Chapter 7 : Cost
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They stepped back once they were in the yard, waiting for Nicky to let them in; the spirit was strong, old enough to use powerful energy to keep them out, and Nicky was going to cancel it out to let them in. It would anger the spirit, make her violent, but they were willing to let that happen if it distracted her from the baby, even for a moment.
Nicky just stood there, his eyes closed, and Ted would think that he was the calmest if his entire body wasn't shaking. He turned to Victoire, who was biting her nails and pacing, and then to Kieron, who kept an eye on Nicky while creating balls of smoky blue gas in his hand - energy, Nicky called it. Kieron was like them, one of the special kids in the world; he was an Elemental, which was less common than a Metamorphmagus, but normal compared to Nicky's abilities. They hoped that using the elements would distract her if they needed to, but magic like theirs naturally enhanced their ability to perform even simple magic; with Kieron and Nick, Ted actually felt more confident than he knew he looked.
Cautiously, not wanting to disrupt Nicky's train of thought, Ted moved to stand beside him. He could see the man's trembling more clearly, knew just how much he feared these ghosts, and Ted was suddenly grateful that he had come at all. Ted went back to the house, his eyes finding every window he could for a glimpse of her, like he was sure he'd seen that first day.
"You won't see her, she's hiding herself," Nicky spoke softly, making Ted jump, and he opened his eyes to look at him.
"I'm just hoping, I don't expect to see something I can't," Ted answered honestly.
"Oh, you can," he said, smiling, but it was grim. "When I came back, it opened my head, allowed me to see and feel things that your average person can't. The reason you can't is because it's too dangerous, people shouldn't have this much power. But if you allow your mind to break through a little of it, you can sense a little more."
"Like a spirit," Ted added.
Nicky nodded. "Like a spirit. What I have, it's just magic. Too much magic."
"How do you open your mind to this?" Ted asked.
"Calm and focus," Kieron told him from behind. Ted watched Victoire tense, not wanting to know, then went back to the guys. "Keep yourself calm and focus on one thing. Focus on her. That might get you a glimpse."
"No, I don't think he needs to," Nicky countered confidently. "She's a poltergeist, like Peeves. He plays tricks, he focuses on that; I think that's his energy, that's how you see him. He's been around so long that he's strong now, it doesn't drain him. I think this one focuses on anger and vengeance, it's more powerful than Peeves because it's so negative, there's so much raw emotion there. You don't need to focus on her."
"Because she's already strong enough to be seen," Ted finished. "She's become solid; that's how she was able to take Ryan. Can we get in yet?"
Nicky pressed his hand to the door, whispered something that nobody caught; the door covered by his palm glowed, then disappeared and he stepped back. "Kieron."
"You know a fancy charm to unlock at door that Nick can't do?" Vic asked, frowning.
"Something like that," Kieron replied, then he kicked the door in until it swung open, splintered and almost off it's hinges. He held out a hand to gesture going inside. "You've just got to be angry enough. After you."
Ted took the first step inside, barely reaching the stairs when he was pushed against the wall. The back of his head felt like it was on fire as pain pulsed through him, but he dragged himself to his feet.
"Now I'm angry enough," he muttered to himself, his wand in his hand and held up in a defensive position. He cast a shield charm around himself, but it didn't stop her from forcing him backwards; she was keeping them from the living room. Ryan was in there.
She stopped when Nicky pushed past; maybe she could feel his magic, maybe she knew what he was, Ted didn't know, but though he couldn't get into the living room, she was allowing him to stand close to it. Ted kept his wand raised, but stopped trying to get through; it was Nicky's time now.
"Hello, Victoria," he said calmly, even pleasantly, and Ted had to wonder how he managed to keep up the pretense. "You know, it's rude to hide from your guests. We are guests in your house, aren't we?"
"Intruders..." The low hiss echoed around the room. "My house..."
"Then tell them," Nicky suggested, pointing at Ted and Victoire in turn. "Tell them what you want. Show yourself, I know you're strong enough. You've been around a long time, you've been practicing."
