As his blood soaked into the parchment in front him, the words that raged there vanished from the parchment upon which he had inscribed them, leaving ragged torn edges in their wake. His screams echoed off the vaulted roof as the words were etched in lines of venomous green onto his bare back, becoming raised and black as they continued to writhe like midnight serpents beneath his skin. Nagini looked on from her place in front of the large fireplace, the bond she shared with her master let through some of the pain and with it she felt a drain in her life force that caused her cold blood to drop by a degree or two.
"My faithful companion, do not doubt ..." Voldemort gasped from his prostate position upon the cold stone floor. A glowing pentagram surrounded his body the candled points offset from each other glowed a deep violet, their flame waved out of time with the eddies in the cavern.
"... the pain is necessary, the coin with which I shall purchase my greatest gift. You ... you shall share in this gift as no other ever could." Lord Voldemort hissed, as he staggered to his feet, blood dripped freely from the wounds on his wrists that were surrounded by more writhing symbols their hue matching the colour of the candle flames. The blood that fell flowed of its own accord into the lines of the pentagram to be absorbed in a sulphuric sizzle.
Using his wand he healed the wounds on his wrists and ankles. Grimacing as he gulped the sluggish orange potion Severus had prepared for him, he lay down on his crude cot-bed to regain his strength before the next line and verse.
Ragnuk ambled from his workshop, towards the great hall of Dunkle Seele, carved from the heart of the mountain, his trade learned and refined from the metals found there. A thousand years he had spent here, refining his art until he was now for all intents immortal. Oh he could die, he knew that, but he had taken every precaution to ensure that this would not happen. Passing by one of his slaves, a medium sized human muggle, vacant and tractable thanks to the slave bracers it now wore, he touched the ring on his index finger to the bracer on its arm and received a jolt of life or time "... no he mused life was more accurate." The slave gave an involuntary moan as it lost its vitality, seemingly aging before Ragnukís eyes. Walking on he smiled to himself.
As he turned to enter the great hall he stopped instantly reaching for the wand holstered at his belt. "That will do you no good goblin, I am not here." said a greasy voice, emanating from the cowled figure of a wizard standing before him. His four Drow bodyguards materialised about the figure, weapons ready and glinting in the lantern light. The wizard looked about him with discernible scorn.
"You have provided HIM ... with the knowledge to make the contract?" the wizard enquired.
"You should not be able ... be here." stuttered Ragnuk.
"Yet here I am ... we had a bargain Ragnuk, our part of it is held in your hand. The true owner of a thing is the maker; is that not so Ragnuk? We made that wand, we made a deal, you have fulfilled you part yes or no?
"He has been given the necessary knowledge and instruction through another. I would not and will not have that one near me. He is without soul, without reason ... you walk a fine line with that one, madness is only a breath away from him." Ragnuk replied more confidently.
"That was not our agreement, Ragnuk. He was to be given the information not a third party. This is not something we wish to become known." The cowled figure barked.
"He has been given what was required and the go between has been most invigorating, in fact I feel twenty years younger." Ragnuk laughed.
"That is why we watch you Ragnuk, you are a danger to us all." The wizard replied.
"Without me there would not be an Elysiad." Ragnuk insisted, as he walked past the wizard, placing his wand back in its sheath and pondering just how his protections had been breached by the closest thing to a wizard friend that Ragnuk would allow himself to have.
By the time Monday morning came around the whole school knew of the Potters wedding. It began with Dobbyís helpful intervention, moving Ginnyís belongings into Harryís room, eliciting all sorts of wild rumours among the Gryffindor girls. Then came Charms, Professor Flitwick was teaching the sixth years in the first class of the day. Walking amiably about the class he was instructing the students as he let the cat out of the bag ...
"... it is vital that whatever your object it must be perfectly white," Flitwick reiterated as the 6th year Gryffindors and Hufflepuffs worked away on their Glamour Geis, "any slight discolouration may be the result of contamination, which will cause your Geis to fail."
Harry was working on the rather complex problem of countering unknown hexes, the equivalent of untying a complex knot in the dark, he thought. His attention focused on his work he only half heard the Professor when he said "Please make sure that all utensils are scorgified before they are used and that you wear the linen gloves provided. Mrs. Potter your knarl quills will dissolve if you bleach them any longer."
"Iím not using knarl quills Professor?" Harry said, loud enough for half the class to hear him. There were titters of laughter from some of the Gryffindor females, which caused Harry to look up from his work.
Ginnyís face was flaming red as she removed her knarl quills from their bleaching solution and began to shape them to form part of what looked like a necklace. Flitwick smiled affably at Harry, "My apologies Professor Potter I didnít mean to disrupt your concentration, I was speaking to your lovely wife."
