Chapter 22 : The Blood of Kings
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I'm back with an update! This time, it didn't take so long for me to complete the chapter, and yet it needed some serious reworking, this time! So, I'd like to thank the readers who keep following this story, and special thanks to the recent reviewers, Angostura, BlackAce2137, and of course my pal Wolf-Redlance. I realise I may have failed to mention the role of Wolf-Redlance in the reworking of the story, and on the series overall. It is thanks to his input, and to his own creation Alwena that I've been able to breathe life in this story again. So thanks, mate!
Enjoy the next bit, where we get some solid leads at last.
The Blood of Kings
The confusion around her was unbelievable. The teachers and some prefects had their wands out, ready for a second attack, as they were escorting the students back in the Castle. Julie was under Professor Snape's cautious watch. She was still under shock, but at the same time, deeply relieved. Nobody had died. The moment she had seen the burning posts falling on the Slytherin stands, she had felt her heart constrict in her chest. And then, when Kenneth had showed up and saved the Slytherin posts, she had been reminded of the dream she had had of him fighting, surrounded in flames, and her fear had spiked up. But he had pulled through. Had this dream been a warning for today? And what did that weird feeling she had felt right before the game been? She looked around, for any trace of the unknown face she had seen.
Her eyes fell on Kenneth. He was still on his guard, walking at the same pace as the teachers. He was clearly protecting everyone. She again felt more peaceful at seeing him okay.
Snape urged her to get back in to the Castle.
"All the students are to be back in their Common Rooms at once," said McGonagall, with her voice amplified.
Julie saw that Hagrid and Professor Weasley were escorting Ian to the Hospital Wing, carried in the half giant's arms. Julie was still amazed by what Ian had just done. What more surprises could he pull out of his sleeves? This boy was two years younger than her and he was able to do more than she would ever be able to achieve.
And Kenneth… Not only had he the gifts of a full grow wizard, but he also had the courage to fight a Warlock just like that, without even a second of hesitation. She was surrounded by extraordinary people. And today, they had saved her again.
"You'd better get to your common room quickly," said Professor Snape, without, for once, any trace of his usual unpleasantness. "Get some rest. We'll call you soon to discuss this. I think it's safe to say you won't be touched in this Castle."
Julie nodded. Hogwarts was known to be one of the safest place in the world. But still, Julie couldn't help but to feel a little insecure. It was the second time she had been attacked on the grounds. And if it hadn't been for Professor Potter, Kenneth, and Ian, she would have been abducted already. Why were those Warlocks after her? What did they want?
Again, she thought of Ian, who had saved her. She hoped he would be alright.
Slowly and painfully, Ian opened his eyes. He didn't need much time to realise that he was in a bed of the Hospital Wing. A funny thought came through his mind, that he was seeing a lot of that wing, this year. He could hear Madam Pomfrey was busying around his bed.
"Oh, good, you're awake, Mr Malcolm," said Madam Pomfrey. "How are you feeling?"
As she asked, Ian felt his pain evaporate.
"Fine, I guess?" said Ian. "Have I slept very long?"
"Roughly six hours," said Madam Pomfrey. "I'd say it was below your usual average. Given your condition, you would stay over the night, if I had my way. Professors Dumbledore and Lockenburn will want to see you. Is this alright with you?"
Ian nodded. Madam Pomfrey made a gesture from beyond the curtain. Alexander and Dumbledore appeared in Ian's box. Alexander was smiling. He sat on his right side.
"Ian, I can't tell you how proud I am of you," he said. "What you have done on the pitch was amazing. And very noble, too."
"Indeed," said Dumbledore. "As a consequence, you will receive a special reward for services to the school. So will Mr Lionheart, as a matter of fact. I really want to thank you for your help. It has saved many people today."
Ian's throat felt suddenly tight, and he tried to fight back the tears of emotion from his eyes.
"Thank you, Sir," he managed to croak.
"Alright," said Alexander, with a grin. "Now that we've embarrassed you with praise, we must gather information on this attack. What did you see that could help us?"
Ian tried to gather his memories from the fight.
"Well, I guess I saw the same thing as everybody," said Ian, trying to find anything that was strange except the obvious fact that they had been under attack. "But I noticed somebody odd, after I collapsed."
"Go on," said Alexander.
"A man was at the game. A man I didn't know. He had a round face, with blue eyes, and brown hair, with curls. He was looking at the scene. He faded away, when I passed out."
"A round face, you said?" said Alexander, looking very concerned, now.
"Do you know someone who would match this description, Alexander?" asked Dumbledore.
"Oh, I think I do," said Alexander between his teeth.
After a while spent in the common room to get some rest after this whole ordeal, Julie had been summoned by Professor McGonagall in the professors' lounge three hours after the lunch, after the school had been finally secured. Professor Dumbledore and Lockenburn had returned in an emergency because of what had happened.
She entered the Professor's lounge. All the teachers were there, sitting in the couches. They were all looking quite tense. Even Snape didn't wear his usual sneer on his face.
"Professor Dumbledore and Lockenburn are with Ian, right now. Professor Potter will join us soon, with Mr Weasley," said Professor McGonagall, standing up when Julie entered the room. "They take care of the prisoner; they will lock him up in the dungeons, since he hasn't woken up yet. Are you alright, Miss Carteret?"
Julie nodded vigorously. She was calming down, now.
"I'm fine," she said. "I'm relieved that everyone is alright. I mean, without Kenneth and Ian and you all, it could have been awful."
"I must admit that Mr Lionheart has been a great help," said Snape, almost in spite of himself.
"Indeed," said McGonagall. "And without Mr Malcolm, we all agree that this would have been a true disaster. I think we will discuss the amount of points later, though," she added with a pointed look at Snape.
"Ian, how is he?" asked Julie.
