Chapter 75 : Heading Down Under
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A/N: Lots happening now! Read, Review and Enjoy!
“It's taking too long.” Harry complained uneasily as he and his friends all stood together under the bridge, waiting for Luna and Nanami to appear.
“We've only been here a few minutes.” Fred replied distractedly as he searched through the packages he'd acquired on his shopping trip.
“Where did Nanami say she was going?” Lupin asked, seeming to be just as worried as Harry was. As the oldest and most adult-like, he clearly considered himself to be responsible for them all and having Luna go missing wasn't what he'd had in mind when allowing them all to split up earlier.
“To find her cousin and her friend. Then she and Luna were supposed to come right here to meet us. It's been half an hour since they left us on the roof.” Harry sent out his mind, feeling Jacey add her energy to help boost his power... but it was no use. Neither Luna nor Nanami were anywhere within their reach.
“Well, we'll just give them a little more time before panicking.” Hermione said sensibly. “If they aren't here in the next ten minutes, we'll start searching.”
“All of Japan?” He returned testily.
“With Granger's maps, I'm sure I can pinpoint a location for you.” Draco offered, already digging in his pocket for his pendulum.
“Ten minutes.” Lupin repeated Hermione's suggestion. “Murdo will be rowing ashore to get us by then and if Luna isn't back, we'll go find her.”
“What is all that stuff?” Jacey asked Fred as a distraction from waiting.
“Potential potion ingredients.” He grinned in excitement despite their current situation. “That store had everything I was looking for and then some. My concoctions are about to get really interesting... I can't wait to see what I can find in Australia.”
“Hopefully the shopkeepers in Australia like you more.” Ginny laughed. “Chion almost kicked you out before selling you anything.”
“That's because he didn't want to sell me the Fireblood crystals.” Fred muttered, shaking his head. “More stubborn than old Grutch down in Knockturn Alley.”
“I didn't know you bought Firebloods while we were there... What do you need those for?” Lupin asked suspiciously.
“I'm sure they'll come in handy eventually.” He shrugged. “I just couldn't pass up the chance to have some crystals that are nearly extinct.”
Harry knew Fred already had a plan for those gems, but he didn't care at the moment what the plan was. He'd been counting in his head and five minutes had passed. In the distance, he could see one of the lifeboats begin making it's way to shore from the Tamesis before it disappeared under a cloaking spell. Five more minutes of waiting seemed like a lifetime to someone who had almost no patience to speak of. He was itching to take some action and was furious with Jacey for insisting they trust that Nanami and Luna would be alright. His confidence in both girls was very strong, but so was his fear of the people chasing them all down. With Nerezza in the country as well, he was even more nervous that something could go wrong. They knew very little about Nanami and even less of these two people she wished to bring with her. Coven member or not, it was hard to trust anyone new when any of his friends were involved... especially Luna. He kept his mind open for any sign of them and stared angrily at the ocean, forcing himself to remain calm for the last few minutes.
Luna's heart was pounding furiously as she followed Nanami into the kitchen. Both girls cast instantly, using their senses to determine the two men from the innocent Mai. Her stunner struck Kage, knocking him to the ground and unable to move, but Nanami's spell was much more destructive as it was driven by her anger. It missed both men by inches before exploding out the side of the house. Nereza recovered, pointing his wand at both of them while hiding behind his shield device as they all three engaged in a stand off. Mai was laying on the ground near where Kage had fallen, looking around intensely while waiting for the time to make a move toward her own wand, wherever it was.
“Miss Lovegood!” Nerezza said in pleased surprise. Clearly he had also used a translation spell to be able to communicate in the native language. “And here I thought you had escaped my clutches. How wonderful to see you here of all places... is your friend Harry Potter nearby? There are many who would like to keep tabs on you two.”
“I'm here alone, visiting an old friend.” She lied steadily, happy that Voldemort's side still remained relatively ignorant of Jacey's involvement and powers... apparently Elise had kept the find to herself before breaking from the Death Eaters. At least one of them was safer than the others... for now anyway.
The air crackled around them as five of Nerezza's Aurors appeared to surround them. He dropped his shield, now looking at them with smug arrogance. “Well, I'm not here alone.” He grinned, turning to release Kage from Luna's spell.
“See! I told you she would show up here eventually.” He said as he rose and dusted himself off.
“You know your cousin well.” Nerezza replied approvingly. “Let's hope you continue to be correct.”
“Why Kage?” Nanami calmly asked for the reason of his betrayal. Luna could see that her mind was already whirling, looking for the right person to push her will onto in order to get them out of this.
“For many reasons, none of which I have the time to explain to you now.” He answered stiffly, bending to pick up his wand to once more point it at currently defenseless Mai.
“Now may be the only chance you have.” She replied in a low, confident tone.
Nerezza laughed. “You are in no position to be issuing threats, Miss Aoki.” He gestured to the Aurors around them. “But I have a proposition for you... hand over Luna Lovegood and I'll let your little friend here leave now. Then this will be between no one but us.”
Feed me your energy. Nanami silently instructed Luna.
Pushing aside doubts and feelings of mistrust, she did as was asked of her and linked their minds to support the other girl's power. At once, Nanami's mind went in five directions to invade the thoughts of all the Aurors. You hate Seth Nerezza. She whispered to them. He is your enemy, he is planning to kill you all as soon as you leave this house. He is your enemy, it would be smart of you to turn on him before he has the chance to turn on you. He is your enemy, Nanami Aoki, Luna Lovegood and Mai Hara are your allies. Seth Nerezza is your enemy. Her words were a gentle caress against the minds of these five men and women and Luna watched in amazement as they all as one, turned their wands against their leader before demanding he surrender.
“What are you fools doing?” Nerezza demanded angrily, once more putting up his shield. He began digging in his pockets.
“It's her power. I warned you.” Kage answered quietly as he warily watched everyone around him.
“And I came prepared.” He replied, pulling something out of his pocket and throwing it.
“Shield!” Luna screamed a second before the device left his hand. Nanami dove toward Mai, covering her friend before summoning a large protective bubble around them both. Even with her defenses up, Luna was flung back from the blast as the device exploded in the middle of the room, though her landing was slightly cushioned by the bodies of two Aurors who had been standing near her. She tried to untangle herself from their lifeless limbs while smoke filled the room, making her eyes sting and water as she finally stumbled to her feet.
“There you are!” Nerezza burst through the thick smoke and falling debris. She instantly pulled away as she felt his strong, bony fingers grab her arm.
“Crucio!” She yelled in panic, waving her wand in his face. He fell back with a scream of agony, shouting for Kage to come to help. But there was no answer. Sensing he was far from winning in any way at this point, he apparated away just as Luna cast to try and bind him here.
“Luna!” Nanami called out.
“I'm okay.” She assured her, following the girl's mind through the dense aftermath of the explosion. She finally found both Nanami and Mai kneeling on the floor, trying to revive Kage. “Is he breathing?” She asked as she knelt beside them.
“Yes, but his mind is very dim. He is very far from conscious.” Nanami answered slowly before turning to Luna in hopeful misery. “I can't just leave him here.”
“If we bring him with, we have to tell the others about him. It wouldn't be fair that they not know the potential danger of having him with us.” She replied seriously.
“Search him for a tracking device first.” Mai suggested while turning to rummage through the remains of her kitchen for her wand.
