Chapter 2 : History of Magic is just the beginning
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Author's Note: My muse has been kicking hard today, forcing me to work on this story before my brain melted and oozed out of my ears. ;o) I've always been a big fan of Greek Mythology, and for some reason, this idea just stuck in my head. I hope you all enjoy reading the story as much as I did writing it. Thank you, Jojo Bean, for being my soundboard today. I love you! Readers, please bear with the long story at the beginning. Enjoy!!!!
"Once upon a time, through that Destiny that overrules the gods, Eros himself gave up his immortal heart to a mortal maiden. And thus it came to pass~
There was a certain king who had three beautiful daughters. The two elder married princes of great renown; but Psyche, the youngest, was so radiantly fair that no suitor seemed worthy of her. People thronged to see her pass through the city, and sang hymns in her praise, while strangers took her for the very goddess of beauty herself.
This angered Aphrodite, and she resolved to cast down her earthly rival. One day, therefore, she called hither her son, Eros [Love, some name him], and bade him sharpen his weapons. He is an archer more to be dreaded than Apollo, for Apollo's arrows take life, but Eros' bring joy or sorrow for a whole life long.
"Come, Eros," said Aphrodite. "There is a mortal maid who robs me of my honors in yonder city. Avenge your mother. Wound this precious Psyche, and let her fall in love with some churlish creature mean in the eyes of all men."
Eros made ready his weapons, and flew down to earth invisibly. At that moment Psyche was asleep in her chamber; but he touched her heart with his golden arrow of love, and she opened her eyes so suddenly that he started [forgetting that he was invisible], and wounded himself with his own shaft. Heedless of the hurt, moved only by the loveliness of the maiden, he hastened to pour over her locks the healing joy that he ever kept by him, undoing all his work. Back to her dream the princess went, unshadowed by any thought of love. But Eros, not so light of heart, returned to the heavens, saying not a word of what had passed.
Aphrodite waited long; then, seeing that Psyche's heart had somehow escaped love, she sent a spell upon the maiden. From that time, lovely as she was, not a suitor came to woo; and her parents, who desired to see her a queen at least, made a journey to the Oracle, and asked counsel.
Said the voice: "The Princess Psyche shall never wed a mortal. She shall be given to one who waits for her on yonder mountain; he overcomes gods and men."
At this terrible sentence the poor parents were half-distraught, and the people gave themselves up to grief at the fate in store for their beloved princess. Psyche alone bowed to her destiny. "We have angered Aphrodite unwittingly," she said, "and all for sake of me, heedless maiden that I am! Give me up, therefore, dear father and mother. If I atone, it may be that the city will prosper once more."
So she besought them, until, after many unavailing denials, the parents consented; and with a great company of people they led Psyche up the mountain, -- as an offering to the monster of whom the Oracle had spoken, -- and left her there alone.
Full of courage, yet in a secret agony of grief, she watched her kindred and her people wind down the mountain-path, too sad to look back, until they were lost to sight. Then, indeed, she wept, but a sudden breeze drew near, dried her tears, and caressed her hair, seeming to murmur comfort. In truth, it was Zephyr, the kindly West Wind, come to befriend her; and as she took heart, feeling some benignant presence, he lifted her in his arms, and carried her on wings as even as a sea-gull's, over the crest of the fateful mountain and into a valley below. There he left her, resting on a bank of hospitable grass, and there the princess fell asleep.
When she awoke, it was near sunset. She looked about her for some sign of the monster's approach; she wondered, then, if her grievous trial had been but a dream. Near by she saw a sheltering forest, whose young trees seemed to beckon as one maid beckons to another; and eager for the protection of the dryads, she went thither.
The call of running waters drew her farther and farther, till she came out upon an open place, where there was a wide pool. A fountain fluttered gladly in the midst of it, and beyond there stretched a white palace wonderful to see. Coaxed by the bright promise of the place, she drew near, and, seeing no one, entered softly. It was all kinglier than her father's home, and as she stood in wonder and awe, soft airs stirred about her. Little by little the silence grew murmurous like the woods, and one voice, sweeter than the rest, took words. "All that you see is yours, gentle high princess," it said. "Fear nothing; only command us, for we are here to serve you."
Full of amazement and delight, Psyche followed the voice from hall to hall, and through the lordly rooms, beautiful with everything that could delight a young princess. No pleasant thing was lacking. There was even a pool, brightly tiled and fed with running waters, where she bathed her weary limbs; and after she had put on the new and beautiful raiment that lay ready for her, she sat down to break her fast, waited upon and sung to by the unseen spirits.
Surely he whom the Oracle had called her husband was no monster, but some beneficent power, invisible like all the rest. When daylight waned he came, and his voice, the beautiful voice of a god, inspired her to trust her strange destiny and to look and long for his return. Often she begged him to stay with her through the day, that she might see his face; but this he would not grant.