"I understand that he'll be fine," said McGonagall. "Professor Dumbledore and Lockenburn are with him right now. But our main problem is your safety. What have you seen that we could use, Miss Carteret?"
Julie tried to gather her memories.
"The man on the Pegasus, he had a strong accent. Like something from an Eastern Country…"
Professor Potter and Mr Weasley came into the lounge.
"The prisoner is locked up," he said. "He hasn't woken up yet. I'll admit that Kenneth did a serious a number on him," he added with a little smile.
"I can imagine that," said McGonagall. "Miss Carteret was telling us about her impressions."
Potter nodded, and Julie went on.
"He was wearing something like a coat of mail. And there was this woman," she said. "I saw her before the game began, but one second later, she was gone."
"A woman?" asked McGonagall. "Did you see her face?"
"Yes," said Julie. "She was rather pretty, with blue eyes, and curly brown hair."
"With a round, smiling, face?" asked Potter eagerly.
"Yes!" said Julie. "You know her?"
"Aria Entwistle. One of the two experts Alexander and I have consulted on the Warlocks. It seems like they are more involved in this whole business than they wanted to admit. It's not too far-fetched to imagine that they could have ties with the sect. Now that I think of it, they were curiously aware of what was happening to us. They even knew that the target was a girl, although neither I nor Alex had told them Julie's name. They're hiding things from us. I'll pay them go at their house and I'll see what they have for an explanation."
"You'll need Back up," said Ron Weasley. "Hermione and I are going with you."
"Make sure she's safe until we're back," he told the staff, with a nod toward Julie. "She mustn't leave the Castle."
"I won't," said Julie.
She had just escaped some attempt of kidnapping. She wasn't about to give the attackers another shot any time soon. She knew she was safer in the Castle than anywhere else. Potter nodded and walked out of the room, followed by the Weasley couple. Julie turned back to face Professor McGonagall.
"I think it will be all," said the stern witch. "I will escort you to your Common room."
Julie didn't insist. She followed her teacher to her Common Room.
"So, we are after Aria Entwistle?" asked Hermione, as they were gathering in the Entrance Hall, with their cloaks.
Ginny, who had just returned from her work, had offered her help. Ron had pointed that a second curse breaker would be useful.
"Add her brother to the list," said Alexander, walking into them. "Ian saw him at the game, right after the attack. Why Aria?"
"Julie saw her before the game began," said Harry.
"Alright," said Alexander. "You go check their house. I'll be staying here, to make sure that the school remains safe. I must check the boundaries. If they have forced through them like before, I reckon I'll find a few dead bodies in the Forest again. Be careful, out there. This whole thing is all wrong."
"We will," said Harry.
The group walked through the doors of the castle and quickly headed for Hogsmeade, so they could apparate safely to London.
When Julie finally made it back to her Common room, it was to find Kenneth and Kalindra chatting near the fireplace. Both their faces were grave and serious. Kalindra had been acting all sorts of protective, when she had returned from the pitch, making sure a dozen times that she wasn't hurt. Now, she looked to have gone past that. She only looked up at Julie's entrance and nodded in relief at seeing her okay. Julie walked to join them. She realised Kenneth's eyes were on her, and she felt suddenly uncomfortable. But this was ridiculous, she chided herself. This wasn't the time for her childish doubts or her uncertainties. Something major had just happened to her, and he had been part of it. She couldn't let her own awkwardness get in the way. So she had a light smile for the both of them, before to sit down, facing them, her chair slightly tilted toward Kalindra, to make sure she wouldn't cross his eyes too often.
"What did the teachers say?" asked Kallie.
"Pretty much what was expected," she said. "I have to remain in the Castle, until further notice. I'm not to leave without the supervision of a teacher. Needless to say I'll miss the next Quidditch practices, until they have neutralized the threat."
"You think they can do that?" asked Kalindra, sounding worried.
"It's Harry Potter you're talking about, Kallie," said Kenneth. "He has seen worse. Professor Lockenburn can fight off any wizard that would try to attack this Castle, and Dumbledore is still the greatest Wizard of the century. If anyone can solve this, it's them."
Julie nodded enthusiastically. His words were reassuring, but not only for Kalindra. He was trying to cheer her up. That reminded her of what he had done. She had been so afraid to see students dying, that to see Kenneth save them had been a huge relief.
"You have been very brave, this morning," she said, smiling.
"I had to do something," said Kenneth.
"Why?" asked Kallie, very seriously. "You still fail to answer this. What could have possibly possessed you to get into that fight?"
Julie's eyes went back to Kenneth to back Kalindra's question. She had understood why Ian had stepped up. He had a power beyond anything she had seen before. And if there had been a moment where it could be used, it was this afternoon, but Kenneth.
"I'm not sure you can understand," said Kenneth. "It's a duty."
"You're damn right, I don't understand," said Kalindra. "You're fifteen, for Merlin's sake!"
"I have the Gift," said Kenneth. "Once a Wandmaster comes into his gift, he has a duty to use it for the right reasons. If you had the power to make the attackers vanish with a snap of fingers, you wouldn't have done it?" he asked them.
"Of course, I would have," said Julie.
"There you have it," said Kenneth. "This is how I was raised. This is what my family has been taught for generations. If you can defend others who can't, you do it. These maniacs were about to hurt the students. I had to act."
There was a moment of silence after that, while Julie and Kalindra were assimilating this statement. The notion was beyond Julie's comprehension, but she could tell Kenneth believed it with each fibre of his being. That was impressive in itself. But it was worrying, as well. Kenneth wasn't likely to live a peaceful life, with such a duty etched upon his mind. She couldn't help but recalling the dreams she had of him fighting in that fiery room. And then it dawned on her.
"I guess my dream was a warning, after all," she said. "You were in a fight, surrounded in flames."
"That's a way of seeing things," said Kenneth, nodding. "You hadn't seen the outcome, had you?" he added with a wry grin.
