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Chapter 13 : Simulation Number Two
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AN: Okay, where did we leave off? Oh yes, Grace and Sev are in Cruor! That can only mean one thing – ready, set, action! I should thank somebody here. Who haven't I thanked yet? ReeBee (Curry)! We'll thank Curry! And marauderfan...and Lululuna! Oh, and some of the silent readers: TheWizardingPorcupine and S_BERDOG_B. So, this one is for you guys!
“Sev?” Grace held the torch out in front of her, peering through the darkness of Cruor Terra, her mind frantically running in all directions. “Fuck!”
Twisted metal, rubble left from the vampires' destructive path, came to life beneath the torch's light, but she could not see Severus among it. Her steps were careful, hindered by the flame's restricted light, while her mind told her to run, to rush to find him. He wasn't answering her calls, she couldn't hear anything. She told herself to breathe, but panic was beginning to wrap itself too firmly in her diaphragm. The silence and the darkness was swiftly becoming too much.
From the silence came a groan; the only response that she had heard in what felt like hours. It was all she needed to break from her apprehensive pace, stumbling over debris in her haste, nearly toppling to the ground several times.
“Sev?” she called again.
He was alive. Grace moved forward, toward his voice, finding herself unable to balance properly with her hands occupied by her machete and the torch, the craggy rubble at her feet, and the anticipation that was causing her to shake. “Where are you?”
“This isn't...it isn't f-funny, Potter!”
Grace frowned; she wasn't trying to be funny. “Where are you?”
It didn't take long, as Grace stumbled through the obstacles, for his form to take shape in the darkness, barely outlined in the light. “Severus,” she breathed, hurrying towards him.
If it had not been the state of him, she was certain that she would not have hesitated, despite being so close to him. Blood has a way of striking fear into people, especially if its covering somebody that you are supposed to care about. His hands quivered, one tightly gripping his useless wand, one clutching the wound across his stomach. Blood glistened on his black school robes beneath the torch's luminous glow.
“Sev...,” she whispered, reaching for him.
He stumbled backward, recoiling from her grasp. “Stay away from me,” he demanded.
She sighed heavily, saying, “Stop being foolish! We need to get back to Hogwarts, now-”
Grace's words were cut short as something heavy slammed into her side with tremendous force. It caused her to lose her balance, tumbling to the ground beneath its weight. She squirmed beneath it's thrashing body, the torch laying too close to her skin on the ground beside her. Managing to slide onto her back, she struggled against the vampire, its shark-like rows of pointed teeth revealing themselves as it snarled and growled.
Driving her machete into the soft spot on its neck effectively hindered its reach, but it brought a pike down into her chest with a heavy blow.
She gasped, the shock of being stabbed gave way much more quickly when she could see her wound.
Severus whimpered from somewhere in the darkness.
The sharp, excruciating pain rattled her as her wound throbbed around the weapon. She tore her eyes away from from her own body, meeting the vampire's looming gaze. She had never seen a vampire that had recently fed, and was surprised by the likeness to a normal Cruor that it possessed. Once ashen skin was a typical, abnormal pink, thin and matted gray hair had turned brilliantly silver, shimmering in the light, silky and full. Empty eyes were now an azure blue, no longer glazed over and clouded. What startled her the most was the blood running thickly down the hilt of her weapon, onto her hand, and down her arm.
Vampires don't bleed.
Grace's breath caught in her throat. It was the blood of its last victim; it was Severus' blood.
The strands of her own blood twirling up the pike in long ribbons knocked her from her thoughts quickly. She couldn't afford to die this time, she knew, because she had to return Severus to Hogwarts – preferably alive. With a twist of her arm, as natural yet unnatural as a twitch, she forced the machete through the vampire's throat, tearing muscle and skin as she went, until she was free from its body.
The motion startled the creature at best, but caused it to tumble away from her, leaving its pike behind. She wrapped her hand around the pole, the blood-slicked metal feeling too cool to her touch, and exhaled. To say that the weapon hurt worse exiting her body than it did going in was an understatement. Even with the one fluid motion, after having gathered all of the might she could muster, it tore and caught pieces of her body, damaging her further.