“You don't even know where we're going yet.” Luna said, a bit unnerved with the ease in which Mai was taking all of this.
She shrugged and smiled. “I am used to Nanami coming in to disrupt my life. It may not always be fun, but it keeps life interesting and so I'm always ready for whatever she suggests.” She rose triumphantly with her wand before addressing her friend. “Of course, it would be nice to know why that man and your cousin burst in here.”
“That is a long story we will have time to tell you later.” Nanami answered, waving her own wand over Kage's body to ensure there was no way for anyone to track his location.
“We have to get back. Harry is prone to panicking and we've been gone quite awhile.” Luna said, certain he and the rest of her friends were already waiting for them under the bridge.
“Okay, grab our hands.” Nanami told Mai, using her other hand to grab hold of her cousin. Once all three girls were tightly holding onto each other, Luna led their apparation back to the others.
No one was thrilled with the idea of bringing along Kage Aoki, considering the tale Luna and Nanami had told them when they'd at last appeared just as Draco began scrying for them. Ultimately, Harry had convinced Lupin that it was better if they could keep an eye on Kage and in the meantime, Nanami would have the chance to talk to her cousin and attempt to find the reason for his actions so they could move past it. Hermione had known he would agree to bring Kage the minute the idea was presented to him... regardless his reservations, he would never begrudge anyone a member of their family. So they had loaded Kage's unconscious body into the rowboat and once aboard the Tamesis, they brought him directly to the makeshift cell that Elanya had been kept in. And then everyone had split up until a very late dinner was prepared.
“Well, this has been productive... trading out one prisoner for another.” Fred sighed, flopping down on the bed as they reentered their room. “At least we have Nanami and I have a bunch of new ingredients.”
“I think you should wait on trying to find a vampire cure.” Hermione nervously blurted out as she leaned against the wall and crossed her arms.
“Why?” He asked defensively, sitting up and staring her down.
“Because... things are clearly going to be dangerous for a while. At least wait until we get home.” She offered as a compromise.
“No one but you and I are aware that I'm moving forward on this. It'll be fine.” He replied steadily, getting up and dumping his shopping bag onto the bed to begin sorting all his new ingredients.
“There are only so many uses for Firebloods. I read your notes... the reason they were mined to near extinction was because of their use in potions that could supposedly repel vampire attacks.” She argued, refusing to give up as easily as she had when he'd gone to get the stupid stones. “Chion and Lupin were both suspicious of why you wanted them... we don't have to worry about Lupin, but we don't know anything about the shopkeeper. We don't even know how he came by such rare stones.”
“I didn't give him my name, the ever-recognizable Harry Potter wasn't with us, Lupin cloaked us all so our faces wouldn't be seen... even if Chion were a dubious character, what exactly can he tell anyone? That he sold, among other innocuous things, some Fireblood crystals to a random guy with a random group of people?”
“Nerezza saw Luna.” Hermione pointed out. “It wouldn't take a genius to figure out that if she was in Japan then the rest of us were as well. Voldemort is no idiot and neither is Elise... if either of them got word that Firebloods were sold to 'a random guy with a random group of people' on the same day Luna was spotted with Nanami, well you know they would easily put the pieces together... Elise especially knows about your obsessive potion making. Then your secret of brewing any kind of vampire elixir would be blown anyway and you'd become and even bigger target for them to acquire than you already are.”
“So why not try and have it completed before that happens?” He fired up his burners, placing two cauldrons to boil. Turning to face her, he must have seen the angry concern written across her face because his expression softened and he came to take her hand before leading her to sit with him on the bed. “Look, this is my way of contributing. I have nothing else to offer besides an extra body to fight with Harry and the others. You have all the knowledge you've ever managed to intake, Draco has his wolf and his scrying... I want to feel like I have a reason to be here too. There are more than angry witches and wizards after us and our friends, we're being stalked by monsters. So I want to do two things – I want to improve the Wolfie Potion and weaponize it so we can use it against Harland and any army he's raised... and I want to create something similar to take care of Talena and her vampire allies. I don't care about the danger, I never have. These things need to be created before we're all completely surrounded on all sides by our worst nightmares... Voldemort, Elise, Talena, Harland... we can't let any of them win. The coven will take care of Voldemort and Elise, so why can't I help take care of the other two? Why can't we? You and I can work together on this and we can make history all on our own, without Harry's name attached. We can help make the world safer.”
“By creating weapons to keep humanoids in their place?” She shook her head. “A cure is one thing, vampires and werewolves still have a choice as to whether or not to wear these amulets. But making something like that into a weapon, forcing them to be something they aren't... that's not the world we're fighting for. Not all demons are like Murdo... but if you created a weapon against his kind, how would you feel if it were used on him? I mean, he did save your sister's life out there in the ocean. Good or bad, everyone and every creature has the right to live their life how they want until and unless they begin hurting others.”
“So we won't make the potions available to the public. It'll be regulated by the RCPP in the ministry and given to Aurors.” Fred continued to argue his point. “We need something to help us during battle, to put us on equal footing with Talena and Harland or at least take away their advantage. After the war, I'll destroy every last drop of whatever potions I come up with if it'll make you happy... but I have to do this now, before those two make me regret not doing it. You already saw her try to bite me and she broke your arm for trying to stop it...” He looked away and hung his head. “I need to feel protected and that I can protect you.” He quietly admitted.
“Okay.” She relented, reaching out to stroke his hair affectionately. “Make as many amulets as you like, but make it so the wearer is protected... like with the Wolfie Potion. Ginny helped you figure out that a non werewolf wearing one will hold off an attack, so do the same for the vampires. But the moment you start making it the responsibility of the humanoid to wear these amulets, it infringes on their rights... rights that we are fighting to give them and everyone else who is currently considered unequal in society. Draco and Lupin want to wear theirs... it has to be everyone's choice.”
He nodded slowly, at last coming around to a compromise they could both deal with. “Okay. But I want to start figuring it out as soon as possible. And we'll need two more Wolfie amulets for Nanami and Mai.”
“Fine.” She made him look at her as she smiled. “But at least wait until after you've eaten something. Those cauldrons won't be ready until after dinner anyway.”
“You just need to feel like you won, don't you?” He smiled back.
“I always win.” She laughed, glad that they had been able to talk this out even if neither of them was entirely happy with the outcome.
“Well, let's head to the kitchen. While I'm waiting to experiment, it'll be interesting seeing what perspective our newest coven member has about all of this war nonsense.” He stood and lowered the flames on his burners just to be safe.
“I'm interested to know what she plans to do once her cousin wakes up. He probably needs to see a healer...”
“Maybe Gabby will get in touch with us.” Fred suggested hopefully. “We wrote to her before we left London, she had to have gotten the letter by now... even with all the added security around the mail owls.”
“Well, if she doesn't find us by the time we get to Greece to look for Miles Papadopoulos, then we'll suggest going to Spain to find her. Just to make sure she and her husband are okay.” Hermione answered, feeling a bit uneasy realizing that Gabby still hadn't returned their letter. They had told her where they planned to be...
Putting it out of their minds for the time being, they went together to the kitchen to find Lupin and Luna putting the finishing touches on dinner. Harry, Jacey, Nanami and Mai were already seated at the magically grown table, leading Hermione to think they had been discussing the coven and their plans to find the others. Of course, all conversation ceased as everyone else came and they all sat down together, friends and awkward strangers mingling together uncomfortably. They began eating in silence, Murdo once again sitting a bit away with his meal to be polite.