"No, I hadn't, or I would have told you," said Julie. "But you won. It was amazing, really. I mean, a duel is school is one thing, but to take on a full grown wizard like that…"
"Ian and the teachers were there, too," said Kenneth.
"Yes," said Julie. "And I owe them my life. But you were a part of it," insisted Julie. "You know that you don't need to try so hard to impress me, right?" she added with a smile.
Kenneth blushed lightly. Julie realised how much of a teasing what she had just said sounded, and soon, she was blushing as well. Kalindra looked at the both of them, and smiled lightly. She threw Julie an interrogative look that could mean do I leave you two alone? Julie answered by a frown.
Oh no, don't you dare!
"Hey guys!" called the voice of Rob, from the other side of the room. "Dinner time!"
Julie jumped on the occasion. She stood up and soon, she was followed by her two friends. They joined with Rob, Will, Jennifer, and Mandy, and got out of the Common room, to head for the Great Hall.
Soon, it became clear to Julie that her friends were avoiding the subject of the morning's attack, in spite of their curiosity. They were trying to cheer her up the best way they could. And they were successful. Julie was grateful to have friends like this. It was a lot easier to face such events this with the supports of these people.
While they were walking in the halls of the school, they were beginning to get on the OWLs subject, and Julie realized that they were closer than ever from the 'dreaded' exams. She had studied for them, of course, but it seemed quite far, now, like on the other side of a barrier. Her studies, grades and tests were before the attack, and somehow they had lost some of their reality. It was a strange feeling.
As they were reaching the Entrance Hall, someone called Julie. She turned to see Robert running to her. She told her friends she would catch up with them, and she stopped to wait for her boyfriend. He caught her in a fierce hug when he reached.
"I was worried," said Robert. "I haven't been able to find you since the fight ended."
"I was holed up in the Gryffindor Tower," said Julie. "I got some sleep, and then the teachers wanted to see me."
"And how are you, now?"
"I'm fine," said Julie. "Really," she insisted, when she saw his concerned face.
"Alright," said Robert. "I'll take your word for it."
"Thanks for worrying," said Julie.
"I wish I could have done more than this," said Robert.
"Don't be silly, Robert. You couldn't have done anything," said Julie.
"Lionheart has," said Robert. "So has Malcolm. I didn't do anything that brave."
"Why would you compare yourself to them?" asked Julie. "I mean, this is hardly a competition. Kenneth and Ian aren't the regular students. This has nothing to do with you."
"I'm a Prefect," objected Robert. "I have responsibilities to this school. And today, I didn't…"
"Today had nothing to do with Prefects and regular duties," said Julie, firmly. "You're supposed to look out for your fellow students and prevent them from getting into trouble. At no time have you been supposed to defend them from real killers!"
"Malcolm and Lionheart did," said Robert.
"Again, they're the exception," said Julie. "Even the teachers were stunned to see them get involved. You just can't think the same thing was expected from you."
"Perhaps," said Robert, seriously. "Malcolm is out to prove himself, so to see him step up is no surprise, really. He's hell bent on proving everyone that he's not a threat, as some people claim. After today, I guess no one will believe that anymore. But Lionheart… it's not the same. Because, in some way, I'm jealous of him," said Donahue, with a sincerity that surprised Julie.
She looked at him intensely, silently telling him to go on. He smiled.
"I am neither blind nor stupid," he said. "I've seen the way you two act around each other. You share something I know nothing about. You've both been in serious trouble. Something that is important beyond the school, the grades, or the Ball. And kind of feel excluded from that."
Julie looked at him, incredulous.
"Excluded?" she said. "Trust me, Robert, you should be grateful to be excluded from this. I, for once, would like very much not to be included in that mess."
"This is not what I meant," said Robert, without any harshness. "I'm not jealous of your ordeal. It's just that… You and Lionheart have common ground on something I can't comprehend, a side of life I just can't get. Sometimes, I wish I was able to be there for you, too. I would like to be your support in more than just the dates and the daily school matters."
"Robert," she said, dead serious. "I want you to listen to this very carefully. The side of my life you're talking about is not something I enjoy. It's not something I'd wish on anyone. Hasn't it occurred to you that maybe I like that you're not involved in all this? Maybe I do like the idea that with you, I can escape this whole thing?"
Robert made a doubtful face, and then he smiled again.
"That's possible, Julie," he said. "But I would like you to consider that maybe you can also come to me, if you want to talk about it. I'm not dating you only for the good times. I'd like to be a little more than just the diversion."
Julie looked down, suddenly a little uncomfortable. His argument was solid, and she felt a little selfish to keep him at bay over serious matters. Was it true? Was he just a diversion? Julie felt like she owed him the truth, so she considered it before to answer.
"You're not a diversion," she said, finally. "I just like to be able to simply enjoy your company without tainting it with the fact there are people out there trying to hurt me. You're a refuge, in a way."
Robert smiled again. He bent down and kissed her lips slightly.
"Fair enough," he said. "Just remember I can take it, if you need me to."
She nodded at that and this time, she kissed him.
"I'll see you after dinner?" he offered.
"Sure," she said.
He strode away, after a last smile. Julie watched him get inside the Hall before she headed for the Gryffindor table and joined her friends.
Harry and his friends were in London mere minutes after they got out of the grounds. They apparated quickly to Harry's former flat in Notting Hill, where they changed for Muggle clothes. Harry was using this place to change when he was getting in London. With the money he had earned with his Quidditch Career, he could afford to keep this place. All his friends had stored clothes in here, so they could use the House as well, as a gateway of sorts into the muggle world out there.
Half an hour later, they were walking down the street leading to the House of the Entwistle twins. Speaking of twins Ron had offered asking Fred and George for help, but Harry didn't think they would need it and he didn't want to worry their mother without reason.
They arrived in front of the Entwistle door. Ron threw a surprised look to the front.
