except it didn’t come out right. Those were the words I wanted to say yet a different language escaped my mouth.
“How is it that one as young as you has the power to summon me and speak the true language. Who are you?” The woman demanded of me.
“True language? Is there a name for it?” I asked.
“It is a name older, more ancient, and more powerful than even I could ever hope to be. I know not of the name.” Her imperial stature dominated everything in my being. She controlled my emotions, preventing me from screaming, from crying, from running away. She could walk amongst the dimensions and bend time and space to her will.
“What are you doing inside my head?” I implored.
“You invoked me when you created the Soul Shield.” Her imperial answer came before I finished asking.
“The Soul Shield? There is no such thing as a Soul Shield.” I told her. No book I had ever read ever mentioned something that arcane. If this spell even exits, it doesn’t exist inside Hogwarts so how could I create something I didn’t even know exists?
“You saved your friends from the Phantasm’s using it. The Soul Shield is the integration of your magics with the natural elements and the ether, harmonizing to the cycle of the universe. You thought that you lost your powers after you created the Soul Shield, I have been preventing your powers from returning to you.” She told me plainly.
“How can you prevent my powers from returning to me without knowing who I am?” I dared challenged. While her power was still smothering I found it easier to control my own thoughts.
“You truly are unskilled in the arts of Sorcery. This school wastes it’s time with petty witchcraft. Gibberish spells and minor potions. The users of magic have lost their way. Ever since we were banished from the Earth we have been forced to watch as our great craft became perverted and polluted. There are few with natural Sorcery inside of them. Those individuals all had the power for greatness, for restoring the order and the ways of old. I was a god of gods. Beings of all types worshiped me across dimensions. I was the imperial conqueror who vanquished all of my enemies. I am eternal. You cannot stop this.” For the first time, the darkness in her voice turned sinister and vengeful. She had been banished to this hellish existence for millennia.
“What if I refuse to use magic?” I boldly asked, feeling a rush of courage.
“It will be your own destruction. Magic not only flows within you, it flows in to you as well. If you had been alive for the age of glory, you would have been a goddess ruling your dominion with your Sorcery. This is your essence, your being. You cannot alter nature.” Her lips twisted into a grotesque smile so unnatural and perverse it made my skin crawl.
“This ends now. Zeita de întureric i alunge tine. Cu acest blestem vrăjitorie am eliberat.”
My eyes flew open and I felt life surging through my veins. Every cell in my body was electrified and filled with energy completely foreign to me, yet it felt harmonious and perfect. Once again I felt that unnerving feeling of being attune to something larger and greater than you could ever hope to be.
“Grace…What the hell just happened?” I turned towards Al and his normally confident and reassuring eyes were filled with fear. Then I realized that the classroom was unnaturally silent. Dragging my gaze away from him I saw desks overturned, shattered windows, the door was destroyed and half of the class was unconscious. Mr. Potter was tending to the minor injuries.
“I…don’t know what happened…” My voice cracked and I suddenly felt weak. The world once again became cloaked in darkness and I fell freely into it.
A/N: So once again I know it has been a long time since I last updated. I will admit that I did have a hard time writing this chapter for the longest time until the past 4 hours in which I found a crazy amount of inspiration and finally wrote something I found to be acceptable. Hopefully all of you reading this agree.
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