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Chapter 9 : Hard Thorns
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They had a plan, now all they needed were the tools.
“This looks promising,” Hugo said turning a book around to show Scorpius the page.
“What is it?”
“Some kind of detection spell...well, it’s more like a ritual to be honest but I think it might work. Apparently it will illuminate someone with a red aura if they’re an imposter,” he said. “It hasn’t got much of a range and it requires a lot of ingredients but it’s worth a shot.”
“This is some serious hoodoo; you think we can work that kind of mojo?” Scorpius asked.
Hugo was about to speak but halted when he and Scorpius saw an auror walk past the open door of the classroom. They had taken to patrolling the castle even since Professor Longbottom was attacked.
“Well, the spell isn’t the complicated part. It’s the ingredients that are the pain in the ass. Some of these things I’ve never even heard of,” Hugo admitted. “What the hell is a Lopitimus Gland?”
“Eeww...that comes from a Grindylow’s stomach,” Scorpius winced.
“Lovely...” Hugo moaned. “Gonna need half a pint of human blood and...what’s Willowmoss?”
“Wait...I know that one...it was on my potions exam last year...” Scorpius said squeezing his eyes together and wracking his brain for the info. He got there in the end. “It’s a sort of weed that grows around the graves of wizards and witches.”
“Oh, wonderful. I’m sure the teachers and aurors will be happy to apparate us to a graveyard!”
“We don’t need a graveyard, there’s some on the edge of the forest,” Scorpius said.
“The name Dumbledore ring any bells? That stuff’s all over his tomb!”
“Oh, right,” Hugo said, catching on. “Well, I think we can find all this other stuff in the potions stores.”
“Good, you get that stuff, I’ll get the Willowmoss,” Scorpius said standing up.
Hugo put the book down a stood up as well but he looked way more nervous than the Slytherin did.
“Hey, it’s okay,” Scorpius said. “Just stick to the plan.”
Hugo nodded his head. He was scared but he wasn’t going to back out now.
“I’ll meet you in the library in about ten minutes,” Scorpius said before shooting out of the room.
Classes had been suspended for the day in light of the attacks and students were confined to the castle but that wouldn’t be a problem for Scorpius. He had snuck out of the school on several occasions and now that he didn’t have an archangel glued to his hip, it would be easy to get past the aurors.
Greenhouse three was under heavy lockdown and the other greenhouses were being patrolled but only by one or two aurors. It wasn’t difficult for Scorpius to duck and cover behind the tables full of plants and slip out of one of the windows in greenhouse one.
In only a few short minutes, he was running across the grounds towards the large white tomb of Albus Dumbledore. As soon as he reached it, he spotted the Willowmoss growing up the sides of the base. He quickly started pulling some of the small green weeds from the ground and stuffing them into his pockets. He wasn’t sure how much he needed so he grabbed as much as he could.
“Gotcha’ now you evil hippy!” he chuckled to himself.
“Oh, you’ve heard of me?”
Scorpius instantly spun around with his wand ready but it was slapped out of his hand. Vines shot from the ground like giant snakes and wrapped themselves around his wrists and ankles before hoisting him into the air.
He looked down to see who had spoken.
It was that damned auror! The one with the horrible flower earrings. Typical for an ancient monster to have terrible fashion taste. She was standing there in the open with her hands behind her back and an excited look on her face. She grinned at him before taking off her ridiculous goggle glasses and discarding them.
“You’re the Dryad?!” he growled, trying to pull at his bonds but they were too strong.
“Guilty,” she smiled. “Usually I hate taking human form but I didn’t have much of a choice this time.”
“And where’s the real auror you’re impersonating?” he asked catching on.
“Fertilizing the forest,” she giggled. “So, you’re the so called ‘messiah’?”
“What makes you say that?” he asked still struggling against the vines.
“Being me has its advantages. I can keep me ear far closer to the grapevine than most.”
“Oh...Well, then I guess yeah, it’s me.”
“I’m not impressed,” she snorted.
“That’s because you haven’t seen me naked,” he spat. “I’m not impressed with your aim by the way...Hagrid and Neville probably would have been your biggest fans if you hadn’t sick’ed your rabid daisies on them!”
“Hardly. They butchered nature. That Professor poached seeds and plants from the earth and that half-giant moron didn’t hesitate in destroying the trees!” she hissed in anger. “At least most of your wretched kind can claim ignorance. They should have known better!”