"It feels strange to find evil people in a House looking so …"
"Normal?" offered Harry.
"You remember Dudley?" said Harry. "His house was quite normal, too."
"But your cousin wasn't that evil, Harry," said Ron.
"Yes he was," said Harry, on a childish tone, which made Ron chuckle.
"Could we be serious just for a minute?" said Hermione, impatiently. "Why do you always try to be funny before we get into action?"
"You don't know that?" asked Ron, surprised. "It's to get the tension out."
"I knew that there was a reason," said Ginny, sarcastically. "At least try to be really funny, then."
"I'm hurt, love," protested Harry.
"Oh shut up, Potter," said the young woman.
Hermione threw them a withering look, and pointed her wand to the door.
"Alohomora," she said.
The door opened slowly. They all rushed in the house, their wands in hands. They made sure that the entrance was safe, before to get to the living room, still looking around.
"Well, you've been faster that I thought," said a voice behind them.
They all turned at once on their heels, their wands ready for a fight. There, in a cosy armchair, with a mysterious smile on his round face, sat Ariel Entwistle. He wasn't there a second earlier, Harry could have sworn it. He didn't seem surprised to see them at all. He gestured for them to step inside the living room, and pointed to the small table in the middle.
"I made some tea," he said. "Why don't you take a seat? We have a few things to discuss."
Ian got out of the Hospital wing just after the dinner. He had eaten in his bed, because Madam Pomfrey wanted to be sure he wouldn't be sick, after his exertion. She had then told him he could go back to the Nest. Ian was amused by the fact that the Nurse was always referring to Common Rooms, except for Ravenclaw's, which she called the Nest. It was a giveaway that she had been in Ravenclaw herself. Only Ravenclaw students used that expression. It was a strange thing to figure which House each teacher of this school had been, when they had studied in Hogwarts. The House Heads had a clear origin, except for Flitwick, who has studied magic in a school in the Magic Forests of Ireland.
Lost in his thoughts, Ian nearly bumped into Kieran, when he reached the statue guarding the entrance of the Ravenclaw Tower.
"Oh, sorry, K," he said.
"You're up, that's good," said Kieran, dismissing his apology with a shrug. "I wanted to talk to you."
"I've made some research," said Kieran. "I heard things about Julie. They say her blood is from Atlantis."
"Yes, Alexander said so," confirmed Ian, trying to hide the shock of her mentioning things he had preferred to keep for himself. "How the hex did you learn that?"
"Well, you're neither the only one able to spy in this school nor as discrete as you may thing," said Kieran, with a grin. "But, in this case, all I did was to simply modify the Ear, so it can pick up conversations with Julie in it."
Ian nodded. Kieran was really efficient when she wanted something done.
"Clever," he said.
"I know," she said, with a shrug. "So I learned most of what you already know, I suppose," she went on. "And I went for the Library. I made some research regarding the Atlantean rituals. Most of what the library's got is a bunch of legends, with some completely idiotic. But I came across some interesting things."
"Such as?" asked Ian.
"Like the notion of Atlantean Blood," said Kieran.
"Okay," said Ian, inviting to sit on a bench. "Hit me, what did you find?"
"Rituals from Atlantis that require blood are rare, and most of them were banned, if what History tells us is true," said Kieran. "But the main issue with those rituals is that Atlantean blood in itself is almost impossible to find, because it has been diluting in the wizarding bloodlines across the centuries, and it turns in more common blood with marriages and each generations. The only Atlantean blood that can survive centuries is the Blood of the more powerful wizards of the city."
"That means…" began Ian, seeing where she was going.
"The Blood of Kings," said a voice behind them.
They jumped and turned to face a woman, who was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest. She had deep blue eyes and curly brown hair. She was smiling. Some smile that seemed to say I know so much more than you.
Ian saw immediately that the woman was familiar. She was the exact replica of the man he had seen. Except that she was far more feminine, but they were clearly twins. He gathered his powers.
"You won't need any of your magic against me, Chaotician," said the woman, grinning.
"Who are you?" asked Kieran, her wand out of her pocket.
"My name is Aria Entwistle," said the woman. "And I'm here to talk to you."
"You're that woman Alexander went to see," said Ian. "You… your brother was at the Game!"
"Indeed, Mr Malcolm," said Aria. "So was I, as a matter of fact. I'll admit we've been most interested in your bunch, these last months. You, in particular, are a fascinating character, Ian Malcolm. Follow me and I'll Have some answers for you."
She walked into the opened door of some deserted classroom. After some hesitation, Ian and Kieran followed.
"Close the door," said Aria.
"Who do you take us for?" said Kieran defiantly, her wand still out.
"Do you really think I would have hesitated if I wanted to hurt you? I was right behind your back and you didn't see me, after all," the woman pointed out.
Ian had to admit it was true.
"You said something about the Blood of Kings," said Kieran.
"Yes," said Aria. "You were right about this. The Blood of Kings is the only one that can survive so long. There were many lines of Kings in Atlantis, since it had known many dynasties. In truth, many noble Houses had had blood of kings in their veins, back then. A little like the royal blood in your English nobility. But the true Blood of Kings is different. There is a detail about your friend Julie that you don't take into account: her father is a Muggle."
"What does it change?" asked Ian.
"Atlantean Blood is strong, but for its power to survive the mixing with Muggle blood, it has to be a direct line," said Aria.
"What do you mean by a direct line?" said Kieran. "That doesn't seem possible… That would mean that Julie…"
"Your friend is a direct Heir to a King, descended in straight line," said Aria. "I'm not sure which line, I'll admit to that. But her blood is strong. Her line is among the mightiest ones. I have followed the fate of many of the survivors of the City, after it sank. I know for a fact that not all the Royal Bloodlines survived the War of the Sinking."
