Chapter 24 : Chapter 24
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I hit the water hard. Really, really hard. That’s generally what happens after you’ve fallen fifty feet. At least I didn’t hit a rock. That would have killed me. Now all I had worry about was drowning which was a very real possibility because I sunk several feet down into the ice cold water when I fell. I must have twisted around while sinking because my equilibrium was completely out of whack and I couldn’t seem to find the surface. It wasn’t up like my mind reasoned it should be. Some instinct inside of me was telling me to go down. It was too dark to see anything, not even the sunlight that should have been there. I was quickly loosing air. I needed to find the surface.
It should not have been this hard. Up was air, that’s just how the world worked but there was no surface where I knew should have been up. With very little air I started swimming down. Yes, I realize that technically swimming to the surface meant I was going up but my mind was screaming at me that this was down and I was going to drown if I kept being so stupid. If ever there was a time for my mind to be wrong, I sure hoped it was now.
I’d never taken swimming lessons, the most experience I had was swimming in the pond at Malfoy Manor. My progress was very slow and the darkness wasn’t helping matters. Out of air, I was forced to open my mouth and began gagging on water. I frantically kept going, desperately needing air.
Suddenly my head broke the surface and I began gasping for air as I choked on the water still in my lungs. After a minute I was sure I wasn’t going to drown and the coughing subsided. This was when I actually started to notice my surroundings.
I was not at the rock islands on a sunny day. This was a dark cavern of sorts. The only source of light was a deep red glow off in the distance. I tried to squint in that direction but couldn’t make anything out.
Something bumped into my arm and I mindlessly reached out to push it away only to be startled by how it felt. I turned quickly towards it and found a human body floating beside me. I let out a yelp and tired to push myself away, ending up back beneath the water for a moment. I managed to back away from the body only to bump into something else – another body. I jerked away from that too as I started scanning the water around me.
Floating in the water all around me were bodies, they were in every direction. I was in a pit of death. My hands started shaking and terror set in. I should have stayed on the first rock. I should have stayed there to die, that would have been better than this. Anything would have been better than this. Drowning would have been better than seeing these bodies.
Snap out of it!
Was this really how I was going to die? Wallowing in fear, waiting for my strength to give out and then just drown?
Not like this. I couldn’t give up. I had to get back. I needed to get back.
You can do this. Pull it together.
The best plan I had was to head for the light so that’s what I was going to do. I tried extremely hard to ignore the floating corpses. I pointedly made sure I didn’t look at their faces. I just focused on the red light. That was all that mattered. I had to get to the red light.
After twenty minutes my foot struck something. I pulled it back promptly. It was too dark to see what was under the water though. Cautiously I moved my foot closer again. Whatever it was felt firm, certainly not a body. I felt around some more, it seemed like ground actually. I waded back a foot and took a deep breath before sinking. This was definitely ground. It was sloping upwards as I got closer to the light. After a few more minutes I was walking in chin deep water instead of swimming.
Unfortunately the ground wasn’t the only change. Bodies were becoming more and more frequent. It was impossible for me to avoid them. From what I could see ahead, it didn’t get any better.
Focus on the light.
For another hour I traveled. My skin was looking like a prune from being in the water this long and by now there were so many bodies that I couldn’t ignore their faces. They were all people I’d seen in my life. I might not have known their names but I remembered their faces. A few were even Hogwarts students.
It dawned on me that this couldn’t be real. Well I supposed it should have occurred to me before. You didn’t fall into the ocean on a bright sunny day and resurface in a body strewn cavern, not even in the magical world. Telling myself that it wasn’t real helped but only a bit.
Finally in the distance I could make out a raised platform. There was something on it, something that was supporting whatever the light was coming from. I would have liked to move faster but I felt so exhausted, not to mention how thick the surface was with bodies. I kept having to nudge them aside so that I could make it through. At least the water was only waist high now.
That’s when I saw something familiar. It had just been a glimpse out of the corner of my eye yet I was sure I’d just seen red hair. I moved closer and found Charlie Weasley. I had probably spotted him out of everyone else because he was built so much like Fred. Right now his skin was white and his eyes lifeless.
How many people were down here? Did I know all of them? Was Fred here? Was Draco? Who would be waiting for me near the platform? I was too terrified to move my eyes, fearful of who I would see next.
It’s not real.
It wasn’t real. It didn’t matter who I saw. It was not real. I was going to get back. I was going to escape this place. I turned back towards the red light. I’m not giving up.
I pushed forward, stumbling a few times but now I was only thirty feet from the platform that had a four foot high pillar which was supporting a stone bowl. Whatever was inside of the bowl was casting off the red light. I focused only on getting there. The bodies didn’t matter. They weren’t real.