For an instant, Grace swore that it was Severus that was screaming, until she realized that the agitated noise was ripping through her own throat. She stifled it, trying to calm herself, but something burned white and hot behind her eyes.
The machete in her hand was forgotten as she pushed herself from the ground, wielding the enemy's pike with a flourishing twirl. Her eyes met Severus' for only a moment, and she wondered if he had been knocked to the ground during the assault, or if he'd knelt there on his own accord. He was so close, and it would be simple to grab him now and transport them back. There was something in the way that his normally carefully-guarded eyes shone with fear, something about the blood that coated the vampire now standing nearby – Severus' blood – on unstudied feet, something in the way the snarling from the vampire was gargled and dampened, something about the blood on herself, on her arms and chest, there was something about that damned burning whiteness nestling itself in her brain that drove her to attack the vampire instead.
The feeling of pure power washed over her as she knocked it to the ground, straddling its body, and driving the pike down through its eye socket. It twitched beneath her, the brain malfunctioning from the intrusion.
More blood – Severus' blood.
Grace reared back, pulling the long pole along with her, before capturing its other eye, forcing the rod as deep into the brain as she could.
With a few more twitches, a few more quite snarls, it stilled.
She smirked as the white manifestation traveled from her head to her belly, through her arms, down her spine, into her legs.
Severus yelped suddenly and Grace turned her attention quickly to her flank. Another vampire was pulling Severus' blood from his wounds, dancing delicately through the air and into the flesh of the creature. Severus' blood.
Grace growled, some small voice in the very back of her mind trying to make a logical explanation for the noise was ignored, and she abandoned the body beneath her.
Its head was bent forward as she approached it for behind, skin still sallow-looking. Its hair fell over its shoulders, exposing the bare skin of its neck.
As if possessed, Grace had its hair on the top of its head quickly intertwined with her fingers – and she loved it when they had hair, it gave her an anchor to grab hold of, something she could control its movements with, even if the control was only minimal – while her other hand found its jaw, wary of the sharp rows of teeth within its mouth.
It was easy to snap the neck, this way, Grace realized, it only took one swift motion, and it was done. It was easy to push the creature onto its stomach, very near Severus, and step on the back of its neck. It was very easy to pull that hair again, craning its neck backwards with all of her might, the spinal chord snapping as she did. Pleasure came with the power she held over the creature, pure pleasure. It was not easy however, to try to rip the head from its body, she discovered. Despite her effort at twisting and pulling and stomping, skin was remarkably flexible.
“P-Potter,” Severus said suddenly. His hand quickly retreated from her shoulder when she snapped her head towards him, annoyed with being interrupted. “W-we need to l-leave.”
The burning in her brain eased mildly, and her vision cleared. His eyes still glistened with terror, but he wasn't afraid of the creatures, he was afraid of her.
She released the hair and the vampire snarled. Pressing her lips together, she nodded slowly, her body feeling numb. He backed away from her ever-so-slightly as she wrapped her arms around him, but she captured him anyway. She pressed her face to his chest, trying to will away the numbness as she fumbled behind his back for the charm.
As her fingers made contact, she heard Severus inhale sharply – just as sharply as the pain she felt in her back. They landed on the cold corridor floor that they had transported from initially, very close to the Gryffindor tower. Though Severus broke her fall, he didn't seem to notice the impact onto the ground, as he was far too distracted with something over her shoulder.
She couldn't breathe and even attempting to inhale was excruciatingly painful, more so than even the jarring pain in her upper back. Her head lolled to the right, looking over her shoulder in a panic. She needed to breathe.
A vampire was staring frustratedly as he drove the pike further into her, further through her lung. It could not use its magic in this world; blood magic did not exist here.
As it withdrew, Grace scrambled to turn around to face it. She could taste blood as it began creeping up her throat, pooling in her mouth. Her weapon was still in Cruor, she realized, the world around her distorting as her vision blurred.
“Sectumsempra,” Severus said from behind her. He must have still had his wand. When nothing happened, his voice raised when he repeated whatever spell he was using. “Sectumsempra!”
Her vision was dying, and she tried to speak, to tell him to cut off the head. Her world began to fade, she could not see, she could not breathe, she could not speak, she could not move.