“I'm sorry that Kage is here to make you all feel unsafe.” Nanami suddenly shattered the tense quiet around them.
“It's fine.” Harry said with a stiff shrug. But Hermione knew him well enough to read between his words... he'd meant 'It will be fine hopefully.'
“Never before has he given us any reason to suspect he could be swayed to the other side.” Mai put in helpfully. “My mother was a squib... he used to yell at his father for speaking ill of her. I thought he was against purifying the wizarding race... he always accepted me.”
“People are good at pretending.” Draco muttered, having had experience in the other direction... forcing himself to act as if he did support Voldemort's goals.
“He must have his reasons and I'm eager to hear them.” Nanami replied simply.
“Murdo has been kind of enough to reach out to some of his contacts in Sydney. Hopefully a healer will be waiting for us when we arrive.” Lupin told them with a nod of recognition at their captain.
“How long until we get there?” Harry asked eagerly.
“I don't know about other ships, but I can get us there by tomorrow night.” Murdo smiled proudly. “And I've already reinforced the Tamesis' defenses, plus another friend in Sydney will be able to add a few more unique protective charms.” He added with a wink.
“Tomorrow night?” Draco asked in fearful concern. Hermione realized the reason for his distress... the next night was the full moon. Despite getting through it before with no issues, this trip had so far been extremely nerve-wreaking and there was no telling what they'd run into in one of the deadliest countries in the world. Hopefully they'd get there, find Adam, and then get out and be on their way to Greece. Unfortunately, she doubted anything would be that simple... after all, nothing ever has been before.
“Has he woken yet?” Harry asked as he approached Nanami who was sitting outside the cell her cousin was being kept in.
“You know that he hasn't.” She answered tiredly in English. Once aboard the Tamesis, she had insisted she and Mai be the ones to use a translation spell. It hadn't mattered much to Harry what language they all spoke, as long as they were able to communicate.
“Have you slept at all yet?” He asked in concern. It had been twelve hours since they'd left Japan and while everyone else had spent the morning and afternoon sleeping, he had the sense that Nanami hadn't moved much from the spot she was currently in. “I can sit here with him if you like, that way you can at least get in a nap.” He offered. “We all need to be awake and aware when we get to Sydney in a few hours. Elise and her friends have already been there once, who knows what else we'll be walking into.”
“I'll be fine.” She waved off his concern. “I've never been one to need much sleep. I can never turn off my mind long enough.”
“I know the feeling.” He commiserated, waving his wand to produce a chair before sitting next to her. “You are absolutely sure about all of this... with the coven? I don't want anyone to feel forced into anything.”
She shook her head and smiled. “There's no turning back now. I may not be as educated on the coven history like you are, but ancestral history runs deep within many families in my country. There are many who did great things with the gifts bestowed to my line and there are many who did horrible things. I would like to be remembered as one of the great ones.” She stood and moved to the bars of the cell, looking at her cousin in disappointed sorrow. “I had thought Kage felt the same.”
“You'll have a chance to ask him.” He promised sincerely, knowing what it was like to have relatives you couldn't trust. It was far too late for him and the Dursleys, but maybe Nanami could still talk some sense into Kage... maybe he'd just been misguided and could be brought around.
“Maybe.” She answered his thoughts. “Has Luna seen anything about him waking?”
“No.” He said tersely, suddenly feeling a bit of resentment against Nanami rise up within him.
“I'm sorry I did what I did.” She sighed, once again coming to sit and face him. “I needed to talk to her and I wasn't sure that the answers she could give were ones I wanted anyone else hearing. I wanted to protect Kage when I saw him in her vision... I didn't think about how it would upset her or her friends to be separated after all that you've been through together.”
“Well, from now on, I don't think any of us should split up if it can be helped. As you know, it's hard to focus on the bigger picture when you're worried about where everyone else is.”
“Okay.” She agreed readily. “You're right, I would have been out of my mind had you or Jacey disappeared with Mai... it wasn't fair of me considering anything could have happened. I'm also sorry that your Auror Nerezza got away.”
“If all goes right back home, he won't be an Auror much longer.” Harry said with hopeful determination. “Without that guise to hide under, he won't be able to get away with as much.”
“I just can't wait to find out how he came to be involved with Kage.” She sighed. “If he isn't awake by the time we find this Adam Azibo, then hopefully he can use his powers to tell us.”
“Hey.” Luna came down the stairs and smiled brightly at them both, putting out feelings of relaxation and comfort. He let her power influence him, giving into the calmness she was trying to weave. After all, she'd been so happy that this other power of hers had grown stronger since finding Nanami, why fight her when she was learning how to use it? “Dinner's ready. And Murdo said we're about three hours from shore.” She announced excitedly.
“Great.” Nanami took Harry's offered hand and stood, looking at them both nervously. “And you're sure your wolf friends will be okay out there in the moonlight?”
“I know, it's hard to believe in the amulets until you actually see them in action.” Luna smiled. “But we promise, they will be fine as long as they wear them.”
“And for added protection, we all wear them too.” Harry pulled his out from under his shirt to show her. “Don't worry, Fred and Hermione have been working all day to get two more finished, one for you and one for Mai.”
“Okay, I'll continue to trust you. I've just never heard of such a thing.” Nanami shrugged as they all headed up to the kitchen, eager to get through the meal and be on their way to finding Adam.
Draco paced the deck anxiously, taking a moment every once in awhile to glare up at the mockingly full moon. He hated this feeling, the restlessness and desire to rip off his skin was overwhelming. “Maybe when we get on shore, you and Lupin can go for a quick run.” Ginny suggested from the deck chair she was watching him from.
“I doubt that's an option.” He muttered unhappily, reaching up to grab his amulet. For extra safety, they'd taken the Wolfsbane Drake had brewed for them but he still wasn't sure it was enough. The closer they got to Australia, the more uncomfortable he'd become and he wasn't quite sure why. But he was certain he was heading toward something horrible. He'd wanted to ask Luna, but she, Potter, Jacey and Nanami had locked themselves into one of the rooms to talk.
“Everything okay?” Lupin asked tensely as he came up to the deck and walked over to Draco and Ginny.
“I'm not sure.” He replied honestly. “Are you feeling even more uneasy than usual?”
Lupin stood and analyzed how he was feeling. “No, it's just like the last few times we've worn the amulets. Maybe you're just nervous about being like this in an unfamiliar place.”
“Maybe.” Draco said though he was certain that wasn't the issue.
“Are we close?” Potter asked as he and the rest of the group came up the stairs. Draco noticed that Nanami and Mai were now both wearing amulets though they were both still staring warily at him and Lupin. He hoped he could prove to them that he wasn't anything for them to fear because he hated seeing anyone look at him like that.
“Closer than we were an hour ago.” Lupin smiled. “We should be seeing the lights from land any time now. You are all ready? You have your wands and amulets?”
They all agreed that they did. Draco patted his pocket, feeling the sharp edges of Tristan's force field device. He'd been playing with the thing whenever he had a few moments alone and believed he had a grasp on how to work it. Fred was clearly bringing some of his potions with him, so why couldn't he bring the device? They all needed to feel as protected as possible out there and it was best to have every weapon and advantage in their favor... even if he wasn't yet sure how it would be useful.
“Any word from home?” Luna asked.
