And so it begins. I just put up the idea yesterday, but I'm too eager to wait. If you want the full description of this, go to my profile, and if you want the FULL full description, copy and paste the url on my page and read the version Piloting Insanity has up.
The war continues, and it is bloody. The nightmares continue, and they are getting worse with every death. Albus Dumbledore; Ginny Weasley; Luna Lovegood; Ronald Weasley; Hermione Granger; the Potters. Now with his options running out and his back against the wall, Harry is ready to do the unthinkable. The lore that he has delved into has given him hope, and more dangerous than that, a plan. Now he must dance with the Devil and pray that it's enough.
Rated M for violence, language, murder, profane rituals, and sexual themes. Also pure buggering insanity.
Silence hangs over the village of Raven Hall, the burned out husks of buildings all that remains of the tiny township that was rumored to be the homestead of the Ravenclaw bloodline. The war that has been raging in the open for the last seven years demolished this place long ago, within a year of the battle lines being drawn. The fall of the Ministry broke the wards and the protections around many historic sites, some of which held more significance than others, but in the end it was the hamlets of the Founders that took the greatest hit. Raven Hall was razed to the ground, the first introduction of the horrible shock troopers that the Dark Lord had found a way to use.
A loud crack shatters the quiet, followed by several grunts and dull thuds as a stranger catapults through the air before coming to rest in a clearing mercifully free of debris. Clouds cover the moon but still there is enough light for the stranger to push to their feet and run on, the ragged breathing giving voice to just how much the stranger has been exerting themselves recently. Stubborn beyond belief, they stagger on, searching for cover, just one place to hide, to find relief from the coming storm. The stranger's thoughts mull over what happened here, the battle that began the downward spiral of the morale of the Light when a nightmare vision stormed the field.
~Six years ago~
Tom had sent his forces here days ago, knowing that there was something in Raven Hall that could help him gain more power, widen the gulf between himself and the Boy-Who-Lived, but he hadn't been prepared for the Order to be here. Harry knew he wouldn't be, knew that he wouldn't expect to see the Light standing against him since he had learned how to Occlude his mind and still seep into his enemy's. Now he stands back to back with Hermione, their wands flashing as chains of hexes and curses arc forth without a word and only the tiniest of movements. They have fought like this since the Forest of Dean last year, when fighting was the only way to survive. Harry's free hand reaches back and taps her hip and she drops, covering her head and hoping that it's enough when he spins on his heel and lashes his arm, crackling light uncoiling and superheating the air when the lightning whip streaks across five Death Eaters. Her reflexes are quick enough to jab her wand behind him, the gray needle of her spell drilling a hole in the forehead of the man trying to sneak up on her best friend.
They can see Ron fighting beside Luna, the Seer and the strategist fighting with a fluid grace that makes even them look like rank amateurs in dueling. Luna's shields flicker into place moments before spells would strike her or her companion, and Ron uses the advantage he gains from not having to worry about being hit by spellfire to shape the field. Walls are conjured and transfigured, bottlenecks created and then exploited with explosive and deadly effect, and even the deaths of their enemies are calculated seven steps ahead by the eighteen year old chess master. For days, this battle has raged and the tides of the enemy has crashed upon the unbreakable bulwark of the Golden Trio and their friends. They fight with a rage and a vigor that is fueled by the deaths they have had to endure, the losses they have known.
Only a month ago, during a skirmish in Diagon Alley, the Order and Dumbledore's Army stood strong against the Death Eaters and nearly drove them out without a single loss, but then Tom came. A pillar of smoke crashed out of the air and coalesced into the feared Dark Lord, and even with all their combined spellpower, they could not push him back. Then the unthinkable happened, and a sneer crossed his face. A sickly arc of black lightning streaked across the field from his wand, and with no time to react, one of their number fell. Who it was however turned the tide of the battle and the forces of Light fled, leaving the body of Ginevra Molly Weasley face up on the pavement, a smoking hole through her chest and a look of surprise on her face. That death is why they have spent a month preparing for this battle, why they have trained to be unbeatable here, and it seems to be enough.