Grace faded into darkness.
...borne through the chaos, the blood remains on your hands, child...
Grace hummed softly through her hazy paralyzed mind, unable to move as if she was trapped in a nightmare. That voice, resounding and ominous, had only partially woken her from her dreamless slumber, she surmised. She knew the sound well, though she had only been witness to the figure once. When Death speaks to you, you do not simply forget the sound. Though the language is human enough, the speech is far more bestial. It is unlike any man, beast, demon, or machine's elicited sound. It is not of this world.
...soul's metamorphose...demonic in nature...a killer...murderous...
Attempting to make sense of the words was becoming an increasing challenge. She could not see, she could not move, but she could breathe. Her Servitor scent surrounded her, nudging her from her void, awakening her senses. She felt her head loll to the side and, if she could have, would have smiled with satisfaction. The frigid, blackened void that she was being held captive in was driving her to madness.
...to take pleasure in ending life...the sensation of ecstasy when the light leaves your victims eyes...
She attempted to tell Death that he was wrong, but was unable to speak. Her voice caught in her throat, her diaphragm fluttering with spasms, as she found her communicative abilities to be rendered useless. She inhaled and the rich scent of soil assaulted her again. She could see the raindrops fall, meeting the loose earth in a muddy, spectacular collision of two elements. The collision prompted her to move her fingers, now that she had found them. She needed to find Remus.
...damned...forsaken.... You have begun the transformation to what you claim to hunt...
That wasn't right, either. Grace inhaled again, savoring the rich scent of chocolate, dark, luxurious and sweet. She moved her hand again, wanting nothing more than to be able to reach out for him. Pehaps, then, she would be able to finally find him. It was odd, having him so close, but not having the ability to connect with his emotions. She felt empty.
...inability to fulfill your destiny...
A hand draped itself over Grace's and suddenly, as though she had been struck with lightning, concern and tumult tumescence overcame her, warming her core. Her eyes flew open, more quickly than she would have liked, and harsh, brilliant light attacked her.
She shut them immediately, her senses becoming swiftly aggravated.
Remus' soft voice cradled her mind. Slowly, she allowed her eyelids to reopen, giving herself a moment to adjust to the luminance.
“Grace,” he repeated, squeezing her hand lightly beneath his.
The darkness that was binding her tightly slowly eased away from her body, releasing her from its grip. She let her head fall to the side, groggy and disoriented, until she found his face. He slid from the chair he was sitting in, his hand still clasped over hers, until he was kneeling at her bedside. Light spilled through the large windows onto his face, highlighting his tawny hair and causing the dark honey color of his eyes to glisten, golden and bright.
The high ceiling, large windows, the pristine white of the bed coverings, and the elegantly placed weathered stone of the carefully constructed walls indicated to Grace that she was in the hospital wing, though that didn't matter. What made the difference was her Servitor’s presence, bringing her serenity, and bringing her back from the nightmarish depths of her mind of which she was being held captive.
The force at which she launched herself at him, throwing her arms around his neck, not only made her sickeningly dizzy, but it also caused her to slip off of the bed. Remus caught her, though, gently nestling her in his arms as he allowed her to hug him.
This was right, Grace realized. Without the kisses or the strange, new, confusing emotions, she reveled in a moment of clarity. Everto Trucido and Servitor, brought together in harmonious synchrony, one being, and three souls. She sighed contentedly, resting her head on his shoulder, inhaling his scent. He had saved her.
“You almost died,” he said into her hair, his voice cracking.
“I've been- We've been worried. James will be back soon, he'll be right back. He's been here with me...and Sirius and Peter. Lily, Marlene, and Alice have been by.” His breath was coming rapidly, disrupting Grace's peace. “I've seen Dumbledore probably more than I ever have since I've been going to this school. You can't just die, Grace.”
She held onto him more firmly, attempting to alleviate the panic and stress manifesting in his body. “I'm sorry,” she whispered again. “It's okay; I'm okay.”
“Potter, you're up!” Madam Pomfrey said from somewhere behind them. “Mister Lupin, what in the name of Merlin are you doing?”
Grace lifted her head away from Remus, to look at the young nurse looming over them. Her hand were folded across her chest disapprovingly.