Lupin nodded uneasily. “I was going to wait until we left Australia to tell you because it's sort of a good news/bad news situation and I didn't want anyone to be distracted... Well, Tonks won custody of Elanya without Nerezza's interference. It seems that after being cursed, he apparated back to his allies in London. Elanya is now in Azkaban, waiting for her trial to be put together. Arthur and his committee are keeping Nerezza out of the trial altogether by putting him under inquest to learn the circumstances of him arriving in the ministry under the influence of an Unforgivable and why he was in Japan to begin with. If he can't come up with the right answers, it may just mean the end of his position as Head Auror.”
“That all seems like good news.” Granger pointed out.
“Yeah, unless Elanya tells everyone all of our secrets too.” Potter replied miserably. “She could tell about the island, about our powers and a lot of other things we've been keeping secret... including her suspicion of us putting together a new coven.”
“Which is why Tonks is ensuring everyone involved in the trial are people that can be trusted.” Lupin said. “As for the bad news, Elise and Sarah managed to escape being arrested again... and Talena didn't seem to be with them.”
“Do you think she broke off her alliance with them?” Jacey turned to ask Luna who only shrugged.
“Where were they?” Weasley asked.
“In Toronto, looking for Daniel Phillips.”
“So they did stick to their plan?” Luna asked in surprise.
“Maybe they were hoping for you to see them and get you all to follow.” Nanami suggested.
“Whatever the case they're still out there. Are the giants aware?” Potter turned to Lupin.
“I've been told that Elanya is under constant watch. Her status as a potential escapee has been made crystal clear to everyone in the prison.” He assured them all.
“Look! I can see the lights of Sydney!” Ginny jumped up and rushed excitedly to the railing. Sure enough the shore was fast approaching.
“Aye, but we aren't docking there.” Murdo said as he came down from the captain's box. “Too many muggles, I know a better, more deserted place.”
Draco was on the verge of tearing his hair out... he still couldn't pinpoint why he felt such extra unease. He had the sense that something was waiting for him on land... something bad. But he wasn't the one able to predict the future and he could only hope Luna saw something before it was too late.
“You know them, right?” Ginny asked as the Tamesis pulled up to the hidden docks in a deserted area of the coast. She pointed out the two people that seemed to be waiting for them.
“Absolutely.” Murdo answered happily, climbing down once he was sure his ship was anchored. Everyone followed and approached as he greeted the other two men. “This is Basil Booth, local healer.” He proudly introduced the shaggier of the men.
“I understand there's someone aboard you all need me to look at.” Basil said with an easy grin. Nanami came forward to introduce herself before leading him back onto the ship to see Kage.
“I'm Oliver Malkana.” The other man introduced himself, though he was clearly looking at Jacey with amused interest. “I can sense I'm not the only one made of fire around here.” He grinned.
“I am no demon.” Jacey replied to the comment obviously meant for her.
Murdo stepped up and patted his friend on the back proudly. “Old Ollie here has been around even longer than I have. He's mastered some pretty impressive abilities, including protection charms. He's the one who helped create the spell that keeps the Tamesis from being burned.”
Ginny wasn't sure she was comfortable around Oliver,now realizing that he was a breed of fire demon. He was different than Murdo, his character seemed to be less friendly and more smug. She could also tell that Ron was extremely unhappy with the way Oliver was looking at Jacey. “So you can keep anyone from sneaking up on us again?” She asked, drawing the demon's attention away from her brother's “sort-of” girlfriend.
“I believe so. I had warned Murdo that he could be vulnerable to underwater attacks, but he was so certain no one could use the water to sneak up on a Merrow.” He laughed.
“We should get going and let you two work on the ship.” Ron insisted. “Which way to Sydney?”
“About an hour's walk that way.” Oliver pointed before turning serious and looking at Lupin and Draco. “You two might want to be careful. I'm not the only one who will be able to tell what you are... there's been a string of werewolf attacks all over Australia in the last couple of months. Wizards and muggles alike are being targeted and many are becoming proactive, letting their fear drive them to rid the country of all werewolves regardless their tameness. I'm shocked you two haven't transformed already.”
“We've been gifted with a way of staving off the change.” Lupin informed him, determined to keep Fred's amulets a secret from strangers. “We'll be careful. We're only here to look for someone and then we'll be leaving as quickly as possible. I appreciate the warning.”
“Nanami's coming back with the healer.” Luna announced. Sure enough, both their newest friend and Basil came back down onto the dock and approached the group.
“He's not going to wake up any time soon.” Nanami sadly told them.
“The lad seems to be keeping himself unconscious.” Basil explained. “His mind knows that it's better for him if he doesn't wake and so he's retreated into his own head for protection. My guess would be that he is trying to escape the confrontation with his cousin here in the waking world. Whatever his reason, my ability isn't enough to force him awake... he's gone too deep inside himself. I was able to heal all of the wounds he received in the blast though, so when he does wake, he'll be completely healthy.”
Maybe Gabby can do better. Luna's thoughts went through Ginny's mind... she must have sent it to all her friends as they were all nodding hopefully. Well, except for Draco who seemed entirely preoccupied.
They left the healer and two demons together on the Tamesis and began making their way towards Sydney with the hopes of finding the newspaper that Adam worked for. She hung near the back with Draco, taking his hand and squeezing it as they walked. “Everything okay?” She asked quietly.
“No.” He sighed. “Something isn't right, I don't know what it is, and I'm the only one who seems to feel it.”
“Well, what is the feeling you're having?”
“I don't know... like someone's waiting for me to find them.” He shook his head, upset to be confronted with what he didn't understand. “I feel this pull towards... something.”
“Luna hasn't said anything is wrong yet, so let's just ignore it and hope we get out of here before anything comes of it.” She offered.
“There's not much else we can do, is there?” He asked, clearly irritated. She wrote his attitude off under the immense pressure the moon was putting on him as well as these mysterious feelings he was having. “Just don't say it'll be okay... we'll never know if anything will be okay and so hearing it isn't comforting.”
“Fine.” She agreed easily. It was far past the time when any of them could pretend anything was okay anyway, she'd also grown tired of hearing it said.
The rest of the walk was taken in silence for them, following the others into the streets of Sydney. “There it is.” Hermione looked up from her map and pointed to a dark alley. “That will lead us to Shadwick Hill. It's like the Diagon Alley of Sydney.” She quickly explained.
“How do we get in?” Ginny asked as they approached a sturdy brick wall. Clearly the entrance to the magical community here required some sort of password, just like at home.
“I have an idea.” Nanami went back to the street entrance and waited for someone she could sense was of wizard descent. She quickly returned with a strange man who appeared to be in a dazed stupor. At her silent suggestion, he walked up to the wall, pulled out his wand and tapped around until the bricks began to move. “Thank you.” She told the man while flashing the rest of them a triumphant smile. “You should probably get back to whatever you were doing and forget this ever happened.” The man turned and went back to the street, whistling happily without once turning back in confusion.
“Well, color me impressed.” Ron muttered begrudgingly. “Handy little power that is.”
“It's served me well in the past.” Nanami grinned.
Hermione returned to her maps. “This way.” She said, all business as she once more took the lead.
Ginny looked around, taking in the colorful store fronts and throngs of brightly dressed people that were so different from the modern cityscape and muggles they'd left on the other side of the wall. Festive, earthy music filled the air, giving the entire area a light, happy aura. She held Draco's hand more tightly, hoping some of the atmosphere would rub off on him and lift a bit of the heavy unease he'd been carrying.
