Welcome to my first attempt at mystery (and, er, vagueness). And of course I threw in some humor too. I couldn't help it. Recipe for disaster? Probably, but one can hope not.
Proceed with caution. You have been warned. (Cue ominous music.)
Disclaimer: If I were JKR then who would be me? (See, this is about as mysterious as I get.)
The chapter image is by the lovely Risa (spectrum @ TDA).
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The tranquil silence in the Ministry of Magic is disturbed by a soft, rumbling sound.
It does not come from the belly of the snoring guard in the Atrium, who has in fact eaten a very hearty dinner, much to the dismay of his wife, who is constantly persuading him to start a diet. It doesn’t come from the engine of a passing Muggle car, driven by annoyed cabbie delivering two charming young men, who are currently puking onto their fancy black shoes, back home from the night of their lives.
Instead, it comes from deep in the heart of the Department of Mysteries, where a fountain sits. It has been there for many years—and elsewhere, even longer. A mist shrouds the fountain; in the dark, it looks eerie and ethereal. Its waters sparkle in the impending darkness, churning restlessly. Each current is a frustrated, angry cry of the voice within. No one has dared approach it for a while, not after what happened that last time. The foolish humans had tried to control it—never again. Only the orders of its keeper should be carried out. It is almost time to wake up from its stupor.
It sits impatiently, waiting for its next victim.
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Harry backed up against the wall of the dark circular room, wand in hand. All around him light flashed as Death Eaters and Order members dueled in the Department of Mysteries. Lucius Malfoy continued to approach, a look of utter triumph on his face.
“Well, well, well,” he sneered. “If it isn’t the almighty Harry Potter.” He spat out every syllable of Harry’s name as if they might have contaminated his tongue had they stayed there any longer. “I’ve got you cornered.”
“Technically you can’t corner anyone in a round room, Malfoy,” Harry retorted. “But then again, you’re probably not smart enough to understand that, seeing as you joined the losing side and all. I guess being a Pureblood doesn't ensure brains. You don't even have half of Hermione's intelligence.” Teasing a Malfoy never resulted in any good, as Harry had learned back in first year, but he had just witnessed his godfather’s death, so what did he care? It’s not like anything worse could happen. Later, he would look back and realize he had been dreadfully wrong.
“You—!” Malfoy’s face had turned a shade of purple not far off from that of an aubergine, but he seemed to calm down. He smiled in a menacing way. “Hand over the prophecy!” he growled. “Or we’ll see how well you hold up under the Cruciatus Curse.”
“Never!” Harry cried defiantly. His request was impossible, anyway—the prophecy had been smashed to pieces when it fell out of Neville’s pocket—but telling Lucius this would just give him an unnecessary advantage. He just needed to stall for time so he could find a way to help his friends… Swiftly, Harry turned the knob of the door behind him and stepped back into one of the many rooms of the Department of Mysteries. He noticed this one had an odd sort of fountain in it that seemed to be pulsating and glowing in an odd way. The sudden movement caught Malfoy off guard, and Harry used the split-second of confusion to his advantage.
“Expelliaramus!” he shouted, sending Malfoy’s wand sailing out of his hand, but not before Malfoy had incanted a spell of his own.
“Why you little…”
But Harry never heard the rest of the sentence, because the impact of Malfoy’s spell had knocked him backwards into the fountain, and he began to fall...
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Harry fell downward slowly in a gradual sort of free fall, a sensation that reminded him eerily of how Alice must have felt falling down the rabbit hole from one of Dudley’s old discarded storybooks. Any second now and the Mad Hatter would pop up and invite him for tea. He wished it would stop—he was starting to feel a bit nauseous.
Suddenly he stopped abruptly in mid-air and floated down, finding himself in the same room as before. He was standing next to the fountain, and it might have been exactly the same scene had Malfoy been there. Yet the room looked different somehow… newer maybe. The fountain gleamed as if recently polished, and the floor didn’t have its battle scars of searing scuff marks, dust, and broken items. Well, he wasn’t going to question his stroke of luck—at least Malfoy was gone.
Now that he was back on his feet, he realized how parched he was from the yelling earlier and wished he had something to drink. His hand started shimmering, and a glass of pumpkin juice appeared. He stared at it in awe before downing its sweet contents in one gulp.
Huh. Maybe he was dead, and this was heaven. He had always imagined heaven to be different, but maybe it just automatically transported you to the last place you visited when you were alive. He wondered where his parents were; surely they would be here, in heaven. And Sirius! He would be able to see Sirius again!
No sooner did he think this that he felt a whirlwind around his feet. Everything became a blur and he felt like he was rising, pulled by an invisible force that grasped him by the ankle. The wind carried him out of the fountain room and past the round room that he had been dueling Malfoy in. He soon found himself being lifted in a jerking motion over the Atrium, almost bumping into a man dressed entirely in white, causing him to spill all his papers. Harry apologized and the man nodded, not finding it strange at all that a floating boy dangling upside-down had just talked to him. Maybe it wasn’t a rare occurrence when you worked at the Ministry, or heaven, or whatever this place was. Harry was about to ask why the man kept mumbling about being late, but the wind had suddenly picked up speed, carrying him up through the red telephone booth and out onto Muggle London.