“Miss Potter needs to be in bed!”
“Er,” Remus said. “Right, sorry.”
Grace allowed him to push her back into the hospital bed, and she settled there uncomfortably. “What happened?” she asked. “I-I mean, after I....”
With a departing hand on her shoulder, Madam Pomfrey said, “I'll send for the Headmaster. Rest now.”
Grace leaned back against the soft pillow, watching the nurse depart. She was mildly confused as to the events that transpired after she lost consciousness. Yet some how she and Severus had escaped – where was Severus?
She glanced around the room, her eyes grazing one empty hospital bed after another. He wasn't there, she realized. Was he okay? Alive? She'd meant to ask Remus, but found his lips on hers suddenly, stealing the oxygen from her lungs again and halting her question.
She really liked kissing Remus, and she really hated it. Her mind froze, subservient to the will of the gentle lips against hers. It was almost as though nothing else mattered, the future didn't matter, fate was irrelevant. All she wanted was to stay frozen like this, with Remus, forever. But it was a flame that was surely burning too hot, too fast. If she did nothing to smother it, then it would surely consume them. Her mind fought to function, but was being quickly pushed aside by desire.
A cough in the entrance-way seemed to bring her back, or it could have been Remus's pulling away that had done it. Either way, she couldn't quite deter the warm blush that crept to her cheeks as she realized that it was Albus coughing, standing in the doorway, beside a disgruntled-looking Madam Pomfrey. She fought the urge to throw the blankets over her head as Remus moved to sit in the chair at her bedsit again. Albus had caught her kissing Remus, and Grace wasn't sure when she had felt more mortified.
Thankfully, he chose not to address it as he moved across the room. “Are you feeling well?”
Grace nodded timidly.
“It seems you've had a bit of excitement, haven't you?”
His gaze penetrated through Grace, patiently waiting for a response. She nodded again.
“We will have to hear your side of the story, now. Mister Snape seems to believe that you captured him–”
“-I didn't!” she interjected. “It was an accident.”
Albus was silent, waiting for her to continue.
“What happened to the vampire?” she asked.
Raising his eyebrows, he said quietly, “Mister Snape says that you destroyed it.”
Grace knitted her eyebrows together, knowing very well that she couldn't possibly have killed the vampire, not while she was unconscious. She would have to speak to Severus, and return to Cruor. If the vampire had transported back to her world with them, along with their wounds, then surely something was wrong. The test would have ended once she had transported through worlds, right?
She breifly caught Remus' gaze, and frowned. She would have to speak to him first, because she'd clearly waited too long already.
Grace stared at Remus, consternation constricting her viscera.
Perhaps if she had excluded the Sirius and Marlene from their breakup, he wouldn't be numbly watching her, wordless. Maybe she shouldn't have mentioned the conversation she'd had with Sirius at all. She wished she hadn't rambled off with her thoughts about Bartholomew and his Servator. She regretted explaining envisioning the web of the cosmic plane, witnessing the disruption of energetic flow that represented their current state of relationship. He couldn't perceive that; he was being stubbornly close-minded. If she had only found a way to say that needed him, but exclusively as a her friend, that wasn't a catastrophically scattered ramble, then perhaps he wouldn't be feeling so offended, and rejected. Most of all, she thought that maybe she shouldn't have begun the conversation with 'I love you'.
“Sirius told you to break up with me?” he asked, finally.
Grace shifted awkwardly. “Yeah,” she said. “Well, no, not exactly. He just...he knows, okay?”
“Knows what exactly?”
“That you and I aren't meant to be together...not like...this.” She hugged her handbook to her chest, waiting for him to say something.
He was silent for a long moment, no longer looking at Grace. Watching the wall behind her had taken his interest instead.
She wished that this part was over. She hated this: the waiting, the anticipation, the heartbreak of knowing that he was in pain and that it was entirely her fault. If she could erase his memory, back to at least before the first kiss, then she would perhaps be more careful to prevent it. She knew that, in doing so, she would be breaking his trust; not that he would possibly know it. She would know, though. She was unsure if she could handle the pain of breaking his trust, but would it be any worse than feeling his heart break? That option had completely been lost, however, as she was certain the majority of the school knew about their relationship. That was an enormous number of memories to modify.