“How's it going?” Lupin asked as he fell back to walk with them while keeping a keen eye on the others.
“There's too many people.” Draco grumbled. Ginny knew he tended to get claustrophobic this time of the month, she could only imagine how horrible it must be to now be stuck in a crowd of strangers.
“I know. Just try to focus on something else.” Lupin said, squeezing his shoulder in support.
“Here we are, The Shadwick Hills Oracle office.” Hermione gestured to the low square building on the left.
“Okay... but we can not all just go in asking for him. It will look suspicious.” Jacey looked around.
“Harry, Luna and I will go in.” Lupin said, stepping up and taking charge by rights of age if nothing else. “Everyone else will stand right here and not move an inch.”
“Okay.” Everyone quickly agreed since they would be able to see each other through the large windows making up the front of the building. Lupin led Harry and Luna into the lobby and up to the receptionist.
“That man keeps his mind so guarded... Why do they get to go in?” Nanami complained. “Jacey and I have just as much right.”
“Because he thought we two were the most capable to watch over the others.” Jacey replied defensively, wanting to stick up for Lupin who she knew even without being able to read his mind. “He does not trust leaving Harry out in the open because he is so recognizable but he wanted someone more in control of their emotions to actually deal with the people in there so he picked Luna who is also best at keeping Harry calm.”
“Fine.” She reluctantly agreed to the logic. “I guess it's not like they'll be able to hide anything from us anyway.”
“Why would they?” Fred asked with a shrug. “If they were going to be totally honest with anyone it would be you two.”
“I know.” Nanami shook her head and sighed. “I'm sorry. It seems I've become even more distrustful than I was before. My cousin's actions have left me... unsettled.”
Mai wrapped an arm around her friend's shoulders and hugged her affectionately. “We'll figure him out.” She assured her.
“Ginny?!” Someone called out, making the entire group grab for their wands and turn in anticipation of who would recognize her here.
“Laurel?” She replied in surprised joy at finding the healer standing behind her. She let go of Draco and rushed over to hug the woman, happy to see such a welcomed familiar face in this strange place. “What are you doing here?”
“I'm on assignment, visiting with an old client.” She answered with a friendly smile. “I wasn't aware your travels were leading you here... we could have set up a meeting.”
“We won't be here long.” Ginny said with regret as Lupin, Harry and Luna returned to them all.
“Healer Honeywick? A pleasure seeing you here of all places.” Lupin said in polite greeting.
“Adam's not here.” Harry miserably announced, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets.
“He's out on assignment.” Luna further explained. “We have to go to the village of Bunyip Bog.”
“That's where I'm going!” Laurel exclaimed. “I was just on my way to catch the bus. It's a dangerous place... are you all sure you need to go there?”
“Dangerous how?” Harry asked, perking up a bit as he prepared for whatever challenge was about to be laid in front of him.
“Wait... Bunyip...” Hermione turned to Lupin. “As in the Australian water demons?”
“Exactly.” He nodded and sighed. “Bunyip Bog is the village where the majority of them live.”
“Why are you going there?” Ginny asked Laurel.
She smiled and patted her on the shoulder. “Not all of my clients are human. Humanoids need guidance sometimes as well.”
“Bunyips are just barely classified as humanoid.” Hermione said. “That's why they live in the Australian wilderness... mostly on the coastline if I remember correctly.”
“Maybe we should get Murdo to go with us.” Fred suggested. “You know, have him deal with them, one demon to another.”
“Not a good idea.” Lupin argued. “Merrows and Bunyips are rivals. Bringing him into one of their villages would only start trouble.”
“Did they say why Adam was there or what kind of story he was working on?” Jacey asked.
“Well, the receptionist told us that it was confidential... but his thoughts said it was something about another werewolf attack.” Luna told them.
“In Bunyip Bog?” Laurel seemed shocked. “They're trying to turn demons?”
“Let's hope not.” Lupin answered gravely grabbing his amulet and holding it tightly in his hand. “We need to find Adam quickly and get out of here.”
“Well come on, the bus is this way. If we hurry, you can all still buy your tickets.” Laurel said helpfully before leading them away. Ginny was glad that they would be traveling with the healer for a short while and as they boarded the bus, she made sure she and Draco sat near Laurel so they could all talk. Maybe together, they could figure out why he was suddenly so much more uncomfortable and why it seemed to be tied to being in Australia.
“Our stop is next.” Luna said quietly as she stared out the window. Moments later the driver announced what she already knew. Harry reached out to rub her knee, seeing that she was clearly distracted by something upsetting.
She shook her head and sighed, moving her gaze to the floor. “Something is waiting, some dark shadow of a beast that I can't yet see clearly. And I can't see it because it doesn't yet know that it's waiting.”
“Waiting for what? For us?” He asked, feeling the tenseness within him double.
“Yes... no...” She shook her head again, this time in frustration. “We have something that ties us to it. And it's getting closer to us... or we're getting closer to it.”
“Does it have to do with the werewolves?” Harry looked past her out the window at the full moon, shining brightly high up in the sky. It was near midnight, morning wasn't going to come soon enough.
“Maybe... but I didn't start to feel the same discomfort Draco does until we made the decision to come to Bunyip Bog.”
“Well, they did just have an attack there... only hours ago if we can believe that receptionist's thoughts.” He slumped down in his seat and closed his eyes, trying to mentally prepare himself for what was shaping up to be a long night.
The bus slowed to a stop in the middle of nowhere. Harry, his friends and Laurel were the only ones to disembark and the driver looked at them all suspiciously as they walked past him... especially since Laurel was the only one with a suitcase. “The bus doesn't come back this way for another two days.” He warned.
“Thank you.” Hermione said, as the doors closed in their faces. The bus zoomed off, nearly knocking them off their feet.
“Now where?” Ginny asked Laurel who was the only one of them to have been here before.
“Down this path.” She pointed to a barely visible break in the trees. “The village is right on the beach... they like to be close to the water.”
They began walking and Harry felt his thoughts slowly meld together with Luna, Jacey and Nanami's... they were all unconsciously sending their minds out ahead of them in search of Adam, their power becoming amplified as they began focusing on working together.
Hello? A strange yet somehow familiar voice invaded their heads.
Adam? Adam Azibo? Harry thought back excitedly as the girls helped push him.
The trees parted to expose a long beach and several huts made of branches, seaweed and muck. All four coven members turned their attention to the one on the far right as the door opened and a young man in beige shorts and a bright blue t-shirt exited. He was holding a notebook in one hand, his wand in the other and he was looking at them suspiciously though there also seemed to a deep level of confused recognition. “Do I know you?” He called, cautiously coming closer. He had dark hair and friendly green eyes that were several shades lighter than Harry's.
“That's a more complicated question than you realize.” Nanami replied, stepping forward and reaching out her hand to him. “I'm Nanami Aoki.”
Adam hesitantly stepped away from her. “Okay... you'll understand if I refrain from touching any of you. I don't like looking at anyone's past without their permission... unless it serves me to know it.” He grinned. “You look like the type of girl with a lot of secrets and one who could hurt me if I stepped out of bounds.”
“You are right on both counts.” She returned his smile. “The rest of our names will most likely mean little to nothing to you, but perhaps you've heard something about my new friend here, Harry Potter.” She turned and gestured to him.