Harry was relieved to find that the wind was much smoother now, for he was soaring over the Ministry of Magic and random Muggle towns at an alarming speed. He guessed that it must be like some kind of slow-motion Apparating. The ride seemed less turbulent than riding a Thestral, but he would have preferred his Firebolt any day. Well, at least this was much quicker. Maybe this was how Ron and Hermione had felt earlier that day, since they couldn't see their thestrals. That was a quality he had that he didn't wish on anybody. How grim was it, anyway, to be able to see a creature only because you've witnessed a death? Hopefully they wouldn't be able to see one anytime soon. Nobody deserved to die in this war.
Harry closed his eyes for a bit, and soon found himself tumbling headfirst onto soft grass, having been released by the Mysterious Wind. Looming up at him was the familiar outline of the castle he loved so much—Hogwarts, his home. Harry couldn’t contain his excitement at being back. Maybe he had dreamed up all of that! Maybe Sirius never died, maybe he never died! Harry felt solaced, as if a huge burden had been lifted off his back—until an abandoned Daily Prophet blowing past caught his eye.
But it wasn’t the headline that captured his interest (“More Deaths Caused by You-Know-Who: Rita Skeeter Reports live at the most recent crime scene”)—that was a pretty typical manifestation nowadays. No, it was the date that Harry found odd.
October 31, 1976.
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Nikkus sat back and grinned, his eyes changing from a neutral gray to an elated yellow as his mood lifted. Everything was going according to plan, and that ignorant Potter boy had fallen precisely into his carefully-etched trap. That should show him for daring to destroy his most prized creations, the wonderful gift he had given their kind so long ago. So ungrateful, these mortals. Taking everything for granted. Not anymore, if he could help it. He was going to teach their kind a lesson…
Suddenly, he could sense another presence in the room—someone had slipped in without his notice. He narrowed his eyes and turned around, only to be pleasantly surprised. Nevertheless, his guard was still up; he had learned at an early age that no one was to be completely trusted. “Ah, Dione, my dearest twin,” he greeted the newcomer. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”
Dione rolled her eyes and gracefully made her way over, the silver bells weaved through her gossamer hair twinkling softly, as she hadn’t bothered to silence them this time. The two siblings embraced, and she kissed him on the cheek. She stepped back and studied him, her irises, like his, changing color as she spoke. “Father isn’t pleased that you’ve decided to meddle into a mortal’s business.”
Nikkus waved his hand, as if shooing off their father’s disappointment, unconcerned. “There are a great many things that vex Father. Dwelling on them would take an eternity.” He looked thoughtful. “I’d rather spend my eternity doing other things.”
Dione clucked her tongue, but even this was done in an elegant, ladylike manner. “I don’t see why you bother with Aurora; she doesn’t give you the time of day.” She smirked. “This may, of course, have to do with the fact that we wouldn’t need it. No matter.” She turned back to the situation at hand. “Why are you doing this, Nikkus? Father isn’t someone to be reckoned with. He might take your post as keeper of the fountain, and give it to someone more qualified—and dignified.” She clearly meant herself.
Nikkus frowned—he had been certain that she liked her position as guardian of the gates—it was, after all, more highly sought out than his—but perhaps she, like him, excelled at acting and hiding her true feelings. Still trying to appear nonchalant, he eyed her warily. “He can’t. Fortuna assigned me this position herself. Even he, with all his power, can’t change that.”
“Fortuna,” Dione’s nose wrinkled slightly, “is no longer with us. Faded away from lack of worship, or haven’t you heard?” Nikkus gave a barely audible gasp that he struggled to disguise as a cough. Fortuna had been his confidante, one of the people he truly trusted. No one told him anything these days. Dione carried on, ignoring the blip in his calm demeanor, but he can tell from the mischievous glint in her eyes that she had noticed. “Even goddesses can fall, Nikkus. Don’t think you’re so invincible.” He didn’t respond, knowing full well that his carefree façade would get on her nerves. “You never answered my question,” she snapped.
“Why am I doing this, dear sweet Dione?” he shrugged. “An eternity waiting can get a bit boring. I want a bit of fun. Some entertainment.” It was, of course, not the whole truth. Seeing as his answer didn’t satisfy her, he added under his breath, “And revenge.” That wasn’t even the half of it, either, but it would have to do.
Dione still didn’t fully believe him. “Because the mortal destroyed your ‘wonderful gift to those wizardkind’?” she taunted. She was mockingly quoting him from the speech he had given to their father in order to get approval of his idea, all those years ago; her memory was remarkable.
“Not just that,” Nikkus protested. “I have… an idea.”
“Would you like to elaborate?”
He mumbled something unintelligibly.
Taking his lack of response as a confirmation to her victory, she continued. “Father wasn’t exactly jubilant when you decided to share our family talent with those magical mortals. He has never fully forgiven you. Perhaps that mortal had done you a favor.” Nikkus was staring moodily off into the distance, his eyes now a deep indigo. “Honestly, Nikkus, for someone who’s lived forever, you can be so childish.” With a swish of her robes, she was gone.