"But why this blood is so important?" asked Ian. "If the Warlocks worship the memory of the City, they should see her as a sacred person, not a target for kidnapping."
"The Warlocks do not worship the memory of Atlantis," said Aria. "They worship the former dominion of Atlantis over the world, and they worship their Master, the Bane of Atlantis. Your friend has real Atlantean Blood, and thus she's the target of the sect because they need her for a sacrifice."
"A sacrifice?" said Ian.
"Yes," said Aria. "They want to sacrifice her to resurrect the Bane."
"So she's in mortal peril, if the Warlocks put a hand on her," said Ian.
"Yes, I'm afraid so," said Aria.
"How come you know so much about it?" asked Kieran, pointedly.
"Well, my brother and I are in possession of certain knowledge. That's all you have to know, for now," said Aria.
"It's a little easy, don't you think?" objected Ian. "How are we even supposed to trust you?"
"Trust is irrelevant, Chaotician," said Aria. "I need you to have this knowledge. What you do with it is up to you and you alone."
"Why didn't you tell all of this to Professor Potter or Alexander?" asked Kieran, suspiciously.
"I sure expect you will tell all this to the Entropist. As for telling Harry Potter, well, that's what my dear brother is probably doing, right now," said Aria with a smile.
"So we are sure that the blood of Julie goes back to the Atlantis Kings?" said Hermione, still impressed by the thought. "Imagine that!"
They were sitting in the living room, around the table. Ariel had just finished his story.
"Yeah, a true princess," said Ron.
"A princess ruling over a ruin field, lying so deep in the Ocean that only the best wizards can get to it unharmed," rectified Ariel.
"Still she's a princess," said Ron, smirking.
"Don't go tell her that," said Harry. "She'd run for the hills."
"You think so?" asked Ron.
"I doubt Julie would be the kind of person who would enjoy to be a princess," said Hermione, sternly.
"So now, what are supposed to do?" asked Ginny.
"Since our friend here knows so much about the tradition of our enemies," said Harry, turning back to Ariel. "Maybe he could tell us who exactly is after Julie."
Ariel's face was still devoid of expression.
"The leaders of the sect are not unique," he said. "There are high priests in many countries."
"You claimed they were extinct," said Harry. "You knew they were still out there and you haven't told us?"
"It wasn't my place to reveal that information," replied Ariel. "The remaining existence of the Warlocks is a long guarded secret. Now that you have come in open conflict with the Warlocks, you are allowed this knowledge."
"And who decides that?" asked Ron, harshly.
"Someone who doesn't answer to either me or you, Ronald Weasley," said Ariel.
Harry couldn't fail to notice the deep change in the man, since the last time he had met him. He had seemed so friendly, so helpful, when he had come to see him with Alexander. Now, he seemed cold, distant. Harry wondered which face was the real face of Ariel Entwistle. Who was this man, really? How come he knew that much about the Warlocks? And what was his place in all this? But it didn't seem likely that he would get these answers easily.
"You realise that I will file a report with the Order of the Phoenix, don't you?" said Ron, gravely.
"As I said, you are now in open conflict," said Ariel. "You have so far faced the Warlocks out of sight, when they attacked your student on the school grounds, before Christmas. Now, they have targeted a school game, with witnesses from the outside in position to see them. The Warlocks are openly moving against you. The circumstances are different. Your report is but the next logical step and their exposure is inevitable."
"Fair enough," said Harry. "So what can you tell us, then?"
"It is likely you are facing the actions of a High Priestess named Lilia," said Ariel.
"A witch?" said Ron.
"Is that so surprising?" noted Ginny, acidly.
"I wasn't being chauvinistic," said Ron, rolling his eyes. "There was no witch leading the assault on the game, that's all."
"The Pegasus Rider," said Harry. "He was the one calling the shots, there."
"Lilia's right hand," said Ariel. "His name is Ivan Waltz. He's one very powerful Wizard. I think, that in many ways, he is more powerful than Lilia, in itself."
"Why he's he the servant, then?" asked Ron.
"Because Lilia's power is traditional," said Ariel. "High Priests of the Warlocks are heirs. She is the heir of one of the major lines in the sect. Lilia and her faction are at war with others, among the Warlocks. But she holds a high rank in the sect. Of course, when it comes to Waltz, her control over him is far more basic. He is Lilia's lover. The high Priestess controls him through lust and desire. She's a very beautiful witch."
"Again," mumbled Ginny with a smirk.
"Waltz is a lost soul," Ariel went on. "He wasn't born in the sect, like most Warlocks. He was a great Auror in his country, but he's been tortured by the Death Eaters of his land, who were the servants of an old friend of yours," he added with a deep look at Harry. "He's been driven mad. Lilia has somehow succeeded in bringing him back to sanity, even if he's still really fragile. This constant stand on the edge of sanity is what allows her to control him absolutely, beyond question."
"How? How did she bring him back?" asked Hermione, suddenly fascinated.
"Some ancient rituals that were used in Atlantis were put to use, there," said Ariel. "The Warlocks have a real legacy in Atlantean Magic. Lilia added a refinement to the rituals meant to enslave Waltz's will. She included lust and made sure that he will serve her until death."
"Alright," said Harry. "What power are we talking about, here? You said that Lilia holds a high rank in the sect. What does that mean?"
"She commands many people," said Ariel. "Her personal servants, her guards. And she can assemble wizards from the guards of other Priests. She has a real aura among them."
"I'm not sure I understand," said Hermione.
"Lilia's family is one of the most powerful of the sect, and it entails power. It is said to come straight from the founder of the sect, but it could be a legend, since this founder lived millennia ago. Since she was born, she has been raised as a high member of the Sect. She's ambitious, and won't let anyone get in her way to power. If she thinks that raising the Bane will allow her to overcome the other Priests, she will do whatever it takes to get her clutches on your student. To succeed where all have failed during centuries would be a way to prove her power. She could take over the whole sect, should she raise the Bane, and with the power of the Bane, she would lead the Warlocks to the conquest of the World. "
"How do we find her?" asked Harry, on a very decided tone.