His eyes widened a bit as he looked Harry over. “Really, the legend himself... I confess I don't know much, but I like most of what I've heard.” He smiled and nodded in recognition. “Luckily I'm in the business, so I can gauge what's believable in the press and what is influenced by opinion.”
“It's nice to know some do.” He said, returning the smile before turning serious. “We have to talk to you about something really important... how tied to being here in Australia are you?”
“Not at all.” Adam shrugged and tossed aside his notebook. “I can quit my job whenever I want, my portfolio speaks for itself and I can get work anywhere that has a newspaper. I've done so before and for far less interesting reasons than a mysterious group of strangers.”
“You don't have any family here?” Hermione asked, before recalling that without ties to the coven, she was more a stranger than he, Luna, Jacey or Nanami and quickly introduced herself.
“I don't have family anywhere.” He shrugged again, having come to feel entirely neutral about his situation. “Never had any ever, as far as I know. I only know my mother through the memories of the orphanage worker who took me in when I was an infant back in Egypt. I've gotten by on my own for twenty-three years and I have no complaints. In fact, I prefer not having any ties... it allows me to pick up and go whenever I want, which has led to some of the best and worst experiences of my life.” He laughed heartily before offering them a genuine smile. Clearly he was a guy who enjoyed life and Harry found his free-spirited positivity to be wonderfully infectious.
Unfortunately, he now had to destroy it all with reality. “I'm not sure what we're offering will be the best of times... it's dangerous... life-threateningly dangerous.” He warned.
“All the more intriguing.” He smiled.
“Hey you!” A large blob of a creature called from the house Adam had walked out of. The thing, clearly a Bunyip, could only be said to resemble a human in that it stood on two legs, had two arms and some sort of head... honestly, Harry thought it more resembled some sort of starfish, only more terrifying. “Are we going to finish your damn interview or not? You're lucky we even decided to talk to you, you know.”
“Yes, I'm sorry Ottan. It seems something even more pressing has come up.” Adam told him apologetically.
“More important than those filthy wolves trying to turn other humanoids?” Ottan demanded, coming forward. The large trunk of a nose seemed to quiver on his face as he sniffed the air. “And now you're talking to two disguised wolves in our village! After what has happened?!” He roared in rage. All around them, doors to the huts swung open and more of the bulgy creatures emerged, coming to encircle them all threateningly.
“What are you talking about?” Adam asked in confusion, raising his wand along with everyone else.
“Those two!” Ottan pointed directly at Draco and Lupin. “We don't know how they are retaining their human
form, but they are wolves as surely as the moon is full.”
“We aren't part of the pack to have attacked your village.” Lupin said with quiet authority, carefully making his way forward. “We have managed to find ways to control the beast within us, we aren't here to harm you and were unaware of any previous attacks. We've only come looking for Mr. Azibo.”
“Calidia!” Laurel called, slowly stepping toward one of the demons. “You know me... I came to see you. These are all friends of mine, I know them well. I would never bring anyone here that would mean harm to you or any of the others.”
The one called Calidia nodded slowly. “Okay, we trust them Ottan.”
“Okay then. As long as they have no ties to that beast Harland.” Ottan declared, dismissing the rest of the demons back to their homes. All left except for him and Calidia.
Harry looked at Draco uneasily... he was staring hard at the ground, his expression unreadable and the shields in his mind thicker than ever to prevent the coven's growing power from so easily breaking through. But it was clear they'd all just discovered the source of his growing discomfort since coming to Australia. Yes, I think the shadowy beast that I was seeing might just be Harland. Luna silently confirmed their fears to their whole group. We have to get out of here before he is able to sense Draco is near.
“Harland is the werewolf who attacked your village?” Lupin asked aloud, just to be sure. He kept his face blank, careful to give nothing away though Harry could sense his panic.
Ottan grunted in disgust. “Him and some of his pack. They were muggles and easily disposed of despite their condition. Harland managed to bite one of us and so we were preoccupied and he was able to get away. His victim has since been destroyed for safety.”
“Why would he come here and try to go against your kind?” Harry asked.
“Arrogance.” Calidia muttered.
“That, and we refused to agree to an alliance with his army.” Ottan clarified. “He was here about six or seven months ago with four women, one of whom was a vampire. He claimed their two species had put aside differences in the name of a greater conquest and that they were offering us the same opportunity. But we are indifferent to the laws and decrees created by any society, whether magical, mystical or muggle. We live by our own standards and care for no ones struggles outside our own colony. It is how we have survived for so long.”
“So Harland came to attack you because you wanted to remain neutral in the war?” Ginny asked incredulously.
“Not exactly.” He answered, shifting his beady black eyes before regaining his composure as leader of his clan. “While we refuse to give allegiance to anyone, we also refuse to allow anyone to try and impede the way we've lived since the beginning of our existence. Harland made it clear that both his group and this Lord Voldemort's were looking to drastically change the world and our ease of life after the war would depend on us taking sides... so we did. We took our own side and declared to do whatever it took to maintain our own place here. So when that scraggly half-giant approached us some months later, we tentatively agreed to join forces but only if the war came here. And earlier tonight, it did. Harland brought it.”
“The half-giant... was his name Rubeus Hagrid?” Lupin asked excitedly.
“It was. We said we would help him and his side... The Order of the Phoenix.” Ottan nodded his blob of a head.
“That's us. My name is Remus Lupin and I am a member. So are the rest of us.” He happily announced, including Jacey, Nanami, Mai and Laurel despite the fact that none of them were ever involved in the actual Order. “We can help you and you can help us.”
“How?” Calidia asked suspiciously.
“I know how to repel werewolf attacks.” Fred offered, wincing as Hermione sharply elbowed him in the side.
“Really?” Ottan was clearly intrigued.
“Yes.” He answered, taking a step away from Hermione before arguing with her. “Well, they were meant to be marketed, weren't they?”
“Fine, but just the amulets.” She answered mysteriously.
Fred grinned. “You know I don't have anything else yet.” He replied just as mysteriously. Obviously they had something big brewing and one of them was far more worried about the consequences than the other. But there was no time to figure it out, now was the time to barter.
Harry nodded to Lupin, giving him the go ahead to strike a deal. Lupin walked up to Ottan, putting his wand in his pocket as a show of trust. “We need to get back to our ship quickly... it's imperative that Harland not know we were ever here in Australia. Once there, those two can make up more amulets... you can swim along with us until they are finished to ensure we get away clean and you will be left with protection against werewolves.”
“We need thirty four of these amulets. How long will it take you to make them?” He asked Fred.
“We have more than enough crystals...” Hermione assured him when he looked at her uncertainly.
“Okay.” Fred nodded. “I would say three hours if we have both burners going non stop. We already have everything brewed together since we had to make two for the girls... the crystals just need time to soak in the potion and we can get ten done in an hour if we push.”
“How are we to know for sure that these amulets are useful?” Calidia asked.
“They are what's keeping myself and Draco from turning right this moment.” Lupin said with a smile as he happily displayed his. “And when non werewolves wear them, they repel the wolf from attacking.”
“An amazing discovery. You must be a talented potions master.” Ottan nodded approvingly at Fred who shrugged and looked away in embarassed pride.
“So you trust us?” Harry took a few hopeful steps forward. “Will you help us?”
“We are water demons, of course we can get you back to your ship in no time at all.” Calidia laughed. “Ottan, shall we go assemble a group?”