Only two feet from my goal, my foot struck something hard. I tripped and fell, my knees making contact first. I let out a few curse words thinking it figured that the bloody platform would be made out of rock. Wincing, I shifted my weight. Blonde hair caught my attention and my heart stopped.
Pain forgotten, I crawled over to him and immediately pulled his body out of the water. His skin was so pale and his eyes were closed. I started crying as I pushed his hair off of his face. Holding Draco’s lifeless body was the worst feeling imaginable. And this wasn’t the first time I had experienced it. It was something I constantly had nightmares about, even after all these years. That heart breaking feeling was coming back and I was as useless as ever.
My eyes fell over a few other bodies, not registering who they were until I landed on Fred. I let out a sob as I pulled him out too, bringing him next to Draco. It was my fault. It was always my fault. This was all because of me. Everything I touched was shattered. Everyone who cared about me was destroyed. What had I ever done that I hadn’t screwed up? Nothing. I was poison, ruining everything that came in contact with me. I didn’t deserve to go back. They would be better off without me. This is where I belonged.
I don’t know how long I stayed there, sobbing over Draco and Fred’s bodies. It could have been minutes, maybe hours. Eventually a cutting remark shot through my mind.
Stop pitying yourself and get up.
I looked up, half expecting to find Snape. It had sounded just like him. I glanced around but I already knew he wasn’t here, no one was here. My eyes fell on the bowl with the red light.
I didn’t want to leave Draco and Fred.
It’s not real!
I forced myself up. I was this close. I couldn’t give up now. The real Draco and Fred were at home. That’s where I needed to be.
I shuffled over to the bowl. Somehow this had to be the way out.
The red glow was coming from the liquid in the bowl. I had never heard of a red glowing potion though. In the bowl, sitting on a floating oval stone was a pure white ring. It was almost like a wedding band but it wasn’t white gold, just white. Whether it was stone or metal I couldn’t tell. I leaned over a bit and in between the ring, carved into the stone was the number thirteen.
Despite how eerie I thought things already were, the creepiness factor just doubled because when I fully leaned over the bowl it was clear to me that the stone was not an oval, it was the shape of an eye. It was exactly like half of Tsukino’s symbol.
Next I checked around for anything of use. Words, runes, a how to guide, anything that would be helpful. Nothing. Not on the bowl, the platform, or the pillar holding up the bowl. Absolutely nothing. I turned my attention back to the ring. I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to do. It was either stay here or take a risk.
Throwing caution to the wind, I reached down into the bowl. As soon as my finger tip made contact with the stone it sank beneath the surface, along with the ring. The red glowing liquid quickly turned bright white. I jerked my hand back in surprise as the white liquid started rising to the brim of bowl. It didn’t stop, it kept flowing over and dripped down the pillar, covering it in white. The liquid continued spreading and I hastily moved back, shocked. My heel hit something and I fell backwards, hitting my head on the platform.
I didn’t have time to move, I was already being covered by the bright white liquid. As it covered my eyes the brightness became blinding. It only lasted for a moment before I faded into nothingness.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Before my eyes were even fully opened, I let out a groan of protest. Everything was white and so very bright. After spending so long a dark cavern this much light was painful. I blinked quite a few times trying to get my eyes to adjust.
I was lying on my side and could see the floor, ceiling, and the wall from my position. They were all bright white. Where the heck was I? The back of my head was still hurting…or was it? It felt strange…tingly. My whole body felt this way in fact. It was like…feeling my whole body. Every hair, bone, and muscle. I could feel the blood pump through my veins. I was even aware of how much my clothes were rubbing up against my skin. It was very unnatural.
I brought my hand in front of my face and started flexing my fingers. Yeah, this was creepy. Definitely not normal.
Something small on the floor caught my attention. It was shaped oddly and unlike the rest of the room, not white. Clumsily I reached out for it. It was cold and felt like stone. I brought it closer towards me so I could inspect it. I narrowed my eyes, trying to process what exactly I was holding.
It was me.
A little three inch figure that looked astonishing like me. It was dressed in Hogwarts attire with a little red and gold tie. It even had pants on, my preferred uniform over a skirt. This was…unexpected to say the least.
Slowly I stood up, still staring curiously at the figure in my hand. Out of everything I’d seen, a mini stone me seemed like the weirdest and also the least helpful. Really, what am I supposed to do with this? I tore my attention away from it and glanced around the rest of the room, turning to look at it entirely. I nearly had a heart attack when I turned around and saw that I wasn’t alone.