"Never doubt me, dearest Psyche," said he. "Perhaps you would fear if you saw me, and love is all I ask. There is a necessity that keeps me hidden now. Only believe."
So for many days Psyche was content; but when she grew used to happiness, she thought once more of her parents mourning her as lost, and of her sisters who shared the lot of mortals while she lived as a goddess. One night she told her husband of these regrets, and begged that her sisters at least might come to see her. He sighed, but did not refuse.
"Zephyr shall bring them hither," said he. And on the following morning, swift as a bird, the West Wind came over the crest of the high mountain and down into the enchanted valley, bearing her two sisters.
They greeted Psyche with joy and amazement, hardly knowing how they had come hither. But when this fairest of the sisters led them through her palace and showed them all the treasures that were hers, envy grew in their hearts and choked their old love. Even while they sat at feast with her, they grew more and more bitter; and hoping to find some little flaw in her good fortune, they asked a thousand questions.
"Where is your husband?" said they. "And why is he not here with you?"
"Ah," stammered Psyche. "All the day long -- he is gone, hunting upon the mountains."
"But what does he look like?" they asked; and Psyche could find no answer.
When they learned that she had never seen him, they laughed her faith to scorn.
"Poor Psyche," they said. "You are walking in a dream. Wake, before it is too late. Have you forgotten what the Oracle decreed, -- that you were destined for a dreadful creature, the fear of gods and men? And are you deceived by this show of kindliness? We have come to warn you. The people told us, as we came over the mountain, that your husband is a dragon, who feeds you well for the present, that he may feast the better, some day soon. What is it that you trust? Good words! But only take a dagger some night, and when the monster is asleep go, light a lamp, and look at him. You can put him to death easily, and all his riches will be yours -- and ours."
Psyche heard this wicked plan with horror. Nevertheless, after her sisters were gone, she brooded over what they had said, not seeing their evil intent; and she came to find some wisdom in their words. Little by little, suspicion ate, like a moth, into her lovely mind; and at nightfall, in shame and fear, she hid a lamp and a dagger in her chamber. Towards midnight, when her husband was fast asleep, up she rose, hardly daring to breathe; and coming softly to his side, she uncovered the lamp to see some horror.
But there the youngest of the gods lay sleeping, -- most beautiful, most irresistible of all immortals. His hair shone golden as the sun, his face was radiant as dear Springtime, and from his shoulders sprang two rainbow wings.
Poor Psyche was overcome with self-reproach. As she leaned towards him, filled with worship, her trembling hands held the lamp ill, and some burning oil fell upon Eros' shoulder and awakened him.
He opened his eyes, to see at once his bride and the dark suspicion in her heart.
"O doubting Psyche!" he exclaimed with sudden grief, -- and then he flew away, out of the window.
Wild with sorrow, Psyche tried to follow, but she fell to the ground instead. When she recovered her senses, she stared about her. She was alone, and the place was beautiful no longer. Garden and palace had vanished with Eros.
Over mountains and valleys Psyche journeyed alone until she came to the city where her two envious sisters lived with the princes whom they had married. She stayed with them only long enough to tell the story of her unbelief and its penalty. Then she set out again to search for Eros.
As she wandered one day, travel-worn but not hopeless, she saw a lofty palace on a hill near by, and she turned her steps thither. The place seemed deserted. Within the hall she saw no human being, -- only heaps of grain, loose ears of corn half torn from the husk, wheat and barley, alike scattered in confusion on the floor. Without delay, she set to work binding the sheaves together and gathering the scattered ears of corn in seemly wise, as a princess would wish to see them. While she was in the midst of her task, a voice startled her, and she looked up to behold Demeter herself, the goddess of the harvest, smiling upon her with good will.
"Dear Psyche," said Demeter, "you are worthy of happiness, and you may find it yet. But since you have displeased Aphrodite, go to her and ask her favor. Perhaps your patience will win her pardon."
These motherly words gave Psyche heart, and she reverently took leave of the goddess and set out for the temple of Aphrodite. Most humbly she offered up her prayer, but Aphrodite could not look at her earthly beauty without anger.
"Vain girl," said she, "perhaps you have come to make amends for the wound you dealt your husband; you shall do so. Such clever people can always find work!"
Then she led Psyche into a great chamber heaped high with mingled grain, beans, and lentils [the food of her doves], and bade her separate them all and have them ready in seemly fashion by night. Hercules would have been helpless before such a vexatious task; and poor Psyche, left alone in this desert of grain, had not courage to begin. But even as she sat there, a moving thread of black crawled across the floor from a crevice in the wall; and bending nearer, she saw that a great army of ants in columns had come to her aid. The zealous little creatures worked in swarms, with such industry over the work they like best, that, when Aphrodite came at night, she found the task completed.