This was not perhaps the best way for the news to be broken, but Harry decided there and then to make it official, "Thatís quite alright Professor, sheís already a big enough distraction for me as it is!" Harry said smiling at Ginny as her head snapped up in shock, to look directly at Harry. The whispering and murmuring increased until Professor Flitwick told the class to settle down, unaware of the cat heíd set amongst the pigeons.
By lunchtime Harry and Ginny had told about half the school that they were married, as the journey from class to class saw them cornered and interrogated by first the sixth years, then everyone else, as the story spread. Harry decided enough was enough and had a word with the headmistress as he took his seat at the Head table.
The Headmistress made her way to the lectern before the assembled students and tapped her wand against it to gain their attention. "Attention, please everyone ... before we enjoy our midday meal I have a happy announcement to make. It is my great please to announce the marriage of Lord Harry Potter and Ms. Ginerva Weasley, now Lady Ginevra Potter, I hope you will all join with me in wishing them every happiness in the future." The applause that followed was mingled with hastily whispered conversations and craned looks at Ginny at the Gryffindor table and Harry at the head-table. "Professor Potter would appreciate, Iím sure, if his students could refrain from asking questions about his recent marriage during class. Thank you all." And with that the Headmistress resumed her seat and lunch continued.
That afternoon as the sun was setting behind the distant mountains and turning the sky a salmon pink, Harry and Ginny left Greenhouse number two, hand in hand, to the sniggers and covert looks of the sixth year Gryffindors and Ravenclaws.
"Guess what theyíre giggling about?" Ginny said quietly, in a bitter tone.
"Probably about you sharing my bed and all the naughty things we are getting up to now that weíre married." Harry smirked. Ginny scowled in the direction of a bunch of Ravenclaw girls who were trying unsuccessfully to hide the fact that they were glancing and giggling at Harry and Ginny. "Hey Gin, donít bother with them. Theyíre only jealous and immature." Harry said, turning her attention away from the Ravenclaws and onto himself, "They donít know how special what we have is." He lightly grazed her lips with his.
Ginny looked deep into her husbandís eyes and smiled "Theyíll never know Harry Potter! No one will; youíre all mine now!" she said and sealed her statement with a deeper kiss.
"Ah the newlyweds!" a familiar, over-gushy voice sounded from behind them.
Breaking their kiss they turned to greet Fred and George "What are you two doing here?" Ginny asked, surprised to see her siblings at Hogwarts.
"Itís good to see you too, Lady Potter!" Fred replied "I donít know George, some people marry into wealth and position and they forget the common courtesies!"
"You forgot to bow mate, thatís it. Sets them right off, that does." George replied, smacking Fred in the arm and making a disastrous attempt at a Courtiers bow.
Fred smacked himself on the forehead with the palm of his hand and getting down on his knees began to repeatedly bow from the waist, touching his forehead to the earth, moaning "Weíre not worthy, weíre not worthy."
"Oh! Stop it you two!" Ginny said, hiding her smile behind her hand. Harry looked at the twins with mischief in his own eyes, they flashed a glowing white for a split second and the bowing twins were startled out of their mockery.
"What the ... Harry!" George yowled, standing up and looking down at his new clothes, Baggy breeches, stockings, shirt, petticoat and periwig. Fred only wore a loincloth!
"Har ... Harry, Iím fre ... fre ... freezing!" Fred whimpered from his prostrate position. Both Harry and Ginny tried to support themselves as they laughed at the comic looking pair.
"Harr ... rry, its winter, in Scotland, have a hea ... art." Fred squeezed out around chattering teeth, as he vigorously rubbed his hands up and down his arms shivering.
Harry took pity on the comic pair and with a flash of his eyes, their Dragonskin suits were restored. "What are you two doing here?" Harry asked, his curiosity piqued.
"Other than freezing to death you mean?" Fred answered, "Weíre taking Deniz and Nehir to Hogsmeade, for a private test for their apparition licences. No ministry interaction!" Fred winked. "And speak of the beautiful witches in our lives ... here they are now."
Deniz and Nehir were last out of the class and they were deep in discussion with Professor Sprout. Seeing the Weasley twins they bade farewell to the Professor and hurried over. "George have you arranged for our tests?" Deniz asked kissing her boyfriend deeply.
Unable to answer George gave a moan of affirmation, "Hmmm" as he returned his girlfriends welcome hello.
"Well best of luck you two." Harry said as the twins separated long enough to return to planet earth, "Let us know how you get on."