Then a specter from two years ago drifts onto the field, and horror is all that they know. A black alder wand in his hand, the desiccated corpse of Albus Dumbledore begins a barrage of curses so quick and blinding in their array of colors that the four can do nothing but hide behind walls of earth and hastily erected shields. They fire back when they can, and slowly they regain their rhythm and even manage to push him back, only to hear Luna scream out, "No! Not Ron, not Ron!" There is no other enemy, and Harry's blood runs cold, the heavy weight of knowing hitting him three heartbeats before a crack sounds, announcing an Apparition, and a cold green light strikes his mate's back, blasting him into the very wall he conjured. Needing to know who he must kill for taking the life of his first friend, he turns only to see Ginny standing there, her wand still smoking, a green eldritch light burning in place of her eyes. The same light that burns in Dumbledore. With no more thoughts, he grabs Hermione and Apparates to Luna, his hand snaking out to grab her cloak before he turns on the spot once more to whisk them away from the field.
In the years after that, they slowly lost ground, and lost soldiers. Friends. Family. One by one they all fell, until no one was left, no one but those who were once enemies. The stranger gives voice to a bitter laugh, thinking about who he has been forced to trust since the death of Luna two years ago. That was the battle where too many things changed, but more than anything, that was the battle where the last of his childhood died with the Seer. He thinks about the look on her face moments before the spell came, the brooding acceptance of her own death-to-come, and the words she uttered before the end. "When at last the Light falls, the Darkness will rise anew. The Wolf shall aid the Lion, and death shall walk again." Then came the lightning, the spell that had marked the beginning of the end for Dumbledore's Army, and his last friend was nothing more than one more body on the cold earth of Godric's Hollow. His life to that point was over, and there was nothing left of Hogwarts for him to cling to. At twenty-two, the Boy-Who-Lived became someone else, and he wasn't sure who he was then.
He had stepped out into the street to fight alone, anger and sorrow warring in him and fueling him to fight on and yet he knew he would die that day. Against him stood the corpses of his friends, his mentor, his lover... and now his parents. The earth of their graves still clung to them, but just the sight of them standing against him, the cold corpselight of their eyes staring back at him had been enough. He fired spells that were Dark enough that a year before he wouldn't have used them, but the death of Hermione had pushed him past some edge he hadn't known he was on. Luna's death had done it again, and so he had fought until a crack sounded behind him and slender arms steely strong wrapped around his chest, the sucking sensation of Apparition jarring him out of his battle sleep. He remembers turning around to thank whatever Order or Army member for getting him out, only to see...
~Two years ago~
"...Bellatrix Lestrange?!" His wand snaps up and points between her eyes fast than she thought he could move. Looking down at that wand however, she realizes she should have known he'd be that quick, she's seen him fight enough over the years to know how good he is as a duelist. "You died! You died in the Battle of Hogwarts!" She smiles a grin that reminds him of Sirius and whispers, "So did you." That startles him, makes him think, and then it hits him: the spell that felled her was red, a simple stunner judging by the shade, and in the aftermath no one could find her body. "But... But Molly-! She hit you, she killed you, I saw it!" Slowly, Bellatrix reaches her hand up and touches his wand, directing it away from her face, before just as slowly dragging up her left sleeve. There on her arm is the Mark, just where he knew it would be, but something is wrong, it's not moving and it's more of a gray than the black it should be. "Yes...she did, and no...she did not." The words are the sort of insane drivel he would expect out of-
Out of Luna. That thought brings him up short again and he wonders, just what did her words mean? His dead emerald eyes skate over the madness dancing in the violet eyes of the woman before him, considering everything before he asks, "Why?" At first her lack of understanding shows on her face, but then a spark of thought in her twisted mind makes Bellatrix stand straighter and grin that grin again and she purrs, "That blood-traitor bitch hit me alright, knocked me for a loop and knocked me out of my body, and that's what did it. My Mark stopped transmitting because I was 'dead,' but it's still there and I can still follow it." Her gleeful cackle lights the air and she dances about for a moment before stopping cold, her face dark and angry and her voice low, "It broke the connection and I remembered... Oh yes I remembered everything. The fourteen years in Azkaban, the things I did, the people I killed... and the truth about that bastard I followed. Oh don't get me wrong Potty, I loved it all, every second of making those upstart little mudbloods pay for their presumption, not to mention the muggle beasts that infest our world, but there was always something about Tom that I hated, and I finally remembered it once my Mark was broken. Tommy is a half-blood, and a worse one than you since he was sired by an actual muggle. In fact..." She dances around Harry again with that grin and sings in a taunting voice, "You are more of a pureblood than you know. At least your parents were both magical."