"Deceitful girl," she cried, shaking the roses out of her hair with impatience, "this is my son's work, not yours. But he will soon forget you. Eat this black bread if you are hungry, and refresh your dull mind with sleep. To-morrow you will need more wit."
Psyche wondered what new misfortune could be in store for her. But when morning came, Aphrodite led her to the brink of a river, and, pointing to the wood across the water, said: "Go now to yonder grove where the sheep with the golden fleece are wont to browse. Bring me a golden lock from every one of them, or you must go your ways and never come back again."
This seemed not difficult, and Psyche obediently bade the goddess farewell, and stepped into the water, ready to wade across. But as Aphrodite disappeared, the reeds sang louder and the nymphs of the river, looking up sweetly, blew bubbles to the surface and murmured: "Nay, nay, have a care, Psyche. This flock has not the gentle ways of sheep. While the sun burns aloft, they are themselves as fierce as flame; but when the shadows are long, they go to rest and sleep, under the trees; and you may cross the river without fear and pick the golden fleece off the briers in the pasture."
Thanking the water-creatures, Psyche sat down to rest near them, and when the time came, she crossed in safety and followed their counsel. By twilight she returned to Aphrodite with her arms full of shining fleece.
"No mortal wit did this," said Aphrodite angrily. "But if you care to prove your readiness, go now, with this little box, down to Persephone and ask her to enclose in it some of her beauty, for I have grown pale in caring for my wounded son."
It needed not the last taunt to sadden Psyche. She knew that it was not for mortals to go into Hades and return alive; and feeling that Love had forsaken her, she was minded to accept her doom as soon as might be.
But even as she hastened towards the descent, another friendly voice detained her. "Stay, Psyche, I know your grief. Only give ear and you shall learn a safe way through all these trials." And the voice went on to tell her how one might avoid all the dangers of Hades and come out unscathed. [But such a secret could not pass from mouth to mouth, with the rest of the story.]
"And be sure," added the voice, "when Persephone has returned the box, not to open it, ever much you may long to do so."
Psyche gave heed, and by this device, whatever it was, she found her way into Hades safely, and made her errand known to Persephone, and was soon in the upper world again, wearied but hopeful.
"Surely Eros has not forgotten me," she said. "But humbled as I am and worn with toil, how shall I ever please him? Aphrodite can never need all the beauty in this casket; and since I use it for Eros' sake, it must be right to take some." So saying, she opened the box, heedless as Pandora! The spells and potions of Hades are not for mortal maids, and no sooner had she inhaled the strange aroma than she fell down like one dead, quite overcome.
But it happened that Eros himself was recovered from his wound, and he had secretly fled from his chamber to seek out and rescue Psyche. He found her lying by the wayside; he gathered into the casket what remained of the philter, and awoke his beloved.
"Take comfort," he said, smiling. "Return to my mother and do her bidding till I come again."
Away he flew; and while Psyche went cheerily homeward, he hastened up to Olympus, where all the gods sat feasting, and begged them to intercede for him with his angry mother.
They heard his story and their hearts were touched. Zeus himself coaxed Aphrodite with kind words till at last she relented, and remembered that anger hurt her beauty, and smiled once more. All the younger gods were for welcoming Psyche at once, and Hermes was sent to bring her hither. The maiden came, a shy newcomer among those bright creatures. She took the cup that Hebe held out to her, drank the divine ambrosia, and became immortal.
Light came to her face like moonrise, two radiant wings sprang from her shoulders; and even as a butterfly bursts from its dull cocoon, so the human Psyche blossomed into immortality.
Eros took her by the hand, and they were never parted any more. "
The dry and reedy voice of Professor Binns that carried on a flat drone like an old vacuum cleaner came to a sudden stop, as if someone had pulled the plug. Flat pearly gray eyes scanned the room, finding semi-alert students for once. His ghostly mouth opened as if to speak when class ended, the Seventh Year Gryffindors and Slytherins hurriedly grabbing their books and leaving the History of Magic classroom.
Side by side, the Gryffindor Trio walked...Harry and Ron chuckling as Hermione went on about the lesson. "Oh honestly, I can't believe Professor Binns was teaching that. It's only a myth, and myths are just stories coming down from the past...generally regarded as historical even without any verifiable facts! I read that story a thousand times before I even heard of magic." The red-haired Weasley grinned and threw an arm over the girl's shoulders, chuckling. " 'Mione, did you ever consider that perhaps it is a true story?" The bushy-haired witch rolled her eyes at Ron's comment, elbowing him in the side. "Oh yes...there really were gods living at the top of Mount Olympus...about as much as the Chudley Cannons are ever going to reach the World Cup. Right, Harry?" The green-eyed boy just lifted his hands in a supplicating gesture, chuckling at Ron's indignant gasp. "I'm staying out of this one, mates." The three Seventh Years hardly even noticed the twinkling eyes of one Albus Dumbledore as they passed, the old wizard laughing under his breath as he glanced down at the grim-like dog sitting at his feet. "As smart as our Ms. Granger is, she still has much to learn about the wizarding world." The dog barked once, as if answering the Headmaster.