"As you command Royal Ones ..." Nehir replied absent-mindedly, then, "Sorry Harry, Ginny ... I was distracted. We will pass our tests, we would not disgrace your teaching by failing!" she continued, somewhat flustered.
"Just do your best and youíll not disgrace yourselves or the Honourable House of Potter no matter whether you pass or fail?" Harry replied and they bid the twins good luck and goodnight as they headed into the castle for dinner.
Meanwhile, Ron sat opposite Hermione at the Gryffindor table distractedly pushing the food on his plate about without really eating much. He was lost in thought or to put it more accurately, he was lost in feeling. The sense of a creature reaching out to him from the dark forest was getting stronger and stronger the more he tried to ignore it. His eyes fixed on his plate as if mesmerised, while his mind and magic mixed and sought answers that were out of sight. In his mind he saw clearly the dark forest and the entrance to a cave that looked familiar. A skittering noise could be heard but just out of sight though he threw his gaze about him.
"Ron! ... Ron! ... Ronald Weasley!!" the words vaguely penetrated his mind as he felt a sharp jab on his arm. Instinctively, his had shot out and grabbed the offending weapon, before he heard a cry of pain followed by a gasp of shock. Snapped from his reverie his mind came back to the great hall and he looked up with vacant ignorance at the scene before him.
"Ronald ... what did you do that for?" Parvati asked, a look of shocked disbelief on her face.
Ron looked from Parvati to Hermione and finally to Hermioneís hand as Parvati began to heal the friction burn that ran along the inside of Hermioneís thumb and index finger. "What happened to your hand Hermione?" Ron asked a little vacantly, as his brain tried to catch up with the current situation, where he seemed to be in trouble again, without knowing why.
"What happened? You did this to her somehow?" Parvati scowled, "She just touched your arm with her fork to get your attention and ..." Parvati stopped as her eyes finally caught sight of the fork in Ronís left hand. Ron followed her owl like stare to his left hand and cursed silently to himself. There was, what was once, Hermioneís fork, only recognisable by the tapered spiral at its end. The rest of the fork had been crushed into a twisted ball of metal in the palm of Ronís hand.
"We ... we were practicing that eh ... boosting spell ... the one Professor Lupin gave us for homework ..." Hermione stammered.
"Hermione, I may not be as smart as Padma or you, but I know that spell isnít that powerful!" Parvati stated, still looking at the ball of metal in Ronís open hand.
Ron stood abruptly, "Iíve gotta go, sorry Hermione, I didnít ... sorry." He mumbled, before he stepped away from the bench and without looking back, marched from the Great Hall.
Parvati looked questioningly at Hermione. Hermione struggled for an excuse for Ronís odd behaviour, "Eh Parvati ... eh look, we eh, well we tried to ... that is eh .. instead of "Augeat Tribuit" I eh cast "Augeat Tribuit Maxima" on Ron, eh just to see whatíd happen. Please donít tell anyone, I know I shouldnít have and Ronís angry with me for doing it ... because I donít know how to remove it ... so heíll, well, heíll have to wait Ďtil it wears off."
Parvati looked at her doubtfully, but finally nodded, "If youíre sure that all it is Hermione, Iíll keep your secret, but ..." she paused looking intently at her dorm-mate "be careful Hermione. That sort of power can be dangerous as youíve just found out. And there are no secrets at Hogwarts." She smiled a rueful smile and said kindly "Iíll mind your things if you want to go find him."
"Thanks Parvati." Hermione replied and set out after Ron, rubbing her recently healed hand.
Ron marched from the Great Hall his mind spinning with possibilities and guilt. "I told her I could hurt her at the ball and now look, its happened." He thought to himself "That bitch Tenebris, sheís to blame, she did this to me, took away any chance I have of ... I canít hurt anyone else. She feared my power ... feared me coming after her. What did she say ... I canít have you wandering around looking for me with your newfound abilities, now can I ... maybe if I learn how to control my powers ... maybe ..."
Stopping by the side room off the main entrance, Ron looked into its shadowy darkness. The temptation to step into the shadows and travel to where, whatever was calling him from the dark forest was, was almost unbearable. The desire to and the fear of embracing what was available to him, made him shake with mixed emotion. The sound of running feet and the cry of "Ron!" from Hermioneís lips, tipped him into action. With the final thought of "Tenebris must pay!", he strode purposefully into the shadows and disappeared from Hogwarts.