“I doubt that Sirius would tell you to break up with me,” he muttered, reestablishing eye contact. “Why would he do that? He doesn't even believe in your 'true love' theory, you know? I mean, I know he doesn't really care for you all that much, but-”
“-Why does he hate me?”
“Grace!” he interjected. “What does it matter?”
She shook her head, knowing that this wasn't the place to be asking such questions. Despite its triviality, however, the thought of Sirius hating her weighed on her mind. “It doesn't...I'm sorry,” she apologized, He knew that...that I didn't want to be with you. Not like we are now. He told me to break up with you so that I wouldn't hurt you, Remus.”
He laughed humorlessly.
“Remus-” She reached for his arm, but he pulled away from her.
“He just doesn't want you to get hurt-”
“-Why are you talking to Sirius about our relationship anyway?”
“What relationship? Gods, Remus, we've had this thing for a couple days! I want to be your friend...I-”
“-Then why...? Ever since you've been here, you've been hugging me and touching me and following me. I don't understand. You're jealous of Mary, because she flirts, but you apparently you don't want to be with me. That doesn't make sense, Grace! Why would you act like you want this one day, and then break up with me the next-”
“-I told you that I didn't want this.”
“No. No, you said that it wasn't right. You said that it wasn't right because, apparently you can see the future and our souls and a pink-haired Snape! You said that I didn't belong to you.”
“Look, you kissed me-”
“-And you kissed me back. I recall you saying that it was fun, remember?”
Unable to process his confusion and his fresh feelings of pain, Grace launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his middle in a tight hug.
“S-stop,” he said, taken by surprise. “What are you-? Grace, this is what I'm talking about...I don't understand.”
Prompted by his firm hands on her shoulders, she released him and allowed for a gap to be established. To tell the truth, Grace was subject to as much confusion as he was. While she understood through speculation, this was not carefully planned out for her. Her handbook went into detail, delicately and expertly executed lists and step-by-step processes on many subjects. It showed her how to properly kill demons and dark creatures; it showed her the exact procedure of the alchemist's process of dimension-linking and portal creation; it showed her the languages of the other dimensions, and the creatures that inhabit them; it showed her how to recognize the connections of Trucido and Servitor, and of true love. It never once, not in a single minor passage or indirect indication, mention what to do if one was having inappropriate feelings towards their Servitor, who is not meant to be their true love, and needed to gingerly abstain from an unethical relationship, while still maintaining their deeper relationship.
Grace attempted to force herself to look Remus in the eyes, but her gaze wouldn't cooperate. Instead, her attentions were drawn to fading wood on the floor, the empty four-poster beds, the crimson and creme wallpaper, his shoulder, his ear, and even the gentle curve of his brow, but not his eyes. To feel his bewilderment, rejection, his suffering, and the aggravation that she caused was painful enough, but she could bring herself to look into his eyes and see the disquiet of both tattered souls.
“We've been together for less than a week,” he said, “and most of those days you were unconscious in the infirmary. You're not even giving us a chance.”
“There's not supposed to be an us. Not in the way that you mean it, anyway.”
He was silent, his lips pressed firmly together in a thin line. He was angry. “Because the book says there shouldn't be.”
“Remus,” Grace seethed, exasperated. His frustration was becoming her own, but she needed to calm down. This couldn't end poorly, for both of their sakes. “No, it's not because of the book.”
“Then what? Snape?”
“Give me a reason, please.” He tilted her chin up, so that their eyes finally met. “Just give me a reason.”
If she wasn't certain that it would be their ruin, she would have taken it back. Looking in his eyes, she wanted nothing more than to kiss him, if only to put an end to all of this. “I don't want to be with you.”
His anger came to a halt, as well as frustration. Why he would find peace in those words, not the constant reminder of their fate and who they were meant to be with, was beyond Grace.
He turned from her, as if he'd only then remembered there was something more important he should be doing. “Just go, Grace,” he whispered.
And so, she did, her mind assailing her as to who would be there to save her the next time she needed to be pulled from the darkness.
AN: There you have it :D.
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