"Lilia's chapter of the sect has a fortress," said Ariel. "It's called the Maze of Era. It's been excavated when the last Atlantean reached the shores of Europe. It could be on the main Continent or in England, but we are not sure of that. No one knows how to get there or the way through the Maze, except for the Warlocks themselves."
"We'll have to make the prisoner talk," said Ron.
"He will not talke," said Ariel. "They are protected with ancient magic. How come you have a prisoner in the first place? The Warlocks kill their wounded."
"We had a lucky shot," said Harry. "This one was defeated while he was out of reach of his companions."
"Ah yes," said Ariel, thoughtfully. "The young Chaotician and the Wandmaster."
This sentence made Harry's mind stop. He sent him a long piercing look. It had reminded him that Ariel had witnessed some of the fight. And thus that he may not be telling them the whole truth.
"How can we put any value in what you just told us?" he asked. "As far as we know, you could be fooling us into playing into your hand? How do we know you are not the ones behind these attacks?"
"You cannot," said Ariel with a smile. "And I don't intend to give any proof or evidence of our good faith. Nor do I intend to tell you about our goal in our presence at this Quidditch game."
Ron had his wand in his hand in a second. He was on his feet the very next moment, and he pointed it at Ariel, who only smiled.
"We could get these answers out of you," said Ron, darkly.
Ariel let out a light chuckle.
"Well, actually, you can't," he said.
"Oh no?" said Harry, standing up, and pulling out his own wand.
"No," said simply Ariel. "For the good reason you are not the kind of wizard who would hex the truth out of someone. You're servants of Good. I know it and you can't deny it. And of course, because, in case you would act against your conscience, I took some precautions, before this interview."
"Like what?" asked Harry.
"He's not really here!" said Hermione, suddenly getting on her feet.
"What!?" exclaimed both Ron and Harry.
Hermione walked straight at Ariel's chair and walked through it, without touching anything. Ginny gasped.
"A projection?" she said.
"Very good," said Ariel, with a smile. "I must say it's a strange sensation to feel you going through me like this. You'll understand, I'm sure, that I had to be careful."
"But who the hex are you?" said Harry.
"You have a more pressing worry, Harry Potter," said the projection. "Lilia. She mustn't get her hands on Julie Carteret. This is maybe the most important thing you have to care about. I can only say that my sister and I don't mean you any harm. And we don't mean any harm to Miss Carteret."
"But still you won't help us," said Hermione.
"It's not our task," said Ariel.
"Task?" repeated Ginny.
"You won't get any more information today, I'm sorry," said Ariel. "I wish you good luck. And have a good day."
Ariel suddenly disappeared, with his chair, leaving the four wizards completely bewildered in the middle of the living room. They looked around. Ron rushed to the first floor, to make sure Ariel wasn't there. Harry turned to Hermione.
"What was that? I thought Projections like this were pure myth," he said.
"I thought so, as well," said Hermione. "But these twins seem to have powers unknown. How else do you think they would get on the Grounds unnoticed and vanish? The outsiders were kept monitored through the entire game and after the fight."
Ron came back from the floor. He shook his head.
"Empty," he said. "So, what are we facing, here?"
"I don't know," said Harry. "But they seem to know a lot about these Warlocks."
"If we can trust them," said Ginny. "So far, we only have their word to go on."
"Fair point," noted Harry. "Still, I'm puzzled by these two. What could they possibly be after?"
"Maybe they try to benefit from the confusion," said Hermione. "But they may have goals that we can't understand."
"What are you talking about?" asked Ron.
"They are major Wizards," explained Hermione. "That at least is certain. Only very powerful wizards could create such a precise projection from far enough for it to be safe. Maybe they have bigger plans."
"Bigger plans? Bigger than the conquest of the World?" asked Harry. "Serious god complex, there, 'Mione."
"Great," said Ron. "Fanatics from a sunken City, the daughter of a King of Atlantis, and now two wizards who act as if they were gods. Could the things get even worse?"
"Yes," said Harry. "One day, you could stop complaining about everything, and then the world would end."
Ron smiled. It was clear that they couldn't learn anything more in this house. They left quickly and headed back to Harry's flat, so they could get safely back to Hogwarts.
"But why are you telling us all of this?" asked Ian. "We're only students, here."
Aria looked at him mysteriously.
"Because I've watched you, Chaotician," she said. "You saved this young girl twice this year. You are a fascinating young boy, and you deserve a little tip up, in whatever you may decide to do."
"A tip up? We're facing a sect of Wizards that is millennia old and you just give us a tip up? Since you know so much about them, why don't you oppose them?" asked Kieran, outraged.
"There are things you still don't know, young one," said Aria with the same mysterious smile on her face. "And my brother and I have other things to do."
"Other…" began Ian.
But before he finished his reply, Aria began suddenly to fade, slowly disappearing from the classroom. Ian stayed there silent, completely amazed by what he had just seen. He turned to Kieran.
"I thought nobody could apparate in Hogwarts," he said.
"Nobody can," said Kieran. "She didn't look like she was apparating. It was more like she was… fading."
"Yes, that looked like that," said Ian. "But how is it possible?"
"I don't know," said Kieran.
"We must tell all of this to Alexander," said Ian.
"And then to Julie," added Kieran.
Ian nodded, and they rushed out of the classroom, to head for Alexander's office.
"This is remarkable," said Alexander.
"Remarkable?" said Harry. "That's all you have to say? Someone is able to project her image into the Hogwarts grounds, right into the Castle, and you find this remarkable? Sometimes I can't understand the way you think, Alex. It's just like when you told me that the Magic getting more Chaotic was something interesting."