She stops again, her eyes shadowed and her words harsh again, "The Dark Lord doesn't deserve to be the Dark Lord, that filthy half-blood liar! And there's one other thing..." She darts forward and clamps her hands over Harry's face, sorrow for the first time dancing in her eyes, "Sirius. Oh Siri I'm so sorry I didn't mean to kill you I didn't want to kill you. Sirius Black, head of the Ancient and Most Noble House of Black, he was family, he was my family. He may have been a filthy Gryffindor, but he was family, he was blood, and blood is better than gold and paper. Why did I do it? How could I kill my favorite cousin? How could I hate him enough to force him through the Veil? Tom. Ohhh Tom, Tom-Tom, Tommy Boy you are going to pay." At this point, Harry is bewildered and confused, but a plan has begun to form in his mind. If Voldemort has lost his most loyal servant, then perhaps, just perhaps, he can use her to win...
Resolve supplants his hatred, his need for revenge for Sirius' lost life, and he slips his wand into the holster on his wrist, strong hands snapping up to grab her wrists. "Bellatrix, I have one question and one question only: Do you want revenge for the lies and the betrayal?" Her eyes clear of some of their madness and she looks at him with an assessing gaze, present enough to make him want to squirm before he ruthlessly quashes that impulse. For several minutes she says nothing, then she looks around at her surroundings and recognizes the rubble of Raven Hall, the battlefield presumably the first place she could think of to go with her... charge? Prisoner? Ally? When she speaks, it is softly and with more contemplation than he has heard from her ever. "Yes. I want to make Tom suffer for it all, but more than wanting to make him suffer for somehow making me kill Siri, I want to make him suffer for the years of service to a false god, a worthless half-blood masquerading as a pureblood. I want that worm dead, you hear me? Dead!"
After a moment, Harry nods and murmurs, "So do I. Now I have another question. Do you hate me for killing Rodolphus three years ago?" At that, she cackles madly and looks at him, this dark haired young man that she has observed since the battle five years ago, and husks, "No Pot- Harry, no I don't hate you. That's actually part of the reason I'm here, to thank you for that. He was my handler, and I get the feeling he was more than just a minder for me. I think he helped that filthy half-blood control me, so... Thank you, Lord Potter, for freeing the me at last from that lazy sack of shit." His eyes glint in the darkness and he hisses, "Never call me that again. I want nothing to do with that title, not after what that monster has done to my parents. I have far too many titles as it is, and now I just want to kill that bastard. I will do whatever it takes, but I will kill him. And you are going to help me." The hunger on her face shows just how much she hoped he would say that.
Having rested as long as is safe, the stranger heaves to his feet and sprints onward, looking for the faintly glowing blood runes on the walls of the ruins. He feels the rush of power before he notices them though, and so skids to a halt and waits. The clouds finally break and his features are revealed, dead emerald eyes glowing with hatred sweeping the wreckage from years before and waiting... for that. Seven cracks rip through the air and it is only a moment more before he can see them all. Albus Dumbledore, aged leader of the light. Ronald Weasley, strategist extraordinaire. Hermione Granger, Brightest witch of her Generation. Luna Lovegood, Seer without peer. Ginevra Weasley, Harry Potter's lover. Lily and James Potter, Harry Potter's beloved heroes one and all. And now nothing more than revivified corpses hellbent on killing him, and anyone who stands with him. They have proven time and again to be terrifyingly effective at killing any who stand before them, more power behind their spells than they should have. The reason behind that can be seen on all of them, the carved runes in their flesh glowing with the same sickly light as their eyes, and the heartstone that each bears in place of a heart pulsing with a twisted sort of life.
This time however, Harry is ready. This time he's going to stop them, trap them in a localized distortion for as long as he can, though Bella seems to think that it will only last one lunar month. She's probably right, he's watched her regain more and more of her old self over the last two years, and having had the time to think about it, he realized several months ago that she was far more lucid when they met again than she had been after escaping Azkaban and falling right back into the service of the Dark Lord. Now, she is exactly who his godfather once described, the brilliant and powerful witch he grew up with, just as temperamental as Lily once was, and with all of the extra skill that having her mind sharp once more lends her. She had been a fierce duelist when he was fifteen, now she was nearly unbeatable when they raided, and she had taught him all she could. She still beat him nine times out of ten, but she had made sure that he was more than enough to beat Tom's forces if they came at him in small enough groups. Up to five Death Eaters at once in fact, only one shy of Bellatrix' six.