Two people were sitting on chairs in the center of the room. There was a table between them made out of the same bright white material that their chairs were created from. The one on the right was Albus Dumbledore. On the left – this had to be Lord Voldemort.
They weren’t moving, not even their eyes. It was like they were frozen in this position. Cautiously I took a couple of steps forward, watching them intently for any signs of movement.
“Hello?” Hey, you never knew what was going to happen, might as well start with hello. “Sorry for the…er…intrusion?” Well they certainly didn’t appear to be moving any time soon. My curiosity got the better of me and I walked up to them. “Oldy, moldy voldy,” I said as I waved my hand in front of the Dark Lord’s face. This would have been a really bad time for him to wake up. Thankfully he didn’t. “I don’t have anything that catchy that rhymes with Dumbledore,” I said as I repeated the same action to Dumbledore. Still nothing.
I looked down at the table they were both staring intensely at. It was a chessboard. Seriously? Chess? I fell fifty feet into the ocean and waded through bodies to watch these two play chess? What else was here? There was nothing but bright white walls, a ceiling and floor. No doors or windows. Just two blokes playing chess. A spark of annoyance shot through me.
Without knowing where to go next, I glanced down at their board. They were mid game with a few chess pieces at the side of the – what the –?
Are those –?
They look like –
Why would they be playing like this?
I bent down to examine the chess pieces. They were little figurines just like the one I had in my hand. I looked at the piece I was still holding then quickly back at the board. Without touching them I tried to identify who they represented. Lots of Weasleys, Draco, Hermione, and that had to be Narcissa. Dimitri and Kuniye. One looked like Lupin, another Shacklebolt. Bloody hell, even Auror Tonks and Sirius Black. Neville Longbottom, Dean Thomas, the Patil twins along with McGonagall, Flitwick, and Hagrid. I either didn’t know the others ones or couldn’t recognize them. And then, still in their starting positions, were two figures of Harry Potter. One for each team on the square for the king. Potter was the only person who appeared twice.
Why would Potter be on the Dark Lord’s side? I looked over the board again. There were no Death Eaters, not even Snape. Several people who I was sure weren’t the Dark Lord’s supporters were on his team though. Definitely not Hermione, three of the Weasleys and Neville. So why was his team consisting of them and not Death Eaters?
“Remarkable, isn’t it?” I froze immediately. Before today I had thought the most chilling voice I would ever hear was Ivan Volkov’s as he was strangling me but this voice, it was at least ten times worse. “Silly mortals and the games they play,” the voice whispered into my ear. “Are you frightened mortal?”
“Yes,” I answered in a nearly inaudible voice.
He or she, I couldn’t tell which, let out a disturbing laugh that gave me goose bumps. “Good.”
There was only one question I could think of to ask. “Are you going to kill me?”
This caused it to laugh again. “No. Much worse than that,” it muttered into my other ear. What was worse than death? Losing yourself is far worse than dying. “You catch on quick, mortal,” it said, sounding impressed. “How very attached to others you mortals become. You make them part of yourself, letting them influence you, shape your views and ideals. You become dependent on them, like a drug that you can’t go on without. Oh the things you mortals do for and to each other. Unspeakable things.”
“Wha-who are you?” I didn’t know if questioning what this thing was would offend it or not. I was also too afraid to turn around and face it.
“Me? I am everyone and,” I could feel it very close behind me, “I am you.”
“I…I don’t understand,” I said honestly.
“The fury you feel for those who have wronged you. The jealously you feel for those who have what you think you deserve. The affection you feel for those you desire most. The indifference you feel even when you know you should stand up and help. The annoyance you feel when you don’t have everything you want. The arrogance you feel as you strut what has been graciously given to you. The apathy you feel as you waste what others have been denied.”
“The seven deadly sins?” This was a muggle concept I’d briefly read about, one that the wizarding community certainly hadn’t bothered with.
“That is what all mortals are made of. That is what wreaks havoc to create wars. It destroys societies and individual lives. It corrupts good men and pushes evil ones to monstrous acts. Persecution, famine, genocide, anarchy. All caused by seven emotions. One generation will recreate what the generation before them has destroyed. And the next generation will destroy it again. This is the madness of mortals, this is what you have become. So I ask you this mortal – what drives you? What will you forsake all others for?”
“What?” I asked, caught off guard.
“You have the deciding piece in your hand.” I looked down at the figurine of myself. “What do you fight for?” Albus Dumbledore or Lord Voldemort? Well if that’s the choice… “Do not take your choice lightly. Who matters less than what. Every option has undesirable repercussions.”
“Whichever choice you make, there will those that fall.”