Dinnertime found Ron and Hermione arguing over the truth behind mythology. Harry just sat back and watched his two friends, shaking his head slowly. It was amazing how those two could argue and argue, and still be so smitten with the other. Dean and Seamus had already taken bets as to when the two would finally admit their feelings, most voting for Graduation Day.
"REAL!" "FAKE!" "REAL!" "FAKE!" "REAL!" "FAKE!" "REAL!" "FAKE!" By this point, the entire Great Hall had fallen silent, taking notice of the two Gryffindors fighting. Ron and Hermione were on separate sides of the table, standing up and screaming. "REAL!" "FAKE!" Suddenly Ron grabbed Hermione by the shoulders and captured her lips in a deep kiss to shut her up. The entire Gryffindor section burst into cheers and applause while Harry just stuck his hand out, grinning. Grumbling good-naturedly, the other boys paid up....Harry having been the only one to bet on those two kissing within the first week of school.
Tucking his winnings in his pocket, the messy-haired Gryffindor turned back to see just as Ron and Hermione came up for air. He grinned at them as Hermione blushed and sat down, ducking her head behind a book. The red-haired wizard dropped to his seat next to Harry, blushing as well...never realizing that he had won an argument with Hermione...for the first, last and only time.
After dinner, Harry managed to convince the two lovebirds to go out for a walk near the Quidditch Pitch, it not being very dark outside yet. Laughing and talking as they headed out, none of them took notice of a small rat scurried in the shadows after them, light glinting off its tiny silver paw. It sneezed, tumbling down the hill...and got up all wobbly, its pointed nose wriggling. There was a moment it seemed as though the rat was praying for its cold not to give it away. he silver-pawed rat snuck closer, pausing in the shadows as the three students spoke animatedly on the Quidditch Pitch. Suddenly within the rat's place was a wizard, one hand made of silver. He shouted two spells suddenly at the group, garnering their attention.
The small unkempt man stood cockily, his rat-like nose twitching as he held a wand pointed at the three teenagers before him. His watery eyes fell over each in turn, starting with the bushy-haired mudblood still writhing on the ground from the Cruciatus Curse he'd hit her with moments earlier. Beside her was one of the many Weasley brats...Ron, to be exact. He'd been caught first with the Full Body Bind, a First Year spell...but effective nonetheless. Now he grinned at the defiant boy still standing there, his body between the rat-faced wizard and his friends...protecting them even with the loss of his wand.
Bright emerald-green eyes stared hatefully at him, so reminiscent of his mudblood mother when he cried out, "You filthy rat! I should have let Siri and Rem kill you when they had the chance, Wormtail!" Peter Pettigrew, better known as Wormtail, just sneered, a laughable imitation of Lucius Malfoy if there ever was one. "My Master will be pleased when I bring you back to him and under my control, Potter." The rat leveled his wand, " IMPE- AHHH -VERZAUBERN- IO- CHOO!!!!" A bright gold light flashed from his wand and hit the Boy Who Lived directly in his chest, sending him flying into a nearby pole. Pettigrew stood there, shocked and staring at the fallen boy for a moment. Voices called in the distance, "HARRY! 'MIONE! RON! WHERE ARE YOU?!" The rat-faced man glanced indecisively at the fallen Potter and then back towards the voices getting closer and closer by the second before finally transforming into his Animagus form and scurrying off into the night.
The first to reach the fallen Gryffindor Trio was Remus Lupin, his heightened senses leading the search party. The sandy-haired werewolf knelt next to Ron, dispelling the Full Body Bind with a flick of his wrist. The red-haired wizard looked around frantically for his girlfriend, sighing in relief to Hogwarts' resident Potions Master giving her a post-Cruciatus potion. Suddenly his blue eyes widened and he jumped to his feet, "Where's Harry?!"
"H-he's right here..." The tremor in Sirius' voice made everyone freeze and look at each other. Remus was the first to ask, stepping towards the dark-haired man and the crumpled form of the Boy Who Lived. "Is he all right, Padfoot?" Sirius silently drew off his black robes, leaving himself in just a T-shirt and jeans. He gently wrapped it around his unconscious godson before answering. "He still lives, Moony..." His answer did nothing to allay the unspoken fears of those gathered, all watching as Sirius gathered Harry to his chest, the robes hiding him from everyone else. Troubled blue eyes looked at each before he whispered softly, "Infirmary...," activating the small portkey Dumbledore had given him earlier.
A/N : I hope everyone enjoyed this so far! Read and Review!!
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