“Well then, you write to the EPA! You don’t start murdering people!” Scorpius shouted back.
“Why not?” she asked without a care. “These days, humans have such an inflated sense of their own self importance. In the old days, humans used to willingly sacrifice themselves just in the hopes of appeasing me,” she started to pace from side to side getting angrier and angrier as the memories flooded back. “They worshipped me. They would see me walking through the forest and they would AVERT THEIR EYES! I WAS LOVED AND RESPECTED!”
Goosebumps shot across Scorpius’s body as he saw her rage. He had stopped struggling and was too afraid to try.
“Then that stupid carpenter came along and got himself nailed to a cross and suddenly all anybody wants to hear about is Jesus, angels, God, God, God!” she spat bitterly. “That’s why we all went to sleep. We hoped that when we woke again, this fade would have passed but no...It’s worse than ever before and now their back, sticking their wings into this world all over again!”
“So that’s it, that’s why you’re pissed?! Because Heaven stole your groupies?!” Scorpius laughed without humour. He had fallen into his safety mechanism of being sarcastic and defiant despite the fact that he was terrified. “Well, stage a protest or somethin’ Honey, don’t take it out on my school!”
“This is a protest!”
“So what’s your plan? Smother everyone to death with rose petals then dance your way back to Ferngully singin’ Age of Aquarius?!” he scathed.
A chill when thought Scorpius’s stomach as the Dryad started to laugh.
“Silly goose...that stupid half-giant and your professor...that was just me blowin’ off a little steam,” she smiled wickedly. “I didn’t come here to kill them...I came to kill you.”
“And what makes me so special?”
“Duh, you’re the messiah!”
“Doesn’t that mean you’ll be pissing off some people that are way above your pay grade?” he said trying to keep the desperation from his voice.
“I don’t see any angels around at the moment...” she shrugged. “Looks like I’ve got u all to myself.”
“I’m flattered but I’ve kinda got my eye on another girl at the moment...besides, if I am the messiah, I don’t think God will be very happy if you kill me!”
Again she laughed but this time is was more than just arrogant humour. She was laughing at God.
“Oh...of course...they didn’t tell you...”
“Tell me what?”
“God’s long gone Scorpius...and he’s not coming back,” she gloated.
The words washed over him like a bucket of ice water causing all of his limbs to go tense.
“Am I? Why do you think Lucifer is rising now?” she asked, finding his naivety amusing. “It’s because he knows his daddy’s not around to stop him anymore! Why do you think the angels are so desperate to protect you? Because you’re all they’ve got left! Their panicking! Without the old man, they’re lost!”
“No...He wouldn’t just leave...” Scorpius mumbled, unable to accept it.
“Wouldn’t he? Have you taken a look at the human race lately? Yours is the species he professed to love above all others and what have you done? You kill each other for no reason, you poison the planet and you carry out unspeakable crimes, all in his name! He had such high hopes for you and you have given him nothing but disappointment. He’s had enough...he’s given up on you, on this world, on this universe! And I can’t say that I blame him!”
She had to be lying. There couldn’t be angels and Heaven without God...could there?
“I can’t imagine what it must have been like for him...watching the things he loved the most tear each other to shreds...” she said with false sympathy. She was just trying to make Scorpius feel even more alone than he already did.
Far away in the distance, what looked like a blue firework shot into the sky.
He stayed silent for a while, just dangling there like a worm on a hook before he finally lifted his head and looked at her.
There was pain in his eyes but there was also something else. Something more confident than courage and more controlled than anger.
He was grinning.
“I bet there’s something else you can’t imagine...”
“And what’s that?” she asked.
“I’ve been on to you from the jump you stupid bitch!” his grin turned into a devious smile. “I’m the bait you idiot! I’ve just been keeping you busy while my friend Hugo has been dousing your sacred tree in petrol!”
The triumphant look on her face vanished and was replaced by fear.
“Am I? Because the blue sparks he just sent up was the signal that he’d found it!” he barked. “It wasn’t difficult. We found a book all about your kind in the library; it told us just what to look for...a big Oak that never loses its leaves even in the autumn which happens to be right now! Then we set up that little meeting in the empty classroom because we knew you were listening! You gave yourself away the moment you freaked out when you first saw Cassandra and how you were protective over even the dead plants in the greenhouse. Not to mention that you are wearing the worst earrings in the history of creation!”
“You little maggot!” she screamed.