“Fall?” Surely it didn’t mean –
“Each choice sets you on a side. Should you align on the white team all of the black pieces will die.” The figures that made up the Dark Lord’s pieces crumbled apart. “You settle in on the other side and the others must die.” The pieces of Dumbledore’s team now crumbled as the black pieces were magical restored.
“Which ever side I fight on, everyone else dies?” I asked, feeling disgusted.
“That is how wars work. That is the game mortals play,” it said as the white pieces reassembled themselves.
I stared down at the chessboard. I wasn’t going to play this sick game. What right did I have to choose who lived and died? I wouldn’t pick a side.
“So you’d rather sit back and watch them destroy each other?” it said, sounding amused.
“No,” I responded instantly. “I’m not going to play your game at all.”
“So you’ll stay here for eternity?” it asked after another chilling laugh. “There is only one way out. Only one possible escape. Choose.” I refused to pick. I would die eventually. I couldn’t survive on nothing. “Haven’t you already figured it out?” it mocked. “You cannot die here. Your mortals will keep you sustained. Only your mind will suffer. Why would I need you to starve when there are so many other ways to torment you? To…entice you into a choice.” Very slowly one of the figurines moved forward. Draco’s moved towards him next and I knew what move would be next. “Choose. Or I choose his fate.”
“Stop,” I pleaded.
“If he means so much to you, align yourself on the side that saves him.”
I stared at the board desperately. How was I supposed to choose? If I picked Dumbledore, Fred, Narcissa, Kuniye and Hermione would die. If I chose the Dark Lord, Draco, Dimitri and Ginny would be gone instead. “I can’t,” I muttered. Draco or Fred. I couldn’t pick just one. Losing either would destroy me.
“Is this worse than death?” Picking who I needed more? Yes, this was worse. Side with Dumbledore and save Draco or join the Dark Lord to spare Fred? “You’re too focused on the opposing sides. What do you fight for? The one you’ve spent your life with or the one you can make a life with? Or perhaps your choice will be against your parents. Do you think Lord Voldemort would let you kill them if you pledged yourself to him? Haven’t people been judging you your whole life? Why not pick the side where you can show them just how powerful you can be? Everyone has always praised Harry Potter for stopping Lord Voldemort, does he really deserve all the glory? Have you not seen more horrors than he has? Have you not suffered more than he? There are so many choices. So many motives to act on. Which matters the most to you?”
I looked over each of the individual pieces and then the one in my clenched fist. What mattered the most to me? Draco and Fred. It wasn’t that easy though. All of these people. None of them deserved to die. I wasn’t going to brush them aside for my own selfish needs. Standing aside and doing nothing wasn’t any option either. I wouldn’t just watch people fighting for their lives and not help. I also didn’t want to stay down here. I couldn’t stay down here, I needed to go home. I knew which option I would pick. It was the only choice I could stomach to make.
I turned around to finally face whatever this thing was. It was a person…sort of. It wasn’t a solid form. More like a constant shifting body. There were extra limbs here and there that shimmered in and out of existence, much like the main body itself. It looked male and female and every different race. Maybe this was how it looked because it represented all people, I wasn’t sure. I’m guessing there wasn’t a book about him…her…it either. There was definitely something intimidating about it though, but I wasn’t going to cower anymore. I was going back, going home.
“Greed,” I told it firmly. It looked at me with curiosity. “I’m going to save them all.”
It leered at me then started to laugh as it shifted to one side. There was a door there that undoubtedly hadn’t been there before. I took a cautious step towards the door, then another. As soon as I was beside the thing it stopped laughing and leaned in close.
“How will you do that when you’re not even whole?” it sneered. A second later it had disappeared.
Truthfully it was much less nerve racking with it gone. I took a deep breath and with one last glance at the frozen chess game I walked up to the door. I set the mini me chess piece by the door frame and opened the door. There was a dull grey world on the other side but at least there wasn’t a chess board in sight. I stepped through and immediately the door snapped shut and vanished. Now I just had to figure out where to go from here.
I took a few steps before stopping suddenly. Someone was behind me. I was sure of it. Not knowing who or what to expect, I turned around prepared to face anything. I let out a sigh of relief and couldn’t help but smile.
“I was wondering when you’d show up.”
A/N: I know this was a bit confusing and not all that “normal hp magical” (actually it’s quite a dark and serious chapter) but stick with it, everything has a purpose. The reaction to Draco’s body will make more sense in the next story. I’m sure you all want to know what is up between him and Jade.
Sorry for last chapter taking so long, I needed to change the warnings first but from here on out I’m hoping things go smoothly. There are only 4 chapters left and then I’ll jump right into the next one.
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