As soon as Ron allowed himself to enter the shadows he knew that all was not as he expected. Looking down at himself he was shocked to see his feet, bare and disfigured. They resembled the feet of a primate, prehensile but hairless; each digit ending in a grey talon like nails that curled cruelly. His hands too had elongated and ended in similar talons, razor sharp and extended. As he held his hands out he realised that he no longer wore his Hogwarts robes, instead he was covered from ankle to wrist in charcoal grey smoke that swirled and rose as if his body was sheathed in dark flames. He felt neither hot nor cold, but strong Ö stronger than he had ever felt before Ö no not strong Ö powerful!
The smallest sound somewhere nearby pulled him from his musings and he turned to search his surroundings. Nothing moved. Looking about him, he realised he was still, in some way, at Hogwarts; the walls were insubstantial, as if made of thinning mist and magic pulsed everywhere, its strength and mass causing a heat shimmer all about him. Inhaling deeply Ron let out an involuntary gasp; rather than just a satisfying lung full of air he got impressions of everything around him as if superimposed on his visual experience. With his new found speed he turned and leaped up what would have been the entrance halls grand staircase and from within the depths of an insubstantial suit of armour snatched the author of the sound he had heard earlier.
Not knowing what to expect, Ron was shocked to be holding a small goblin like creature in his hand, its large hands and feet flapped wildly as it whimpered and cackled in his powerful grasp "Who and what the hell are you?" he snarled.
"Ha ha! Hell is right good master ... she knows ... ripped from this place, ripped from her ..." the creature hung lifeless in Ronís grasp and began to sob uncontrollably.
Bewildered Ron tried again, ""Answer me before I lose patience!" he tried, shaking the creature vigorously.
"Please Master ... please, the fire-haired twins they know me as friend. You good Master, you are their kin, their very powerful kin; please kind Master, be kind to poor Peeves."
"Peeves?" Ron asked bewildered, staring at the captive creature.
Peeves grinned and started crooning a modified version of Weasley is our King.
Weasley is my King,
Weasley is my King,
Peevesy didn't do anything
Weasley is my King.
Weasley can do anything,
Heíd never hurt a single thing,
That's why Peevesy always sings:
Weasley is my King.
"What is this place, where are we?" Ron asked, now feeling on safer ground and needing information.
"This, your majesty, is the in-between!" Peeves replied, waving his over-large fingers in a mystical way before cackling.
"Peeves ... if you donít start answering my questions sensibly and quickly, Iíll ... Iíll," Ron paused, what would he do? "... Iíll bring you back to the real world with me and hand you over to Filtch!"
"No! ... your majesty ppleeeassee." Peeves sobbed, "She in gone from there, only here can Peeves survive ... please donít kill Peeevees!!" he wailed.
"Whoís this "She" youíre prattling on about?" Ron asked, just to try and calm Peeves down a little.
"She is Eris ... daimona ... I was ripped from the students and the staff, the walls, the air ... everything ..." Peeves voice went from a whisper to a scream, then stopped before Ron could shake him again, "The founders formed me from the chaos of all these things, stamping order where chaos reigns, ripping me from my mistress Eris, leaving me here bound to this school for all eternity."
"What else lives here Peeves." Ron asked the somewhat subdued poltergeist.
"Ghost and boggarts and other nasty critters ... dementors ... other greater and lesser cambion ... they uses the in-between to travel likes you do, your majesty." Peeves answered, now gently rubbing and petting the hand Ron held him with. "Only those born to this world can use this plane, no greater Daemons since the Great Divide."
"Merlin, you prattle on like Hermione ... canít you just speak plain English?" Ron replied, as his brain struggled to find meaningful resting places for all these new experiences and this bewildering new information.
"Master ... this is the negative plane, the opposite of the plane humans exist on, here everything is in opposition ..." Peeves stopped, as if rearranging his thoughts "... see Master, the wall is insubstantial, the opposite of the walls at Hogwarts."
"So here youíre solid and Iím ... wispy" Ron replied doubtfully, as he struggled with the concept.
"Yes Master yes, here you are mostly daemon, there you are mostly human." Peeves encouraged.
"Peeves, I need to travel over there," Ron said absently pointing in the direction from which he could feel the pull of that animal presence, "can you show me how to ...?" he waved his hand again in the general direction of the dark forest.
"NÖno master, Peeves is not as powerful as MÖmÖmaster. Peeves cannot travel like they Ö you do Master." Peeves stammered in fear.
"They?" Ron snapped.
"Cambion, Master Ö you" Peeves whispered, in a small fearful voice.
"Who is this Cambion?" Ron asked perplexed
"Not who Master, what Ö they are the getting of daemons and humans, born to your world with the souls of daemons. But you Master Ö you are different, your soul is human but you are daemon and you are dead. Kind master." Peeves finished in a whimper.