Alexander smiled. He had seen Harry and his friends enter his office quickly. They were starting to explain to him what they had learned with Ariel, when Ian and Kieran had knocked urgently at the door. They had then described Aria's visit to the school.
"I don't think we have to worry very much about this projection," said Alexander. "As it was a projection, it couldn't do any harm to anyone, and couldn't allow any magic to flow from itself. This is harmless. But still it shows a great power. So I say this is remarkable."
"The next question is what we're supposed to do?" said Hermione.
"I'll try to get some reference in the Ministry's Archive to find this Fortress and the Maze of Era. I doubt that a sect of wizards has been able to live in Europe for so long without leaving a trace. If we get enough information, we could get there, and flush them out."
"So what?" said Ron. "We wait and that's it?"
"Do you know where the Maze is, Ron?" asked Alexander.
"No, but I don't think we should put our blind faith into these twins," said Ron. "We are making plans based on only one source of information. If we focus too much on what they told us, we may get in the wrong direction. Maybe it's what they want, to lure into a trap."
"And they would give so many information?" said Ian.
"The fact that they told you the same thing they told us only prove that the really want us to follow this trail. Until we know more of their goals, we should be very careful with those so-called priests and leader. As far as we know, the Entwistle twins could be our foes," said Ron.
"I never thought I would see the day where you would be the voice of reason, honey," said Hermione with a smile.
Harry smiled at that.
"Still, he's right. All these information are biased by the very mysterious nature of the twins," he said.
"So we are in a dead end?" asked Ian.
"Not really," said Alexander. "We still can go on the trail of this Maze of Era. If we find elements that confirm the twins' version, we will go and investigate."
They all agreed on this. Alexander turned his gaze to Ian.
"And may I suggest, Ian, that you stick to this behaviour that made you come and see us immediately?" he said. "And please remain cautious. The menace is still out there."
"I will keep my eyes open," said Ian.
"That would be great," said Alexander, "but still, make sure to stay out of trouble this time. You've been in enough messes, this term."
Ian nodded again, with a sly grin. Alexander stood up, walked around his desk, and ruffled Ian's hair.
"You may go, now, boy," he said.
Ian and Kieran did as told and left the Office. Harry looked at Alexander intensely, while the Entropist was looking at Ian walking away. He looked worried.
"What's wrong?" he asked, once the door was shut.
"Ian," said Alexander. "He's too brave."
"Too brave?" said Hermione, surprised.
"Too brave for his own sake," said Alexander. "One of these days, he'll get into huge trouble. He's got terrible powers. And the trouble often matches the power. I know it. I just hope he won't get hurt. I can't help but feel responsible of him."
"You're his mentor, Alex," said Harry. "That would make sense to feel this way."
"Besides, Ian is a clever boy, and he's not careless," said Hermione. "He only gets into trouble when it's very important. He would not go and chase the Warlocks just for the fun of it."
"I guess you're right," said Alexander. "Let's just hope he won't need to get into an adventure."
"I heard that had done some good to some wizards of my acquaintance," said Ginny, thoughtfully looking at Harry. "They learn a lot, when they're out there saving the world."
Harry had a crooked smile for his girlfriend.
"I'm not sure Ian needs experience like this," he said. "It may sound fun, but I say it's overrated. Especially if you throw Chaotic powers in the mix."
"The only way for you to keep Ian out of trouble, Alexander," said Hermione, "is to ensure that Julie is kept safe here."
Julie was sitting in an armchair, facing the fireplace of the Gryffindor Common Room. She was thinking hard of what had happened today. She was too much busy trying to sort out her thoughts to get any sleep. Even if she had her OWLs to come soon, she couldn't even focus on her studies. Fear, confusion and worry were spinning in her head.
Fear of who was hunting her… Worry for the ones who could get hurt because of her… Confusion of her feelings, which seemed the least of her problem and yet still managed to find its way on her mind...
Julie sighed heavily. She heard the Painting open to let someone in. She plunged her eyes again in the fire.
"Are you okay?" asked a familiar voice.
Julie gave a start and stood up quickly. She found herself facing Kenneth.
"Yes, yes," she said hastily. "I was just thinking of some things."
"Care to share?" Kenneth asked.
"Well, you know, some worries," said Julie.
Kenneth sat on one arm of the chairs. His face showed comprehension.
"I guess you have you part of those," he said with a wry smile. "Add to this the exams, and it's a miracle you haven't gone nuts, by now."
"Well, right now, I can't even think of the exams," said Julie, without thinking about it.
"Well, there's your silver lining, then," commented Kenneth, raising his eyebrows.
Julie burst into laughing.
"Oh, Kenneth, how do you do this? You still manage to make me laugh, even when I just escaped a kidnapping attempt," she said.
"It's a gift," said Kenneth, with a shrug.
"Indeed," said Julie.
"Do you have any other cause for worry? I mean, apart from the mortal peril, and stuff like this?" he asked.
"Well, yes…" said Julie. "Robert…"
"Oh," said Kenneth. "The precious Prefect. What has he done, now?" asked Kenneth, his face going slightly darker.
"Nothing, really," said Julie. "If anything, he's upset that he hasn't been able to help me about this Warlocks mess."
Julie was surprised by Kenneth's reaction at the mention of Robert's name. Was it jealousy? Did that mean…?
"Are you still angry at Robert?" she asked. "The tone of your voice…"
"Don't worry about it, Julie," he shrugged. "If anything, that's my problem, not yours."
Julie decided to shut up, for a moment, before she made a mess of things.
She had wanted to talk to him about Robert's jealousy toward him, and how much the idea had disturbed her. This had felt wrong, somehow. Robert was feeling threatened by Kenneth, because the young Wandmaster had been doing his best to help and protect Julie. Somehow, she didn't like the idea behind that reasoning. But that would have forced her to face the fact that Robert could very well have found other very serious reasons to be jealous of him. And she definitely couldn't mention in front of Kenneth that she was started to fall for him!