“He just sent up his signal, which means I got about two minutes to send up red sparks from my wand or Hugo’s gonna deep-fry himself a sacred Oak!”
The Dryad looked around quickly and spotted his wand lying on the ground. She walked over and snatched it up then shoved it into his hand.
“Do it, or I’ll rip you apart!” she ordered. Obviously Dryads couldn’t use wands.
“You said you were gonna kill me anyway so I’m really not feeling very generous,” he smirked.
“DO IT NOW!” she screamed and the vines wrapped around Scorpius’s arms and legs started to pull apart, stretching him as if he were on some kind of organic rack. Pain ripped though his body as he felt his muscles being pulled beyond their capacity.
“Stop! I’ll do it!” he yelled.
The vines loosened slightly but didn’t let him go. He aimed his wand upwards and a blast of red sparks shot from the tip into the sky where they exploded in a ball of light.
The Dryad looked around to make sure no one was there. For a second everything was silent and Scorpius hung there, breathing heavily.
“AHHHHH!” suddenly the Dryad fell to her knees screaming in agony. The vines around Scorpius’s arms and legs released him and shot back into the ground.
After a moment she simply crouched against the grass, looking like she had just watched her own child be murdered in front of her eyes. In the distance, a small orange glow emanated from the forest. Hugo had torched her tree.
“Oh, sorry...my mistake...” Scorpius said casually getting to his feet. “I was supposed to send up red sparks to single him to burn the tree...whoops...my bad.”
The Dryad was too stunned to do anything. She simply stayed on her knees, her fingers digging into the earth as if she were hoping that there was still some kind of connection there.
“Ahh, look on the bright side,” he said taking aim at her head with his wand. “At least we’re all doing our best to cut carbon emissions.”
Just as he was about to silently command the spell to leave his wand; she burst alive, knocking away his weapon and slamming a fist into his face. The punch was so hard that it sent him flying backwards seeing stars.
He had barely gotten to one knee by the time she latched hold of his throat and hit him in the face again. It was like being struck by a sledge hammer.
“I got three-thousand years under my belt boy! You may have torched my tree but I still got more than enough juice to break you into little pieces!” she roared and hit him again.
Scorpius felt some of his teeth get knocked out and fly from his mouth as he reeled from the strike. He tasted blood dripping down his throat. She kept hold of his neck and refused to allow him to fall backwards.
“Stinking, putrid, talking apes! That’s all you are!” she smacked him again almost causing his eyes to roll into the back of his head. “Just because you have some celestials on your side, you think you can do whatever you want?!” she hit him again and he felt his nose break. “I won’t let you destroy this world!”
The pain didn’t vanish but her worlds certainly managed to push it aside for a second. She saw the look of shocked confusion on his face.
“Oh, they didn’t tell you that either...of course not, why would they?”
Scorpius tried to speak but he was pretty sure that his jaw was dislocated.
“Why do you think I came here? Why do you think I targeted you? Why do you think you’re the one that will stop him? The one that begins it is the only one that can end it!” she hit him again and Scorpius heard the awful crunch as the bones in his cheek were crushed. “You are the one that will raise Lucifer!”
The words hit him harder than any punch she could throw. It was impossible! He could never do that.
“I kill you and maybe Lucifer never arrives!” she growled and bawled up her fist again.
Suddenly, white glowing feathers burst through her chest and her eyes went wide as shock overtook pain. Cassandra appeared over her shoulder and moved close to speak into her ear.
“Maybe, maybe not. But you won’t be here to see it!”
A great wave of energy exploded from her wing and the Dryad was incinerated in an instant. Not even ash remained as she was burned on an atomic level.
Scorpius fell to the ground, bloodied and beaten. The Dryads last words repeated over and over again as his eyes faded to black.
As Scorpius regained consciences he could only open one eye. The other was so swollen that it wouldn’t budge. His limbs were so heavy and his whole body felt numb and drained. He was able to lick his dry lips which meant they had obviously been able to heal some of his wounds but he could feel that his face was still seriously messed up. He’d probably never fully recover from that beating.
He managed to figure out that he was inside the hospital wing of Hogwarts, lying in one of the beds. The room was very quiet.
He turned his head slowly and his good eye catch sight of a man sitting in front of him. Even with his blurred vision he could tell that this was the type of guy that women would scream and start crying over like they used to at Beatles performances. He was sickeningly handsome, with a distinctive jaw, ocean coloured eyes and perfect blond hair.