“Yes, go. We will entertain our guests until they annoy us.” He replied. Harry found it confusing that they always referred to themselves in the collective, but figured to each their own... at least they were being begrudgingly helpful.
“I'll go with you so we can start talking a bit.” Laurel offered, following as Calidia walked away. After all, she was on the job.
“Do you need to apparate to your house to get anything?” Jacey asked Adam.
“Nope.” He walked over to Ottan's house and grabbed a backpack that was sitting just inside the door before coming back and regarding them with an easy grin. “I always carry everything important with me. Never know when I'll have to cut and run, so it's best to travel light at all times. Anything else I need along the way I can buy, beg or barter for.”
“Wait.” Draco rushed to the right and sniffed the air warily, his eyes intently searching the trees. “Harland's come back.” He quietly told them, pulling out his wand and looking to Lupin in horror.
“Defensive positions.” Ottan grunted, barely loud enough for those standing near him to hear. But again every door opened and the rest of the Bunyips came out, ready to defend their land.
Harry looked at Luna who nodded slowly to confirm that what Draco said was true. “He knows you're here Draco and he's decided to come back now rather than gather the rest of the wolves he wanted to bring back here.” She said sadly, upset to be the one to tell him that they were all about to face their worst fear- seeing whether he was strong enough to defeat the will of his creator... and if he wasn't, were they strong enough to go against him?
“Well, at least he won't have the numbers he wanted.” Ottan said, trying to stay positive. But he was ignorant of the danger of Draco being near Harland... and worse, none of his kind would have a problem killing Draco should he turn on them. They didn't know him, had no ties to him whatsoever and had already killed one of their own rather than risk the rest of them. Harry gripped his wand and got ready, though there was no way to mentally prepare himself to face someone he'd come to care about a great deal. There was little chance of any of this going well.
Draco had his amulet in his hand, unsure whether it was better to keep it on or tear it off. Would he have more will to go against Harland's influence if he remained human? He knew he was physically stronger as the wolf... and he'd taken a double dose of Wolfsbane so he would still be able to retain his own mind and keep from turning on his friends so maybe it was better that he meet the coming enemy beast to beast... unless Harland broke through and gained control of him.
Lupin stepped up beside him as the sound of rustling leaves sounded all around, loudly distinctive to their heightened sense of hearing. “They're here.” He quietly told the group before emitting a low growl of warning to the werewolves surrounding them.
“Attack!” Ottan yelled as soon as the first creature burst through the trees. In an instant, the small beach clearing erupted in spells and magic as the demons used their inherent abilities to call some of the more deadly amphibian animals to assist them.
Draco ducked the werewolf that had tried to tackle him to the ground, turning and grabbing the creature by the scruff of it's neck before trapping it in a binding. Draco... He heard Harland's voice whisper through his mind. It was different than when Potter or Luna tried to communicate... there was nothing telepathic about it. Harland was trying to use his position as creator to regain the will of his creation. Draco pushed against it, doing everything in his power to ignore it and focus on the fight at hand. He used the shields he'd developed to keep out the coven members, strengthening it as much as he could.
“Hey!” He heard Ginny call out angrily and turned to find her and Mai, standing back to back along with three Bunyips as they attempted to keep back the group of ten werewolves circling and snapping at them... thankfully, the amulets seemed to be keeping them away from the girls, but the demons were definitely more exposed. He rushed over, casting and causing one of the wolves to go flying off deep into the woods, striking several trees on the way. The other nine stared at him in confusion, clearly sensing the wolf in him and unsure why he was attacking them... obviously they weren't under the influence of Wolfsbane, there was nothing human in the way they looked at him. Ginny and the others with her used the distraction to their advantage.
Draco! Harland was screaming in his thoughts. It was so loud his mind was echoing painfully and he grabbed his head and fell to his knees in an attempt to continue ignoring the call.
“Draco!” Ginny screamed in warning as a giant, fur covered body slammed into him, knocking him to the ground before leaping back in furious agony.
Rid yourself of that which binds you! It was clear the werewolf in front of him was Harland as it was staring intently at the amulet that was keeping him back. So he drank Wolfsbane too, Draco should have guessed the man wasn't the type to give away control to anything. He grabbed his amulet and held it tightly in his hand, demanding of himself that he not tear it off.
Harland suddenly glanced to the left and taking in both Ginny and Mai about to cast at him, he lunged. “No!” Laurel yelled out as Draco leapt to his feet. The healer was closer and unburdened by an internal struggle and so unfortunately she reached them first... She cast a shield around the girls, leaving herself exposed. Harland switched direction last minute and lunged at her, the easiest of all his current targets as she was the only one not wearing an amulet.
“Stop!” Draco yelled, tackling Harland away from Laurel. He felt claws tear at his skin and sharp fangs bite at his limbs, but he didn't care... the damage had already been done months ago. They rolled away from each other, gracefully getting to their feet and staring each other down as they slowly circled. He could feel his wounds already starting to heal as the moon washed over him. Harland relentlessly pushed his way into his thoughts.
It's no use fighting me Draco... I don't care how strong you've become, we both know you aren't stronger than me. Take off that ridiculous crystal and join me in wreaking havoc. Let the wolf play... obey me!
Once again he felt himself reach up and grab the amulet against his will... sweat dripped down his face as he concentrated on not doing what was ordered of him. He felt ready to explode against the pressure and became desirous of shedding his skin and finally being able to run free- free from humanity, free from thought, free from free will and making choices. It was a strange sort of freedom, letting someone else be responsible for your actions and he was exhausted from fighting against it. He wasn't sure how much longer he could hold out.
That's it, you know there's no use. I'll win in the end, I made you what you are. Any strength you have you owe to me and the gift I gave you. It's time to repay me, obey my orders! Remove the crystal and become what you really are... run with my pack as you were meant to. It's time to prove your use to me. Harland's hard wolf/human eyes were boring into him, making it impossible to focus anywhere else.
Rough hands suddenly pushed Draco, knocking him to the ground and creating a small break in the influence Harland was casting. “Stay back.” Lupin growled out, moving to stand protectively in front of him.
“Crucio!” Jacey called, hitting Harland from behind as Luna came forward to cast a binding. Before he could call out to any of the wolves still left fighting, Potter swooped in, removing his amulet and placing it around Harland's neck. The transformation was almost instantaneous as he shrank back down to a still impressively large man, his muscular body straining to move against the binding as soon as Jacey lifted the Unforgivable.
For a moment he was livid with rage, and then he looked around at them all and laughed in maniacal amusement. “You haven't won. Draco will free me... sooner or later, he'll give in... he was already so close a moment ago, weren't you Draco?”
Weren't you? Harland's inner voice taunted before becoming forceful and angry once again. Release this binding on me! NOW!
Draco turned away so he wouldn't have to look at him. Fred, Granger, Weasley, Nanami, Mai and Adam were still working with the Bunyips and the animals they called, taking care of the remaining werewolves all around him... they were quickly becoming successful. He watched in disgust as a pair of giant crocodiles snapped their powerful jaws around one of the wolves near the water's edge and drag it under to their turf. Nature at it's most violent- and he was now a part of it...