Ron struggled to take in what Peeves was saying, he burned to go to the dark forest, the need distracting him from giving his full attention to what Peeves was saying. Acting purely on instinct he raised his long index finger and with a flick of a talon he sliced Peeves cheek open, allowing the spectral blood to bathe his finger before placing it in his mouth. Peeves cried out in shock more than pain "Master pleeease!"
Ron released him, staring deep into his eyes, "You will come when I call Peeves." He said in a deep, seductive tone, as his goat-like gaze held Peeves mesmerised.
"Yes Master." Peeves replied in a monotone all will to resist gone.
"Now go and look out for Hermione Granger, keep her safe Peeves." He whispered as he released the Poltergeist. Turning towards the dark forest he finally gave in to the feeling deep inside him and to Peeves eyes he expanded into nothingness as if each atom of his being sped away from the next at great speed.
He appeared in the twilight greyness of this negative plane, before the irregular opening of a cave, covered and shadowed by the giant oaks and chestnut trees that surrounded its stony portico. Nothing moved, no wind stirred the insubstantial leaves; no creatures chirped or squawked in the grey undergrowth. The absence of concentrated magic left everything dull and flat, but this was where he needed to be; this was where his instincts told him he belonged.
He smelled the air, there were creatures nearby, most of them were flat, dull Ö lacking penetration into this place Ö this plane. But some, a small few, were sharp, vivid and they approached.
Striding into the cave Ron exited the shadow plane, as he chose to call it, and stood in the shadows so he could flee as needed. He turned and waited for the creatures to approach. He sensed them before he saw them, first to enter the cave was an acromantula, slightly smaller than Aragog had been, it was still none-the-less huge. Ron recoiled in horror at his nightmares made real. Thatís where he knew this cave from, he and Harry had checked this cave out on their way to visit Aragog in their second year. Before he could do anything brave or stupid the spider spun on its many limbs and faced out of the cave its mandibles clicking in agitation.
From the undergrowth undulated a pale greenish white snake, itís body as wide as Ronís thigh. It reared at the sight of the Acromantula, raising its head eight feet above the forest floor and still its massive body kept winding out from the undergrowth. Ten feet ... twenty feet ... thirty ... Ronís mind turned to survival, he made to travel through the shadows, as he had done to get here, when he heard,
"Is this how Gryffindorísss ssshow their bravery now?" the words lisped past a serpentine palate.
"No ... stay brave son of a noble house!" answered a more forceful deeper tone.
Were they talking to him? Ron wondered, snapping his attention back to the two dark creature, as the snake and the spider began to size each other up. Drawing his wand Ron stepped from the shadows and said almost to himself "Iím not running anymore ..." He folded his arms and merely watched.
The snake was the first to strike, snapping at the spiders face with its fangs extended. It missed the spider by feet before its tail swung out like the snap of a whip, knocking the spiders right-side legs out from under it. Hood flared it lunged at the now semi-prone arachnid, only to have its fangs crash painfully against the stony ground, as the spider unexpectedly pushed off with its left-side legs and rolled its massive bulk out of the way emerging from its gymnastic escape ready to attack. Ron brandished his wand pointing it at the two assailants in turn. Instead of the pounce, Ron expected, the spider curled its abdomen underneath itself and fired a sticky mess at the off-balance snake. The projectile hit the snake on its raised torso, spreading on impact and clinging to the snakeís body. The snake backed off and avoided another projectile that hit a nearby tree, a third impacting with the snakes lower body ... suddenly Ron saw what the spider was up to, the snake was sticking to the ground, its movement impaired.
Lowering itself fully to the ground the snake tried to free its self from the sticky mess, but only succeeded in making it worse, as it trashed its muscular bulk among the forest detritus covering the ground. The spider scuttled nearer to the snake sensing victory over its immobilised foe, its mandibles clicking in delight. Keeping clear of the snakes fanged mouth the spider advanced towards its sticky middle, its own paralyzing poison poised in its hollow fangs.
With unexpected speed from a serpent so large, head and tail leaped to the spiderís form binding and piercing its swollen abdomen in ferocious attack. Once, twice, three times, the snake struck as its tail end bound and held its victim in place. Its upper body was covered in soil, leaves and stone, clinging to its form and nullifying the spiders sticky mess. The subterfuge was successful. The spider squealed in agony as the snake struck again and again, rearing back in pain and shock before plunging its dripping fangs into the snakeís body.
The two combatants rolled and squirmed in front of Ron, their struggles becoming less and less. Taking a step nearer Ron wondered how either could survive, then he sensed the creature calling him it was behind him. Turning on the spot, wand held aloft ... a shadow left the rocks above him.
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