The two of them have spent the last week setting this stage, painting runes in Abraxan blood, carving the lines with the last Basilisk fang he carries, and setting moonstones at eight foot intervals around the entire circle. He can only hope this works. The seven corpses see him and as one they snarl, spells arcing out, only to splash against an unseen barrier. Phase one, go. Phase two... Just as Bella predicted, they Apparate into the circle behind him, forming a wall of wands that he could not get through even if he were to try. Instead, he grins and dives forward, rolling under the curses aimed at him and silently casting a weak cutting curse at his hand, slapping the bloody wound against the wardlines as he rolls over. With a sucking sensation on his core, the walls go up and their snarls are frozen on their faces, dust hanging in the air, a moment frozen in time. Albus seems to have been attempting to Apparate again, halfway through the turn, his robes being sucked into a small distortion within the bubble. There it is. Now we have the time to work. A heavy sigh leaves Harry's lungs, his shoulders only tensing a little bit when he hears Bella's whispered comment, "I knew it. I knew you'd prove them wrong." Wearily he looks into the shadows and glimpses her standing there, Sirius' grin on her lips. "The magic is the proof, Harry. Your mother may have been a mudblood, but she was still a witch. You are as pure in blood as I. We can win."
~Two weeks later~
Harry checks the runes one last time, this scheme far more complex than anything he's done before. Bella has worked feverishly for ten straight days, her voice constantly mumbling arithmantic calculations as she laid every circle, every ward, every last piece of this ritual but the runes, leaving them to Harry. He cannot mess this up, this ritual has been almost two years in the planning, and it is their last hope for being able to stop Tom once and for all. In the darkest reaches of the catacombs beneath the castle believed to have been Camelot itself, there was a tome, a grimoire filled with the darkest magic Harry or Bellatrix had ever read, and one ritual in particular promised them their vengeance. They have laid everything on the line for this ritual, scouring the world for the necessary ingredients, and they only found the last piece a week before they sprung their trap on Voldemort's shock troopers. The Boy-Who-Lived, beacon of hope for the Light, has reached the point he never thought he would, and now the time has come to learn if this would be enough.
Satisfied that he has done all he can and that it is perfect, the twenty-four year old stands and drifts over to the woman who has brought him through to this. He can even admit now that he does not hate her as he once did, that he has a grudging trust in her, and far more respect. Though she is near twice his age, he can still see the beauty that she was when she was younger, and he admires the power and command she has through blood and heart. He has come to view her as his truest companion on the road his life has forced him to walk, and now it comes to a head. Will they succeed? Can they complete this ritual, a ritual so steeped in the Dark that it is among the Blackest magic? With a satisfied grunt, she lays the last of the silver dust and looks up at him.
A tug in her chest makes her jump, and then the realization that she is staring at him hungrily startles her again. Bellatrix knows this feeling, has felt a shadow of it before, but she does not know what to name it as it has never been this strong before. Shaking her head to clear the cobwebs, she stands and drawls, "We're ready, Harry. It's time, isn't it?" A brief glance at the watch he wears is all he needs and he nods. "Midnight is only about thirty seconds away, on the perfect night for this." The pair look up at where the moon should be, seeing only the shadow of a new moon as their breath fogs in the cold air of the Winter Solstice. As one, they shed their robes, bare flesh painted with woad and blood all that remains. Harry walks forward, a snap of his fingers opening a voidspace and dropping a terrified muggle girl onto the altar that he and Bellatrix have erected on top of the leyline under the Hill of Tara. Another snap and she is hanging above the stone, limbs outstretched as she is slowly turned in the air so that her wide eyes are staring at the stone slab, seven blood red stones set into a carven design.