As soon as the fighting began, Luna knew which of the creatures was Harland. His was the biggest, most aggressive wolf and she wanted to keep an eye on him to ensure he was kept away from Draco. Unfortunately, he'd arrived with nearly fifty of the pack he'd created for himself and so as more came forward, she lost track of him in her attempts to keep from being bitten. But for as many of them as there were, they seemed to be taken out pretty easily. “They're muggles.” She realized aloud. “Under the werewolf curse, they're only muggles.”
“Fight now, feel bad later.” Lupin grunted out as he shoved back and cursed one of the wolves.
“Why is Harland letting us kill so many of them?” Harry asked, cursing one and using his powers to throw two more far out into the water.
“Because his attention is focused elsewhere.” Lupin pointed to where Harland and Draco were staring each other down.
“Look out!” Jacey called, causing Luna and Harry to instinctively duck to the ground. They pulled Lupin with them just as flames exploded over their heads, lighting three werewolves who had been stalking up behind them.
“We have to stop Harland from reaching into Draco to the point where he can't fight the influence anymore.” Luna warned.
“Okay, the best way to deal with him would be in human form, right?” Harry turned to Lupin. “You get in there and distract him... Luna and Jacey, you two immobilize him and I'll get my amulet on him.”
“Fine, just be careful.” Lupin agreed, quickly hurrying off to protectively get between Draco and Harland. The girls moved fast, cursing and binding the giant wolf while Harry ran in and placed his amulet... it all went a bit too smoothly.
At first Harland appeared outraged in his naked human form. Then he let out an amused laugh that chilled Luna's blood. “You haven't won. Draco will free me... sooner or later, he'll give in... he was already so close a moment ago, weren't you Draco?” He called out, but Draco turned away to collect himself and hopefully continue fighting the need to listen to his creator.
“What happened?” Luna exclaimed, rushing over to where Ginny was leaning over Laurel's bloody, unmoving body.
“Harland.” Ginny sobbed miserably. “He lunged at us and Laurel tried to protect me. He killed her!” Luna hugged her friend tightly, wanting more than anything to somehow make this better. Ginny had already lost two brothers and Neville, how many more important people could she lose before it became too much?
While offering comfort to Ginny, her attention was instinctively drawn to Draco who was staring at the ground with his hands in his pockets as Lupin went over to talk to him. Her vision blurred before going away altogether. “Luna?” She heard Harry as he sensed something wrong and came to kneel with her and Ginny.
She didn't answer, instead losing herself in the brief vision. She saw Draco holding some sort of device... it looked familiar... that's it! She knew where she'd seen it before, it was the force field device that Tristan had used to trap them. She came back to herself unsure of his plans but certain she had to stop him. “Draco, don't!” She yelled as she struggled to her feet. Unfortunately, she was too late.
Draco! Free me now! You can't ignore me forever. The persistent voice continued to hammer away at him.
Harland was right... he couldn't put off this feeling of needing to obey. It was only a matter of time before the man would have him turning against his friends and he couldn't allow it. He stuck his hands in his pocket, feeling the edges of Tristan's device as a plan formed in his mind... one that was stupid and dangerous but that would lead to the end of this one way or another.
“You okay?” Lupin asked, startling him out of his thoughts.
“How's Laurel?” Draco asked as a distraction, turning to find Ginny kneeling next to the healer and crying softly as Luna held her.
“I believe she died quickly.” He offered, placing the horrible news in the best light possible. “But what about you... how are you doing?”
“Holding my own... for now.” He answered, watching Potter hurry over to Luna and Ginny in concern. Now was the time, Harland was alone and if he could just get Lupin away, then it would be the perfect opportunity... but he had to be fast because now that he'd made a decision, it was clear Luna was in the middle of some sort of vision, warning of his plot. “I'm sorry.” He said quietly before lunging with all his strength, taking Lupin by surprise and shoving him into a stumble where he landed several feet away.
“Draco, don't!” Luna yelled out to him. But there was no turning back. One way or another he had to end this tie to Harland and he was ready to take things into his own hands. In an instant, the device was in his hand and he'd pushed the button... Potter was a second too late, crashing into the invisible barrier that ensured he and Harland were trapped and unable to hurt anyone but themselves.
“So what's your plan now?” Harland taunted from his spot on the ground.
“You took the Wolfsbane.” He stalled, trying to ignore Ginny, Potter, Lupin, Luna and Jacey as they all beat against the force field, trying to get in.
“Of course I did. I would never let some common beast overcome my mind. I'm far more cunning and adept at survival than any wolf.” He sneered.
“And yet, here you are, only two cursed words away from death.” Draco threatened, raising his wand and preparing himself to utter the ultimate Unforgivable.
“Really? It that how you want you friends and girlfriend to see you end this? Cursing a bound man?” Harland asked, hitting on the one weak spot Draco carried with him- the desire for his friends to believe he was a new person, someone completely different and more trustworthy than the old Draco Malfoy. Would they understand his actions if he killed Harland like this right in front of them? Potter and Jacey would because of the lives they'd led, and probably Lupin and Ginny as well since they'd been with him and his struggle with the werewolf curse from the beginning... but would any of them ever look at him the same again?
“Here's how this is going to work.” He knew he needed to make a decision quickly. Adam and Nanami were now standing with Potter, Luna and Jacey outside the barrier and it was clear they were working together to break through... he could feel the invisible structure quivering around him, leading him to believe that five coven members were enough to eventually overcome it. He looked at Ginny who's eyes were silently pleading with him to come to his senses. She's never seen him in his wolf form... but he felt it was better she see that than him outright murder someone, even Harland. He grabbed his amulet and pushed the others out of his mind to focus on the man in front of him. “I'll release the binding and as we've both drank the Wolfsbane, we'll remove the amulets. I'll release the barrier and then we'll both run as fast and far from here as we can, or until you catch me. Then we'll really see who comes out on top because like you, I would never let some common beast overcome my mind. You want my obedience, you'll have to fight for it.”
“Deal.” He grinned wickedly, licking his lips in anticipation of a planned hunt. Both of their instincts were running on wolf more than man as the moon washed down over them, Draco knew the idea of hunting him down would be enough enticement for Harland to temporarily forget his goals here in Bunyip Bog and the fact that Potter was standing only a few yards away.
“They'll try to stop us...” He warned.
“They will fail.” Harland snarled, making it clear that his only focus was on taking care of his creation that was now daring enough to go against him.
“Once I release your binding, we are going to walk to the edge of the forest. The barrier will follow me.” He said confidently, having tested it out on deck while Ginny slept. Waving his wand, he freed Harland but kept it pointed and ready in case the man decided to be a bit truer to his nature and attack him outside of their settled terms. They began walking, neither taking their eyes off the other's. The closer they got to the trees, the more Draco could feel his wolf rise up in anticipation of being let loose... his skin began to crawl, begging to be torn away and his true self be revealed. His eyesight intensified and his hearing heightened to the point where he could almost make out the muffled voices of his friends through the force field.
“Are you ready for this?” Harland grinned maliciously as he grabbed the amulet Potter had placed around his neck.
“You better believe it.” Draco growled, ripping off his own amulet and tossing is aside. At once he felt both relieve and agony as his body twisted and broke to accommodate the transformation into something much bigger and more powerful. As soon as he saw Harland had done the same, he pushed the button on the device he'd been sure to hold onto and then he dropped it and ran like his life depended on it... and at the moment, it did.
NOTE: A lot more to come, everything in the story will be moving more quickly now as we approach the end. Don't worry, there will be another sequel after this one. Thanks to everyone for reading!
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