And he had wings...
“How are you feeling?” the male angel asked.
“I got my ass handed to me by a demonic tree hugger, how do you think I’m feeling?” he spat back groggily, barely able to move his jaw.
Even though the Dryad’s sacred tree was destroyed, she had obviously still been able to infect him with her power, otherwise the angels would have simply healed him already.
“You’re right; I’m sorry, stupid question. If it’s any conciliation, I think you did a pretty damn good job with the Dryad,” he smiled a perfect smile.
Scorpius’ face painfully scrunched up in confusion.
“I mean, it was smart. Distracting her so that Hugo could find the tree. Very method,” he smirked.
“I know...it’s just a little weird to see an angel with a personality...” Scorpius said without any shame.
The male angel laughed. “You’ll have to excuse my little sister. I’m a lot older and have had a lot more experience with humans. Let’s just say...Cassandra is still finding her sea legs when it comes to social interaction. Still, we’re all hopeful that one day she’ll have that stick removed from her ass,” he grinned and looked to his left.
Scorpius saw Cassandra standing in the corner looking more beautiful than ever before but wearing shame all over her face.
“My name is Gideon, Cassandra tells me that you wanted to talk to me,” he said.
“You’re Cass’s boss?”
“I’m the leader of our garrison, yes,” he nodded.
“Okay, why don’t you start by telling me where God is,” Scorpius said pulling no punches. What the Dryad had told him was still burned into his brain and it wasn’t going away.
Gideon looked away with sadness on his face. “We don’t know...” he finally said.
“You don’t know?”
“We have searched under every stone in creation for our father but if he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be...we don’t know why he left...maybe it’s a test.”
“A test?! Well, he picked a hell of a time to conduct a drill!” Scorpius raised his voice but it hurt to do so and he started coughing.
“We don’t pretend to understand his methods, but we have faith. He will return,” Gideon said. There was a lot of belief in his voice.
“Okay...now for the big question -”
“Scorpius,” Gideon tried but he wasn’t backing down.
“Is it true? Am I the one that raised Lucifer?” his body shuddered at the thought and fear gripped his stomach as he spoke. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to know the answer. “Am I the one that’s gonna start all this?”
“We don’t know...” Gideon said, looking him in the eye.
“Lucifer worked very hard to make sure that the details of his rise were never fully known, by either side,” the angel said. “We simply don’t have all the answers.”
“Then give me the answers you’ve got!”
Gideon looked over at Cassandra. It was well hidden but Scorpius could see in her eyes, she was willing him not to say anything. Gideon sighed then turned to Scorpius. “There is evidence to suggest that you were present at his arrival...”
Scorpius felt like he was going to throw up. It couldn’t be true. How could he be the one? He’d never hand deliver the world to the Devil. It had to be a lie!
“Even if it was you, Scorpius, we know you’d never intentionally do something like that!” Gideon pleaded. “If it was you, then you were tricked or forced against your will. And it doesn’t matter how it begins, what matters is how it ends and that we are sure of. You will defeat him!”
What if it was him? What if Scorpius truly was the reason that Lucifer was able to get to this planet in the first place. Two people were already dead, three billion would follow. Was it his fault?
He used all the strength he could muster to turn himself over. He couldn’t look at the angels anymore.
“You should have let her kill me...”
“No!” Cassandra suddenly snapped.
“Scorpius, if we knew, without a shadow of a doubt that you were the one that summoned Lucifer to this world, don’t you think we would have killed you by now?” Gideon said without mercy. “If what that Dryad said was true, only Voldemort’s father would have been able to stop him. Since he was, in essence the person that set Tom Riddle on his path of evil. If he had been there for him, things would have been different.”
“And if your father were here, things would be different...if my father were...absent fathers...that’s what it all comes down to, isn’t it?” Scorpius mumbled as tears began to fall from his eyes.
He couldn’t shake the horrible facts that they had confirmed. It was him.
“Scorpius, you are chosen. You are the only one that can stop him,” Gideon said with force.
“Then you guys are screwed...I can’t...I’m not strong enough...”
“Yes, you are!” Cassandra said. There was almost a plead in her voice.
“Get someone else...I can’t do it...”
Cassandra’s voice disappeared from his mind and he began to fall into the darkness of his own imagination that played out endless images of destruction and death. He buried his face into the pillow and wept.
He wanted to die.
He was responsible for the end of the world...even Hell was too good for him.
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