Harry looks at her with pity, shushing her sobs and muffled cries, "Shh, don't be afraid. I'm sorry I must do this, but your sacrifice is necessary." He pauses for a moment, then he amends, "Actually, no. I'm not sorry, I need your blood and you're just a muggle after all. One less of you won't make a difference." With that, he jerks her head back and viciously rips a stone blade she hadn't seen in his other hand across her throat. A crimson spray hits his face, but the rest pours onto the stone, seeping through the cracks and filling the space needed. He can hear Bellatrix begin to chant behind him, the words following whatever ancient language was in the grimoire, his own thoughts and focus turning to the magic of the leyline. With a quick and vicious tear, he forces the power to rise and fill the runes around the site, each one connecting to every other through the preparations Bella had laid, bone and silver conducting and focusing the surge of Wild Magic into the black marble altar.
The intense magic flows through them both, and together they set the muggle's remains alight, a white-hot flame licking greedily over her flesh as ash rains down to mix with the blood. "Blood of the Sacrifice, forcibly taken, you shall provide the gateway. Ash of the dead, unknowingly donated, you shall provide the bond. Magic of the Earth, gratefully accepted, you shall bridge the gap." Harry lifts a stone goblet from the ground at his feet and dips it in the well of blood in the center of the altar, lifting it to his lips. "Blood of the Caller, you shall provide the shackles." A quick bite of his lip, a sharp searing pain, and fresh red blood drips into the chalice before he hands it to the still chanting Bellatrix. She has already cut open her palm, tipping her hand to allow the blood pooled there to fall into the mix as well before lifting it to her lips and waiting. "Blood of the Ally, you shall provide the vessel." With the last of Harry's words ringing in the air, the Dark witch tips it to her mouth and takes a sip, the ensorcelled blood burning into her gut even as Harry takes it back and does the same. The stone on the altar have begun to glow and burn with a feverish and dark light, and when the Chosen One upends the cup and slowly pours its contents over the seven shards, there is a dull thump of magic when the last drop falls.
With bated breath, the night waits for the Dark Pair to finish their ritual, magic heavy in the air. "Seven Queens in Darkness, we call to thee." Their voices intone in perfect harmony, "Seven Ladies of Elder Power, we call to thee." The woad and blood on their skin pulses in time with the shards of stone. "Morgan Le Fay, Darkest Witch of Camelot, rise and aid us in our vengeance. Macha, youngest of the Morrigan, rise and aid us in our vendetta born of Hate. Nemain, second of the Morrigan, rise and aid us in our battles. Babd, eldest of the Morrigan, rise and show us the truth of Power. Baba Yaga, Witch of the Wilds, rise and teach us Darkness. Persephone, Bride of the Dead, rise and aid our blades. Freyja, Lady of Winter, rise and grant us Strength." Their voices ringing and their eyes glowing with the ancient power they seek to raise, they finish their entreaty, "Seven Queens in Darkness, hear our call and arise before us! So Mote It Be!"
The empty sky is quickly shrouded in clouds and shadows, rumbles of thunder echoing through the heavens, and then... The storm of magic around them breaks, lightning streaking from the thunderous mess above seven times, each one striking the altar. The power floods through the air and into the blood in their guts, sending pain searing through their nerves and ripping cries of agony from their throats as they feel more torture in a moment than in hours under the tender care of Tom Riddle. Still, the fabric of reality is changing around them and warping their very beings into something different, something more, and when it is gone and the moment passed, they fall to the earth at their feet panting and quivering with the after-effects of the tumultuous ritual.
Harry is first to recover, his equilibrium still shaken but his fine motor control is returned enough to allow him to stand, woad flaking off of his naked form, the broken pieces of his glasses tumbling to earth, shattering into dust as their construction matrix is unraveled. It doesn't take him long to notice a difference, or in point of fact, several. His shoulders seem more broad, and he can most definitely feel the extra muscle on his frame. It would seem that the overload of mana from the sky and the leyline finished fixing the problems his treatment at the hands of the Dursleys had left him with, as well as augmenting him a bit further. Looking down at the woman at his feet, he can see more changes in her.
Though she is in her forties, her body has been de-aged and reshaped to match her beauty from over two decades ago, the gauntness left-over from her time in Azkaban completely erased. In its place is a woman, more a Dark Lady than anything else, her form lithe and supple, her frame fleshed out with hard lines of muscle and definite curves. It is her face, however, that shows the greatest change. Gone is the skeletal death's aspect face, and instead her cheeks are filled out and aristocratic, her eyes are not so sunken, and more than that, her bright violet eyes are alive with magical power. When Bellatrix gasps it causes him to grin, but the longer her gaze crawls over his body and the hungrier it becomes, the more uncomfortable it makes him until he turns to observe the altar, smoke clearing as the seven shards of bloodstone levitate over the slab of marble.