The air was sucked into the room, harsh winds hitting Nicky full on and almost knocking him to the ground; it circled around specific part of the living room, like a small tornado, only instead of destroying everything in it's path, it created an outline of a woman. The outline filled out in a few seconds, revealing the woman who had become their tormentor.
Victoria Winters was still the same beautiful woman she had been when she was alive, her hair still fell in waves down her shoulders and her eyes were still big and brown. But they were cold and lifeless, with a red tint, like they were permanently bloodshot. Her skin was horribly pale, as though she was sick. And instead of the huge, happy smile she had given for the photograph, her lips were curled up to bare her teeth, making Ted think of the wild werewolves in the Forbidden Forest.
Ted lowered his wand slowly, an act she followed with narrowed eyes. "We don't want to intrude anymore, Victoria. We're sorry. We just want Ryan, then we'll leave you in peace."
"No," she hissed again. "Ryan is mine, he's my baby."
"He is not yours," Ted countered gently, forcing her attention further on himself. From the corner of his eye, he saw Nicky nod and he knew that Victoire and Kieron were going around the house; if their plan worked, they could Ryan out once he had distracted her and Nicky had found a way to get past her. "Your baby is gone, he died a long time ago."
Victoria screamed, forcing them both to cover their ears and somewhere in the living room, he heard Ryan cry; she'd woken him. It caused her to stop and go back in, her concentration broken; Nicky was able to weaken her energy enough to get through. She felt it, though; she stopped Ted before he could and Nicky was stuck inside, Victoria standing between him and Ryan.
"You think you're strong," she whispered. "But you're weak; I feel it. You can't control yourself. You don't know what to do."
"I know what to do," Nicky said. "I just don't like it. But I have to. You have to go; you can't have Ryan, you can't stay here, and I have to do it."
"Nicky, No!" Kieron yelled from across the room.
"It's the only way. I'm sorry," he told his friend apologetically. He moved closer to Victoria. "You can't take the boy."
"How would she do that?" Victoire asked, joining Kieron. She was pale and scared and more determined than anyone had ever seen her; Nicky hoped what he told her would give her the strength to take Ryan when the time came.
"She has to kill him, make him a spirit like her, and if she has to kill all of us to get to him, then so be it," he answered. "But I won't let you. Because I'm stronger than you. You can't take my nephew just because you killed your own child."
Nicky grabbed hold of her arm before she knew what was happening, holding tight to keep her with him when she screamed and writhed, wanting to get free. He squeezed his eyes shut and whispered things no one could hear again, then he went quiet. He looked calm, as though he was sleeping. A white light glowed around them both, growing brighter and brighter until it was too much for anyone to look at.
Ted kept his head down, his hands out to feel for her wards, and as soon as he felt his hand go through, he called for Victoire to grab Ryan. He heard her before he saw her; her voice soothed Ryan's cries and she came back the way she'd gone in, nodding once and begging Ted to help Nicky before going outside.
Kieron continued to yell for Nicky, using his own magic to help in any way, but nothing worked; the spirits were a part of Nicky, only he could help. Victoria let out one last scream, then everything disappeared; the light, her, they were both gone. Nicky was alone in the middle of the living room, his eyes still closed.
Kieron ran inside, catching him before he could fall to the floor. He pulled Nicky into his arms, checking for a pulse, and he breathed a sigh of relief and held him close. Tears fell from his eyes and Ted allowed him a moment.
"He's unconscious, but he'll be okay this time," he whispered.
"This time? What do you mean this time?" Ted demanded.
"His magic doesn't just drive him crazy, it's crushing him. If he uses too much, he'll die. It's killing him, Ted, a little at a time." Kieron lifted him up carefully, ignoring the look of horror on Ted's face. "I have to take him to the hospital. He'll want to hurt me when he wakes up, but at least he'll wake up."
"This time," Ted finished, his voice cracking.
Kieron nodded, hating it as much as Ted. His bit his lip. "Don't tell anyone. Only Harry and Bill knows, no one else is supposed to know."
Ted let him go, following only until he got to Victoire. He pulled her and Ryan close, thankful to have his baby back, but he couldn't keep his eyes off Nicky. He stared at the same spot even after Kieron Apparated them.
Ryan is safe, but at what cost?
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