So she remained silent, staring into the fire.
"Something wrong?" asked Kenneth, after a while.
Julie turned to him, and realised that she had stayed silent quite a while.
"No, nothing wrong," she said. "I guess I was lost again in my thoughts. I'd better get to bed, before I change into stone in the middle of the room."
"That would make a nice statue, but you're right," said Kenneth.
She smiled as the implied compliment. She headed for the stairs, without thinking clearly enough to realise she was walking straight at Kenneth. She stopped just before him.
"You know, Julie, that if you need to talk or if you need any help," said Kenneth, "you can ask me."
Julie raised her eyes and met his. She suddenly was like petrified.
Speaking of turning into statues, she thought, ironically.
She was now lost in his eyes. They were caught by each other.
Come on, Julie, do something, you're ridiculous, standing there without saying a word.
Some kind of inner voice was urging to get out of the room, highly aware of the awkwardness of the situation. It was pushing her to do something.
Move out, said the voice.
But another voice echoed in her mind at this very second. And it said something that made suddenly Julie's heart beat faster than it ever had.
Kiss him, you nitwit.
This was crazy. He was her friend. If she dared to try for more than this, she could ruin what they were already sharing. And she didn't want to hurt him at all. Because…
Because you love him? offered the second voice, helpfully.
No! objected the first one. Because it wouldn't be right to play with his feelings.
Yeah, keep on with that thought, girl. You love him.
Julie was still fighting with herself, and still they hadn't made one single move. Suddenly, a sound came from upstairs as quick steps announced someone.
"Julie? Are you down there?" asked the voice of Mandy. "We're starting to worry."
Both Julie and Kenneth gave a start. Mandy, looking sleepy and her hair a real mess, appeared at the bottom of the stairs.
"Ah, there you are," she said.
She paused when she saw Kenneth. But he made the first move. He nodded quickly to Julie.
"Good night," he said, before to head to the stairs.
He nodded to Mandy, and climbed up to his dorm. Julie followed him with her eyes, trying to find something to call him back. Mandy noticed this.
"Ooops, sorry," she said with a wince.
"No problem," said Julie with a disgusted smile.
"Are you chasing two rabbits, here?" asked the girl, grinning.
"I'm not chasing anyone!" protested Julie.
"Yeah, right," said Mandy, with a smirk. "But if you have a preference you should let the other off the hook."
"Why do you say this? Are you interested?" asked Julie.
"In Donahue? Don't talk nonsense, Julie!" said Mandy.
"I meant Kenneth," said Julie, frowning. "You're interested in him?"
"Kenneth is great, but I've got other views… And you won't let Kenneth off the hook, Julie," said Mandy, winking, "unless you're a damn fool."
She turned to the stairs, but Julie called after her.
"And what is it supposed to mean?" she asked.
"Look, I've been Kenneth's friend for years," said Mandy, turning back to face her. "I even fancied him for some time in my third year. I know what he's worth and I know how the guy thinks. I get that you're dating Donahue and all, but if Kenneth's interested, I don't really see why you would hesitate between a peacock and a wannabe hero."
"Robert is a great guy!" protested Julie. "He's not a peacock."
"Possibly," said Mandy, doubtfully. "If he's all that great, how come I found you facing Kenneth so closely, just now?"
"We were saying good bye and I just nearly walked into him," said Julie.
"For three minutes?" said Mandy. "Okay, so what were you talking about?"
"The whole mess I'm in, between the kidnapping attempts and the exams," said Julie.
"And you're discussing this with Kenneth instead of your boyfriend because…" said Mandy, inviting her to finish her sentence.
Julie realised that she had a point. Again, she sought refuge from her real problems in her relationship with Robert, but when it came to life and death matters, she always turned to Kenneth. And if she trusted him for issues so serious, why wouldn't she admit that her feelings for him were simply more than friendship?
"It's just that I don't know what I feel anymore," she finally said.
"Well, sort it out quickly," said Mandy. "Or someone else will get in the way. Kenneth is just too good to stay alone very long, especially now that everyone has seen him saving the whole of Slytherin House. Just giving out friendly advice, here…"
"Yeah, thanks," said Julie, sarcastically.
The fact that Mandy could see so easily through her was somehow disturbing her. Mandy got back to the stairs, leaving Julie alone in the middle of the Common room, trying to think this through.
What were her feelings exactly? Was her relationship with Robert solely based on attraction? Was that why she wouldn't involve him in the trouble with the Warlocks? And, if she was honest with herself, what was she feeling toward Kenneth? She knew she enjoyed spending time with Robert, and to be near him always gave her chills that she loved to feel. But Kenneth... He wasn't trying at all. And still she looked up to him, she trusted him enough to tell him about what she feared the most.
And still, he seemed to be so… distant. But everyone assured her that he was obviously hooked on her. How could they tell? A sentence by Jennifer came back in her mind.
Kenneth Lionheart has never spoken three words to a girl except for us in five years in Hogwarts. He's like that.
Maybe this easiness he was showing with her was the mark of what he could feel for her. Maybe she should really give him a chance.
He was special! A power able to shake a mountain and an iron will. But still he had this kindness with anyone, even if he had some difficulties to show it. He had been such a good friend for her, since they had met. And he had been patient, too, after she had acted like a bitch to him over this duel.
Maybe it was time for her to stop deluding herself. There was no voice to tell her this truth. No schizophrenic experience to make her realize her feelings. She now knew that she loved him. Maybe she liked Robert, as well. But she knew that what she felt for Kenneth was love.
Julie walked upstairs to her dormitory, and got to bed quickly, her mind still full of questions, and some answers coming to the surface. She came to a certainty. She had to talk to Kenneth.
As soon as possible.
Done! Hope you have liked that bit. the next one should be up before next week-end. Seeya!
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