One by one, all of the seven bubble and twist, the laws of alchemy bending, fluctuating, and then wholly breaking as flesh forms around them, bodies shifting into being and absorbing the Philospher's Stones at their hearts. First among them is the form of Morgan Le Fay, perhaps the most well known Dark Lady in history, an Illusionist without equal or parallel. The smoke and dust around her evanescing into a light gown of black silk, she uncurls, smooth skin without flaw and a sea of curls to rival Bella's in a writhing halo about her head, empty gray eyes staring at the Pair impassively. From the earth at her feet, an oaken stave grows to reach her grip, a clear amber node at its head.
The Morrigan Three are next, forming as one and perhaps the most ethereal of those who will be present, hair of gold and silver flowing with a life of its own around their heads. All three are perfect copies of the other two, soulless black orbs without iris or sclera peering at them with curiosity, their skin glowing in the starlight, hair occasionally allowing finely pointed ears to poke out. Macha, the youngest, wears a pale blue gown embroidered with silver thread that seems to flow from the ground to stitch itself into the fabric. Nemain, the middle of the three, is clothed in a dark forest green, tiny jewels glittering on it as dew on leaves. Babd, eldest of the triplets, is clothed in a deep red, threaded with black that gives the appearance of writhing over her form.
Baba Yaga is perhaps the most odd of the seven called, far from beautiful as her fingers are too long, her wide eyes too large, her mouth too inhuman, but even there the Pair can see something otherworldly as her own garb grows around her from the earth at her feet, vines and leaves wrapping around her with a lover's touch. Two pairs of eyelids blink over her eyes and she tilts her head as she regards them with the curiosity of a child with an insect, wondering what would happen if they pulled off its legs.
Persephone is the most tragic, in keeping with the stories of her life in Ancient Greece and her travels into the Underworld, her jet black hair run through with gray. The most gaunt of the Seven, she stands still and silent, skeletal hands clasped in front of her as her empty eyesockets weep black ichor. Even so she does not seem to have difficulty seeing or sensing them. It is her dress that catches Bella's eye, spun from cobwebs and with a gothic flair that calls to her and causes her to groan with desire, fingers struggling not to reach out to her.
Yet of the Seven, Freyja is perhaps the most frightening. Standing taller than Harry, her frame strong and obviously Nordic, she glares icily at those who have the temerity to summon her from the Hallowed Halls of Valhalla. Her flaxen hair pulled back in a complex series of braids and her eyes as pale blue as the ice she was known for using, she huffs at them both before sullenly stepping back to stand with the others. Though they know they live again, the Seven can feel something more than life beating within their breast: servitude. They can feel that they are bound to this Pair before them, that no matter what plans they may have once had, they are as dust before the plans of Harry Potter and Bellatrix Black, widow of Rodolphus Lestrange. For several long minutes they remain silent, gauging and assessing these two and feeling what called them: The hatred for another that both bear, the betrayal they feel, the Power at their fingertips. The will to use it. The corruption of the heart that has already begun in the young man before them, and the twisted sort of affection growing in each of them.
"Why have you called us, humans?" the Seven query, the need to know finally winning out over their indignation. With a glance and a thought, the Pair speak in tandem, fury and power spun through their words. "To learn..." "To gain..." "To kill the man who has taken what is mine." "To kill the man who has perverted what I hold dear." "For revenge." "For the pleasure of victory." Then together their words ring out as one, "To rule as befits a Lord and Lady of Darkness."
A/N: Okay, I'll admit that wasn't quite what I had in mind, but I like it. Also, don't take that last line as Harry already being completely corrupted by power, it's kind of like an adrenaline rush: right then it's great, but as it fades, other things intrude again. Also, that's what I meant for plausibility, as I'm sure you noticed they are more evenly matched in the age arena now(physically). One thing I've seen is a lot of de-aging potions and people think that means suddenly they really are fifteen again, or in this case, twenty-four, but in actuality that's just their bodies. I saw a story that got that right, and I approved. Now, those others who were the romance options? Still going to play a big role if I have anything to say about it. Okay, please review and tell me what you think! Also, input on what you want to see is always appreciated.